Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich will look to lead the Ducks
to a fifth straight BCS berth. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
By Zac Ellis
As fall camp kicks off and the season inches closer, hope permeates college campuses across the nation. While every team heads into 2013 with a certain sense of optimism, some schools are particularly upbeat; eight months removed from the coaching carousel, they’ll finally get to break in their respective new coaches.
Excitement is everywhere, but some new coaches enter more enviable situations than others. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from each of this year’s FBS hires.
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• Mark Helfrich, Oregon: With Helfrich taking the reins following Chip Kelly’s departure for the NFL, Oregon should pick up right where it left off. Helfrich has been the coordinator for the Ducks’ high-flying offense for the past four seasons, helping them reach four straight BCS bowls in the process. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to expect more of the same with Helfrich in the top job, particularly with 16 starters returning, including dual-threat quarterback Marcus Mariota and all-purpose dynamo De’Anthony Thomas. Predicted 2013 record: 12-1
• Bret Bielema, Arkansas: Bielema may have taken shots at the SEC in the past, but now he's part of the league following his move to the Razorbacks. The coach might be in for a rude awakening given the Hogs’ loss of personnel. Quarterback Tyler Wilson and receiver Cobi Hamilton are gone, and Bielema will work to install the “big-boy football” running game he utilized at Wisconsin. But a transformation won't occur overnight; the Razorbacks’ rushing attack stumbled last season, averaging just 118.7 yards per game. Bielema has experience coming back on defense, but his shift in philosophy will require some getting used to. Predicted 2013 record: 6-6
• Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Fans on the Plains can rest assured knowing a familiar face presides over the Tigers, as Malzahn was the architect behind the attack that ranked among the top seven nationally in rushing, passing and total offense during Auburn’s BCS title-winning season in 2010. Gene Chizik’s final season as the Tigers’ coach saw the program finish just 115th in the FBS in total offense, so Malzahn should address an immediate area of need. The future could be bright, especially considering Auburn reeled in Rivals.com’s eighth-ranked recruiting class on National Signing Day 2013. For now, however, Malzahn lacks the offensive weapons to contend for an SEC crown. Predicted 2013 record: 7-5
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• Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky: He may not be the head of a power-conference program, but Petrino is back in college football after one season away following his dismissal from Arkansas in April 2012. Petrino’s off-field transgressions notwithstanding, the coach has a track record of success with Louisville and the Razorbacks. He takes over a program with one of the nation’s most productive playmakers in senior running back Antonio Andrews, who led the nation with 3,161 all-purpose yards last season. Petrino’s teams have led their respective conferences in total offense five times. With a little help from the defense, the Hilltoppers should reach eight wins. Predicted 2013 record: 8-4
• Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: The country saw what Kingsbury was capable of at Texas A&M, where his offense led the SEC in every major statistical category and helped Johnny Manziel become the first freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy. After returning to his alma mater, Kingsbury will look to work similar wonders with sophomore quarterback Michael Brewer, who appears be the next starter for a Red Raiders program that ranked second nationally in passing offense last season. Kingsbury will have to overcome depth issues on the offensive line, but expect Tech to reach a bowl in the coach’s debut season. Predicted 2013 record: 7-5
• Gary Andersen, Wisconsin: Andersen spurned the likes of Cal and Kentucky to take over in Madison, where the former Utah State coach inherits a program in good shape following Bret Bielema’s departure for Arkansas. Yet just because Wisconsin is fresh off its third consecutive Rose Bowl trip doesn’t mean it's devoid of problems; there’s an unsettled quarterback battle, the offensive line lacks depth and only one starter returns in the secondary. Andersen has succeeded with far fewer resources at prior jobs. A runner-up finish to Ohio State in the Leaders division would be a great start to his Badgers' tenure. Predicted 2013 record: 8-4
• Butch Jones, Tennessee: Jones has done wonders to energize the fan base in Knoxville following three seasons of mediocrity (at best) under Derek Dooley. But the former Cincy coach doesn’t have a lot of proven talent to work with, particularly on offense. The Vols lost quarterback Tyler Bray and their top four receivers from 2012. Factor in a daunting schedule -- Tennessee plays five of the top 10 teams in the preseason Coaches’ Poll before November -- and Jones’ first year on Rocky Top might be rough. Still, if Jones takes care of the games he’s supposed to win, the Vols should reach a bowl. Predicted 2013 record: 6-6
• Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati: Tuberville made his way out of a tense situation in Lubbock, and by all accounts, Cincinnati fans have already embraced the former Texas Tech coach. Though he went 20-17 in four seasons with the Red Raiders, Tuberville previously spent nine seasons with Auburn, where he went 85-40 and helped the Tigers reach a No. 2 BCS ranking in 2004. He inherits senior quarterback Brendon Kay, a strong offensive line and a defense coming off a solid season. What’s more, the Bearcats’ schedule features only one team (Louisville) that finished 2012 in the Top 25. There’s enough experience on the roster to make a double-digit win total a possibility. Predicted 2013 record: 10-2
• Sonny Dykes, Cal: Dykes engineered a Louisiana Tech attack that led the nation in total offense (577.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (51.5 points per game) last season, and he’ll look to create similar production in Berkeley in 2013. Cal went 3-9 last year behind the country’s 91st-ranked offense and a struggling defense, and only three offensive starters return for the Bears this fall. The schedule won’t make things easy, either; Cal faces cross-divisional opponents USC and UCLA and takes on Ohio State and Northwestern in tough nonconference meetings. There will likely be a learning curve for Dykes’ crew. Predicted 2013 record: 4-8
• Mark Stoops, Kentucky: The youngest brother in the Stoops family coaching tree lured more than 50,000 fans to Kentucky’s spring game in April, invigorating a program that’s traditionally been an SEC bottom feeder. Yet while enthusiasm is at an all-time high, the program will likely take on a rebuilding theme in Stoops’ first campaign. The Wildcats finished near the bottom of the SEC in every major offensive and defensive category in 2012, and they don’t have a ton of experience coming back. Stoops rebuilt defenses before as a coordinator, but with schematic changes, limited offensive talent and a fairly brutal schedule, the first year of his Kentucky tenure could be a struggle. Predicted 2013 record: 4-8
• Willie Taggart, South Florida: One of the country’s up-and-coming coaches made his way to Tampa after orchestrating a turnaround at Western Kentucky, where he led the Hilltoppers to their first bowl since joining the FBS in 2008. Now, Taggart will look to generate similar results with a South Florida team that faces big questions on offense. The Bulls must replace four-year starter B.J. Daniels, but the transfer of Penn State passer Steven Bench in May adds another dimension to a competition that includes Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd. USF returns an experience defense, though the group must learn from last season’s late-game failures. Look for the Bulls to surpass 2012’s three-win total, but don’t expect them to compete for a title in the American just yet. Predicted 2013 record: 6-6
• Dave Doeren, NC State: Northern Illinois crashed the BCS in 2012, but Doeren wasn’t on the sidelines for the Orange Bowl. Instead, the former NIU headman took over at NC State, where he brings a battle-tested résumé: Doeren has coached six conference champions in 18 years as a coach. The Huskies averaged 38.6 points per game last fall, and the Wolfpack could use a similar scoring spark. Still, until NC State experiences some growing pains -- Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas is set to slide in at quarterback and four new starters will step up on the offensive line -- it likely won’t contend with Clemson and Florida State in the ACC Atlantic. Predicted 2013 record: 8-4
• Mike MacIntyre, Colorado: MacIntyre has a major project ahead of him in Boulder. The Buffaloes finished a measly 1-11 in 2012, and in virtually every category Colorado’s offense and defense ranked at or near the bottom of the Pac-12. Four starting offensive linemen and big-play wideout Paul Richardson (who missed the 2012 season with a knee injury) return, but the Buffs require a complete overhaul. After changing the culture at Jose State, MacIntyre will need time to reverse Colorado’s fortunes. Predicted 2013 record: 2-10
• Darrell Hazell, Purdue: A lack of excitement surrounding Purdue football -- specifically, declining ticket sales -- played a large role in the departure of four-year head coach Danny Hope. Now, ex-Kent State frontman Hazell hopes to turn things around by building off the Boilermakers’ near-misses in 2012; though Purdue lost seven games, two came to Notre Dame and Ohio State came by an average of seven points. Several key veterans return on defense, but the offense, which was unspectacular last season, is in search of new playmakers. Hazell might generate more buzz than Hope did in West Lafayette, but his first nonconference slate features games against Notre Dame and Northern Illinois. Predicted 2013 record: 5-7
• Scott Shafer, Syracuse: Former Syracuse coach Doug Marrone made one of the more surprising moves of the offseason by accepting a job with the Buffalo Bills in January. Enter Shafer, who takes over the Orange just as the program moves to the ACC. ‘Cuse faces a difficult league schedule (division games against Clemson and Florida State) as well as a challenging nonconference slate (consecutive meetings against Big Ten foes Penn State and Northwestern). Given that the offense must replace quarterback Ryan Nassib, two productive receivers and a good chunk of the offensive line, Shafer’s inaugural campaign isn’t likely to produce many fireworks. Predicted 2013 record: 5-7
• Steve Addazio, Boston College: Addazio comes to Chestnut Hill looking to infuse life into Boston College’s attack, which ranked 98th nationally in total offense last season despite the play of quarterback Chase Rettig (3,065 passing yards, 17 touchdowns). Still, behind senior running back Andre Williams, there’s little experience to speak off in the backfield. Addazio’s first season with the Eagles could be bumpy, especially if the defense -- which allowed 40 points on three separate occasions in 2012 -- doesn’t improve. Predicted 2013 record: 5-7
• Matt Rhule, Temple: Rhule’s return to Philadelphia serves as a homecoming of sorts, as he worked as an assistant at Temple when the program reeled off 26 wins from 2009-11. In fact, he is still familiar with many of the players on the roster. But to make the Owls competitive in the American, Rhule has plenty of work to do. Temple averaged just 322 yards of offense per game in 2012, and running backs Montel Harris and Matt Brown are gone. Temple seems a few seasons away from bowl contention. Predicted 2013 record: 4-8
Other predicted records:
• Rod Carey, Northern Illinois: 10-3. Carey must bolster a defense that loses eight starters, but the return of record-setting quarterback Jordan Lynch could point to a third consecutive MAC title.
• Matt Wells, Utah State: 8-4. Star quarterback Chuckie Keeton and a stifling defense should help Wells’ Aggies perform in their first season in the Mountain West.
• Paul Haynes, Kent State: 7-5. If Haynes, a Kent State alum, can strengthen the defense, Dri Archer and a proven offense should help the Golden Flashes go bowling again in 2013.
• P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan: 7-5. The youngest head coach in the FBS may be willing to walk on fire for his program, but he doesn’t have enough firepower on either side of the ball to contend for the MAC title.
• Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State: 6-6. Like Malzahn before him, Harsin brings a no-huddle, up-tempo approach to the Red Wolves. But the loss of Sun Belt Player of the Year Ryan Aplin at quarterback likely means regression from 2012's 10-3 mark.
• Brian Polian, Nevada: 7-6. One of the Mountain West’s best attacks should continue to produce after Polian opted to keep offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich and the Pistol.
• Ron Caragher, San Jose State: 7-6. The Spartans likely won’t go 11-2 again, but with quarterback David Fales and a handful of playmakers, there’s plenty to for the Spartans to be excited about.
• Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech: 6-6. Expect a bit of an adjustment for Holtz in the Bulldogs' first year in Conference USA. Only one offensive starter returns from a unit that led the nation with an average of 577.9 yards per game in 2012.
• Todd Monken, Southern Miss: 5-7. The arrival of Monken, the former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator, and the return of David Duggan, the Golden Eagles defensive coordinator, should spell major improvement on the heels of a winless campaign.
• Sean Kugler, UTEP: 4-8. Texas A&M transfer quarterback Jameill Showers, along with a few key skill players, could make the UTEP offense surprisingly dangerous. Still, Kugler must shore up an inexperienced defense.
• Ron Turner, Florida International: 2-10. The dismissal of tailback Kedrick Rhodes in June leaves FIU with only three returning starters on the entire roster. Turner better buckle up for a rough first ride.
• Trent Miles, Georgia State: 1-11. The Panthers managed only a single win in the FCS’ Colonial Athletic Conference in 2012. Miles should expect more of the same in the rebuilding program’s first FBS campaign.
• Paul Petrino, Idaho: 1-11. There’s no sugarcoating this one: Petrino, the brother of Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino, will be fortunate to win a game in his debut season at Idaho.
• Doug Martin, New Mexico State: 3-9
. One season as an independent before a move to the Sun Belt means an unfavorable schedule for the Aggies. Martin’s team plays Texas and UCLA along with two other BCS opponents in 2013.