- Out of all of the coaches taking over new programs across college football, our writers pick who's most set for an immediate impact in year one.
After asking our writers which team's summer hype train needs to be tempered last week, our mini-series of roundtables on buzzy college football topics continues with a look at first-year coaches. The offseason coaching carousel saw 27 head coach jobs change hands, and some are coming into better situations than others. Who's set to have an immediate impact on their respective new program? We asked our staff, whose answers are below:
Which first-year coach is in the best position to make an impact in year one?
Scooby Axson: Mack Brown, North Carolina. If there is one thing that is going for Brown after a few years away from the sidelines, it's that he knows exactly who he wants his team in his second go-around at UNC to emulate. In this case, it’s Oklahoma, the archrival of Brown’s former employer in Austin whose offense has run roughshod over most of college football the past four years but has no national titles to show for it. Brown can motivate the best of them, which could translate into a few wins in Chapel Hill that aren’t expected, especially in a conference with only one powerhouse. Going bowling would translate into a successful season for this program.
Laken Litman: It won’t be easy, but the only way for Les Miles and Kansas to go is up. Miles, who won two SEC championships and a national title at LSU, faces a new challenge here. The Jayhawks went 6–39 with just two Big 12 wins over the last three seasons under David Beaty, and really, all Miles needs to do to make an immediate impact is be better than that. Win a handful of games (KU won three last year, with just one Big 12 win), have success on the recruiting trail and prove that it is possible to build a football program in Lawrence.
Ross Dellenger: Ryan Day, Ohio State. The Buckeyes, as they say, do not rebuild but reload. Sure, Urban Meyer's offensive mind, motivational tactics and recruiting acumen are gone, but Day takes control of one of the nation's most dominant programs. There's no reason to think it won't remain dominant, particularly because of an addition Day made in the offseason, adding former Georgia quarterback and five-star talent Justin Fields.
Joan Niesen: I like Miami's Manny Diaz. He’s inheriting a talented team that looked listless last season—and never more so than in its 35–3 Pinstripe Bowl loss to Wisconsin, which wasn’t exactly having a banner season itself. Diaz is plenty familiar with the program and the players he’s working with, and his relative youth and energy have set a new tone with the program. Diaz’s first year will see Miami improve upon its 7–6 record from a season ago, and the ACC Coastal remains wide open. Even if the Hurricanes win it and get clobbered by Clemson in the conference championship game, that’ll be a step back in the right direction.