- Whether they must engineer a massive turnaround or stave off regression from last fall's performance, these first-year coaches could be in for a long 2019.
On Monday, we asked our writers which of the 27 college football coaches hired this offseason is in the best position to make an immediate impact in 2019, getting a different answer from each respondant. Now, we look at the other end of the spectrum—the coaches who won't have an easy go of it as they take over a new program. And if you missed it, be sure to check our our roundtable from last week on which team's summer hype train needs to be tempered.
Which first-year coach faces the toughest job in year one, whether because he has a massive turnaround on his hands or because the program standards have risen to a point where regression is almost a given?
Ross Dellenger: Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech. Have you ever driven an extended cab SUV in the morning and then switched to a two-door convertible in the evening? Collins is about to experience the difficulty of that adjustment in Atlanta, where he inherits a program that has run the triple option for the last decade. Until his recruiting classes reach the field, he'll attempt to use option-offense players (including smaller linemen and quarterbacks who rarely passed last year) in a more modernized spread system. Good luck, Geoff!
Laken Litman: Mike Locksley called Maryland his dream job when he was introduced as the program’s new head coach last December. The D.C. native and former Terps assistant was hopeful, energetic and positive in that first press conference, talking about rebuilding the program. No matter how passionate Locksley is, however, unifying a team after offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death and DJ Durkin’s firing is a tough gig. But as Locksley sees it, his whole career has been preparing him for this opportunity. He’ll take every experience from a bad three years at the helm in New Mexico to a successful three years coaching under Nick Saban to his elite recruiting acumen in the DMV region and pour it all into Maryland. If it works, we could see an inspiring turnaround.
Scooby Axson: Look no further than Lawrence, Kansas, to find the re-emergence of 65-year old Les Miles at one of the FBS's toughest jobs. LSU parted ways with the Mad Hatter for failing to beat Alabama with NFL-caliber talent on the roster each season, but no such expectations will be placed on Miles in trying to revive a program that has not won more than five games in a season since 2008. The talent deficiency compared to the rest of the high-flying Big 12 will be too much to overcome as the Jayhawks search for any meaningful progress in year one.
Joan Niesen: This was tough, and as tempted as I was to default to the Les Miles Experiment at Kansas here, I’m going to go with Mack Brown. Brown hasn’t coached since 2013, is 67, and didn’t exactly have a smooth ride of it his last few seasons at Texas. I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but the idea of him engineering a quick turnaround at North Carolina is tough to imagine, especially considering what he’s working with: a 2–9 team that won just one ACC game a year ago, although it was over Pitt, which went on to win the ACC Coastal.