Now that head coaches appear to be done taking turns on the merry-go-round that is the coaching carousel, Underdog Dynasty can now in earnest evaluate which G5 fared the best during the wild offseason stretch that is the coaching carousel.
Haisten: Everett Withers is an underrated hire for Texas State. He's been a successful head coach at a winning program in James Madison, was head coach at North Carolina for basically the entire 2011 season and co-defensive coordinator/assistant head coach at Ohio State. That's a really impressive resume for the new top dog in San Marcos.
Jared: I feel like this hire flew under the radar but I love Scott Frost at UCF. The former NFL quarterback brings with him Oregon's neck-breaking tempo where he was offensive coordinator over the past two seasons. Frost is already off to a hot start in recruiting which shouldn't be a surprise. He's young enough to be able to connect with recruits without needing to stoop to Hillary Clinton levels of pandering.
Cyrus: I was afraid Memphis may start to be trending down with Payton Lynch on to the NFL and Justin Fuente off to Virginia Tech but I was blown away at the class Mike Norvell was able to string together. He's a great offensive mind and has been skyrocketing up the coaching food chain as he's only 34 and as a Todd Graham disciple he brings with him a dynamic spread offense from Arizona State.
Will: UCF hit it out of the park with Scott Frost. He'd already been talked about as a possible head coaching replacement at a low- to mid-level P5 coaching position, so it's a testament to UCF's desire to compete at a high level that they were able to get him down to Orlando. It wouldn't shock me at all if he became UCF's answer to Tom Herman within a season or two.
Least Favorite Hire?
Haisten: I'd put Will Muschamp here if a G5 program hired him but he's somehow fallen up to the South Carolina job. None of the hires this year look all that bad but Jay Hopson is taking a huge step up in competition coming from the SWAC to Conference USA. It could end up being a good hire but his resume is a bit thin.
Jared: It's a decent fit but Southern Miss really punted on their coaching search. I know they were placed in a terribly difficult situation with Todd Monken chunking deuce a week before National Signing Day. While I understand the importance of securing continuity as quickly as possible in order to salvage the recruiting class, USM may end up regretting acting so harshly in hiring Jay Hopson. A full coaching search over the spring could have brought forward some much more exciting candidates.
Cyrus: East Carolina abruptly firing Ruffin McNeill was a shock to just about everyone. Houston did the same thing when letting go Tony Levine and they hit the jackpot with Tom Herman. I'm not quite sure Scottie Montgomery is going to give ECU the same return. If you're gonna fire a proven commodity, at least get someone with bonafide credentials.
Will: ULM hiring Matt Viator from McNeese State. He's an excellent FCS-caliber coach, but the thing that McNeese has been known for (and indeed why they've been so successful in the Southland over the years) is taking the best LSU-caliber players and other D1 recruits that couldn't qualify academically or transferred out of the big programs. You don't have that luxury at Monroe, and I don't know if he'll have the creativity necessary to get better talent to come to ULM or, alternatively, get a less talented group to play above their heads.
Most Surprising Coaching Move?
Haisten: I'm going to have to go with the non-move of Houston's Tom Herman. There was no doubt in my mind he'd be off to Power 5 school X after such unbelievable success in his first year, not to mention there were a ton of high-profile openings. Houston is a rare case in having the resources to triple a head coach's salary and say they're willing to go higher, and even then it apparently took The Citadel beating South Carolina for it to happen.
Jared: Todd Monken leaving for a coordinator position in the NFL was the shocker of the coaching carousel for me. The timing was spectacularly terrible, but the fact that Monken won't be a head coach in his next position is even more baffling. Did Monken grow tired of the recruiting charade? Was there friction in the athletics department? It's fascinating to think about.
Cyrus: Todd Monken abruptly leaving Southern Miss before signing day was a complete shocker. I get NFL coaching jobs are as exclusive as they come as they hire retreads often, but Monken would have been in line for some great P5 jobs next year with another great season. Can't really fault him for bolting, but the timing could have been much better.
Will: ECU's overreaction of the century in firing Ruffin McNeill after he "dared" to go 5-7 for one bad season that was littered with injuries at quarterback. The move floored everyone around the AAC and the rest of the country, although it turned out to be far from the only insult athletic director Jeff Compher threw in McNeill's direction. No disrespect to Scottie Montgomery, but I'm far from convinced that he's an upgrade.
Toughest job ahead?
Haisten: Mike Norvell has some awfully big shoes to fill at Memphis. It's a program that doesn't traditionally make much noise, yet the fanbase will expect a lot given the recent success under Justin Fuente. Your star quarterback is gone, your stadium is a bit too large for the program and you're in what suddenly is a really tough conference. He looks like a good hire but he'll have to prove the Tigers aren't a one-coach wonder.
Jared: Seth Littrell was a nice hire but UNT is still a tough place to win at until proven otherwise. UNT disappointed in their 2016 recruiting cycle and the Mean Green have so many question marks on both sides of the ball. Littrell desperately needed help at the quarterback position but I don't think they're getting it this season.
Cyrus: I understand that everyone loves Willie Fritz but Tulane is a difficult place to win at. Bob Toledo and Curtis Johnson were both given four years to turn that program around and they combined for one winning season. The program has been to only two bowl games since 2000. Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech have both seen success in recent years making it even harder for Tulane to take LSU's scraps on the recruiting trail and its a tough school for recruits to get in to due to their academics. They also play in the best G5 conference. Have patience Greenies.
Will: I don't envy the task that Matt Viator has ahead of him at ULM. Todd Berry left the cupboard almost completely bare on offense, and his signature defenses turned into a pile of incomprehensible goo by the end of last season. Add suspect special teams, a university president that was openly accused of not supporting football, and a budget crisis that threatens to tear any Louisiana school not named LSU a new one, and you have what might be an even tougher job than New Mexico State or Idaho.
Which coach is most likely to be fired next season?
Haisten: It's really shocking Paul Petrino is still at Idaho. He isn't winning and he's given the school all sorts of bad press. The Petrino name alone comes with an air of suspicion and he's furthered that reputation while also losing games, plus he just signed one of the nation's worst-ranked recruiting classes. What exactly is the upside here, showing the Sun Belt that you have stability?
Jared: The only coach I perceive to be on any type of hot seat would be David Bailiff at Rice. The Owls are slipping in on-field performance and recruiting as they watch their G5 competition in Texas take aggressive steps to increase their stature. Investment in a multi-million dollar end zone facility may mark the beginning of a new era of expectations at Rice.
Cyrus: I could see FIU firing Ron Turner if he delivers a poor season after seeing how abysmal this incoming class turned out to be but I'm gonna go with Paul Petrino. I can't see Idaho putting up with his antics anymore if he has another losing season.
Will: I'll be bold and say that Mark Hudspeth might start to feel some heat if Louisiana-Lafayette finishes under .500 again. Hud's raised expectations and is seemingly a larger than life personality in the heart of Ragin' Cajun land, but a cumbersome NCAA investigation and two straight losing seasons would test the patience of any athletic director used to winning 9 games or more a year.
Which coach is most likely to be hired away by a P5 school?
Haisten: Matt Rhule can't be planning to stay at Temple much longer. When you're at a G5 program in a small college town you're at least a big deal locally. Temple plays in an NFL stadium in the middle of Philadelphia and their last bowl win before his arrival was in 1979. He won two games his first year, six his second and 10 last year. If that trend continues he'll be long gone by 2017.
Jared: I can't believe Jeff Brohm is still at Western Kentucky, to be honest. I have no doubt that he received several offers and I thought for sure that Brohm would split once his assistant coaching staff started to crumble as they chased better jobs at higher profile programs. Brohm has done a great job rebuilding that staff-- how long until the blue bloods of college football realize that this guy is a star?
Cyrus: I'm pretty amazed that Doc Holliday is still at Marshall after having three straight 10-win seasons. Maybe its his age (58) that's scaring away P5 schools or maybe he's waiting for West Virginia to get rid of Dana Holgorsen. He's a great recruiter as Marshall has had the best class in Conference USA for five straight years and he has no run-ins with the NCAA. If he delivers a fourth straight 10-win season I'd say he's good as gone.
Will: Aside from Tom Herman, who will probably have a live webcam placed outside his office by the end of the season? If Blake Anderson wins another Sun Belt title at Arkansas State, I'd bet schools like Kentucky, Vanderbilt, or Kansas State would give him a call.