How Every New College Football Head Coach Did in 2015

Going through the ups and downs of last season’s coaching changes, from Tom Herman to Mike Riley.

Before the outset of this college football season, 15 FBS programs brought in new head coaches. They ranged in fan and media excitement on a scale from David Beaty at Kansas to Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, and they included everyone from the sport’s blue bloods to its up-and-comers to its bottom-feeders.

There are a lot of ways to evaluate coaches. There’s on-field success, which depends partly on the coach but partly on context. A new coach at Florida is dealing with a fuller deck of cards than a new coach at Troy, for instance. The same goes for recruiting, which is just as big a part of the job for a college football coach as calling plays.

We’ve tried to get an accounting of how each of last offseason’s head coach hires did in his first year:

How New FBS Coaches Fared in 2015  
Program Coach 2015 Record Change from 2014 Recruiting Rank
Houston Cougars Tom Herman 12-1 3 25
Florida Gators Jim McElwain 10-3 2.5 7
Michigan Wolverines Jim Harbaugh 9-3 4 6
Wisconsin Badgers Paul Chryst 9-3 -2 28
Pittsburgh Panthers Pat Narduzzi 8-4 2.5 55
Central Michigan Chippewas John Bonamego 7-5 0.5 120
Colorado State Rams Mike Bobo 7-5 -2.5 68
Tulsa Golden Hurricane Philip Montgomery 6-6 4 93
Nebraska Cornhuskers Mike Riley 5-7 -3.5 31
Buffalo Bulls Lance Leipold 5-7 -0.5 105
Troy Trojans Neal Brown 4-8 1 91
UNLV Rebels Tony Sanchez 3-9 1 116
SMU Mustangs Chad Morris 2-10 1 61
Oregon State Beavers Gary Andersen 2-10 -3 39
Kansas Jayhawks David Beaty 0-12 -3 74
Half-games reflect differences in total games played based on postseason appearances.

That’s just the hard data. It says a lot, but there’s a deeper story for a lot of these coaches and their programs. A year later, it’s worth assessing how each hire looks.

The recruiting rankings listed here are courtesy of the 247Sports Composite, and they cover the recruiting classes following the 2014 and 2015 seasons – so, for 2014, it’s the program’s 2015 recruiting class, and so on. They’re current as of Dec. 14.

The 15 schools featured here are those that made coaching changes before the season, so no midseason firings or interim coaches for the last year are included.

Looking really, really good

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Tony Levine/David Gibbs 2014 90 8-5 91
Tom Herman 2015 48 12-1 25

Herman came to Houston immediately after helping Ohio State win a national championship. He’s become one of the most highly regarded coaches in the country in a span of one year, and he’s got Houston both playing and recruiting at exponentially higher levels. This is a smashing success story.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Brady Hoke 2014 45 5-7 37
Jim Harbaugh 2015 6 9-3 6

This was a slam dunk when it was announced, and it looks just as good today. Michigan had lost its luster under Hoke’s leadership, but Harbaugh has immediately restored it. The Wolverines were a few plays away from 11-1 this season, and their underlying performance and recruiting under Harbaugh have been identically excellent.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Will Muschamp/DJ Durkin 2014 29 7-5 21
Jim McElwain 2015 17 10-3 7

A pretty successful first year for McElwain in Gainseville after the Muschamp disaster of 2014. He’s proven to be an excellent recruiter, and the Gators made solid gains on the field under his leadership.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Paul Chryst/Joe Rudolph 2014 44 6-7 61
Pat Narduzzi 2015 40 8-4 55

To be good at Pitt, all Narduzzi really had to do was win a few games, not bolt for another job via text message and not get arrested, jailed and fired with a few days of being hired. He’s succeeded on all those fronts, and he’s made Pitt a little bit better both on the field and on the recruiting trail. He’s already been extended.

Exhibiting varying degrees of progress

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Bill Blankenship 2014 118 2-10 114
Philip Montgomery 2015 95 6-6 98

S&P+ doesn’t think Tulsa was this much better this year than last, but it could be a good sign for Montgomery’s in-game coaching ability that he managed four more wins out of a better but not that much better team. He’s also bumped the Golden Hurricane up a little bit in national recruiting rankings.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Gary Andersen/Barry Alvarez 2014 25 10-4 40
Paul Chryst 2015 28 9-3 28

The Badgers weren’t much different in the way of quality of play, but Chryst has done a nice job on the trail and positioned them to continually be a factor in the Big Ten West.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Larry Blakeney 2014 121 3-9 109
Neal Brown 2015 91 4-8 95

There’s been small but notable progress all across the board under Brown at Troy. The Trojans won one more game, but they got 30 spots better in S&P+ and 14 spots better in recruiting (to date). It’s hard to complain.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Jeff Quinn/Alex Wood 2014 122 5-6 119
Lance Leipold 2015 94 5-7 108

The record didn’t get any better here, no, but the Bulls played better by S&P+ and improved marginally in recruiting. This isn’t any kind of serious MAC contender yet, but it’s closer now than it was when Leipold took over.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Tom Mason/June Jones 2014 124 1-11 81
Chad Morris 2015 102 2-10 60

The Mustangs are still brutally bad, but they were better across each of these indicators in 2015 than 2014. Better times are on the horizon, though the ceiling here might be rather low.

Sending mixed signals

Oregon State
Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Mike Riley 2014 74 5-7 60
Gary Andersen 2015 105 2-10 40

Andersen’s moved the Beavers up 20 spots on the trail so far. That’s good! What’s less good is that the Beavers were absolutely brutal on the field itself. This could be a “wait until he gets his guys in here” situation before it’s fair to evaluate Andersen in Corvallis.

Colorado State
Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Jim McElwain 2014 56 10-3 118
Mike Bobo 2015 83 7-5 67

Bobo had a hard job filling McElwain’s shoes. CSU has taken a step backward both in the standings and S&P+, but this still has the appearance of a program with a strong foundation that should keep doing reasonably well.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Bobby Hauck 2014 117 2-11 105
Tony Sanchez 2015 107 3-9 113

Sanchez also has a hard job, and he made very, very slight on-field progress. He’s also made very, very slight declines in recruiting. Things aren’t a lot different than they were before, but perhaps they’ll get better.

Central Michigan
Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Dan Enos 2014 89 7-6 96
John Bonamego 2015 75 7-5 121

The record here could wind up the exact same pending a bowl outcome, while the Chippewas have recruited noticeably worse but put together a better S&P+ ranking that suggests they deserved better.

Not looking so good

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Bo Pelini 2014 31 9-4 30
Mike Riley 2015 43 5-7 31

It’s not easy to imagine a bigger Hindenburg of a first year in Lincoln for Riley. The Huskers won four fewer games and declined (albeit less sharply) by S&P+, and they got no apparent recruiting bounce from swapping in Riley for Pelini. The Huskers are not a likely contender in the Big Ten West next season.

Coach Season S&P+ Rank Record Recruiting Rank
Clint Bowen/Charlie Weis 2014 92 3-9 74
David Beaty 2015 123 0-12 76

This maybe isn’t fair, because Beaty had an impossible job in 2015. He took over the program before last season and quite literally didn’t have enough players. This is a massive rebuild, and the Jayhawks have forever left to go.



This article was written by Alex Kirshner from SB Nation SB Nation National Feed and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.