Early outlook for 21 new coaches, plus five coaches on the hot seat
Controversial Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin could see a big impact from top recruits
Steve Sarkisian & Washington won't go winless, but probably won't be .500, either
Charlie Weis, Steve Kragthorpe, Al Groh among coaches already on the hot seat
So, your favorite team has just hired a new coach and excitement is in the air. The coach is making bold proclamations at every press conference and booster stop. The players are bragging how "they've never worked harder" and crediting the coach for instilling a "new attitude."
But not all debut seasons are created equal. Just ask Houston Nutt (who went 9-4 with a Cotton Bowl victory his first year at Ole Miss) and Paul Wulff (who went 2-10 at Washington State). Sometimes players take to a new offensive system immediately (as Georgia Tech's did under Paul Johnson), other times they bumble their way to the worst season in school history (as Michigan's did under Rich Rodriguez).
Let's take a look at the 2009 prospects for 21 programs that underwent offseason coaching changes.
2008 record: 5-7 (3-5 SEC)
New coach: Lane Kiffin, formerly Oakland Raiders head coach.
What he inherits: Tennessee is always loaded with defensive talent. Even last year, the Vols boasted the nation's third-ranked defense, and the presence of stars like safety Eric Berry and linebacker Rico McCoy should give renowned defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin (Lane's father) plenty to work with. Lane Kiffin's challenge will be reviving one of the nation's worst offenses of a year ago (115th out of 119). In order to do so, he'll need to boost the confidence of battered quarterback Jonathan Crompton.
'09 prospects: While the 34-year-old Kiffin elicits no shortage of skepticism, there's too much talent at his disposal not to expect immediate improvement. In particular, several members of last winter's recruiting class -- most notably running backs Bryce Brown and David Oku -- could have a huge impact. The Vols aren't likely to challenge Florida in the SEC (not after Kiffin's infamous cheating comments), but they should get back to a decent bowl.
2008 record: 10-3 (7-2 Pac-10)
New coach: Chip Kelly, formerly Oregon's offensive coordinator.
What he inherits: Kelly's scary spread offense produced the nation's No. 2 rushing offense last season and returns both dangerous quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (2,462 total yards) and powerful running back LeGarrette Blount (1,002 yards, 17 TDs). The offensive line and receiving corps will be inexperienced, but Kelly seems to have a knack for plugging in new pieces. However, the defense, which loses stars defensive end Nick Reed and safety Patrick Chung, is filled with holes.
'09 prospects: Many expect Oregon to replicate last year's top 10 season, but that may be a slightly optimistic prediction for a team replacing a 14-year head coach (Mike Bellotti, now the athletic director) and facing both Boise State and Utah (who went a combined 25-1 last season) within the first three weeks. The good news: USC, Cal and Oregon State all come to Eugene, giving the Ducks the most favorable in-conference schedule in the Pac-10.
2008 record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)
New coach: Gene Chizik, formerly Iowa State's head coach.
What he inherits: Much like Kiffin at Tennessee, Chizik inherits a traditionally stout defense and an offense that flat-out stunk last season (104th last year). Both of last year's quarterbacks, Kodi Burns and Chris Todd, return, as does top rusher Ben Tate (664 yards, three TDs). Senior defensive end Antonio Coleman (six sacks) is a bona fide star on a unit that struggled uncharacteristically against the run last season (No. 54).
'09 prospects: Chizik, whose hire after going 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State drew heavy criticism, landed two highly respected coordinators, Tulsa's Gus Malzahn on offense and Minnesota's Ted Roof for defense. Malzahn should be able to find a competent quarterback (junior Neil Caudle is also in the mix) and make the offense more respectable, but the Tigers face a tough task catching up to SEC West heavyweights Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss.
2008 record: 0-12 (0-9 Pac-10)
New coach: Steve Sarkisian, formerly USC's offensive coordinator.
What he inherits: As evidenced by its record last year, Sarkisian takes over a program that's sitting at rock-bottom. The one beacon of hope, however, is quarterback Jake Locker, the 2007 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Washington probably would have won a few games last year had Locker not broken his thumb in the season's fourth game. (The Huskies nearly took top 25 foe BYU to overtime in Week 2.) Unfortunately, Locker has very little supporting cast to speak of, and the defense needs a heavy infusion of talent.
'09 prospects: The good news: Washington almost certainly won't go winless again. The bad news: The Huskies are still probably a far cry from reaching .500. Non-conference games against LSU and Notre Dame won't help. If Locker shines as expected, and if running back Chris Polk can continue the promise he showed early last season before suffering his own season-ending injury, Washington should at least be able to run up points against the Pac-10's lower half.
2008 record: 9-5 (5-3 ACC)
New coach: Frank Spaziani, formerly BC's defensive coordinator.
What he inherits: The Eagles have won at least nine games each of the past five seasons, so you know there's talent. However, Spaziani has caught a couple of bad breaks already. Dominique Davis, BC's lone experienced quarterback, transferred following academic issues. Worse, ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich is battling cancer. BC does have proven players back at the skill positions, but the defensive line and secondary took big hits.
'09 prospects: The Eagles have been a model of consistency over the past decade, but if ever the program was in for a down year, it's now. The school abruptly parted with Jeff Jagodzinski following his NFL flirtations (offensive coordinator Steve Logan left, too), thrusting Spaziani, 63, into an awkward role -- and that was before losing two key players. BC is unlikely to contend for a third straight divisional title; the key will be earning an 11th straight bowl berth.
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