Predicting the first-year records for the FBS' 28 new head coaches
Urban Meyer could win 10 games in his first season as Ohio State coach
Bill O'Brien will be hard-pressed to win more than four games at PSU
John L. Smith won't be able to maintain Arkansas' recent momentum
New coaches generally get hired for one of two reasons: Either the guy before moved on to a more enticing locale, or the guy before stank. It's more commonly the latter, and many of this year's new hires inherit particularly broken programs.
Whether it's Bill O'Brien walking into a den of turmoil in State College, Charlie Weis trying to revive one of the worst teams in Big 12 history or the poor souls charged with rebuilding cellar-dwelling teams in lesser conferences, few names on this list are in a position to achieve instant glory.
Certainly, there are exceptions. Urban Meyer won't be going to a bowl, but he takes over a program one year removed from six straight Big Ten titles. John L. Smith was handed the keys (temporarily) to a program that's gone 21-5 the past two years. Gus Malzahn didn't get the North Carolina job, but he did get the keys to the reigning Sun Belt champion.
But mostly, there are some grim prognoses below, as we predict the first-year results for 28 new FBS coaches.
Urban Meyer, Ohio State: The Buckeyes are ineligible for the Big Ten title, but will likely spoil someone else's chances: They face Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska. Meyer inherits a defense much like those he produced at Florida: loaded, particularly up front, with potential first-rounders John Simon and Johnathan Hankins. All four starters return in the secondary. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller is a rising star, but he's hurting for playmakers around him, particularly at running back, so expect a bumpy first year for the new offense. Predicted 2012 record: 10-2.
Bill O'Brien, Penn State: A free agent exodus caused by the NCAA's sanctions has stripped Penn State of its star running back (Silas Redd), starting receiver (Justin Brown), All-Big Ten kicker/punter (Anthony Fera) and other potential contributors. O'Brien's pedigree as a quarterbacks coach suggests he can bring out the best in senior Matt McGloin, but the offense returns just one other starter. The defense has more dependable veterans like linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. It's hard to imagine the Nittany Lions won't splinter once the trying season wears on. Predicted 2012 record: 4-8.
John L. Smith, Arkansas: Smith is an experienced head coach. He knows Arkansas' players. He knows Bobby Petrino's offense. What could go wrong? Well, there's the fact that the Razorbacks' defense needs to improve if the team hopes to catch up with SEC West titans LSU and Alabama; that's not exactly Smith's forte. And there's simply no replicating Petrino's ability as one of the sport's premier offensive play-callers. Arkansas won't fall far -- not with star quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis -- but it's unrealistic to think Smith can maintain the momentum of 2010 and '11. Predicted 2012 record: 8-4.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: It's going to be a fascinating experiment: Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury take their pass-happy Houston offense to the SEC West. The Aggies feature at least four NFL-caliber standouts on offense in receiver Ryan Swope, tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthew and running back Christine Michael. If likely new starting quarterback Jameill Showers lives up to his billing, A&M will score some points. However the defense, which struggled against the pass last year, may now get run over by more physical rushing attacks. Predicted 2012 record: 6-6.
Jim L. Mora, UCLA: No question, the Bruins were mediocre under Rick Neuheisel, but he did not leave the cupboard bare. Mora should have his biggest impact on defense, where UCLA ranked just 89th nationally last season. Defensive end Cassius Marsh leads a talented and experienced line. Neuheisel never did develop a consistent -- or healthy -- quarterback. Fans are hoping touted redshirt freshman Brett Hundley can overtake veterans Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince. In the meantime, Mora will ride productive tailback Johnathan Franklin. Predicted 2012 record: 7-5.
Mike Leach, Washington State: Leach, out of coaching since 2009, brings his patented Air Raid offense to Pullman, to the delight of veteran quarterback Jeff Tuel and preseason All-America receiver Marquess Wilson. The pair could become Leach's Northwest version of Harrell-to-Crabtree. The Cougars' defense has been atrocious for years, and coordinator Mike Breske, formerly of Montana, brings a high-risk, high-reward blitz-heavy philosophy. Wazzu will score lots of points and give up lots of points, but a favorable schedule should enable Leach to take the school to its first bowl since 2003. Predicted 2012 record: 6-6.
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: The former West Virginia and Michigan coach is thankful to predecessor Mike Stoops for redshirting dual-threat quarterback Matt Scott last season. The fifth-year senior is 4-1 as a starter and is a natural fit for Rodriguez's spread offense, which could be formidable right away thanks to five returning offensive line starters. Rodriguez is not as thrilled with the mess he inherited on defense. The Wildcats ranked 110th nationally last season and are thin in numbers at several positions. It may take more than a year to get back on the right side of .500. Predicted 2012 record: 4-8.
Tim Beckman, Illinois: Ron Zook's team collapsed last season, going from 6-0 to 6-6, but there's no question he recruited talent, producing four first- or second-rounders last spring. Returning defensive tackle Akeem Spence and linebacker Jonathan Brown could be next in line, as the Illini return seven starters from last year's No. 7 defense nationally. Beckman was known for offensive fireworks at Toldeo, but his options are limited in Champaign. Junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase could still become a consistent thrower, but Illinois may struggle to run the ball. Predicted 2012 record: 7-5.
Charlie Weis, Kansas: The strangest hire of the offseason faces the most daunting rebuilding project. The Jayhawks didn't just lose 10 straight games last season, they lost by scores like 66-24, 70-28 and 61-7. Weis brought in his former Notre Dame quarterback, Dayne Crist, who is eligible right away, giving Kansas a nice upgrade at that position. Leading rusher James Sims returns but is suspended three games. Newcomers will have to contribute heavily on defense, which finished dead last (120th) in both points and yards allowed last season. Predicted 2012 record: 3-9.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina: Like Meyer's, Fedorda's new team is ineligible for the postseason this year due to NCAA sanctions. Despite the turmoil caused by Butch Davis' preseason ouster, the Tar Heels went to a bowl last year and uncovered a highly efficient quarterback (Bryn Renner) and talented young running back (Giovanni Bernard). Expect the offense to be more explosive under Fedora. The defense, long a strong point under Davis, regressed to middle-of-the-pack last year. Vic Koenning is one of the nation's finest coordinators, but he'll be working with an inexperienced group. Predicted 2012 record: 8-4.
Todd Graham, Arizona State: It's hard to remember now, but the Sun Devils were 6-2 and first place in the Pac-12 South last year before losing their last five, ensuring Dennis Erickson's ouster. And that was with a veteran team. Graham's first squad returns just eight starters, and no experienced quarterback. He does inherit a deep backfield, led by senior tailback Cameron Marshall and impressive juco transfer Marion Grice. The defense, decimated by injury last year, could improve slightly from its No. 91 ranking with a strong defensive line and the return of linebacker Brandon Magee. Predicted 2012 record: 4-8.
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: Freeze worked wonders in his sole season as an FBS coach, leading Arkansas State to a 10-2 record and its first bowl trip since 2005, but he doesn't have much to work with in Oxford. The Rebels went 2-10 last season, ranking 114th nationally in total offense. Junior Barry Brunetti and juco transfer Bo Wallace are competing for the starting quarterback job, while scatback Jeff Scott is one of the few proven playmakers. The defense returns seven starters but cornerback may be the lone position manned by upper-tier SEC-caliber players. Predicted 2012 record: 4-8.
Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh: The former Wisconsin offensive coordinator should be a better fit in the Steel City than one-and-done departure Todd Graham. Motst of Pitt's roster was recruited by Dave Wannstedt to run much the same straight-ahead style Chryst developed in Madison. A lot will depend on the health of running back Ray Graham, who ran for 958 yards in eight games before tearing his ACL last year. Quarterback Tino Sunseri has struggled with interceptions but could improve under Chryst's watch. Outside of safety Jarred Holley and tackle Aaron Donald, the defense is a question. Predicted 2012 record: 7-5.
Kyle Flood, Rutgers: The most unheralded of all BCS-conference hires, Flood moves from offensive line coach to head coach. The Scarlet Knights' defense, led by preseason All-America linebacker Khaseem Greene, gives Rutgers a shot at contending for the Big East title. The Scarlet Knights are stacked in the back seven. But the offense struggled mightily last season, and that was before losing go-to receiver Mo Sanu. Chas Dodd and Gary Nova are into their second year of a largely uninspiring quarterback competition. Predicted 2012 record: 7-5.
Terry Bowden, Akron: 4-8. The Zips went 2-22 under Rob Ianello, but the former Auburn coach has assembled an accomplished staff. Expect improvement.
Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: 9-3. Quarterback Ryan Aplin won't take down Oregon or Nebraska, but the Red Wolves should vie for Sun Belt supremacy.
Jim McElwain, Colorado State: 5-7. The former Alabama offensive coordinator should get the Rams (3-9 the last two years) closer to respectability.
Carl Pelini, Florida Atlantic: 3-9. The Owls nosedived toward the end of Howard Schnellenberger's run; it will take Pelini time to reverse course.
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State: 8-4. Veteran quarterback Derek Carr and tailback Robbie Rouse will thrive in the Bulldogs' new no-huddle spread.
Norm Chow, Hawaii: 4-8. The transition from Hawaii's long-used Run 'n' Shoot and move up to a tougher conference could cause a tough debut for Chow.
Tony Levine, Houston: 7-5. Case Keenum and nearly all his familiar receivers are gone, so the Cougars' Air Raid might not be as lethal in 2012.
Charley Molnar, Massachusetts: 3-9. Brian Kelly's former offensive coordinator has the unenviable task of navigating UMass' first season in the FBS and MAC.
Justin Fuente, Memphis: 3-9. The former TCU offensive coordinator inherits a mess. The goal is to become more competitive prior to joining the Big East.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: 2-10. Eleven years removed from the Notre Dame job, Davie begins repairing the worst program in the FBS since 2009 (3-33).
Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss: 7-5. The offensive cogs from last year's 12-win season have departed, and the schedule (Nebraska, Louisville, Boise State) is brutal.
Matt Campbell, Toledo: 8-4. The 32-year-old ex-coordinator played a key role in producing the nation's ninth-ranked offense and gets back two solid quarterbacks.
Curtis Johnson, Tulane: 3-9. The New Orleans native and former Miami assistant was hired for his recruiting prowess, but that won't pay dividends just yet.
Garrick McGee, UAB: 3-9. The former Arkansas coordinator should make use of his offensive talent, but the defense will again rank among the bottom of FBS.
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