Analyzing the Top College Football Head Coach Vacancies

The coaching carousel appears to be in full swing now with the regular season coming to a close this Saturday. We’ve already had two coaches confirm that they will be leaving their current job to move to a new team to fill a vacancy. Virginia Tech must have been preparing for a while to replace Frank Beamer with the rumors of him retiring growing louder in recent years. They hired Justin Fuente who has had an impressive run at Memphis. Iowa State quickly acted before many others to nab Matt Campbell from Toledo after the Rockets failed to make the MAC title game. Elsewhere Hawaii, Minnesota and Illinois have already made moves to fill head coach vacancies.

The 2014 coaching carousel was dominated by the news that Jim Harbaugh might be going to Michigan. So, let’s look at what the big storylines will be in this year and which head coaching vacancies are the most coveted now that USC has announced that Clay Helton will be the permanent head coach:

Georgia:

Some elements of the media have argued that the now vacant job in Athens, Georgia is a more appealing job than the one that was available at USC. Georgia is the clear top team in terms of recruiting in its own state with Florida right next door. Couple that with the SEC East being an absolute mess right now, and the potential is incredibly high for any potential applicant. The other benefit of being in the SEC East is that the Bulldogs avoid facing Alabama every year. They aren’t scheduled to face them in 2016 or 2017. If you have to face the Crimson Tide in the SEC title game then you’ve obviously done something right.

The pressure that comes with this job is apparent and has many similarities with what happened last year at Nebraska with Bo Pelini. The Bulldogs won nine regular season games; but that wasn’t enough for a fan base that expects this team to be a challenger in the SEC and on the national stage. Any new coach will need to make a strong start to keep the fan base on board.

South Carolina:

Following on from the most successful head coach in Gamecock history could be a tough challenge especially given how well liked Steve Spurrier was by the media and the fans. The only advantage is that Spurrier’s final two seasons saw the team slowly decline to 7-6 and then a woeful 3-9. So any new head coach will be given time to rebuild a team that has slowly lost its way on and off the field. As mentioned above, the SEC East is going through a down year; so it’s possible a new coach could quickly get the Gamecocks back to being bowl eligible as they search to get back towards those 11 win seasons they had under Spurrier.

Miami:

The U has fallen a long way from their position as national champion in 2001 to the mediocrity they’ve became used to under Randy Shannon and Al Golden. The 59-0 blowout loss to Clemson exposed the real weaknesses of this Miami team. It is still a head coaching job with huge potential.

Florida is one of the best states to be in for recruiting, and Miami still has a very popular brand among potential recruits. Despite all the woes this season, the Canes still managed to finish 8-4 with three of their four losses coming against teams likely to be ranked in the top 15 by the College Football Playoff Committee. The Coastal division in the ACC is very winnable most years even for a team as flawed as the Miami Hurricanes. This is a team that could very quickly be turned around if a new coach can build around Brad Kaaya to win ten or eleven games.

Maryland:

The 2015 season was just an absolute mess for the Terrapins. The early win over USF actually looks quite impressive given how the Bulls’ finished. A final day win over Rutgers arguably only proved that the Scarlet Knights are in a bigger hole than Maryland themselves. Aside from that, this 3-9 season showed that a major rebuild is needed here.

Now that Maryland is in the Big Ten, and with an Under Armour contract, there is potential for this school to become a perennial bowl team. Being a member of the East division does make things tougher having to face Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State every season; but that is something that may appeal to recruits.

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