Teams with new coaches hoping for change of fortune
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
Sports Network (Philadelphia, PA) - As is the case just about every year, the 2012 FBS season brings with it a slew of new head coaches. And it appears as though this crop represents some of the most intriguing coaching changes in recent years.
The following is a list of ten new head coaches who are attempting to turn their new programs around, making them winners both on and off the football field.
Bill O'Brien, Penn State - The folks in Happy Valley knew that eventually they'd have to replace legendary head coach Joe Paterno - who had been at the helm since the 1966 season - but no one expected his tenure to end quite like it did. Paterno resigned last season following the scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky, and passed away shortly thereafter. Attempting to dig Penn State out of its darkest period is Bill O'Brien, who has spent the last five seasons as an offensive assistant for the New England Patriots. He certainly has his work cut out for him, but O'Brien has gotten off on the right foot, with his players and the community rallying around the no-nonsense first- time head coach.
Urban Meyer, Ohio State - Meyer's track record as a head coach has been nearly flawless. After leading Bowling Green and Utah from obscurity to prominence, Meyer graduated to the big time when he landed the gig at Florida, where he won two BCS National Championships between 2005 and 2010. After a brief stint in broadcasting, Meyer returns to another national powerhouse in Ohio State, which went just 6-7 a year ago and is still trying to recover from the scandal revolving Jim Tressel's 2010 squad. The Buckeyes won't be bowl eligible in Meyer's first year, but given his past success, expect a full-fledged turnaround in the not-too-distant future.
John L. Smith, Arkansas - Under Bobby Petrino last season, Arkansas was quietly one of the most dominant teams in the nation, losing just two games to eventual BCS title qualifiers and SEC West foes Alabama and LSU. But with Petrino out following an offseason scandal (which seems to be a theme early on in this list), John L. Smith takes the reins to a team hoping to take the next step. Smith has work to do, especially considering the brutal schedule the team will play this year, but he has enough returning talent to make his first season in Fayetteville a positive one.
Kyle Flood, Rutgers - Few people envy Flood as he tries to replace the beloved Greg Schiano, who brought the program back from obscurity in 2006 with an 11-2 record and has since had winning records in five of the last six seasons (and five bowl wins). With Schiano now leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Flood steps up to become the captain of the ship after spending the last six years as the Scarlet Knights' offensive line coach. The 41-year old hasn't been a head coach since his days at St. Francis Prep from 1993-94, but his familiarity with the team and the Big East Conference should help minimize the learning curve.
Jim Mora, Jr., UCLA - After several years of being irrelevant in the Pac-10/12, UCLA fired head coach Rick Neuheisel following the 2011 season. The school named Mike Johnson the interim coach for its bowl game, but ultimately went with the bigger name in Jim Mora, Jr. as the permanent replacement. Mora is a quality football mind for sure, having 25 years of coaching experience in the NFL, including head coaching gigs with Atlanta and Seattle, though he hasn't been apart of the FBS since being a graduate assistant at Washington back in 1984. Still, Mora's charisma and track record should help build a more competitive team in Los Angeles.
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona - Mike Stoops seemed to have found success in Tucson, having taken the Wildcats to three consecutive bowl games from 2008 to 2010, but when he started the 2011 season a dismal 1-5, he was relieved of his duties and replaced by interim coach Tim Kish. Now Rodriguez is on board to try and reinvigorate the squad. He'll be incorporating his renowned run-and-gun style and will hope for results closer to the successes he had at West Virginia, and less like the colossal failure of his most recent gig at Michigan.
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss - After going 9-4 in each of his first two seasons at Ole Miss, Houston Nutt was fired after going a combined 6-18 in 2010 and 2011, which included a school-record 12 straight losses to SEC opponents. Freeze enters the fray after establishing himself on the mid-major level, going 10-2 for Arkansas State a year ago. The Rebels have a long way to go to get back to being a factor in the ultra-competitive SEC, but Freeze should have a long leash to incorporate his system.
Mike Leach, Washington State - Leach experienced nearly a decade of success at Texas Tech, going 84-43 with six bowl wins from 2000 to 2009. After being fired for what many deemed to be unjust reasons, Leach took two years off from coaching before returning this season to replace Paul Wulff at Washington State. To say the Cougars are in a rebuilding mode would be an understatement -- they've won just nine games in the past four seasons combined - but Leach is an offensive mastermind and his explosive attack should eventually fit right in with the rest of the high-flying Pac-12.
Todd Graham, Arizona State - After five years with a perfectly average 31-31 record, veteran head coach Dennis Erickson was fired by Arizona State. To help remedy the Sun Devils' problems, Todd Graham was brought in to lead the charge after building a solid, if somewhat controversial resume' in the past six years as the head coach of Rice, Tulsa and most recently Pittsburgh. A defensive back during his playing days, Graham has instilled in his past teams a hard-nosed mind set and he will look to continue that trend during his stay in Tempe.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M - During his four-year stint as the head coach at Houston, Sumlin turned the Cougars into one of the most prolific mid-major teams in the country, culminating his stay with a fantastic 12-1 record in 2011. Now he returns to the Aggies as head coach after serving as their offensive coordinator in 2001-02. With former coach Mike Sherman leaving to become the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, Sumlin will try to energize a squad that is just two years removed from finishing atop the Big 12 Conference South Division standings.
07/17 11:52:57 ET