The attempt to size up the nation’s Football Bowl Subdivision teams has begun in earnest, and a part of that assessment process involves the ability to determine which first-year coaches are likely to succeed… or fail.
In the cutthroat and very fragile realm of college football, the numbers and histories attached to a new coach possess limited value. What’s more interesting – and in some cases, more relevant to the way in which a coach will perform – is how that coach has proven himself at his previous places of employment. In the offseason college football preview magazines you might be perusing at this very moment, you will surely read some paragraphs that document the ways in which some coaches have made a more profound difference than others. Here are the four who should succeed in their new positions:
1. Willie Taggart, South Florida
The first coach, and moreover, the one most likely to succeed, is Willie Taggart at South Florida. You will notice a common thread that knits together most of these coaches: They have won at places where it’s very difficult to win. Taggart tops the list in this regard. He was tabbed to take over at a Western Kentucky program shortly after the Hilltoppers had endured a winless season in 2009. Taggart swallowed a 2-10 rebuilding season in 2010 but then turned Western Kentucky into a winning outfit, going 7-5 in 2011 and repeating the feat in 2012. Western Kentucky made the first bowl game in the history of the program last season, a testament to the turnaround engineered by Taggart. You need to know that Taggart is a Jim Harbaugh protégé, someone who brings Harbaugh’s toughness and ferocity to everything he does. South Florida is likely to be whipped into shape by Taggart. He appears poised to lead the Bulls to bigger and better things in Tampa.
2. Gary Anderson, Wisconsin
The second coach on this list is Gary Andersen, who left Utah State to take the head coaching position at Wisconsin. Andersen won at Utah State, which is extremely hard to do. The Aggies had not made a bowl game since 1997 when Andersen arrived on the scene in 2009. Yet, in the third year of Andersen’s tenure, the Aggies reached the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. One season later, they returned to the game and – on this occasion – won it. Wisconsin is getting a very good recruiter and a strong teacher of technique. The Badgers should benefit from Andersen’s presence in Madison.
3. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
The third coach on this list is Mike MacIntyre of Colorado, who won at San Jose State – guiding the Spartans to a bowl game last season – before jumping at the chance to go to the Pac-12 Conference and test himself at a higher level. If you can win at San Jose State, a program with precious few resources, you possess some coaching chops, period.
4. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois
The fourth coach on this list is Dave Doeren, who won at a high-quality Northern Illinois program. In this sense, Doeren didn’t do anything remarkable. However, Doeren got NIU to the Orange Bowl, marking the first time that a school from the Mid-American Conference had been able to make a BCS bowl. This sets Doeren apart from other coaches in the lower tiers of the FBS who win at thriving programs. Doeren should be able to win eight or nine games per season at North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference.