Gold: Grading the Pac-12 coaching carousel, Pt. 1
Round and round it goes, the coaching carousel that commands our attention every season. Come one, come all, step right up, everybody gets a spin.
The Pac-12 is no stranger to coaching turnover, but this year feels especially strange, given the massive shift at Colorado, with Coach Prime bringing his giant tent to the league.
But Boulder isn’t the only place in a state of transition.
The entire league is experiencing some kind of shift.
Here’s a look at the first half of the league, and tomorrow we’ll take a stab at Stanford through Washington State.
2022 record: 5-7 overall (3-6 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (3rd, 318.42 ypg); Rushing (7th, 143.5 ypg); Total (6th, 461.92 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (7th, 258.58 ypg); Rushing (10th, 209.09 ypg); Total (11th, 467.67 ypg)
Incoming coaches: N/A
Outgoing coaches: DeWayne Walker (cornerbacks)
2023 Prospectus: Given the Wildcats’ defensive struggles for going on 2 years now, it’s a surprise Fisch didn’t make more changes for 2023. And he may not even be the one who instigated the departure of Walker, the former UCLA defensive coordinator and Cleveland Browns defensive backs coach.
Arizona might have needed a new voice given the pass defense’s 107th national ranking. It’s a bit surprising Johnny Nansen wasn’t shown the door after the defense nearly bottomed out in 2022, but he was given a reprieve.
Arizona State Sun Devils
2022 record: 3-9 overall (2-7 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (9th, 251.92 ypg); Rushing (8th, 135.25 ypg); Total (9th, 387.17 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (4th, 233.42 ypg); Rushing (9th, 188.08 ypg); Total (421.5 ypg)
Incoming coaches: Kenny Dillingham (head coach); Beau Baldwin (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks); Brian Ward (defensive coordinator); Charlie Ragle (special teams coordinator/assistant head coach); Ra’Shaad Samples (wide receivers/passing game coordinator); Shaun Aguano (running backs); Saga Tuitele (offensive line); AJ Cooper (linebackers); Bryan Carrington (cornerbacks); Vince Amey (defensive line); Jason Mohns (tight ends)
Outgoing coaches: Herm Edwards (head coach); Glenn Thomas (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks); Donnie Henderson (defensive coordinator); Shawn Slocum (special teams coordinator/assistant head coach); Bobby Wade (wide receivers); Shaun Aguano (running backs); Mike Cavanaugh (offensive line); Chris Claiborne (linebackers); Aaron Fletcher (cornerbacks); Robert Rodriguez (defensive line); Juston Wood (tight ends)
Turnover Grade: B
2023 Prospectus: The nation’s youngest head coach at just 32, the jury is still out on Dillingham.
Does he bring a ton of youthful exuberance to the desert, which desperately needed a jolt of fresh air? Certainly. Has he been thoughtful and creative in composing his coaching staff? Absolutely. Will that translate to wins? Who knows?
It’s not as if the Sun Devils have a ton of talent, even if they have taken to the transfer portal quite nicely. Retaining Shaun Aguano, who filled in admirably after Edwards was fired, was a nice move. Hiring Ragle, the former Arizona coach, is a stroke of genius. But wins on the recruiting trail won’t translate immediately, and Dillingham will want to show some progress in a hurry.
Baldwin is an interesting hire as offensive coordinator, as he comes over after a 3-year run as Cal Poly head coach, which followed a 3-year run as Cal offensive coordinator. His familiarity with the Pac-12 should pay off.
2022 record: 4-8 overall (2-7 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (5th, 268.00 ypg); Rushing (12th, 96.58 ypg); Total (10th, 364.58 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (12th, 279.50 ypg); Rushing (7th, 149.08 ypg); Total (9th, 428.58 ypg)
Incoming coaches: Jake Spavital (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach); Mike Bloesch (offensive line/run game coordinator); Tim Plough (tight ends)
Outgoing coaches: Bill Musgrave (offensive coordinator); Angus McClure (offensive line); Geep Chryst (tight ends)
Turnover Grade: B
2023 Prospectus: It won’t be very hard to improve upon what Musgrave did in Berkeley, but couldn’t Wilcox have thought more outside the box than Spavital, a former Cal offensive coordinator, who was recently fired by Texas State?
Sure Spavital had great success with the Bears in his lone season as coordinator, leading Davis Webb to the nation’s 4th-best offense. But recapturing that magic with the quarterback position in a state of flux seems unlikely. Wilcox also plucked from Plough from the ranks of the jobless, after the 37-year-old coach was fired by Boise State in September after the Broncos’ slow start.
Bloesch moves the needle a bit more. A finalist for Football Scoop Offensive Line Coach of the Year (2021) and 2-time nominee for the Broyles Award, which honors the nation’s top assistant coach (2020, 2022), Bloesch will be tasked with helping restore the Cal running game to a functional unit.
2022 record: 1-11 overall (1-8 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (12th, 172.92 ypg); Rushing (9th, 108.33 ypg); Total (12th, 281.25 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (9th, 172.92 ypg); Rushing (12th, 264.67 ypg); Total (12th, 509.75 ypg)
Incoming coaches: Deion Sanders (head coach); Gary Harrell (running backs/assistant head coach); Charles Kelly (defensive coordinator/safeties); Sean Lewis (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks); Brett Bartolone (wide receivers); Tim Brewster (tight ends); Andre’ Hart (linebackers); Kevin Mathis (cornerbacks); Bill O’Boyle (offensive line); Nick Williams (defensive ends)
Outgoing coaches: Karl Dorrell (head coach); Mike Sanford (quarterbacks); Phil McGeoghan (wide receivers/assistant head coach); Gerald Chatman (defensive coordinator/defensive line); Clay Patterson (offensive coordinator/tight ends); Chris Wilson (defensive coordinator/outside linebackers); Kyle DeVan (offensive line/run game coordinator); Brett Maxie (safeties); Rod Chance (cornerbacks); Darian Hagan (running backs); Chris Reinert (special teams coordinator); Jeff Smart (linebackers); Mark Smith (linebackers)
Turnover Grade: A+
2023 Prospectus: Is there a bigger coaching upgrade in all of college football than going from dour Karl Dorrell to Coach Prime? Sanders brings a lot more than name recognition with him to Boulder. He proved at Jackson State that he can recruit with the best of them and then coach ’em up.
He certainly has made waves early in his Colorado tenure. Snagging Charles Kelly from the tight grip of Nick Saban was a coup, and Kelly — the former Florida State defensive coordinator — should mesh well with Sanders, the former Seminole great. Lewis was a big get as well, as it’s not every day that a head coach of a solid team like Kent State leaves to become offensive coordinator at a 1-11 school.
This is no ordinary 1-11 school, though. With the talent that Sanders has already brought in, the Buffaloes should be looking at a 3- or 4-win turnaround on the light side.
2022 record: 10-3 overall (7-2 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (4th, 284.77 ypg); Rushing (3rd, 215.77 ypg); Total (5th, 500.54 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (6th, 256.38 ypg); Rushing (4th, 124.77 ypg); Total (4th, 381.15 ypg)
Incoming coaches: Will Stein (offensive coordinator); Chris Hampton (defensive assistant position TBD)
Outgoing coaches: Kenny Dillingham (offensive coordinator); Matt Powledge (co-defensive coordinator/safeties)
Turnover Grade: A-
2023 Prospectus: Much will be made of the Ducks’ changes on offense, where former offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham leaves a big hole. But Oregon also lost Powledge to Baylor, where he’ll serve as defensive coordinator, and Dan Lanning will likely have some added responsibilities on the defensive side, which is his forte.
Bringing in Hampton, the former Tulane defensive coordinator who led a terrific defensive improvement this year — the Green Wave jumped No. 114 in scoring defense (34.0 points per game) in 2021 to No. 32 this season (22.2) and from No. 101 to No. 46 in total defense — might end up being a sneaky good hire.
2022 record: 10-3 overall (6-3 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (11th, 199.54 ypg); Rushing (4th, 196.46 ypg); Total (7th, 396.0 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (3rd, 224.54 ypg); Rushing (1st, 108.23 ypg); Total (1st, 332.77 ypg)
Incoming coaches: Keith Bhonapa (running backs)
Outgoing coaches: A.J. Stewart (running backs)
Turnover Grade: A-
2023 Prospectus: Is it fair to give an A grade to a team that just about stands pat? When that team improves to 10 wins, including a resounding bowl victory and a memorable win over in-state rival Oregon, its bound to lose someone, and the Beavers did recently have to replace Stewart, who left for the same role at Baylor. In comes Boise State’s Bhonopa, with plenty of Pac-12 experience and special teams coordinator as well as associate head coach experience.
The Beavers have introduced all of 4 new coaches during Jonathan Smith’s tenure, and that continuity is a big reason the Beavers have continued to steadily improve.
Another 10-win season, though, and you can bet Smith is going to have to fend off some serious suitors, though.