When USC fired Clay Helton back in September, the first person I felt it should go after was Lincoln Riley.
Never, ever, tho, did I think AD Mike Bohn would make such a bold hire. Surprisingly, he did and it was done in such secrecy that media quizzed Riley about the LSU job after Bedlam and nobody mentioned USC. Looks like the Trojans have found an athletic director as well as a head coach.
This article analyzes this hire, Billy Napier to Florida and looks at other openings and coaches.
Lincoln Riley, USC
This is a home run hire, if not a grand slam.
Riley is young, savvy and will fit in well with the easy-going LA media. He will certainly be under a lot less pressure there than he was at OU and would be when the Sooners move to the high-intensity SEC.
So it’s good timing on his part. He’s leaving just in time and going to a weak conference where he can compete for at least a division title his first year. After several years under the hapless Clay Helton, the Trojans need to learn discipline and how to tackle, as well as how to win.
Helton was a poor recruiter – especially considering he was in talent-rich Southern California – and the Trojans are thin on the offensive and defensive lines and linebacker in particular. Riley can fix that and quicker than you may think by utilizing the transfer portal.
My knock on him is that Oklahoma was always over-hyped because of its offense and was terrible on defense. Like Stoops before him, the Sooners would always get into either the National Championship game or the College Football Playoffs and then lose.
Well first things first, right?
Conclusion: Outstanding hire.
Billy Napier, Florida
Will have to wait and see about this one. Sure, Napier coached under both Nick Saban and Dabo Swiney – pretty good credentials right there – and did quite well leading Louisiana. But how will he do at Florida where fans’ expectations are always unrealistic remains to be seen.
Soon after walking into his Gainesville office, Napier started doing a ver Saban-type of thing: bulking up the Gators’ support staff. That’s a very good sign for Florida fans.
The last two Florida coaches have had complete meltdowns after just a couple years in Gainesville. Will the same happen to Napier?
Conclusion: Too early to tell.
Brian Kelly, LSU
Among the first to fire and the last to hire.
I would have pegged Napier for LSU rather than but the Gators beat the Tigers to the punch in this one. Jimbo Fisher is staying at Texas A&M and now it seems LSU has landed Brian Kelly.
Maybe they just opened the bank vault and said “come on it and take what you want.” The thing is, Kelley’s Notre Dame teams are re never as good as their record. They don’t play in the SEC, for one. He’s also leaving behind his best recruiting class with another one building behind it. There’s a lot of talent in Louisiana, of course, but he’s got to fight off not only Fisher but Nick Saban, as well. He’s also 60 and he’s going to need to have a lot of energy on the recruiting trail, more than he’s ever had in his career.
And what’s up with that Cajun accent Kelly had when introduced at an LSU basketball game? It was as fake as Kelly as a person.
Conclusion: Not a home-run hire. Notre Dame has been blasted whenever it’s been in the playoffs and in particular the National Championship game. This seems to be to be a desperate move by an AD looking to make a “splash” hire.
Notre Dame. Marcus Freeman – Not Luke Fickell Or Urban Meyer
First-year defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman was the choice. He, and not Kelly, is largely credited for the sudden surge in recruiting (this brings into question Kelly’s recruiting prowess which is certainly going to be tested in the SEC). Now, had previous DC Clark Lea had not gone to Vanderbilt last season he may have become the coach. In another interesting twist, Freeman was previously at Cincinnati, so instead of Fickle become the Irish’s coach it’s his former assistant.
Conclusion: So Freeman can recruit but can he coach? Notre Dame is about to find out soon.
Oklahoma – Brent Venables
The early leading media candidate was Kliff Kingsbury but strong rumors have it that OU turned the tables and went with defense, no doubt a move made with one eye on the move to the SEC.
From what I have heard the Boomers have been getting a little tired of their team’s “all O, no D” approach and Venables should be able to plug a few of those holes. A big plus is he was previously at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops.
Conclusion: It’s always hard to know if a successful coordinator will make a successful head coach. Venables could either be the next Bob Stoops or the next Clay Helton. Maybe only time will tell.
Matt Campbell Coaching Destination
I have never understood the media’s fascination with him, especially the normally astute Scott Wolfe of InsideUSC. Other than pulling the occasional upset of Oklahoma he’s just 42-33 at Iowa State and has never beaten in-state rival Iowa. I really don’t see him going anywhere yet. Apparently he was USC’s backup choice if Riley fell through. Will he now wind up at Notre Dame?
Luke Fickell Coaching Destination
Fickell may get that big-time offer after all. Not USC, not LSU, not Florida but Notre Dame? After all, Kelly made a nice transition from Cincinnati to South Bend and it makes sense here.
It’s an exciting time for fans of teams who have fired their coaches and it’s a financial boom to the coaches and their agents.