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Ranking the college football coaching hires this off-season

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Ranking the new college coaches:

1. Mark Richt, Miami: Richt always seemed to win nine games a season at Georgia. He did right up until this year, when the feeling of an under-achieving program finally got him fired. Richt isn’t a perfect match with Miami, but he’ll bring some expectations with him. The question is how long before nine wins starts to sound old to UM, too.

2. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia: If anyone can win with the Cavs, it’s Mendenhall, the longtime BYU coach. Coaches rarely leave on their own after 11 years in one spot, but Mendenhall should at least get Virginia to the middle of the ACC pack quickly.

3. Kirby Smart, Georgia: No, he’s never been a head coach. But after all those years of being Nick Saban’s right-hand, Smart seems ready to lead his own program. A guy can win at Georgia, a school that dominates its state in recruiting. A Smart hire.

4. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: Fuente did wonderful things at Memphis, and there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to do the same at Virginia Tech. There’s a reason he was one of the small school coaches whose ascension was inevitable.

5. Dino Babers, Syracuse: Only the culture of Syracuse knocks this hire down a peg. Babers is a good one, and he’ll bring offense to the Orange quickly. It’s a mystery only why it was Syracuse who Babers picked.

6. Clay Helton, USC: Helton took over as interim coach late in the season and got the Trojans a division title. But will he be enough to fill the expectations of the Trojans long-term? We’ll see.

7. Will Muschamp, South Carolina: If the Gators are throwing a coach away, the Gamecocks are interested. Muschamp’s hyped defense wasn’t that good at Auburn, and his offenses at Florida were horrible. Still, he’ll make South Carolina better on defense.

8. Barry Odom, Missouri: When illness forced former coach Gary Pinkel to step down, Odom was a popular choice. Can he keep a pretty good run going with the Tigers? He’ll have to.

9. Scott Frost, Central Florida: He’s never been a head coach, but Frost is an interesting choice for the Knights. He comes from Oregon, where the offense is go-go-go all the time. It shouldn’t take long for him to make a mark.

10. D.J. Durkin, Maryland: Durkin comes straight from the Jim Harbaugh tree, which isn’t bad. But Maryland has been a mess for years. Durkin comes with a good rep, but can he clean up Maryland?

11. Chris Ash, Rutgers. Ash comes with a good résumé. He was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State. However, he was suspended three games this year for contacting a professor, so we’ll see how he manages the rules.

12. Tracey Claeys, Minnesota: Claeys was a 21-year assistant with the Gophers, which makes you wonder. Why didn’t anyone else hire him?

13. Mike Norvell, Memphis. The Tigers think they have another bright young assistant, this one from Arizona State, to replace Fuente. Tiger fans will be watching closely.

14. Matt Campbell, Iowa State. Campbell won 35 games in four years at Toledo, but Iowa State is a difficult chore.

15. Bill Cubit, Illinois. Cubit had a full year as interim coach, and went 5-7, after the team fired Tim Beckham just before the season.

16. Jason Candle, Toledo. Candle is the team’s former offensive coordinator. That’s never exciting, but sometimes, things can work out.

17. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii. Rolovich, a former assistant at Hawaii, returns after being the Nevada head coach. He replaces Norm Chow.

18. Scott Littrell, North Texas: Littrell was the offensive coordinator for North Carolina, which had a big year. But the Mean Green wasn’t very mean this year.

19. East Carolina, TBA. After canning Ruffin McNeal, the Pirates are looking.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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