2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker
With Lincoln Riley headed to USC, a huge opening at Oklahoma becomes available? Who does our 2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker project as the early frontrunner?
Out: Jay Norvell
In: Ken Wilson
The Wolfpack were forced to replace Norvell after he headed to Mountain West rival Colorado State. Norvell finished with a 33-26 record and with two eight-win seasons with the Wolfpack. He put forth four consecutive seven-win seasons and won two bowl games with Nevada in his tenure.
Reports are that former Oregon defensive coordinator Ken Wilson will be named the next head coach. Wilson had been with Oregon since 2019 after six seasons with Washington State. Wilson had previously been with Nevada for a collective 19 seasons before his journey to the Pac-12. His most recent stint with Nevada, Wilson served as associate head coach from 2008-2012. The Wolfpack won two WAC Championships with Wilson as associate head coach.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Out: Brian Kelly
In: Marcus Freeman
It’s been reported that Brian Kelly is expected to be announced as the next head coach at LSU. Kelly has been with Notre Dame since 2010 and has recorded an 11-1 record this season. In his 12 seasons with the Irish, Kelly has recorded a record of 92-39 not including the vacated wins from the 2012-13 seasons.
If the news is true, Notre Dame quickly becomes one of, if not the best opening there is at the current moment.
[UPDATE – Monday, November 29th, 8:15 PM ET] Kelly is in fact the next head coach at LSU and initial reports point to Cincinnati’s head coach Luke Fickell as Notre Dame’s top target.
[UPDATE – Friday, December 3rd, 11:15 AM ET] The Fighting Irish made what could be considered a defining moment in program history. They promoted and hired Marcus Freeman from defensive coordinator to head coach after his one year on staff. Freeman, a former player at Ohio State, joined Notre Dame as defensive coordinator after four years on Luke Fickell’s staff at Cincinnati. Freeman retained Tommy Rees, among other staff members, who decided to stay at Notre Dame rather than follow Kelly. It’s a big win on multiple levels for Notre Dame.
Out: Lincoln Riley
In: Brent Venables
In a largely surprising move — not in nature, but rather speed — Lincoln Riley has reportedly agreed to become the next head coach at USC. Riley jettisons after the Sooners lost their annual Bedlam rivalry game to Oklahoma State and lost a chance at not only the Big 12 Championship but also the College Football Playoff. Riley was pursued by LSU but ultimately chose USC.
It’s important to note that the Sooners haven’t made any headway in their search. They still continue to wade through the waters in the post-Riley era. Current Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has to be at the top of their list of candidates.
[UPDATE – Sunday, December 5th, 2:00 PM ET] The Sooners made the expected hire of Brent Venables, joining the staff in an illustrious fashion. Venables’ first head coaching gig comes after nearly two decades as a position coach or coordinator. He also returns to the sidelines in Norman after he was the co-defensive coordinator from 1999-2003 and associate head coach from 2004-2011.
Out: Mario Cristobal
The Ducks were left to fill a surprise head-coaching vacancy after Mario Cristobal took the Miami job. Cristobal went 35-13 at Oregon, winning two Pac-12 North titles and two Pac-12 Championships. The list of candidates are numerous but the biggest news on the Oregon job hunt is their request to interview current UCLA head coach Chip Kelly.
Kelly coached Oregon from 2009-2012, finishing with a 46-7 record before leaving for the NFL. Kelly has been at UCLA since 2018 and won just 18 games over four seasons.
Out: Sonny Dykes
In: Rhett Lashlee
Sonny Dykes took the Mustangs to new heights over the past three seasons, turning them into one of the best passing teams in that time. He parlayed that success into another big-time job, returning to TCU where he was an offensive analyst back in 2017.
Rhett Lashlee also returns to Texas, taking over full-time head coach duties. Lashlee was the Mustangs offensive coordinator from 2018-2019, leaving for the same role at Miami (FL) from 2020-2021.
TCU Horned Frogs
Out: Gary Patterson
In: Sonny Dykes
TCU fans have Gary Patterson to thank for the growth of the program more so than anyone else. Patterson was the nation’s longest-tenured head coach — until he wasn’t. He had been with the Horned Frogs since 2000, compiling a 181-79 record in 21 seasons.
Under Patterson, TCU famously went 13-0 with a Rose Bowl victory back in 2010 as a member of the Mountain West. Things hadn’t gone quite as well over the past few years, but Patterson will go down as one of the better coaches of this generation.
TCU moved quickly to secure the services of Dykes after his recent success at SMU. Dykes returns after he spent the 2017 season as an offensive analyst. Some may even say 2017 was TCU’s best offensive season over the past decade. They finished No. 9 in the final AP and Coaches poll, the last time they finished a season ranked.
Out: Rod Carey
Rod Carey originally parlayed his success at Northern Illinois into a job at Temple. He had great success with Temple in his first year, finishing at 8-5 in 2019. However, things went south from there. Over the past two seasons, Carey-led Temple teams won a combined four games. He finishes his Temple career with a 12-20 record.
Temple is an interesting job as the American Athletic Conference is slated to change drastically with Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF leaving. The Owls could be a major player in the AAC with the right person as head coach.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Out: Matt Wells
In: Joey McGuire
The Matt Wells era didn’t quite go as planned for Texas Tech. While he brought Air Raid principles to the program, they couldn’t quite figure out the quarterback situation. This ultimately led to Wells’ downfall. He finished his three-year stint with a record of just 13-17, including 5-3 before being fired in the middle of the season.
A longtime Texas high school head coach, McGuire gets his first action as a major college football HC. McGuire was most recently the associate head coach under Dave Aranda at Baylor.
Out: Chip Lindsey
In: Jon Sumrall
The Trojans were once considered one of the better Group of Five teams. However, the recent lack of success turned the favor for Lindsey. Troy let him go after just 11 games, finishing his three years with a 15-19 record as head coach.
The defensive pieces are there, but the lack of offensive success will certainly be something of note as they continue to search for a new HC.
[UPDATE – Tuesday, December 7th, 9:15 AM ET] Troy has hired Jon Sumrall as their next head coach. Sumrall heads to Troy after serving as Kentucky’s co-defensive coordinator this past season. He played football at Kentucky from 2002-2004 and has a previous stint as the team’s associate head coach and linebackers coach from 2015-2017.
Out: Randy Edsall
In: Jim Mora Jr.
Randy Edsall Era II was largely a bust compared to Randy Edsall Era I. Edsall was the team’s head coach from 1999-2010, building the program from a Division-1AA to a competing member of the Big East. He compiled a record of 74-70 in his first stint, compared to a 6-32 record from 2017-2021.
UConn moved on from Edsall in the middle of the season after announcing he would be gone following the year. That lasted all of 24 hours, and the program brought Jim Mora Jr. back to the college football ranks.
Mora hasn’t been a head coach since 2017 when he famously struggled at UCLA. He has a collegiate win-loss record of 46-30, but lack of recent coaching draws concern right away.
Out: Walt Bell
In: Don Brown
Once considered an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks, Walt Bell took on the daunting task of trying to build the UMass program essentially from scratch. Bell won two games during his time at UMass and was let go after reaching just 1-8 this season. He’ll likely get a job as a coordinator and eventually could get back to coaching another program. He’s still just 37 years old.
On the other end of the spectrum, 66-year-old Don Brown was named head coach moving forward. Brown returns to UMass after his previous stint from 2004-2008. He was recently the defensive coordinator for Arizona in 2021 and Michigan from 2016-2020.
Brown went 43-19 during his previous tenure at UMass, leading the Minutemen to two NCAA Division I Playoffs, including a runner-up finish in 2006. He’ll have his work cut out for him this time around. It’s a different ball game for the Minutemen now.
Out: Clay Helton
In: Lincoln Riley
The Trojans made a splash back in Week 2, firing Helton after a demoralizing loss to Stanford. The Pac-12 South has not run through LA in some time, and Helton’s quest to “Take Back the West” has ultimately fallen short. Helton racked up a 46-24 record at USC and now takes over for Georgia Southern.
The biggest hire yet, USC actually may have won the coaching carousel sweepstakes with their hiring of Riley. As good as Riley’s been — and he’s been good — it’s also imperative to take a look at his recent success in recruiting the West.
Currently committed to play for Oklahoma and Riley are 2022 five-star RB Raleek Brown, 2023 five-star QB Malachi Nelson, 2023 five-star athlete Makai Lemon, and 2023 four-star WR DeAndre Moore Jr. — all hailing from Southern California. The recruiting race to get USC back to where they should be is something to watch with Riley in the fold.
Out: Justin Fuente
In: Brent Pry
The entire coaching staff was essentially coaching on borrowed time this season for Virginia Tech. The Hokies made no shockwaves when they announced Justin Fuente was going to be out following the year. Fuente finished his Tech career with a 43-31 record.
The job is a prestigious one, but the right hire will have to be set in place for VA Tech. Some big names are floating out there now, but the most notable one has to be Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell, who is destined for a Power Five gig sooner than later.
[UPDATE – Tuesday, November 30th, 9:15 PM ET] The Hokies are zeroing in on current Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry, per Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. Pry has been with PSU since the 2014 season and has been the defensive coordinator since 2016. The announcement is expected Tuesday, but all indications are Pry returns to Blacksburg where he was a grad assistant coach from 1995-98.
Out: Jimmy Lake
In: Kalen DeBoer
Washington made the easy decision to appoint Jimmy Lake back in 2019-2020 after Chris Peterson stepped down. Lake was seemingly destined for greatness in the head coaching ranks as well. He won the Pac-12 North in his first season but wasn’t able to play for the Pac-12 Championship following COVID cases.
Lake then had his contract bought out following scrutiny over him shoving a player. He was fired and had a $9.9 million buyout in his contract. Lake has now reportedly moved on to join the Oregon staff. Washington will be involved with the majority of big names until they find their right hire.
[UPDATE – Monday, November 29th, 6:15 PM ET] Former Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer is set to become Washington’s next head coach. DeBoer joins the Huskies after leading Fresno State to a 9-3 record this year and five seasons prior as the head coach at Sioux Falls. He honed his craft for one season under Tom Allen at Indiana and was always poised to make a big-time leap.
Washington State Cougars
Out: Nick Rolovich
In: Jake Dickert
Lake and Washington joined their bitter rivals in the unsurprising job openings this offseason. Nick Rolovich was ousted as the head coach following an off-field incident regarding COVID-19 vaccination status.
Politics and personal decisions aside, Rolovich is gone, and Washington State has already made up its mind to move on with interim head coach Jake Dickert. Removing the interim tag from his title, Dickert grabs his first-ever head coaching job after joining the Washington State staff in 2020 as defensive coordinator. He’s compiled a 3-2 record as the interim HC so far, including going 3-1 in Pac-12 play.
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