5 Best Head Coaching Changes Entering 2017

Well the 2016 season has come to a close. Entering next season, teams will forego some coaching changes. Here are the five best changes entering 2017.

The 2016 College Football season saw plenty of surprise endings for a lot of teams, especially on the coaching carousel. The Minnesota Golden Gophers let go of head coach Tracy Claeys despite the team posting a 9-4 record on the year.

The California Golden Bears fired head coach Sonny Dykes as well. Dykes compiled a 19-30 record in four seasons as the Golden Bears head coach. A year of regression in 2016 did him in with Cal going 5-7 in 2016. The Golden Bears went 8-5 in 2015, which included a win in the Armed Forces Bowl.

With winning being a priority, some teams didn’t waste any time firing and hiring top-tier coaches to fill positions. A lot of teams in the Power 5 fired their head coaches, some unexpectedly. 2017 should bring some interesting results with the new coaching changes.

The Connecticut Huskies rehired head coach Randy Edsall for a second stint at head coach. Edsall began his head coaching career at UConn in 2000 and coached the program until 2010. He’ll look to make the Huskies a more respectable team in 2017.

Charlie Strong got fired at the University of Texas this season but he was tapped quickly for the South Florida job. Strong wasn’t the greatest fit as head coach at Texas (16-21) but may be a better fit as the Bulls head coach.

These hires barely crack the surface of the five best, however. But it serves as a glimpse as what to expect as we discuss the five best coaching changes entering 2017.

NCAA Football: FAU Press Conference

5. Lane Kiffin, FAU

Lane Kiffin is a head coach again, this time around at Florida Atlantic. He’ll be the Florida Atlantic Owls’ fourth head coach since 2004. The team hasn’t had a winning season since 2008. Kiffin will be looked upon to turn a number of things around which will make for an interesting storyline either way.

Kiffin was the offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide last season, a title he had held since 2014. His first head coaching job was at Tennessee, where Kiffin went 7-6 before bolting for the University of Southern Cal in 2010. At USC, Kiffin lasted four seasons before being fired after a 3-2 start in 2013. He did compile a 28-15 record while at Southern Cal but by all accounts, he looked in over his head.

2017 Outlook: Recruiting and Scheduling

Entering 2017, Kiffin gets another chance at redemption at Florida Atlantic. However, with his first commit, he’s off to a bit of a shaky start. FAU signed former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson out of East Mississippi Community College. Johnson was kicked out of FSU in the summer of 2015 for a domestic violence incident. Second chances are in order for both head coach and player, and we’ll see how they do in the upcoming season.

Along with Johnson, FAU also has 11 other commits pending the National Signing Day deadline, according to 24/7 Sports.

The 2017 schedule is a tough one for Kiffin and the Owls as they open against Navy on September 2, then on the road at Wisconsin on September 9. After that, things get a bit easier, on paper anyway, with Bethune-Cookman on September 16 and Buffalo on September 23. The Owls will need to win early if Kiffin hopes to survive after those first two games.

Conference USA opponents should be an interesting change for Kiffin as well. With his prowess for high-powered offenses, he could very well be a coach to watch by year’s end.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Baylor

4. Matt Rhule, Baylor

The Baylor Bears brought in Matt Rhule from Temple University looking to escape the off-the-field issues that have plagued them over the past few seasons. With domestic violence issues still looming over former players and coaches, Rhule looks to start a new era in Waco.

At Temple, Rhule was 28-23. He spent four seasons at Temple, where he had back-to-back 10-win seasons, two bowl appearances, and won the American Athletic Conference Championship game over Navy 34-10 in 2016. It was the Owls first conference title since 1967.

2017 Outlook: Recruiting and Scheduling

A lot of people questioned Matt Rhule’s recruiting ability when he entered as Baylor’s head coach. The Bears had 1 commit when Rhule stepped on campus. Since Rhule’s arrival, they are now at 12. Off to an impressive start already in Waco. The Bears earned the commitment of three offensive linemen and an athlete this past weekend. It helps Rhule hired a number of coaches with Texas ties.

Baylor opens the 2017 season against Liberty on September 2 then faces UTSA on September 9 and Duke on September 16. Their out-of-conference schedule isn’t too daunting, but they open Big 12 play against Oklahoma followed by two road games at Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Conference play will hold plenty of tests next year for Rhule in his first season as head coach.

Rhule surprised many in the AAC this past year, boasting the 11th ranked scoring defense in the FBS (18.4 points allowed per game). Ironically, he brings his whole defensive staff with him from Temple. He’ll look to make noise in the Big 12 in 2017 as Baylor returns a reasonable amount of talent.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at South Florida

3. Willie Taggart, Oregon

Willie Taggart is the Oregon Ducks head coach after spending the past four seasons at South Florida. As the Bulls head coach, Taggart went 24-25 with his 2016 season being the best in school history. The South Florida Bulls went 10-2, winning their final five games to finish the season. It was the most wins by a team in school history.

Oregon went 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12 in 2016 under former head coach Mark Helfrich. Taggart will have big shoes to fill but with his fast-paced offense, fans should be in for a treat. The Bulls offense was fourth in the FBS last season in scoring offense with 43.8 points per game. He led South Florida to two bowl appearances as well.

2017 Outlook: Recruiting and Scheduling

On paper, Taggart is the perfect fit for the Ducks’ style of play. Recruiting wise, he’s brought in Mario Cristobal, a highly-rated recruiter and assistant from Alabama, to shore up their recruiting woes. The Ducks currently have 15 commitments in this year’s class. They already have a lot of defensive help coming in with two 4-star defensive backs and two 3-star defensive tackles. But Taggart and company will need to get better on the offensive side of the ball next season and beyond to get back to Pac-12 dominance.

The Oregon Ducks’ 2017 schedule isn’t too difficult out-of-conference next season for Taggart, which should bode well. They open the season against Southern Utah on September 2, then play Nebraska on September 9, and on the road at Wyoming on September 16.

Conference play is a lot more challenging than it was a few seasons ago. The Ducks got just two wins in 2016. 2017 should bring more challenges with Washington, USC, Colorado, and Washington State all returning a lot of talent.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan

2. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Head coach P.J. Fleck carries the “Row the Boat” trademark with him to the Big Ten Conference and he should make noise immediately at Minnesota. The Minnesota Golden Gophers went 9-4 in 2016. The dismissal of head coach Tracy Claeys came after he supported a players’ boycott amidst a sexual assault investigation surrounding the suspension of 10 players on the football team.

Fleck is coming off a 13-1 season at Western Michigan which concluded with a trip to the Cotton Bowl. They lost 24-16 to the Wisconsin Badgers. The Broncos were still ninth in the FBS in scoring offense (41.6) and 15th in scoring defense (19.8) in 2016. Fleck is a head coach who brings energy and culture change to a program in need of a top-tier coach. He faces some tough obstacles in head coaches Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Jim Harbaugh to a name a few but 2017 will serve as a good test for him.

2017 Outlook: Recruiting and Scheduling

Since his arrival, Fleck has already made noise on the recruiting trail by flipping recruit Demetrious Douglas from Oregon to Minnesota. We’ve seen Fleck rebuild Western Michigan, leading them to three bowl appearances in four seasons. So far at Minnesota, he’s off to an impressive start in recruiting, if not without controversy. He’s already flipped eight of his recruits from Western Michigan to Minnesota.

Minnesota now has 20 verbal commitments as signing day approaches, according to 247 Sports. Their recruiting class ranks 50th nationally.

Minnesota opens the season August 31 against Buffalo then travels to Oregon State on September 9. Then, they face Middle Tennessee on September 16. The 2017 schedule for the Golden Gophers isn’t too difficult in the beginning but with Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin on the conference schedule, Fleck will have to prove himself among some of the elite next season.

NCAA Football: Houston at Cincinnati

1. Tom Herman, Texas

The Texas Longhorns hiring of head coach Tom Herman is the best on the coaching carousel so far. Coming off a 5-7 season, the Texas Longhorns look to Herman to work his magic as head coach.

Herman led the Cougars to a 22-4 record, including a 2015 American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year award. Houston opened 2016 with a lot of promise as well, upsetting the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners 33-23 in their season opener.

Herman brings with him to Texas a wealth of experience in the upset department as well. In 2015, his Houston Cougars beat ninth-ranked Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl. The Cougars went 13-1 in Herman’s first season as head coach. 2016 showed promise for them but losses to Navy and SMU ruined their playoff hopes. They finished 9-3 last season.

Herman also brings with him a culture a change, particularly in the training room. With his hiring of Yancy McKnight, he’ll look to turn around a program in need of extra work in the weight room.

2017 Outlook: Recruiting and Scheduling

At Texas, Herman looks to return the team to national prominence. His first task: get his wishlist of recruits on campus. The Longhorns already have 10 hard commits as signing day approaches, according to 247 Sports. They have a solid 2017 recruiting class coming in ranked 32nd nationally.

The Texas Longhorns 2017 schedule is too daunting until September 16 when they face the USC Trojans. Their season opener against Maryland on September 2 should serve as a good measuring stick for the team overall. Conference-wise, the Big 12 is full of wild cards as no team should be taken lightly. With Baylor, TCU and West Virginia all on the road next season, Herman will have his hands full all season long.

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