10 college football coaches to watch in 2019
These college football coaches are likely to make headlines this season, for better or worse.
Manny Diaz, Miami
Manny Diaz is finally a head coach. Technically, this is his second head coaching job. Miami's former defensive coordinator under Mark Richt took the Temple job, only to return 18 days later after Richt abruptly resigned at the conclusion of last season. Diaz has spent the offseason turning "The U" into a haven for transfer portal entrants, most notably ex-Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell. Diaz's charge in 2019 will be to orchestrate an offensive turnaround after last season's underachieving 7-6 mark.
Ryan Day, Ohio State
Ryan Day officially starts his head coaching career with a 3-0 record to his resume. The 40-year-old former offensive coordinator filled in for the recently retired Urban Meyer while he was serving a three-game suspension to begin last season. Ohio State is hoping the transition from Meyer to Day will work in the same way that Oklahoma benefitted by passing the baton from Bob Stoops to Lincoln Riley in 2017.
Les Miles, Kansas
David Beaty won just six games in the four seasons before Les Miles got to Kansas. Miles has never lost fewer than eight games during his 11-plus seasons at LSU. Of course, Kansas isn't LSU. Miles will have his work cut out for him, taking over a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2008. But college football is better when Miles is a part of it. Unfortunately for Miles, the Wildcats play on artificial turf, so he won't have any grass to chew.
Willie Taggart, Florida State
It's rare to think of a Florida State football coach on the hot seat. But, then again, it's been 41 years between losing seasons for the Seminoles. In the debut of the Willie Taggart era, Florida State lost to rivals Miami and Florida in the same season for the first time since 2009, failed to make a bowl game for the first time since 1982 and lost more games in a single season than the Seminoles had since before Bobby Bowden was hired in 1976. That can't happen again. After calling the plays during the disastrous 2018 season, Taggart has turned over play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who has served in the same capacity at Baylor, Florida Atlantic and Houston.
Mack Brown, North Carolina
Before leading Texas to a national championship in 2005, Mack Brown found success at North Carolina. He'll try to recreate that success again in Chapel Hill. Brown came out of retirement to take the job he held from 1998-97, leading the Tar Heels to a 69-46-1 record and six consecutive bowl appearances.
Dana Holgorsen, Houston
Taking a cue from the Jimbo Fisher playbook, Dana Holgorsen resigned after eight seasons at West Virginia to become head coach at a Texas school. Holgorsen was 61-41 with the Mountaineers, but his 33-30 record against Big 12 Conference left West Virginia fans wanting more. Now that Holgorsen is back at Houston, where he spent two seasons as offensive coordinator, the clock resets as he tries to get the Cougars back to a "New Year's Six" bowl for the first time since 2015.
Chris Klieman, Kansas State
Chris Klieman takes over for Bill Snyder, who retired again after his second stint at Kansas State. Snyder compiled a 215-117-1 record and 19 bowl appearances during his cumulative 27 seasons with the Wildcats. Klieman has tough shoes to fill, succeeding a guy whose name is affixed to the stadium where the Wildcats play. Ron Prince followed Snyder in 2006 and last just three years, finishing with a 17-20 record, including a 0-3 mark against rival Kansas. Klieman was obviously successful at North Dakota State (four Football Championship Subdivision national championships in five years), but will that translate at the highest level?
Mike Locksley, Maryland
Mike Locksley will look to bring stability to a program mired in controversy after the suspension and eventual firing of D.J. Durkin, whose team workouts came under scrutiny after the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. Locksley has twice been an assistant at Maryland and served as interim head coach in 2015 after Randy Edsall was fired. He was 1-5 spelling Edsall and only lasted four games into his third season at New Mexico when he was fired with a 2-26 record. But, like his predecessors before him, Locksley found a second life as an Alabama assistant under Nick Saban, parlaying that experience into a fresh opportunity at Maryland.
Jim McElwain, Central Michigan
This is the first head coaching job for Jim McElwain since parting ways with Florida seven games into the 2017 season. Despite leading the Gators to consecutive conference championship games in his first two seasons, McElwain didn't have a graceful exit from Gainesville. Now he'll get to rebuild his career with far less scrutiny at Central Michigan, where the Chippewas won just one game in 2018. McElwain spent last season coaching wide receivers at Michigan, so at least he won't have to move far.
Lovie Smith, Illinois
Lovie Smith is 9-27 in three seasons at Illinois. His teams are 4-23 against the Big Ten Conference and have finished no better than sixth in the West Division. Smith's hiring in 2016 rejuvenated a fan base that had grown accustomed to losing. Now it's time to prove he was worth the $21 million, six-year contract he received. Even though he received a contract extension in December, Smith shouldn't get too comfortable. It's bowl game or bust for the former Chicago Bears coach.
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