Second 12 months faculty soccer coaches face essential campaigns within the 2021 season
The second year of college football head coaching can be one of the most exciting things to do in a program. Every off-season we take stock of the coaches in this position, as this has historically proven to be the linchpin. Some coaches, like Urban Meyer in Florida or Nick Saban at both LSU and Alabama, were in their second year for the championship.
Other coaches had difficulties which, depending on the course of the first year, could anticipate a change of coach in the near future. The second year got particularly interesting in 2019 when several Power Five coaches were laid off after just their sophomore season, including layoffs for Willie Taggart in Florida and Chad Morris in Arkansas before the season even ended.
But while patience seems to be getting shorter, the 2020 coaching class, which is entering its sophomore year, brings adjusted expectations due to the impact of the pandemic on college football. Some coaches come to a rebuilding program and we hear the phrase “Year Zero” as a signal to fans that it will take longer than usual to achieve the expected success. Well, pretty much every coach hired in the 2019-20 cycle started in year zero with no (or limited) spring practice and strict summer and fall protocols that required much of the coaching to be virtual.
Given these obstacles, it’s hard to imagine putting a sophomore coach in the hot seat, but the success or lack of it in 2021 will affect how those coaches are judged in the eyes of fans, and especially their bosses . The evaluation process was likely friendlier in late 2020 but won’t be in 2021. Given last year’s events and the outlook for fall, we’ve broken down the profiles of eight coaches with the most at stake in their second year during the 2021 season.
Dave Aranda, Baylor
CBS sports coach ranking list 2021: 62 (no change from 2020)
While Aranda rose as a defensive coach, a major focus of evaluating him as head coach will be how his offense fares in 2021. Baylor went 7-2, defeating Kansas and Kansas State only at home, and was one of the Just Two teams (the other is Kansas) in the Big 12 averaging less than five yards per game. Aranda changed the offensive coordinator, letting Larry Fedora go and getting Jeff Grimes from BYU. Grimes is known for leading top talent on the offensive during his 28-year coaching career, including his role as orienteering coach at Auburn’s 2010 National Championship run with Cam Newton, but his success as a BYU coordinator gives him the opportunity given doing this a difference maker for Aranda’s program. If the change works, there will be a tremendous increase in confidence in a program that has proven that it takes only a few years to become a title contender at the conference.
The massive turnover in the squad kept expectations for Aranda’s first year manageable and three of the seven losses were single-possession games, so things are on schedule in terms of expectations. But narrow losses, even good defeats like the 38:31 defeat in the state of Iowa last season, have to be converted into narrow wins in 2021.
CBS sports coach ranking list 2021: No. 51 (+5)
It is really a scarcity problem with Washington. Everything seems to matter because we have so much less evidence to work with when we compare this very good program to other very good programs in the preseason predictions and rankings. The Huskies only played four games but won the Pac-12 North Division and then had to drop out of the conference title game due to COVID-19 protocols. That put Oregon, a team Washington failed, into the conference title game, and the Ducks gave the USC their first and only loss of the season. So while we carry over some of the expectations of Lake’s involvement in Washington football, it is very early on in the “Jimmy Lake Era”. Taking this team out on a date with Michigan at The Big House in Week 2 is going to be about as enlightening as anything we’ve seen of the team in the field in 2020.
CBS sports coach ranking list 2021: No. 33 (-6)
It’s worth taking another look at the beginning of Mike Leach’s time at the SEC. After setting the LSU defenses on fire in a record-breaking fashion, the State of Mississippi has failed to score more than 14 points in four straight games, some of which came from non-offensive touchdowns. Kylin Hill left the team and Will Rogers took over for KJ Costello as the Bulldogs meandered their way through their SEC-only schedule and were invited to a bowl as one of the under 500 teams as the teams were eliminated from the postseason. Of course, they ended up dramatically in a fight at the end of a win over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl in terrible weather, so was it all worth it? Leach has a full off-season to work with Rogers and there is already evidence that he can be productive in the Air Raid system. So expectations should be a return to a bowl, this time with six or more wins.
Mike Norvell, Florida State
CBS sports coach ranking list 2021: No. 44 (-15)
I’m intrigued to see how it goes at ACC Media Days next week when Norvell has both McKenzie Milton and Jordan Travis with him to preview a 2021 season where the biggest plot is who this is Will win quarterback fight. Milton comes with a lot of media intrigue of his own when he returns at the end of the 2018 season from a catastrophic leg injury and multiple surgeries that followed. Milton was productive as the UCF quarterback in 2017 and 2018, but Travis, who was part of a revolving door of quarterbacks for Norvell for the first year, remains very competitive.
It’s possible Florida State will use two quarterbacks in games, and more likely the Seminoles will need two skilled quarterbacks during the ups and downs of the year, but how Norvell handles this fight will determine the performance of the offense. Norvell’s Memphis teams regularly scored goals in the 1940s and 50s, but in his first year at FSU he averaged a scoring average of 17.3 points per game over the team’s six losses and 25.8 points per game in the Season. It doesn’t matter the quarterback, Norvell has to find ways to get more points in Florida State’s sophomore year. The schedule is among the toughest in the country so the final record may not reflect the team. So it’s important that the Seminoles have something for the fans to enjoy, and the fans love touchdowns.
CBS sports coach ranking list 2021: No. 58 (-8)
Like Apple Cup rivals Washington, the Cougars only played four games in 2020, so there’s very little we can take with us when assessing Rolovich’s first year. If you look at the Pac-12 North Division, the conversation cuts two-way when it comes to what we want to see Washington state in 2021. There is an understanding, or at least an assumption, that Oregon and Washington are on another level. So no one is looking for Rolovich to have this group fight for titles this fall. On the other hand, the Cougars are definitely not ahead of Stanford, Cal, or even Oregon State. This is a big season for Rolovich as there will be three or four toss-up games that will determine whether the Cougars are in a bowl game or end up near the bottom of the conference standings.
Ryan Silverfield, Memphis
CBS sports coach ranking list 2021: No. 9 in AAC (+2)
The balance of power is shifting in the American Athletic Conference, and if Silverfield and the Tigers don’t have a strong season, there are a handful of hopes looking to get into the top flight of the league. Three straight titles and a conference championship in 2019 meant 2020 felt like a step backwards, despite the team going 8-4 and beating UCF with a roster that did not include the top two skill position players due to opt-outs . Silverfield must replace Brady White as quarterback and win those key games against players such as UCF, Tulsa, Houston and SMU to return to his previous position of battling for the conference championship every season. Silverfield is taking a break here as Cincinnati is off the schedule while UCF and 2020 runner-up Tulsa both face the Bearcats at Nippert Stadium. That’s a huge advantage for Memphis in getting the conference title game, and it would give Silverfield and the program a boost if they accomplish that feat.
Jeff Scott, USF
CBS sports coach ranking list 2021: No. 11 in AAC (-1)
While Chad Morris got his first job as head coach after successfully serving as Clemson’s offensive coordinator, his profile is shaped more by his Texas high school football roots than his connection to the Dabo Swinney coaching tree. Scott, a former Clemson wide receiver who moved from graduate assistant to full-time wide receivers coach when Swinney was promoted to head coach in 2008, was challenged to learn the lessons from his time with the Tigers and apply them to make them do USF to be a contender in the AAC. Unfortunately, the performance on the field in 2020 has shown a great distance between the location of the team and the competition for the conference championship.
USF won their first game of the year against The Citadel, then lost eight straight and ended without a win in the AAC game. Sometimes the 2020 season seemed like spring training for this new coaching staff, and a squad that has seen a lot of turnover, with diverse staffing (some of them injury and / or protocol related) and predictably inconsistent performances. But now that Scott has had a true spring and full off-season, another year at the end of the conference will be a huge disappointment. The Bulls must find some victories against AAC opponents to show any proof of growth in this long-term plan to make USF a viable opponent for Cincinnati and rival UCF.
CBS sports coach ranking list 2021: No. 57 (-2)
Tucker was discontinued in mid-February, just weeks before the world came to a standstill due to a global pandemic. More than anyone on this list, Tucker is heading into its second season with expectations treating 2020 like a real year zero. The program wasn’t in dire shape like other year zero situations, but the timing – not just the loss of spring training and summer, but the cancellation and sudden restart of Big Ten football – kept the Spartans in focus on building an end product. Beating Michigan and giving Northwestern its only regular season loss brought enough positivity to avoid any panic after the first year as Tucker tries to take the next step and improve from one last place in the division standings.
Odds makers say this isn’t a bowl team with a total of 4.5 wins, but there are enough toss-ups on the schedule for the Spartans to reach 6-6. Exceeding those expectations, based on total number of wins, would be a sign that Tucker is settled in and leading Michigan State back to where it will be near the top rather than the bottom of the Big Ten East would like to.