Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with five coaches to watch for big moves next season, a comparison of some Pac-12 coaching jobs this season and a look at five transfers who could impact the college football landscape next season.
1. REACTION TO NOTRE DAME HIRE
The Notre Dame job is arguably the biggest in college football. You can find elite coaches lining up with interest for the job, all with plenty of head coaching experience. So it’s puzzling to me that first-year defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, at 35 years of age and with no head coaching experience, was tabbed so quickly.
A longer search could have ensued, no?
This is nothing against Freeman, who has been impressive in his rise at Cincinnati and has handled the new role at Notre Dame well. But is this too big a step for him? I worry that it might be.
Freeman will recruit there, no doubt, as he is young, energetic and can relate to players having been so close to his own playing days. And he can coach and develop players as we’ve seen especially in his time on defense at Cincinnati with Sauce Gardner and the rest of a terrific defense for the Bearcats without elite star rankings.
But can he deal with the pressure and everything else that goes with this job?
Notre Dame is a pressure cooker, national titles are required and he’s following a coach who did as good as he could in Brian Kelly. Coming off another playoff run, any form of an 8-4 season will be seen as a failure. Anything close to a 6-6 season will lead to hot seat talk and so on.
Luke Fickell or perhaps an NFL coach with experience could navigate these waters a bit better. Freeman has been thrown in and I’m sure the players and administration are thrilled. But this is a risky hire.
2. FIVE COACHES THAT COULD BE ON THE MOVE IN 2022
Let’s take a look to the end of next season as five guys who could make seismic moves, perhaps not to the level of Lincoln Riley or Brian Kelly, but big moves nonetheless.
1. Mario Cristobal, Oregon – The South Florida native has long been linked to the Miami job, and for good reason. He’s among the best recruiters in the business, has family ties to the area as a former player and is very popular among the people in power at the university. The Hurricanes still have no AD in place at the moment, so it is doubtful that they will make a move at this point but Manny Diaz is on one of the hottest seats in the country entering next season, and the marriage with Cristobal seems like a great fit. His buyout at this point is $9 million but drops to $6.5 million in January.
2. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss – After a 10-2 season at Ole Miss, he’s once again among the hottest names in coaching. And if he’s able to repeat that success again next season with a new QB, he’s going to be among the first in line for any job in the country that he wants. His $5 million buyout is pretty low, all things considered, and the offensive ingenuity that he brings is at the top of the sport. While his personality can be considered grating to some, his offensive acumen is unassailable and any major opening will have his name linked.
3. Matt Campbell, Iowa State – Someone who has been long coveted by programs at the collegiate and pro level, Campbell has proven to be one of the most consistent coaches in the country in the past half-decade. He’s also been very patient and loyal to Iowa State, and has reportedly turned down offers north of $50 million guaranteed to hop to the NFL. But with the money being thrown around by programs such as USC and LSU, there may come a day in the near future where he is presented an offer he can’t refuse. And his buyout of only $4 million is a pittance compared to many of the coaches on his level.
4. Deion Sanders, Jackson State – Coach Prime has taken a Jackson State program that hadn’t had a winning season since 2013 to a 13-4 record in his first two seasons at the HBCU. He’s already garnered Power Five interest from TCU and would be a natural fit back at his alma mater of Florida State if it were to move on from Mike Norvell. Details of his buyout are unavailable, but seeing as his compensation is much less than most of his FBS brethren, especially at the Power Five level, it’s not going to be an obstacle for a school that wants to make a big splash.
5. James Franklin, Penn State – Rumored to be connected to the LSU and USC jobs before they were filled, Franklin extended his contract at Penn State last week through 2030. His initial buyout is $12 million, but drops to $8 million at the end of next year, and goes progressively down thereafter. He’s always going to be an interesting candidate because of his recruiting abilities and ties to many different regions of the country. And remember he was linked to Florida State at one point.
3. FIVE PORTAL PLAYERS THAT SHOULD HAVE A MASSIVE IMPACT
Finally here are five players in the transfer portal I can see having a massive impact next season on the college football playoff.
1. QB Spencer Rattler – After Rattler was benched this season, it was only a matter of time before he entered the portal. The Arizona native will garner a ton of interest, but the early leader is looking like Arizona State, especially if Jayden Daniels declares for the draft, but don’t sleep on Oregon or even Houston. He’ll raise the ceiling for almost any program that he goes to, but also has the potential to submarine a locker room with his personality. If he heads to Oregon and wins that job he immediately impacts the playoff run.
2. RB Zach Evans – The former five-star running back will have no shortage of suitors in the portal, as his talent is unquestioned. Texas A&M would be a good match for him with Isaiah Spiller headed to the pros, but he’s also under consideration from almost every program in the SEC and Big 12. If he wants to be a true feature back, he may have to head back to his hometown of Houston to play for the Cougars, but he can be a rotation back anywhere in the country. Ohio State is rumored to be interested as well as Ole Miss early.
3. Eli Ricks – One of the top cornerbacks in the country as a freshman in 2020, Ricks leaves LSU and will be the most coveted defensive player in the portal. Ohio State, USC, Alabama and Georgia are rumored to be the early leaders, and he’d be a starter at any of them (or any program in the country for that matter) immediately. If I had to pick one school today I’d go with the Buckeyes, but if Nick Saban really wants him you can never count out the Tide.
4. Jahmyr Gibbs – One of the best all-around backs in the country, Gibbs leaves Georgia Tech after leading the team in total offense during both of his years on campus. Florida seems like the natural destination here – he nearly committed there in high school, and he fits in perfectly to Billy Napier‘s scheme. But early word is that Alabama is the leader.
5. Dillon Gabriel – The UCF signal-caller has seen his stock explode during his time at UCF and is probably the most intriguing QB available in the portal after Rattler. Ole Miss is definitely at the top of the board for him, as Matt Corral heads to the pros. He is an ideal fit in Lane Kiffin‘s scheme and would be able to continue to put up massive numbers. That’s a match made in offensive heaven. Tennessee makes sense as well with former UCF head coach Josh Heupel with the Vols.