Freshmen in college, rookies in the NFL – they all get hazed to some degree.  What about the rookie coaches in college football? 

They get a deal, a few years to prove their worth and then either find barrels of success or get hazed themselves – leading to a swift kick in the tailpipe, a clean desk and a set of walking papers.

That takes us to 11 rookie coaches – all in a new town, heading up a new program within the BCS system.  The question remains: will it be the success or the swift kick in the you-know-what?

Which Rookie Coaches Will Have the Worst 2010 season?

11. Jimbo Fisher – Florida State

Think the weight of filling the shoes of a coaching legend will be added pressure?

Stop it.  Bowden had been the driver of a “cash for clunker” set on cruise control for the last few years.

Jimbo Fisher will be fine – securing a top ten recruiting class and bringing new hope to Tallahassee.

The schedule will be a challenge though, with road games against Miami (FL) and Oklahoma, plus BYU, Clemson and Florida at home.

10. Skip Holtz – South Florida

Holtz is taking over a program buried in controversy left behind by Jim Leavitt.  Of all the rookie coaches, Skip is being placed in one of the tougher situations.

But that won’t mean a thing, as Skip has gotten the best out of minimal talent for years – leading East Carolina to four straight bowl games and back-to-back nine win seasons.

That, plus he knocked off Boise State in 2007 and both Virginia Tech and West Virginia during the 2008 season.

The move from Conference USA to the Big East won’t be that big of a jump considering Holtz will be joining the red-headed stepchild of the BCS power conferences.

9. Brian Kelly – Notre Dame

Notre Dame Kelly Football

(AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

Sorry, Charlie – but Coach Kelly is going to make you a distant memory soon.

Brian Kelly was 34-6 as a coach at Cincinnati, and he also led Central Michigan to the top of the MAC in his previous job with the Chippewas.

Now he trades talent that was 60th in recruiting for a top 15 class, plus a school that wants to win more than any in college football.

When it all comes down to it, everyone in South Bend – including Touchdown Jesus – will have their eyes on Dayne Crist, recovering from a knee injury and carrying Coach Kelly’s success in his own two hands.

8. Derek Dooley – Tennessee

For those that want to point out (and hate on) the fact that new Vols coach Derek Dooley had a career coaching record of 17-20 with Louisiana Tech, I have two words for you: Gene Chizik.

In his first season at Auburn, Chizik was 8-5 (after going 5-19 in two years at Iowa State).  Sometimes, you just need a chance – and some talent.

That’s exactly what Dooley has, left some players via recruiting masterminds like Ed Orgeron – plus a top ten recruiting class (9th via

Don’t worry Rocky Top: soon you’ll be dropping the ‘Eff-U’ for “Lane Who?”

7. Lane Kiffin – USC

There’s no expectation that Kiffin will be bringing home any humanitarian awards in the upcoming months – but the point of the matter is this: Kiffin has legendary defensive-minded Dad in tow, plus aforementioned recruiting machine Ed Orgeron.

On top of that, the Trojans have a boatland of talent still in play.  The issue last season was the defense, and Monte Kiffin will improve on that.

So, it should be a solid year for USC – and oh yeah, because this is his dream job – Kiffin may not even leave before the year is over with.


6. Joker Phillips – Kentucky

With Calipari and Co. roaming the campus, it’s likely that fans may see their new football coach and say, “Who’s this Joker?”

OK, so unlikely, considering Phillips was a former wide receiver, and a coach on the staff for the last half dozen years.

But this Kentucky football team should take a backseat to no one – making four bowl games in the last five seasons.

Still, Joker’s first season is no laughing matter, with road tests at Florida and Tennessee.

5. Butch Jones – Cincinnati

With Brian Kelly off to Notre Dame, Butch Jones takes over for the Bearcats.

Cincinnati is going to miss players like Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard.

Even though Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead are still around to shoulder some of the load, a schedule that has a road opener at Fresno State and Oklahoma three weeks later – this year likely could result in the Bearcats heading back in the Big East pack by season’s end.

4. Mike London – Virginia

Al Groh’s rollercoaster career at Virginia is over, leaving Mike London to take his place.

In two years at Richmond, London was 24-5, incliuding an FCS Championship.

2010 is going to be a challenge, not only losing a lot of senior leadership at the LB, QB and TB positions, but also a recruiting class that was ranked lower than schools such as Colorado State, Hawaii and Memphis (per

Add in a rematch with his former team, plus a trip to USC the following week, and it will be London’s career record falling down.

3. Turner Gill – Kansas

Mangino leaves a black cloud over the program, a number of seniors have moved on (headlined by QB Todd Reesing) and the team finished the season with seven straight losses.

Piece of cake, Turner – after all, you had some success at Buffalo.  That’s some success – building from a two-win season to 8-6 and the International Bowl in 2008.

But we’ll see how Gill adjusts from the MAC to the Big 12 conference – especially when he has to travel to Nebraska on November 13th.  It’ll get ugly before it gets pretty.

2. Charlie Strong – Louisville

It seems so long ago that Louisville consistently churned QB’s through to the NFL.

Coach Kragthorpe left the Cardinals in shambles, having zero winning seasons over a three-year span, finishing no higher than 5th in the conference.

Enter Charlie Strong, who has been surrounded by great staff and players at Florida – so he should right the ship, but it won’t happen right away.

In fact, midway through an ugly 2010, he’ll likely wish he pulled a Billy Donovan or Urban Meyer, retracting the Florida depature in the first place.

1. Tommy Tuberville – Texas Techtommy-tuberville-texas-tech-playing-golf

Tuberville is going to switch and adjust to the spread offense, similar to the one that Leach previously used at Texas Tech.

The key difference: He wants defense, too.

Tommy T. plans to mainly use a 3-4 defense – and due to the adjustments – required a number of defensive recruits to come on board in a short period of time.

In the end, the major adjustment to the system – combined with a schedule that features Big 12 powers Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State – will lead to multiple headaches in year one.

If the changes don’t translate into victories quickly, Tuberville may find himself back on the golf course sooner rather than later.


How do you rank the rookie coaches this season?

* Also posted to my Bleacher Report page

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