Which Group of 5 coaches are most likely to make the jump into the Power 5 conferences? While turnover in these positions evokes a revolving door, and 2017 saw a few notable G5-to-P5 transitions, most hires come from within the fairly insular world of Power 5 football, and head coaches have to do amazing things to break through. Rare are your Tom Hermans (Houston to Texas), PJ Flecks (Western Michigan to Minnesota), and Willie Taggarts (South Florida to Oregon). But let’s look at the men most likely to make power plays, so to speak, come 2018.
Charlie Strong, USF
Since being outed at Texas for the more popular but as-of-yet not more successful Tom Herman, Charlie Strong has found a place as head coach of the USF Bulls. There, he finds the quarterback he always wanted (Quinton Flowers), one of the most fun offenses in the country, and likely the 11-win season he never could put together at Texas.
Flowers is the real deal. The senior rushed for 1,609 yards and 18 touchdowns, adding 2,812 yards and 24 TDs in the passing game. He even posted a 63% completion percentage, an unusually high number for a mobile QB. The return of the bulk of his most valuable receivers is a good omen for Flowers, although the loss of running back Marlon Mack is huge for the Bulls.
With a mostly favorable schedule, Strong is in a good position to win nine or ten games, pull off a recruiting coup or two, and find his way back to a more prominent program. If he chooses, he could remain at USF, continue building the program in an increasingly competitive state, and very happily chug along at a school that understands and values him. Besides, Tampa is lovely. Parts of it, anyway.
- Odds Strong coaches a Power 5 team in 2018: 13/7
- Odds Strong wins more games in 2017 than Tom Herman (Texas): 3/7
Lane Kiffin, FAU
Lane Kiffin’s storybook career continues. After resigning as Alabama offensive coordinator to take less money as the head coach at FAU, he was then fired from Alabama for the title game. The start to his career at FAU has been smooth-ish so far, but (like Strong) you get the impression that he doesn’t intend to be there for long. Kiffin will prioritize quick wins and power conference job opportunities over long term development.
Kiffin’s already pulled some uniquely Kiffin tricks from his sleeve. He made the news recruiting a middle schooler and virtually the entire cast of Last Chance U, putting FAU in the headlines and in front of every Florida three-star. So far the gimmicks haven’t proven hugely profitable, the team started the season with a big loss to Navy and a bigger loss to Wisconsin.
- Odds Kiffen coaches a Power 5 team in 2018: 7/3
Art Briles, FAU (sort of)
Art Briles’ quest for redemption has been a sad, bizarre and singularly unpleasant spectacle to watch. From an apology tour that set out to prove that he’s a really good guy, despite being the head of an institution which actively insulated players from sexual assault and rape accusations, to a very brief cup of coffee in the CFL, Briles is doing everything he can to weather the storm and find gainful employment. He’s been helping his son Kendal sort out the FAU offense, in an unofficial capacity that involves daily contact with FAU’s offensive staff.
It’s an uncomfortable reality that Briles will probably get hired by some unscrupulous program in the next few years, probably as a nebulous “offensive consultant,” and then as a coordinator, and then as a head coach. The offense he created at Baylor was too explosive for Briles to sit on the unemployment line for long, and there’s always going to be one team ready to eat the public outrage for some wins.
- Odds Briles coaches a Power 5 team in 2018: 9/1
Frank Wilson, UTSA
Frank Wilson has everything you look for in a coach soon to leave the G5. Experience at big schools? Check; Wilson worked for Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, and Les Miles at LSU. Stud recruiter? Check; Wilson has deep ties to southeast Louisiana and a laundry list of recruiting accolades from 247sports, Rivals.com, NFL.com, and Scout.com. Relative youth? Check; Wilson’s just 43 years old, a spring chicken in the Power 5. A history of success at the G5 level? Check; he turned a 3-9 UTSA team into a 6-6 bowl team (the first in franchise history!) and the #1 recruiter in the conference.
Likely landing spots? Well, the Louisiana teams are all stocked with new coaches, so it’s likely Wilson will stay in Texas. Kevin Sumlin, David Bailiff, and Kliff Kingsbury are all on some form of a hot seat, as are both Arizona coaches.
- Odds Wilson coaches a Power 5 team in 2018: 4/1
- Odds that team is located in Texas: 2/3
Bryan Harsin, Boise State
The last four Boise State coaches have gone onto head coaching positions at Power 5 schools. The fifth is Pokey Allen, who died from cancer in 1996, after which he interviewed for the Chargers job. Probably.
Harsin’s got pedigree, coming out of Mack Brown’s tree at Texas, and led the Broncos to their first Mountain West conference championship in his first year as head coach. He’s never had a season with fewer than nine wins, and won the Mountain division again in 2016. With another year or two of solid results, Harsin will join the ranks of Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Dirk Koetter, and Houston Nutt. Some things are inevitable.
- Odds Harsin coaches a Power 5 team in 2018: 6/1
- Odds Boise State wins the Mountain West in 2017: 3/2