Ball State Cardinals

CORAL GABLES, FL - DECEMBER 04:  New University of Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt makes the 'U' sign after he was introduced at a press conference at the school on December 4, 2015 in Coral Gables, Florida.  (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
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Smart, Richt currently pace all new head coaches in recruit rankings


In somewhat of an ironic twist, the head coach who was forced to leave Georgia and the coach who replaced him are doing quite well on the recruiting trail at their new programs.  In fact, they’re doing better than any other who found a landing spot in the 2015-16 spinning of the coaching carousel.

As it stands now, Miami’s Mark Richt has the 19th-ranked recruiting class according to, the second-best of any of the  27 head coaches hired in the past three months.  The best?  Georgia, which has the No. 15 class thanks in part to Kirby Smart, Richt’s successor in Athens.

UGA right now, though, and fully understanding that there are nearly two weeks left until National Signing Day, is nine spots behind the No. 6 class Richt signed in 2015.  The U, meanwhile, was ranked 26th for Al Golden‘s last class, a full seven spots behind were Richt stands now.

Not surprisingly, a significant number of programs have seen their recruiting rankings dip from a year ago.  One of the most glaring is that of USC.  Despite offensive coordinator Clay Helton taking over as interim head coach in mid-October and then taking over permanently in late November, USC has just the 23rd-ranked class; last year at this time, the Trojans were well on their way to having Rivals’ No. 1 class under Steve Sarkisian.

Of the 27 head coaches new to their teams, 17 have classes that are ranked lower than their predecessors from a year ago.  The biggest drop belongs to Seth Littrell‘s North Texas (127th currently, 90th in 2015), while that ignominious honor for Power Five programs goes to Dave Odom and Missouri (59th, 27th).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Matt Campbell has taken his new team on one of the biggest rises, lifting Iowa State from No. 69 under the departed Paul Rhoads to No. 52.  Interestingly, Campbell’s successor at Toledo, UT offensive coordinator Jason Candle, has the Rockets at 73rd, 17 spots higher than his predecessor’s 90th-ranked class of a year ago.

Below are the 27 newest head coaches, with where their teams rank now in the recruiting rankings compared to a year ago:

2016 New HC Recruit Rankings

Spinning of 2015-16 coaching carousel comes to a halt (probably)

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Head coach Clay Helton of the USC Trojans before the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Los Angeles Coliseum on November 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The 2015-16 head-coaching carousel began spinning August 28 of last year with Illinois’ firing of Tim Beckman. Exactly 141 days later, the hiring of Frank Wilson by UT-San Antonio has brought it to a halt. Probably.

Barring an unexpected firing by an FBS program or an NFL team swooping in to steal a coach, it’s come time, I think, to sit back and take a look at how this year’s version of the carousel has shaken out.

All told, 26 FBS teams will head into the 2016 with head coaches who did not begin the 2015 season in that capacity — Bill Cubit, the Illini’s interim coach after Beckman’s firing, was ultimately named as the permanent head coach and would be considered a 27th. That’s a significant jump from the recent past, with 2013 yielding 19 changes and “just” 15 in 2014. Of this cycle’s changes, 13 came at Power Five programs — nine as the result of dismissals, four because of retirements.

That, of course, means 14 openings came from the Group of Five schools; not surprisingly, the Power Five movement had an impact on that group as four G5 head coaches left for the same job with P5 teams, while another, Ball State’s Pete Lembo, left to become an assistant at a P5 program. Six of the remaining holes were created by firings, while two more jobs in that group came open because of retirements. The lone remaining? Willie Fritz left Georgia Southern to take over at Tulane.

Of the openings, eight were filled by coaches who were defensive coordinators in 2015, and another eight by offensive coordinators.  That is quite the turnaround from a year ago, when just one DC, Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi to Pittsburgh, became a head coach, while five of their offensive brethren landed head-coaching jobs.

The next group could be called the Noah’s Ark of the carousel, coming from their 2015 jobs in twos: interim head coaches (Cubit, USC’s Clay Helton), FCS head coaches (Louisiana-Monroe’s Matt Viator, Texas State’s Everett Withers) and running backs coach (Bowling Green’s Mike Jinks, Wilson).

Finally, one NFL assistant made the move back to the collegiate ranks: Mike Neu, who left the New Orleans Saints to take over for Lembo at Ball State.

And with that, I (probably) wash my hands of the ’15-’16 carousel, knowing full well that it’ll all begin again another 10 months or so — or seven months, if another program decides to pull a preseason Illini.

Reports: Ball State to make Saints QBs coach Mike Neu new head coach

UNIONDALE, NY - JUNE 07:  Head Coach Mike Neu of the New Orleans VooDoo looks on during warn-ups prior to their game against the New York Dragons on May 18, 2008 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for the New York Dragons)
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Ball State will reportedly turn to one of its own to be its next head coach.

Reports from FootballScoop (full disclosure: I also write for FootballScoop) and Fox Sports peg the Cardinals as hiring former Ball State player Mike Neu as their next head coach. Neu is currently the quarterbacks coach for the New Orleans Saints.

Ball State AD Mark Sandy said this week the school is close, anticipating a Friday announcement.

“I have someone I have in mind,” Sandy said on Monday, via the Muncie Star Press. “But I have to make sure they want the job and to make sure they will come and work for the compensation we have — and that hasn’t started yet.”

Neu, 45, threw for 6,221 yards and 43 touchdowns as a Ball State quarterback. He led the Cardinals to the 1993 MAC championship.

The Indianapolis native has been with the Saints for the past two seasons and in the Big Easy since 2004 as head coach of the New Orleans VooDoo of the Arena League, as a scout for the Saints and as quarterbacks coach at Tulane.

Neu is set to fill a vacancy left by Pete Lembo, who left his post Dec. 23 to become an assistant on D.J. Durkin‘s staff at Maryland.

Ball State went 3-9 this fall.


With Chip Kelly now a free agent, is a return to college football in the works?


After 26 wins and one NFC East title in three seasons, the Philadelphia Eagles have fired Chip Kelly. For more on why it happened and what it means, allow me to direct you to our friends at ProFootballTalk.

But now, for the one question that truly matters: does this mean he’ll be back in college football?

Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely won’t happen immediately.

The FBS job market at the moment resembles the Wal-Mart TV aisle at 5 p.m. on Black Friday, with only Ball State and Texas State open.

That could change, though. In their infinite wisdom, athletics directors can usually be counted on to turn at least one disappointing bowl loss into a surprise firing (Auburn? Texas A&M?). And we can count on one NFL team trying its hand at hiring a college coach (UCLA? Notre Dame?). In the event either or both happen, Kelly’s representatives will receive a call in a De'Anthony Thomas footstep.

Of course, there is the issue of whether the man in question would even want to return to college football. He is said to have not enjoyed recruiting or the dog-and-pony show that comes with appeasing the egos of 16-year-old running backs and 56-year-old boosters. If Kelly is determined to stay in the NFL, the Tennessee Titans and their rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota represent an opportunity that makes too much sense not to happen.

But in the event the NFL views Kelly as too radioactive to hire immediately after the Eagles dumped him and no college vacancy pops open in January that tickles his fancy, brace yourself for an 11-month courting where programs that considered firing their coaches in 2015 but didn’t (LSU? Texas?) and those with reason to become unhappy with their coach (USC?) to line up for the opportunity to pay the former Oregon coach in the neighborhood of $7 million a year to lead their team.

Which, in turn, would then ramp up another round of speculation of when Kelly inevitably returns to the NFL. And ’round and ’round we go.

Report: Pete Lembo leaving Ball State for assistant role at Maryland

FILE -  In this Dec. 21, 2012 file photo, Ball State head coach Pete Lembo yells to his team during the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl NCAA college football game against Central Florida, in St Petersburg, Fla. Ball State hosts Army on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File

It is not every day you see a head coach leave a college job to take on an assistant role at another program, although it is certainly not unprecedented. Ball State head coach Pete Lembo will reportedly be on his way to taking on an assistant coaching job with Maryland under new Terps head coach D.J. Durkin. Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reported the interesting coaching development Tuesday.

For Maryland, this is the third assistant coach added to the staff with previous head coaching experience as recently as last season. Durkin has already lined up former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer and former Virginia head coach Mike London. There is something to be said about adding assistants with previous head coaching experience, even if that success at the FBS level has been non-existent or limited at best. Lembo is arguably the most successful of the assistants heading to Maryland with prior head coaching experience, as Shafer was a mess at Syracuse and London had many more negatives compared to the positives. The biggest benefit to this latest addition to the staff for Durkin is he has one more experienced assistant with head coaching experience to rely on for advice as he takes on his first head coaching gig.

Lembo was a head coach at Lehigh and Elon before getting a job at Ball State in 2011, where he went 33-29. Ball State was 0-2 in bowl games under Lembo, and the Cardinals saw its win total dwindle in the past two years from 10 wins in 2013 to five in 2014 and just three this season.