CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Coaching Hot Seat

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Like death and taxes, another certainty in life is that, somewhere, a coach’s backside is feeling a little toasty.

Such is the case as we get set to embark on a sparkling new football season, with a handful of coaches feeling the heat from folks off the field for their collective failures on it. Fair or not, it’s a fact of life in the coaching profession: win or you’re gone, ofttimes with a multi-million buyout serving as a parachute.

So, just who is possibly looking at a spot in the coaching unemployment line at season’s end, or sooner? Recent history suggests that at least 20 of the head coaches who are on the sidelines when the season begins won’t be there when the calendar flips to 2015.

Below are but a few of the coaches who could be entering a make-or-break season at their respective schools, in order from hottest to slightly less hot.

WILL MUSCHAMP, FLORIDA
2013 RECORD: 4-8
OVERALL RECORD AT UF: 22-16 overall, 13-11 in SEC
By now, everyone’s aware of the carnage wrought by the Gators last season, but we’ll repeat them for those who’ve been in a coma and/or living under a rock.  The 4-8 record was the worst for the football program since 1979; a bowl-less postseason was the first for a non-sanctioned Gators team since 1986; a second 3-5 record in SEC play in three years showed just how far behind the conference elite they currently are; and, arguably the most embarrassing facet of the woeful season, UF lost to FCS Georgia Southern in The Swamp as the latter didn’t complete a forward pass.  The calls for Muschamp’s head on a platter from the media and fans alike were coming fast and furious.  So much so that the athletic director had to offer his beleaguered head coach an in-season vote of confidence. While Jeremy Foley has publicly supported the coach, there is growing concern behind closed doors that Muschamp may not be the man to lead the Gators back to national prominence.  If 2014 is even remotely close to a repeat of 2013, the outcry will be so great that Foley may have no choice but to make a change and go in a different direction.

BRADY HOKE, MICHIGAN
2013 RECORD: 7-6
OVERALL RECORD AT UM: 26-13 overall, 15-9 in Big Ten
I’ll just go ahead and copy & paste what I wrote in an earlier preview as it pretty much covers it all:

Early on, it was all chili puppy dogs and pizza rainbows for Hoke in Ann Arbor.  In his first year at Michigan, the Wolverines went 11-2 and beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.  Most importantly, and even as it came between the tenures of Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, UM ended a six-game losing streak against hated rival Ohio State.  The honeymoon was hot, steamy and sweaty; the marriage since?  Ankle-length robes and open bathroom doors.  The Wolverines have gone a pedestrian 15-11 the last two years — two losses in minor bowls included — and returned to their losing ways in The Game.  Not only that, but UM has watched as “little brother” Michigan State has leapfrogged them, with the Spartans not only turning themselves into a force in the conference but a factor on the national stage as well.  Throw in some coaching changes, uncertainty at the quarterback position, an offensive line that’s subpar and suspect, just add everything all up and this could very well be a make-or-break year for Hoke.

DANA HOLGORSEN, WEST VIRGINIA
2013 RECORD: 4-8
OVERALL RECORD AT WVU: 21-17 overall, 11-14 in Big 12/Big East
The move to the Big 12 from the old Big East hasn’t been kind to West Virginia in general and Holgorsen specifically.  During his first season in the lesser football conference, Holgorsen’s Mountaineers won 10 games and put a 70-spot up on the scoreboard in the Orange Bowl romp over Clemson.  Since then?  The honeymoon is officially over.  A 7-6 record (4-5 conference) in the first year in the Big 12 gave way to an abysmal four-win season that saw the Mountaineers go just 2-7 in conference play, ahead of only woebegone Kansas.  It was the program’s worst record since 2001 and, more embarrassingly, WVU gave the Jayhawks their lone league win.  Then there’s this sobering statistic: in 38 games under Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia has lost nine of them by 21-plus points.  In 126 games under Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart, which spanned 10 years, the Mountaineers were beaten by 21 or more points a total of eight times.  Another sobering fact?  WVU was 15-3 in its first 18 games under Holgorsen, 6-14 since.  Were it not for a sizable buyout, Holgorsen very well could’ve lost his job last year; another season of subpar results, the size of the buyout won’t matter.

MIKE LONDON, VIRGINIA
2013 RECORD: 2-10
OVERALL RECORD AT UVA: 18-31 overall, 8-24 in ACC
London was the toast of Charlottesville in 2011, with the Cavaliers’ 8-5 mark coming after the program won just 12 games total the three previous years combined.  Then 2012 and 2013 happened.  UVa. won just six games total those two seasons, hitting rock-bottom with a 2-10 collapse in 2013 that was the school’s worst showing since 1982.  Take out the eight-win season, and the Cavaliers are just 10-26 under London.  Wholesale changes made to the coaching staff showed London realizes and understands just how tenuous his hold on the job is.  It was a miracle that London returned for a fifth year; it’ll take even more of a miracle for London & Company to navigate a scheduling gauntlet of death that includes UCLA, Louisville, BYU, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State and Miami and come out on the other end with his job.  In other words, godspeed, Coach London.

TROY CALHOUN, AIR FORCE
2013 RECORD: 2-10
OVERALL RECORD AT AF: 49-41 overall, 29-27 in MWC
Three years ago, it would’ve been preposterous to put Calhoun on a list like this.  The Falcons were in the midst of a run that saw Calhoun start his coaching career at the service academy with a pair of nine-win seasons and a pair of eight-win years as well.  The bottom has, however, dropped out the past three years, with the win totals going from seven in 2011 to six to two in 2013.  The two wins last year represents the football program’s worst showing since 1980.  Add in the scandal that’s rocked the service academy to its core and is expected to result in a monumental shift in athletics at the academy, and Calhoun, who was a Falcons quarterback in the mid- to late-eighties, could find himself on the outside looking in come December if things aren’t turned around post-haste.

TIM BECKMAN, ILLINOIS
2013 RECORD: 4-8
OVERALL RECORD AT UI: 6-18 overall, 1-15 in Big Ten
Most times when a head coach sees his team double its win total from the year before, you’d say he did an outstanding job.  When the previous year was just a two-win season, however, questions concerning the coach’s ability to make it to a third season grow louder and more forceful.  That’s the situation Beckman finds himself in, one that includes an embarrassing one win in conference play in his two seasons with the Illini.  Beckman’s wins in non-conference play have come against teams from the MAC (twice), the AAC and a pair of FCS schools.  His lone conference win?  A four-point squeaker last season over a Purdue team that went 1-11.   If Beckman is unable to push the Illini above the .500 mark and into a bowl game, there’s a very good chance he won’t see another year in Champaign.

CHARLIE WEIS, KANSAS
2013 RECORD: 3-9
OVERALL RECORD AT KU: 4-20 overall, 1-17 in BIG 12
What we have here is arguably the worst Power Five conference football team in the country, although there were slight signs of improvement in 2013.  In 2012, Weis’ first season in Lawrence, the Jayhawks won just one game, the first time that had happened since 1988; in 2013, Weis tripled the win total to three, although the three wins did come at the expense of an FCS team as well as two teams that were a combined 8-16 (hello WVU, Louisiana Tech).  Weis is in the third year of a five-year contract, and it’s hard to gauge whether the KU administration would be willing to pull the plug on this experiment with two years remaining and a substantial buyout in the offing.  Here’s one thing I do know: the Jayhawks won 20 games over a two-year stretch with Mark Mangino in charge just a few years ago, so it is possible to have football success at a basketball school.  Whether Weis, who’s been an abject failure as a college coach by just about any measure, is the man to lead them back to respectability remains very much up in the air.

NORM CHOW, HAWAII
2013 RECORD: 1-11
OVERALL RECORD AT UH: 4-20 overall, 1-15 in MWC
What was supposed to be a dream job for Chow has turned into an utter nightmare.  After getting his tenure started off with a 3-9 record in 2012, Chow’s Rainbow Warriors plummeted to a one-win season in 2013, with that one win coming in the regular-season finale against three-win Army.  The single win was the least for the program since 1998.  The schedule this season doesn’t bode well for Chow and his future at the school, with the Rainbow Warriors staring back-to-back one-win seasons square in the face — and that’s provided UH can get past FCS Northern Iowa, which beat Iowa State in Ames last season.  A winless season with a loss to an FCS program would seal Chow’s fate in his first head-coaching job.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Status of Temple’s leading rusher iffy for game vs. No. 20 Cincinnati

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Whether Temple has the biggest piece of its running game this weekend remains decidedly up in the air.

Ryquell Armstead didn’t play in last Saturday’s win over Navy because of an ankle injury.  With a huge matchup with No. 20 Cincinnati on deck for this weekend, the running back’s status is very much up in the air.

Head coach Geoff Collins stated Armstead “is still day-to-day,” and that “we are excited about his healthy return, whenever that may be.”

Armstead is far and away the Owls’ leading rusher with 626 yards on the ground, and he’s scored exactly half (six) of Temple’s 12 rushing touchdowns.  Jager Gardner’s 101 yards are a distant second on the team.

Police: Louisville TE Kemari Averett held gun to girlfriend’s head, threatened to kill her

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A very scary and disturbing incident is the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville tight end Kemari Averett was arrested on one count each of first-degree wanton endangerment and domestic violence (fourth-degree assault).  Averett is accused of holding a gun to the head of his girlfriend, who is also the mother of his child, and threatening to kill her.

From the Courier-Journal‘s report:

According to an arrest citation, Averett was at the woman’s house Sunday night to study and left his backpack. The woman went over to Averett’s apartment to return the backpack Monday night. He walked to the car and gave the woman a baby outfit and ultrasound pictures, according to the citation.

When he retrieved the backpack, he noticed his laptop was missing, the citation said.

She told Averett she wasn’t aware the laptop was missing. Police said Averett then came at the woman, put a gun to her left temple and said, “(expletive), I will kill you.”

Averett then told her to return to her hometown, and “I’ll have my people looking for you,” police said. He also told a witness in the back seat that, “I should pistol whip your (expletive) for running your mouth,” the citation said.

As a result of the arrest, the 20-year-old Averett has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.

“Kemari Averett has been suspended immediately from all football activities per further investigation,” a statement from head coach Bobby Petrino began. “He will not have access to our facility or be involved in any team activities during this suspension.”

Averett, a true sophomore from Atlanta, has started four of the six games for the Cardinals this season.  He’s caught eight passes for 65 yards and is tied for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns.

Ex-USC WR Joseph Lewis pleads no contest to felony domestic violence, sentenced to year in jail

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If a once-touted wide receiver is to restart his flailing college football playing career, he’ll have a to wait a while to do so.

In mid-July, Joseph Lewis was arrested on one count of felony domestic battery with injury.  Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported, the former USC wide receiver pleaded no contest to felony domestic violence.

Lewis was sentenced by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to one year in jail.  Additionally, Lewis will have to serve five years probation as well as attend 52 domestic violence prevention classes.

Lewis’ July arrest came less than two weeks after he had finished serving a 21-day jail sentence for a previous domestic violence arrest.

In late February of this year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue a felony charge against Lewis after he was arrested on one count of corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant. At the time, though, it was reported that the case had been referred to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, which would decide whether misdemeanor charges would arise from the arrest.

Not long after, the city attorney’s office filed five misdemeanor counts against Lewis. The charges stemmed from two separate incidents in February, and included three counts of domestic battery with an injury, false imprisonment and domestic battery without an injury.

In the wake of the arrest, Lewis was suspended from the football team and his name removed from the roster.  While a USC spokesman stated after Lewis’ release from his first stint in jail that his status with the team hadn’t changed and remained off the roster, the player had previously said that he was hopeful he’d be permitted to rejoin the team before the start of the 2018 season.

A five-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, Lewis was rated as the No. 4 receiver in the country; the No. 6 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 31 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. The only player rated higher in USC’s class that year was running back Stephen Carr.

As a true freshman last season, Lewis caught four passes for 39 yards. He had been expected to play a bigger role in the Trojans’ passing game this season

High-ankle sprain likely sidelines Oregon’s starting LT Penei Sewell for the rest of the regular season

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Oregon’s huge Week 7 win has come with a very steep price tag.

The Ducks announced Tuesday morning that Penei Sewell will miss “about six weeks” because of a high-ankle sprain.  The starting left tackle suffered the injury this past Saturday’s overtime win over Washington.

The six-week timeline means the true freshman is very likely to miss the remainder of the regular season.  There would be a chance for the lineman to come back in time for the Pac-12 championship game if the Ducks were to qualify.

“Penei is a relentless competitor and I have no doubt he’ll return better than ever,” head coach Mario Cristobal said.

Sewell was a four-star member of the Ducks’ 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 2 guard in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Utah; and the No. 57 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  He was the highest-rated player in UO’s class this year.

The 6-6, 345-pound Sewell started the first six games of the year, and became the first freshman lineman to start an opener for the Ducks in more than two decades.

With Sewell sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Ducks will, at least initially, move starting right tackle Calvin Throckmorton to the left side.  Junior Brady Aiello will take over as the starter on the right side of the line.