Grading every college football coaching hire in 2021 carousel: Texas, Tennessee get high marks

Josh Heupel, Tennessee Volunteers. (Caitie McLekin/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, Pool)
Josh Heupel, Tennessee Volunteers. (Caitie McLekin/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, Pool) /
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College football coaching hire grades
Gus Malzahn, UCF Knights. (Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports) /

UCF Knights: Gus Malzahn

In the wake of hiring Gus Malzahn to replace Josh Heupel, there was a ton of fanfare for this hire and it’s not hard to see why. Though he was pushed out at Auburn, he had a track record of great success in the SEC and should be more than up for the challenge of taking on AAC competition.

Having said that, I’m not completely convinced this is as much of a home run as it’s often been made out to be. Yes, it’s a big name for UCF to bring into the fold. However, Malzahn’s recent years give me pause about how he’ll handle the offense built for a high-octane approach and you have to wonder if his recruiting shortcomings could pop up in the Florida hotbed. – Grade: B

Utah State Aggies: Blake Anderson

While at Arkansas State, Blake Anderson proved that he could ignite an offense and be wildly successful at the Group of 5 level. Now he takes over for Gary Andersen after his lackluster and brief tenure at Utah State with hopes of being able to continue his success at a new spot.

The big hurdle for Anderson to clear will be recruiting in a new area of the country but his ability to scheme on offense while also developing players should translate well. The Aggies have popped up on more than one occasion over the years and Anderson is the type of hire to get them back to that point soon. – Grade: A+

Vanderbilt Commodores: Clark Lea

There’s only one direction to go but up with the current state of the Vanderbilt program, which means that Clark Lea has his work cut out for him. Rebuilding the mess Derek Mason left with the Commodores won’t be an easy task. The first step, of course, will be to get them out of the position of being the SEC’s doormat.

Lea appears to be the right type of guy to accomplish that, however. Though he has no head coaching experience, his success as the Notre Dame defensive coordinator coupled with his ability to recruit and the fact that he’s a former player familiar with the program should lead to an upswing. – Grade: A

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