The Top 5 Best Off-Season Hires In College Football

Year in and year out, college football coaches find themselves on the hot seat and, almost too often, find themselves unemployed at the end of a bad season. Last season was no different as 31 FBS programs found themselves searching for a new leader. Here are the five guys that will make the biggest impact in year one, 2013.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn
You couldn’t have scripted this any better. Just eight seasons ago, Malzahn was a high school head coach in Arkansas. After stops at Arkansas and Tulsa, he became the offensive coordinator at Auburn taking a young QB named Cam Newton, leading him to the Heisman Trophy, and winning a national championship for the Tigers. After one year as the head man at Arkansas State, Malzahn returns to take over a program that went downhill after he left two years ago. When Gene Chizik couldn’t get it done, the university went right after their former OC, who went 9-3 and won the Sun Belt Conference in his only year at Arkansas State. The Tigers will improve dramatically and get back into the mix in the SEC.

Butch Jones, Tennessee
The Vols searched long and hard initially trying to lure Jon Gruden out of the booth and onto the Neyland Stadium sidelines. Jones, the 2011 Big East Coach of the Year, held off accepting offers from Colorado and Purdue before accepting the job at Tennessee. Jones made Central Michigan the elite program in the MAC before going to Cincinnati where he had back-to-back winning seasons in 2011 and 2012. In both seasons, the Bearcats shared the Big East championship. No doubt Jones will lead Tennessee back into prominence in the SEC.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky
If there is one team that will be much better defensively in 2013, it will be the University of Kentucky. After leading the Florida State defense the past three seasons, Stoops takes over for Joker Phillips who could muster just two wins, none in the SEC, last year. The Seminoles were one of the top units in the nation the past two seasons and Stoops must now work his magic at Kentucky. If there is any evidence that the Wildcat faithful are excited, the record crowd of over 50,000 at this year’s spring game is a good indication.

Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Andersen turned around a program at Utah State that has never enjoyed seasons like last year’s 11-2, WAC championship. The former Aggie mentor now inherits a pretty good Wisconsin program, one that actually won the Big Ten title last year with a huge win over Nebraska. Despite the championship, the Badgers finished just 8-6. Andersen will bring the same type of hard-nosed toughness that outgoing coach Bret Bielema stressed. The Badgers shouldn’t miss a beat with their new head man.

Todd Monken, Southern Mississippi
Following a disastrous 0-12 season, Ellis Johnson was let go and Monken was brought in to get the Golden Eagles back on track. Just two seasons ago with Larry Fedora, now at North Carolina, at the helm. Southern Miss went 12-2, won the Conference USA championship and added a victory over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. Monken brings a history of offensive success. His Oklahoma State offenses ranked in the Top 5 nationally in each of the past two seasons.

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Chris Michaels