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TGS SPECIAL REPORT...KEEP AN EYE ON THE COLLEGE HOT SEAT!
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


Each season, we at TGS keep tabs on college coaches we believe to be under the most pressure, simply because those often become handicapping situations to be capitalized upon. Especially when things begin to go pear-shaped in a hurry, and a coaching change becomes evident. But the new twist on the college hot seat is that the most under-fire coaches could be walking the plank long before the season concludes; last year, for example, Southern Cal pushed Lane Kiffin out the door before September was even complete. Indeed, we can almost guarantee that there will be multiple coaching casualties before the current campaign is complete.

The college hot seat is a constantly-evolving group, and already after two weeks of the new term we can tell which mentors are most under the gun and perhaps in danger of losing their jobs before we get to midseason. Following is a quick look of the coaches in the most jeopardy...and some who might be on the way out long before we get to the end of the season.

Brady Hoke, Michigan...Big Ten sources almost unanimously acknowledged that Hoke was under the gun entering 2014. Hoke’s actions confirmed as much in the offseason, throwing o.c. Al Borges under the bus and replacing him with Alabama’s Doug Nussmeier, who was tasked with revitalizing a Wolverine running game that had gone mostly dormant in 2013, when Michigan ranked 102nd nationally in rushing. While the opening win over App State was encouraging, it was the second game vs. Notre Dame that figured to be the first real barometer of the new Nussmeier offense. Unfortunately for Hoke (and Nussmeier), Michigan failed that test miserably last Saturday at South Bend, not only beaten but blanked by the Fighting Irish, 31-0. The only saving grace for Hoke is that it was a mostly-dismal day for the Big Ten overall, but that is of little consolation to the increasingly-dismayed Michigan support base. Hoke is probably not a candidate to get pink-slipped before the end of the season, and there look to be plenty of winnable games in this year’s version of the Big Ten, but the war drums are already beating in Ann Arbor. And a loss in two weeks to visiting Utah (which is not a far-fetched notion) would really turn up the heat on Hoke.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt...While this seems a bit harsh to put Mason on any hot-seat list just two games into his head-coaching career at Vandy, it has been a grease-fire for the Dores, who have yet to score an offensive TD in humiliating home losses to Temple and Ole Miss (the Reb game was played at the NFL Titans’ LP Field). Which has triggered a revolt among Vandy boosters who had gotten used to seeing the Dores play entertaining football and go to bowls under predecessor James Franklin, who left for Penn State in the offseason. But Mason, hired off David Shaw’s Stanford staff, has looked hopelessly out of his depth in his first two games in charge, and the support base is irate that the momentum of the Franklin years seems to have dissipated so quickly. Mason has been under enormous criticism on almost all fronts, including his selection of staff and the curious hire of o.c. Karl Dorrell, a one-time UCLA HC, but never a play-caller in his coaching career. What has the natives especially restless in Nashville is the knowledge that Mason, with his defensive background, was apparently chosen for the job over offensive wiz Chad Morris, the current Clemson o.c. who has garnered a lot of praise and attention as a certain HC-in-waiting. Meanwhile, AD David Willaims, who alone seemed to think Mason was preferable to Morris, is also feeling enormous pressure from angry boosters. Already, Vandy fans fear a winless SEC campaign, and some believe a loss on September 27 at Kentucky (which might be the Dores’ best chance for an SEC win) could get the wheels turning to force a change at the end of the season. It’s gotten ugly in a hurry in Nashville. Stay tuned.

June Jones, SMU...We didn’t have Jones on our hot seat list prior to the season, but have had to make a few changes rather quickly in early September, as his Mustangs have been left at the gate in both of their games. It’s been an ugly 0-2, blanked 45-0 at Baylor and then shut out until the final play at Metroplex rival North Texas, which was up 43-0 until the Ponies scored on the game’s final play last Saturday. While the loss to a powerhouse like Baylor can be explained, getting destroyed by the rebuilding Mean Green is particularly galling to SMU sorts who would rather not acknowledge those upstarts from Denton. The Mustangs looked unprepared to play vs. North Texas, and the trajectory of the program seems headed in the wrong direction...and fast. Now in his seventh season at SMU, Jones looks destined for his worst campaign in Dallas since his first SMU team finished 1-11. And it’s not as if the SMU support base lacks the resources to force a buyout. Jones is not getting a schedule break, either, as his next two games are vs. Texas A&M & another Metroplex rival, TCU. Those games are both at home, but more lopsided losses to the Ags and Frogs could put Jones in jeopardy before September is complete. (NOTE: Jones resigned on Monday)

Darrell Hazell, Purdue...Big Ten sources say Hazell, in only his second year at West Lafayette, is nonetheless likely on the “Jon Embree clock” (which gives coaches, whose teams perform miserably upon their arrival, only two years) after last year’s humiliating 1-11 and an unauspsicious home split at Ross-Ade Stadium vs. MAC also-rans Western Michigan & Central Michigan to open 2014. Last Saturday’s 38-17 loss to the Chips was the latest humiliation suffered by the Hazell Boilermakers, who have won only 2 of 14 games since last season. While Hazell’s defenders note the excessive youth on the Purdue roster since last season, and soph QB Danny Etling is still learning the ropes, others have noted that the Riveters have dropped far from the preceding Danny Hope teams that were at least good enough to make minor bowls. Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant, parlayed one winning season at Kent State into a Big Ten head coaching job, but Big Ten insiders say Purdue is wary of falling too far behind the others in the conference and will not be especially patient with Hazell if the Riveters continue to perform in a wretched manner.

Other situations to watch: Will Muschamp, Florida...The resources are at least in place for a quick Gator turnaround. Though SEC sources say Muschamp might need at least nine wins, and victories over either hated Georgia or Florida State, to feel safe about a 2015 return. Charlie Weis, Kansas...The Jayhawks have one Big 12 win in two years on Charlie’s watch. Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger might be the only person in Kansas to believe Weis is a good fit in Lawrence, but even cover from an AD can only last only so long if losses mount. Mike London (Virginia), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia) and Kyle Flood (Rutgers) have all suggested they will not go down without a fight after impressive work from their teams in early September. Stay tuned also to situations involving Kevin Wilson (Indiana), Tim Beckman (Illinois), Ron Turner (FIU), and Norm Chow (Hawaii).


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