Entering the 2022 season, several college football head coaches are feeling the heat. Some have quickly seen their long stretches of success flip to finishing at the bottom of conference standings. Others have failed to turn their programs around.
These coaches have immense pressure resting on their shoulders. They hear jabs from fans and criticisms from experts. It’s now or never. Futures will be decided this season, for better or worse. The following college football coaches are on the hot seat.
Neal Brown, West Virginia
Following the 2018 season, Head Coach Dana Holgorsen decided to leave West Virginia for Houston. During Holgorsen’s tenure from 2011-18, the Mountaineers had seven winning seasons and two bowl wins — one was the Orange Bowl in 2011.
WVU replaced the eight-year coach with Neal Brown. He was a promising young coach that led Troy to three double-digit win seasons from 2016-18. Since 2019, the Mountaineers are 17-18. In the shortened 2020 season, West Virginia had its only winning record under Brown, finishing 6-4.
Heading into the 2022 season, the pressure is on. Brown must improve the offense, which has finished 100th or worse in points per game for three consecutive seasons. WVU hired former USC Offensive Coordinator Graham Harrell. Plus, the Mountaineers landed transfer QB JT Daniels, a former 5-star recruit.
Brown has made changes to address the offense. This could be his last chance. If the offense continues to struggle with a talented quarterback and solid play-caller, will it ever improve under Brown? West Virginia’s head coach has questions to address in the 2022 season.
- How Hot is the Seat: 6/10
- West Virginia Over/Under Win Total: 5½
David Shaw, Stanford
Stanford’s program has produced NFL greats throughout the years, like John Elway. However, the Cardinal rarely produced double-digit win seasons. From 1950-2009, they had one double-digit win season in 1992. Jim Harbaugh helped turn the program around following a 1-11 finish in 2006. In his final season, Stanford went 12-1 with an Orange Bowl win. David Shaw was hired as the successor in 2011 and kept the train rolling.
Shaw’s run at Stanford has been incredible. From 2011-18, the Cardinal had a winning record every season. In addition, they had five double-digit win seasons and played in four New Year’s Six bowl games. Shaw turned Stanford into a Pac-12 powerhouse. Usually, schools with poor football history and prestigious academics struggle to recruit. Despite the challenges, Shaw has recruited at a high level.
However, the program has taken a turn for the worse since 2019. Stanford is 11-19 over the last three seasons. The Cardinal has not appeared on the AP Poll since early in the 2019 season. Perhaps, what’s most concerning is the failure with a talented roster.
During Shaw’s tenure, Stanford has consistently turned out NFL-caliber QBs, like Andrew Luck and Davis Mills. On the 2022 roster, the Cardinal has plenty of talent on offense. Starting QB Tanner McKee has NFL potential, Myles Hinton and Walter Rouse are talented offensive tackles, plus, starting RB E.J. Smith and starting WR Elijah Higgins are former top 100 recruits.
EJ Smith led Pac-12 RBs with 0.54 forced missed tackles/attempt 🌲pic.twitter.com/nD6UF1Ljah
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 23, 2022
Last season, Stanford ranked 110th in points per game (20.4). This simply cannot happen with good talent at nearly every position. The defense is another headache, which ranked 103rd in allowed points per game (32.4). Everything has to change this season, or Shaw’s reign in the Pac-12 could end.
- How Hot is the Seat: 7/10
- Stanford Over/Under Win Total: 4½
Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech
From 1997-2014, Georgia Tech played in a bowl game every season. After Head Coach Paul Johnson stepped down in 2018, the Yellow Jackets hired Geoff Collins. It was an interesting decision with Collins going 15-10 at Temple from 2017-18.
He had two different positions with Tech in the early 2000s. As the director of player personnel in 2006, Collins received a lot of credit for forming one of the Yellow Jackets’ best-recruiting classes in program history.
Collins’ recruiting prowess has not been enough. Georgia Tech has struggled with a 9-25 record over the last three seasons. Even when landing big recruits, they don’t stay around for long. For instance, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, a top 100 recruit, was one of Collins’ biggest gets. Once Gibbs become one of college football’s best backs with 1,211 scrimmage yards in the 2021 season, he transferred to Alabama.
Tech must show improvement this season, or Collins’ position will be in danger.
- How Hot is the Seat: 8/10
- Georgia Tech Over/Under Win Total: 3½
Mike Norvell, Florida State
The Seminoles could enter the coaching carousel yet again. Florida State’s program has been an absolute disaster since Jimbo Fisher left in 2017. Willie Taggart was the first hire; his climb up big brand schools will never make sense. Taggart had two winning seasons at South Florida and was rewarded with a job at Oregon. There, he went 7-5 with the Ducks. Then at Florida State, Taggart went 9-12. Clearly, the Seminoles’ hiring practices were a concern after the Taggart saga.
Mike Norvell had a far better resume coming into FSU. He led a high-powered offense at Memphis, totaling four winning records. In Norvell’s final year, the Tigers were one of the country’s best Group of Five teams at 12-2 with a Cotton Bowl berth.
Through two seasons at Florida State, Norvell is 8-13. So far, the offensive guru’s methods have not generated success. The Seminoles ranked 75th (382.3) and 74th (383.5) in yards per game over the last two seasons. The offense needs a massive jump in production. Several transfers aid their chances: running back Trey Benson and wide receivers Johnny Wilson & Mycah Pittman.
Meanwhile, the defense ranked 115th (475) and 61st (381.5) in yards allowed per game since 2020. The unit could make another jump with added transfers: linebacker Tatum Bethune, cornerback Greedy Vance and edge-rusher Jared Verse.
— UAlbany Sports (@UAlbanySports) March 27, 2021
If this storied program has another poor season, Norvell’s time in Tallahassee could be over.
- How Hot is the Seat: 8/10
- Florida State Over/Under Win Total: 6½
Herm Edwards, Arizona State
The Sun Devils made a splash hire in the 2018 offseason, reeling in former NFL coach Herm Edwards. Arizona State’s program has been solid since the hire. Under Edwards, ASU has three winning records and one bowl win. This hot seat has little to do with the on-the-field product. A scandal has put the program in the spotlight.
NCAA investigations are hanging over Arizona State after coaches met with recruits during a no-contact period in 2020. Thus far, five coaches have either left the program or have been fired, including Offensive Coordinator Zak Hill and Defensive Coordinator Antonio Pierce. Reports have also pointed to Edwards meeting with recruits during the dead period, putting his job in danger.
With drama swirling around the program, 17 players transferred. Quarterback Jayden Daniels was the biggest loss as he joined LSU. Also, the Sun Devils’ 2022 recruiting class is one of the Pac-12’s worst.
Edwards has put Arizona State’s football program in danger. The ramifications have been felt, and it could only get worse. The roster is a shell of its former self. With a big record dropoff and the NCAA’s continued investigation, Edwards could be on his way out.
- How Hot is the Seat: 9/10
- Arizona State Over/Under Win Total: 5½
Bryan Harsin, Auburn
Since 2000, Auburn has experienced three losing seasons. Bryan Harsin’s debut in 2021 was one of those disappointing years. This storied SEC program has a lot of recent success, including its 2010 national title. Harsin’s start does not meet high expectations.
Last season, the Tigers finished 6-7 following a 17-13 loss to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl. Auburn’s defense was solid, ranking 36th in allowed points per game (23.6) and 32nd in allowed rushing yards per game (135.2). However, the passing defense was a major weakness, allowing 255.4 passing yards per game (98th). The secondary could struggle once again after losing top corner Roger McCreary, which was drafted in the second round by the Tennessee Titans.
On offense, the Tigers’ passing offense could struggle with T.J. Finley, Robby Ashford, or Zach Calzada stepping into the starting QB role. Look for Auburn to ride one of America’s best running backs, Tank Bigsby.
Off the field, Harsin has drawn attention for the wrong reasons. After the 2021 season, Auburn conducted an investigation due to several players and coaches leaving the program. Ultimately, the Tigers could not find cause to fire, but there’s real concern about Harsin’s established culture.
Auburn did not get it done on the field in Harsin’s first season. After off-the-field problems, Harsin finds himself on the hot seat.
- How Hot is the Seat: 9/10
- Auburn Over/Under Win Total: 6½
Scott Frost, Nebraska
Starting in the early 1960s, Nebraska became a college football powerhouse. Following two national titles in the 1970s, the Cornhuskers had one of college football’s most dominant runs in the 1990s. They won back-to-back national championships in 1994 and ‘95, followed by another title in 1997. From 1993-2001, Nebraska had a record of 102-12.
The Cornhuskers came back to Earth in the 2000s. They still made a bowl game nearly every season with several double-digit win seasons. Before Scott Frost took over as head honcho in 2018, Nebraska had four losing seasons from 2000-17.
The hype around Frost’s hire was unreal. Frost quickly turned UCF around in two seasons. In 2016, the Golden Knights went 6-7. One year later, UCF finished 13-0 with a Peach Bowl win. Furthermore, Frost was the Cornhuskers’ starting QB for two seasons and was a major piece on the 1997 national championship team.
Nebraska fans were thrilled and expected a quick turnaround. The program would become a powerhouse once again. After four seasons with Frost at the helm, this has been far from the case with a 15-29 record. The Cornhuskers’ best finish was a 5-7 record in 2019.
Frost has turned to the transfer portal as he enters a crucial season. Nebraska added 15 transfers, including former Texas QB Casey Thompson, receivers Marcus Washington & Trey Palmer, plus, edge-rusher Ochaun Mathis.
Yup Texas about to be in good hands for the next 2 years – all in on Casey Thompson pic.twitter.com/LWNfahiCWZ
— Second String (@SecondStringSp1) December 30, 2020
With another bad season, Frost will likely be fired. Nebraska has put itself in a position to make a change. Starting October 1, his buyout drops from $15 million to $7.5 million. Frost’s seat is blazing-hot for the 2022 season.
- How Hot is the Seat: 10/10
- Nebraska Over/Under Win Total: 7½