By Flint Wheeler

NCAA coaching carousel ride is finally come to a halt. However as of this writing, the L.S.U. Head Coach, Les Miles, is looking for a job. Some schools have made better choices then others. Below I’ve listed this season best hires as of yet. I see at least one of these to sniff the new L.S.U. opening very quickly.

1. Mark Richt, Miami, Fl. In 15 seasons at Georgia, Richt went 145-51, had 11 Top 25 finishes and 7 Top 10 finishes but got fired due to his inability to win the “big” game. Meanwhile, in the last 10 years Miami is just 71-56 with only one Top 25 finish and 0 bowl wins. While those “big game” questions remain for Richt, the Hurricanes, in my opinion, hit a home run here getting a former “U” QB who was successful in the tougher SEC conference. Richt is quite familiar with the South Florida recruiting area and with 15 returning starters in 2016, the Hurricanes can make a run for an ACC title in year one under Richt. Grade: A

2. Lovie Smith, Illinois. Originally, Illinois was graded as a “F” with their retainment of interim coach Bill Cubit. However, new AD Josh Whitman fired Cubit on his first day on the job (March 5) and two days later shocked many by hiring the long-time NFL head coach. Smith was a decent 92-90 in 11 seasons in the NFL and obviously is familiar with the Chicago recruiting area. While Smith hasn’t coached at the college level since 1995, he made a bold hire bringing in Garrick McGee as his offensive coordinator and while the timing might not be ideal for 2016, I think Illinois will be competing for Big Ten West division titles soon. Grade: A-


3. Dino Babers, Syracuse. Babers guided Bowling Green to a MAC championship last season and he also coached Jimmy Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois while making the FCS playoffs in each of his two years there. He is a disciple of Baylor head coach Art Briles and has vast experience as an offensive coordinator at Power 5 schools. His Bowling Green offense averaged 43 ppg last year and his wide-open style should work quite nicely inside the friendly Carrier Dome. Grade: A-

4. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss. Hopson grew up in Mississippi and played DB for the Rebels. He was the DC here from 2005-2007. In the last 4 years, he was the head coach at Alcorn State and led the Braves to a 32-17 record including back-to-back SWAC championship. He did get hired just a few days before signing day but hauled in a nice class and obviously knows the state very well. Grade: A-

5. Kirby Smart, Georgia. There’s no question Smart was the most sought after assistant coach in college football for the past several seasons. His defenses at Alabama were routinely the best in the country and he’s also known as one of the best recruiters (see his incoming Top 10 class here). He played defensive back here so obviously he knows the area. However, he is replacing a coach that averaged 10 wins per season the last 15 years but was still fired. Smart is a first-time head coach in the rugged SEC so there’s a bit of a roll of the dice here. Grade: B+

6. D.J. Durkin, Maryland. Durkin may not have been the flashy name the Terps were originally looking for but he’s an experienced DC and last year his Michigan defense ranked No. 4 in total defense. He’s served under Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer and was named national recruiter of the year while at Florida. Durkin hired three ex-head coaches in Scott Shafer (Syracuse), Mike London (Virginia) and Pete Lembo (Ball State) but Shafer did step down for personal reasons. While it’s an uphill climb competing in the same division as Ohio State and Michigan, I think Durkin will have the Terps as a perennial bowl team in the near future. Grade: B+

7. Barry Odom, Missouri. Odom played linebacker here in the mid-90’s and was on the staff from 2003-2011. He was the Memphis DC from 2012-2014 but returned to Columbia last year as DC. His defensive unit limited opponents to just 16 ppg ranking No. 5 in the country. The off-field issues on Missouri’s campus probably didn’t make it an attractive job and the Tigers tried to keep it in the family considering how successful the Pinkel era was here the last 15 years. Grade: B

8. Clay Helton, USC. Is Helton the worst coach on this list? No, but USC is graded on a much different scale than most schools as they have all the tradition and a fertile LA recruiting area. Quite simply, it’s a Top 10 job in the country. Helton was able to go 5-2 last year as the interim but he did lose to Notre Dame and Oregon by double-digits. After he was named full-time head coach, the Trojans were then blown out in the Pac-12 title game and lost their bowl game. Helton redeemed himself with a Top 10 recruiting class but this was an underwhelming hire. Grade: C-