28 FBS programs began the 2012 season under the leadership of a new head coach. So far through four weeks, many of these programs are still going through some growing pains, winning just 44% of their games (47-59 overall).
At FootballScoop, we wanted to dive a bit deeper and see which of these new head coaches seem to be off to the best start. The following nine caught our eye:
Kyle Flood – Rutgers (4-0)
Just a week before signing day, Greg Schiano up and left for the NFL, leaving new head coach Kyle Flood little time to salvage a recruiting class and get his team prepared for spring ball. Yet Flood was able to sign a nationally ranked class and has now guided Rutgers to their first 4-0 start since 2006. Most impressive is the Scarlett Knights have won three of their games on the road, including at South Florida and Arkansas. Led by a defense that is surrendering just 12.8 points per game, Flood has Rutgers ranked in the top 25 and in position to battle for a Big East crown and BCS berth in his first season ever as a college head coach.
Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M (2-1)
Sumlin caught our eye thanks to not only the performance of his new team, but the team he left behind in Houston. A&M’s only loss this season came at home against still undefeated Florida, the week after Hurricane Isaac wiped out their opener, with a freshman QB under center. Since that opening loss, the Aggies have won back-to-back games and will look for their 1st ever SEC victory this week against Arkansas. Meanwhile, Sumlin’s old team Houston off to a 0-3 start for the first time since 2001, giving up 41 points per game so far (120th in the country).
Urban Meyer – Ohio State (4-0)
Seems like Urban hasn’t missed a beat after his year-long sabbatical to ESPN. But the real test begins this week when the Buckeyes head on the road for the first time for their opening Big Ten conference matchup at #20 Michigan State. In their four victories this season the Buckeyes are averaging over 37 points per game, be it against the 108th toughest schedule in the country (just slightly behind Elon, Austin Peay, Portland State and Baylor). Urban has been able to rally his players, despite being ineligible for a Big Ten championship or a bowl berth.
Hugh Freeze – Ole Miss (3-1)
Although they have played the 113th toughest schedule in the country, Ole Miss is off to a surprising 3-1 to start the year after beginning 2011 just 1-3. Led by one of the nation’s most productive rushing attacks (11th in the country at 259.8 yards per game), the Rebels face their biggest test of the season when they begin SEC play this weekend at #1 Alabama. Before moving to Oxford, Freeze led an Arkansas State team that was 4-8 the year prior to becoming head coaching and turned them into a 10-win team that won their first ever Sun Belt Conference title in his only season as head coach. Looking to duplicate that quick success in the SEC is a bit different, but Freeze took over an Ole Miss squad and has already eclipsed their win total from all of 2011 in just four weeks.
Larry Fedora – North Carolina (2-2)
Fedora’s Tar Heels are 2-2; but could easily be 4-0. Both their losses this season were on the road by a combined 6 points, with opportunities to win both late. All of this after taking over a program embroiled in NCAA and academic scandal that cost the former coach, athletic director and school chancellor their jobs. 2012 will be the first season as a college head coach that Fedora’s team will not play in a bowl game, since the Tar Heels are ineligible for a bowl. But that’s not stopping Fedora from moving forward to rebuild the reputation of the football team and the university. Despite the sanctions, Fedora and his staff are putting together another nationally ranked recruiting class as they implement their system with the current Tar Heels, getting set for a run at an ACC crown again in 2013.
Rich Rodriguez – Arizona (3-1)
In his first season back on the sidelines after a stint in the booth with CBS Sports, Rich Rodriguez has the Wildcats sitting at 3-1 with wins over Toledo and Oklahoma State. Their strength of schedule (21st) is the toughest amongst the coaches profiled within this article, and their lone loss came at the hands of Oregon last weekend. Arizona has been pretty balanced offensively through their first four games, ranking 12th in total offense (537 ypg), 34th in rushing offense (208 per game), and 11th in passing offense (329 per game). Their schedule over the next few weeks includes home games against Oregon State, Washington, USC, Colorado, and Arizona State (who hold a combined record of 11-6) and road games at Stanford, UCLA and Utah (who are a combined 8-4) .
Todd Graham – Arizona State (3-1)
Todd Graham has Arizona State playing well, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and has led the Sun Devils to a 3-1 start. With a the 37th toughest schedule through four games, they already have a conference win under their belt (Utah), as well as a win against Big Ten foe Illinois. Their only loss has been a narrow 4 point defeat to Missouri (20-24). Graham's squad has been impressive on the defensive side of the ball, leading the country in tackles for loss (almost ten per game) and ranking in the top ten in pass efficiency defense (#9), total defense (#10), sacks (tied for #10) pass defense (#5). Their next two games are on the road at Cal and Colorado (who are a combined 2-6) and after that their conference slate gets tough with back to back road games at Oregon and at UCLA. Their final six opponents of the year are all .500 or above at this point and are have a combined record of 17-5.
Tim DeRuyter – Fresno State (2-2)
After serving as the interim head coach in the Meineke Car Care Bowl game at Texas A&M, Tim DeRuyter left for the sunny California and has the Bulldogs off to a solid start. Their 2-2 start includes wins over Weber State and a 69-14 thrashing of Colorado and they're only one point away from being 3-1 after a one point loss (26-27) to Tulsa last weekend. DeRuyter has brought a defensive mindset to the Bulldogs, who rank #11 nationally in turnover margin (1.75) and 23rd in sacks (2.75 per game). If they can pull off a tough win against San Diego State at home this weekend, and battle for wins against Boise State and Nevada on the road, they've got a great shot at Mountain West title in DeRuyter's first season.
Jim Mora – UCLA (3-1)
In his first college head coaching gig, after spending a few years away from the NFL sidelines behind a camera with the NFL Network and Fox Sports, Jim Mora has the Bruins playing very well. They've already collected wins against Rice, Nebraska, and Houston, but couldn't get to 4-0 as Oregon State beat the Bruins 27-20 this past weekend. Offensively, the Bruins have been impressive and balanced, ranking 14th in rushing offense (252 ypg), 13th in passing offense (326 ypg), and 3rd nationally in total offense. After going on the road to Colorado and Cal the next two weekends (who, as we stated before are a combined 2-6), the Bruins will have to face Arizona State on the road and will have big home tests against USC and Stanford to close out the season.
Long way to go; but these guys are off to a good start.