Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
There are 23 coaching changes in the newly named Football Bowl Subdivision heading into the 2007 season and while all of these programs are looking for a quick turnaround, the spotlight will be brightest on a handful around the nation. With that in mind, here are the best of the bunch and there is no doubt that these seven guys will be on the hot seat from day one.
MARK DANTONIO (Michigan State): One of the brighter stars on the college football horizon, Dantonio returns to the Big Ten following stints as an assistant with both the Spartans and Buckeyes. Most recently, he turned a Cincinnati program into one that at the very least was competitive week-in and week-out in the Big East. The Bearcats were bowl eligible in two of Dantonio's three seasons at the helm. He now takes over for John L. Smith, who simply couldn't get the job done in East Lansing. With an old-style brand of football and a mind for hard-nosed defense, Dantonio should be able to raise Michigan State to the level it should have always been at and once again become a real player in the Big Ten.
BUTCH DAVIS (North Carolina): When Mack Brown left UNC for the Lone Star State, he took something with him. While he has gone on to numerous top-10 finishes and a national championship, Chapel Hill has disappeared from the football landscape. The most recent disaster was John Bunting, who was finally put out of his misery this last season. While the days of Brown are a distant memory, the UNC brass finally got it right this time, bringing in Butch Davis. He certainly knows a thing or two about building a team and has been itching for some redemption since leaving the "U" to try his luck in the NFL. Davis is a coach with a pedigree, having been involved in 11 postseason bowls (as a head coach and assistant), including six big boys (two Fiesta, two Orange, two Sugar). All the pieces are in place for the Tar Heels to make a quick turnaround and this looks on the surface to be a match made in heaven.
DENNIS ERICKSON (Arizona State): Having been underachievers for awhile now, the Sun Devils may just have the man at the helm to lead them to the Promised Land, or the very least, Pasadena. Dennis Erickson's coaching career is starting to wind down and following collegiate stints at Oregon State and most recently, Idaho, he seems poised to make a statement in Tempe. One person who has to be happy to see Erickson in town is QB Rudy Carpenter, who will no doubt see his numbers skyrocket in Erickson's pass-happy offense. With a pair of national titles under his belt, along with being named National Coach of the Year (2000) and two Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards (1988, 2000), Erickson certainly knows what it takes to win on the Left Coast.
STEVE KRAGTHORPE (Louisville): When the coaching carousel began toward the end of last season, one name continually rose to the top of most "want lists." Tulsa's Steve Kragthorpe is one of the college game's rising stars and Louisville was able to land Kragthorpe to assuage the loss of Bobby Petrino to the NFL. His arrival in Louisville should keep Brian Brohm among the nation's elite QBs. While his offensive philosophies may lean to a more balanced offense, Brohm should have little trouble putting up big numbers in his senior season. Kragthorpe will slowly make the Cardinals his team, without much of a drop off, if any, in the win column.
TOM O'BRIEN (NC State): O'Brien made Boston College a perennial powerhouse both in the Big East and more recently the Atlantic Coast Conference. He has jumped ship somewhat, staying within the ACC, moving from Chestnut Hill to Raleigh, where he will take over at NC State. The Wolfpack enjoyed some decent success under Chuck Amato, but the team never made the jump to the top of the conference and the move up under Amato stalled in the last couple of seasons, setting the stage for his exit. O'Brien is a talented coach and while his offense will probably lack the excitement of some of the other programs in the ACC, the wins he will rack up will more than make up for it.
NICK SABAN (Alabama): After an unsuccessful stint in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, Saban is back where he belongs in the college ranks. Alabama needed a savior to resurrect the program from the abyss and got its man in Saban. The former LSU mentor has star power, a championship pedigree and certainly knows how to navigate the waters in the always tough SEC. Sure, he left Miami in a lurch and has shown little to no commitment to any team or program in the past, but he can coach the heck out of a football team and will begin to recruit the kind of players that seemed to always find their way to Tuscaloosa in the past, but have opted for greener pastures of late. The Tide will roll again and Saban should stick around long enough to see it happen.
Nick Saban returns to College Football this season after a brief stint with the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
RANDY SHANNON (Miami-Florida): Finally, nowhere will the spotlight be brighter than in Coral Gables, where Randy Shannon takes over for Larry Coker. The Miami Hurricanes have become an afterthought in the ACC of late and while the hiring of Shannon isn't flashy, the former assistant under Coker is more than qualified and is worthy of a shot at rebuilding this former powerhouse. A defensive guy through and through, Miami will have little trouble remaining among the nation's best on that side of the football. Where Shannon needs to focus is on offense and a quick turnaround in terms of offensive production could have the 'Canes back in the mix in the ACC this season.