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Lincoln Riley to USC headlines early moves

The college football offseason hits quickly. Gone are the days of allowing teams to finish their seasons and wait out their coaching stints. Tracking the 2021 college football coaching carousel got started essentially when the final blades of grass fell at Bedlam when Oklahoma State defeated Oklahoma. Join us this entire offseason as we track the movement of every coaching staff in major college football.

The coaching carousel tracker is easy to get zapped into. With news flying around at the speed of Twitter — yes, that’s a speed — it’s just as easy to get lured into fake reports. As such, our 2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker is going to report on jobs available, reported hires from legitimate news sources, and potential news only from trusted college insiders.

As we kick things off, it’s important to understand what we’re tracking. With Week 13 gone, Rivalry Week ended the regular season for all but four teams (Cal, USC playing a makeup game, Army-Navy playing their annual after-season game). With 126 teams’ regular seasons ending, there were over a dozen major college football jobs open.

Included in those slew of job openings were a handful of college football’s most notable programs, including LSU, USC, and Florida. And after the first day of the non-regular season began, the country added a 28th job and perhaps the most prestigious opening on the market: Oklahoma.

Current Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley has reportedly agreed to become the next head coach at USC, leaving behind one incredible legacy in Norman. Riley also spurns the potential advances from LSU, who were also reportedly pushing hard for him.

Coaching Carousel Tracker: Open head coach jobs

Now, here we are. Ahead of perhaps the busiest offseason in college football history in terms of tracking coaching moves. The 2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker will keep track of all the jobs by university, with who’s in, who’s out, and the potential candidates to take over.

Akron Zips

Out: Tom Arth
In: To Be Determined

The Zips let go of Tom Arth after the team won just three games with him at the helm. In three years, Arth did achieve growth in each season, winning one more game a year. But it wasn’t to be, as the program saw a steep decline from where they were previously.

The latest on the Zips’ head coaching search is a varietal who’s who of Ohio sports greats. From high school greats to MAC all-stars, this is still very open.

[UPDATE] A leading candidate has emerged for the Akron head coach opening. Former Penn State OC, current Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead has become the leading candidate. Moorhead has the Ducks 18th in rushing offense and third nationally in converting third downs at 52.9%. He’s long since been rumored to land a coaching gig so the bit of news to Akron is surprising a touch given the number of other openings.

Duke Blue Devils

Out: David Cutcliffe

Longtime Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is out following a 3-9 record in 2021. Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils had fallen off as of late and hadn’t won more than five games in a season since 2018.

Still, Cutcliffe is a legend in the game and perhaps one of the better coaches of the fundamentals in the sport’s history. His quarterback hierarchy is nearly unmatched as well.

Cutcliffe’s departure paves the way for new blood in a program that deserves it. This will be an interesting head coach opening to monitor. Duke has a lot to offer as a university.

Florida Gators

Out: Dan Mullen
In: Billy Napier

The Gators ousted Dan Mullen after the program failed to achieve any growth in his tenure. He took over incredibly talented teams in 2018 and failed to reach the success of their 2019 season that saw them win the Orange Bowl. Florida fired Mullen ahead of their Rivalry Week showdown with Florida State after dropping a game in OT to Missouri.

Florida hired Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, an announcement that will become formal after Louisiana’s Sun Belt Championship Game appearance next weekend. Napier has turned the Louisiana program into a nationally-known team that surpassed even the wildest of Sun Belt aspirations. His teams have lost just two games over the past two seasons combined, and he’s currently 39-12 as Louisiana’s head coach.

Florida International Panthers

Out: Butch Davis

Butch Davis has left the program amid accusations that the athletic department underserved the football program. While there’s more to unpack from FIU, Davis is out. And whoever steps in to take over has their work cut out for them. FIU lost their last game of the season to Southern Miss, 37-17, and will have to replace a ton of graduating seniors.

Georgia Southern Eagles

Out: Chad Lunsford
In: Clay Helton

The program at Georgia Southern was apparently lost under Chad Lunsford. A great leader of men, Lunsford just couldn’t quite put two and two together with for the Eagles.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was a video of a player chugging a beer on the roof of a moving school bus headed to a game, not from it. Lunsford was removed after four games in 2021, compiling a 28-21 record across five seasons at the helm.

The Eagles moved quickly to jump on former USC head coach Clay Helton. Despite being named head coach prior to the end of their season, Helton assumed coaching duties following their season-ending loss to Appalachian State in Week 13.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Out: Skip Holtz

The Bulldogs announced ahead of their regular-season finale against Rice that they had plans to move on from Skip Holtz. Louisiana Tech lost their game against Rice to move to 3-9 on the season and will be without Holtz as HC for the first time since 2012. Holtz compiled a 64-50 record in his time at Louisiana Tech, winning the C-USA West division three times.

LSU Tigers

Out: Ed Orgeron

In a rapid decline, LSU announced back in October that they and Ed Orgeron would split ways after the end of the season. Orgeron famously led the Tigers to an unprecedented 15-0 season in 2019, capping it with a national championship. But back-to-back seasons at .500 were his undoing.

The Tigers reportedly went hard after Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley but were spurned when Riley chose USC. LSU now finds itself between a rock and a hard place as they allowed Florida to grab in-state Napier. It is arguably the best job still available.

New Mexico State Aggies

Out: Doug Martin
In: Jerry Kill

Martin was relieved of his command in charge of the Aggies after eight seasons with the program. Martin joined New Mexico State in 2013, winning more than three games in a season just once when the Aggies finished 7-6 in 2017.

New Mexico State announced just hours following Martin’s dismissal that they’ve reached an agreement to bring in longtime college head coach Jerry Kill. Most recently, Kill had been a special assistant to now-former TCU head coach Gary Patterson, before being named TCU’s interim HC following Patterson’s firing.

Kill is most widely known for his time at Minnesota, where health issues dominated his headlines. His health problems forced him into retirement back in 2015, but he returned to coaching in 2018. Kill has a lifetime record of 154-101 as a CFB head coach.

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