The Big 12 experienced drastic coaching changes going into this season, and all the hires came in with varying levels of excitement. Now that the dust has settled, which hire was an immediate home run and which are still looking for a hit?
Chris Klieman – A
Klieman inherited the house that Snyder built and started his tenure off with a bang. Anyone who knew about Klieman’s FCS past knew this guy was a winner, but to take the Wildcats into the top three of the conference in one year was a bit of a shocker.
That upset win over Oklahoma made a statement for the future, and with a chance for nine wins against Navy this program is rolling. Bill Snyder is one of the greatest coaches the game has ever seen and he left massive shoes to fill. Klieman walked into Snyder Family Stadium and filled them beautifully. To see Klieman succeed so quickly is a warning to the Big 12’s elite that the Wildcats are back to being a thorn in their sides.
Les Miles – C
Nobody could reasonably expect Kansas to turn it around in a year. But Miles brought a level of excitement to Lawrence that had not been seen in years. The win over Tech, and the subsequent sellout against Kansas State, speaks to the potential this program has with the Mad Hatter leading the way.
His change of coordinator was brilliant, and with fresh talent coming in due to Miles’ recruiting ability Kansas could be the next Iowa State or Baylor. There is still a long road to that point, but for the first time in a long time the Jayhawk faithful cared about football.
Neal Brown – C-
Dana left West Virginia in a bad place. The Mountaineers were due for a major slump, but Brown largely minimized the fallout. His only bad loss of the year was Texas Tech really, otherwise his boys would be bowling.
The decision to stick with Kendall for so long is a black mark on his record, but West Virginia managed to stay out of the basement and win with that talent level. Not a great season, but one that ended on a high note denying the Horny Toads a bowl game.
Matt Wells – D-
If you saw something this year that screamed progress, I would love to hear it because I did not see it. What I saw was a program that failed to take a step forward. A regression from Kingsbury’s last year was the last thing Tech needed, and a loss to Kansas was one of the worst losses in program history. Yes, we were close in a lot of games but close losses don’t inspire much confidence in me when you’re losing to bad teams. Everything changes if Tech gets a few breaks but that didn’t happen and I am in the business of what happened, not what ifs.
Does this mean Wells is going to be a bust? It is way too early to tell and with the injuries Tech sustained this year, things went further off the rails than expected. Still, there can be no doubt this year was a disaster. Which, depending on your perspective, may not even matter. Wells has not really had a chance to get going yet, with a recruiting class coming in that figures to be an improvement from the Kliff era we could see a turnaround starting next season.
Wells had the worst year of any new hire, but I am not willing to give up yet. This year was a wake up call to Wells, his coordinators, and all of the assistants. How they respond to this adversity speeding up their employment clocks will make all the difference.
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