Utah Football: Ranking Opposing Head Coaches Going Into 2021 Season

May 2, 2021, 4:26 PM
David Shaw, Stanford...
Stanford head coach David Shaw announced his resignation moments after a 35-26 loss to BYU. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah football’s head coach Kyle Whittingham has reached legend status during his tenure with the Utes but the Pac-12 has great head coaches.

Some coaches are on the hot seat, some are brand new to the conference and college football head coaching profession and some are sitting comfortably in their current positions.

The Utes won’t see Justin Wilcox and California or Jimmy Lake and Washington during the regular season.

Here is the ranking of Utah’s opposing head coaches that they will see in the 2021 season.

Utah Football: Ranking Opposing Head Coaches Going Into 2021 Season

N/A: Jedd Fisch, Arizona

Going to be honest here. This hire was very puzzling. I thought there was many more qualified candidates out there to bring Arizona football back but I am also not an Athletic Director in the Pac-12.

It’s hard to judge Jedd Fisch until we see what he does in the first couple of seasons as the Wildcats head coach.

11. Jay Hill, Weber State

I feel like I am committing a crime by putting Jay Hill at No. 11. Make no mistake, he is a great head coach. It’s a crime that he hasn’t been given an opportunity at the group of five or power five level. That will happen soon. The only reason why Jay Hill is at No. 11 is because Weber State is in the FCS. But he is a tremendous head coach with a very bright future.

10. Brady Hoke, San Diego State

Brady Hoke is back at San Diego State for a second stint as the head coach. He led the Aztecs to a 13-12 record before becoming the head coach at Michigan for four seasons. In his first season of his second stint in 2020, San Diego State went 4-4. It’s hard to gauge where this program is going under Hoke so we will have to wait and see.

9. Nick Rolovich, Washington State

It’s hard to judge Rolovich as a coach at Washington State because he was hired in 2020 and the Cougars played just four games in the COVID-19 shortened season and won just one game. It will be interesting how he handles some of the early adversity after suspending his starting quarterback Jayden de Laura this offseason.

8. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State

Jonathan Smith took over for Gary Andersen and it’s fair to say that the cupboards were bare. But he has done a tremendous job in the rebuilding process. The problem is that you can’t use the rebuilding excuse anymore. It’s time for Oregon State to start contending in the north again. The trajectory was impressive from his first season with just two wins to five wins in his second season in 2019. Unfortunately, they could build off of that momentum in the shortened COVID-19 season in 2020 with two wins.

Smith has shown that he can build a program back up but can he keep them up when they get there?

7. Karl Dorrell, Colorado

Dorrell surprised everyone in his first season as Colorado’s head coach. He led the Buffs to a College Football Playoff top 25 ranking with four straight wins before losing their final two of the season to Utah and Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Now that Dorrell will get a chance to recruit his own players, it will be interesting to see where he can take this Colorado program.

6. Kalani Sitake, BYU

In my 10+ years of covering college football in this state, I have grown to be a very big fan of Kalani Sitake. From his time as the defensive coordinator at Utah to the head coach of BYU now. Sitake is a person that everyone likes. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. BYU has won some big games under Sitake but it hasn’t been consistent. I know that they just won 11 games but the schedule wasn’t as competitive as previous years.

Despite all of that, Sitake has the Cougars on an upward trajectory and big things will come if he keeps the program trending in the right direction.

5. Chip Kelly, UCLA

When Chip Kelly was hired to be UCLA’s head football coach back in 2018, we all thought that was a homerun hire for the Bruins. It’s safe to say that it isn’t that. Maybe a double. The problem with Kelly and the Bruins is that they can’t get their record above .500 and stay there. Kelly is 10-21 during his time in Westwood. That simply will not get it done for a program that has high expectations for their football and basketball programs.

Kelly still has a steep hill to climb and the first step is just getting the Bruins to a bowl game.

4. Clay Helton, USC

Is this the first season in six years that we won’t be mentioning Clay Helton on the hot seat? I think so. The Trojans just signed the top player in the entire country. They continue to put players into the NFL and the wins are starting to come with it.

For most of the Helton era, the big games were never won. While that is mostly still the case today, Helton is at least leading them to the big game. The Trojans were always Pac-12 South contenders but didn’t get to the title game every year. They went in his first season as head coach in 2015, again in 2017 and recently in 2020. USC has just one Pac-12 Championship from those three trips.

Next step for Helton in keeping his job at this historic program is getting the Trojans to be contenders for the College Football Playoff.

3. Herm Edwards, Arizona State

I am going to be honest here. When Arizona State announced Herm Edwards as their next head football coach, I laughed. Edwards was at ESPN as an NFL analyst for years. The last time he was a head coach was with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2006-08. The last time he was a college football coach was from 1987-89 when he was the defensive backs coach at San Jose State. That’s it. That was his only coaching experience in college.

I am happy to admit that I was wrong about Edwards as a college football coach. He has surrounded himself with great coaches and the recruits have been coming in and are signing better classes than the last staff. Another positive to Edwards being at ASU is that he is exactly what the Pac-12 needs. His personality is straight forward, honest and a breath of fresh air.

2. Mario Cristobal, Oregon

Ever since Willie Taggart left Oregon to go to Florida State, Mario Cristobal has taken the Ducks to new heights. They have won back-to-back Pac-12 Championships and continue to produce top NFL talent. On top of that, he and his staff are tremendous recruiters, bringing in the top classes in the Pac-12 year after year.

Cristobal’s overall coaching record doesn’t stand out at 52-57 but that is because he went 27-47 in six seasons at FIU. In four seasons at Oregon, Cristobal is 25-10 and have appeared in four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. Cristobal is bringing the Ducks back to where Chip Kelly had them early in the Pac-12 era. This game for Utah will always be difficult as long as Cristobal is at the helm in Eugene.

1. David Shaw, Stanford

Since David Shaw took over for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, he has done nothing but win with the Cardinal. Shaw has led them to three Pac-12 Championships and five north division crowns. He holds a 90-36 record as the head coach and is 5-3 in bowl games.

Shaw is very similar to Kyle Whittingham as far as philosophy. Run the ball and be very physical on defense. When Utah and Stanford meet, everyone knows that it will be a slugfest and the last one standing will win the game.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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