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Peak Perspective: Grading & Reviewing the New Mountain West Coaches

We review the first-year coaches and preview the new one.

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Last year, we previewed the four first-year coaches in the Mountain West, Jay Norvell, Jeff Tedford, Timmy Chang, and Ken Wilson. This offseason, Barry Odom of UNLV is the only new coach in the conference. Rather than only grading one coach, this post will also serve as a review of 2022 season for the other four coaches.

Barry Odom

Initial Reaction: C-

Odom was not on my radar regarding potential coaching candidates prior to the announcement of his hire. He was not a household name, even though he had been a head coach before. Odom was mediocre at Missouri, but that is a compliment to some degree, as it isn’t easy to win with that program. A few seasons around .500 and two bowl games are fairly impressive accomplishments while coaching a lower-level SEC team. It will be interesting to see what he can do when he doesn’t have to play Georgia and Tennessee every year. Odom is saying and doing all the right things so far, but it’s hard to predict instant success at this point.

Recruiting: B-

Considering Coach Odom was hired shortly before the early signing period, the Rebels did pretty well in recruiting for their 2023 class. The coaching staff signed a number of intriguing players from the high school ranks and then brought numerous transfers who were highly ranked coming out of high school and are coming in from big-name programs. It is hard to predict how the class will do at UNLV, but on paper, it was a pretty good class considering they got such a late start and had so little to work with from the last regime.

Longevity: B

Longevity is a fickle term in the college football world, as coaches leave when they are too good and get fired when they are terrible or even mediocre. With all of that being said, it’s hard to accurately predict the future, but Coach Odom appears to be someone who won’t go chasing bigger names and programs if he is finding success at UNLV. It’s hard to really tell, but as long as he doesn’t have two or three years of embarrassing losses, he may stick around for a while.

Again, it’s hard to accurately grade a hire until actual games are played. This is simply going off of the perception of the hire and the small sample size of one recruiting class. It’s guesswork, but there isn’t much else going on, so why not? Time will tell if these grades hold up or look foolish a year later. Speaking of, let’s move on to reviewing the coaches who were new last season.

Jay Norvell

2022 season: F

Class of 2023 Recruiting: A

Biggest Area for Improvement: Executing the offense.

The first thought was improvement was winning more games, but executing the offense is a bit more specific to the core issue. In Norvell’s first season at Colorado State, it seemed like he forgot to bring the offensive execution with him. The Air-Raid offense has a track record of making a step forward in year two of implementation, and the Rams sure hope that is the case. If Norvell and his team are to have any success in 2023 and beyond, it will be because of their pass-heavy, dynamic offense that piles on the points. They never even scored twenty last year, so there is lots of room for improvement. However, improvement is also a necessity.

Jeff Tedford

2022 season: A

Class of 2023 Recruiting: B

Biggest Area for Improvement: Guiding a roster reload.

Jeff Tedford has been just about as successful as he can be at his alma mater. In four seasons (2017-2019, 2022), the Bulldogs have won 10 or more games three times and have two Mountain West championships. However, if there is one thing that maybe hasn’t gone as well, it was the 4-8 2019 season. That was also after Fresno State saw the core of their championship team depart and didn’t have enough talented players behind them who were ready to take up the mantle. Now, that is happening again, and Coach Tedford and his staff need to demonstrate an ability to reload the team by developing the players on the roster to replace the departing ones.

Timmy Chang

2022 season: D

Class of 2023 Recruiting: C+

Biggest Area for Improvement: Implement an offensive identity.

It was a trying season for first-year coach Timmy Chang and the rest of the Hawaii program. Trying to clean up the mess his predecessor left the team in isn’t an easy task, and conventional wisdom said it would be worse before it got better. The Rainbow Warriors struggled on both sides of the ball, and now Coach Chang is doing what he can by going back to the run-and-shoot offense that he starred in during his playing days. It is imperative that Chang can get the new offense humming for Hawaii to have any chance at being better in year two. The offseason will be judged by how well they do in 2023 and ultimately, this move may decide Chang’s fate down the line as well.

Ken Wilson

2022 season: F

Class of 2023 Recruiting: C+

Biggest Area for Improvement: Getting the roster to gel with one another.

There are tons of areas Coach Wilson and the Nevada program can improve, but most of them can probably be connected to this. For a team that only won two games in 2022 and none after week two, there is a ton of room for improvement. But with the influx of players from high school, the transfers portal, and those left over from the old coaching staff, it’s a large mix of style, ability, and experience. The best thing that Coach Wilson can do is to evaluate his roster this spring and adjust the schemes on offense and defense to best fit his personnel while also trying to get the players to believe in one another as well as the message from the coaching staff. The best-case scenario would be 2021 Utah State, but it would be a big improvement even if it looks more like 2022 UNLV.

These are one set of opinions. What do you think? Post in the comments below.