The 2022 college football season is complete, which means it's time to look back on first-year coaching campaigns from across the country. The previous cycle was one of the busiest in recent memory as 29 FBS jobs became available, a massive increase from 18 during the previous cycle.
Perhaps more notably, the 2022 cycle featured some of the biggest jobs in the sport changing hands. USC poached Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, making him the first coach to voluntarily leave Norman for another college job since 1947. LSU also grabbed a big name with Brian Kelly from Notre Dame. The Group of Five level also had some real difference-makers, including Troy adding Jon Sumrall and SMU nabbing Rhett Lashlee.
Now, it's time to grade all of the first-year campaigns. Please note, As are limited for the most impressive first-year jobs in the country. Bs are for signs of promise. Cs are average. Ds are for disappointing debuts, while Fs are for first-year failures. The rare A+'s are reserved for success that would have been completely incomprehensible before the season started -- and there are four of those.
Let's get started.
|Mike Elko||9-4||Elko was a solid hire at Duke, but results came quicker than anyone could have imagined. The Blue Devils won nine games for the first time since 2014 behind improvement on both sides of the ball. Duke has a young quarterback, Riley Leonard, to build around.||A|
|Billy Napier||6-7||Napier's Gators shocked Utah in Week 1 ... and things went downhill from there. Florida showed flashes -- like a four-score win against South Carolina and competitive matchups with Florida State and LSU -- but ultimately finished with a losing record.||C-|
|Brian Kelly||10-4||For all the jokes, for all the memes, Kelly is a heck of a football coach. The Tigers were picked to finish fifth in the SEC West, but captured the division for the first time since 2019 and beat Alabama at Tiger Stadium for the first time since 2010. LSU was one win short of matching their total from the past two seasons.||A-|
|Mario Cristobal||5-7||Hiring Cristobal was never a one-year decision, but the first year was a faceplant nonetheless. The Hurricanes failed to reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007 and lost to Middle Tennessee as 26-point favorites. One year after going 5-3 in conference, Miami was outscored by 96 points in ACC play.||F|
|Marcus Freeman||9-4||The Freeman era got off to an inauspicious start with losses to Marshall and Stanford, but winning six of the last seven games with a backup quarterback shows that Notre Dame remains on track.||B|
|Brent Venables||6-7||Venables faced a difficult situation taking over for Riley, but the lows were still shocking. The Sooners posted a losing record and finished with a losing conference mark for the first time since 1998, the year before the Bob Stoops era began. Oklahoma lost 49-0 against rival Texas, while Venables' signature defense ranked 123rd. The bar is high at Oklahoma, and 2022 wasn't even in the same stratosphere.||F|
|Dan Lanning||10-3||Losing two of the last three regular-season games to squander a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game was a letdown, but the Ducks showed real promise in Lanning's first season. With quarterback Bo Nix returning in 2023 for a final season, the future is bright in Eugene.||B+|
|Sonny Dykes||13-2||I'll say it: Dykes put together the best first-year coaching job of the modern era. There have been other first-year coaches to play for national championships, but no coach has ever flipped a program like TCU this quickly. Dykes flew under the radar during the previous coaching carousel, but should push for a top-10 spot when CBS Sports drops its coach rankings this offseason.||A+|
|Joey McGuire||8-5||Texas Tech took a shot on a Texas high school coaching legend, and he promptly posted their best season in a decade. McGuire has imposed his will on the recruiting trail, and the vibes haven't been this good in Lubbock in a decade.||A|
|Lincoln Riley||11-3||Riley ranks as perhaps the highest-profile poaching in modern history, and he lived up to the hype in every way during his first year in Los Angeles. The Trojans jumped from 4-8 to a Pac-12 title game appearance and Cotton Bowl berth on the heels of a Heisman season from QB Caleb Williams. Giving up 93 points in the final two games costs Riley points, but the bar is set.||A-|
|Tony Elliott||3-7||The Cavaliers looked substantially diminished in Elliott's first season, but Virginia's on-field performance became irrelevant after three players were murdered in a horrifying tragedy. Elliott handled the situation with grace and earned the program fans from around the country.||N/A|
|Brent Pry||3-8||The Hokies atrophied under the previous staff, but 2022 marked rock bottom. A three-win campaign was the worst since 1992. Pry is betting big on the transfer portal in 2023, but Virginia Tech has plenty of ground to make up.||F|
|Kalen DeBoer||11-2||If not for a bizarre road loss against Arizona State, the Huskies would have playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game in DeBoer's first season one year after a 4-8 campaign. Regardless, Washington posted its best season since 2016 and established itself as a force to be reckoned with heading forward in the Pac-12.||A|
|Jake Dickert||7-6||Washington State couldn't quite capitalize on a strong start to the season, but the Cougars didn't have a bad loss. Dickert clearly has a vision for the program and will be one to watch heading forward.||B-|
|Joe Moorhead||2-10||The Zips were unlikely to show many positive signs in Moorhead's first season, and they didn't. Promising performances in the second half of the season give some hope.||C-|
|Jay Norvell||3-9||It can take some time to install the true Air Raid, but getting eviscerated by FCS program Sacramento State and barely surviving Hawaii wasn't the best endorsement for a team that brought eight players from Nevada with Norvell.||D|
|Jim L. Mora||6-7||Between 2018 and 2021, UConn won four games. In Mora's first season, the Huskies earned bowl eligibility for the first time since 2015 and only the second time since UConn was members of the Big East. Wins over Fresno State, Liberty and Boston College are serious performances.||A+|
|Mike MacIntyre||4-8||FIU wasn't very good, but the Panthers took care of business against lesser teams and looked competent against bowl teams.||C|
|Jeff Tedford||10-4||Fresno State had a monstrous early schedule and lost a bad game against UConn. Then, the Bulldogs roared back to win their last nine games and win the MWC. What more could you want?||A-|
|Clay Helton||6-7||Helton had a difficult task flipping an option-based offense into a pro-style attack, but he improved things admirably. The win against Nebraska will live on forever, but more importantly, the Eagles had a shot to win every game on their schedule.||B-|
|Timmy Chang||3-10||Chang took over a true dumpster fire and handled it with grace. The Rainbow Warriors beat a pair of FBS foes and played four other games within one score.||C+|
|Michael Desormeaux||6-7||Desormeaux was a longtime Louisiana assistant tasked with keeping the Napier era rolling. Unfortunately, the Ragin' Cajuns eclipsed the number of losses from the past three seasons combined. Key transfers hurt, but the program is now starting from scratch after the effort.||D-|
|Sonny Cumbie||3-9||Not much good, not too much bad ... the first year of the Cumbie era wasn't especially memorable.||D+|
|Don Brown||1-11||The Minutemen weren't expected to accomplish much, but seeing the turnarounds at fellow bottom-feeders New Mexico State and UConn makes a winless-vs.-FBS campaign sting a little worse.||D|
|Ken Wilson||2-10||It's certainly not all Wilson's fault, but Nevada looked exactly the part of a program whose former coach left because he was displeased with poor investment in the program.||D|
|Jerry Kill||7-6||It may have taken an NCAA waiver to get there, but Kill shocked the world by leading the Aggies to seven wins -- more than the last three years combined -- and just the second bowl victory since 1960.||A+|
|Rhett Lashlee||7-6||The offense stayed right on track, and the Mustangs nearly upset TCU and Maryland in nonconference play. However, losses by 35 and 32 points to Tulane and UCF, respectively, did not age well.||B|
|Stan Drayton||3-9||The Owls were projected as one of the worst teams in the nation, but showed fight with four one-score losses. Don't be surprised if a jump comes in Year 2.||C-|
|Jon Sumrall||12-2||The 40-year-old Sumrall was an unorthodox choice despite his three-year stint as associate head coach under Neal Brown with the Trojans. All Sumrall did in his first season was flip Troy from 5-7 to Sun Belt champs, a top-25 ranking and the best campaign in program history. Sumrall joins Willie Fritz and Jeff Traylor as one of the three headlining coaches in the Group of Five heading forward.||A+|