Breaking down second-year coaches: Who’s on the rise and who should be worried?

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

Coaching evaluations are uniquely difficult this season, especially for those in their first year. Many didn’t have any spring practices. Depth charts are changing constantly because of COVID-19 availability. Games are being postponed or canceled, and anxiety and uncertainty never leaves the football facilities.

While some new bosses are doing great work — Arkansas’ Sam Pittman, Boston College’s Jeff Hafley and Fresno State’s Kalen DeBoer, to name three — most are predictably struggling. Coaching grades eventually will be passed out, because that is what we do around here, but to be fair, most first-year coaches are taking the 2020 season as a pass/fail course.

The second-year coaches, though, are fair game for scrutiny. They have been at their programs long enough to stir optimism or skepticism. Some already look like can’t-miss hires, while others are looking shaky.

Not every second-year coach will appear in the following breakdown, but I spent time dissecting some of the most promising starts, the most troubling and some who are in between.

Let’s dive in.

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