22 college head coaches whose stock is on the rise

Matt Zenitzby:Matt Zenitz11/03/22

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November’s arrival means the national focus on developments in the coaching world will progressively intensify. That makes this a good time to take a look at coaches whose stock is on the rise based on their work this season.

To be clear, this is not a projection of job advancement entering the upcoming coaching cycle. While many of these coaches will garner interest from bigger schools in the next year or two, this is more a look at coaches whose stock is at a higher point than it was entering the season.

Here are 22 who fall into that category; they’re listed alphabetically.

Dino Babers, Syracuse

Years at school: Seven
Overall record at school: 35-45
2022 record: 6-2
The buzz: After a 1-10 finish in 2020 and a 5-7 mark last season, Syracuse started 6-0 this year before losses to Clemson and Notre Dame in its past two games.

Bret Bielema, Illinois

Years at school: Two
Overall record at school: 12-8
2022 record: 7-1
The buzz: Illinois, which hadn’t been ranked since 2011, is No. 16 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings and already has its most wins since that 2011 season. The Fighting Illini have been ranked as high as No. 14 in the AP poll, which marked the first time since 2007 they’ve been in the top 15.

Brent Brennan, San Jose State

Years at school: Six
Overall record at school: 25-39
2022 record: 5-2
The buzz: After a great year in 2020 (7-1 and the Mountain West championship) and then a down season in 2021 (5-7), Brennan has San Jose State back playing at a high level. One of the Spartans’ two losses was an eight-point setback to Auburn.

Bob Chesney, Holy Cross

Years at school: Five
Overall record at school: 33-16
2022 record: 8-0
The buzz: After leading Holy Cross to the FCS playoffs in each of the past three seasons, Chesney has the Crusaders undefeated and ranked No. 7 in the FCS. Holy Cross beat another ranked team, Fordham, last weekend. The Crusaders also have wins over FBS teams in each of the past two seasons, UConn in 2021 and Buffalo this year.

Jason Candle, Toledo

Years at school: Eight
Overall record at school: 51-30
2022 record: 6-3
The buzz: Toledo has won four of its first five MAC games and is in first place in the MAC West with three regular-season games remaining.

Sonny Dykes, TCU

Years at school: One
Overall record at school: 8-0
2022 record: 8-0
The buzz: Dykes has started his TCU tenure with an eight-game winning streak after inheriting a team that was 5-7 last season. The Horned Frogs have beaten four ranked teams and are No. 7 in the initial CFP rankings.

Mike Elko, Duke

Years at school: One
Overall record at school: 5-3
2022 record: 5-3
The buzz: It took Elko, a first-time head coach, just eight games to match Duke’s win total from the previous two seasons combined. The Blue Devils are coming off a 45-21 win over Miami and a three-point loss to North Carolina, which is 7-1 and ranked No. 17.

Hugh Freeze, Liberty

Years at school: Four
Overall record at school: 33-12
2022 record: 7-1
The buzz: The Flames lost QB Malik Willis to the NFL and have used three starting quarterbacks this season, yet still are 7-1. The only loss was a 37-36 defeat at No. 21 Wake Forest in which the Flames missed on a two-point conversion with 1:11 left in the game.

Willie Fritz, Tulane

Years at school: Seven
Overall record at school: 38-44
2022 record: 7-1
The buzz: Fritz has guided Tulane to a strong bounce-back season after a 2-10 finish for the Green Wave last fall. Tulane is the highest-ranked Group of 5 team in the initial CFL rankings at No. 19. The Green Wave’s win total is already tied for the school’s highest since 2002.

Will Hall, Southern Miss

Years at school: Two
Overall record at school: 8-12
2022 record: 5-3
The buzz: Injuries contributed to a 3-9 first season for Hall, a former offensive coordinator for Fritz at Tulane. This season, Southern Miss is 5-1 since opening its campaign with losses to Liberty and Miami.

Josh Heupel, Tennessee

Years at school: Two
Overall record at school: 15-6
2022 record: 8-0
The buzz: Fueled by Heupel’s offense, Tennessee is No. 1 in the initial CFP rankings. It’s the first time the Vols have been No. 1 since 1998, when they won the national title.

Jay Hill, Weber State

Years at school: Nine
Overall record at school: 65-37
2022 record: 7-1
The buzz: Hill has Weber State on its way to a sixth FCS playoff berth in the past seven seasons. The No. 7 Wildcats beat an FBS team, Utah State, by 28, and their only loss was a five-point setback against Montana State, which is ranked second in the FCS poll.

Mike Houston, East Carolina

Years at school: Four
Overall record at school: 20-22
2022 record: 6-3
The buzz: Houston, who won an FCS title at James Madison, has guided ECU to wins in 10 of its past 14 games dating to last season, including a three-game winning streak with victories over Memphis, UCF and BYU. The Pirates were a missed 42-yard field goal away from a season-opening upset of then-No. 13 NC State, which ended up being a 21-20 loss.

Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss

Years at school: Three
Overall record at school: 23-9
2022 record: 8-1
The buzz: Ole Miss is 18-3 in the regular season the past two seasons, including 10-3 in SEC play. Two more wins and the Rebels will have their first back-to-back 10-win seasons in 62 years.

G.J. Kinne, Incarnate Word

Years at school: One
Overall record at school: 8-1
2022 record: 8-1
The buzz: Kinne, a former Tulsa and NFL quarterback, has Incarnate Word ranked No. 8 in the FCS polls in his first season as a head coach. The Cardinals lead Division I with an average of 6.9 touchdowns per game.

Chris Klieman, Kansas State

Years at school: Four
Overall record at school: 26-18
2022 record: 6-2
The buzz: Kansas State has won five of its first six games against Power 5 opponents, including a 48-0 rout of then-No. 9 Oklahoma State last week despite playing without injured starting quarterback Adrian Martinez. K-State is second in the Big 12 with a 4-1 conference record, with the loss coming to No. 7 TCU after Martinez was injured early in that game. K-State’s other loss this season is to Tulane.

Lance Leipold, Kansas

Years at school: Two
Overall record at school: 7-13
2022 record: 5-3
The buzz: Under Leipold, Kansas already has its most wins since 2009 and was ranked for the first time since that ’09 season. The Jayhawks started 5-0 before losing starting quarterback Jalon Daniels to an injury.

Maurice Linguist, Buffalo

Years at school: Two
Overall record at school: 9-12
2022 record: 5-4
The buzz: Buffalo has won five of its past six games since opening the season with losses to Maryland, Holy Cross and Coastal Carolina. The Bulls are tied for the lead in the MAC East.

Deion Sanders, Jackson State

Years at school: Three
Overall record at school: 23-5
2022 record: 8-0
The buzz: Jackson State is 19-2 since the beginning of the 2021 season, including a 13-0 mark in Southwestern Athletic Conference play. The Tigers are ranked No. 5 in the FCS.

Jonathan Smith, Oregon State

Years at school: Five
Overall record at school: 22-30
2022 record: 6-2
The buzz: Oregon State is successfully following up on a 7-6 finish last season. The No. 23 Beavers have ended a nine-season drought without being ranked and are two wins away from their highest win total since 2012. One of Oregon State’s two losses was a 17-14 setback to No. 9 USC in which the Trojans scored the winning TD with 1:13 left in the game.

Jon Sumrall, Troy

Years at school: One
Overall record at school: 6-2
2022 record: 6-2
The buzz: Troy already has won more games under Sumrall, a first-time head coach, than it did in any of the previous three seasons. The Trojans have won five in a row since a last-second loss to Appalachian State on a Hail Mary on September 17. They’re tied for the lead in the Sun Belt West, but have wins over the two teams they’re tied with.

Kane Wommack, South Alabama

Years at school: Two
Overall record at school: 11-9
2022 record: 6-2
The buzz: Wommack is close to securing the first-ever winning season for South Alabama’s football program, which has been around since 2012. One of the Jaguars’ losses was a one-point setback at No. 12 UCLA, which is 7-1.