(Image credit: Tom Fox / The Dallas Morning News)
Written by: Joseph Yun
It’s that time of year again! The Christmas holiday has come and gone. As we as a society gear up for 2022, people will make time-honored resolutions such as losing weight, being kinder, taking breaks from social media, etc. What resolutions should the Power 5 programs make and strive for next year?
- As a conference, Commissioner Phillips could pursue the closure of the ultimate dream that many of his predecessors failed to realize and get Notre Dame in the house of Charlotte.
- Clemson for the first time in a long time will have to replace both of its coordinators after both OC Tony Elliott (Virginia) and DC Brent Venables (Oklahoma) opted to take head coaching jobs elsewhere. Also, promising phenom DJ Uiagalelei was inconsistent as a first-time starter. So, Dabo Swinney will be looking for more consistency and gelling from the new staff.
- Meanwhile in Tallahassee, Mike Norvell has begun to slowly turn around the moribund Seminoles; his top resolution (among many) is to replicate the successes of transfers like Jermaine Johnson II and Dillon Gibbons. He has to replace outgoing OC Kenny Dillingham with the momentous OL coach Alex Atkins. We will see if Atkins can translate his line improvements to the offense as a whole. To that end, the Noles got two impact receivers in Mycah Pittman and Johnny Wilson on top of OLs Bless Harris and Kayden Lyles.
- Pitt had an offensive explosion under departing Kenny Pickett calling the shots. Former USC passer Kedon Slovis transferred in after a year wandering southern California while injured. The bad news is that Pat Narduzzi has yet to name an offensive coordinator after Mark Whipple resigned and left for the cold confines of Lincoln. Coach Narduzzi needs one thing to go his way, retaining receivers coach Brennan Marion, architect of a very talented receiver room.
- The Hurricanes accomplished one resolution from last year: hiring Mario Cristobal to return home. Next up on the to-do list: actually make it to Charlotte much less win it, which the program has never done in a wild and wacky ACC Coastal that sees annual turnover. Is Cristobal ever going to make it to mediocre gameday manager from being a relentless recruiter like he failed to do at Oregon? How high can he go armed with one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the nation? Miami is a long way off from being that Miami we knew and loved to hate growing up generations ago.
- How will the Commonwealth Cup blood rivals (Virginia and Virginia Tech) fare under new head coaches making their debuts? Brent Pry (VT) and Tony Elliott (UVA) are intimately familiar with the talent-rich DMV area. Pry comes from a defensive background at Penn State and Elliott comes from Clemson on an offensive background. Both programs will be breaking in a new quarterback so one will need to be found. Virginia replaces the retiring Bronco Mendenhall and more importantly OC Robert Anae. Can they replace BM’s steady production and climb further up the ladder? Va Tech is moving on from the failed Justin Fuente era, which took over from the wildly successful Frank Beamer regime. Will the Hokies get back to their lunch pail D roots and compete for the division?
- Mack Brown has to find a new quarterback to lead the nation in one score panics after Sam Howell declared for the draft. The presumptive Coastal favorite Tar Heels had a bad year relative to preseason hype, which was to be expected given the talent drain on offense. The defense wasn’t up to par as well. The Heels lose a ton, so 2022 will be a retooling campaign more than likely. Perhaps an heir apparent to Brown will need to be looked at for the AD as MB is on the older side of the spectrum.
- Michigan finally broke the streak at long last. What can they do for an encore in 2022 after a playoff date with Georgia on New Year’s Eve? Jim Harbaugh will have to decide on a quarterback next season on top of rebuilding a top-tier defense that loses Aiden Hutchinson and David Ojabo to the big leagues.
- The Buckeyes had to sit there seething while the Wolverines won the conference after blowing them out to break the streak. They earned a Rose Bowl invite, which isn’t a bad consolation prize. Ryan Day lost multiple quarterbacks to the portal after figuring out what to do with C.J. Stroud. He does need to find a suitable backup on top of replacing a fleet of all-world receivers. Stroud is potentially in his last season so Day will need to find a heir in 2022.
- The Spartans and Mel Tucker agreed to a new contract that smashed the mold for coaching contracts to bits. They have a standing invite to the Peach Bowl on the 30th against the high-flying Pitt offense. Can Tucker kick off the new year right with a win in Atlanta? Third place in the highly competitive East isn’t good enough for the expenses paid out by the athletic department. Even if the division race came down to the final moments. Can Tucker keep up the momentum he built in 2021?
- Who wants to win the West? It’s been a rigamarole between the three traditional Western “powers” Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Minnesota just missed out on a spot in Indianapolis but has seemingly eternal QB Tanner Morgan returning in 2022. Iowa loses a ton but in typical Ferentz fashion, will find a way. Wisconsin had a lot of quarterback issues, which Paul Chryst would love to resolve.
- Scott Frost will have to resolve to win the West in order to convince the Huskers higher-ups that he’s worth retaining, I’m afraid.
- Texas and Sark got a huge Christmas present when former Ohio State QB Quinn Ewers committed. Perhaps a resolution to be more resolute in close games and not get blown out in 2022? The Longhorns got an excellent recruiting class as well so things are trending positively for them. Year two of Sarkisian should be better, Horns fans should hope. Meanwhile, the high falutin 'boosters could resolve to come up with the cash to exit the Big 12 early for the tortuous chambers of the SEC. Resolving the age-old question of “Is Texas Back?” could lead to fortuitous things for Sark and co.
- Same goes for the best athletic department in all the land in Norman. The Sooners have a new (old) face in Brent Venables after the Lincoln Riley defection to the sunny confines of Los Angeles. The class of 2023 took an early hit after the SoCal contingent did the expected thing and decommitted. Still plenty of time for Venables to recover. Star quarterback Caleb Williams hasn’t transferred yet so that’s a positive breakthrough.
- Speaking of in-demand coaches, Dave Aranda of Baylor did not exit Waco for a bigger payday. He was one of the many coaches who signed a megabucks extension, actually. The Bears have a newish stadium to recruit to and a generous donor. They won a nailbiter in the conference title game and retained a ton of talent to make it back to Jerry World in 2022.
- TCU and Texas Tech were twins in letting go of head coaches midseason and were reportedly playing in the same candidate pool. The Horned Frogs opted to raid local rival SMU headman Sonny Dykes while the Red Raiders went with another in-state product Joey McGuire of Baylor. It will be interesting to see who made the correct hire a few years down the road. Both men will heavily lean into instate ties, I’m sure.
- Somehow, Mike Gundy has become the dean of Big 12 coaches by guiding the Cowboys through multiple Presidential terms, wars, and other momentous events. Undoubtedly, he’ll look to win in Bedlam yet again but return to Jerry World to win after falling heartbreakingly close on 4th and goal. 2021 was arguably his best shot to win both with his top rivals being down for the count. We’ll see if the Pokes can break in multiple pieces and not lose a step. Also of concern: noted DC Jim Knowles now resides in Columbus, leading the Buckeyes.
- USC returned to its rightful place as the preeminent west coast power program under Lincoln Riley. It has been far too long since the Trojans were relevant in December and January. The mass exodus to the eastern seaboard by elite recruits needs to stop. Only Southern Cal can stem the tide with their lofty status as a blue blood. Can the new coach start clawing back their right throne that Oregon currently occupies?
- Justin Wilcox would love for the Cal administration to be proactive towards his program, rather than be seemingly aghast that it exists. Wilcox may have eyes elsewhere more supportive of the sport as he was rumored for the Oregon job. We’re not asking for the Golden Bears to be playoff contenders, just North contenders every year or so. Let’s hope for a middle ground to be found.
- Utah has to be hoping for a peaceful offseason without any tragic events affecting their program. A repeat performance as the reigning conference champions is another thing to hope for. Breaking the one-game losing streak to hated Holy War rivals BYU needs to be atop the list of resolutions. Possibly a new heir to Kyle Whittingham?
- Johnathan Smith would love to build upon his slow rebuilding of the terribly abhorrent Beavers program and evolve into annual North contenders.
- New coach Dan Lanning would love to avoid the mistakes made by the previous Oregon regime and actually evolve from a staff of super recruiters to moderately successful game managers. Also, a resolution to keep the class together and potentially add to it on normal signing day would be great.
- Is it time for David Shaw to move on from the Cardinal? Things have definitely trended downwards in the past few years for the program.
- It’s early yet for the Kalen DeBoer era at Washington but he needs to bring a little more oomph to his staff instead of becoming Fresno North. Particularly so when blood rival Oregon is building out a monstrous behemoth to the south. DeBoer has to retain some offensive talent at least. What can he do with former Indiana starter Michael Penix, Jr after Jake Haener spurned the Huskies AGAIN to return to Fresno State?
- For SEC runners-up Georgia, perhaps a semblance of quarterback consistency where the guy elevates the offense instead of the defense having to win in spite of him. Stetson Bennett was a wonderful option this season but he lacks the physical wow factor. Kirby Smart would do well to resolve to finally get the QB decision right (i.e. Fromm vs Fields). Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann taking over a defense that could provide a close facsimile of this year’s version would be nice.
- In Tuscaloosa, nothing short of a Heisman trifecta and the standard being the standard is the order of the day. Can Nick Saban’s men in Alabama live up to their usual awesomely grating and impossibly lofty standards again?
- Hopefully, Billy Napier of Florida could resolve himself and the program to take a bit more of a closer look at recruiting than his predecessor ever did. With the current staff he’s assembled in Gainesville, it has become a bigger priority to say the least.
- Josh Heupel and his band of Volunteers will look to build upon a successful 2021 campaign with a hometown bowl win over Purdue in the Music City. Can they keep it going in 2022 with a tougher schedule? They host Florida, travel to LSU, and host Alabama in a three-week stretch so it will be interesting how the Vols fare.
- South Carolina and Shane Beamer surprised a ton of folks with a .500 regular-season record. Beamer’s resolution is to rebuild the confidence and draft stock of Spencer Rattler. It’s a miracle that Beamer’s guys went 6-6 with a raft of injuries and a walk-on graduate transfer at QB.
- Ole Miss kept Lane Kiffin at the Grove for another year despite rumblings of a departure for greener pastures. Who’s the next great signal-caller to helm Kiffin’s video-game offense? He’ll need to answer that question as Matt Corral elected to declare for the NFL draft. Can the administration keep Kiffin beyond next year?
- Jimbo Fisher and company landed the top recruiting class after Early Signing Day. They also brought in former LSU QB Max Johnson to captain the offense after nominal starter Zach Calzada elected to transfer. The Aggies will have to resolve the pending quarterback battle between a five-star signee (Connor Weigman) and the aforementioned Johnson. Also pending, who can step up to figure out the RB and TE slots after Isaiah Spiller and Jalen Wydermeyer both declared for the draft.
- Brian Kelly needs to invest in a vocal and dialect coach, that’s for sure. Who steps up after all the defections from the secondary, namely Derek Stingley, Jr. and Eli Ricks (Alabama)? Is there a QB on the roster capable of winning over the locker room and some games?