Head of the class: Report cards for TCU’s Sonny Dykes and all 29 first-year coaches

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

Every college football season produces a new group of coaches to evaluate, but the 2022 coaching class might be unrivaled with its star power and scope.

There were new coaches at three of the sport’s 10 winningest programs — Oklahoma (Brent Venables), Notre Dame (Marcus Freeman) and USC (Lincoln Riley). Four others took over teams with multiple national titles (Miami’s Mario Cristobal, LSU’s Brian Kelly, Florida’s Billy Napier, Washington’s Kalen DeBoer). Other than the Big Ten, every Power 5 league had multiple new coaches, many at notable programs like Oregon (Dan Lanning) and TCU (Sonny Dykes).

Back in October, I awarded midseason grades for all 29 coaches, noting that each had time to enhance his mark or erode it before the end of the season. The time has come for final grades.

Most coaches remained on their midseason trajectory, although some changed course. Although TCU’s Dykes, Washington’s DeBoer and Troy’s Jon Sumrall weren’t the most celebrated hires of last year’s carousel, they all did outstanding jobs in Year 1. There are actually more “A” grades here than normal, a testament to the strong starts for many first-year coaches, none better than Dykes, whose team will play for a national title next week. But not all marks are worth celebrating, especially in the state of Florida, as some coaches endured surprising struggles in their debut seasons.

As a reminder, coach grades are based largely on the state of the programs they inherited.

Below you’ll find the coaches ordered from best to worst. In addition to the final grades, I’ve included a quick look at what’s ahead for every coach after Year 1.


Sonny Dykes, TCU: A

2022 record: 13-1 | TCU’s 2021 record: 5-7
Previous job: SMU head coach
Midseason grade: A | Grade when hired: A-

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