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5 college football coaches to watch in 2023

Keep an eye on these coaches this season
Tom Herman introduced as FAU Owls head coach, Dec. 2, 2022
Posted at 7:43 AM, Aug 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-05 07:43:59-04

These college football coaches are likely to make headlines this season, for better or worse.

Deion Sanders, Colorado

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders during 2023 spring game
Colorado head coach Deion Sanders in the first half of the team's spring game Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Boulder, Colo.

Break out the popcorn because it's "Prime Time" viewing in college football. OK, so technically, Deion Sanders has already been a college head coach, but now he gets a chance to flash his coaching chops on college football's biggest stage. Sanders was 27-6 in three seasons at Jackson State, helping to shine a spotlight on historically Black institutions at the Football Championship Subdivision level. He'll have his work cut out for him at Colorado, where the Buffaloes were an overtime victory away from a winless season last year. Colorado enters the season with just 10 returning scholarship players from 2022. Sanders and the school have seemed to embrace the mass exodus. If the Buffaloes win, then Sanders is a genius. If not, he's just another coach.

Matt Rhule, Nebraska

Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule smiles during introductory news conference, Nov. 28, 2022
New Nebraska head football coach Matt Rhule smiles during an introductory news conference, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb.

Things didn't go so well for Matt Rhule in the NFL, but now he's back in the college game, where he made his mark turning around programs like Baylor and Temple. However, with respect to Baylor and Temple, Nebraska is a different beast. The once-proud program has fallen on hard times for much of the past two decades, so what's to make anyone think Rhule will be any different? Beloved alumnus Scott Frost couldn't get it done, resulting in his ouster last September.

 Tom Herman, Florida Atlantic

Tom Herman in March 2023
Florida Atlantic football coach Tom Herman speaks to WPTV in March 2023.

Tom Herman brings an impressive resume to Florida Atlantic after previously serving as head coach at Houston and Texas. He could be just what the Owls need as they begin play in the American Athletic Conference this season. Herman has never had a losing season as a head coach and knows how to win in the AAC. In his first season at Houston in 2015, the Cougars won the conference crown and defeated Florida State in the Peach Bowl to cap a 13-1 campaign.

Neal Brown, West Virginia

West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown crouches on sideline in 2022
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown watches from the sideline during the first half against Iowa State, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Ames, Iowa.

It's fair to say Neal Brown enters the season with plenty of pessimism. The Mountaineers have had losing records in three of the last four seasons under Brown, who is 22-25 since leaving Troy for West Virginia in 2019. West Virginia fans are growing impatient, so this could be a make-or-break year for Brown, who likely needs to at least reach a bowl game to save his job. The Mountaineers are still in search of their first Big 12 Conference championship, and with further expansion on the horizon, the path to a conference crown won't get any easier.

David Braun, Northwestern

Northwestern Wildcats interim head coach David Braun at Big Ten Conference media days, July 26, 2023
Northwestern interim head coach David Braun speaks during a news conference at the Big Ten Conference media days at Lucas Oil Stadium, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Indianapolis.

David Braun came to Northwestern earlier this year to become the new defensive coordinator for the Wildcats. Instead, he'll be their head coach. Braun was named interim head coach after Pat Fitzgerald was fired by the school in July amid hazing allegations. Braun is in a tough spot as a first-time head coach. The Wildcats haven't been very good these past few seasons, so if his team struggles in 2023, much of the blame will fall on his predecessor. On the other hand, if he manages to overachieve in the wins column this year, it will be hard for the administration not to consider him for the full-time job. But is that a good thing?