From navigating a tricky conference to a complete program overhaul, every new coach has challenges in college football. The hurdles new hires have to face in their maiden season can be seemingly endless in the ever-evolving sport but each job provides its own unique set of obstacles.
Between the end of the 2020 season and fall camp, 18 coaches have been hired around the country and each one has a different set of expectations. From UL Monroe all the way to Texas, each fan base has already decided the expectations in store for their new head ball coach.
Let's take a look at the biggest individual challenge facing new hires ahead of their first seasons.
Illinois Fighting Illini: Bret Bielema
Last team: New York Giants (OLB coach, 2020)
Career head coaching record: 97-58 (Wisconsin, Arkansas)
Biggest challenge: Bringing the formula for Big Ten West success to Illinois. Bielema knows the division better than most -- played at Iowa, coached Wisconsin to three league championships -- and must install a clear plan for recruiting and development in Champaign. He's off to a good start with a strong staff of assistants and has reconnected with key high school programs in the state. Bielema knows that developing players and forming a clear identity is the key to success in an improved and consistent division. Illinois hasn't had any consistent success for a generation, and he will need to find ways to compete with programs (Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern) that have won at a good clip for an extended period. -- Adam Rittenberg
Kansas Jayhawks: Lance Leipold
Last team: Buffalo Bulls (head coach, 2015-2020)
Career head coaching record: 146-39 (Wisconsin-Whitewater, Buffalo)
Biggest challenge: The biggest challenge for Leipold is, well, all of them. The Jayhawks haven't won more than three games in a season since 2009, and have twice gone winless in that time -- including 0-9 last season. He gets a bit of a late start, hired in late April, because he arrives after a scandal forced the ousting of Les Miles. Now, with the future of the Big 12 in doubt, Leipold has to sell his vision and take on one of the biggest reclamation projects in the past few decades. Leipold's outstanding reputation as a builder will be put to the test. -- Dave Wilson