We continue our look at the new non-AQ head coaches for the 2011 season. Up next: Sun Belt.
Arkansas State: Hugh Freeze.
Rating: Like it. Steve Roberts did an admirable job with Arkansas State in his nine seasons, taking the program to its only bowl game in 2005. But things had grown stagnant and a change was needed. It seemed easy enough to turn to Freeze, who directed the record-breaking offense in 2009. The Red Wolves broke nine offensive school records that included 4,841 yards of total offense. Ryan Aplin broke the school records for total offense, passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions. Freeze is a solid recruiter as well. But he has never been a head coach on the FBS level, so that could be a factor.
Louisiana: Mark Hudspeth.
Rating: Like it. Hudspeth did a great job in his two seasons as an assistant at Mississippi State. This past season the Bulldogs went 9-4, were ranked and made it to a bowl game. He coached at North Alabama before that, so he has ties to the South, which is important for recruiting. But Louisiana is not an easy place to win. Rickey Bustle spent nine seasons there and never took his team to a bowl game. UL had been bowl eligible a few times, but with a .500 record could never quite break through.
North Texas: Dan McCarney
Rating: Love it. The Todd Dodge experiment went horribly wrong, so North Texas was absolutely right to go after a proven winner on the FBS level. McCarney spent 12 years as head coach at Iowa State, and remains the longest-tenured (141 games) and winningest (56) coach in school history. He spent the last several seasons as an assistant at Florida, and did the right thing when he kept Mike Canales on as offensive coordinator. With fertile recruiting ground all around him, plus a new stadium opening, McCarney has what he needs to build a winner.