Gauging C-USA coaches temperatures

It’s amazing, but we’re just a couple of months from the start of fall camps. And that means were just a couple months away from lighting some fires under various coaches' seats to get them to win now or else.

But why wait?

I thought I‘d assess the temperature of the various coaches in my leagues to see where they stand heading into 2010 and what they need to do to ensure their employment in 2011.

Needs to win right away

Mike Price, UTEP: Price has become a bit of a fixture in this particular position on the hot seat list. He was given a vote of confidence at the end of last year, but that was because he still has players such as quarterback Trevor Vittatoe and running back Donald Buckram on his roster. But they’re gone after this season, so Price needs to make something out of this year or else.

Neil Callaway, UAB: Callaway is 11-25 in his three seasons as UAB’s head coach and the Blazers have not won more than five games in any of his seasons. In all fairness, Callaway did have to deal with scholarship losses thanks to NCAA APR sanctions that came down prior to his arrival. But with Joe Webb gone and the team looking for an offensive spark this year, the administration and fans could get antsy.

Seat could get toasty midseason

David Bailiff, Rice: I honestly think Bailiff has nothing to fear, but last season’s 2-10 campaign was pretty brutal, especially after the 10-3 season in 2008. But Bailiff has some key transfers this season, including running back Sam McGuffie, who could end up being the best player in the conference. Another 10-win season might be a stretch, but the Owls should get into bowl contention.

Bob Toledo, Tulane: Toledo took a tough job four years ago as Tulane was still rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina and was displaced because of other hurricanes. He also has to deal with a tough academic standard, which often hampers recruiting. Still, Tulane has some fertile recruiting ground with Louisiana and Texas and should be better than its 3-9 record a year ago.

Chillin’ in a lounge chair

Kevin Sumlin, Houston: Sumlin’s Cougars provided some thrills last year with wins over Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Mississippi State en route to a 10-win season, but they struggled at the end of the season and failed to win the conference title or the bowl game. Still, Sumlin’s coaching job in just two years has made him one of the hottest up-and-comers, and Houston will want to hold onto him as long as it can.

June Jones, SMU: Jones has started SMU on the road back to prominence, which has its administration and fan base in a frenzy. The school bumped up his salary last year and the expectations for a nine or 10-win season, a division title and possible league title are high. Jones won’t be chastised if they don’t achieve all of those goals, but he has to continue to show improvement.

George O’Leary, UCF: Remember when folks were calling for O’Leary’s job? Yeah, those days are gone and now many think the Knights could be the team to beat in the East Division and perhaps the conference. The defense has been stout, but the Knights need to show some progress on offense to live up to the expectations.

Todd Graham, Tulsa: I think it’s fair to call last year’s 5-7 finish a fluke. Graham acknowledged that he underestimated the loss of some of his seniors after the 2008 season and the lack of depth on the offensive line. However, Tulsa doesn’t lose much offense from a year ago, and if the O-line and quarterback G.J. Kinne can progress, the Golden Hurricane could be right back in the conference title hunt.

Larry Fedora, Southern Miss: Fedora missed an East Division title by five points last season and those five points were the theme that drove the Golden Eagles this spring. Southern Miss will once again be at the top of the East Division and will probably battle UCF for the division title. Fedora has kept the bowl streak alive, but now it’s time to push his squad forward.

New coach, jury is still out

Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina: McNeill took over a team that lost 28 seniors from last year and he’s installing a new offense and defense. Now, it’s tough to rule out the back-to-back conference champions, but it’s hard to see this as anything but a rebuilding year.

Larry Porter, Memphis: Porter is another coach who lost several key contributors. He’s breaking in a new quarterback and a new running back in a new system. He has a little more pressure on him to build quickly with possible expansion looming, but it will take some time to get this team back in contention.