The Sun Belt conference has emerged as one of the top Group of 5 conferences in college football heading into the 2023 season.
The conference’s success can be attributed to a combination of conference expansion and the hiring of talented coaches who have elevated their respective teams.
In this article, we will rank the Sun Belt coaches for the upcoming season, taking into account various factors that contribute to their success.
Factors in Ranking
Ranking college football coaches is a challenging task that requires considering multiple factors, including their ability to navigate the ever-changing landscape of college football, build successful programs, and adapt to different playing styles. It is not solely based on accomplishments or the number of wins. To provide a comprehensive evaluation, we consider career biography, success in developing talent and recruiting, the value placed on the coaching staff, and the resources available to the program.
This evaluation helps us gauge the overall effectiveness of coaches in leading their teams to victory and even has implications for college football betting, where understanding a coach’s strengths and strategies can be crucial for making informed predictions. These factors contribute to the overall performance and outlook of coaches throughout their careers.
Ranking the Coaches
Jon Sumrall, Troy
Jon Sumrall takes the top spot in the Sun Belt coach rankings for 2023. After successful stints as an assistant at Kentucky and Ole Miss, Sumrall returned to his home state to lead Troy. In his first year, he guided the Trojans to an impressive 12-2 record and a Sun Belt title.
Sumrall’s impact on the program was evident as Troy achieved its highest ranking in the Associated Press poll since moving to the FBS level.
Kane Wommack, South Alabama
South Alabama’s hire of Kane Wommack proved to be a success as the program experienced significant improvement under his leadership. After a 5-7 debut season, Wommack guided the Jaguars to a 10-3 record in the following year.
Despite a few narrow losses, South Alabama showed promise and established itself as a rising program in the conference.
Curt Cignetti, James Madison
Curt Cignetti demonstrated his coaching prowess by leading James Madison to a successful transition from the FCS to the FBS level. In his first season, he guided the Dukes to an 8-3 record, including a 6-2 mark in conference play.
Cignetti’s impressive resume includes a national championship win at the FCS level and a history of consistent success at previous coaching stops.
Charles Huff, Marshall
Charles Huff’s tenure at Marshall has been marked by success, with the Thundering Herd recording a 9-4 record last season. After a 7-6 debut, Huff has proven his ability to thrive in the Sun Belt conference.
His experience as an assistant at renowned programs like Alabama and Penn State has undoubtedly contributed to his success as a head coach.
Shawn Clark, Appalachian State
Shawn Clark faces a crucial season in 2023 as he aims to bounce back from a 6-6 record the previous year. With a solid track record at his alma mater, Clark has shown the ability to guide Appalachian State to success, including an appearance in the Sun Belt Championship game.
The Mountaineers will look to regain their winning form and compete for conference honors under his leadership.
Clay Helton, Georgia Southern
Clay Helton’s hiring at Georgia Southern was initially met with skepticism due to his up-and-down tenure at USC. However, Helton’s adaptability and strong assistant hires have paid off, with the Eagles finishing 6-7 last season.
Notable victories over Nebraska, James Madison, and Appalachian State showcased the team’s progress under Helton’s guidance.
Shawn Elliott, Georgia State
Georgia State experienced a slight regression in the previous season, finishing with a 4-8 record. However, Shawn Elliott has established a consistent winning culture at the program, evidenced by three consecutive winning seasons and bowl trips before 2022.
With a track record of success, Elliott is expected to guide Georgia State back to bowl contention in 2023.
Will Hall, Southern Miss
Despite facing challenges with quarterback injuries, Will Hall steered Southern Miss to a notable improvement in his second year at the helm. After a 3-9 debut season, the Golden Eagles achieved a 7-6 overall record and a 4-4 mark in Sun Belt play. Hall’s previous coaching experience and successful stints as an assistant indicate his potential as a rising star in the coaching ranks.
Terry Bowden, ULM
Terry Bowden faces a difficult task at ULM, given the program’s limited resources. Despite this, he has shown signs of progress, with the team demonstrating improvement over the past two years. Bowden’s experience and previous success at challenging coaching jobs provide hope for ULM’s future in the Sun Belt.
Butch Jones, Arkansas State
Butch Jones’ tenure at Arkansas State has been a mixed bag in terms of on-field results, with the team struggling to accumulate wins. However, his ability to recruit top talent is evident, as the program has secured two impressive recruiting classes.
With time, Jones has the potential to translate recruiting success into improved on-field performance.
Ricky Rahne, Old Dominion
Ricky Rahne’s appointment at Old Dominion was based on his reputation as an offensive coordinator, particularly during his time at Penn State.
While the Monarchs faced challenges due to the pandemic, Rahne led them to a 6-7 record in his first year. However, a regression to 3-9 in the subsequent season highlighted the need for further development under Rahne’s guidance.
Michael Desormeaux, Louisiana
Michael Desormeaux, a Louisiana native and former Ragin’ Cajun quarterback, took charge of the program following Billy Napier’s departure.
The team experienced a slight decline in performance, finishing with a 6-7 record after winning the Sun Belt championship the previous year. Desormeaux’s ability to build the program to his vision will be a key factor in Louisiana’s future success.
G.J. Kinne, Texas State
G.J. Kinne is one of the youngest head coaches at the FBS level, known for his success at Incarnate Word. However, Texas State faces a rebuilding phase, which may require time for Kinne to implement his offensive approach and develop a competitive roster.
Despite the challenges, his expertise and background make him a promising choice for the program.
Tim Beck, Coastal Carolina
Tim Beck faces the daunting task of following Jamey Chadwell, who led Coastal Carolina to impressive success in recent years. While Beck has not held a head coaching position previously, his experience as an assistant at reputable programs brings valuable knowledge to the Chanticleers.
Coastal Carolina will look to Beck to maintain the program’s upward trajectory.
Ranking college football coaches is a complex process, and the Sun Belt conference is no exception. Each coach brings unique qualities and faces distinct challenges.
Jon Sumrall’s impressive debut season at Troy places him at the top of the rankings, followed by a talented group of coaches who have shown promise in their respective programs.
As the 2023 season unfolds, the performance of these coaches will shape the conference’s landscape and determine their ultimate rankings.