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Surprising coaching hires abound in FCS offseason

By CRAIG HALEY

Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - There were far fewer head coaching changes at FCS schools this offseason than in recent years, but perhaps more so than ever, some of the hirings made you stop and say, "Wait. What?"

Being a surprise candidate may have been one of the prerequisites.

Here are five coaching hires that stood out:

BEAU BALDWIN, CAL POLY

Only two FCS programs outrushed the Mustangs during former coach Tim Walsh's 11 seasons while they ran the triple option offense. The last time Baldwin coached in the FCS, his 2016 Eastern Washington offense set the FCS single-season record for passing yards.

High-powered passing attacks dominated when the 47-year-old previously coached in the Big Sky, winning the 2010 FCS national title and capturing five conference titles in nine campaigns.

Cal Poly's 180-degree turn in offensive philosophy took a sack when spring practice was canceled due to COVID-19. Baldwin planned to have open competition, including at quarterback, where Jalen Hamler returns off a freshman season in which he carried the ball 86 more times than he passed it.

"Our goal will be to be extremely balanced so that we have a chance to keep the defense guessing and not knowing exactly what we're going to do," Baldwin said.

"We're going to have an offense in which we can stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. We'll be multiple enough to take advantage of whatever our strengths are, too."

BOBBY PETRINO, MISSOURI STATE

Controversy has long followed the 59-year-old Petrino, but he hopes to settle in and lift Missouri State's struggling program after replacing Dave Steckel.

Petrino is best known for his firing at Arkansas in 2012 after four seasons. He was injured in a motorcycle accident that involved his 25-year-old mistress, whom Petrino had hired four days earlier, claiming at first he was alone. He later apologized publicly for the events surrounding his personal life.

Petrino also was widely criticized when he stepped down as the Atlanta Falcons' coach in the final month of a terrible season to take over at Arkansas.

Once one of college football's more coveted coaches during the first of two stints at Louisville, Petrino has a 119-56 record in 14 collegiate seasons, reaching 11 bowl games.

DEAN HOOD, MURRAY STATE

Just like Cal Poly hired a coach who was a big winner in its conference, Murray State landed the winningest coach in the Ohio Valley Conference from 2008-15, which was Hood's eight-year stint at Eastern Kentucky. He went 44-19 (.698) in conference, winning a pair of titles, and was 55-38 overall. However, he was winless in three playoff appearances.

The 56-year-old Hood is known for motivating players in a positive way. He spent the last three seasons on Mark Stoops' staff at Kentucky, serving as the special teams coordinator as well as coaching the outside linebackers (2017) and the defensive backs (2018-19)

FRANK WILSON, MCNEESE

A seven-week span in December and January stands out for McNeese.

On Dec. 2, Wilson was fired after four seasons guiding UTSA's program. Fifteen days later, McNeese announced it will be ineligible for the 2020 postseason due to NCAA academic penalties.

On Jan. 12, Sterlin Gilbert stepped down after only one season as the McNeese coach to join the staff at Syracuse. A mere four days later, the 46-year-old Wilson was in with the Cowboys, having never coaching on the FCS level previously.

Known to be an outstanding recruiter, Wilson is the first African-American head football coach in McNeese history and just the second ever in the Southland Conference.

ED MCCAFFREY, NORTHERN COLORADO

While Wilson is working at a FCS school for the first time, McCaffrey is a college coach for the first time. His only experience was on the high school level, guiding Valor Christian in Colorado the last two years.

But Northern Colorado hired a well-known name in football, especially in Colorado. The 51-year-old McCaffrey spent 13 seasons as an NFL wide receiver, including the last nine with the Denver Broncos. He is a three-time Super Bowl champion.

"This is really kind of where it all started for me," he said at his UNC introductory news conference. "I came here back in 1995 as a Denver Bronco, and we practiced (during training camp) out on the field for seven or eight years. I slept in the dorms, I ate in the cafeteria, and we met in the classrooms."

McCaffrey's son Christian is the Pro Bowl running back with the Carolina Panthers.

Updated April 7, 2020

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