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#pounditSaturday, February 4, 2023

5 college football programs on the rise

Mack Brown

With the roster turnover in college football, the right coach and recruiting strategy can take a moribund program to a contender within a span of two-to-three years. Personnel matters, but so do momentum and improving what you already have.

In the past year or two, we’ve seen plenty of programs showing the potential to take a big step forward. Here are five programs that are definitely on the rise.

5. Ole Miss

All aboard the Lane Train. The Rebels are poised for a swift turnaround under new coach Lane Kiffin, mostly due to the talent in the program. John Rhys Plumlee is one of the quickest quarterbacks in the country and has the chance to excite the Ole Miss faithful, especially since most of the offense is returning. That’s good news for a defense that was actually improved in 2019. If Kiffin can add some attitude, and players like Plumlee take a step forward, it won’t be a surprise if the Rebels turn some heads.

Jeremy Pruitt

4. Tennessee

Tennessee’s rise may be a few years away, but if Jeremy Pruitt gets time, the future actually looks bright. The Volunteers have a solid 2020 recruiting class coming in, but the 2021 class actually ranks as one of the best in the nation. The Vols improved to 8-5 under Pruitt in his second season. They may be a top 25 program this season. If the recruits prove to be as good as advertised, they could be even better than that in two or three years. That means that the Vols may finally be on the way back toward the top of the SEC after a long hiatus.

Herm Edwards ASU

3. Arizona State

Herm Edwards has done a good job in two seasons at Arizona State, but it’s time for a step forward. The opportunity is there in 2020. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is a promising prospect entering his sophomore season, and the improving defense returns most of its starters from 2019. The Sun Devils were briefly ranked last year and beat multiple top 25 teams, including a win over Oregon that ruined the Ducks’ playoff hopes. That, plus their aggressive recruiting strategy in southern California, could be a sign of things to come in Tempe.

2. Louisville

After the Bobby Petrino era ended in disaster during the 2018 season, Scott Satterfield came in as the new coach and did a fine job picking up the pieces. Led by quarterback Micale Cunningham and running back Javian Hawkins, the Cardinals posses what should be a fun offense to watch. For Louisville to take another step forward, they need to see improved defense, but this is a program on the right track. It looks like one of the better programs of the 2010s won’t be down for long.

1. North Carolina

The Tar Heels made a real splash bringing back Mack Brown in 2019, and it certainly paid off. The program went from 2-9 in 2018 to 7-6 with a bowl win in 2019, putting real scares into the likes of Pittsburgh and most notably Clemson. Sam Howell threw for 38 touchdowns and leads the offense, while a hugely improved defense proved the foundation of the Tar Heels’ improvements. An AFC Coastal Division title is well within the realm of possibilities in 2020.

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