The obvious truth about coaching vacancies is that they usually occur because the team in question has been performing poorly on the field. What's not as obvious is that, in some cases, the team's production level can be turned around by the next season.
This is especially true when a coach who is perfectly suited to solve the specific issues that are holding the team back is hired -- either as a head coach or as an assistant. The combination of coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison certainly proved to be impact hires this season, delivering a BCS bowl berth for the Michigan Wolverines in Year 1. The same goes for Clemson Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who helped turn around the Tigers' offense en route to a BCS berth of their own.
Among the hires already made this offseason, which schools are likely to see an immediate turnaround based on the tactics and schemes their new coaches will bring to the table? We've identified three teams to keep an eye on.
Jim Mora/Noel Mazzone, UCLA Bruins
Jim Mora certainly looks to have his hands full in taking over the coaching reins of a UCLA team that lost 50-0 to the USC Trojans in the regular-season finale. The Bruins followed that embarrassing loss with a 49-31 Pac-12 title game loss to the Oregon Ducks that was not as close as the score would indicate and recently had an equally embarrassing incident where the team walked out of practice despite the protestations of starting quarterback Kevin Prince.
Mora's response to the walkout was quite aggressive, and he has taken an equally assertive approach to recruiting.
As important as those actions were, Mora's best move could have been the hiring of former Arizona State Sun Devils offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to take over the same role for the Bruins.
Mazzone has a hyper-aggressive on-field philosophy that in many ways mimics what Mike Martz has done at the NFL level. Over the course of his coaching career, this mindset has yielded two quarterbacks who have set NCAA records in passing efficiency (Stu Patridge and Ben Leard) and led to Philip Rivers winning a passer efficiency title.
Mazzone may have a shot to replicate that success in 2012 with Prince. The evidence for this can be found in how Prince fared in a recent analysis I did on quarterbacks who have a good shot at making a Robert Griffin III-like breakthrough in 2012.