Appalachian State’s Shawn Clark, Coastal Carolina’s Tim Beck Top CFN’s 2024 Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings

    Shawn Clark and Tim Beck earn their place atop our 2024 Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings after sensational seasons, but where do the others land?

    The last two Sun Belt Coach of the Year winners have left the conference for greener pastures. Curt Cignetti’s departure to Indiana and Jon Sumrall’s to Tulane left a power vacuum among the ranks of the conference’s coaches.

    With no coach of the year accolades or conference championships (yet) among the 10 returning head coaches and four Sun Belt newbies, let’s take a shot at where they stack up in the 2024 Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings.

    Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings 2024

    14) Bryant Vincent, UL-Monroe Warhawks

    2023 record: N/A

    Admittedly, the first four on our Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings are here because they are first-year Sun Belt coaches, three of whom have never been full-time head coaches at the FBS level.

    Bryant Vincent is one of those three, and he’s taking over a ULM Warhawks program that has won six games just once in 10 seasons, and that was in 2018. He did lead the UAB Blazers to a 7-6 record as interim head coach in 2022 and oversaw the 19th-ranked rush offense in the country last season as the offensive coordinator with the New Mexico Lobos.

    13) Gerad Parker, Troy Trojans

    2023 record: N/A

    Gerad Parker is taking over a Troy Trojans team that just won the Sun Belt championship, but he hasn’t been a full-time head coach and went 0-6 as the interim coach with the Purdue Boilermakers in 2016. He’s bounced back since then, most recently as the OC at Notre Dame last season, and he’ll have plenty of tools in the shed at Troy to build his way up this list.

    12) Major Applewhite, South Alabama Jaguars

    2023 record: N/A

    The one Sun Belt newbie with full-time FBS head coaching experience, Major Applewhite, takes over in a familiar place, having been the Jaguars OC since 2021. He went 15-11 in two seasons as the head coach at Houston (2016-2018), and he’s getting another shot at the helm in Mobile.

    Like Parker, he’s taking over for a coach who wasn’t fired, with Kane Womack leaving after the 2023 season to be the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

    11) Bob Chesney, James Madison Dukes

    2023 record: N/A

    Once again, clarity is needed to explain that the first four are listed in our Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings because they haven’t coached in the conference yet.

    Bob Chesney should absolutely be higher given his resume — 111-46 in 14 seasons as the head coach at Salve Regina (2010-2012), Assumption (2013-2017), and Holy Cross (2018-2023). Considering he is taking over a JMU program that is 19-5 through its first two seasons in the Sun Belt, he’ll undoubtedly make his way higher. 

    10) Will Hall, Southern Miss Golden Eagles

    2023 record: 3-9

    Will Hall made some noise in his first season in the Sun Belt, going 7-6 with a 38-24 win over the Rice Owls in the Lending Tree Bowl in 2022. However, that campaign is sandwiched between two 3-9 campaigns.

    Two of the three wins last year came over Sun Belt foes, including a 34-31 overtime win at Louisiana, but Hall will need more than that to move up here. He currently has the top-ranked 2024 recruiting class in the Sun Belt, as per 247 Sports. 

    9) Ricky Rahne, Old Dominion Monarchs

    2023 record: 6-7

    The Old Dominion Monarchs had some decent wins last season despite finishing with a losing record, beating Louisiana (38-31), Appalachian State (28-21), Georgia Southern (20-17) and Georgia State (25-24).

    Rahne got ODU to the Famous Toastery Bowl and built a 28-point lead over Western Kentucky before squandering it and losing in overtime, 38-35. Rahne is 0-2 in bowl games and 15-23 in three seasons with the Monarchs. 

    8) Clay Helton, Georgia Southern Eagles

    2023 record: 6-7

    The former USC head coach (2015-2021) has yet to break .500 in two seasons and has compiled a 12-14 record with the Eagles. He came close in 2023 when he had Georgia Southern at 6-2 before losing the last five games, including a 41-21 loss to the Ohio Bobcats in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

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    Clay Helton boasts an overall record of 58-38 (46-24 at USC), but the wins haven’t materialized in Statesboro yet.

    7) Butch Jones, Arkansas State Red Wolves

    2023 record: 6-7

    With no bowl wins, no winning seasons, and an 11-26 record in three seasons with the Red Wolves, it’s hard to rank Butch Jones any higher in our Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings despite signs of progress in Jonesboro.

    After losing its first two games by a combined score of 110-3, Arkansas State went on a three-game winning streak before finishing 4-4 in the conference. Jones doubled his wins total from the year prior and showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season, especially with a 77-31 win over Texas State.

    6) Michael Desormeaux, Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

    2023 record: 6-7

    A hometown hero of the Ragin’ Cajuns, Michael Desormeaux played quarterback and defensive back at Louisiana (2004-2008) before returning to coach as an assistant in 2016.

    He was on staff for two Sun Belt championships (2021 outright, 2020 shared), but he hasn’t fully replicated that success since being promoted to head coach of the Cajuns in 2022, with consecutive 6-7 finishes. 

    5) Charles Huff, Marshall Thundering Herd

    2023 record: 6-7

    Charles Huff lands in the top five despite an inconsistent ride during his second season in the Sun Belt. After starting the season 4-0, the Herd lost their next five, finishing 3-5 in the conference and losing in the Frisco Bowl to UTSA, 35-17.

    Huff led Marshall to winning records in his first two seasons, including a 9-4 record and a bowl win in 2022, but he’ll have to stabilize the roller coaster ride to make his way up this list. 

    4) Shawn Elliott, Georgia State Panthers

    2023 record: 7-6

    The grizzled veteran among the Sun Belt hierarchy, Shawn Elliott is entering his eighth season in charge of the Georgia State Panthers. Despite a sub .500 record at the program (41-44), he has led the Panthers to five winning seasons, with a 4-1 record in bowl games.

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    Things got dicey for Elliott after ending the regular season with five consecutive conference losses, but he righted the ship for the Idaho Bowl with a 45-22 win over Utah State. 

    3) G.J. Kinne, Texas State Bobcats

    2023 record: 8-5

    Kinne is the youngest coach in the conference (35), but his quick turnaround of the formerly downtrodden Bobcats has paved the way for a meteoric rise. Texas State had eight consecutive seasons of four wins or less before Kinne doubled that in his first year at the helm, earning a place atop our First-Year College Football Head Coach Rankings.

    He started the season with the program’s first win over a Power Five team (42-31 over Baylor) and ended it with the Bobcats’ first bowl win (45-21 over Rice), orchestrating the conference’s top offense along the way. He’d be one spot higher if it weren’t for a 31-23 loss to Coastal Carolina last season. 

    2) Tim Beck, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

    2023 record: 8-5

    There is a chance Tim Beck is benefitting on this list from inheriting a ready-made roster after 2020 Sun Belt coach of the year Jamey Chadwell left for Liberty in 2022. Still, there is no denying it was a successful first season with the Chanticleers.

    The former OC for Nebraska (2011-2014), Ohio State (co-OC 2015-2016), Texas (2017-2019), and NC State (2020-2022) finally got his shot as a head coach at the age of 56. Coastal finished one win shy of its 2022 total of nine, but ended the season with a 24-14 win over San Jose State in the Hawaii Bowl after losing to ECU in the Birmingham Bowl the year prior.

    1) Shawn Clark, Appalachian State Mountaineers

    2023 record: 9-5

    While Shawn Clark has been on staff for all four of the Mountaineers’ Sun Belt championships (2016 and 2017 shared, 2018 and 2019 outright), he hasn’t won one since taking over as head coach in 2020.

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    That said, he has amassed a 35-18 record in that time with two Sun Belt championship appearances (2021 and 2023) and a 3-1 record in bowl games (once as interim head coach in 2019). Those achievements stand out from the rest of the field and place Clark at the top of our Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings.

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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