Meet College Football’s Next Batch of Rising Star Head Coaches, Part II

Photo courtesy of Florida State athletics

Earlier this month, we took a look at four rising stars in the college football head coaching world. Those four coaches should be receiving plenty of buzz for head coaching jobs or bigger jobs over the next few years.

They, however, aren’t the only ones.

Here, we highlight some more coaches that you will hear a lot about for years to come:

Josh Gattis – Miami Offensive Coordinator

Gattis has steadily been climbing the coaching ranks for years and has solidified himself as one of the top assistants in college football. In fact, he won the Broyles Award this past season. The honor annually goes to the nation’s top assistant.

After starting as a graduate assistant at North Carolina in 2010, Gattis made stops at Western Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Penn State as a receivers coach. After that, he landed on staff with Nick Saban. At Alabama, Gattis served as wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator. Tuscaloosa is where he helped mentor some of the best pass catchers in the country like DeVonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy.

After one season at Alabama, he headed off to Michigan to serve as Jim Harbaugh’s play caller. From 2019-21, he helped improve the Michigan offense exponentially. That culminated in a Big Ten and College Football Playoff appearance last season.

At Michigan, Gattis put a unique, run-based offense on the field that adapts to his personnel. As he heads to Miami to join the juggernaut staff that new head coach Mario Cristobal has built, Gattis has a chance to further improve his stock as a coach.

All in all, Gattis is one of the best assistants in the nation; we know that. On top of that, he has been mentored by coaches like Saban, James Franklin, Harbaugh, and now Cristobal.

He is as qualified as it gets for an assistant with no head coaching experience. Expect him to be in play for major Power 5 coaching jobs as soon as this offseason.

Alex Atkins – Florida State Offensive Coordinator

After a successful playing career at Tennessee-Martin, Atkins began to climb the coaching ranks. He made stops at Georgia Southern, Tulane and Charlotte before becoming the offensive line coach for Mike Norvell at Florida State. After two seasons in that role, Atkins will step in as offensive coordinator. He’ll replace Kenny Dillingham, who left to take the same position at Oregon.

Atkins has just one year of coordinator experience at Charlotte in 2019, but there is reason to believe that Atkins is more than qualified for the job. As a recruiter, Atkins is considered one of the best in the country. Over the last month, FSU has landed a pair of top-130 prospects along the offensive line.

Those guys will need to be developed, but Atkins has shown that he can hang with the big guys in the recruiting world; that is half the battle. Norvell still has the keys to the offense, but Atkins has brought in the guys to completely change the narrative around FSU up front.

The verdict isn’t out yet, but if the Seminoles can show more improvement on offense, especially up front, then Atkins could be in line for a head coaching job a few years down the road. After all, he is one of the best recruiters in the country. That alone would make him an attractive candidate.

Todd Hartley – Georgia Tight Ends Coach

Hartley is a name that was connected to the Marshall job this past offseason. It won’t be the last time you hear his name being brought up in the head coaching realm. Hartley, a 2008 Georgia graduate, has spent the majority of his career with the Bulldogs in some capacity. That includes Director of Player Personnel role in 2015.

He also made a stop at Marshall from 2011-14, where he was the tight ends coach. Hartley doubled as recruiting coordinator for the Thundering Herd for two of those years.

As far as recruiting and developing the tight end position, Hartley is undoubtedly the best in the country. At Georgia, he has put together what some believe could be the most talented tight ends room in college football history with guys like Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington, among other highly recruited prospects. Under Hartley’s guidance, Bowers had an unprecedented 2021 season and was a big reason for Georgia’s national title run.

Prior to his current stint in Athens, Hartley made waves at Miami from 2016-18. With the Hurricanes, Hartley developed David Njoku into a first-round pick, recruited Brevin Jordan and put Christian Herndon into the NFL.

There are very few people in the entire sport that have an eye for talent like Hartley. With his track record and years of working behind the scenes in recruiting departments, Hartley should break onto the head coaching scene soon.

Dell McGee – Georgia Running Backs Coach

We have seen numerous former Nick Saban assistants eventually lead their own programs over the years. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, a former Saban understudy, has a real chance of developing into a kingmaker himself. Dan Lanning was just the first.

Dell McGee, a former Auburn secondary standout, has been at Georgia since 2016. During his time in Athens, McGee has solidified himself as arguably the best running backs coach in the country. During his time with the Bulldogs, McGee has helped recruit and/or develop the likes of Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Elijah Holyfield, James Cook, Zamir White, and more. He has as big a role in Georgia’s offensive success as anyone in recent years.

McGee will be 49 in September, making him one of the older candidates on this list. However, after years of being one of the best in the business, one would think it is time for McGee to make that next step.

McGee does have some prior head coaching experience at the high school level. He coached Carver-Columbus High School in Georgia for eight years before heading to Georgia Southern.

McGee seems content as an assistant under Smart, but it’s hard not to envision bigger roles being thrown his way. If a job like Auburn were to open up soon, McGee would be someone to watch out for. With his recruiting connections to the southeast and track record, it is just a matter of time.