Who is Arizona football head coach Brent Brennan and what makes him a good hire?

What may seem like a head-scratching hire could be a great move; Brennan has deep ties to a legendary Arizona coach and has a better resume than first-glance would indicate.

San Jose State v Auburn
San Jose State v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages
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What's been happening in San José?

Let's address the elephant in the room: 2017 and 2018 at San José State were not pretty. A combined 3-22 record over two seasons rivals the depths of hell Arizona football was relegated to in the post-Kevin Sumlin era. The Spartans finished with 2,520 passing yards (from quarterbacks) and 14 passing touchdowns in 2017, and they did just marginally better in 2018 with 3,092 passing yards and 21 touchdowns.

Things finally started to come together in 2019, when senior starting quarterback Josh Love threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns while wide receiver Tre Walker posted 1,161 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Both were career-best yardage marks, and Love set a career-high in touchdown passes. Things started heating up in 2020, when San José State went 7-0 in the regular season, won the conference title for the first time since 1991, and made an appearance in the Arizona Bowl to cap off its best season since the 2012 season where the Spartans went 11-2.

Nick Starkel
Mountain West Football Championship - Boise State v San Jose State / David J. Becker/GettyImages

The Spartans regressed in 2021, falling back below .500 and finishing the season 5-7. The 2022 season, however, was the first of two consecutive masterclasses on how to win in an underfunded and resource-scant program. He lured quarterback Chevan Cordeiro away from Hawaii and wide receiver Elijah Cooks away from Nevada. Cooks, in his sole season as a Spartan, posted a career-best 1,076 yards and 10 touchdowns while Cordeiro tossed 3,250 yards and 23 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Kairee Robinson was gearing up to burst onto the scene. San José State even made it to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl before falling to Eastern Michigan.

2022 was Brennan's magnum opus as a Group of 5 head coach, and it would be hard to follow up. Though a statistically worse passing season, with Cordeiro just barely throwing for more than 2,500 yards and just 19 touchdowns, Robinson's 1,127 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns — paired with 197 yards and two scores through the air — carried the team to its third seven-win season and bowl game appearance in four years.