2011 Pre-Spring Preview
The Top New Coordinators
You can’t fire the team. You can, however, make wholesale changes on the coaching staff in an effort to alter the course of a program. It happens at the conclusion of every season, and not just with head coaches.
Somewhat lost in all of the hoopla surrounding the firing of Rich Rodriguez at Michigan and the hiring of Will Muschamp at Florida, for instance, are the arrivals of a slew of new coordinators across the country with a singular goal—hit the ground running on a new campus or with a new title. Whether it’s on offense or defense, all have been tasked with the responsibility of taking a challenging situation and making it better. Their predecessors have been fired, not retained, or promoted to another job. For them, there’s a gaping opportunity to bolster the resume and make the new boss look savvy.
20. Gary Crowton, Maryland
No doubt feeling the intense heat in Baton Rouge, Crowton wisely pulled up stakes and headed for College Park. It’ll be a reunion of sorts for he and new Terp head coach Randy Edsall, who were at Boston College together between 1991-93. Experience isn’t a concern. Crowton has either been a head coach or coordinator at nine different college programs or franchises, changing jobs frequently. However, he failed to maximize the talent at LSU in recent years, overseeing an offense that ranked 11th in the SEC a year ago and was especially feeble through the air.
Last Gig: LSU offensive coordinator
Replacing : James Franklin
19. Calvin Magee, Pittsburgh
Magee’s offense wasn’t the problem in Ann Arbor last year, and his extensive Big East experience is a big plus for a staff that has little of it. He spent seven seasons at West Virginia with Rich Rodriguez, developing inventive and high-scoring attacks that helped win the program multiple conference championships. From a recruiting standpoint, he knows the landscape extremely well and represents a subtle poke in the eye to the rival Mountaineers. He’ll be joined by 29-year-old Mike Norvell, the former Tulsa wide receivers coach who’ll be coordinating the passing game.
Last Gig: Michigan offensive coordinator
Replacing : Frank Cignetti
18. Brent Pease, Boise State
The Broncos promoted from within after offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin took the same position at Texas. Actually, Pease had already accepted a job with Indiana, but backed out of his deal 10 days later after this opening was created. He has prior experience as a coordinator with Kentucky and Baylor, and has been on Chris Petersen’s staff since 2006. He knows the personnel and the program’s tempo, and has done a terrific job with the Boise State receivers. He’s been instrumental in the development of Austin Pettis and Titus Young, who are headed to the NFL.
Last Gig: Boise State wide receivers coach
Replacing: Bryan Harsin
17. Eric Bieniemy, Colorado
Beginning with head coach Jon Embree, the Buffaloes are building a bridge to the past, bringing former players back to Boulder. Bieniemy takes over a Colorado offense that was painfully bad during the Dan Hawkins years. After five successful seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, he’ll no doubt be a boon to RB Rodney Stewart and the ground game, but will be working as a coordinator for the first time. His calling card is his ability to attract and sign young talent, one of the primary reasons Embree went this route when looking for the head of his offense.
Last Gig: Minnesota Vikings running backs coach
Replacing : Eric Kiesau
16. Chad Glasgow, Texas Tech
Desperate for defensive help, Red Raider coach Tommy Tuberville went across the state and nabbed an assistant from one of America’s most successful staffs. Glasgow has been one of the quiet cogs in Fort Worth for a decade, coaching four safeties in the last four years who’ve signed NFL contracts. All-American Tejay Johnson will be his next pupil to play in the pros. While he’s never been a coordinator, the hope is that he can bring to Lubbock the physicality and swarm tackling that’s become the Horned Frog persona ever since Gary Patterson took charge in 2001.
Last Gig: TCU safeties coach
Replacing: James Willis
15. Mike Johnson, UCLA
Johnson has a huge challenge ahead of him. Or a huge opportunity, depending on how you view this opening. One certainty is that the Bruins have been abysmal on offense of late and are in dire need of some fresh blood. It’s been more than a decade since he’s coached outside the NFL, calling plays and coordinating the San Francisco 49er offense last season. Once he gets an opportunity to evaluate the personnel he inherited, he’s determined to spread the field vertically and horizontally, and fix one of the country’s worst passing attacks.
Last Gig: San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator
Replacing : Norm Chow
14. Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge, Wisconsin
Feeling that one man isn’t quite enough, the Badgers are taking a two-pronged approach to replacing Dave Doeren, who left for the head job at Northern Illinois. Partridge and Ash are relative newcomers to Madison, joining Bret Bielema’s staff in 2008 and 2009, respectively. College teammates and on the same staff at Drake, the pair is expected to complement each other well in this new role. Partridge will maintain control of the D-line and Ash the secondary, their areas of responsibility when they first got on board with the program.
Last Gig: Ash (Wisconsin secondary coach) and Partridge (Wisconsin defensive line)
Replacing : Dave Doeren
13. Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell, Oklahoma
Although it hurts losing former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson to the Big Ten, the Sooners have maintained a sense of continuity here. Heupel has been back at his alma mater since late in 2005, and did a terrific job working with quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Landry Jones. Norvell is the more experienced of the duo, having already held the coordinator’s title at Nebraska and UCLA. His receivers in Norman, namely returning All-American Ryan Broyles, have been outstanding.
Last Gig: Heupel (Oklahoma quarterbacks coach) and Norvell (Oklahoma receivers coach)
Replacing : Kevin Wilson
12. Norm Chow, Utah
It’ll be a homecoming of sorts for Chow, whose best moments as an offensive coordinator occurred when he was at BYU from 1973-99. Since then, he spent considerable time in the Pac-10, which is where the Utes will call home beginning next season. He knows the conference, giving head coach Kyle Whittingham a head start as he begins preparing for an entirely new set of challenges and opponents. He’s also determined to get beyond the most recent three-year stint at UCLA, which will go down as one of the more forgettable stints of an otherwise stellar career.
Last Gig: UCLA offensive coordinator
Replacing : Dave Schramm and Aaron Roderick
11. Chad Morris, Clemson
Dabo Swinney needs answers on offense. If Morris provides them, he might become a popular name among athletic directors before long. He’ll look to ignite a toothless offense with a more up-tempo attack that mixes in the run with the pass. In his system, quarterbacks must be mobile, which won’t be a problem now that Tajh Boyd takes over. While he had an instant impact on Tulsa, there’s concern about his resume. Prior to last fall, his entire coaching career was spent at the prep level. Clemson hopes it has the next Gus Malzahn and not the next Todd Dodge.
Last Gig: Tulsa offensive coordinator
Replacing : Billy Napier
10. Jedd Fisch, Miami
Under Randy Shannon, the Hurricanes struggled on offense and had a revolving door at coordinator. New coach Al Golden will take his chances with one of the youngest assistants at this level, 34-year-old isch. While he’s made a rapid ascent up the coaching ladder, he’s spent the majority of his career in the NFL, and in his lone season as a college coordinator, Minnesota ranked 109th nationally in total offense. Golden likes his upside, and believes he’ll run a pro-style system that matches what the new Miami regime wants to employ.
Last Gig: Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach
Replacing : Mark Whipple
9. Dan Quinn, Florida
After a decade as an NFL assistant, Will Muschamp plucked Quinn out of Seattle to coordinate his first defense in Gainesville. The two worked together on Nick Saban’s staff Miami in 2005, where Muschamp first became impressed with Quinn’s dedication to fundamentals and flexibility with mixing up looks, especially up front. This will easily be the biggest challenge of his career, though it’ll help immensely having a defensive guru, like Muschamp, looking over his shoulder and taking care of checks and balances.
Last Gig: Seattle Seahawks defensive line coach
Replacing : Teryl Austin
8. Mark D’Onofrio, Miami
From as far back as their playing days at Penn State, ’Onofrio and new ‘Cane head coach Al Golden have been close. Together, they helped build Temple to unexpected prominence in the MAC, primarily because of D’Onofrio’s defenses. He’s shown an uncanny ability to transform mid-level talent and mold units that are physical at the point of attack and fundamentally sound. It’ll be interesting to witness what he can do with a caliber of athlete that’s bigger, stronger, and faster than what he ever had in Philadelphia.
Last Gig: Temple defensive coordinator
Replacing : John Lovett
7. Al Borges, Michigan
The job of dismantling Rich Rodriguez’s spread attack belongs to Borges, one of the most well-traveled offensive coordinators in the country. He has done and seen it all over the past quarter-century, working this job at Pac-10, Big 10, and SEC campuses over the last decade alone. In his latest stop at San Diego State, he oversaw a balanced offense that ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring and total offense. Although he runs a pro-style attack that employs a power running game and more traditional pocket passer, he’s already expressed a desire to maximize the myriad talents of QB Denard Robinson.
Last Gig: San Diego State offensive coordinator
Replacing : Calvin Magee
6. Manny Diaz, Texas
Although he has huge shoes to fill in Austin, Diaz is on the fast track to stardom among defensive coaches. Only 36, he’s hopped from Middle Tennessee to a successful year in Starkville to one of the most coveted coordinator jobs in America. Although still a little too young to have a philosophy, per se, his last few units have been quick to the ball and eager to get into the backfield. He embodies the youth movement now surrounding Mack Brown, enlisted to ensure that last year’s 5-7 debacle never happens again.
Last Gig: Mississippi State co-defensive coordinator
Replacing : Will Muschamp
5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Bill Stewart will coach the Mountaineers for one more year. olgorsen has already been tabbed to replace him in 2012. In the meantime, he’ll be the team’s offensive coordinator for the upcoming season, soaking up as much executive know-how as possible. While a stranger to the region and the Big East, he’s one of the hottest offensive minds in the country, having enormous recent success at Houston and Oklahoma State. He might be the antidote for West Virginia’s stale attack, spreading the field, keeping defenses guessing, and putting the best athletes in a position to make plays.
Last Gig: Oklahoma State offensive coordinator
Replacing : Jeff Mullen
4. Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite, Texas
While pplewhite is getting promoted at his alma mater, the big news on offense was the hiring of Harsin out of Boise. The Longhorns now have two of the game’s brighter young minds taking command of an attack that occasionally got stale under Greg Davis. Applewhite has already been a coordinator at Rice and Alabama, and has the makings of a future head coach. Harsin spent a decade with the Broncos, the last half as Chris Petersen’s offensive coordinator, putting his stamp on one of the nation’s top offenses. An inventive coach, he has more than a few tricks in his playbook.
Last Gig: Harsin (Boise State offensive coordinator) and Applewhite (Texas running backs coach)
Replacing : Greg Davis
3. Steve Kragthorpe, LSU
After a one-year hiatus from the game, Kragthorpe has landed on his feet and is staring at a significant challenge. The former Tulsa and Louisville head coach must clean up the mess left by former Tiger coordinator Gary Crowton, whose offense was among the SEC’s least dangerous in 2010. Considering how his Cardinal teams performed, including on offense, Kragthorpe will have a lot to prove to a skeptical audience. Initially, his top priority in Baton Rouge will be to coach up the quarterbacks, holdovers Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, and former Georgia recruit and JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger.
Last Gig: Louisville head coach
Replacing : Gary Crowton
2. Greg Mattison, Michigan
While the Wolverines didn’t land a rbaugh in the offseason, they got someone pretty darn close to the family. Mattison’s first job as a defensive coordinator was 25 years ago under Jim Harbaugh’s dad, Jack, and he most recently held that position with the Baltimore Ravens for Jim’s brother, John. He’s widely respected as one of the best teachers around, and has excelled in the past at recruiting and building chemistry in a locker room. Brady Hoke needed to find the right man to begin reversing the trend for a defense that tackled poorly under Greg Robinson and ranked last in Big Ten scoring and total D in 2010.
Last Gig: Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator
Replacing : Greg Robinson
1. Charlie Weis, Florida
In a move that surprised just about everyone, Weis decided to leave the Kansas City Chiefs after a single season and return to the college game. He’ll coordinate a Florida offense that never looked right in 2010, the final one for Urban Meyer and the first one without Tim Tebow under center. As strange as it may have been, it’s impossible to argue with Weis’ resume or track record for developing potent offenses. He’s been especially effective with quarterbacks, which is going to benefit John Brantley and the rest of the Gator hurlers.
Last Gig: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator
Replacing : Steve Addazio