20 New Coordinators You'll Need to Know

Posted Feb 21, 2007

The head coaches get all the headlines, attention and money, but the men behind the scenes, the assistants, can be just as important. Richard Ciminiello breaks down the 20 New Coordinators You'll Need to Know in 2007 including Jimbo Fisher, who made the move from LSU to Florida State.

By Richard Cirminiello 

It had more twists and turns than a James Patterson novel, but Florida State finally feels it’s attracted an offensive coordinator to guide it out of the relative Dark Ages that’s besieged it for the past few years.  Jimbo Fisher left LSU and turned down overtures from Nick Saban and Alabama to be a coaching difference-maker on a staff that was clearly ready for a shake-up.  He’s a proven developer of quarterbacks, something that’s been sorely lacking for years in Tallahassee, and one of the most respected offensive architects in the country.  In other words, he’s an epic upgrade from Jeff Bowden, a well-deserved lightning rod for criticism that had become a clear distraction at the program.  Yes, Fisher had been blessed with gobs of talent in Baton Rouge, but attracting elite athletes has never been a problem for the ‘Noles.  Molding the Drew Weatherfords, Lorenzo Bookers and Greg Carrs into a well-oiled offensive machine, however, has been, which is why this hire is being greeted with more attention than normal for a non-head coach.  Bobby Bowden is quickly running out of time in his quest to milk one more championship run out of Florida State.  By luring Fisher to the ACC, he took a giant step in that direction and may have inked his eventual successor at the same time.       
Last Gig: LSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach

OC Steve Sarkisian, USC – Sarkisian takes the title of Lane Kiffin, who is now the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.  Ironically, Sarkisian was believed to be one of the favorites for the Raider job, yet turned it down, preferring instead to wait for a job at the college level.  He won’t be waiting very long.  For at least one more season, he’ll have full responsibility for the Trojan offense, including play-calling and preparing the gameplan.  Two of Sarkisian’s primary objectives in 2007 will be to convert more deep passes and re-establish the ground game with more two-back sets.  
Last Gig: USC quarterbacks coach

3. OC Patrick Nix, Miami – Randy Shannon’s first major personnel decision as a head coach will go a long way to determining how successful he is in his debut.  Nix has been hired to energize a Hurricane offense that’s lacked consistency and firepower for the past four years.  He’s a former SEC quarterback with aggressive tendencies, which is fast becoming a trademark of Shannon first staff.  Not married to any one offensive philosophy, Nix is committed to do whatever is necessary—on Saturday and on the recruiting trail—to get Miami back in the running for a national championship.      
Last Gig: Georgia Tech offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach

4. DC Corwin Brown, Notre Dame – If Notre Dame is going to take the next step and become a real-deal national championship contender, it has to address the issues on defense that won’t go away.  The Irish will be fine on offense as long as Charlie Weis is in town, but the defense has gotten repeatedly exposed against decent offenses.  Brown, who’s clearly on the coaching fast track, can name his price as a head coach if he can initiate a turnaround in South Bend.  He also gives his new employer a pipeline to his hometown of Chicago, a potential recruiting coup for the Irish.    
Last Gig: New York Jets defensive backs coach

5. OC Gary Crowton, LSU – At first glance, Crowton and new boss, Les Miles, look like a very strange marriage.  Crowton clearly favors the pass, while Miles prefers a much more conservative ball-control offense.  Figure the two to meet in the middle with balance still being the order of the day in Baton Rouge.  Oregon led the Pac-10 in rushing last year, proof that Crowton will adapt to the talent he inherits.  He also has deep roots in Louisiana, which Miles is convinced will pay long-term dividends in the area of recruiting.
Last Gig: Oregon offensive coordinator

6. DC Kevin Steele, Alabama – Steele is a real nice get for Alabama and Nick Saban, who’s always had an eye for assembling quality coaching staffs.  Steele is one of the best in the business on defense and has a proven track record as a crackerjack recruiter.  He’s especially good with linebackers, a position that’ll be vital as Saban begins installing his attacking 3-4 defense.  Steele’s parents actually live in Tuscaloosa, which made the transition from Florida State that much easier.  
Last Gig: Florida State linebackers coach

7. co-OC Gus Malzahn, Tulsa – After just one season, Malzahn voluntarily left the SEC for a lateral move to Tulsa, a testament to just how unbearably wacky things had become in Fayetteville.  Realizing the Hogs weren’t fully committed to his hurry-up, no-huddle offense, he opted to take it where it would be better appreciated and utilized.  One temporary step backwards, however, could wind up leading to two leaps forward.  Once he gets the right personnel, Malzahn’s offense should cook in Conference USA, making him very appealing to ADs for head coaching opportunities.      
Last Gig: Arkansas offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach

8. OC Mike Bobo, Georgia – A decade ago, Bobo was throwing passes for the Bulldogs.  Today, he’s calling the plays in Athens.  Bobo was elevated to offensive coordinator for the final two games of 2006, replacing the departed Neil Callaway and getting a nice jump start on his first full season in the expanded role.  While his title has changed, his most important objective has not.  It’s still up to Bobo to flatten the learning curve and tailor the playbook, so Matthew Stafford can become the franchise quarterback in his second season.        
Last Gig: Georgia quarterbacks coach

9. OC Jay Norvell, UCLA – Karl Dorrell’s fourth offensive coordinator in five years is being counted on to energize a Bruin offense that was too predictable and conservative under Jim Svoboda, especially on first down.  Norvell is a scholar of the West Coast offense, who inherits ten starters and two quality quarterbacks, but will be calling plays for the first time in his coaching career.  The last time Dorrell took somewhat of a chance on a coordinator, hiring DeWayne Walker to manage the defense, it wound up being a stoke of brilliance.  
Last Gig: Nebraska offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach

10. OC Chip Kelly, Oregon – Mike Bellotti went a long way to replace Gary Crowton, but believes it’ll be worth the venture.  Kelly had been the architect of New Hampshire’s explosive offense for the past eight seasons, stretching defenses with a one-back, no-huddle attack that was unstoppable in the Atlantic 10 Conference and not terribly dissimilar to the spread offense that the Ducks run.  How well he transitions to the Pac-10 and whether he can coach up quarterback Dennis Dixon will be two of the huge storylines in Eugene this fall.        
Last Gig: New Hampshire offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach

11. OC Sonny Dykes, Arizona – Dykes and his wide-open spread offense may seem like a strange fit in Tucson, but he’s been hired to coax some offensive production out of an Arizona attack that floundered in 2006.  He won’t immediately have the personnel to implement his entire playbook, however, some fresh vertical wrinkles and ingenuity from his days in Lubbock are pretty much a given.  Considering the potential of the Wildcat defense this fall, even modest progress by Dykes and his new unit will be enough to propel the program to its first bowl game in nearly a decade.   
Last Gig: Texas Tech co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach

12. OC Shawn Watson, Nebraska – When Jay Norvell left for UCLA, Bill Callahan wasted no time in promoting Watson, a former coordinator in Colorado on Gary Barnett’s staff.  A veteran of this Husker West Coast offense, he’s inheriting a deep pool of talent that really began to hit its stride in 2006.  Watson will also be the team’s quarterbacks coach, which means he’ll be responsible for the continued development of probable starter and Arizona State transfer, Sam Keller.
Last Gig: Nebraska tight ends coach

13. DC Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State – Mark Dantonio did real well to retain Narduzzi, his coordinator at Cincinnati the last three years and one of college football’s up-and-coming defensive coaches.  Gone are the days of soft coverage, sloppy tackling and countless missed assignments in East Lansing.  Going forward, the Spartan D is going to mirror Narduzzi’s infectious personality—tough, animated and real aggressive.  In many ways, he’s the antithesis of the understated Dantonio, which resonates with his players.  Narduzzi sort of got lost in places like Cincinnati, Miami (OH) and Northern Illinois, but coaching in the Big Ten could bring him national recognition and head coaching offers before very long.      
Last Gig: Cincinnati defensive coordinator

14. OC Mike Dunbar, Minnesota – Dunbar is on his way back to the Midwest, scene of some of his best moments as the offensive coordinator of Toledo and Northwestern.  At first glance, he looks like a strange fit for a program that has long leaned on its stable of gifted backs and pulling guards.  However, his spread offense will still feature Amir Pinnix and the running game for at least as long as it takes the new quarterback, either Tony Mortensen or Adam Weber, to get cozy in the passer-friendly system.  Prying Dunbar from Cal was new head coach Tim Brewster’s shrewdest move of the off-season.    
Last Gig: Cal offensive coordinator

15. OC Charlie Stubbs, Louisville – Well-traveled and well-respected, Stubbs was an integral part of Tulsa’s recent success and Paul Smith’s current status as the top returning quarterback in Conference USA.  He has long favored a wide-open passing attack that can soften defenses from many angles, a nice match with the talent he’ll be inheriting in Louisville.  Those wondering if Bobby Petrino’s departure means the end of the fun at Papa John’s ought to bring a copy of Stubbs’ Developing an Explosive Offense to the beach this summer.    
Last Gig: Tulsa offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach

16. OC David Lee, Arkansas – The soap opera that has become Hog football sent Gus Malzahn packing for Tulsa and Lee back to Fayetteville for his third stint with Arkansas.  He’ll reunite with Houston Nutt, who cited his close relationship and trust in Lee as a major reason why he got the offer.  Lee, who’s a self-proclaimed fundamentals fanatic and especially adept at handling young quarterbacks, will add a sense of order and stability to a campus that’s been short on both over the past six months. 
Last Gig: Dallas Cowboys offensive assistant

17. Co-DC Larry Mac Duff, Texas – Duane Akina will be calling plays in Austin, but Mac Duff has been hired by Mack Brown to coach linebackers and assist with overall defensive efforts.  Much of the reason the ‘Horns allowed a school record for passing yards in a season in 2006 was the play of the linebackers, which is something the new assistant will be addressing.  Mac Duff brings a wealth of knowledge from both college and the pros, but unlike recent coordinators Dick Tomey, Greg Robinson and Gene Chizik, is not likely to be in a position to bolt Texas for a head coaching opportunity.    
Last Gig: San Francisco 49ers special teams coordinator

18. OC Jim Michalczik, Cal – The coordinator will be new in Berkeley for the third consecutive year, but the offensive results will remain the same as long as Jeff Tedford is on the sidelines.  Michalczik, who has done a terrific job the last five years with Cal’s offensive linemen, will add more organizational and administrative duties, but Tedford’s fingerprints and influence will still be seen all over the playbook and weekly offensive gameplan.  Promoting Michalczik fosters continuity on the staff, which isn’t such a bad thing considering how potent the Bear offense has been in recent years.
Last Gig: Cal offensive line coach

19. OC John Bond, Georgia Tech – When Patrick Nix left Atlanta for Miami, head coach Chan Gailey strongly considered taking over the play-calling duties himself.  Instead, he did the next best thing, hiring Bond, a seasoned veteran with a very similar offensive philosophy to his own.  Both coaches want to play field position and establish a physical ground game to set up the pass, a good fit considering All-ACC back Tashard Choice returns for his senior year and quarterback Taylor Bennett has a pair of starts on his resume.
Last Gig: Northern Illinois offensive coordinator

20. OC John Shoop, North Carolina – After a decade in the NFL, learning from the likes of Norv Turner and Jon Gruden, Shoop heads back to college intent on igniting a Tar Heel offense that’s averaged less than 20 points a game the last two seasons.  While he’ll strive for balance, he’s not wedded to any particular system, opting instead to build an offense around the talent he inherits.  Considering Carolina’s uncertainty at quarterback, Shoop’s likely to implement a conservative approach reminiscent of his days with the Chicago Bears.    
Last Gig: Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator and tight ends coach