Welcoming The New Coordinators
You Should Care About
While new head coaches, such as
Gene Chizik and Dan Mullen, were gobbling up lots of attention since
signing new contracts, there have been an equal number of coordinators
getting promotions around the country. No, their impact won’t be as
profound or their salaries as robust, but their opportunities to
initiate change and a new direction should not be dismissed. More and
more, coordinators and position coaches are seeing their
responsibilities and profiles increase, putting the following new hires
in a position to steal a few more headlines than normal this upcoming
Just look at last year for example of the
importance of these decisions: Texas hired Will Muschamp, who recharged
the ‘Horn D and got named as Mack Brown’s successor. New Auburn
offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, on the other hand, didn’t last the
season, becoming a microcosm for all that went wrong in 2008.
Purdue (offensive coordinator) – Nord has been brought on board by Danny
Hope to ignite a Boilermaker offense that reached a low point in the Joe
Tiller era a year ago. With more than a quarter-century of college
coaching, he comes armed with experience and a reputation as one of the
game’s brighter offensive minds. His ability to recruit the state of
Florida and comfort level with Hope from their decade together at
Louisville and Oklahoma were also key factors in this hire being made.
Tranquill, Boston College (offensive
coordinator) – Sometimes, familiarity does not breed contempt. Tranquill
and new boss Frank Spaziani go way back to their days together in
Virginia and at the Naval Academy in the 1980s. While his deep resume,
including head coaching experience, will help Spaz’s transition to head
coach, his age and rep for being overly conservative are concerns on the
Heights. When last seen more than three years ago, the 68-year old
Tranquill was earning the nickname Gary “NyQuil” from frustrated
Seto, USC (defensive coordinator) – Even
as both of his coordinators headed north to Seattle, Pete Carroll
maintained a degree of continuity in his staff by promoting from within.
Seto has been with the Trojans since 1999, primarily concentrating on
the back seven. He had a chance to join Steve Sarkisian at Washington,
but opted to remain at his alma mater, despite the fact that Carroll
will continue calling all of the defensive plays. More than anything
else, the new gig provides an opportunity for Seto to raise his profile
to a national level.
Billy Napier, Clemson (offensive
coordinator) – Rather than go outside the institution, Dabo Swinney
removed the interim tag from Napier, who handled the job and called
plays over the second half of 2008. Short on experience and long on
potential, he’ll first have to undo some of the problems created during
the end of Rob Spence’s tenure. With his upside, energy, and ability to
reel in top recruits, you can understand why Swinney wanted to keep him
decked out in orange. The OC job at the age of 29, though? After last
year’s mess, Napier will be under the microscope to quickly make things
Syracuse (offensive coordinator) – Depending on where you’re standing,
Spence is either staring at an insurmountable challenge or a golden
opportunity. The Orange has been brutal on offense for much of this
decade, but if Spence can somehow reverse that trend, they might build a
bust of him outside the Carrier Dome. The fifth offensive coordinator in
the last six years at Syracuse, he’s expected to install elements of the
no-huddle offense and a few more wrinkles than the program has seen
lately. Spence built his reputation at Toledo, but followed that up with
a very disappointing four-year stint at Clemson.
Brandon, Virginia (offensive
coordinator) – Al Groh is giving Brandon the green light to run his
version of the spread offense in an attempt to spark one of the ACC’s
most feeble attacks. Something had to be done after the Cavs finished
nationally in scoring offense, showing a complete lack of explosiveness.
Brandon is fresh off a six-year stop as the Bowling Green head coach,
where he compiled a respectable 44-30 record. He favors a balanced
offense with lots of misdirection, a la former boss Urban Meyer, but
will need the athletes and the full blessing of Groh to truly remodel
John Morton, USC
(offensive coordinator) – Few schools provide a better launching pad for
its coordinators than USC. Just look what’s happened in recent years to
neophytes, like Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, and Nick Holt. The
Trojans’ passing game coordinator and receivers coach the last two
years, he cut his coaching teeth as an assistant in the NFL for five
years with three different teams. It should be noted that while Morton
has the title, Jeremy Bates, recently with the Denver Broncos, will call
plays and be the quarterbacks coach. Bates plans to coach from the field
level, while Morton operates in the coaches’ box.
Ludwig, Cal (offensive
coordinator) – After doing his part to lead Utah to a perfect season and
a No. 15 ranking in scoring, Ludwig’s star has never been brighter. A
success at Fresno State, Oregon, and with the Utes, he’s become known
for his ability to develop quarterbacks and oversee balanced, yet
unpredictable, attacks. His track record with the likes of David Carr,
Billy Volek, Kellen Clemens, and Brian Johnson bodes well for whoever gets the nod at quarterback. He was actually with Kansas State for about two months before deciding that a return to the Pac-10 was best for his career and family.
Yost, Missouri (offensive coordinator) –
Yost was the natural fit to replace outgoing Dave Christensen, who’s
moved on to coach Wyoming. He’s been with Gary Pinkel for the past 13
years, and has quietly had a huge role in Mizzou’s recent success on
offense as the quarterbacks coach. Much more than ensuring continuity in
the offense, promoting Yost is good news for the next wave of Tiger
hurlers Blaine Gabbert, Blaine Dalton, Ashton Glaser. If the offense
keeps on rolling in Columbia, he’s liable to follow Christensen into the
head coaching ranks.
Greg Robinson, Michigan (defensive
coordinator) – Long before Robinson would was a washout as a head coach,
he was widely considered to be a pretty good defensive assistant. Rich
Rodriguez is holding out hope that a 10-37 record in four years at
Syracuse didn’t rob him of his passion for the game. With far more
talent than he had at his disposal in New York, Robinson hopes to
install an up-tempo system that’ll get after the quarterback and create
plenty of turnovers. He’s being shielded from heavy recruiting, which
was not a strength, in favor of his expertise as an Xs and Os guy.
Roof, Auburn (defensive coordinator) –
In luring Roof out of the Big Ten, Gene Chizik sort of got a carbon copy
of himself. Roof is a young, aggressive teacher with head coaching
experience and a strong background as a defensive coordinator. He first
made headlines with Georgia Tech from 1999-2001 before suffering the
consequences of a failed experiment as the head guy with Duke. He had no
problems landing on his feet, however, and did a bang-up job in 2008
with a Minnesota D that was last in the country a year earlier. His
penchant for attacking will be an easy sell on the Plains.
Chaney,, Tennessee (offensive
coordinator) – First-year head coach Lane Kiffin looked to the NFL for
both his offensive and defensive coordinators. Chaney spent the last
three seasons as the tight ends coach of the St. Louis Rams, but is
better known for his work as the Purdue offensive coordinator from
1998-2005. It was during that time that the Boilermakers really
flourished offensively, leading the Big Ten in passing five times and
ranking in the top 10 in total offense six times. Purdue hasn’t been the
same since he left. A coincidence? Kiffin doesn’t think so.
Nick Holt/span>, Washington (defensive coordinator)
– Now that Holt has built the Husky nation into a mass of believers, he
better deliver on the promise of a turnaround. He’s got an infectious
personality, which will impact recruiting in the future, and a resume
that includes two tours of duty at USC wrapped around an unsuccessful
stint as the Idaho head coach. He can sell and he can motivate, but can
he still whip together a nasty defense without all of that five-star
Trojan talent at his disposal? That’s the challenge facing Steve
Sarkisian’s buddy and right-hand man in Seattle.
Miami (offensive coordinator) – It took a while for Randy Shannon to
decide on a replacement for Patrick Nix, but he finally settled on
Whipple a month after Patrick Nix was canned. A success wherever he’s
been, he won a national championship as the head coach of UMass and a
Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers as Ben Roethlisberger’s mentor.
Last season, he was an assistant on Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles
staff. Whipple should have a positive influence on QB Jacory Harris and
the young ‘Cane offense, especially after Nix, Rich Olson, and Dan
Werner flamed out on the job.
Addazio, Florida (offensive coordinator)
– Addazio has morphed into one of the hot names at the assistant level,
getting strong consideration in recent months for the top openings at
Syracuse and Boston College. That’s bound to happen these days when you
work in Gainesville. He’ll spend 2009 as the successor to Dan Mullen, a
promotion from being the offensive line coach. Urban Meyer will still be
closely involved in the gameplan, and the playbook isn’t being altered,
so don’t expect many noticeable changes. Meyer’s last three offensive
coordinators, Mullen, Mike Sanford, and Gregg Brandon, have gone on to
be head coaches. Addazio is bucking to be No. 4.
Oklahoma State (defensive coordinator) – Young was a natural fit for the
Cowboys and a darn shrewd hire by Mike Gundy after Tim Beckman took the
Toledo job. A graduate of the school and one of the nation’s best-kept
secrets among coordinators, he’s been a success wherever he’s been,
peaking as the defensive head of Kansas from 2002-2007. After watching
his team struggle getting to the quarterback and defending the pass,
Gundy is counting on Young to do for the ‘Pokes what he did for the
Jayhawks in his last tour of the Big 12.
Clemson (defensive coordinator) – Dabo Swinney’s recruiting prowess is
apparently not limited to high school athletes. Luring Steele away from
Nick Saban’s Alabama staff has been one of the coups of the offseason.
He’s got big-game experience from stops in Knoxville, Lincoln,
Tallahassee, Tuscaloosa, and the NFL, and will provide another boost to
recruiting. Ironically, it was Steele’s D that shut down the Tigers in
last year’s opener, beginning a tailspin for the nation’s No. 9 program.
With so many Clemson coaches now having ties to ‘Bama, Swinney might
want to consider wearing a houndstooth hat on the sidelines next fall.
LSU (defensive coordinator) – Chavis wasn’t out of work for very long.
Les Miles scooped him up in January and put him in charge of
reconfiguring a defense that underachieved in 2008. The architect of all
those stingy Tennessee defenses of the last 14 seasons, he’s a
no-nonsense coach with an intimate knowledge of the SEC, a huge bonus
for his new employer. So, what do you do when you’ve butted heads for
years with a coach, whose defenses are hard-working, aggressive, and
fundamentally sound? If you’re Miles, you hire him before anyone else
can get him.
Kiffin, Tennessee (defensive
coordinator) – Yes, Kiffin is the father of new Volunteer coach Lane
Kiffin. No, that relationship isn’t the reason he’s the new defensive
coordinator. Renowned for his work in the NFL with his often-imitated
“Tampa 2” defense, he’s returning to the college game for the first time
since 1982. He puts a premium on speed over size, mixes up his looks
without changing personnel, and will take chances in order to create
turnovers. There were whispers that teams had begun to catch up to what
Kiffin was doing with the Bucs. Maybe so, but it took the rest of the
league more than a decade to narrow the gap, which speaks volumes about
his tactical ability.
Auburn (offensive coordinator) – And you thought Tony Franklin’s spread
offense would cause culture shock at Auburn. For the second year
in-a-row, Auburn is going away from the script with its new offensive
coordinator, handing the keys to Malzahn, a mad scientist, who arrives
with a hurry-up, no-huddle offense and a thick bag of tricks. Bad fit?
We’ll see. It’ll all depend on personnel and patience, which were issues
in his lone year with Arkansas in 2006. In Tulsa over the last two
seasons, his attack was in full bloom, cranking out huge chunks of
yardage through the air and on the ground, while leaving opposing
defenses in a state of confusion. No doubt, this is a gutsy hire by Gene
Chizik. If, however, it works, it could be years before the rest of the
SEC figures out a counterattack.