The Top New Coordinators of 2009
Tennessee DC Monte Kiffin & S Eric Berry
Tennessee DC Monte Kiffin & S Eric Berry
Posted May 1, 2009

They don't get the glory, but they're the coaches who really make teams successful. They're the coordinators, and there are some major new hires across the country that will make a huge impact like Monte Kiffin at Tennessee.

Welcoming The New Coordinators

The Coordinators You Should Care About
By Richard Cirminiello

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 season.

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.

20. Gary Nord, 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.

19. Gary 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 Carolina fans.      

18. Rocky 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.   

17. 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 better.  

16. Rob Spence, 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.  

15. Gregg 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 114th 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 this offense.

14. 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.   

13. Andy 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.    

12. David 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.       

11. 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. 

10. Ted 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.  

9. Jim 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.   

8. 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.    

7. Mark Whipple, 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.  

6. Steve 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.    

5. Bill Young, 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.

4. Kevin Steele, 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.  

3. John Chavis, 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. 

2. Monte 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.      

1. Gus Malzahn, 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.