The Top New Coordinators
You can’t fire the team. You can, however, make wholesale changes on the coaching staff in an effort to change the direction of a program. It happens every year, and not just with head coaches.
Somewhat lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Brian Kelly going to Notre Dame or Lane Kiffin’s return to USC are the arrivals of a host of new coordinators across the country with a singular goal—hit the ground running in a new town. Whether it’s on offense or defense, all have been tasked with the responsibility of taking a challenging situation and making it better. Their predecessor has 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 smart.
10. Noel Mazzone, Arizona State - After two miserable seasons of offensive futility, Dennis Erickson turns to a familiar face for help. The two were on the same staff in Corvallis in 2002, where Erickson got a close-up peak at his ability. He’s had success with quarterbacks in the past, such as Philip Rivers, and wants to spread the field with an up-tempo offense. He’ll need to bring the entire bag of tricks to Tempe because the Sun Devils have a dire need for consistency at quarterback and an offensive line that continues to be a stumbling block. It’s no mistake that these guys were 91st and 84th in scoring the last two seasons.
Last Seen: Coaching the New York Jets wide receivers
Former Coach: Rich Olson
9. Paul Petrino, Illinois - After going 3-9, Ron Zook cleaned house on his staff, searching for a spark before he’s the next one to go. Petrino is the centerpiece of the reshuffling, an innovative offensive coach with a long track record of success, especially with quarterbacks. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares away from brother Bobby, who he’s been under for most of his career. He runs a pro-style offense, which will expand the roles of the fullback and the tight end. With Juice Williams gone, the top priority will be to decide on a pocket passer out of sophomore Jacob Charest and freshman Nathan Scheelhaase.
Last Seen: Coordinating the Arkansas offense
Former Coach: Mike Schwartz
8. Neal Brown, Texas Tech - An unknown to most, Brown was firmly on Tommy Tuberville’s radar when he needed someone to coordinate his offense in Lubbock. Despite being a few months removed from his 30th birthday, he turned a lot of heads at Troy over the last two seasons. While it won’t be easy succeeding Mike Leach as the Red Raider play-caller, Brown does favor an offense that isn’t all that different than the one they’ve employed at Tech for the past decade. He likes to spread the field and air it out, piloting the nation’s No. 4 passing game last fall.
Last Seen: Coordinating the Troy offense
Former Coach: Mike Leach
7. Chuck Long, Kansas - Welcome back, Chuck. Long returns to the sidelines after sitting out last season. He’d been fired by San Diego State following a woeful three-year stint as the Aztecs head coach. Prior to that, however, he’d gained a reputation as a solid recruiter, offensive coordinator and developer of quarterbacks while at Oklahoma. His presence plus former Nebraska QB Turner Gill should be encouraging for whoever wins the right to replace Todd Reesing behind center. Last year’s backup, sophomore Kale Pick, has an early leg up and the dual-threat package to excel under this staff.
Last Seen: Coaching San Diego State in 2008
Former Coach: Ed Warinner
6. Al Groh, Georgia Tech - Although Groh may have overstayed his welcome as the Virginia head man, there’s little denying that the guy can coach a defense. He routinely sent kids to the NFL and his Cavalier teams were always well-prepared and fundamentally-sound on that side of the ball. He brings that track record and a lifetime of executive experience to a Yellow Jacket team that got pushed around last fall and generally did not enjoy a good season on defense. Groh’s biggest challenge, besides replacing DE Derrick Morgan and S Morgan Burnett, will be adapting to being an assistant, something he hasn’t done in over two decades.
Last Seen: Coaching Virginia
Former Coach: Dave Wommack
5. Bob Diaco, Notre Dame - The offense is in good hands now that Brian Kelly is the Irish head coach. The defense? Well, that’s an area that plagued Charlie Weis throughout his tenure in South Bend. Notre Dame has to improve defensively if it’s going to turn the corner, which is where Diaco enters the picture. He got off to a fast start in his second stint with Kelly last year at Cincinnati, but lacked the depth and talent to keep it going through November. He’ll have access to more blue-chippers than at any point in his career, but needs to coach those kids into a more consistent unit.
Last Seen: Coordinating the Cincinnati defense
Former Coach: Charlie Weis
4. George Edwards, Florida - As if replacing Charlie Strong in Gainesville isn’t challenging enough for a guy, Edwards returns to the college ranks for the first since 1997. And that was at rival Georgia. Considered an outstanding teacher of the fundamentals, he’s had defensive assignments with the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, and Dallas Cowboys over the last dozen years. He’s used to being surrounded by elite defenders, which is exactly what he’ll be surrounded by at Florida. In an odd twist of Gator fate, Edwards’ college coach at Duke was none other than Steve Spurrier.
Last Seen: Coaching the Miami Dolphins inside linebackers
Former Coach: Charlie Strong
3. Todd Grantham, Georgia - After more than a month and three notable snubs, Mark Richt finally went to Plan D and landed his replacement for Willie Martinez. The defensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Grantham has spent the last 11 seasons in the NFL, coordinating the Cleveland Browns defense between 2005-07. The very early indications are that he’ll install a 3-4 base set and attack liberally, which the Bulldogs haven’t done all that much in recent years. He’ll be inheriting a defense that returns six starters and is coming off its worst season since Richt arrived in 2001, yielding almost 26 points a game.
Last Seen: Coaching the Dallas Cowboys defensive line
Former Coach: Willie Martinez
2. Monte Kiffin, USC - In one of the more interesting marriages of the offseason, Kiffin is following son Lane Kiffin to a new destination for a second straight year. One of the most respected defensive minds at any level of football, he made his mark in the NFL for a quarter-century, including an innovative 13-year stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He generally did a good job in his only season in Knoxville, and now gains access to some of the best and brightest players on the West Coast. He could be arriving just in time for a defense that was uncharacteristically soft in 2009 and clearly did not play up to its overall ability.
Last Seen: Coordinating the Tennessee defense
Former Coach: Rocky Seto
1. Mark Stoops, Florida State - Bobby Bowden isn’t the only iconic coaching figure being replaced in Tallahassee this season. Mickey Andrews is as well. The architect of all of those great Seminole defenses in the 1980s and 1990s, he’ll go down as one of the best defensive coordinators of all time. The final season, however, was a low point for the coach and the program on defense. It’s up to Stoops to restore the order at a program unaccustomed to allowing 30 points a game and ranking last in the ACC. He leaves brother Mike’s staff at Arizona, looking to create his own identity in a different corner of the map. If he can fill Andrews’ shoes, he’ll have no problem making headlines.
Last Seen: Coordinating the Arizona defense
Former Coach: Mickey Andrews