Pick 6: New coordinators who could boost incumbent coaches
Hiring a new coordinator can at times be as impactful to a college football program as making a head coaching change.
Take Penn State, for example, where head coach James Franklin’s hiring of Joe Moorhead last season helped get the Nittany Lions back in the top 10.
Hire two new coordinators and, well, that can look like a major rebuild.
Six teams that have an intriguing new coordinator — or two.
Coming off a 5-7 season, coach Todd Graham moved to fix a defense that was last in the Pac-12 (7.07 yards per play allowed) by bringing in veteran coordinator Phil Bennett to replace Keith Patterson, who was bumped down to linebacker coach. Arizona State has always taken a high-risk approach with Graham that produces lots of negative plays. Bennett uses similar schemes, but might back off some blitzes to protect an inexperienced secondary.
On the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey left to join Gus Malzahn at Auburn. Graham chose Alabama wide receiver coach Billy Napier as a replacement. How much of what the Crimson Tide was doing under Lane Kiffin moves with Napier to Tempe?
Hugh Freeze had to do some house cleaning after the Rebels went 5-7. Out went veteran assistants Dave Wommack (defense) and Dan Werner (offense). In comes Wesley McGriff (defense) and Phil Longo (offense).
Longo is from the Mike Leach tree and had spent the last three season at FCS power Sam Houston State, coordinating record-setting offenses.
McGriff is a former Ole Miss assistant under Freeze who returns after stints with the New Orleans Saints and Auburn, where he was co-defensive coordinator of one of the SEC’s best defenses last season. The Rebels’ Land Sharks lost their bite last season and finished 10th in the SEC in yards per play allowed (6.18).
Brian Kelly’s reboot after a 4-8 season stars offensive coordinator Chip Long from Memphis and defensive coordinator Mike Elko from Wake Forest.
Kelly moved out some veteran coaches he has worked with for a while and replaced them with two rising coordinators. With Kelly trying to take a more big-picture approach, Long should be able to take hold of the offense in a way no coordinator has under Kelly. The prognosis is promising. In one season as Memphis’ offensive coordinator, Long directed the third-best attack in the American Athletic Conference.
The best part of Wake Forest’s first bowl team in five years was Elko’s defense, which often operated with little offensive support.
The Jayhawks took some baby steps toward respectability last season under second-year coach David Beaty. His big offseason move was luring Dough Meacham away from TCU to be offensive coordinator.
From Oklahoma State to Houston to TCU, Meacham has been cutting up defense across the Southwest for a decade. This will be his biggest challenge yet.
Bob Diaco’s three seasons as head coach at Connecticut did not go well, but his resume as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame was pretty good, so Mike Riley brought him in to remake the Cornhuskers’ D.
Scheme-wise, that means a switch from the 4-3 to a 3-4. If you have heard one new defensive coordinator talk about wanting to be more aggressive, you have heard them all, but in reality, Diaco’s best defenses at Notre Dame were known for being sound and limiting big plays. More controlling than attacking.
Former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson steps in as co-offensive coordinator by title. Make no mistake, though, Wilson was brought in by Urban Meyer to fix the offense.
The shutout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff exposed issues Ohio State had generating big plays against top-level opposition.
Wilson’s treatment of players was a large part of why he was let go by the Hoosiers — he denied any mistreatment after some players complained of being forced to play through injuries, among other things. There is no doubting his ability to run a high-powered offense, though. Going back to his days as a coordinator at Northwestern and Oklahoma, Wilson’s spread have been giving defenses fits for years.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP