Top assistants can be extremely important in football

Jul 17, 2012 3:03 AM

Football head coaches get all the glory, but top assistants can be extremely important in a team’s success or failure.

Offensive and defensive coordinators have great influence on game plans and a unit’s effectiveness. Notre Dame overachieved and made a bowl the last two seasons under head coach Brian Kelly.

Assistants are often the NFL star coaches of tomorrow, as well. A former defensive assistant, Lovie Smith, took the Bears to the Super Bowl. Bill Parcells lost one of his top assistants six years ago, Sean Payton, who went to New Orleans and helped lead the Saints Super Bowl title turnaround.

Competent football assistants can be huge assets. Buddy Ryan was the principle architect of the Bears’ 46 defense that led the way to the 1986 Super Bowl. He left the team after that victory and the Bears were never as dominant defensively. Let’s look at some key coaching changes in the college and pro ranks.

Ohio State

Urban Meyer has been the best college football coach the last ten years with Utah and Florida. After a one-year hiatus he returns as Coach of Ohio State. While at Florida he went 65-15, winning two BCS titles. Meyer has a career record of 104-23 to Columbus (7-1 in bowls). Oddly, the only bowl loss was to Michigan in the 2007 Capital One Bowl, not that he’ll need any motivation every November against the Wolverines now!

Meyer inherits sophomore QB Braxton Miller (13 TDs, 4 INTs) who led the Buckeyes in rushing with 715 yards, a good fit for the Triple Option attack. However, this is still a rebuilding year on the offensive line and at the skill position. The good news is the defense was very strong (21 ppg), returns nine starters and should be a powerhouse in the Big 10.

The bad news is the Buckeyes are ineligible to play for the Big Ten title or a bowl game in 2012 – so Michigan will be their bowl, at home Nov. 24.

Penn State

Joe Paterno is out so Bill O’Brien is the new coach, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator. He has a good piece to building his spread offense in junior RB Silas Redd (1,241 yards), but the QB spot is wide open. Matt McGloin and Robert Bolden return but aren’t really suited for the pass-happy attack, so they may lean on top recruit QB Paul Jones.

The defense was one of the best in the nation last season allowing 16.8 ppg (fifth) and has a deep and talented linebacking corps. However, the secondary must replace all four starters. Penn State is 3-15 SU/ATS its last 18 as a dog, and 19-11 SU, 15-13-1 ATS its last 31 on the road. Of course, at home the Lions are 44-8 SU, 23-22 ATS in their last 52!


The Panthers have been running through coaches the last year, from Dave Wannstedt, to Todd Graham, and now Paul Chryst takes over. Chryst has a version of the spread offense he ran at Wisconsin, which was wide open and attacking, different than the ball-control style under Wannstedt but similar to Graham.

Pitt returns senior QB Tino Sunseri (10 TDs, 11 INTs), senior RB Ray Graham (958 yards rushing) and WR Devin Street, so there is plenty of talent for the new staff. However, Sunseri never adjusted well to the new style under Graham. The secondary ranked 72nd nationally in pass defense last season but has new coordinator Dave Huxtable, so there are changes everywhere. They carry a 7-3 ATS run into the new season.


Folks have been waiting years for Norm Chow to get a head coaching position and now he has it. The Honolulu-born Chow has had great success as an offensive mind for years and inherits a talented, speedy group that plays on artificial carpet. Junior QB David Graves (5 TDs, 2 INTs) steps in along with junior WR Billy Ray Stutzmann (910 yards) and senior WR Jeremiah Ostrowski (687) on a unit that averaged 31.5 points and 308.8 yards passing, 12th best in the nation.

The Rainbow Warriors should be a pass-happy team again, although Chow always pulls surprised, as he did two years ago when going with the Pistol-rushing attack out of nowhere and stunned Texas, 34-12, while at UCLA as a +16 road dog!


Ron Zook is gone and Tim Beckman, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator and Toledo head coach, takes over. While Zook was about running the football, Beckman’s Toledo teams were deadly at running, passing and torching opposing defenses.

The new coach inherits QB Nathan Scheelhaas (13 TDs, 8 INTs), who was mostly running, but Beckman will try and change that. The Illini were 10-2 UNDER the total last season, something else that may change!