Coordinating our way thru college football's changes
July 11, 2017 3:08 AM
by Jim Feist
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.
Gus Malzahn was the offensive coordinator when Auburn won the national title and nearly pulled it off in 2013 as head coach of the Tigers. Notre Dame overachieved and made a bowl the last five seasons under Coach Brian Kelly, making the title game in 2013, while Urban Meyer has Ohio State riding high.
Assistants are often the NFL star head coaches of tomorrow, as well. Bill Parcells groomed two assistants, Bill Belichick and Sean Payton, who have combined for six Super Bowls the last 17 years (Saints and Patriots).
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 ranks.
Sonny Dykes brought a pass-happy attack but new coach Justin Wilcox takes over. It’s quite a transition in philosophy, as it’s the first head coaching job for Wilcox, who spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons at Wisconsin as defensive coordinator. In addition, Tim DeRuyter is the new DC via Fresno State. Wilcox and DeRuyter are bringing in the 3-4 scheme, though the Bears don’t yet have the defensive personnel to improve that much. Cal was 8-4 OVER the total last year with all that passing but that may change in 2017.
Tommy Tuberville is out and Luke Fickell will run the Bearcats, coming over from Ohio State. The Bearcats finished 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the American Athletic Conference. The offense should still be very strong behind QB Gunner Kiel. New OC Zac Taylor finished the 2015 season as Miami Dolphins interim offensive coordinator. He intends to keep the same up-tempo pace, but will add a pro-style look that will include throwing to the backs and tight ends more. The Bearcats bring a 10-1-1 run UNDER the total into the new season, as well as 3-9 ATS.
Jeff Brohm takes over after running wide-open offenses at Western Kentucky. He was 30-10 there and 2-0 in bowl games. Last year WKU was tops in the nation in scoring (45.5 ppg) and fifth in passing with 336.8 yards per contest. Purdue doesn’t have much defensive talent, so they may continue a totals trend, going 8-4 OVER in 2016.
New coach P.J. Fleck was a sought after candidate after building Western Michigan into a strong program. He inherits a young roster, but they do have dynamic playmakers on offense with junior RBs Rodney Smith (1,158 yards, 4.8 ypc) and Shannon Brooks (650 yards, 4.7 ypc), while junior WR Rashad Still (349 yards) averaged 19.4 yards per catch. Fleck knows how to develop quarterbacks while turning Zach Terrell into a star at Western Michigan. And don’t forget Minnesota had a very strong defense last season allowing 22.9 ppg.
The Longhorns moved fast to get Tom Herman, who has a strong coaching resume in a short time at Ohio State and Houston. Texas will be working on its third offensive scheme/playbook in three years. The new coaching staff inherits QB Shane Buechele (21 TDs, 11 INTs in 2016) and picks up QB Cameron Rising, who was expected to go to rival Oklahoma but switched to the Longhorns. That could add some spice to the Red River rivalry.
Willie Taggart did a fine job rebuilding South Florida and now moves to the Pac 12. The Ducks have dropped off in talent dramatically since making the title game in 2014. New DC Jim Leavitt did wonders at Colorado, improving from No. 119 in scoring defense before he arrived to No. 20 last season. He’ll have to do it again as he inherits the No. 126-ranked scoring defense, 113 against the pass and 121 versus the run.