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 OC when Auburn won the national title and this year steps in as coach to replace Gene Chizik. Notre Dame overachieved and made a bowl the last three seasons under Coach Brian Kelly, making the title game this past season.
Assistants are often the NFL star head coaches of tomorrow,. as well. Bill Parcells lost one of his top assistants seven 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 ranks.
NC State: The Wolfpack have major changes with Dave Doeren taking over. Doeren’s Northern Illinois teams ran more than N.C. State and he is searching for a running QB. He and new OC Matt Canada add the kind of run-oriented offenses they had at Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. There will be more zone blocking and quicker pass routes.
Note: The defense was weak last season (25.6 ppg allowed), cornerback David Amerson left early for the NFL and four other defensive players exited since the end of the regular season.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks were about throwing the football under Bobby Petrino and John Smith, but now Bret Bielema takes over. The former Wisconsin coach loved the power running game. The Badgers were only 8-5, but clobbered Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten title to secure a third straight Rose Bowl appearance. In 2012 Arkansas threw for 301.5 yards per game but was last in the SEC in rushing. Only three starters return to the offense. They have an anchor at center in Travis Swanson but there is rebuilding all around.
Note: The backfield needs ball carries and the Hogs must settle on QB Brandon Allen or dual-threat athlete Brandon Mitchell. Arkansas was 3-9 ATS last year.
Purdue: The Boilermakers were a finesse team under Danny Hope, but expect things to change under Darrell Hazell. He led a powerhouse Kent State offense that averaged 33 points and 225.8 yards rushing. Purdue has seven starters back on offense, including speedy junior RB Akeem Hunt, who averaged 8 yards per carry. The defense was soft and didn’t create any turnovers, something Hazell’s Kent State teams did often.
Note: Purdue had the second-worst defense in the Big Ten and couldn’t stop the run. That is priority one. Purdue was 8-4 OVER the total, but that might change if the ground attack and run-defense improve.
Cal: Jeff Tedford is out and Sonny Dykes takes over. Dykes coached wide-open passing offenses at Louisiana Tech the last three seasons, a good fit for the pass-happy Pac 12. Last year La Tech was third in the nation with 350.8 yards passing per game and tops in points scored (51.5 ppg). Dykes was 22-15 overall with the Bulldogs and 14-7 in WAC games. The bad news is it’s a rebuilding season, with few returnees to a bad O-line while finding a new QB.
Note: The defense gave up 181 points in its final four games during a money-burning 3-9 ATS campaign. The first-year coach had a good recruiting class with wide receivers, so don’t look for Cal to have balance on offense.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies’ rushing offense plummeted from No. 28 in the nation in (186.9 ypg) in 2011 to No. 79 (145.9 ypg) last season so Frank Beamer decided to shake up his coaching staff. Beamer hired former Auburn OC Scott Loeffler to overhaul the offense. The good news is he has a senior QB in Logan Thomas. The bad news is he led the team in rushing and isn’t much of a passer, with 18 TDs, 16 INTs. He completed just 51.2 of his passes in 2012.
Note: Virginia Tech is on a 16-9-1 run UNDER the total the last two years, so good luck against Bama in the opener!
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]