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5 College Football Coordinators on the Hot Seat

Jake Spavital

Jake Spavital

College football’s offseason coaching carousel is already shaping up to be one of the busiest in recent years. Nine FBS coaching jobs are open as of Nov. 11, and the turnover won’t stop at the top. With several openings at the head coach level, the turnover and changes will continue into the assistant ranks. Coordinator changes should be active this offseason in every conference, and the pressure is already starting to build on a handful of play-callers.

Reprots have already surfaced about job security for Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, as the Aggies have slumped on offense in recent weeks. Additionally, Georgia’s Brian Schottenheimer is under scrutiny after the Bulldogs scored 12 combined points in games against Missouri and Florida.

Here are five coordinators on the hot seat with four weeks left in the 2015 season:

5 Coordinators on the Hot Seat

Brian Knorr, Defensive Coordinator, Indiana

Defense has been a longstanding issue for the Hoosiers. Since 2008, Indiana has ranked 10th or worse in the Big Ten in yards per play and points allowed. Just how much of a struggle has defense been for the Hoosiers recently? In 2013, Indiana gave up 41.9 points per game (Big Ten-only matchups) in 2013 and surrendered 7.4 yards per play. Regardless of how explosive Indiana’s offense is, reaching bowl eligibility in the Big Ten East is almost impossible with those numbers allowed on defense. Knorr joined Kevin Wilson’s staff in 2014 and you have to look hard to find improvement. The Hoosiers are giving up 6.6 yards per play and 41 points in league matchups this season. Additionally, this unit has been susceptible to the big play. Indiana has allowed 14 plays of 40 yards or more and 11 of 50 yards or more.

Related: College Football's Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections

Don Pellum, Defensive Coordinator, Oregon

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Pellum inherited big shoes to fill when he was promoted to defensive coordinator prior to the 2014 season. The long-time assistant replaced Nick Aliotti after he retired following the 2013 campaign and has experienced his share of ups and downs in his first opportunity to call the defensive signals at Oregon. The statistical totals of the Ducks’ defense are always skewed due to their up-tempo, high-powered offense, and Pellum’s group held opponents to a respectable 5.5 yards per play in 2014. However, there were signs of trouble, as Oregon ranked 12th in the Pac-12 in third-down defense and relied on takeaways (34) to stem the offensive momentum of other teams. The Ducks lost a handful of key players from last year’s unit and have struggled so far in 2015. Oregon ranks last in the Pac-12 in points allowed (37.2 per game), yards per play (6.1) and ninth in red-zone defense. Considering the track record of continuity in Eugene and turnover in personnel this season, Pellum is likely to call the defensive signals once again in 2016. However, this defense has to show improvement next year, especially as the offense looks for a replacement for Vernon Adams at quarterback.

Brian Schottenheimer, Offensive Coordinator, Georgia

Schottenheimer’s arrival was met with plenty of skepticism last January. So far, the first-year coordinator has done little to ease those concerns. The Bulldogs rank eighth in the SEC in scoring offense and averaged less than five yards per play in three out of their last five conference matchups. This unit has struggled to produce big plays, recording only eight plays of 40 yards or more through nine contests. The loss of star running back Nick Chubb was a huge setback to Georgia’s offense, but inconsistency at quarterback and a lack of proven receivers limited the explosiveness and production of this group. The Bulldogs have only one touchdown pass and tossed five picks in their last three games. While Schottenheimer didn’t inherit the SEC’s best offense and lost this team’s best player (Chubb), it’s fair to wonder if he’s the right hire for 2016 and beyond in Athens. 

Related: How Arkansas and Clemson Changed the 2015 College Football Season

John Shoop, Offensive Coordinator, Purdue

Third-year coach Darrell Hazell is only 6-27 in three years at Purdue, but he’s expected to return in 2016. Hazell inherited a rebuilding project when he was hired in 2013 and progress has been hard to come by the last three seasons. Assuming Hazell returns, would he be forced to make staff changes? Shoop has a wealth of experience as a coordinator, including 2007-11 at North Carolina and in the NFL with the Bears from 2001-03. However, the Boilermakers’ offense has struggled under his watch, averaging only 22 points in Big Ten games this season. Purdue is also averaging 4.8 yards per play in 2015 and finished with a 4.6 mark in 2013 and a 4.95 total in 2014. Some perspective is needed on Shoop’s job, as the Boilermakers are rebuilding and this staff didn’t inherit a ton of proven talent. However, in a win-now mentality, Hazell may have to reconsider his offensive staff before a make-or-break 2016 campaign.

Related: Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 11

Jake Spavital, Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Spavital was considered a rising star when he was hired at Texas A&M in 2013. The Oklahoma native was hired by Kevin Sumlin to tutor the quarterbacks after two years working under Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia (2011-12). Spavital spent 2013 as a co-offensive coordinator and was promoted to play-caller prior to the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke. In Spavital’s debut, the Aggies averaged 7.96 yards per play and scored 52 points in the 52-48 win over Duke. Spavital’s job was tougher in 2014 with the departure of Johnny Manziel, receiver Mike Evans and standout tackle Jake Matthews to the NFL. However, Texas A&M averaged only 5.3 yards per play in league games last season and finished 10th in the SEC in red zone offense (conference-only matchups). This year has been much of the same for Spavital, as the Aggies average just 21.5 points and 5.3 yards per play in league games. Both of those totals are the lowest mark under Sumlin’s watch. Considering the skill talent in College Station, along with two talented quarterbacks (Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen), Texas A&M should have one of the SEC’s best offenses. Spavital needs to find a way to get this offense back on track in November.