The college football season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which assistants will be atop athletic director’s wish lists to fill open vacancies after 2013.
As with any list of rising stars or coaches, there are always a handful of names that miss out on the list. However, that isn’t a knock on their coaching ability. Coordinators like Alabama’s Kirby Smart or Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi have been known for a few years now and will get plenty of looks to be a head coach in the future.
Clemson’s Chad Morris is perhaps the hottest name for potential open vacancies after the 2013 season, as the former Texas high school coach has transformed the Tigers’ into one of the nation’s best offenses. Morris is certainly known around the nation, but after interviewing for the Texas Tech vacancy in 2012, he could finally land a head-coaching gig after 2013.
Outside of Morris, keep a close watch on Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and Texas A&M co-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital are a few coaches who should see their stock rise in 2013.
College Football's Top 10 Assistant Coaches on the Rise for 2013
Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame
Diaco was the architect behind Notre Dame’s top-10 defense last season. The Fighting Irish finished seventh nationally in total defense and second in points allowed in 2012, and only two opponents scored over 20 points. Diaco followed coach Brian Kelly from Cincinnati to South Bend, and he worked in assistant jobs with Virginia, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan before joining the Bearcats. Diaco has quietly built an impressive resume and should get a chance to be a head coach soon. With a loaded defense returning to South Bend for 2013, Notre Dame should be one of the top-10 defenses in college football, which will make the New Jersey native a hot commodity in coaching searches once the 2013 season is over.
D.J. Durkin, defensive coordinator, Florida
Durkin was promoted to defensive coordinator in mid-January after Dan Quinn left for the NFL. Coach Will Muschamp plays a large role in shaping Florida’s defense, but Durkin’s promotion shouldn’t be overlooked. The Ohio native is highly regarded among coaches in the SEC and worked under two of the best coaches during the BCS era – Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. This is Durkin’s first chance to be a coordinator, but with Muschamp on the sidelines, don’t expect Florida’s defense to suffer much of a drop in production in 2013 and beyond.
Scott Frost, offensive coordinator, Oregon
One of Mark Helfrich’s first jobs as head coach was to promote Frost from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator. The former Nebraska quarterback was regarded for his work on the Ducks’ staff since 2009 and helped to mold the receiving corps into one of the best in the conference going into 2013. Helfrich is expected to call the plays this year, but Frost will have a role in developing the gameplan each week. After a successful career as a starting quarterback at Nebraska, Frost is on the fast track through the assistant ranks, and his ability to pull talent to Eugene will help keep Oregon among the best teams in the nation.
Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State
Urban Meyer has a good eye for finding talent in the assistant ranks, so it was no surprise when he picked Herman to join his staff. Herman came to Columbus after three years directing Iowa State’s offense. The Cyclones didn’t have a ton of talent to work with on offense but averaged over 20 points a game in each of Herman’s three seasons. Before Iowa State, Herman called the plays at Rice and directed the Owls’ offense to an average of 41.3 points per game in 2008. Learning under one of the best coaches in college football should only raise Herman’s profile, and the California native should help Meyer direct one of the nation’s top offenses in 2013.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson
Considering his success over the last two years at Clemson, it may be a bit of a stretch to put Morris in this category. However, the 44-year-old coach will be a hot commodity in coaching circles this offseason, as the Tigers are primed to make a run at an ACC Championship and could be a top-five team in some preseason polls. With quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins back on campus, Clemson will have one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses and could surpass last season’s average of 41 points per game. Morris was a successful high school coach before taking over as Tulsa’s offensive coordinator in 2010, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to run his own program.
Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator, Arizona State
Norvell was the engineer behind Arizona State’s high-powered offense last season, which averaged 38.4 points a game and ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in total offense. At 32 years old, Norvell is one of college football’s youngest coordinators. However, there’s no doubt he is one of the Pac-12’s rising stars in the assistant ranks. Before coming to Arizona State, Norvell followed Todd Graham to stops at Tulsa and Pittsburgh and started four years at receiver during his playing career at Central Arkansas. Norvell has some holes to fill with running back Cameron Marshall and two receivers departing, but the Sun Devils should once again have one of the best offenses in the Pac-12.
Nick Rolovich, offensive coordinator, Nevada
Rolovich is the lone non-BCS coordinator to make this list for 2013. The California native played quarterback at Hawaii from 2000-01 and had a short professional stint with the Broncos, before spending five seasons in the Arena Football League and one in NFL Europe. Rolovich has been on a quick rise through the assistant ranks, as he spent two years at the City College of San Francisco from 2007-08 and was hired as Hawaii’s quarterbacks coach by Greg McMackin in 2008. Rolovich worked in that capacity until the 2009 season, when he was promoted to offensive coordinator. The Warriors averaged over 30 points a game in 2010 and 2011 under Rolovich’s watch. After Norm Chow was hired as Hawaii’s head coach, Rolovich left to join Nevada’s staff and spent the year learning the Pistol offense under Chris Ault. With his background under two different schemes and success with molding quarterbacks into starters, Rolovich is one of college football’s up-and-coming offensive playcallers.
Jake Spavital, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Texas A&M
After working with Case Keenum at Houston and Geno Smith at West Virginia, Spavital gets to tutor Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in 2013. The Oklahoma native has been on a fast track through the assistant ranks, starting his career at Tulsa under Gus Malzahn in 2008, before joining Dana Holgorsen at Houston in 2009. Spavital worked for two years under Holgorsen at West Virginia, serving as the team’s quarterbacks coach. Clarence McKinney is expected to call the plays for the Aggies in 2013, but Spavital’s experience working under Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury will help ease the transition for Manziel. Expect Spavital to be a hot name in coordinator searches at the end of 2013.
Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington
Wilcox transformed Washington’s defense from one of the worst in the nation in 2012 to rank fourth in the Pac-12 in points and yards allowed in 2013. The Oregon native started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with Boise State in 2001 and worked in that capacity until joining California as a linebackers coach in 2003. After three years with the Golden Bears, Wilcox was selected as Boise State’s defensive coordinator in 2006 and coached in that role until 2009. He served for two years as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator under Derek Dooley in 2010 and took over at Washington in 2012. Wilcox is only 36 years old, but he is ready to be a head coach. However, until he leaves Seattle, expect the Huskies to rank among the best defenses in the Pac-12.
Mike Yurcich, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
A few eyebrows were raised when Mike Gundy announced Yurcich as his new offensive coordinator. However, the Ohio native appears to be a perfect replacement for Todd Monken, who left to be the head coach at Southern Miss. Yurcich comes to Stillwater after a two-year stint as Shippensburg’s offensive coordinator. Under his watch, Shippensburg’s quarterback (Zach Zulli) won the Harlon Hill Award for the top player in Division II, while the offense averaged 529.2 yards per game in 2012. Yurcich doesn’t have to make wholesale changes at Oklahoma State, as the offense will largely use most of the same scheme from the previous year. However, expect Yurcich to put his own tweaks into the system, which as evidenced on the Division II level, should work out well for the Cowboys.
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