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College Football's Top 30 Coordinator Hires for 2017

Kevin Wilson, Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Kevin Wilson, Ohio State Buckeyes Football

College football’s coordinator carousel featured a handful of big names on the move for the 2017 season. Ohio State hired former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson to coordinate the offense, while Todd Orlando followed Tom Herman from Houston to Texas to take over the defensive signals in Austin. LSU hopes Matt Canada can jumpstart its offense, and Oregon hired Jim Leavitt from Colorado to address a defense that allowed over 40 points a game in 2016. In the Group of 5 ranks, MTSU’s defense upgraded with Scott Shafer taking over the play-calling duties, and Jamey Chadwell was a solid pickup for a Coastal Carolina team transitioning to the FBS level. 

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Which teams made the best coordinator hires in college football for 2017? Here are 30 hires based upon the changes at offensive or defensive coordinator from all 130 teams ranked based on impact for 2017.

College Football's Top 30 Coordinator Hires for 2017

Just missed: Brian Ferentz, Offensive Coordinator, Iowa; Phil Bennett, Defensive Coordinator, Arizona State; Sonny Cumbie, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU; Will Hall, Offensive Coordinator, Louisiana; Mike Denbrock, Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati

30. David Yost, Offensive Coordinator, Utah State

After finishing sixth in the Mountain West in scoring offense for three consecutive seasons (2013-15), Utah State slipped to 11th last year. The Aggies averaged only 23.9 points per game, 5.7 yards per play and ranked ninth in the Mountain West in rushing offense. Additionally, Utah State ranked near the bottom of the conference in red zone and third-down conversions. A variety of factors contributed to last year’s performance, and coach Matt Wells is planning to hand the play-calling duties to Yost in 2017. The Ohio native started his coaching career at the FBS level with Toledo in 1994 and remained with the Rockets until 2000. He left Toledo for Missouri and coach Gary Pinkel’s staff in 2001 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2009. Yost remained in that role until 2012 when he left to join Mike Leach’s staff at Washington State for three seasons (2013-15). He was hired as Oregon’s passing game coordinator and quarterback coach for the 2016 campaign and was instrumental in the development of Justin Herbert. Yost plans to speed up the tempo of Utah State’s offense and spread out the passing game, which should play into the strengths of senior quarterback Kent Myers.

College Football Rankings: Utah State

29. Matt Lubick, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Washington

Jonathan Smith is entrenched as Washington’s play-caller, but Lubick is a good addition for coach Chris Petersen’s staff as the co-offensive coordinator. In addition to his responsibilities as the co-offensive coordinator, Lubick will coach receivers after Bush Hamdan left for the NFL. The Montana native comes to Seattle after spending the last four seasons at Oregon as the team’s wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator (2016). Lubick also has stints as an assistant at Duke (2010-12), Arizona State (2007-09), Ole Miss (2005-06), Colorado State (2001-04), Oregon State (1999-00) and San Jose State (1997-98). Lubick’s arrival is another solid addition to one of the Pac-12’s top all-around staffs.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Washington

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

28. Kalen DeBoer, Offensive Coordinator, Fresno State

Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford is regarded for his work with quarterbacks and offenses while at California, but DeBoer is designated as the play-caller for the Bulldogs. Last season, Fresno State slumped to last in the Mountain West by averaging only 17.7 points a game and 4.7 yards per play. DeBoer is a strong hire for Tedford’s staff after helping to jumpstart Eastern Michigan’s offense over the last three years. The Eagles averaged only 15.2 points per game in 2014 but improved to 25.4 in 2015 and finished fourth in the MAC by posting 29.6 per contest in 2016. DeBoer’s 2016 attack at Eastern Michigan ranked second in the MAC in passing offense and finished third in the conference in red zone offense. Prior to Eastern Michigan, DeBoer worked at Southern Illinois (2010-13) as the offensive coordinator and was the head coach at the University of Sioux Falls from 2005-09.

College Football Rankings: Fresno State

27. Mike Summers, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Louisville

Summers is listed as a co-offensive coordinator, but the play-calling duties at Louisville will remain with coach Bobby Petrino. However, the return of Summers to Louisville is a key addition for a program that struggled up front in 2016. The Cardinals allowed a whopping 47 sacks last year. The totals from the previous two seasons aren’t pretty either, as Louisville gave up 44 sacks in 2015 and allowed 40 in 2014. While the personnel and depth is still a work in progress for 2017, there should be some improvement with Summers directing this group. He previously worked under Petrino at Louisville from 2003-06, with the Falcons in 2007 and again at Arkansas from 2008-09. Summers also has stops on his resume from stints at Oregon State, Northern Illinois, Kentucky and USC. He’s a veteran and proven assistant that should help turn around Louisville’s offensive line over the next few seasons.

College Football Top 25: Louisville

26. Kirk Ciarrocca, Offensive Coordinator, Minnesota

New coach P.J. Fleck is handing the controls of Minnesota’s offense to Ciarrocca after the two worked together at Western Michigan from 2013-16. After the Broncos averaged 17.2 points a game in 2013, the offense showed marked improvement over the next three seasons. Western Michigan’s scoring average climbed to 33.8 in 2014, 36.0 in 2015 and 41.6 in 2016. Additionally, the Broncos finished first or second in the MAC in yards per play in three consecutive years (2014-16). Ciarrocca’s 2016 unit was one of the most-balanced attacks in the nation, as Western Michigan posted 3,204 yards on the ground and 3,533 through the air. Ciarrocca also worked as an assistant at Princeton, Penn, Delaware and Richmond, along with a three-year stint as Rutgers’ offensive coordinator from 2008-10. 

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Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017

25. Jim Leonhard, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin

After Justin Wilcox left Madison to be the head coach at California, coach Paul Chryst is handing the keys to the defense to one of the top players in Wisconsin program history. From 2001-04, Leonhard starred at safety for the Badgers and earned All-America honors three times during his career. While Leonhard was undrafted, he carved out a solid NFL career, which spanned from 2005-14 with six different teams. Leonhard was hired to coach defensive backs in Madison prior to the 2016 campaign and was promoted to coordinator for 2017. Leonhard has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks, and while he’s unproven as a coordinator, his experience within the program and knowledge on defense should keep Wisconsin near the top of the Big Ten in 2017.

College Football Top 25: Wisconsin

24. Bryan Cook, Offensive Coordinator, Georgia Southern

Georgia Southern led the nation in rushing from 2014-15 under former coach Willie Fritz but slipped to No. 29 last season. After the drop in production and scheme concerns in 2016, head coach Tyson Summers realized the Eagles need to get back to the option attack on offense in order to push for a bowl trip and winning record in 2017. Hiring Cook to coordinate the offense is a big step in the right direction for Georgia Southern. The New York native has extensive roots in the option attack, working from 2013-16 at Georgia Tech under Paul Johnson and from 2009-12 at Cal Poly as the program’s co-offensive coordinator. 

College Football Rankings: Georgia Southern

23. Phil Longo, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Ole Miss

Longo comes to Oxford after spending the last three years directing Sam Houston State’s high-powered offense. The Bearkats led all FCS teams by averaging 49.5 points and 547.3 yards per game in 2016. Additionally, Longo’s offense led all FCS teams by scoring 58 touchdown passes. The 2015 unit was just as effective, as Sam Houston State averaged 41.1 points per contest and ran the most plays of any FCS team (1,275). With one of the SEC’s breakout stars under center in Shea Patterson, along with a deep receiving corps, Ole Miss’ offense should rank among the league’s best in 2017.

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Related: College Football's Top 25 Breakout QBs for 2017

22. Rhett Lashlee, Offensive Coordinator, UConn

Since 2011, no UConn offense has finished a season by averaging more than 24.3 points a game. Additionally, the Huskies have not averaged more than five yards per play since 2009. But the outlook for the offense should improve for coach Randy Edsall in his return to Storrs. Lashlee takes over the play-calling duties after spending the last four years at Auburn. While coach Gus Malzahn was heavily involved in game-planning and the play-calling during that span, Lashlee handled the signals for the final 10 games. Under Lashlee’s direction, Auburn averaged 32.6 points per contest and finished No. 1 in the SEC in rushing offense. Look for Lashlee to bring more tempo and spread looks to UConn in 2017. 

College Football Rankings: UConn

21. Jay Sawvel, Defensive Coordinator, Wake Forest

Sawvel replaces Mike Elko, who left Winston-Salem for South Bend and an opportunity to coordinate Notre Dame’s defense. Elko was one of the ACC’s most underrated coordinators and will be missed. However, coach Dave Clawson found an excellent replacement in Sawvel. The Ohio native started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky in 1994 and remained in that role for two seasons. He later worked from 1996-99 as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame and also coached defensive backs at Ferris State (1999-00), Southern Illinois (2001-07) and Northern Illinois (2008-10). Sawvel followed Jerry Kill to Minnesota following the 2010 season and coached defensive backs from 2011-15, before he was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2016 under Tracy Claeys. In Sawvel’s only year as the play-caller, the Golden Gophers finished third in the Big Ten in fewest yards per play allowed (4.8), fifth in scoring defense (22.1 ppg), second in the conference against the run (117.9 ypg) and tied for third in turnovers generated (25). Wake Forest finished 2016 ranked third in the ACC in scoring defense (22.2 ppg). Look for Sawvel to keep this defense near the top of the ACC in his first year calling the plays.

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Related: ACC Football Predictions for 2017

20. Jamey Chadwell, Offensive Coordinator, Coastal Carolina

Coastal Carolina is in the midst of a two-year transition period to the FBS level, but the Chanticleers have the right staff in place to make a successful jump from the FCS ranks. After last season’s play-caller Dave Patenaude left for Temple, coach Joe Moglia hired Chadwell to take over the offensive coordinator duties. Chadwell spent the last four seasons at Charleston Southern, guiding the Buccaneers to a 35-14 record (with two playoff trips) since 2013. Chadwell also has previous stints as a head coach at Delta State and North Greenville. Chadwell’s offenses at Charleston Southern specialized in the run, as the Buccaneers ranked inside of the top 20 nationally at the FCS level in rushing offense for four consecutive years. 

College Football Rankings: Coastal Carolina

19. Sterlin Gilbert, Offensive Coordinator, USF

Gilbert followed coach Charlie Strong from Austin to Tampa and inherits an offense that led the American Athletic Conference in scoring (43.8 ppg) last fall. Don’t expect too many tweaks in year one from Gilbert, especially with dynamic senior quarterback Quinton Flowers piloting the Bulls’ offense. In Gilbert’s one season of calling the plays at Texas, the Longhorns showed progress on offense after struggling in Strong’s first two years. Texas jumped to sixth in the Big 12 in scoring (up from eighth in 2015) and improved its total offense average by 121 yards per contest. Prior to his stint at Texas, Gilbert worked for one year at Tulsa and had previous stops at Bowling Green (2014) and Eastern Illinois (2012-13). Gilbert is a former assistant under Dino Babers and Philip Montgomery, with both coaches using variations of the offense Baylor utilized under former coach Art Briles.

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18. Randy Shannon, Defensive Coordinator, Florida

After spending the last two seasons as a co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Florida, Shannon was promoted to play-caller after Geoff Collins was named head coach at Temple. Shannon called the plays for the Gators in the Outback Bowl win over Iowa, limiting the Hawkeyes to just three points and 226 total yards. Prior to the last two years at Florida, Shannon worked for two seasons at Arkansas (2013-14), one year at TCU (2012) and was the head coach at Miami (2007-10) after working from 2001-06 as the program’s defensive coordinator. Under Shannon’s direction, the Hurricanes ranked consistently among the nation’s best defenses, including No. 1 overall in scoring defense in 2001. With just two returning starters, Florida’s defense will have a few holes to fill in 2017. However, Shannon should keep this defense near the top of the SEC. 

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Florida

17. Paul Rhoads, Defensive Coordinator, Arkansas

Improving the defense is the top offseason priority for coach Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks ranked fourth in the SEC by giving up 19.2 points a game in 2014, but this unit regressed over the last two years. Arkansas allowed 27.4 points per contest in 2015 and 31.1 in 2016. Stopping the run was a huge issue for the Razorbacks last fall. In SEC games, Arkansas allowed 7.1 yards per rush and surrendered 39 rushing scores over the 13-game season. As if those numbers weren’t enough of a concern for Bielema, the Razorbacks allowed over six yards per play in back-to-back years (2015-16). Rhoads was promoted to defensive coordinator following a one-season stint as a defensive backs coach under former play-caller Robb Smith. The Iowa native also has a previous stint in his career as Iowa State’s head coach (2009-15) and called the defensive signals at Auburn (2008) and Pitt (2000-07). Rhoads is transitioning the Arkansas defense to a 3-4 scheme and inherits a group with only five returning starters. While there is some personnel turnover and scheme transition, Rhoads should be able to generate some improvement from this group in 2017.

College football rankings: Arkansas

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

16. Scott Shafer, Defensive Coordinator, MTSU

The Brent Stockstill to Richie James pass-catch combination should ensure the Blue Raiders have one of Conference USA’s best offenses this fall. But in order for MTSU to challenge WKU for the East Division crown, the defense has to improve. Last season, the Blue Raiders allowed 35.8 points per game and surrendered nearly 200 yards a contest versus the run. Shafer brings a wealth of experience to Murfreesboro and this is his first full-time coaching gig since resigning from Maryland prior to the 2016 season. Shafer was Syracuse’s head coach from 2013-15 and accumulated a 14-23 record with one bowl trip over three years. Prior to 2013, Shafer spent four years as the program’s defensive coordinator (2009-12) and also had stops at Michigan (2008), Stanford (2007), Western Michigan (2005-06), Illinois (2004) and Northern Illinois (1996-03). Shafer is known for being aggressive, as his 2006 defense at Western Michigan led the nation in sacks and his 2007 group at Stanford finished 11th. 

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15. Chip Lindsey, Offensive Coordinator, Auburn

Head coach Gus Malzahn is still going to have a large role in the offense, but Lindsey is set to take over the play-calling duties in 2017. Lindsey arrives in Auburn after one season as the offensive coordinator at Arizona State. Despite a rash of injuries at quarterback, the Sun Devils still averaged 33.3 points per game under Lindsey’s watch in 2016. Prior to Arizona State, Lindsey called the plays for two years at Southern Miss, including the 2015 unit that averaged 39.9 points a contest. Lindsey also has a previous stint at Auburn, as he worked under Malzahn as an offensive analyst in 2013.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Auburn

Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2017

14. Phil Snow, Defensive Coordinator, Baylor

Snow is a grizzled veteran in the assistant ranks. He started his coaching career in 1976 at Berkeley High School and followed with stops at Winters High School and Laney College (1979-81) before landing at Boise State in 1982. After five years with the Broncos, Snow spent time with California, Arizona State, UCLA, Washington, Eastern Michigan and in the NFL with the Lions before joining Matt Rhule’s staff at Temple in 2013. The California native engineered a defense that led the American Athletic Conference in scoring defense in 2014 and 2016. Additionally, the Owls allowed just under five yards per play (4.6 and 4.8) in those two seasons. The Bears have a few holes to fill on defense this offseason, but Snow should help this defense progress over the course of the 2017 campaign.

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13. Todd Grantham, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State

Grantham is on his second tour of duty as a defensive coordinator in the SEC. Prior to a three-year stint at Louisville (2014-16), Grantham worked at Georgia from 2010-13 as the program’s defensive signal-caller. During the last three seasons with the Cardinals, Grantham built a defense that never allowed on average more than 24.1 points per game. Additionally, Louisville finished second in the ACC in fewest yards per play allowed in 2014 and 2016. Grantham also has stops in his career at Virginia Tech (1990-95), Michigan State (1996-98) and in the NFL with the Texans, Browns and Cowboys. Mississippi State’s defense surrendered 31.8 points per game last fall and allowed 6.2 yards per play. Expect Grantham to make an immediate impact and generate marked improvement for the Bulldogs’ defense in 2017. 

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Mississippi State

12. Jerry Kill, Offensive Coordinator, Rutgers

Kill is back on the sidelines since stepping down as Minnesota’s head coach during the 2015 season due to health reasons. Kill’s arrival is a boost for a Rutgers offense that managed only 9.6 points per game in Big Ten action and was held without a point in four contests. The Kansas native hasn’t worked in the offensive coordinator role since 1993 at Pittsburg State, but he was a successful head coach at five different stops – Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois and Minnesota – since that season. In addition to his play-calling duties and work with quarterbacks, Kill’s experience and veteran leadership should be a valuable asset to second-year coach Chris Ash. 

College football rankings: Rutgers

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017

11. Tim DeRuyter, Defensive Coordinator, California

New California head coach Justin Wilcox has spent the past 11 seasons as a defensive coordinator, and his arrival should immediately help a group that surrendered 42.6 points a game in 2016. But he’s also going to have plenty of help with DeRuyter working as the team’s defensive coordinator following a stint as Fresno State’s head coach. DeRuyter and Wilcox both have roots in the 3-4 scheme, which will require some juggling of the personnel this offseason. However, DeRuyter has a track record of success from stints as a defensive coordinator at Texas A&M (2010-11) and at Air Force (2007-09). The 2009 version of Air Force’s defense limited opponents to just 15.7 points a game and forced 34 turnovers. California has finished last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense in three out of the last four seasons. Expect DeRuyter and Wilcox to significantly help this unit improve over the next couple of years.

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10. Troy Taylor, Offensive Coordinator, Utah

Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah has not finished higher than eighth in the conference in scoring offense. Additionally, the Utes have only averaged 30 or more points a game (2014-15) twice in that span. While coach Kyle Whittingham has no trouble building some of the Pac-12’s top defenses, Utah needs more out of its offense to win the South Division. Taylor comes to Salt Lake City after spending 2016 as Eastern Washington’s offensive coordinator. Under his watch, the Eagles ranked second in the FCS in total offense (529.6 ypg), first in passing (401.0 ypg), third in scoring (42.4 ppg) and averaged 6.98 yards per play. Prior to 2016, Taylor worked as co-head coach at Folsom High School from 2012-15 and previously from 2002-04. The former California quarterback worked as an assistant in Berkeley from 1996-99 and also served as the team’s radio analyst from 2005-11. Considering Taylor’s background in working with quarterbacks and passing offenses, his arrival should significantly help Utah’s passing attack in 2017 and beyond.

NCAAF Top 25 Rankings: Utah

Related: College Football 2017 All-America Team

9. Chip Long, Offensive Coordinator, Notre Dame

Brian Kelly has always played a major role in the play-calling and game planning since arriving at Notre Dame in 2010. However, Kelly is planning to hand over the full-time offensive coordinator duties to Long this year. Long has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks since starting his career at Louisville (2006-07) as a graduate assistant. After two years with the Cardinals, he worked at Arkansas (2008-09) under Bobby Petrino as a graduate assistant and spent two years at Illinois (2010-11) as a tight ends coach. Long was hired at Arizona State by Todd Graham in 2012 and remained a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator until he followed Mike Norvell to Memphis in 2016. Long handled the offensive coordinator role for the Tigers in 2016, guiding the Memphis attack to an average of 38.8 points per game and 6.3 yards per play. 

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Notre Dame

8. Matt Canada, Offensive Coordinator, LSU

For LSU to challenge Alabama in the SEC West, new coach Ed Orgeron had to shake things up on offense. So far, so good. The Tigers played better on offense after Les Miles and Cam Cameron were dismissed, and Orgeron helped the offense take another step forward with the hire of Canada as the team’s new play-caller. Canada comes to Baton Rouge after one year at Pitt. Under Canada’s direction, the Panthers ranked second in the ACC by averaging 40.9 points a game and 6.71 yards per play. Prior to Pitt, Canada called the plays for three seasons (2013-15) at NC State and had two one-year stints as an offensive coordinator at Wisconsin (2012) and Northern Illinois (2010). He also worked as the offensive coordinator at Indiana from 2007-10. Canada isn’t going to go away from the ground game, but he should help LSU’s passing offense and quarterback play improve over the next couple of seasons.

LSU Football Schedule

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2017

7. Bob Diaco, Defensive Coordinator, Nebraska

Nebraska’s defense hasn’t quite resembled some of the standout Blackshirt groups since Mike Riley took over this program prior to the 2015 season. The Cornhuskers ranked ninth in conference-only games by giving up 28.4 points per game in 2015. This unit was slightly better in 2016, finishing seventh in the Big Ten (conference-only matchups) by holding offenses to 23.8 points per game. Nebraska also ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in yards per play allowed in both seasons (5.9 in 2015 and 5.5 in 2016) and have accumulated only 50 sacks over the last two years. Riley swapped long-time assistant Mark Banker in favor of Bob Diaco and plans on transitioning to a 3-4 scheme this fall. Diaco was previously the head coach at UConn and also made stops as a coordinator at Notre Dame and Cincinnati. His 2012 defense with the Fighting Irish limited opponents to 12.8 points per game and was a big reason why Notre Dame reached the national title game. Additionally, in five seasons as a coordinator, Diaco never had a defense allow more than 23.1 points per game on average at the end of a year. Transitioning to the 3-4 may take a season, but Diaco’s hire should pay dividends for the overall performance of Nebraska’s defense.

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Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

6. Doug Meacham, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas

After three seasons at TCU, Meacham is making a move north to Kansas. Under Meacham’s watch, the Horned Frogs showed marked improvement on offense. Meacham inherited a unit that averaged only 25.1 points per game in 2013 but improved to over 40 points per contest from 2014-15. TCU averaged 6.1 yards per play last season but slipped to eighth in the Big 12 in scoring last year. Prior to TCU, Meacham called the plays at Houston in 2013 and previously worked at Oklahoma State from 2005-12. Head coach David Beaty has Kansas moving in the right direction, and the addition of Meacham should instantly help an offense that ranked last in the Big 12 in scoring last fall.

College Football Rankings: Kansas

5. Beau Baldwin, Offensive Coordinator, California

Even though new coach Justin Wilcox was hired to help California improve its overall approach and performance on defense, the Golden Bears are still going to be prolific on offense. That’s largely due to the arrival of Baldwin after spending the last nine years as Eastern Washington’s head coach. Under Baldwin’s direction, the Eagles went 85-32, claimed the 2010 FCS national title and earned six trips to the playoffs. Baldwin also went 10-3 in one year as Central Washington’s head coach (2007). In addition to his success as a head coach, Baldwin has been regarded for his work on offense and with quarterbacks. Over the last five seasons at Eastern Washington, Baldwin’s offenses did not rank lower than 18th nationally in scoring. Additionally, the 2014 version – led by former Oregon signal-caller Vernon Adams – led the FCS by averaging 44.1 points per game.

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Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2017

4. Mike Elko, Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame

The defense was the backbone of Notre Dame’s run to the national title game in 2013, but this unit has slipped since Bob Diaco left South Bend. However, coach Brian Kelly took a big step in addressing this side of the ball by hiring Elko after three seasons at Wake Forest. Under Elko’s watch, the Demon Deacons did not allow more than 5.6 yards per play on average and finished third in the ACC in 2016 by limiting opponents to 22.2 points a game. Last year’s defense also generated 41 sacks and tied for the ACC lead with 27 turnovers generated. Prior to Wake Forest, Elko had stops at Bowling Green (2009-13), Hofstra (2006-08), Richmond (2004-05) and Fordham (2002-03).

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Notre Dame

3. Jim Leavitt, Defensive Coordinator, Oregon

For the most part, Oregon’s defense has struggled since long-time coordinator Nick Aliotti retired following the 2013 season. But new coach Willie Taggart took a significant step towards addressing this unit with the hire of Leavitt. The Texas native arrives after spending the last two years at Colorado. Leavitt inherited a defense that gave up 39 points in 2014 and improved significantly under his watch. The Buffaloes gave up 27.5 points per contest in Leavitt’s first year (2015) and ranked among the Pac-12’s top defenses by holding opponents to just 21.7 per game last fall. Additionally, the Buffaloes finished 16th nationally by limiting offenses to just 4.8 yards per play in 2016. Leavitt has previous stops on his resume from stints with the 49ers (2011-14), USF as the program’s head coach (1996-09), and as an assistant at Kansas State from 1990-95. Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Oregon in recent years. With Taggart expected to keep the Ducks’ attack near the top of the Pac-12, Leavitt’s arrival should ensure Oregon’s defense now ranks among the best in the conference in the near future.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Oregon

2. Todd Orlando, Defensive Coordinator, Texas

Orlando worked under new Texas coach Tom Herman for the last two years at Houston and takes over a Longhorn defense that ranked eighth in the Big 12 by surrendering 31.5 points per game last fall. Orlando’s arrival should provide instant help for Texas, especially with a strong personnel foundation in place at each level. Under Orlando’s direction, Houston’s defense limited opponents to 20.7 points per game in 2015 and 23.5 per contest last year. The Cougars also led the nation in forced turnovers (35) in 2015 and generated 75 sacks over the last two seasons. Prior to Houston, Orlando called the defensive signals at Utah State (2013-15), FIU (2011-12) and UConn (2005-10). He’s a rising star and a future head coach at the FBS level.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Texas

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2017

1. Ryan Day/Kevin Wilson, Co-Offensive Coordinators, Ohio State

Even though Ohio State finished 2016 ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring offense and yards per play, it was clear change was needed following the CFB Playoff loss to Clemson. Since Tom Herman left Columbus, the Buckeyes haven’t the same level of explosiveness or rhythm on offense. However, that should change in 2017, as former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is set to take over the play-calling duties, with Ryan Day working as the team’s quarterback coach. Under Wilson’s direction, the Hoosiers averaged over 30 points a game in three out of four years from 2012-15, including a 36.5 mark that led the Big Ten in 2015. Additionally, from 2012-16, Indiana never finished below sixth in the Big Ten in yards per play generated on offense. As evidenced by his tenure at Indiana and previous stints as an offensive coordinator at Northwestern, Oklahoma and Miami (Ohio), Wilson is one of the nation’s top play-callers. With one of college football’s best quarterbacks (J.T. Barrett) to build an offense around, look for Wilson to develop a dynamic attack at Ohio State in 2017 and beyond. 

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Ohio State

Photo credit of California offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin to Al Sermeno, Also courtesy of