Examining which coordinator hires will have the biggest impact
Whether it was head coaches, coordinators or position coaches, college football's coaching carousel was especially active this offseason. In addition to the 27 changes among head coaches, there were numerous and important hires for coordinators. Oklahoma's Alex Grinch takes the top spot as the No. 1 coordinator hire for 2019, followed by three offensive play-callers in Ole Miss' Rich Rodriguez, Florida State's Kendal Briles, and Miami's Dan Enos. Of the top 10 hires by Athlon Sports, seven were on the offensive side of things.
Which teams made the best coordinator hires in college football for 2019? Here are 35 hires at offensive or defensive coordinator from all 130 FBS teams ranked based on impact for 2019.
College Football's Top 35 Coordinator Hires for 2019
35. Bob Stitt, Offensive Coordinator, Texas State
Texas State’s offense won’t lack for entertainment value or offensive acumen with Stitt and coach Jake Spavital teaming up in San Marcos. In addition to a 129-76 record in two stints as a head coach at Colorado Mines (2000-14) and Montana (2015-17), Stitt also spent time as an assistant at Harvard (1999) and in an off-field role at Oklahoma State (2018). During Stitt’s tenure at Montana, the Grizzlies posted back-to-back finishes inside the top 12 in FCS in scoring offense (2017-18). Stitt is known for his creativity and innovation on offense, especially when it relates to the fly sweep touch pass.
34. Joe Cauthen, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Houston
Cauthen returned to his home state of Texas after spending the last five years working as the defensive coordinator at Arkansas State. Under Cauthen’s watch, the Red Wolves finished second in the Sun Belt in scoring defense in 2016 and consistently ranked near the top of the league in sacks generated and turnovers forced. Cauthen will share the co-defensive title with Doug Belk.
33. Derrick Ansley, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee
Jim Chaney wasn’t the only big-time addition to Tennessee’s staff this offseason. Ansley arrives in Knoxville after a one-year stint with the Raiders. In addition his recruiting prowess, Ansley has established an impressive resume with stops as an assistant at Tennessee (2012), Kentucky (2013-15) and Alabama (2016-17). As evidenced by coach Jeremy Pruitt’s decision to hand play-calling duties to Ansley, he has a lot of confidence in the Alabama native to help develop this unit in 2019 and beyond. Ansley will share the coordinator title with Chris Rumph.
32. Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator, Utah State
Sanford’s tenure as WKU’s head coach ended after only two seasons, but he’s a big-time pickup for Utah State coach Gary Andersen. The former Boise State quarterback has worked as an assistant at Yale, WKU, Stanford, Boise State, and Notre Dame. In Sanford’s only year as Boise State’s offensive coordinator (2014), the Broncos led the Mountain West by averaging 39.7 points a game. Sanford’s experience working with quarterbacks should be a valuable asset for Utah State signal-caller Jordan Love.
31. Bodie Reeder, Co-Offensive Coordinator, North Texas
With Mason Fine back at quarterback and a deep group of skill players in place, Reeder is stepping into one of the best situations for any new coordinator. The former Eastern Illinois quarterback worked at Oklahoma State from 2014-16 before calling the plays at Eastern Washington for the last two seasons. Under Reeder’s direction, the Eagles averaged 34.5 points a game in 2017 and 43.1 in ’18. At just 32 years old, he’s a rising star to monitor on Seth Littrell’s staff in Denton. Tommy Mainord will share the co-offensive coordinator title with Reeder.
30. Andy Avalos, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Oregon
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal continued to put his stamp on the program by luring Avalos away from his alma mater (Boise State) to call the defensive signals in Eugene. The California native spent the last seven years working with the Broncos, including the final three as defensive coordinator. Under Avalos’ direction, Boise State never finished below fourth in the Mountain West in scoring defense and held teams to 4.83 yards a play in 2017. Ace recruiter and safeties coach Keith Heyward will share the co-defensive coordinator title with Avalos.
29. Glenn Spencer, Defensive Coordinator, FAU
After watching his defense give up 31.8 points a game last season, FAU coach Lane Kiffin is turning to Spencer to get the Owls back on track. And if last season was any indication, Spencer is certainly up to the task of generating improvement in one year. The Georgia native worked from 2008-17 at Oklahoma State and held the coordinator title from 2011-17. He took over as Charlotte’s defensive coordinator prior to 2018 and helped the 49ers limit teams to 26.6 points a game (down from 32.8 in ’17) and 5.78 yards a play (vs. 6.2). His experience and familiarity with the division from last season at Charlotte should pay dividends for FAU in 2019.
28. Brian Newberry, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Navy
Newberry arrives in Annapolis after spending the last four years working as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Kennesaw State. Under Newberry’s watch, the Owls finished 26th or lower in the FCS in scoring defense in all four seasons and ranked seventh (2017-18) in back-to-back years. He will share the defensive coordinator title with veteran assistant Brian Norwood.
27. Brad Lambert, Volunteer Defensive Assistant, Marshall
Despite the unusual title (volunteer defensive assistant), Lambert is expected to call the defensive signals for Marshall in 2019. This will be Lambert’s second stint with the Thundering Herd, as he worked under Jim Donnan from 1990-95. The Kansas native also has stops on his resume from stints at Georgia and Wake Forest and went 22-24 as Charlotte's head coach from 2011-18 (49ers didn't start play until 2013). Lambert’s familiarity with the conference and experience should help keep Marshall’s defense near the top of Conference USA.
26. Kerwin Bell, Offensive Coordinator, USF
Bell arrives in Tampa after guiding Valdosta State to the 2018 Division II national title and a 27-7 record from 2016-18. The former Florida quarterback also went 66-35 as Jacksonville’s head coach from 2007-15. Bell’s offenses at Valdosta State averaged over 30 points a game from 2016-17 but exploded in ’18. The Blazers used a balanced attack to average 52 points a contest and 7.9 yards a play. Bell inherits plenty of talented pieces and should help fix a USF offense that failed to score more than 25 points in each of its last five contests.
25. Adam Fuller, Defensive Coordinator, Memphis
Memphis coach Mike Norvell has had to deal with a lot of turnover among his assistants over the last two offseasons, but he consistently hires good coaches to restock his staff. Fuller is one of those hires, as he arrives in Memphis after spending 2013-18 at Marshall, including the last season as defensive coordinator. The Thundering Herd allowed only 21.8 points a game, 4.82 yards a play, ranked second in C-USA versus the run, and gave up just four plays of 50 yards or more last fall.
24. Bryan Brown, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Louisville
Brown has been on a fast rise through the assistant ranks since his playing career ended in 2006 at Ole Miss. The Mississippi native spent time working in graduate assistant or in off-field roles at Rutgers, Delta State and Ole Miss before landing at Appalachian State in 2012. He worked with the secondary from 2012-17 before taking over as the team’s play-caller in 2018. The Mountaineers had a standout defense in 2017 but were even stingier with Brown calling the plays. Appalachian State limited teams to 15.5 points a game, 4.4 yards a play and allowed just one play of 50 or more yards. Brown will share the defensive coordinator title with Cort Dennison.
23. Steve Sarkisian, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
Sarkisian will be the fourth different full-time offensive coordinator over the last four years for the Crimson Tide. The former BYU quarterback spent time in Tuscaloosa in an off-field role in 2016 and was elevated to offensive coordinator prior to the '17 national championship-winning campaign. Sarkisian left that offseason to call the plays for the Falcons and directed an offense that finished 10th in the NFL in scoring in 2018. He also went 46-35 as a head coach in stops at Washington and USC. The California native has a wealth of experience working with quarterbacks and should be a valuable sounding board for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this fall.
22. Will Hall, Offensive Coordinator, Tulane
Tulane is coming off its best season (7-6) under Willie Fritz’s watch but the fourth-year coach isn’t sitting idle this offseason. Instead, Fritz hired Hall to coordinate the offense and help spark a unit that has not finished higher than eighth in the AAC in scoring over the last three years. Hall’s usage of tempo should provide a boost to an offense that features an experienced quarterback in Justin McMillan and plenty of talent at the skill positions. Hall spent the 2018 season as an assistant at Memphis and called the plays at Louisiana (28.2 ppg) in ’17. The Mississippi native also went 25-11 as West Alabama’s head coach (2011-13) and 31-9 at West Georgia (2014-16).
21. David Yost, Offensive Coordinator, Texas Tech
In addition to his terrific hair, Yost has worked as a coordinator or assistant on some prolific offenses. The Ohio native worked from 2001-12 at Missouri and later spent three years (2013-15) on Mike Leach’s staff at Washington State. Yost worked at Oregon in 2016 before joining Matt Wells at Utah State. The Aggies averaged 30.2 points a game in 2017 (up from 23.9 in ’16) and led the Mountain West in scoring (47.5) in ’18. Yost also has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks, which should be crucial to helping Alan Bowman take a step forward as a sophomore.
20. Mike MacIntyre, Defensive Coordinator, Ole Miss
Ole Miss has finished 13th or worse in scoring defense in the SEC over the last three years, so MacIntyre’s arrival is a critical move for Matt Luke’s tenure in Oxford. MacIntyre has spent the last nine years as a head coach, going 16-21 at San Jose State from 2010-12 and 30-44 at Colorado (2013-18). The Florida native brings NFL experience (2003-06 with Cowboys and ’07 with Jets) to Oxford and also called the plays at Duke from 2008-09. MacIntyre previously coached at Ole Miss as an assistant from 1999-2002.
19. Greg Mattison/Jeff Hafley, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State
New coach Ryan Day is banking on Mattison and Hafley combining forces to get Ohio State’s defense back on track after an uncharacteristic 2018 season. Mattison has a wealth of experience on this side of the ball, including stops at Texas A&M, Michigan, Notre Dame, Florida and in the NFL with the Ravens. Mattison developed Michigan’s defensive line over the last four years, and this unit played a key role in the Wolverines recording at least 88 tackles for a loss every year in that span. While Mattison is known for his experience working with the defensive front, Hafley has spent most of his career coaching in the secondary. The New Jersey native arrived in Columbus after working with the Buccaneers (2012-13), Browns (2014-15) and 49ers (2016-18) and has previous collegiate experience at Pitt (2006-10) and Rutgers (2011).
18. Dwayne Ledford, Offensive Coordinator, Louisville
New Louisville coach Scott Satterfield is likely to play a significant role in the play-calling duties, but Ledford makes this list due to his ability to develop talent in the trenches. The North Carolina native landed his first coaching gig at Tennessee State in 2010 and spent one season at Gardner-Webb (’11) before joining the staff at Appalachian State. Ledford worked four years as the Mountaineers’ offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator, with the last three under Satterfield. He worked for the last two years at NC State, helping the Wolfpack own one of the ACC’s top lines. Ledford’s group allowed only 24 sacks and produced four all-conference performers from 2016-17.
17. Mark Whipple, Offensive Coordinator, Pitt
Pitt’s rushing attack ranked among the best in the nation last fall, but the Panthers need more out of the passing game. That’s where Whipple’s background and experience should come into play. The veteran coach previously worked in the Steel City from 2004-06 as the Steelers’ quarterbacks coach and has stops as an assistant on his resume at New Hampshire, Brown, Miami and also in the NFL with the Eagles and Browns. Whipple also owns a 137-103 record as a head coach from stints at UMass, Brown and New Haven. He’s been regarded throughout his career for his work in developing quarterbacks and passing attacks.
16. Vic Koenning, Defensive Coordinator, West Virginia
Well-traveled is the best way to describe Koenning’s resume. He landed his first coordinator job at Wyoming in 1997 and stayed in that role until working as a head coach there from 2000-02. Koenning later had stints at Troy (2003-04 and '15-18), Clemson (2005-08), Kansas State (2009), Illinois (2010-11), and North Carolina (2012-14). During Koenning’s second act at Troy, the Trojans never finished below third in the Sun Belt in scoring defense and led the conference in 2017.
15. Kalen DeBoer, Offensive Coordinator, Indiana
Indiana wasn’t shy about its commitment to DeBoer, as athletic director Fred Glass and coach Tom Allen made him the highest-paid coordinator in program history. While the cost was steep, DeBoer was worth the investment. After a 67-3 stint as the head coach at Sioux Falls (2005-09), the South Dakota native became the play-caller at Southern Illinois (2010-13) and Eastern Michigan (2014-16). The Eagles averaged 18.8 points a game in the year prior to DeBoer’s arrival but increased that total to 29.6 in 2016. DeBoer spent the last two seasons working with Jeff Tedford at Fresno State. Under DeBoer’s watch, the Bulldogs increased their scoring average by 10 points from 2016 to ’17 and averaged 34.6 points a game last fall.
14. Pete Golding, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
Golding’s role on defense increased over the course of the 2018 season, but he’s set to assume the full-time coordinator role this fall. The Louisiana native has moved quickly through the coaching ranks, as he started as a graduate assistant with Delta State in 2006 and eventually landed at Southern Miss in ’14. After two years with the Golden Eagles, Golding took over the play-calling duties at UTSA. The Roadrunners ranked third in Conference USA in scoring defense in 2016 and led the league in ’17. Golding is a rising star to watch as he takes over a talented Alabama defense in 2019.
13. Josh Gattis, Offensive Coordinator, Michigan
Seeking to add more tempo and different looks to Michigan’s offense, Jim Harbaugh is set to hand over the play-calling duties to Gattis in 2019. The former Wake Forest safety started his coaching career at North Carolina as a graduate assistant in 2010 and spent time at Western Michigan (2011), Vanderbilt (2012-13) and Penn State (2014-17) before landing on Nick Saban’s staff as a co-offensive coordinator at Alabama last fall. Gattis is regarded for his work in developing receivers and recruiting and has experience working under some of the top coaches or play-callers in college football (Saban, Franklin, and Joe Moorhead) in his career. Gattis has never been a full-time play-caller for a season, but there’s a lot to like about this hire.
12. Phil Longo, Offensive Coordinator, North Carolina
Mack Brown plans to go with an Air Raid-style approach on offense in his return to Chapel Hill, and Longo is a good fit to make this attack work in 2019 and beyond. The New Jersey native called plays at Minnesota Duluth, Southern Illinois and Slippery Rock before taking over as Sam Houston State’s offensive coordinator in 2014. Under Longo’s watch, the Bearkats averaged over 40 points a game in back-to-back seasons (2015-16) and led all FCS teams by recording 49.5 points a contest in 2016. Longo was hired at Ole Miss prior to the 2017 campaign and guided the offense to over 30 points a game in back-to-back years. The Rebels also finished second in the SEC in yards per play (7.1) and generated 25 plays of 40 yards or more in 2018.
11. Graham Harrell, Offensive Coordinator, USC
Harrell enters a pressure-packed situation at USC, as the Trojans look to rebound from last year’s 5-7 mark. The former Texas Tech quarterback landed his first on-field coaching job at Washington State under Mike Leach in 2015 and took over as North Texas’ offensive coordinator in 2016. Under Harrell’s watch, the Mean Green finished second in Conference USA in scoring in 2017 and tied for first in ’18. Harrell plans to implement an Air Raid-style approach, which should be a good fit to utilize the talent USC returns at receiver and at quarterback with JT Daniels.
10. Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator, Tennessee
Jeremy Pruitt significantly upgraded his staff in Knoxville with the addition of Chaney. The veteran play-caller previously spent time in Knoxville from 2009-12 in the same role and has other stints at the FBS level from Wyoming, Purdue, Arkansas and Pitt. Chaney comes to Knoxville after spending the last three years at Georgia. The Bulldogs averaged 35.4 points a game in 2017 and bumped that total to 37.9 last fall. Additionally, Georgia averaged just over seven yards a play (7.1) in 2018. Chaney’s arrival should be a huge boost to the development of quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
9. Andy Ludwig, Offensive Coordinator, Utah
Ludwig returns to Salt Lake City after spending the last four years as Vanderbilt’s offensive coordinator. The Commodores averaged 6.3 yards a play – the highest mark under Ludwig’s tenure in Nashville – last season and scored 30 or more points in four out of the last five games. Ludwig previously worked at Utah as the team’s offensive coordinator from 2005-08 and held the same role at Fresno State (1998-01), Oregon (2002-04), California (2009-10), San Diego State (2011-12), and Wisconsin (2013-14).
8. Sean Gleeson, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy made one of the most intriguing coordinator hires of the offseason by bringing Gleeson to Stillwater from Princeton. Gundy’s decision to go outside the box for this hire is no surprise considering he picked former play-caller Mike Yurcich away from Shippensburg. Gleeson has made a fast rise through the assistant ranks after starting his coaching career at Fairleigh Dickinson in 2011. He was hired as Princeton’s running backs coach in 2013 and remained in that role until ’16. Gleeson handled the play-calling duties for the Tigers over the last two years and produced prolific attacks. Princeton tied for third in scoring (38.2 ppg) in 2017 and led all FCS teams by recording 47 points a contest in ’18.
7. Jay Bateman, Co-Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina
It’s a bit of a cliche, but Bateman plans to install an attacking scheme in Chapel Hill this offseason. The Virginia native spent the last five years working as the defensive coordinator at Army. Under Bateman’s direction, the Black Knights improved significantly on defense. Army gave up 31.6 points a game in the year prior (2013) to Bateman’s arrival but cut that total to 17.7 last season. The Black Knights also recorded 303 tackles for a loss since 2014. Bateman also has stints as a defensive coordinator from Ball State (2011-13) and Elon (2006-10) on his resume. He will share the defensive coordinator title with Tommy Thigpen.
6. Tom Manning, Offensive Coordinator, Iowa State
Manning returned to Ames this offseason after a one-year stint working as the tight ends coach for the Indianapolis Colts. The Ohio native has extensive ties to Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, as the two were teammates at Mount Union and worked at Toledo from 2009-15. Manning will assume the coordinator role once again this fall. He worked from 2016-17 as the Cyclones’ play-caller and directed an offense that averaged 29.4 points in conference-only matchups, which ranked among the best in school history during the Big 12 era. Manning’s acumen in the trenches is also valuable for an Iowa State offense that needs its line to take a step forward in 2019.
5. Scottie Hazelton, Defensive Coordinator, Kansas State
New Kansas State coach Chris Klieman and Hazelton previously worked together for one season at North Dakota State in 2011. Hazelton departed the staff after the 2011 campaign and spent time at USC (2012), Nevada (2013) and in the NFL with the Jaguars (2014-16) before landing at Wyoming in 2017. The Cowboys gave up 34.1 points a game in the season prior to Hazelton’s arrival. However, Wyoming showed major improvement in his first year calling the plays, as the Cowboys led the Mountain West in scoring defense (17.5 ppg) and finished second in 2018 (22.0 ppg). Wyoming surrendered 6.59 yards a play in 2016 but held teams to less than 4.9 in back-to-back years under Hazelton.
4. Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Miami
New Miami coach Manny Diaz hit a home run by landing Enos as his play-caller in 2019. The Michigan native spent the 2018 season working as Alabama’s quarterback coach and played a key role in the development of Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. Enos arrived in Tuscaloosa after calling the plays at Arkansas from 2015-17. The Razorbacks finished second (35.9 ppg) in the SEC in scoring in 2015 and averaged over six yards a play in two out of Enos’ three years calling the plays. Enos also went 26-36 as Central Michigan’s head coach from 2010-14 and spent time as an assistant at Cincinnati (2004-05) and Michigan State (2006-09).
3. Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Florida State
It’s no secret Briles brings some baggage to Tallahassee from his stint at Baylor. In terms of on-field performance, Briles has certainly produced his share of high-powered offenses. He directed a Houston offense that averaged 43.9 points a game and 6.6 yards a play in 2018 and called the plays at FAU for a prolific attack in 2017. The Owls averaged 40.6 points a game and 6.8 yards a play in Briles’ only year in Boca Raton. After working as an assistant from 2008-14, Briles took over the play-calling duties at Baylor in 2015. The Bears averaged 48.1 points a game that season and posted 34.6 a contest the following year.
2. Rich Rodriguez, Offensive Coordinator, Ole Miss
Rodriguez brings a wealth of experience and a track record of producing successful offenses to Oxford this offseason. The West Virginia native’s ability to develop quarterbacks in his spread attack should bode well for redshirt freshman Matt Corral this season. After a stint as Glenville State’s head coach from 1990-96, Rodriguez jumped onto the college football scene with stints as an offensive coordinator at Tulane (1997-98) and Clemson (1999-2000). He later spent time as a head coach at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona, compiling 118 wins at the FBS level.
1. Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
Addressing the defense was the top offseason priority for Lincoln Riley, and the third-year coach landed a perfect fit in Alex Grinch. The Ohio native spent the 2018 season at Ohio State and previously had an impressive three-year run at Washington State. The Cougars gave up 38.6 points and 6.2 yards a play in the season prior to Grinch’s arrival. However, the defense was significantly better with Grinch at the controls. Washington State allowed 27.7 points a game in 2015 and lowered that total to 25.8 in ’17. The Cougars also ranked near the top of the Pac-12 in forced turnovers in each of Grinch’s three years in Pullman.