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College Football's Top Assistant Coach Hires for 2013


Barring any late movement, college football’s coaching carousel for 2013 has ended.

As with any offseason, there were plenty of changes nationally. Over 100 coordinator jobs have changed hands from 2012 and there were numerous moves among the assistant ranks.

It’s too early to tell which hire is the best but give Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and NC State’s Dave Doeren credit for building excellent staffs at their new jobs.

Another name to watch is Don Brown, moving from Connecticut to Boston College. He helped to coordinate a top-10 defense in Storrs last season and should be a huge asset to a program that has dropped off in recent years.

Which coaching hires will have the most impact for 2013? Keep an eye on these names:

College Football's Top Coordinator Hires for 2013

Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Aranda has been on a fast track through the coaching ranks since serving as a co-defensive coordinator at Delta State in 2007. The California native joined the Hawaii coaching staff as a defensive line coach in 2008 and served in that capacity until the start of the 2010 season when he was promoted to coordinator. In Aranda’s first season as a coordinator, the Warriors led the nation in forced turnovers (38) and scored five defensive touchdowns. In 2011, Hawaii was once again one of the top defenses in the WAC, recording 35 sacks and finishing third in the conference against the run. Aranda joined Utah State for one season and led the Aggies a finish of 14th nationally in yards allowed and seventh in points allowed. Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen will help mold the defense, but Aranda is clearly a coordinator on the rise after his stints at Utah State and Hawaii.

Related Content: 2013 Wisconsin Spring Preview

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Chris Ash, Defensive Coordinator, Arkansas
Ash followed Bret Bielema from Wisconsin to Arkansas and will coordinate the Razorbacks’ defense in 2013. In two years as a coordinator in Madison, the Badgers ranked 15th nationally in total defense in back-to-back seasons. Before coming to Wisconsin, Ash worked at Iowa State from 2002-06 and made a short stop at San Diego State (2007-08), before coming back to Ames in 2009. Ash is considered a good secondary coach, which should help Arkansas improve a pass defense that ranked 113th nationally in 2012.

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Mike Bajakian, Offensive Coordinator, Tennessee
Bajakian has quietly developed into one of the nation’s most underrated coordinators. The New Jersey native has followed Butch Jones at each of his coaching stops, starting with Central Michigan in 2007. Under Bajakian’s watch, the Chippewas were one of the MAC’s top offenses, as he helped tutor record-setting quarterback Dan LeFevour. After three seasons in Mount Pleasant, Bajakian joined Jones for three years in Cincinnati, and the Bearcats finished first or second in scoring in the Big East during his tenure. Tennessee’s offense is in need of repair after quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson left for the NFL. The competition is tougher in the SEC, but Bajakian should ease the transition at quarterback and with the new receiving corps.

Related Content: 2013 Tennessee Volunteers Spring Preview

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Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Boston College
New Boston College coach Steve Addazio seems to be a good fit in Chestnut Hill, and he made one of the top moves of the offseason by hiring Brown from Connecticut. The Massachusetts native has a wealth of experience in the Northeast, including stops at Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, UMass, Northeastern and Maryland. Brown is known as an aggressive coordinator, and he guided the Huskies to a top-10 finish nationally in fewest yards allowed in 2012. Boston College doesn’t have as much talent as Connecticut had on defense in 2012, but the Eagles should improve under Brown’s watch in 2013.

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Neal Brown, Offensive Coordinator, Kentucky
Kentucky is one of the toughest jobs in the SEC, but new coach Mark Stoops has pieced together an excellent coaching staff to turn things around in Lexington. Brown is a perfect fit to direct the Wildcats’ offense, as he played for Kentucky from 1998-2000 and is a native of Danville. Brown has five years of coordinator experience, including the last three at Texas Tech. During his tenure in Lubbock, the Red Raiders averaged 475.7 yards and 34.8 points a game. Life in the SEC will be tougher, but Brown is going to improve Kentucky’s offense.

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Matt Canada, Offensive Coordinator, NC State
Canada is on his third job in three years and reunites with Dave Doeren after one season at Wisconsin. He started his career as a grad assistant at Indiana and worked his way up the ranks to coordinate Northern Illinois’ offense in 2003. After one season as the Huskies’ coordinator, Canada left for Indiana and stayed in Bloomington until 2010, when he joined Doeren at Northern Illinois. In 2011, the Huskies averaged 38.3 points a game, and under Canada’s direction in 2012, Wisconsin averaged 393.3 yards per game and ranked 13th nationally in rush offense. Canada needs to develop a quarterback, but his track record suggests NC State should make a smooth transition to its new offense for 2013.

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Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas
After Derek Dooley was canned at Tennessee, Chaney didn’t have to look far for his next job. The Missouri native stays in the SEC, moving from Knoxville to Fayetteville to coordinate the offense for Bret Bielema. Chaney joined Tennessee in 2009 after a three-year stint in the NFL, leading the Volunteers to an average of 475.9 yards per game in 2012. In addition to his successful stint with Tennessee, Chaney helped tutor Drew Brees at Purdue and also spent time in the NFL as an assistant with the Rams. Bielema was a run-first coach at Wisconsin, and it’s likely Arkansas will keep a similar offensive approach. However, Chaney’s background on offense allows the Razorbacks to implement some spread principles to blend with a pro-style attack.

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Bill Cubit, Offensive Coordinator, Illinois
The Fighting Illini’s offense was a disaster last season, ranking 119th nationally with 296.7 yards per game. Coach Tim Beckman canned co-coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales, which opened the door for Cubit to come to Champaign. The Pennsylvania native was Western Michigan’s head coach from 2005-12 and made stops as an offensive coordinator at Missouri, Rutgers and Stanford. The Fighting Illini’s offense has a lot of question marks, but Cubit’s veteran presence should help this unit escape the Big Ten’s cellar in 2013.

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D.J. Durkin, Defensive Coordinator, Florida
Durkin isn’t a name known to most college football fans, but he is highly regarded among coaches around the nation. He started his career at Bowling Green as a graduate assistant in 2001 and served in a similar role at Notre Dame from 2003-04. He returned to Bowling Green as a defensive assistant in 2005-06 and was hired at Stanford by Jim Harbaugh in 2007. After three years with the Cardinal, Durkin joined Urban Meyer at Florida in 2010 and remained on staff after Will Muschamp was hired. Durkin won’t have to coordinate the defense alone, as Muschamp will have a large say in the game plan. But the Ohio native’s quick rise through the coaching ranks shows just how much confidence Muschamp has in him to lead the defense.

Related Content: 2013 Florida Gators Spring Preview

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D.J. Eliot, Defensive Coordinator, Kentucky
Eliot was Mark Stoops’ right-hand man at Florida State, as he helped to develop some of the Seminoles’ defensive linemen into NFL talent. Eliot has paid his dues in the coaching ranks, spending time as an assistant at Wyoming, Houston, Miami, Texas State, Tulsa and Rice. This will be Eliot’s first time holding the defensive coordinator title, and Stoops will likely have a large role in the defense each week. However, Eliot is a rising star in the coaching ranks and should help Kentucky’s defensive line develop into an SEC-ready unit in 2013. 

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Steve Fairchild, Offensive Coordinator, Virginia
Virginia’s staff got a major overhaul in the offseason, as Mike London hired former NC State coach Tom O’Brien as an assistant, Jon Tenuta replaced Jim Reid as defensive coordinator, and Fairchild was hired after Bill Lazor left for the NFL. Fairchild has a solid resume, spending time as an assistant with San Diego State, New Mexico and Colorado State, before spending seven years in the NFL with the Bills and Rams. He also served as Colorado State’s head coach from 2008-11. Fairchild isn’t going to turn Virginia’s offense into the ACC’s most-prolific unit, but his experience in the NFL should help the Cavaliers find a spark in 2013.

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Tony Franklin, Offensive Coordinator, California
Franklin is highly regarded for his work with spread offenses and has been successful at most of his stops, with the exception of a failed stint at Auburn. The Kentucky native spent the last three years working under Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech and is following Dykes to California. In a wide-open conference like the Pac-12, Franklin’s spread offense should have no trouble getting on track. Give Dykes and Franklin some time and the Bear Raid offense should rank near the top of the Pac-12.

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Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon
The playcalling duties in Eugene will fall on the shoulders of new coach Mark Helfrich, but Frost was promoted to offensive coordinator after Chip Kelly’s departure. The former Nebraska quarterback is a rising star in the coaching ranks and could have a shot to run his own program in the near future.

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Dave Huxtable, Defensive Coordinator, NC State
Huxtable is another well-traveled assistant to make this list of top coordinator hires for 2013. The Illinois native made stops as a coordinator at Georgia Tech, North Carolina and UCF, before joining Bret Bielema’s staff at Wisconsin in 2011. After one year with the Badgers, he followed Paul Chryst to Pittsburgh and led a Panther defense that allowed just 21.1 points a game in 2012. Huxtable’s job won’t be easy in 2013, especially since NC State has to rebuild its linebacking corps and secondary this offseason. However, this looks like a good hire for new coach Dave Doeren.

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Jeff Jagodzinski, Offensive Coordinator, Georgia State
Remember him? Jagodzinski has been nearly invisible since he was fired from Boston College for interviewing for an NFL job in 2008. After the bizarre end to his tenure at Chestnut Hill, Jagodzinski served as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator but was fired before the first game and worked for one year as the head coach for the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks. He also spent 2012 working as the wide receivers coach at Ave Maria University. Jagodzinski is a proven coach and has an NFL background. This is a hire that should pay big dividends for FBS newcomer Georgia State.

Ellis Johnson, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn
As evidenced by his horrendous 0-12 record at Southern Miss last season, Johnson just isn’t cut out to be a head coach. However, the 61-year-old coach is one of the offseason’s top assistant hires, as Gus Malzahn brings the veteran coordinator aboard to coordinate the Tigers’ defense. Johnson is no stranger to life in the SEC, as he coached at Alabama from 1990-93 and then again from 1997-2000. He coordinated the defense at Mississippi State from 2004-07 and at South Carolina from 2008-2011. Johnson should help improve an Auburn defense that allowed 420.5 yards and 28.3 points a game last season.

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Brian Lindgren, Offensive Coordinator, Colorado
At 32 years old, Lindgren is a name to watch in future head coaching searches. He started his coaching career at the University of Redlands in 2005 and moved to Northern Arizona in 2006. Lindgren spent six seasons with the Lumberjacks, before joining Mike MacIntyre at San Jose State in 2012. The Spartans averaged 34.7 points and 446.2 yards per game with Lindgren at the controls last year. Expect Colorado to show marked improvement on offense this year, which only figures to raise Lindgren’s profile even more going into the offseason.

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Clancy Pendergast, Defensive Coordinator, USC
Pendergast should be an improvement over Monte Kiffin, who never seemed to figure out an answer for slowing down spread offenses. In two out of his three seasons coordinating the California defense, the Golden Bears ranked No. 1 in fewest yards allowed. Pendergast is changing USC’s scheme, which has been referred to as a 5-2 scheme in spring reports. With the returning talent, the Trojans should have one of the most-improved defenses in the nation.

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Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Florida State
Pruitt is an interesting choice to replace Mark Stoops as the Seminoles' defensive mastermind. The Alabama native has only been an assistant on the FBS level since 2010 and served under Nick Saban as a secondary coach. While his resume is thin on collegiate experience, Pruitt did work at prep powerhouse Hoover High School in Alabama for three years, including the final two seasons as defensive coordinator. Pruitt doesn’t have much experience, but he is regarded as an excellent recruiter and learned from one of the best at Alabama.

Related Content: 2013 Florida State Spring Preview

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Mike Smith/Matt Wallerstedt, Co-Defensive Coordinators, Texas Tech
The Smith-Wallerstedt combination should work out well for Texas Tech’s defense. The Red Raiders showed improvement on that side of the ball last year and return eight starters for 2013. Smith joins his alma mater after working as an assistant with the Jets, while Wallerstedt comes to Lubbock after one season with Texas A&M. Wallerstedt also has experience as a defensive coordinator from 2010-11 at Air Force and during the 2000-02 seasons at Wyoming. With Smith’s NFL background and Wallerstedt’s experience in defending spread offenses from the Mountain West, this pairing should continue to get Texas Tech’s defense moving in the right direction.

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Jon Tenuta, Defensive Coordinator, Virginia
Tenuta is a well-traveled assistant and is returning to his alma mater after a three-year stint at NC State. He is no stranger to the ACC, as he also has stops at Maryland, North Carolina and Georgia Tech on his resume. Under Tenuta’s watch in 2012, the Wolfpack recorded 2.5 sacks a game and forced 24 turnovers in 13 games. He is known for his aggressiveness, which should help a Virginia defense that managed only 1.4 sacks a game and forced 12 turnovers in 2012.

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Mike Yurcich, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma State
Yurcich was an off-the-radar hire by Mike Gundy, but all signs point to this being a home-run pick. The Ohio native has spent only one season on the FBS level (graduate assistant at Indiana), but he was a successful coordinator at Shippensburg, coordinating an offense that averaged 529.2 yards per game in 2012. Yurcich won’t be asked to make many changes, as Oklahoma State plans on keeping the same offense that Dana Holgorsen and Todd Monken have built over the last few years. Even though his experience on the FBS level is virtually nothing, Yurcich’s performance on the lower levels suggest Oklahoma State’s offense won’t miss a beat.

Related Content: 2013 Oklahoma State Spring Preview

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Six Wait and See Hires for 2013

Cam Cameron, Offensive Coordinator, LSU
Is Cameron the answer for LSU’s sluggish offense? The veteran NFL assistant has to help the Tigers’ passing attack, which has lacked in recent years. Cameron was fired from the Ravens after Week 14 of the 2013 NFL season and has not coached in college since 2001.

Related Content: 2013 LSU Tigers Spring Preview

James Coley, Offensive Coordinator, Miami
Coley is regarded as an excellent recruiter in South Florida but lacks experience as a playcaller. Although Coley held the offensive coordinator designation at Florida State, Jimbo Fisher called the plays for the Seminoles. Coley served as FIU’s playcaller in 2007 – a season in which the Golden Panthers averaged 15.1 points a game.

Dennis Erickson, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Utah
Erickson was brought in to tutor Utah offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, but he will also have the final say on the headsets in 2013. Erickson was out of coaching in 2012, after spending 2007-11 as the head coach at Arizona State. Having a veteran presence like Erickson will help, but Utah has a young quarterback and must replace running back John White.

Scot Loeffler, Offensive Coordinator, Virginia Tech
Loeffler was not impressive during his one-year stint at Auburn, as the Tigers ranked 115th nationally in total offense. However, he was regarded for his work at Michigan from 2002-07 and spent one year in the NFL with the Lions. Loeffler is tasked with getting Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas back on track.

Ron Prince, Offensive Coordinator, Rutgers
Prince had a mediocre 17-20 stint as Kansas State’s head coach from 2006-08. Since then, he’s served as an assistant in the NFL and worked for one year as Virginia’s special teams coach in 2009. From 2003-05, Prince was the Cavaliers’ offensive coordinator under Al Groh, and he directed an attack that averaged at least 26 points a game each year during that span.

Ted Roof, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia Tech
Roof returns to his alma mater looking to turn around a defense that has struggled to improve in recent years. However, he has a shaky resume, as his defenses at Auburn were nothing special, and his one season at Minnesota resulted in a defense that ranked 10th in the Big Ten in yards allowed. While Roof’s defenses have turned in some suspect performances, he did coordinate a Penn State defense that ranked second in the Big Ten in fewest points allowed in 2012.

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