Personalities and college football experts on SiriusXM College Sports Nation ranked the nation’s top 16 quarterbacks, running backs, coaching staffs, defenses, head coaches, mascots, stadiums, uniforms and fan bases and you can hear in-depth analysis on College Sports Nation, Ch. 84.
Among those taking part are former Alabama national championship quarterback Greg McElroy, former Miami and North Carolina head coach Butch Davis, College Football Hall of Famer Lou Holtz, hosts Chris Childers, Chris Carlin, Mark Packer, myself as well as producers Mike Garvin, Dan Bezilla and Regina Ham, in a collection of expert polls titled #SXMTop16.
Today, we take a look at the game's top coaching staffs. Chime in with your rankings!
It begins with The Don of College Football Nick Saban but it ends with the best support staff in the game today. In between is arguably the best combination of coordinators in college football with Lane Kiffin and Jeremy Pruitt as well as talented recruiters Tosh Lupoi and Mario Cristobal.
2. Ohio State
Urban Meyer is as good as it gets, but he’s also done a fantastic job replacing rising stars Tom Herman and Chris Ash. Greg Schiano and Luke Fickell are studs on the defensive side while Larry Johnson is an ace recruiter and excellent D-Line coach. The offensive staff should benefit from another year together (and J.T. Barrett starting from Week 1).
Swapping Chad Morris for co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott created some doubt for the Tigers last fall. But those two — and a healthy Deshaun Watson — are now running THE best offense in the game today. Brent Venables has resurrected his career at Clemson and will have his hands full with another rebuild this fall. And there’s never a dull moment in any locker room when Robbie Caldwell is there. This group needs to finish what it started last fall to justify its lofty ranking on this poll.
Bob Stoops reinvented himself last fall with the hiring of offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. And packaged with DC Mike Stoops, the Sooners boast one of the best coordinator combos in the nation. Toss in experienced position coaches like Tim Kish and Kerry Cooks and Oklahoma boasts one of the best top-to-bottom staffs in the nation.
Jim Harbaugh lost his defensive coordinator to a head coaching job at a Power 5 school and he might have upgraded. That’s how highly revered Don Brown is at running a defense. In fact, the Wolverines might have the best defensive staff in the nation with Brown, Greg Mattison, Michael Zordich and Chris Partridge all on one side of the ball. Jedd Fisch, Jay Harbaugh and Tim Drevno round out a quality offensive staff as well.
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Losing longtime defensive line coach Randy Hart this year hurts this staff, but David Shaw turns to Lance Anderson, Diron Reynolds, Peter Hansen and Duane Akina to continue Stanford’s elite defensive tradition. The offensive staff isn’t as star-studded but Mike Bloomgren, Tavita Pitchard, Lance Taylor and Morgan Turner know how to develop talent – and what to do with No. 5.
7. Michigan State
Replacing Pat Narduzzi wasn’t easy but Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel proved plenty capable in their Big Ten championship debut as co-defensive coordinators. Jim Bollman and Dave Warner don’t overthink things on offense either. Loyalty and stability is big part of what has made Mark Dantonio’s staff so successful.
Reinvention is a difficult thing for old football coaches to do but Gary Patterson did it to perfection when he hired Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to run his offense two years ago. Jarrett Anderson will earn his money this fall with a rebuilt offensive line this summer, but he has been in Fort Worth for 19 years. On defense, there are no real concerns as long as GP is running the ship. Coordinator Chad Glasgow and D-Line coach Dan Sharp have been at TCU for a combined 40 years in various roles.
9. Notre Dame
Don’t be distracted by the mustache, Brian VanGorder knows how to coach defense. Brian Kelly also has Bob Elliott, Keith Gilmore, Mike Elston and Todd Lyght helping out on the defensive side. Meanwhile, Mike Sanford and Mike Denbrock are more than enough to assist in the offense.
Dave Aranda was arguably THE best assistant hire in the entire nation. He’s a fabulous defensive coordinator and should give Les Miles stability on that side of the ball. Package him with ace recruiter and D-Line extraordinaire Ed Orgeron and the Tigers D should be downright nasty in 2016. Offensively, this unit needs to prove itself.
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11. Florida State
This might be one of the more underrated staffs on this list and it’s still sitting near the top 10. Rick Trickett, Tim Brewster, Jay Graham and Randy Sanders form a solid group on offense (and on the recruiting trail) while Charles Kelly continues to grow into the role of defensive coordinator.
Aside from Aranda, Bob Shoop was the best hire in college football this offseason. Packaged with experienced offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, Butch Jones boasts one of the best sets of coordinators in football. This staff is a great mix of experienced veterans to the SEC and rising coaching names that may soon be getting promotions. This is a great coaching staff.
Defensively, this staff is as good as any in the nation with Pete Kwiatkowski, Bob Gregory and Jimmy Lake leading the way. Meanwhile, Jonathan Smith enters his third season running the offense after two seasons in Seattle. A breakthrough is coming for this group.
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The Ducks have experienced A LOT of turnover over the last few years, dropping this staff from one of the nation’s elite just a few years ago to middle of the Pac-12 last fall. However, the addition of Brady Hoke to the defense gives this group immediate life. There’s still a lot of experience with this group.
15. Ole Miss
This staff is sort of an enigma. Hugh Freeze has done some amazing things at Ole Miss and coordinators Dave Wommack, Dan Werner, Jason Jones and Matt Luke have done some great work. However, this group is under NCAA fire and Chris Kiffin is a featured prominently in the ongoing investigation.
In very short order, Kirby Smart has assembled a well respected group of coaches. Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman on offense form a solid foundation while Mel Tucker shows up with some shiny jewelry to show for his one year on the defensive side of the ball at Alabama. This group has loads of upside.
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