Ranking the Big 12 Coordinator Tandems for 2016

Which program has the top coordinator tandem in the Big 12?

Hiring a good staff of assistants and two coordinators capable of controlling their side of the ball in player development and scheme implementation is critical for any FBS head coach. While the head coach hire is the biggest and most important move for any program, good assistant coaches are often the unsung heroes in the overall success for every team.


With that in mind, Athlon Sports continues its countdown to the 2016 season with a look at some of the top coordinator tandems in the nation. The Big 12 features a couple of rising stars in the offensive coordinator ranks, including Baylor’s Kendal Briles and TCU’s Doug Meacham. On defense, West Virginia’s Tony Gibson and Texas Tech’s David Gibbs are two names to watch in 2016.


Ranking the coordinator tandems by conference isn’t easy. Considering there’s often overlap in which coach calls the plays and gets the coordinator designation, Athlon Sports is counting head coaches who control a specific side of the ball for a team. For example, Dana Holgorsen is West Virginia’s play-caller on offense, so he is considered the coordinator for the purpose of this article.


Ranking the Big 12's Coordinator Tandems for 2016
Rank Team   Offensive

Doug Meacham/

Sonny Cumbie

Chad Glasgow*

(Gary Patterson)

Picking TCU as the top coordinator tandem comes with an asterisk, as this takes into account Gary Patterson’s play-calling and design for the defense. Chad Glasgow is listed as the defensive coordinator, but Patterson is the architect on this side of the ball. Meacham’s hire has provided a huge boost for TCU’s offense. The Horned Frogs have ranked near the top of the Big 12 in scoring after finishing eighth in back-to-back years from 2012-13.

2 Oklahoma Lincoln Riley Mike Stoops

Bob Stoops’ decision to hire Lincoln Riley paid big dividends for Oklahoma’s offense last season. In Big 12-only matchups, the Sooners led the league by averaging 47.2 points a game. Riley’s arrival also bolstered the talents of quarterback Baker Mayfield within the team’s new offense. Mike Stoops returned to Oklahoma in 2012 after spending 2004-11 as Arizona’s head coach. He returned to Norman in 2012 and has called the defensive signals over the last four seasons. The Sooners led the Big 12 by holding opponents to 22 points a game last year. 

3 West Virginia

Joe Wickline*

(Dana Holgorsen)

Tony Gibson

Gibson might be one of the nation’s most underrated coordinators, as he’s played a key role in developing West Virginia’s defense over the last two years. The Mountaineers finished second in the Big 12 in scoring defense in 2015. Wickline is listed as the coordinator, but it’s no secret Dana Holgorsen calls the plays and designs the offensive scheme. Surprisingly, West Virginia has not finished higher than fifth in the Big 12 in scoring offense over the last three seasons.

4 Baylor Kendal Briles Phil Bennett

Briles is one of the rising stars in the assistant coach ranks. Despite injuries to Baylor’s top three quarterbacks last season, the Bears still finished 2015 by averaging 48.1 points a game. Bennett has nearly 40 years of experience at the FBS level and has helped the Bears take a step forward on defense over the last few seasons. Baylor led the Big 12 in fewest yards per play allowed (4.75) in 2013 and ranked third in the conference last year.

5 Oklahoma State Mike Yurcich Glenn Spencer

Spencer doesn’t get enough credit on the national level for his work with Oklahoma State’s defense. The Cowboys may give up some yards, but Spencer is focused on points per possession, forcing turnovers and getting timely stops. Yurcich has experienced his share of ups and downs as the play-caller. However, Oklahoma State is coming off its best season in yards per play (6.39) since 2012.

6 Kansas State

Dana Dimel/

Del Miller

Tom Hayes

Sixth might be a little low for this duo. It may not be pretty at times, but Miller and Dimel find a way to generate production on offense. Hayes is entering his 40th year in the coaching ranks and is regarded for his work with defensive backs. The Wildcats ranked inside of the top three in the Big 12 in scoring defense from 2012-14. 

7 Texas Sterlin Gilbert

Vance Bedford*

(Charlie Strong)

There’s a lot of pressure on Gilbert to turn around a Texas offense that has ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in scoring in coach Charlie Strong’s two seasons. Gilbert did not call the plays at Tulsa last year, but the Texas native has worked under two outstanding offensive minds at previous stops – Art Briles (Baylor) and Dino Babers (Bowling Green). Bedford is listed as the coordinator, but this is Strong’s defense. The Longhorns ranked third in the Big 12 (conference-only games) by giving up 28.1 points a game last year.

8 Texas Tech

Eric Morris*

(Kliff Kingsbury)

David Gibbs

Gibbs was regarded as one of the nation’s top coordinator hires last offseason, but Texas Tech’s defense struggled mightily in 2015, surrendering 43.6 points a game. Most of the blame for last year’s problems aren’t due to Gibbs’ play-calling, and the Red Raiders could take a small step forward on defense this season. Morris is listed as the offensive coordinator, but coach Kliff Kingsbury is the play-caller.

9 Iowa State

Tom Manning/

Jim Hofher

Jon Heacock

Manning worked with new Iowa State coach Matt Campbell at Toledo from 2012-15 and was one of the top Group of 5 offensive line coaches during his stint with the Rockets. However, this is his first opportunity to call plays. Heacock also worked under Campbell at Toledo and made previous stops at Purdue, Indiana, Youngstown State and Kent State. Heacock should be a solid pickup for the Cyclones. 

10 Kansas

Rob Likens*

(David Beaty)

Kenny Perry/

Clint Bowen

Likens called the plays for the offense last season, but head coach David Beaty is taking over those duties for 2016. Bowen has the tough assignment of upgrading a defense that surrendered 46.1 points a game last year. The Jayhawks simply need more talent on that side of the ball.


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