March 1, 2011

Dienhart: Football assistant dream team

Here it is, college football's dream-team staff, a veritable who's who of the best assistants.

Any head coach building a staff would love to have this collection of coaches.

Coordinator: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
The buzz: Perhaps the hottest assistant in the nation, Malzahn, 45, was coaching at Springdale (Ark.) High as recently as 2005. Now, he's the brightest star in the assistant coaching ranks. And he is paid like it, earning $1.3 million; he is the highest-paid assistant in the country. Malzahn's innovative offense helped propel Auburn to the BCS title and Cam Newton to the Heisman last season.
Quarterbacks: Shawn Watson, Louisville
The buzz: Watson, 51, brings a wealth of experience to Derby City, having most recently served as offensive coordinator at Nebraska. Watson, a passing-game guru, also has coordinated the offense at Colorado and was head coach at FCS member Southern Illinois.
The buzz: The former Marine and Vietnam vet is as tough as a truck-stop steak. The diminutive Trickett's take-no-prisoners style endears him to his pupils. He's an excellent teacher and motivator who understands line games better than anyone. No coach gets more out of his players than the Harley-riding Trickett.
Running backs: Burton Burns, Alabama
The buzz: Before going to Tuscaloosa, the personable-but-demanding Burns helped build some prolific offenses at Clemson, where he helped produce six of the top 10 attacks in school history. At Alabama, Burns, 57, coached 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram and has a stable of backs that routinely rate among the nation's best.
Tight ends: Joe Rudolph, Wisconsin
The buzz: Rudolph, a former Wisconsin guard, coached Lance Kendricks, a Mackey Award finalist last season who led the Badgers in catches and also was a top blocker. In 2009, Badgers tight ends accounted for 86 catches, 1,014 yards and 10 touchdowns. The group was led by first-team All-Big Ten selection Garrett Graham. In his first season as an assistant in 2008, Rudolph, 39, coached a talented group that was decimated by injuries throughout the season but still was a productive unit.
Receivers: Lee Hull, Maryland
The buzz: An underrated assistant, Hull's first prized prospect was Oregon State's Mike Hass, who won the 2005 Biletnikoff Award. At Maryland, Hull, 45, continued to do excellent work and groomed Darrius Heyward-Bey into a first-round draft pick. He also oversaw Torrey Smith's rise to stardom in the ACC.
The buzz: One of the nation's most underrated defensive minds, Casteel is a master of the 3-3-5 set. He may have done his best coaching job yet last season, when the Mountaineers' defense led the Big East and ranked third in the nation (261.1 ypg). Casteel's defense gave up just three rushing TDs this season, which ties the fewest allowed this century. No one gets more out of less.
The buzz: Playing d-line is all about passion and energy. And no coach emotes fire and brimstone better than Orgeron, an uber-passionate coach who inspires his players. In addition, Orgeron, 49, is a primo recruiter who never is outworked.
The buzz: One of the game's most respected minds, Johnson, 59, has few peers when it comes to scheming and game-planning. Johnson, who doubles as the Gamecocks' defensive coordinator, was the coach for three seasons at The Citadel, an FCS program, and also has been a coordinator at Mississippi State, Alabama, Clemson, Southern Miss and Appalachian State.
Defensive backs: Phil Parker, Iowa
The buzz: The strength of the Hawkeyes' defense usually is the secondary. And it's because of Parker, 47, who has been in Iowa City for 12 seasons. He turned Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash into star players in recent years while also grooming the likes of Antwan Allen, Bradley Fletcher, Bob Sanders, Sean Considine and Charles Godfrey, among others.
Coordinator: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
The buzz: He pushed the buttons on one of the greatest offenses in Big Ten history last season. Over the course of the Big Ten season, the Badgers averaged 45.2 points, the second-highest total in conference history. That only added to his allure. A few years ago, the Dallas Cowboys wooed him. This offseason, Chryst, 45, was offered Texas' offensive coordinator job but opted to stay in Madison.
The buzz: He brings a wealth of experience to the Heights, having served as quarterbacks coach the past five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Rogers, 59, also has coached quarterbacks at Virginia Tech and has been offensive coordinator with Notre Dame and Syracuse.
The buzz: One of the game's most respected line coaches, Wickline, 52, has helped develop a dynamic ground game in Stillwater. He also has groomed some impressive blockers over the years, including Russell Okung, Charlie Johnson, Max Starks, Everett Lindsay and Kelvin Garmon, among others.
Running backs: Dana Dimel, Kansas State
The buzz: He is the guy who turned former JC quarterback Daniel Thomas into one of the nation's top running backs last season. Dimel, 48, is a former head coach at Wyoming and Houston. He also serves as K-State's co-offensive coordinator and has sent 34 players to the NFL as a head coach or assistant.
Tight ends: Danny Pearman, Clemson
The buzz: Pearman, 46, knows the ACC, having coached at North Carolina, Duke and Maryland in addition to Clemson. Pearman a former Clemson tight end who also coaches offensive tackles, made Michael Palmer an All-ACC tight end in 2009, when Clemson tight ends combined for 54 catches -- the most for the position at the school.
Receivers: Billy Gonzales, LSU
The buzz: The 39-year-old, who doubles as the Tigers' passing game coordinator, tutored some top receivers for five years at Florida before moving to LSU after the 2009 season. The Urban Meyer protégé has had seven receivers picked in the NFL draft, with his star pupils being Percy Harvin and Chad Jackson.
Coordinator: Brent Venables, Oklahoma
The buzz: The fiery Venables, who arrived in Norman with Bob Stoops in 1999, is the brains behind what annually is one of the nation's top defenses. Venables, 40, runs an attacking defense and has earned a reputation for being a master game-planner who knows how to counterpunch and adapt.
The buzz: The long-time SEC assistant has groomed the likes of Marcus Stroud, Richard Seymour, Charles Grant and Johnathan Sullivan, among others. Garner, 44, knows how to motivate and relates well to his players. He's also a top-notch recruiter.
The buzz: The fiery Hudson, 44, was one of the country's most underrated defensive coordinators while at East Carolina. At Florida State, he's grooming some of the country's top linebackers while also helping coordinator Mark Stoops run the defense.
The buzz: Martin is the former head coach at Division II power Grand Valley State (Mich.) and now is on the fast track to becoming a head coach in the FBS ranks. Martin, 43, proved his worth at Grand Valley, winning two Division II national titles and more than 91 percent of his games. Last season, his first in South Bend, he significantly improved the secondary.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for He can be reached at, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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