August 31, 2011

Top 20 offensive and defensive coordinators

We finished our player rankings Monday, so naturally we've moved on to coaches.

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Tuesday, we ranked the top 20 head coaches. Today, we finish off our preseason rankings by looking at the top 20 defensive coordinators and the top 20 offensive coordinators.

Important to note is that we do not rank head coaches who also serve as coordinators, nor do we rank coordinators whose head coaches call the plays or call the defense.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATORS
BUZZ: Petrino escaped his brother's long shadow by leaving Arkansas and did solid work last season with QB Nathan Scheelhaase, who was a first-year starter. Look for Scheelhaase to become a better passer this season.
19. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii
BUZZ: Rolovich is a proponent of the run-and-shoot, just like former boss/coach June Jones. He has helped develop Bryant Moniz from a walk-on into one of the most productive quarterbacks in FBS history.
BUZZ: Montgomery came with Bears coach Art Briles from Houston. He helped develop Kevin Kolb at Houston and Robert Griffin at Baylor.
BUZZ: This Mike Leach protégé looks like a rising star. He did excellent work in his first season at ECU, especially considering the Pirates underwent a radical scheme change.
BUZZ: The longtime assistant deserves credit for helping develop Tyler Bray last season. He also helped turn Tauren Poole from a bench-warmer to a 1,000-yard rusher.
BUZZ: Littrell is one of those off the Mike Leach coaching tree, and Littrell is given much of the credit for Arizona's potent passing attack.
BUZZ: Bible is a former NFL coordinator, and he did nice work with Russell Wilson the past few seasons. One reason NCSU coach Tom O'Brien was willing to let Wilson transfer out is that he feels Bible's work with backup Mike Glennon has Glennon primed for a big season.
BUZZ: The Beavers annually have some of the most balanced offenses around. They usually run the ball extremely well, and their quarterbacks are productive, as well.
BUZZ: McCall has overseen some powerful offenses with the Wildcats and at Bowling Green. He has had a solid run of productive quarterbacks, from Omar Jacobs and Josh Harris at Bowling Green to Mike Kafka and Dan Persa at Northwestern.
11. Ivin Jasper, Navy
BUZZ: Jasper is one of the best teachers of the triple option around. He was a rumored candidate for Vanderbilt coaching job after last season.
BUZZ: He moved to Ann Arbor along with new coach Brady Hoke after doing an excellent job at San Diego State, which had a 1,500-yard rusher and a 3,800-yard passer. He also was the coordinator at Auburn in the Ronnie Brown/Cadillac Williams era.
BUZZ: This wunderkind proved he could do it at the Big Six level last season, his first with the Red Raiders. Look for the Red Raiders to continue to strive for better offensive balance.
BUZZ: The Tigers really haven't missed a beat since Dave Christensen left to become Wyoming's coach. Yost used to be best-known for his floppy hairstyle, but his coaching was a major reason QB Blaine Gabbert was a high draft pick.
BUZZ: He's just a year removed from high school ball, but he looks to be following the career track of friend Gus Malzahn. He did an excellent job last season at Tulsa ; can he get the same type of results with the Tigers?
BUZZ: The former Tulsa quarterback did a masterful job with QB Andy Dalton in his four seasons with the Horned Frogs. TCU gradually has become a more effective passing team, and Fuente deserves a lot of the credit.
BUZZ: Harsin moves from Boise State to the white-hot spotlight at Texas, which has been mediocre running the ball of late. While Boise has the reputation of being a finesse team on offense, the Broncos actually had powerful downhill rushing attacks under Harsin. His work with a sketchy quarterback situation bears watching.
BUZZ: He failed as the coach at Notre Dame, but no one questions his offensive acumen - with the Irish or the NFL. Last season with the Kansas City Chiefs, he turned Matt Cassell into one of the NFL's most productive quarterbacks. He needs to work his magic on John Brantley this season.
BUZZ: His offenses never are going to be flashy - but they are going to be physical and productive. The former Fresno State assistant has done nice work with the Tide, who have been well-balanced offensively.
BUZZ: Chryst has been the target of some NFL teams and you have to figure eventually he'll return to the pros. But for now, he has a shiny new toy to work with in QB Russell Wilson. Combining Wilson with one of the best rushing attacks in the nation? Hmmm, this could be good.
1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
BUZZ: Malzahn unleashed Cam Newton on the world last season - and the Tigers got a national title out of it. But don't overlook the work he had done at Tulsa or the job he had done with Auburn QB Chris Todd in 2009. Barrett Trotter is his newest pupil, and if Trotter performs well, you have to think Malzahn will be a head coach somewhere next season.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS
20. Bob Diaco, Notre Dame
BUZZ: Irish coach Brian Kelly brought Diaco - a former Iowa linebacker - with him from Cincinnati. Diaco's 3-4 scheme worked well. Notre Dame allowed just one offensive touchdown in the last 15 quarters of the 2010 regular season.
BUZZ: He probably doesn't get enough credit because the assumption is that his brother runs the Huskers' defense. But Carl is known best for some complex blitz schemes. Since the start of the 2009 season, just 12 of the Huskers' 28 foes have scored at least 17 points.
18. Manny Diaz, Texas
BUZZ: Diaz, whose dad used to be mayor of Miami, has done solid work at Middle Tennessee and Mississippi State. Now he needs to work his magic in the big time with the Longhorns.
17. Justin Wilcox, Tennessee
BUZZ: Wilcox, whose dad, Dave, was a longtime NFL linebacker, first made a name for himself at Boise State. When Derek Dooley was hired as Tennessee's coach in early 2010, one of his first moves was to talk Wilcox into moving to Knoxville. Wilcox likes to field aggressive units, and once he gets more talent to work with at the Vols, his defenses could be quite good.
16. Ted Roof, Auburn
BUZZ: Roof is a longtime college assistant who had a short stint as Duke's coach. While Cam Newton and Auburn's offense got all the attention last season, Roof put together a fearsome defensive front that dominated the line of scrimmage in the national championship game. His talent level is down this season, though.
BUZZ: DeRuyter did good work at Air Force but not all that many noticed. Folks started noticing last season, when A&M actually played defense its fans could be proud of. The Aggies aren't back to the "Wrecking Crew" days quite yet, but they appear to be on their way.
BUZZ: Parker is a grizzled coaching vet who doesn't really ask his defense to do anything fancy. Rather, he wants them to line up and smack around the guy in front of them. His defense are fundamentally sound and place a high priority on stuffing the run. But he's not afraid to dial up a timely blitz.
BUZZ: Perhaps no defense in the country improved last season as much as Florida State's progressed under Stoops, who was in his first year as the Seminoles' coordinator after holding the same position for his brother, Mike, at Arizona. The Seminoles were 20th in scoring defense (19.64) and 42nd in total defense (353.71); one year earlier, FSU was 94th in scoring defense (30.0) and 108th in total defense (434.62).
12. Phil Bennett, Baylor
BUZZ: Bennett, a longtime coordinator, has overseen stingy units at Kansas State, Texas A&M and Pittsburgh. He was brought in to overhaul a Bears defense that surrendered at least 38 points in seven games last season. Bennett will run a 4-2-5 set with the Bears.
BUZZ: "The Chief" likes an aggressive, attacking unit, and with the Tigers, he has a bunch of good athletes to do his bidding. At times, he takes too many chances, but opposing coaches know a Chavis-led defense also is going to make a few big plays each game.
10. Kevin Steele, Clemson
BUZZ: Steele has been around a while, including a stint as Baylor's coach. His Clemson defenses have featured some top-fight pass rusher. Clemson traditionally runs a 4-3 defense, but Steele plans to show more 3-4 looks than usual this season.
BUZZ: Longtime Ducks assistant Aliotti fields aggressive, attacking units and loves to blitz - anytime, anywhere, with anybody. Oregon generally has an opportunistic defense and also is a "sum is greater than the parts" unit.
8. Kirby Smart, Alabama
BUZZ: As with Nebraska's Carl Pelini and, to an extent, Oklahoma's Brent Venables, Smart often is overlooked because the assumption is the head coach runs the defense. That's not the case. Smart, a former player at Georgia, likes to blitz out of the 3-4 and is a solid motivator, as well.
BUZZ: Casteel runs an unorthodox 3-3-5 system, but no one can argue with the results. The Mountaineers have allowed more than 20 points per game only once in the past six seasons. Big East opponents have averaged only 16.3 points per game against WVU since 2007. Last season's defense was his best - the Mountaineers ranked in the top three nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rush defense and sacks while holding every opponent to 23 or fewer points.
6. Brent Venables, Oklahoma
BUZZ: He routinely has supervised some of the Big 12's best defenses. The Sooners have ranked among the Big 12's top three in total defense in each of the past six seasons under Venables. He's easily the longest-tenured defensive coordinator in the conference at 12 seasons.
5. Greg Mattison, Michigan
BUZZ: Mattison has won national title rings for his work as a coordinator at Michigan (under Lloyd Carr) and Florida (under Urban Meyer). This is his second go-round with the Wolverines and new coach Brady Hokes was able to coax Mattison away from the Baltimore Ravens, where he had been coordinator for two seasons. Mattison's defense are known for their stout fronts.
BUZZ: Johnson never seems to get the credit he deserves, though he annually oversees some of the best defenses in the nation despite having less-than-elite talent. He places a big emphasis on stifling the run, yet still fields aggressive, attacking units.
BUZZ: Heacock has been a Buckeyes assistant since 1996. The Buckeyes play a 4-3 front and make it a priority to stifle the run; they've allowed more than 100 yards per game rushing just once in the past six seasons.
BUZZ: Entering his 33rd season in State College, Bradley annually fields a strong unit. From 2004-10, Penn State ranked No. 3 overall in the nation in scoring defense (16.4 ppg) and fifth in rushing (107.1 ypg) and total defense (298.7 ypg). From 2004-09, PSU finished in the top 15 in total and scoring defense every season.
BUZZ: Virginia Tech's defense is coming off a rare down season, but it did little to diminish Foster's reputation as one of the nation's premier assistants. He helped the Hokies lead the nation in total defense in 2005 and '06. They also led the nation in scoring defense in 2006. In fact, they had ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in scoring defense for six consecutive seasons before slipping to 26th last season. Even in a season that was relatively disappointing, Virginia Tech still led the nation in turnover margin.

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