College football's top coordinator hires for 2015

Steven Lassan
Dr. Saturday
FILE - In this April 18, 2015, file photo, Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp walks around the football field in the first quarter during their spring NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. The Tigers are expecting big things from new starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson and new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
FILE - In this April 18, 2015, file photo, Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp walks around the football field in the first quarter during their spring NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. The Tigers are expecting big things from new starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson and new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

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Coordinator changes in college football can have an immediate impact on either side of the ball. Every year, it seems a handful of teams show significant improvement in the win column or on the stat sheet as a result of a coordinator change.

Last season, TCU’s offense improved to one of the best in the nation after the hire of Doug Meacham as the team’s play-caller. Which teams will see the biggest jump from a coordinator hire in 2015? Texas Tech’s David Gibbs (defense), Texas A&M’s John Chavis (defense), Auburn’s Will Muschamp (defense) and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley are just a few names to watch this fall.

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Here’s a look at some of the top coordinator hires to watch in 2015.

Tim Beck/Ed Warinner, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

Beck and Warinner have big shoes to fill in 2015. This duo is tasked with replacing Tom Herman after he left to be the coach at Houston. Urban Meyer is always involved prominently with the offense, but the Beck/Warinner combination should be a good setup for the Buckeyes. Beck and Warinner worked together at Kansas from 2005-07, helping to guide a Jayhawk offense that averaged 42.3 points per game in 2007. Warinner is regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches.

Tom Bradley, Defensive Coordinator, UCLA

Bradley was a long-time assistant at Penn State from 1979-11 and departed Happy Valley prior to Bill O’Brien’s arrival in 2012. After sitting out the 2012-13 seasons, Bradley resurfaced at West Virginia as a defensive assistant in 2014 and was hired by coach Jim Mora to call the defensive signals in 2015. Under Bradley’s watch, the Nittany Lions led the Big Ten in fewest points allowed in 2009 and 2011.

Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor

Briles inherits the play-calling duties after Philip Montgomery left to be the head coach at Tulsa.Briles has worked on his father’s staff since 2008 and guided the Bears’ offense to an average of 7.9 yards per play in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State.

Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh

Chaney is on his fourth stop in the FBS ranks as a play-caller, joining new coach Pat Narduzzi’s staff after a two-year stint in Arkansas. Chaney also called the plays at Purdue and Tennessee prior to joining the Razorbacks. The Missouri native has a versatile background, which includes experience with the spread and power rushing attacks.

John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Defense has been Texas A&M’s biggest issue since joining the SEC in 2012. The Aggies gave up 36.5 points in SEC contests in 2013 and 36.6 in 2014. However, improvement should be noticeable in 2015. Chavis is regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation and has worked as a play-caller in the SEC since 1995. The South Carolina native was a huge hire for coach Kevin Sumlin, and the Aggies are starting to trend in the right direction on defense.

Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

Chizik returns to the sidelines for the first time since he was fired as Auburn’s head coach at the end of the 2012 season. Even though Chizik’s stints as a head coach were mixed – he did win a national championship with the Tigers and spent two years as the head coach at Iowa State – he is regarded for his work as a defensive coordinator. Chizik has previously called the plays at Texas, Auburn and UCF. He’s tasked with improving a defense that allowed 6.5 yards per play and surrendered 39 points a game last season. 

Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Florida

The “Minister of Mayhem” should keep Florida’s defense near the top of the SEC. Despite a sluggish offense under former coach Will Muschamp, the Gators never finished lower than sixth in the SEC in points allowed from 2011-14. Mississippi State’s defense was a big reason why the Bulldogs won 10 games in 2014, and Collins inherits a solid core of defensive talent in Gainesville.

Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh

Conklin is a rising star in the assistant ranks and was picked by defensive guru Pat Narduzzi to call the signals for Pittsburgh’s defense. The Wyoming native started his coaching career in 2003 and was hired at Tennessee in 2012, before landing his first FBS coordinator position at FIU in 2013. The Panthers ranked third in Conference USA in scoring defense and generated 33 turnovers last season. 

Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State

Diaz was considered a rising star when he was hired by Mack Brown at Texas in 2011. However, the Longhorns regressed on defense after a promising 2011 season, and Diaz was removed as the coordinator in 2013. Even though his tenure in Austin was a disappointment, Diaz bounced back at Louisiana Tech in 2014, as the Bulldogs led the nation with 42 turnovers and held opponents to 24.7 points per game. The Miami native returns to Starkville after working as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator in 2010.

D.J. Durkin, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan

The play of Florida’s defense was overlooked during the Will Muschamp era due to the struggles of the offense. Although Muschamp played a huge role in developing the defense, Durkin also deserves a lot of credit. The Ohio native is a highly-regarded assistant and is reunited with Jim Harbaugh after working at Stanford with the former Michigan quarterback from 2007-09. 

Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas

Enos’ decision to leave his position as head coach of Central Michigan for a coordinator job came as a surprise. However, the Michigan native was a good hire for an Arkansas’ offense hoping to increase its passing output in 2015. Enos worked as a quarterback coach from 2004-05 at Cincinnati and 2006 at Michigan State. And at Central Michigan, the Chippewas averaged at least 25 points per game in MAC contests from 2011-14.

David Gibbs, Defensive Coordinator, Texas Tech

Defense has been a major issue at Texas Tech in recent years. Since 2010, the Red Raiders have never ranked higher than seventh in the Big 12 in scoring defense and allowed a whopping 41.3 points per game in 2014. Gibbs takes over in Lubbock after coordinating an aggressive, turnover-driven Houston defense from 2013-14. The Cougars also limited opponents to 20.6 points per game last year. This should be one of the nation’s top hires in 2015.

Danny Langsdorf, Offensive Coordinator, Nebraska

Langsdorf is back in the collegiate ranks after a one-year stint with the Giants. Prior to 2014, Langsdorf worked as Oregon State’s coordinator from 2005-13 and also has stops on his resume from the CFL (Edmonton) and in the NFL (Saints). Langsdorf was a valuable assistant for coach Mike Riley in developing quarterbacks and passing attacks at Oregon State. The Beavers led the Pac-12 in passing offense in 2013 and finished second in 2012.

Jim Leavitt, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado

Leavitt is back in the collegiate ranks after a four-year stint as an assistant with the 49ers. The Texas native previously worked as the head coach at USF from 1996-09 and made a stop as a co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State from 1992-95. Leavitt has a wealth of experience on defense, which is a huge asset to Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre as he looks to improve a defense that allowed 43 points per game in Pac-12 action in 2014.

Will Muschamp, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn

Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Auburn in coach Gus Malzahn’s two-year tenure. However, the defense allowed 32.8 points per game in SEC contests in 2014 and surrendered 29.6 points per contests in 2013. Muschamp’s arrival should pay huge dividends for the Tigers this season, as he’s regarded as one of the top defensive minds in college football. Muschamp didn’t work out at Florida as a head coach, but he should have more success calling the defensive signals for Auburn.

Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri

Memphis showed significant progress under Justin Fuente’s watch over the last three seasons. Fuente has been instrumental in the turnaround, but he also hired a good staff, including Odom as the defensive coordinator. The Tigers gave up 19.5 points per game in 2014 and limited opponents to 4.7 yards per play. As a former Missouri linebacker and Gary Pinkel assistant, Odom should provide Missouri with a seamless transition from Dave Steckel at coordinator.

Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

After last year’s disappointing 8-5 record, Bob Stoops wasted no time in overhauling Oklahoma’s coaching staff. Riley plans on implementing an Air Raid attack similar to the one he coordinated at East Carolina and learned under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. The Sooners want to jumpstart their passing attack after ranking eighth in the Big 12 last season, but Riley won’t abandon the rushing game, especially with talented sophomore Samaje Perine leading the way. Under Riley’s watch (2010-14), East Carolina averaged at least 30 points a game in three out of the last four seasons.

Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator, Notre Dame

Sanford is considered a rising star among coordinators and has been on a fast track through the assistant ranks. Sanford worked as a graduate assistant with UNLV in 2005-06 and later spent two seasons with Stanford from 2007-08. After one season at Yale, the former Boise State quarterback spent a year at WKU and returned to the Cardinal to work under David Shaw from 2011-13. Sanford coordinated Boise State’s offense last year, guiding the Broncos to an average of 39.7 points per game.

Kalani Sitake, Defensive Corodinator, Oregon State

Gary Andersen inherited a rebuilding project at Oregon State, but future looks bright in Corvallis with the former Utah State and Wisconsin head coach leading the way. Andersen also hired an outstanding staff, including Sitake as the team’s defensive coordinator. The Hawaii native was hired away from Utah after spending 10 years with the Utes, including six as the play-caller on defense. In 2014, Utah ranked No. 4 in the Pac-12 in scoring defense.

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