Editor's note: This is the ninth of a 10-part summer series rating the top D-I college football coaches in the country. From position coaches to head coach, Dennis Dodd and you, the community, will compile an All-Star team of the nation's top 10 coaches. Next up: Head coach. Vote now!
Jim Heacock, Ohio State
Maybe it's just a coincidence of excellence, but consider the life and times and Jim Heacock at Ohio State ...
|Since 2002, Jim Heacock's defenses have helped Ohio State win at least a share of four Big Ten titles. (Provided to CBSSports.com)|
Michigan dominance Wolverines everywhere have this burned into their brain stems but here it is again: Ohio State has won six of the last seven in the series. In last season's 14-3 victory, Heacock's defense held That Team Up North to their fewest points in the game since 1962.
Defensive tradition There have been many great defenses at Ohio State. Statistically, the 2007 unit was among the best finishing first nationally in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense. Prior to the BCS title game -- yes, there's that little matter -- Heacock's defense had allowed only 11 touchdowns in 12 games.
Linebacker U. You want to start a cyber-fistfight? Start posting about which school has earned the Linebacker U. nickname -- Penn State or Ohio State. Opinions are like buttonholes -- everyone has them -- but there would less of an argument had Heacock not helped produce the likes of A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Schlegel and Jim Laurinaitis in recent years.
Linebacker is not even his "strength." From 1996-2004, Heacock was the defensive line coach. Twenty-four of his linemen have made NFL rosters, including 2008 first-round pick Vernon Gholston.
"Jim Heacock's defense has allowed this young Ohio State team to become a national contender," head coach Jim Tressel said.
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CBSSports.com's dream staff defensive coordinator doesn't like talking about himself. It's all about the players and coaches, etc. But in December, the profession beat us to it. Heacock, 59, won the Frank Broyles Award as the game's top assistant coach for 2007.
"It came out of nowhere for me," he said. "Winning it, it's kind of numbing ... You're a little bit embarrassed."
For those of you outraged that your guy didn't make it to the top, try to top this: Has your favorite already been a head coach (Heacock was at Illinois State from 1988-95)? Survived the John Cooper years? When it came time for Ohio State to wave bye-bye to Coop, Heacock was one of only three assistants to be retained and remains the senior member of the staff (12 years).
Good thing. Last season's defense had lost six players to the NFL. It was coming off an embarrassing loss to Florida in the BCS title game. A friendly early schedule helped ease Heacock's defense into the season before it took hold. In the regular season, opponents went three-and-out on almost half their possessions. Seven opponents were held to single digits.
The defense allowed only three rushing touchdowns. Laurinaitis won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. Defensive back Malcolm Jenkins was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award (best DB).
"These young kids, it's an expectation," Heacock said.
Coaching has something to do with it too. Let's review Heacock's three seasons as defensive coordinator.
• In his first season as coordinator (2005), his unit led the nation in rush defense.
• In 2006, the defense went in having lost both defensive ends, but still produced 38 sacks. In a year when all three linebackers had to be replaced, Laurinaitis emerged as the national Defensive Player of the Year (Nagurski Award).
• Last season, the defense posted 43 sacks. Gholston was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. Seven of the top eight in the defensive line rotation return. With senior Marcus Freeman back, the Bucks have one of the best linebacking units in the country -- again.
So how do you deem the last two seasons a failure because of those BCS blowouts? Some coaches work their whole lives for a national championship. Heacock has had a look at three of them. Since he became the coordinator, only Virginia Tech has given up fewer points per game (13.55-13.4).
"How in the world do you compare them?" Heacock asked about his defenses.
Keep grinding. A dynasty and another national championship await.
|Pos.||Dennis Dodd||Community Users|
|HC||Pete Carroll, USC||Pete Carroll|
|DC||Jim Heacock, Ohio State||Tom Bradley, Penn State|
|OC||Norm Chow, UCLA||Norm Chow|
|LB||Brian Cabral, Colorado||Luke Fickell, Ohio St.|
|OL||Pat Ruel, USC||Hugh Nall, Auburn|
|DL||Rodney Garner, Georgia||John Blake, N. Carolina|
|DB||Chuck Heater, Florida||Bobby Jack Wright, Okla.|
|RB||Cale Gundy, Oklahoma||Eddie Gran, Auburn|
|WR||Erik Campbell, Iowa||Andy Hill, Missouri|
|TE||Bruce Walker, Missouri||Bruce Walker|
Seven others to consider:
Mickey Andrews, Florida State: Mickey isn't ready for a lifetime achievement award. The 66-year-old still has plenty of fight left as Bobby B. tries to remake his dynasty. Entering his 25th season at FSU, Andrews has had a hand in 18 first-round draft choices and two national championships.
Tom Bradley, Penn State: If JoePa ever gives it up, the top job might be Bradley's. Having stayed loyal to the program since becoming a full-time assistant in 1980, Bradley should get the first shot. His defenses are legendary. His recruiting might be better. Do Shane Conlan, Paul Posluszny, LaVar Arrington and Justin King ring a bell?
John Chavis, Tennessee: Regarded as one of the best linebacker coaches in the country, Chavis became defensive coordinator in 1995 and helped win a national championship three years later. UT has had 11 linebackers taken in the draft since 1999. One study found that Tennessee had the most former d-linemen on NFL rosters in 2007 with 11.
Bud Foster, Virginia Tech: Foster was the 2006 Broyles winner, marking his fourth time as a finalist. You think Virginia Tech and you think special teams and defense. Foster's group led the NCAA in total defense in 2005 and 2006. Like Chavis, he is a linebacker wizard. There was interest from South Carolina after last season but the guess here is that Foster might succeed Frank Beamer one day.
Willie Martinez, Georgia: The former defensive back for Miami's 1983 national championship team brought his knowledge to the highest level. Entering his fourth season as D-coordinator, Martinez has put together defenses that finished in the top 20 nationally from 2005-2007. Martinez also is responsible for defensive backs. In 2005, all three senior starters were drafted.
Will Muschamp, Texas: The next great one is working his magic in Austin at age 36. With a national championship (2003, LSU) and half the NFL (Miami) on his resume, this might be Muschamp's last assistant coach job. Four of his six defenses at LSU and Auburn finished in the top 10 nationally. Do you know what "pattern matching" is? The pass-happy Big 12 is about to find out.
Brent Venables, Oklahoma: Before Missouri hired Gary Pinkel eight years ago, Venables was in the mix. Back then, at age 29, he was thought to be too young. Now at 37, Venables should be jumping to a big-time program any minute. He is Muschamp without the hype. Venables can recruit and game plan with the best of them. Oklahoma's defense was the only one all season to hold Missouri to less than 31 points. That just happened to be in the Big 12 title game against the then-No. 1 Tigers.