Blog Entry

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:45 am
As we reported Monday afternoon with the report about Rich Rodriguez getting the Arizona job, tis the season for coaching changes. Expect a lot more vacancies to spring up in the next few weeks. A few of them will get filled by first-time head coaches. This week's Top 10 list examines some of the best up-and-comers to keep an eye on:

1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn, OC: The former Arkansas high school coach's rep sky-rocketed last season as Auburn rode Cam Newton to the BCS title. Things have been much, much tougher this year without Newton or most of last year's offensive line. The offense that was fifth nationally in scoring and sixth in total offense has plummeted to 78th and 93rd, respectively. But things should get a lot better next year as almost all of their key guys figure to be back. But will Malzahn? He is paid very, very well at Auburn, getting a reported $1.3 mil per year, and won't leave for just any coaching job, but word is that UNC's vacancy could be tempting.

2. Kirby Smart, Alabama, DC: Nick Saban's program has spawned a handful of future head coaches (FSU's Jimbo Fisher, UF's Will Muschamp and Tennessee's Derek Dooley among them), and Smart figures to be the next one up. Then again, Bama OC Jim McElwain, who could've also been on this list, will likely get some looks this winter too. Bama's defensive prowess will be quite a selling point for Smart. The Tide leads the nation in: rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. That's quite a mouthful. The one downside for the former Georgia DB is that Saban is so hands-on with Alabama's defense it's perceived that the head coach is more responsible for the unit's success than most head coaches.

3. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin, OC: One of the more anonymous "top" assistants in college football, the 46-year-old Chryst, a former Mike Riley assistant, has done a terrific job for the Badgers for years. This season, he's put together an offense that has produced two Heisman candidates in QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball. The Badgers are fifth in the country in scoring and 10th in rushing under the former Wisconsin QB.

4. Manny Diaz, Texas, DC: A first-year UT assistant, Diaz has proven to be the most effective of all of Mack Brown's new on-field coaches, turning a defense that had to replace most of the secondary into one that is 11th in pass efficiency D and 26th in scoring D. Last year, the Horns were 46th and 49th in both of those categories. Texas also has jumped from 31st against the run all the way up to No. 8. Diaz provided a similar boost at his previous stop, Mississippi State in 2010. The Miami native would be even higher on this list if his team was doing better than a 6-4 mark. But don't blame the defense. It's only a matter of time before Diaz is running his own program.

5. Chad Morris, Clemson, OC: Like Malzahn, Morris is a former high school coach who is cashing in on an up-tempo offense that has pumped life into a big, previously underachieving college program. As I detailed in a Stats That Matter a few weeks back, Morris learned a lot from Malzahn and has done wonders for young QB Tajh Boyd. Morris also has done wonders for Dabo Swinney's job security. The Tigers are 12th in the nation in passing, 18th in total offense and 21st in scoring. A year ago, before Morris arrived, they were 78th, 88th and 86th in those carries. With a handful of openings likely to come this winter in his native state of Texas, expect Morris' phone to be ringing.

6. Garrick McGee, Ark. OC: The Hogs are hot, having scored at least 44 points in their past three SEC games. McGee, a former OU QB, has learned well under Bobby Petrino, one of the game's sharpest offensive minds. Arkansas is No. 3 in the nation led by its potent offense, which had to deal with the loss of record-setting QB Ryan Mallett, a great tight end D.J. Williams and then, on the eve of the season, RB Knile Davis yet the Hogs still pile up the points. If McGee and the Hogs can light up the vaunted LSU defense on Friday, the young coach's stock will really rise.

7. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State, DC: Yet another Youngstown guy making it big in college coaching. Narduzzi and his boss Mark Dantonio have done another great job producing a ferocious defense. MSU is No. 3 in the country in total defense; No. 5 in scoring; No. 5 in pass efficiency defense and No. 10 against the run. Impressive? No doubt. But what really is amazing is that coming into this season, the Spartans lost four of their top five tackles from last year, including star LB Greg Jones.

8. Bud Foster, Va. Tech, DC: The Hokies again have a top-10 defense. Yawn. Foster seems to do this on an annual basis. This season, Tech has had to overcome a bunch of injuries to key guys in its front seven, but regardless of that, the Hokies are 10-1 and leaning on Foster's stifling defense. Trouble is, for all of Foster's success and the respect he has, the 52-year-old has been passed over many times for head coaching jobs and you have to wonder if he'll ever get his shot to run his own program.

9. Tony Levine, Houston, Special Teams Coordinator: Even though most head coaches get hired after being offensive or defensive coordinators, keep an eye on the 39-year-old Levine, a former wideout at Minnesota, who has proven to be one of the country's best special teams coaches and has learned under Kevin Sumlin, John Fox, Bobby Petrino and Tommy Tuberville in his time in college and the NFL. Since he got to UH in 2008, his teams have returned eight kickoffs for TDs and blocked 18 kicks. That's fourth-most in the country in that time. He's also been Sumlin's assistant head coach for what has become a very hot program these days. Having also been UH's inside receivers coach for the Cougars' record-breaking offense the past four seasons or exhibiting the organizational experience of being a director of football operation (Louisville) also won't hurt his cause either.

10. (tie) Frank Wilson, LSU, RB coach/recruiting coordinator: A New Orleans native, Wilson has emerged as arguably the nation's top recruiter. He has found and reeled in studs at Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tennessee and now at LSU, but the guy has proven to be a lot more than just a recruiter. No assistant may be more respected by his players. And he has proven he knows how to run a program and be a leader. Back when he was 27, he took over a downtrodden high school program in New Orleans and turned the place upside down. In one year, the team GPA jumped from 1.5 to 2.5 and his team knocked off Louisiana powerhouse John Curtis HS with its first district loss in 25 years. By Wilson's third season at the school, they were playing in the state title game.

10. (tie) Tom Herman, Iowa State, OC:  The Mensa guy I wrote about last week had a big Friday night helping lead the Cyclones to the biggest win in school history, upsetting No. 2 Oklahoma State in double-overtime, 37-31 boosting ISU to 6-4. Iowa State's numbers on offense this season are far from head-turning: 44th in total offense and 75th in scoring, but remember this is a guy who produced top 10 offenses at Rice just a few years back and helped that program get to its first bowl game in over a half-century. Like Morris and Levine, if he gets a long look when a few of these jobs in the Southwest open up.

Since: Sep 18, 2009
Posted on: November 30, 2011 10:40 am

Bud Foster a rising assistant coach?

Should Bud Foster even be on this list? I thought he was already a top assistant coach. He's been talked about for 10 years as being one of the top defensive coordinators in the NCAA. To me this list sounds like it is for those coaches who are gaining notariety.

Since: Oct 12, 2010
Posted on: November 23, 2011 1:41 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

Pat Narduzzi....Head Coach of UCLA.....

Since: Oct 12, 2007
Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:53 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

The Full Narduzzi is a beautiful thing.   Pay the man.

Since: Apr 27, 2008
Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:33 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

So, let's criticize Malzahn because he had a talented QB?  Someone still needs to design the offense, call the plays, etc.  If everything was Cam, the defenses would have been easy to key on that and stop him.  By the way, before that, Malzahn created one of the top offenses in the country at Tulsa.  Before that, he led a top offense at Arkansas that was vastly different with three strong running backs, implemented the Wildcat with McFadden, etc.  Malzahn has been a winner everywhere he has gone and has had incredible success everywhere he has gone.  Doubt him if you want but he'll win wherever he goes next.

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:16 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

Malzahn, seriously??

How hard was it to call plays for Auburn last year?  Um, let's run um oh wait I've got it, Cam take the ball find an opening and run.  Yep, the man's a genius.

Auburn's not exactly rolling up points without Cam this year.

Since: Jan 9, 2010
Posted on: November 23, 2011 10:32 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

Unchartered waters as the first non-BCS school to take the leap to the big leagues.
I think USF, Cincy, and Louisville are several years ahead of the Utes on that one.

Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: November 23, 2011 10:04 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

btw, Kellen Moore victories over BCS opponents:

Georgia (2011)
Virginia Tech (2010)
Oregon State (2010)
Oregon (2009)
Oregon (2008)

It's pretty rediculous to compare those five BCS wins to Utah's this year:
Pitt, Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, and Washington State.  1 team has fired its coach, 2 more are about to, and one is thinking about it.  Not exactly an impressive resume. 

Moore's BCS opponents were a combined 43-17 for a 72% winning percentage.  Utah's are 21-33 for a 38% winning percentage.  Only one of Utah's opponents has a winning percentage, while only one of Moore's doesn't.  Just because a team plays in a BCS conference doesn't mean they're a quality win.

The only three half-way decent teams Utah's played this year were USC (though they weren't that good at the beginning of the year), Cal, and Washington.  And you lost to all three of them.

I actually hope the chips fall right this year and Utah is in the PAC championship game.  The Ducks, playing for national respect, would easily paste 50-60 pts on you.

Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: November 23, 2011 9:50 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

Sorry red801, Chow is not that good.  His resume rests almost entirely on his run with BYU.  But I'll tell you, as a fan of BYU during the Edwards years, we won in spite of Chow, not because of him.  Edwards was the engine that drove those teams and offenses to success.  Chow had a couple of his qbs win Heismans at USC and go on to the pros, but it's looking more and more like it was the other coaches there, too.  There's a reason Carroll was fine with pushing Chow out in favor of Kiffin/Sarkisian.  But then there's what Chow did at UCLA...oh wait, they were terrible the whole time he was there. 

You may not believe me now, but you too will come to dislike Chow.  What could Whittingham have been possibly thinking replacing Meyer's system (one of the best college coaches in recent memory) with Chow's system?!  Meyer's system brought Utah, in very short order, from completely irrelevant, to two BCS-game wins (Whit's Sugar Bowl win was on Meyer's system). 

Your enthusiasm is getting ahead of the facts...Utah does not have a single win to be all that proud of this year (as a BYU fan, I assure you we don't count as a good win).  Probably the best win is Pitt, and they're terrible.  Meanwhile, you lost to Arizona a lot.  A team that's about to fire its coach.

Since: Nov 25, 2010
Posted on: November 23, 2011 9:30 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

Although, technically, Tom Bradley at Penn State is not an assitant coach anymore. But everyone knows he will not be brought back as the head coach. So, because of his interim status, I think he should be on this list. Any team could certainly do a lot worse than him. I think he deserves a head coaching shot somewhere else.

Since: Jan 7, 2011
Posted on: November 23, 2011 8:18 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

stuz.........have to agree University of Michigan probably has the finest defensive coordinator in the country.GO BLUE

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