Tag:Brian VanGorder
Posted on: January 23, 2012 5:15 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 5:17 pm
 

SEC West coordinator hires: thumbs up or down?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all 28 positions now filled, here's one team-by-team assessment of where the SEC stands at the two most important assistant coaching positions. First, the West:

ALABAMA

2011: Jim McElwain offensive coordinator, Kirby Smart defensive.
Departures: McElwain accepted the job as Colorado State head coach.
2012: McElwain has been replaced by Washington OC Doug Nussmaier.

Thumbs up/down? Firmly up. Some of that is the hire of Nussmaier, who -- once freed from trying to turn Jake Locker into the efficient college QB he was never going to be -- coaxed Keith Price into becoming one of 2011's breakout stars and the Huskies to a 24th-place finish in yards-per-play. (It doesn't hurt that Nussmaier cut his coordinating teeth in the same Fresno State program McElwain did.) But even bigger was that the Tide retained the services of Smart for another year, despite his having overseen a 2011 'Bama defense that merely ranked among the best the game has ever seen.

ARKANSAS

2011: Garrick McGee offensive, Willy Robinson defensive.
Departures: McGee took the UAB head coaching positionRobinson resigned after four up-and-down years in Fayetteville.
2012: Paul Petrino returns to his brother's staff as OC after two seasons at Illinois; Paul Haynes arrives as DC after seven years at Ohio State.

Thumbs up/down? Up. It's hard to imagine a snugger fit for the offense than the same person who ran it for two successful seasons in 2008 and 2009. Haynes is unproven as a defensive play-caller -- Jim Heacock handled those duties for the Buckeyes -- but there's no arguing with the overall defensive success OSU experienced during Haynes' stay in Columbus. Anything approaching a Buckeye-esque D in 2012 will be a big improvement on the Robinson era.

AUBURN

2011: Gus Malzahn offensive, Ted Roof defensive.
Departures: Malzahn is now the head coach at Arkansas State; Roof avoided a potential dismissal by first taking the UCF DC's job, then rejoining old Duke colleague Bill O'Brien at Penn State.
2012: Temple OC and longtime Michigan/Florida QB coach Scot Loeffler will run the offenseAtlanta Falcons DC Brian VanGorder the defense.

Thumbs up/down? Up. VanGorder is a smash hire with a successful track record both in the NFL and the SECthe sort of coach who should return the Tigers' defense to respectability in a hurry. Loeffler is a young, highly respected up-and-comer who's been due for an OC gig like Auburn's, but his pro-style leanings and early talk about "helping our defense and special teams" signals a wrenching shift in philosophy from Malzahn's no-huddle spread. Is he sharp enough to overcome what could be some serious transitional hiccups?

LSU

2011: Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa offensive, John Chavis defensive.
Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Up. Despite the horrorshow put on by the Tigers in the BCS national title game, after a 13-0 regular season (and 17th-place finish in scoring offense) Les Miles is entirely justified in looking to tweak the LSU play-calling rather than overhaul it. And Chavis, of course, continues to quietly roll along as one of the college game's most productive assistants.

OLE MISS

2011: David Lee offensive, Tyrone Nix defensive.
Departures: Both Lee and Nix, swept out along with Houston Nutt.
2012: Hugh Freeze brought Arkansas State DC Dave Wommack with him while hiring former Rebel OC Dan Werner out of college-coaching retirement.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively down, which is not to say there aren't positives. Freeze will have a heavy hand in running the Rebel offense, so Werner's time away from the game won't hurt much, and the veteran is highly familiar with both the Mississippi recruiting trails and the Rebel program. Wommack, meanwhile, enjoyed an excellent 2011 season overseeing a resurgent Red Wolves defense. But both coaches' resumes are more solid than spectacular; for a head coach (and a program) with plenty of question marks of his (and its) own to answer, a legitimate needle-moving hire would have been helpful.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

2011: Les Koenning offensive, Chris Wilson defensive.
Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively up. Wilson's first season in charge of the Bulldog D (after a promotion from coaching the defensive line) was promising, with a rapidly-improving unit holding four of their final six FBS opponents under 4 yards per-play. But the Bulldog offense was a disappointment, finishing ninth in both total yards and yards per-play in conference games; though Dan Mullen's close oversight of the offense means Koenning can't be blamed for those struggles, you could argue a switch might have given the Bulldog O a spark this offseason ... even if we won't.

TEXAS A&M

2011: Mike Sherman as his own OC, Tim DeRuyter defensive.
Departures: The fired Sherman, obviously. DeRuyter landed on his feet as the Fresno State head coach.
2012: Kevin Sumlin brought Houston co-OC Kliff Kingsbury with him as play-caller and hired Mark Snyder away from USF as DC.

Thumbs-up/down? Up. Though the Sumlin/Kingsbury tag team may miss Jason Phillips (the Cougars' other co-OC, now at SMU), it's hard to argue with Sumlin over any plan for his offense, given what he (with Kingsbury's help) accomplished at Houston. Snyder, meanwhile, bolstered an often-sloppy USF defense into the FBS top 15 in yards-per-play each of his two years in Tampa and brings head coaching experience from his time at Marshall. Barring hiring someone like VanGorder for the defense, it's hard to see how Sumlin could have done much better for the kind of program he wants to build -- in either slot -- than he did.

Tomorrow: the East. For all of Eye on CFB's SEC coverage, click here.

Thanks to TeamSpeedKills' helpful "Coaching Carousel Scorecard." 

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:57 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 3:30 pm
 

Auburn hires Falcons' Brian VanGorder as DC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Gene Chizik has ended his search for a defensive coordinator to replace Ted Roof, and the name is one that's already plenty familiar -- and plenty welcome -- to Auburn fans.

Per the Atlanta Falcons' official twitter feed, team defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has informed Falcons' head coach Mike Smith that he has accepted an offer from Chizik and the Tigers to take over the same position at Auburn. VanGorder will replace Roof, who left under pressure for the coordinator's chair at UCF after three up-and-down seasons on the Plains.

"I personally want to thank Brian for all the hard work he put in for our football team and Atlanta," Smith said

VanGorder and Auburn released a statement confirming the move:

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family at this point in my career, both professionally and personally, to become the defensive coordinator at Auburn. I’m looking forward to working at a school with the success and tradition of Auburn, and for a coach like Gene Chizik, who has led the program to a national championship. I’m very appreciative to the Atlanta Falcons and Coach Mike Smith for the experience of the last four years. It’s a great organization and will have continued success in the future.” 

"From the beginning of this process, I had one person in mind, and that was Brian," Chizik said in the statement. "He has achieved success at every level, both professionally and collegiately, which is a testament to his ability as a coach."

Though VanGorder has an extensive resume -- with assistants' stints for the Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars, and one season as the head coach at Georgia Southern -- VanGorder is best-known to SEC fans for his four-year defensive coordinating tenure under Mark Richt, one that produced some of the finest defenses at Georgia during the Richt era. He was awarded the 2003 Broyles Award after coaching the Bulldogs to a fourth-place finish in total defense. After finishing 49th his first year in Athens, the Bulldogs would improve to 15th in 2002 (winning the SEC and the Sugar Bowl) and rank in the top 10 the next two seasons.

Though VanGorder enjoyed less success with the Falcons -- averaging a bottom-half 18th-place finish in total defense his four years as the team's coordinator -- Atlanta did improve all four years of his time in Flowery Branch, slowly moving from 24th to 12th.

In any case, VanGorder's Georgia tenure alone ensures that he'll be greeted warmly by Auburn fans frustrated -- even during their 2010 national title run -- by Roof's defense's struggles against the pass and general inconsistency. Those struggles hit a low point in 2011 as the Tigers set a school record for most points allowed in a season and ranked 11th i nthe SEC (in front of only hapless Ole Miss) in total defense.

VanGorder will have his work cut out for him in restoring the Tigers to the defensive heights scaled during the Tommy Tuberville era. But it's hard to see who Chizik might have hired that would have any better shot at accomplishing it than VanGorder. Chizik still has to hire an offensive coordinator as well, but this first step in his coaching staff reshuffling has been a hugely positive one. 

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