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2020 CFB Catch All Thread


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5 minutes ago, Elmer_Fudd said:

Iowa S&C Coach placed on administrative leave.  Has been with Farentz since 1999.


Should have done it in 2011 when 17 Iowa players were hospitalized with rhabdo thanks to his workouts.

But better late than never, I suppose.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 20: Zach Arnett, Mississippi State

By Zach Barnett - May 19, 2020

Back by overwhelming demand, FootballScoop will once again examine the assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2020 season and beyond.

Who: Zach Arnett, Mississippi State

Title: Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach

Previous stop: San Diego State defensive coordinator/linebackers coach (2018-19), linebackers coach (2014-17), graduate assistant (2011-13).

Why he’s important: After close to 15 years at the feet of Rocky Long, Zach Arnett has taken his first job apart from the wing of his mentor — and what a job it is, matching wits with the likes of Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris at Auburn, Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M, Steve Ensminger and Scott Linehan at LSU, Steve Sarkisian at Alabama, Kendal Briles at Arkansas and Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss.

Before we move forward, let’s spend some time on how Arnett got to Starkville.  He played linebacker for Long at New Mexico from 2005-08, and as a senior he was a team captain and led the nation in forced fumbles. After two years away from the game, Arnett began his coaching career under Long at San Diego State, then steadily climbed the ladder, from GA, to linebackers coach, to defensive coordinator. It would be hard to imagine Arnett having a thought about defensive football that Long didn’t think first.

Arnett continued Long’s 3-3-5 scheme through last season, placing two ends, a tackle, a Mike, Will and Sam in front of three safeties — a field Warrior, a boundary Warrior, and an Aztec. (Expect those terms to be left behind in San Diego.)  “We hope it’s unique and difficult to prepare for,” Arnett said earlier this year. “I do think you’re seeing more multiplicity, variation in schemes that teams are running, you are seeing more 3-3-5 looks, a lot more of it on third down than on first or second, but with the purification of the spread and teams going sideline to sideline, there’s been an effort by defenses to get more athletes on the field and guys that can run and cover space.”

The Aztecs did not sacrifice strength at the point of attack in the name of speed, either.  Only Georgia allowed fewer rushing yards than San Diego State in 2019, permitting just 75.4 yards per game on 2.75 a carry. In fact, Arnett’s Aztecs were the only team in FBS to hold opponents below 1,000 total rushing yards (980).  In news that was both good and bad, San Diego State was just so-so in producing negative plays, ranking just above 50th in tackles for loss and sacks. While that shows the Aztecs were not especially disruptive, it also means their run numbers weren’t built by a bunch of 10-yard sacks that obscured a high number of explosive runs allowed. They just straight up stoned people.  SDSU also ranked sixth in the country in pass efficiency defense, swiping 18 interceptions against just 10 touchdowns allowed, which added up to a unit that rated seventh in yards per play (4.65) and second in scoring (12.7).

Arnett inherits a unit that rated 107th in yards per play and 73rd in scoring. The 2019 Bulldogs needed a miracle to reach a bowl game, and Arnett will likely need to improve upon those numbers to keep Mississippi State’s program-record streak of 10 consecutive bowl trips alive.

The switch from Joe Moorhead’s RPO-based offense to Mike Leach’s Air Raid could involve some growing pains. For instance, Bulldog quarterbacks combined for nearly 200 rushes last season; Washington State ran the ball 210 times — total. (Leach has secured two transfers, including ex-Stanford QB KJ Costello, who’s likely to start Day 1.)  Leach’s first Washington State team actually saw its scoring average drop by 9.4 points per game, so the success of Mississippi State’s 2020 season could hinge on how quickly Arnett adapts from the Mountain West to what has quickly become the most challenging offensive divisions in college football.

For instance, take a look at State’s October schedule: vs. Texas A&M, at Alabama, at LSU, vs. Auburn.  Arnett’s new scheme needs to click and do so quickly, or 2020 could be a long season in Starkville.


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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of 2020 — No. 19: Larry Fedora, Baylor

By Zach Barnett -     May 20, 2020

Who: Larry Fedora, Baylor

Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: Texas offensive analyst (2019)

Why he’s important: For the first time in 13 years, Larry Fedora is back in the coordinator’s chair. The 2020 season represents a return on two fronts for Fedora, bringing him back to the school where he earned his first full-time coaching job at the college level, when he served as Baylor’s wide receivers, tight ends and running backs coach over a 6-year tenure from 1991-96.

Fedora returns to Waco leading a melting pot of an offensive staff:

— Joe Wickline will coach the offensive line, a job he previously held under Fedora at Middle Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State
— Jorge Munoz, an analyst on LSU’s 2019 title time, followed Aranda from Baton Rouge to serve as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator
— Shawn Bell remains from the Matt Rhule staff, switching from offensive line to tight ends
— Running backs coach Justin Johnson is a newcomer, both to Baylor and the rest of the staff

Consequently, the scheme will be as ideologically diverse as the people building it.

“We’ll be pretty multiple,” Fedora told the Waco Tribune-Herald in February. “The key is we’ll have a philosophy that we’re going to base out of one back. We’re going to spread the field and be multi-tempo, and we’re going to try to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands however we need to do that. I think for us it will be discovering in the spring the talent we have and the skill level of what we have and putting those guys in position to be successful.”

“We want to take whatever’s here and mold the offense around it,” Fedora continued. In short, everyone agrees on the broad-strokes philosophy, but the particulars will remain filed under “TBD – Pandemic” until the team gets back on the field. Especially since Fedora has purposefully not watched film on previous Baylor seasons in order to enter 2020 without any preconceived impressions on his new players.

“I think the way Coach Fedora sees the passing game is how I see the passing game,” Munoz said. “He’s got his thoughts and I’ve got mine, and we’re just trying to mesh those concepts. But I think we’re on the same page right now and I think it’s going to be smooth. Up until this point, it’s been easy and fun.”

Baylor should be able to hit the ground throwing, so to speak, behind an offensive line that returns four starters. Starting quarterback Charlie Brewer is also back, having thrown 983 passes over his first three seasons. Backups Jacob Zeno and Gerry Bohanon both saw action in big-time moments last season, experience that could come in handy this fall, given that Brewer — to his credit and his detriment — plays like he’s 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds despite his 6-1, 206 frame.

After going 1-11 in 2017, Baylor was thisclose to reaching the College Football Playoff in 2019. The Bears built a 28-3 lead over Oklahoma in November before falling 34-31, then took the Sooners to overtime in the Big 12 Championship in a game where Brewer threw only six passes.

So, yes, they could have gone 13-0, and they also could have gone 6-6. Baylor beat 3-9 Rice by eight points; they blew a 20-point lead to Iowa State before saving the game on a last-minute field goal; they needed an incorrect penalty call to survive Texas Tech in double overtime; they beat West Virginia by three and needed three overtimes to defeat TCU, neither of whom reached a bowl game.

This season’s schedule opens with Ole Miss in Houston, then builds toward a make-or-break 5-game stretch: at Oklahoma, at Texas Tech, the annual knife fight against TCU, a trip to Austin and then a home game with an Oklahoma State team that will enter the fall with Playoff hype.

After 11 seasons as a head coach — the last team he OC’ed for was the “I’m a man! I’m 40!” Oklahoma State team in 2007 — Fedora says he’s a wiser play-caller than he was the last time around.

“For me now, when I first started as an offensive coordinator it was, ‘Be the best offense out there and score as many points (as you can). Well, now it’s about, yeah, you want to be the best offense out there but you want to score enough points to win the football game, and so you want to compliment the defense, you want compliment the special teams,” he said. “It’s not just about the offense.”


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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 18: Justin Hamilton, Virginia Tech

By Zach Barnett -    May 21, 2020

Who: Justin Hamilton, Virginia Tech

Title: Defensive coordinator/safeties coach

Previous stop: Virginia Tech safeties coach (2019)

Why he’s important: Okay, so we’re bending the rules a little bit here. This exercise examines new hires, but the circumstances merit an exception.

Bud Foster, a founding member of the Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame if such a thing existed, has retired. As his replacement, Justin Fuente tapped Hamilton, a former Hokies player, who worked as Tech’s director of player development just two years ago.

Those who know Hamilton — who played wide receiver, running back and safety for Frank Beamer’s 2002-05 Tech teams — weren’t surprised to see him rise from a support staffer to replacing one of the most respected defensive coordinators in college football history in two years’ time.

“He’s a big-time coach and that’s not just because he’s a friend, he has it all,” Hamilton’s friend, North Greenville offensive coordinator Brad Robbins, told the Roanoke Times in March. “Certain guys get it, and he’s just one of those guys. He’s going to bring the juice. He’s a very passionate guy. Unbelievable communicator and teacher.”

Hamilton’s college coaching career began as the defensive coordinator at UVa-Wise from 2011-13. He then spent four years at VMI, coaching linebackers and co-coordinating special teams.

“Justin has earned this opportunity to lead our defense and our football team,” Fuente said upon Hamilton’s promotion in December. “Everyone in our program has a great deal of respect for him and his abilities. Coach Foster has reiterated to me on several occasions that Justin is ready for this next step in his coaching career. I feel the same way and am convinced he’s exactly the right fit for this role at Virginia Tech. Coach Hamilton is a talented coach and recruiter with a deep passion for both the game and Virginia Tech. He possesses a great knack for connecting with our players. His voice carries tremendous weight on the field and in the locker room because he’s worn that helmet and experienced many of the same things the young men in our program are going through.”

“Justin, I think, is a future star in this business,” Foster said in March 2019, when Hamilton was promoted from director of player development to safeties coach. “He’s very personable, very knowledgeable. The kids have tremendous respect for him. They know who he is and what he did here, what kind of player he was here. How unselfish he was here. And he exemplifies that in his day-to-day life here.”

Hamilton got the job due to the way Virginia Tech finished the 2019 season. From the release announcing his promotion:

During the season’s final five regular season games Tech forced 31 three-and-outs and allowed 15.4 points per game. The Hokies become the first ACC team to post back-to-back shutouts against Power Five foes for the first time since 1978, racking up a 45-0 win at Georgia Tech (11/16) and a 28-0 win vs. Pitt (11/23). Tech finished the regular season ranked second in the ACC and ranked seventh among Power Five schools in Red Zone defense. 

As you’d expect with any internal promotion, Hamilton will bring his own flavor to the Virginia Tech defense, but it’s not going to be a whole new recipe.

“There will be some difference, and I think you’ll see a lot of similarities, too. I think we’ll do a bit more structurally,” Hamilton said earlier this spring. “The aggressive nature people think of when they think of Coach Foster wasn’t necessarily blitzing as much as it was we were going to have a lot of people involved in the run game. We were going to rely on our secondary to be in coverage, and for the better part of three decades, it was the best in the country. So you can’t just throw that out. There will be aspects of that, but I would like to add to that from what I learned as an NFL player and what I’ve learned in coaching and what these guys [assistant coaches] have brought in and done.”

In addition to Hamilton’s promotion, Fuente hired Tracy Claeys as linebackers coach, former Buffalo Bills D-line coach Bill Teerlinck to the same position, former Hokies star (and a teammate of Hamilton’s) Darryl Tapp as co-defensive line coach, and Ryan Smith as cornerbacks coach, meaning Virginia Tech will have an entirely new defensive staff outside of Hamilton continuing to coach the safeties.

While the staff is largely new, the roster is not. Virginia Tech returns 10 defenders with at least 10 career starts. ESPN’s Bill Connelly ranks the Hokies’ defense fifth in returning production among all FBS teams, bringing back 89 percent of its 2019 production.

Virginia Tech hosts Penn State on Sept. 12 and makes an Oct. 10 visit to ACC dark horse — can you really be a dark horse if everyone says you’re a dark horse? — North Carolina plus a Halloween trip to Louisville, but the Hokies miss Clemson. If Hamilton and the new staff he leads can hit the ground running, you’d be hard pressed to look at this schedule and not find at least 10 winnable games.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 17: Sean Gleeson, Rutgers

By Zach Barnett -   May 26, 2020

Who: Sean Gleeson, Rutgers

Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: Oklahoma State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2019)

Why he’s important: After a one-year detour to Stillwater, Okla., Sean Gleeson is back in his native New Jersey. A Glen Ridge, N.J., native, Gleeson began his coaching career in 2007 as an assistant at Delbarton School, a college prep school in Morristown, then became the offensive coordinator at Division III Farleigh Dickinson-Florham. That was enough to land Gleeson the running backs job at Princeton in 2013, and in 2017 he became the Tigers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Already one of college football’s most creative and potent attacks, Gleeson took it to another level in his two seasons calling plays, peaking with a 2018 season that saw Princeton post its first undefeated season in more than 60 years. That 2018 team led FCS in scoring (47 points per game) and ranked second in total offense (536.8 yards per game).

If all of this sounds familiar, it should. Gleeson appeared on this list a year ago, back when he left Princeton for Oklahoma State.

Oklahoma State’s scoring average dropped six points a game in Gleeson’s one season, but much of that can be attributed to moving from fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius at quarterback to a redshirt freshman in Spencer Sanders and, when he went down with injury, graduate transfer Dru Brown. Still, with uncertainty at quarterback, Gleeson leaned on running back Chuba Hubbard to the tune of 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns — the most in the country. (As a point of reference, Hubbard rushed for 740 yards in 2018.)

Rather than return to run a loaded Cowboy offense, Gleeson took a generous offer from Greg Schiano to become, it’s fair to say, the most important assistant coach in the history of Rutgers football.

Considering the resources Rutgers is pouring into the Schiano 2.0 Era, this has to work. Otherwise, Rutgers may just write off football — or, at least the attempt to be competitive in football — forever.

So, with that said, it’s worth taking stock in what Gleeson inherits…

… or perhaps not. Rutgers finished 14th in the Big Ten in total offense, scoring and first downs, and 13th in passing, passing efficiency, yards per play, yards per carry and yards per attempt.

On the plus side, there’s nowhere to go but up. Schiano went to work mining transfer market since immediately after his hiring, landing nine transfers since Schiano’s hiring (five of them from Power 5 schools), including quarterback Noah Vedral.

The 2020 season will mark a new era for Rutgers, in every way imaginable.

“In regards to fast, we want to be a fast, no-huddle offense,” Gleeson told NJ.com. “If you could envision the best press basketball team you’ve ever watched, that’s kind of how we want to do our business. We’ll be operating primarily out of the shotgun. You’ll see an aggressiveness in the way our guys line up and address the next snap that should be different. It should be something like, ‘Wow, these guys are going at a pretty good clip.’

“We want to snap the ball around every 15 seconds. That’s kind of our timestamp for no-huddle football. The no-huddle operation is the first layer of fast. The second would be we literally want fast people.”

Pace is another facet where Rutgers has — how do we say this politely? — room for improvement. The Scarlet Knights ran 735 plays in 2019, the fewest in the Big Ten and third-fewest in the entire country. Ohio State ran more plays in Big Ten games alone than Rutgers did all season, so it would stand to reason the Knights’ numbers figure to improve just from snapping the ball more quickly.

But speed is more than just a means to an end for Rutgers now. That, along with physicality and ball control, are the new pillars of the program’s offensive identity. (Among Big Ten teams, only Michigan State and Northwestern coughed up more turnovers than Rutgers in 2019.)

“Every guy that comes to practice and visits will see us tackling,” he said. “They’ll see the way our guys block on the perimeter. They’ll see the way we finish the ball at running back. The old adage is the guys that don’t fumble are the ones that finish their runs the best. It should be their guys going backward and our guys going forward consistently.”

Considering where Rutgers finished in 2019, it may be a while before Gleeson pulls out the good stuff from the Princeton days, and that’s okay. If he can get the Knights out of the double digits in each and every Big Ten offensive category, it’ll be a great sign for 2021 and beyond.


Edited by LTtxfan
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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 16: Adam Fuller, Florida State

By Zach Barnett -    May 27, 2020

Who: Adam Fuller, Florida State

Title: Defensive coordinator

Previous stop: Memphis defensive coordinator (2019)

Why he’s important: Much has been made of Mike Norvell’s rapid rise to one of the premier jobs in college football, and rightly so. The man is the head coach at Florida State at the age of 38. But don’t let that obscure the equally rapid rise of Norvell’s top lieutenant.

A four-year letterwinner as a linebacker at Sacred Heart, Fuller quickly rose the ranks at the sub-FBS level, eventually becoming the head coach at Division II Assumption College in 2008. After a single 1-9 season, Fuller and the school parted ways, thus beginning Fuller’s career as a defensive turnaround artist.

Fuller became Chattanooga’s defensive coordinator in 2009 and immediately chopped two touchdowns and 135 yards per game off the Mocs’ averages. He joined a Marshall staff in 2013 that had the nation’s second-worst scoring average (43.1 points per game allowed in 2012) and nearly cut it in half (22.9 in ’13.)

“My path has made me who I am, and who I am is who we want to be,” Fuller said.

When Chris Ball left Memphis to become Northern Arizona’s head coach after the 2018 season, Norvell hired Fuller to run the defense, and again Fuller brought immediate results.

Memphis cut 5.5 points per game off its scoring average, 0.24 yards per play and 44.5 yards per game off its total defense numbers, and leapt from 71st all the way to 16th in pass efficiency defense. That improvement was enough for Memphis to jump from 8-6 to 12-2 with an American championship and a Cotton Bowl berth

“We’re going to have certain schemes we’re going to run. We’re going to have coverages and we’re going to have pressures, all that stuff is part of it. Really it comes down to… I want us to play fast, I want to be able to line up fast. I want us to coach quickly — concise and clear. When the ball turns over, we’ve got 11 guys playing on the same accord with incredible passion and speed,” Fuller said. “We want to be multiple with how we appear to people, but we want to be simple enough so w can play fast.”

Other than intimating Florida State will utilize a 4-man front and saying he wants to evolve FSU’s looks throughout the season to sow confusion in the offense, Fuller talked less about scheme and more about attitude. Great defenses, he said, aren’t remembered for the scheme they run but for the characteristics they play with.

“I told the players as they come up, You don’t have to trust me. You just have to watch us work. We’re going to lead the way with our actions. Players that are about the right stuff (are) going to follow that lead.”

Florida State finished 61st in yards per play and 66th in scoring, allowing a tick below 28 points per game. (Florida State scored 363 points in 2019 and allowed 362. Relatedly, the team went 6-7.) That was a slight improvement from 2018’s average of 31.5 a game; Florida State hasn’t allowed less than 21 points a game since 2015.

The ‘Noles return 83 percent of their defensive production, ninth most in the nation, so that’s good. The bad: Florida State opens with West Virginia in Atlanta, then trips to Boise State two weeks later. Clemson comes to town two weeks after that. The ‘Noles trek to an up-and-coming Louisville team two weeks later. They close the regular season with Florida, as always.

Point being: Florida State likely won’t contend for the ACC title in 2020, but Fuller’s track record shows the defense should give the ‘Noles a chance to show real improvement in Year 1 of the Norvell era.


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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 15: Matt Lubick, Nebraska

By Zach Barnett -    May 28, 2020

Who: Matt Lubick, Nebraska

Title: Offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach

Previous stop: Out of coaching (2019), Washington co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach (2017-18)

Why he’s important: Matt Lubick is on the shortlist of the most respected wide receivers coaches in college football. The son of longtime Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick, the younger Lubick got his start working for his father before going out on his own, where the likes of David Cutcliffe, Mark Helfrich, Matt Rhule and Chris Petersen enlisted him to coach their wideouts.

And then, in January of last year, he left it all behind. Days after coaching in the Rose Bowl as Washington’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, Lubick left coaching after a lifetime in the business to become the director of university relations for Canvas Credit Union in Fort Collins, Colo.

“I’ve always wondered about doing something different because the balance and just having a little more time to foster relationships,” he said at the time. “I’ve always thought about it and of all the places I’ve lived, this has been, by far, my favorite place. No. 1, it’s a great place, but my family is here and friends are here and then this opportunity with Canvas kind of presented itself and that definitely kind of tugged on my heart and seemed like an awesome opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

Certainly everyone in the profession can understand the desire to get off the 24/7 treadmill that the life of a college football assistant coach demands. Especially when, in Lubick’s case, the opportunity presents itself to return to his hometown in a cushy job.

And then, a year later, Lubick decided he’d had enough of the civilian world and wanted back in. Which just so happen to coincide with an opening on his old colleague Scott Frost’s staff at Nebraska. The pair worked together for three seasons at Oregon, when Frost was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator and Lubick the wide receivers coach; Lubick replaced Frost as OC when the latter became UCF’s head coach in 2016.

“Matt has an innovative offensive mind, provides a veteran presence on our staff and brings a proven track record of success at the Power Five level,” Frost said upon Lubick’s hiring in January. “Matt and I developed a great relationship working together previously, and I look forward to adding his expertise to our offensive staff.”

And what a job to step into. Nebraska is 9-15 in the Frost era two years in, and nursing the program’s longest streak of consecutive losing seasons (three) in six decades. After beginning 2019 at 4-2, the Huskers dropped five of their last six games, including:

— the program’s worst loss to Minnesota since World War II
— the program’s first loss to Indiana since 1959
— the program’s second straight loss to Purdue
— the program’s fifth straight loss to Iowa, extending a school record

The offense finished last season ranked an identical 72nd in scoring (28 a game) and yards per play (5.76). Not coincidentally, quarterback Adrian Martinez placed 73rd in passing efficiency, hitting 59.4 percent of his throws for 7.8 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns against nine picks.

So it seems the Huskers can use some help on that side of the ball. And when an opening presented itself, Frost decided Nebraska could use someone who studied offense at the School of Frost. “I have always wanted to work with Matt again since our days at Oregon together,” Frost said earlier this year.

“I don’t know if Frost would say it, but most of what Lubick has learned and teaches in the blocking game, from the receivers’ perspective, is actually stuff he learned from Frost,” Nate Costa, who played and GA’d at Oregon under Frost and Lubick, told Hail Varsity in March. “When Frost came to Oregon as a receivers coach to work for Chip, that’s when we saw the escalation of our wide receivers’ ability to block. That’s because Frost brought a certain personality of toughness to that room, and then he incorporated it with a blocking technique he actually picked up in the NFL. And that’s something we’ve used ever since. Lubick kind of took it over.”

“I thought there were some things the receivers did better today than I’ve seen since I’ve been at Nebraska,” Frost said in March.

In his coordinator duties, Lubick should be able to help Martinez by scheming wide receivers open.

“Probably his most admirable trait is he coached defensive backs for a number of years at Arizona State and a couple of other places since that’s the position he played, so he really understands the rules of coverage that certain defensive backs are in,” Costa said.

“So, when it comes time to play-design, passing routes specifically, he’s really good at putting defenders into conflict, to where he’s not just beating them based on the coverage but he’s beating them based on the rules. (He’s) designing concepts where the defensive backs really can’t be right, and when it comes down to being successful in this game from a play-calling and play designing standpoint, that’s probably the best attribute that you can have. Being able to actually beat someone’s rules and not just their specific coverage.”

Nebraska had just four scholarship receivers healthy and available for spring ball — at least, the spring practices Nebraska managed to get in.

The above sentence — the lack of available wideouts, the short spring session — are obstacles, yes, but they’ll be instantly forgotten once toe meets leather come Sept. 5. No one’s suggesting Frost will get fired if Nebraska misses a bowl game again in 2020, but a proof of life has to arrive at some point. Doesn’t it?

Simply put, the Frost era at Nebraska has to work, or else the program will sail into waters uncharted by anyone alive. If Nebraska isn’t able to turn the ship around with the program’s favorite son around, it will lead to an identity crisis unlike anything the program has ever seen.

Frost has to succeed, he needs that success to arrive quickly, and so he needs his bet pulling Lubick off the metaphorical sidelines back to the actual sidelines needs to work.

Edited by LTtxfan
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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 14: Mike Bobo, South Carolina

By Zach Barnett -   May 29, 2020

Who: Mike Bobo, South Carolina

Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: Colorado State head coach (2015-19)

Why he’s important: Yesterday we wrote about how Scott Frost turned to a familiar face at a critical juncture. Will Muschamp has done the same.

Following a 4-8 season in 2019, Muschamp demoted Bryan McClendon (he later left for Oregon) and hired Bobo less than a week after his dismissal at Colorado State.

The old teammates (the pair overlapped on Georgia’s 1993-94 teams; Bobo played quarterback, Muschamp was a safety) have never worked together. Muschamp worked largely in the divisional ranks before joining the Nick Saban coaching tree, while Bobo spent all but one year at Georgia before taking the Colorado State job. (Bobo coached ‘Cocks wide receivers coach Joe Cox and running backs coach Thomas Brown while at Georgia; Brown has since left for the LA Rams.)

Unshackled from the demands of being a head coach, Bobo is saying all the stuff guys say when they actually get to coach again.

“I’m excited to get back on the grass, I’m excited about being in a room, and having a position to myself, and really building a relationship with some individuals in the quarterback room,” Bobo back in December. “I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to not have to walk out of that meeting room and grab that phone and the head coach call you get all the time, and go out and answer a bunch of stuff, I’m excited about going out and coaching football, and recruiting and building a relationship with these players.”

“As far as scheme, I don’t know that identity yet,” Bobo said in March, after South Carolina’s fifth of five spring practices. “It’s too early to tell.”

Among the changes Bobo will bring to Columbia is… more snaps under center.

“I think your play-action is better under center, number one. The gun play-action nowadays is really RPOs,” Bobo told the Charleston Post & Courier in April. “You’re able to attack, really, both sides of the line of scrimmage. Sometimes in the gun, it’s a little harder.”

The change is one quarterback Ryan Hilinski embraces. The California arrived in Columbia expecting to back up senior Jake Bentley; instead, he found himself throwing 406 passes and playing Carolina’s final six games on a bum knee. Hilinski finished last in the SEC among all qualifiers in yards per attempt (5.8) and 11th of 12 in passing efficiency (113.37).

To be clear, Carolina won’t exclusively operate under center. The goal is for the offense to run the same stuff both from under center and in the shotgun while showing an added dimension that the defense must prepare for.

And South Carolina could use a second, third, fourth and even a fifth dimension.

As a unit, the Gamecocks finished 13th in the SEC in yards per play and 12th in scoring. Leading receiver Bryan Edwards is gone to graduation, as are the Gamecocks’ top three running backs. Sophomore Deshaun Fenwick leads all returning running backs; he has 22 career carries. (Incoming freshman MarShawn Lloyd is expected to carry a heavy load this fall, as are four incoming receivers and tight ends.) South Carolina returns eight linemen with starting experience

As if that news isn’t good enough, the schedule is brutal once again. South Carolina faces six of the top 20 in ESPN’s FPI: No. 19 Tennessee, No. 12 LSU, No. 11 Florida, No. 10 Georgia, No. 8 Texas A&M and, of course, No. 1 Clemson.

After five years as a head coach, Bobo jumped at the opportunity to roll his sleeves up, hop in the trenches and coach again. And he picked a heckuva trench to climb into.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 13: Rhett Lashlee, Miami

By Zach Barnett -   June 1, 2020

Who: Rhett Lashlee, Miami

Titles: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: SMU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2018-19)

Why he’s important: It was all supposed to be so simple. Miami’s 2018 defense was nationally elite — No. 4 in total yardage, No. 3 in yards per play, No. 1 in pass efficiency defense, No. 1 on third down and No. 1 in tackles for loss. When Mark Richt retired, Manny Diaz ascended to the head coaching role (after an extended trip to Philadelphia), and Dan Enos turned down a promotion at Alabama to come to South Beach, Miami seemingly had all the pieces in place.

The ‘Canes were picked a close second behind Virginia in the ACC Coastal, an improvement from the 7-6, 4-4 finish of 2018.

“If it works, Miami could be back in Charlotte as the ACC Coastal champions,” I wrote in naming Enos the eighth most important hire of 2019. “If it doesn’t, Enos could be asking himself why he left Tuscaloosa in the first place.”

Suffice to say, it didn’t work. Miami went 6-7, closing with a complete dud of a bowl game — a 14-0 loss at the hands of Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. Getting blanked by a Conference USA team in a mid-tier bowl game is about a rocky a bottom as rock bottom gets on one side of the ball.

Enos was let go almost immediately after the Independence Bowl debacle, and Diaz hired Lashlee just over a week later.

It’s an oversimplification to say a new coordinator needs to work; they all do. But Diaz really needs Lashlee to hit, and hit quickly. He’s Miami’s third offensive coordinator in three years, dating back to the Richt era, and how likely is it that Diaz gets a third chance to find an effective offensive coordinator?

Lashlee’s job is make sure that question never gets answered.

The original Gus Malzahn protege dating back to the Shiloh Christian days, the 36-year-old was Malzahn’s offensive coordinator from 2013 through ’16, when it became apparent both sides would benefit in a breakup. Lashlee left for Connecticut, where in one year he boosted the Huskies’ offense from 122nd in yards per play to 83rd.

He then landed on Sonny Dykes’s new SMU staff in 2018. After a 5-7 debut, SMU was one of college football’s most pleasant surprises of 2019: an 8-0 start, a No. 15 ranking, a GameDay/Saturday Night Football showdown with Memphis and, ultimately, the school’s first 10-win season since 1984.

Lashlee’s offense made that possible: Shane Buechele threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 24 touchdowns; Xavier Jones rushed for 1,276 yards and 23 scores; James Proche caught 111 balls for 1,225 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Only one other FBS team produced a 3,900-yard passer, a 1,200-yard rusher and a 1,200-yard receiver. That team was LSU.

Miami’s leading passer threw for 2,187 yards. Its leading rusher ran for 693. Its leading receiver had 547 yards.

So, we’ve established Miami could use help producing yards and points. That’s why Lashlee was hired in the first place.

Whereas Enos emphasized shifts and motions to find and exploit mismatches, Lashlee wants to get the ball snapped and get speed in space.

In a Signing Day press conference, Lashlee mentioned tempo will be a core part of Miami’s identity.

“That’s just kind of what I’ve always done and what I’ve always been a part of,” he said, mentioning he’s been part of offenses that led the nation in total offense despite not having a single player that runs faster than a 4.6.

Though the teams played the same amount of games, SMU ran off 215 more snaps than Miami. Miami averaged 65 plays a game, SMU was just shy of 80.

“When you talk about the University of Miami, we do have access to really good speed and really good athletes, so why would we not make a defense defend the whole field and tackle those guys in space? Getting our guys in space allows their speed to be opened up and used to our advantage and let their DNA take over.”

Speaking of speed, help is on the way in the form of D’Eriq King. You’ll recall King as the guy who used the new redshirt rule to hit the reset button on his senior season, and the reason that was such big news last September is that King can play. He accounted for an even 50 touchdowns in 2018; 36 through the air and 14 on the ground.

Watch this and tell me you can’t see Lashlee dipping into the Auburn playbook and drawing up the same stuff he and Gus did for Nick Marshall, back when he threw for 34 touchdowns and rushed for 23 more in 2013-14.

“His combination of where he has been, who he has learned from, and the successes of the different types of quarterbacks,” Diaz told The Athletic of Lashlee back in February. “When Miami has had the quarterback position humming, Miami has competed for championships. When you have a guy that develops quarterbacks that are runners, non-runners, and guys in between, that is exciting as well.”

You heard the man: When Miami has had the quarterback position humming, Diaz said, Miami has competed for championships.

From Diaz’s lips to Lashlee’s call sheet.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 12: Marvin Lewis and Antonio Pierce, Arizona State

By Zach Barnett -   June 2, 2020

Who: Marvin Lewis and Antonio Pierce, Arizona State

Titles: Co-defensive coordinators (Pierce also serves as ASU’s associate head coach, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator)

Previous stops: Pierce is an original member of Herm Edwards’ ASU staff; he was the head coach at Long Beach Poly from 2014-17. Lewis spent 2019 as a special advisor; he was the Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach from 2013-18.

Why they’re important: We’re bending the rules a little bit here. Both Lewis and Pierce were at Arizona State in 2019, but neither coordinated the Sun Devils’ defense. And what a fascinating experiment this will be.

No team in college football has co-coordinators with a longer list of accomplishments at the next level than Arizona State: Lewis won 131 games as the Bengals’ head coach and a Super Bowl as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator; Pierce spent nine seasons as an NFL linebacker and won a Super Bowl with the Giants. Every school can make their own arguments to recruits, few can plop two Super Bowl rings on the table.

“I think it’s an achievement that a lot of guys set on their path, ‘I want to be a pro football player.’ It’s easy to say, hard to do. With the environment that’s created here, with the knowledge in the building, there’s a lot of information in this building,” Herm Edwards told me in April.

To hear the head coach tell it, Lewis essentially hired himself as defensive coordinator.

“When it came up … I had a list, but before I got to the list, Marv walks in the door, and he says, ‘I got you,’” Edwards told Arizona Sports in February. “And I went, ‘What? You have what?’ He said, ‘I got it.’ The next thing I told him, I said, ‘Let me get this right. Have you told Peggy, your wife, that you’re going to do this? Because I’ve got to clear it with her, first.’ He said, ‘Coach, I’m in.’”

With Danny Gonzales now the head coach at New Mexico, Lewis and Pierce will transition Arizona State from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3.

“The direction from Coach Edwards in the offseason was to look at more conventional 4-down stuff to try to utilize our personnel and be able to recruit to it.”

The switch was made, Lewis said, to unlock Arizona State’s defensive line, both in the talent already on campus and in the staff’s ability to bring in future pass rushers.

“More opportunities to get to the quarterback, more 1-on-1 opportunities for them,” Pierce echoed in February.

Lewis has been teaching his scheme for multiple decades (see proof below), and Pierce said much of the staff’s time has been distilling it into bite-sized chunks college players can consume — especially in a world where offense are snapping the ball as fast as the laws of physics allow. “You can’t have this scheme that’s so out there, as far as thinking and trying to adjust and make everything right,” he said.

Arizona State’s 2019 team started 5-1 and rose to No. 17 in the AP poll before dropping four straight — allowing 36 points a game in the final three. But the Sun Devils rebounded by closing the year on a 3-game winning streak, picking Justin Herbert twice in a 31-28 upset of Oregon, then holding Arizona and Florida State to 14 apiece.

The Sun Devils return eight starters — though there’s bound to be positional shuffling with the shift in schemes — from last year’s defense, a group that finished fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring and yards per play.

The schedule is undeniably difficult — USC on the road, trips to Washington State and Oregon in a 2-week span, the latter of which falls on a Friday night. But in the perpetually wide-open Pac-12 South, if Lewis and Pierce can work their magic quickly, it would not be a surprise at all to see the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 title game.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 11: David Ballou/Matt Rhea, Alabama

By Zach Barnett -   June 3, 2020

Who: David Ballou and Matt Shea, Alabama

Titles: Director of sports performance and director of sports science

Previous stops: Both performed similar tasks at Indiana.

Why they’re important: This is Year 3 of our now annual offseason series, and the first time we’ve highlighted the hiring of a strength coach. It’s not that strength coaches are unimportant — no one would argue that — but their presence is hard to quantify and even harder to pinpoint.

But this move, Alabama’s first change in the strength room of the Nick Saban era, required bucking precedent.

With them, Alabama firmly moves into the New School of strength and conditioning thought. Ballou and Rhea will add new terms to the vocabulary in Tuscaloosa, such as “Rate of Force Development.”

“We use this Elite Form system that has 3D cameras on every rack, and it tracks everything, how fast the bar moves, how much weight is on the rack, everything,’’ Ballou said in October. “And that’s how we get the power numbers, all that data. It’s all right there for us on the back end, so we’re not walking around with clipboards counting things. It adds it all up for us.

“Me and Doc do most of the data and analytics stuff ourselves. I like doing it myself because I can really see what’s going on. It’s more hands-on, and it sits better with me.’’

Ballou and Rhea first crossed paths in 2009, when Ballou graduated from a National Strength and Conditioning Association master’s program overseen by Rhea. But they didn’t partner up until 2016, at IMG Academy.

“It made a huge difference for us, in multiple ways,” IMG Academy head coach Kevin Wright told the Indianapolis Star. “Not just for the increasing in speed and strength, but a cut in the number of documented injuries, as well as the gains we made during the season.”

“They’ve found this combination of extreme intensity and science,” Indiana senior Wes Martin told the Star last year. “They’ve merged that together, and that’s what’s made them so special.”

In addition to gearing their program to train players to produce maximum output at the point of attack, the pair will work to prevent injuries, something that derailed the Tide’s 2019 season, which saw torn ACLs suffered by Trey Sanders, middle linebacker Dylan Moses and mike backer Joshua McMillon lead a lengthy camp injury report.

“Just as with any other area, we feel that it is imperative that we adopt and integrate advancements in the field of strength and conditioning that will provide elite training, while better protecting our players from injuries and helping them develop and perform at a higher level,” Saban said upon Ballou and Rhea’s hiring in March. “Our program has been working toward these type of advancements with the development and construction of our own sports science center, and with the addition of David and Matt, we believe our student-athletes will be better equipped to reach their goals for many years to come.”

The evidence to see if Ballou and Rhea’s methods are working will be everywhere and nowhere. If the Crimson Tide’s running game jumps by 0.2 yards per carry, if they post an extra 0.5 sacks per game, if their number of snaps lost to injury fall by 30 percent, that will be Ballou and Rhea’s work, and also the work of the players themselves, their coaches, and just plain luck.

But by the end of the year, we’ll know. One way or the other, it’ll be clear if Alabama met the physical challenge of the 2020 season. And make no mistake, this season will be a challenge in a way that past seasons have not:

— a neutral site opener against Pac-12 favorite USC
— a home game against Georgia
— a trip to play what could be the best Tennessee team in a decade-plus
— a trip to LSU
— a date with a possibly 10-0 Texas A&M team
— the Iron Bowl
— if all of that goes well, a rematch with Georgia/Tennessee or a date with Florida in the SEC title game

Then, if Alabama’s lucky, the Tide will earn the right to face (likely) Clemson, Ohio State or both.

And if the Tide ends that gauntlet on a stage with a trophy in hand, Ballou and Rhea will have done their job.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 10: Scott Cochran, Georgia

By Zach Barnett -   June 4, 2020

Who: Scott Cochran, Georgia

Title: Special teams coordinator

Previous stop: Alabama director of strength and conditioning (2008-19)

Why he’s important: Well, here we go. This is really happening.

The most popular strength coach in the game — arguably, the most popular in college football history, and the archetype of what a Hollywood screen writer would imagine in their head — has pulled off a mid-stream career change. After 20 years prepare their bodies to perform once toe meets leather, Cochran is now responsible for that toe.

Before we move forward, let’s not blow this move out of proportion. The majority of coaches is relating to players, and Cochran not only has his Ph.D. in that topic, he also teaches the class. He spent 13 years finding the right buttons to push on all 130-odd players on Alabama’s roster, from walk-on offensive lineman to 5-star defensive back. His new job will be much the same, familiarizing himself with the entire roster in search of players who can block field goals, who can set up a kickoff return, who can cover punts.

That won’t be an issue.

Recruiting won’t be an issue, either.

It’s the other part, the Xs and Os of special teams, that people are intrigued about, but Kirby Smart is not concerned his new coordinator will be deficient in that arena.

“He was always involved (at Alabama) in some way, shape or form with special teams,” Smart said in March. “That’s always been something, even dating back to my days at LSU, that he was kind of the quality-control guy at LSU that worked with special teams. So, his background has been around that.”

And, like most other schools, Cochran will simply lead a by-committee approach to special teams.

“We’ve certainly had a staff full of guys … who have all had special-teams duties in their career,” Smart said. “So this is not like Scott Cochran is the only special-teams guy on our staff. We have an immense amount of knowledge and experience on special teams. They’ll draw on that. Scott will be the special-teams coordinator. But we’ll use the entire staff to help with that, including me.”

Smart had better be right, though, because championships are won on the margins, and the margins often reveal themselves on special teams. For instance:

2015: Alabama manufactured two fourth quarter touchdowns off of special teams — one off a recovered onside kick, the other on a 95-yard kick return score. The Tide wins the game, 45-40, putting rings on Smart and Cochran’s fingers.

2017: A punt block that would have given Georgia the ball deep in Alabama territory with a 13-0 second half lead is (incorrectly) nullified due to an offside penalty. Alabama rallies to win, 26-23, denying Smart a ring while awarding one to Cochran.

2018: Tied at 28, Georgia attempts a fake punt, which fails. Alabama moves down the field to score a game-winning touchdown, handing Cochran an SEC championship ring and lifting Alabama to the Playoff while Smart and Georgia stayed home.

Recent history tells us Georgia’s season could easily come down to a single special teams play, and for the first time in his career the strategy for that play — either directly or indirectly — will run through Cochran’s bald head.

But there’s a larger implication at play here than Georgia’s pursuit of its first national title in 40 years, heavy as that is.

It’s no secret Cochran made this move to check a necessary box to one day become a head coach. If his bet on himself proves unsuccessful, the consequence is clear: Cochran could easily find work again as a strength coach, should he so desire.

But if he succeeds, if Georgia blocks a couple punts, returns a kick or four for a touchdown and wins a national title, Cochran will become a head coach somewhere, and quickly. And in that, an entirely new path to becoming a head coach will be forged.

Will future Scott Cochrans even need on-the-field experience to become a head coach? How many strength coaches will change the way they view themselves and the way they perform their duties? What will that do to the already-super-competitive head coaching market?

None of those questions will be answered in 2020. But what happens in 2020 will help determined if they’re ever asked in the first place.

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Texas tied for 13th with auburn...

aggy #12 and setting up for the rollercoaster

lsu #9

blOU #7


Voters for this poll include: Barton Simmons, Bud Elliott, Brandon Marcello, Charles Power, Brad Crawford, Josh Pate, Trey Scott and Chris Hummer.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 9: DJ Durkin, Ole Miss

By Zach Barnett -   June 8, 2020

Who: DJ Durkin, Ole Miss

Title: Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach

Previous stop: Atlanta Falcons consultant (2019)

Why he’s important: Ready or not, this is happening.

For the first time since he was fired on Halloween night of 2018, following a lengthy investigation that found he was oblivious to a caustic culture that culminated in the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, DJ Durkin is back in college football on a full-time basis.

Durkin ignited a firestorm when he showed up as a guest consultant at the Falcons’ training camp last summer, and Ole Miss was prepared for that storm to move west to Oxford. It’s not often an AD has to release a statement such as this after hiring an assistant coach.

“We went through a really extensive process there, talking to multiple people at multiple universities, very high up. Also talking with former players, former head coaches,” Lane Kiffin told reporters this spring. “They raved about D.J.—everyone. In our short time here, I can see why. He’s done a great job in recruiting, great job around the players, assistant coaches. Tireless worker. He’s always in here. Chris (Partridge) and him will do it together. We’ll figure out the play-calling and stuff down the road. That was an easy transition, an easy move, because they had been around each other at Michigan.”

(It should come as no surprise that Durkin has not given an on-the-record interview. Three years studying The Process taught Kiffin a few things.)

As an assistant, Durkin will not be responsible for installing his culture, only to support Kiffin’s.  On that point, it will be interesting to see if experience has changed Durkin in any way, a guy who built a reputation as “hardcore, robotic, super intense.” Of course, it’s possible to love and guide players with that approach, but Durkin will have to put the work in to show players, recruits and their families that he’s more than what happened at Maryland.

To be clear, there is a long list of accomplished coaches who believe in Durkin’s ability. Ole Miss wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of hiring him otherwise. Durkin worked for Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and Florida, for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and Michigan, for Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame, and for Will Muschamp at Florida. In fact, Muschamp retained Durkin from Meyer’s staff, and later promoted him to defensive coordinator.

No one ever questioned Durkin’s ability to coach. Here’s how Falcons head coach Dan Quinn defended the decision to bring in Durkin last year:

“An unfortunate situation, of course, but as far as eyes to look at the defense to help us, I definitely knew the advantage of that.”

It’s not a surprise that it was Kiffin’s neck stuck out to hire Durkin, a man who knows what it’s like to bounce back after becoming persona non grata as a young head coach. Kiffin also made an offensive coordinator hire many other coaches wouldn’t have, naming former Art Briles assistant Jeff Lebby as his offensive coordinator.

Second chances are important in life. Here’s hoping Durkin makes the most of his.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 8: Joe Moorhead, Oregon

By Zach Barnett -  June 9, 2020

Who: Joe Moorhead, Oregon

Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: Mississippi State head coach (2018-19)

Why he’s important: Following a season in which Oregon won the Rose Bowl for just the fourth time in program history, the general consensus around the program is that the Ducks will enter 2020 as the favorites to win the Pac-12, but as a different type of Oregon team than we’re accustomed. 

Says 247Sports: “The defense will be the best in the Pac-12, and in the end that will carry the Ducks to a championship.”

Writes Athlon: “Oregon is known for its high-powered offenses, but the defense is the strength of this program for 2020.”

That consensus is well-grounded, of course. Oregon returns eight or nine starters (depending on how you count them up) from a defense that rated in the top 12 nationally in yards per play and scoring defense.  Franchise quarterback Justin Herbert is gone, as are four starting linemen. And even though returning left tackle Penei Sewell — the first sophomore to ever win the Outland Trophy — may be the best player in college football, he can’t block an entire defensive front by himself.

All of this is true.  But how good can Oregon be if exceeds expectations in Year 1?  Remember, this is the same guy who jumped Penn State from 78th to 21st in yards per play his 2016 debut as the Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator, from 100th to 21st in scoring offense, from 106th to 66th in rushing offense, and from 78th to 14th in passing efficiency. (Penn State’s win total also exploded, from seven to 11.)

That explosion came with Trace McSorley at the helm, a true sophomore and first-year starter who stepped in for multi-year starter Christian Hackenberg. Listed at 6-foot-even and 202 pounds, McSorley was hardly a picture-perfect example of the type of prospect NFL scouts fall asleep fawning over, but he was perfect for Moorhead’s offense. He threw for 3,614 yards and 29 scores while running for seven more on the ground (a guy named Saquon Barkley handled most of the load there).

Moorhead will have a couple of options in his search for a green-and-yellow version of McSorley. Sophomore Tyler Shough is the in-house heir apparent, having appeared in five games and completed 12-of-15 passes for 144 yards and three scores in backing up Herbert last season, but Anthony Brown arrives as a graduate transfer after averaging 9.1 yards per attempt with a 9-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio for Boston College last season.

“I think the amount of times we ran Trace (McSorely) [at Penn State] and the kid at Fordham is probably representative of what you want it to be – probably between 10, at a minimum, 15 at an absolute maximum,” Moorhead said in February. “Now, things that happen by improvisation on their own, that’s that. We don’t want to make a living running the quarterback, but anytime he’s a plus-one in the run game, you want to force the defense to defend every blade of grass in the width and length of the field and when the quarterback can be a threat to pull one and run the ball it forces defenses to play you differently.”

“(Tyler’s) a guy that can make plays by design or improvisation, and so are the other guys,” he added in March

Of course, the offense is more than the 10-ish times a game the quarterback tucks it and runs, and on that front Moorhead indicated the scheme will be a mixture of his experiences at Fordham, Penn State and Mississippi State combined with the stuff Oregon already rode to a Pac-12 title. While Moorhead is (obviously) new and former South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon joined the staff as wide receivers coach in April, Jim Mastro (running backs), Alex Mirabal (offensive line) and Bobby Williams (tight ends) remain from the existing staff.

“You’ve got a bunch of intelligent, experienced coaches. We all got in a room and hopefully fused the best ideas from both of our systems for the run game; I think more of the changes will bee seen in the pass game,” he said. “But there’s only so many ways you can run inside zone, outside zone, 1-back power. Some of the presentation in terms of RPOs and who we’re reading, I think that will probably be a little bit different.”

Assuming the rebuilt offensive line gives him time, whoever wins the quarterback derby will have plenty of options.

Junior running back CJ Verdell ran for 1,220 yards on 6.19 yards a pop, and fellow junior Travis Dye added 658 yards on 6.21 per. Of the 10 Ducks who caught at least 10 passes last fall, eight return — including seniors Johnny Johnson III, who led the team with 57 grabs, and Jaylon Redd, who caught 50.

Oregon is every bit a deserving favorite to win a second straight Pac-12 crown, but they’ll have to do more than that to return to the Rose Bowl. The Granddaddy is a Playoff semifinal this year, which means the Ducks will either have to upset Ohio State at Autzen Stadium on Sept. 12 or become the first team in Pac-12 history to go a perfect 10-0 in conference play. (Oregon’s 2010 team was the last to go 9-0 in the regular season, but the Pac-12 didn’t have a championship game then.)

The task is undoubtedly tall, but Moorhead’s track record says Oregon could very well return to the Playoff for the first time since 2014.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 7: Todd Orlando, USC

By Zach Barnett -    June 10, 2020

Who: Todd Orlando, USC

Title: Defensive coordinator

Previous stop: Texas defensive coordinator/linebackers coach (2017-19)

Why he’s important: On Dec. 1, Todd Orlando was officially let go as Texas’s defensive coordinator.  On Dec. 4, USC announced Clay Helton would be retained for the 2020 season, ending a 10-day purgatory where his job publicly hung in the balance. This was the second straight season, under two different athletics directors, where Helton’s hold on college football’s top job west of the Rockies that he had to be publicly retained for the following season.  Safe to say, these two arrived at this point in need of each other.

In 2019, USC lightly exceeded expectations after a debacle of a 2018 season. Behind true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis and new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, the Trojans went from five wins to eight, including a 5-2 mark down the stretch. Those two losses, though, were ugly: 56-24 to Oregon, 49-24 to Iowa. That last one ended Clancy Pendergast’s 4-year run at USC’s defensive coordinator.

Helton took nearly a month before he hired Orlando, who had previously agreed to join Texas Tech’s staff as assistant head coach and linebackers coach before USC came calling. (Helton actually changed out his entire defensive staff. Craig Naivar followed Orlando from Texas as safeties coach, Donte Williams was hired from Oregon to coach corners, and Vic So’oto arrived from Virginia to coach the line.). 

Texas was Orlando’s fifth defensive coordinator job, but only the second time he’d remained in the same job longer than two years (the other was UConn back from 2005-10). The numbers indicate Big 12 offensive coordinators figured Orlando’s 3-down, blitz-from-anywhere scheme out:

Yards Per Play (Big 12 Rank)
2017: 5.19 (2nd)
2018: 5.60 (3rd)
2019: 6.11 (8th)

Scoring Defense
2017: 21.2 (3rd)
2018: 25.9 (4th)
2019: 27.5 (7th)

Passing Efficiency
2017: 125.04 (1st)
2018: 134.92 (4th)
2019: 144.04 (8th)

Third Downs
2017: 27.14 percent (1st)
2018: 44.29 (7th)
2019: 39.13 (5th)

That said, the pieces are in place for USC to succeed immediately under Orlando. Texas’s 2017 defense was, as the numbers showed, arguably the best in its conference, and followed a track record of Orlando providing an instant shot in the arm.  Asked about the Orlando Effect back in March, he attributed it to a multiple scheme that’s easy to install but confusing to read and to a take-no-prisoners physical mentality. For instance, USC planned to go full contact for nine of 24 periods in an upcoming spring practice at the time he gave this answer.

“It is multiple and it can be installed rather quickly,” he said. “Initially when you come in it’s hard to prepare for, especially because there’s some uncertainty to it. A lot of the times you see improvements based on mentality, too, the way the training is, more than the actual scheme. We come in and it’s, ‘We’re going to be fundamental, we’re going to be technical, and we’re going to run as hard as we can at somebody and try to blast them.’ We just try to keep it that simple to kids, and then as we go in it’s multiple enough to confuse some guys.”

Texas jumped from 60th to 37th nationally in yards per play in Orlando’s first season in Austin. In 2011, Orlando’s debut at Florida International, FIU went from 64th to 18th. Orlando’s first season at Utah State in 2013 — one where he followed a guy named Dave Aranda — saw the Aggies maintain a top-5 ranking.

And that may be just what the doctor ordered for Helton to win some long-awaited security in Los Angeles.

USC’s offense should easily be the best in the Pac-12, and the defense returns 87 percent of its production from a year ago, seventh most in the country.

Add all that together, and USC could easily find itself completing a 5-7 to conference champions 2-year turnaround. (Any Playoff aspirations will become apparent early; the Trojans open in Dallas against Alabama.).  It’s difficult to imagine Helton twisting in the wind for a third straight regular season. Either Mike Bohn will endorse him for the long haul in the form of a new contract, or he’ll let him go completely.

Similarly, USC represents something of a last stand for Orlando as well. Whatever aspirations he has, to become a head coach or simply to remain a Power 5 defensive coordinator, are dependent upon succeeding at USC. And considering the paragraph above, Orlando needs to provide instant improvement.

He’s done it before, and his career could depend on him doing it again.


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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 6: Chris Ash, Texas


By Zach Barnett -    June 11, 2020

Who: Chris Ash, Texas

Title: Defensive coordinator/safeties coach

Previous stop: Rutgers head coach (2016-19)

Why he’s important: You never want to draw too many conclusions off of one game, particularly a game where the coach we’re talking about didn’t even coach. But let’s examine the 2019 Alamo Bowl.   As the clock (literally) wound down on the worst decade in the program’s modern history, Texas put together one of its best defensive performances of the 2010s. The ‘Horns limited Utah to 3.5 yards per rush, 5.5 yards per pass attempt, collected five sacks, racked up 21 yards in TFLs on rushing downs, won 10 of 14 third downs, permitted just 15 first downs and just generally kicked tail in a 38-10 win.

After playing off the ball all season, rising junior Joseph Ossai generated first-round hype in moving to an edge position in the ‘Horns’ new 4-down front, earning game MVP honors with nine tackles, six TFLs and three sacks.

And, again: It was just one game. Not only that, this one game was a de facto home game for Texas, while Utah was checked out after losing its spot in the Playoff in a Pac-12 Championship loss to Oregon.

Still, it was enough to get observers to say, Where has that been all season?  And when you get down to it, isn’t that Ash’s entire job this season?

Texas returns 82 percent of the production from a defense that will feature the most talent of any since the Mack Brown era. (Yes, the recruiting services always seem to like UT’s classes, but the school hadn’t pulled back-to-back Top 3 classes, as it did in 2018-19, since the early Mack era.)

The program has very much earned its “I’ll believe it when I see it” reputation to this point. The Longhorns closed the year strong — collecting nine sacks in their final two games after compiling just 18 in their first 11 contests — but many of those same players were lit aflame by LSU, and Oklahoma, and, uh, TCU and Kansas. TCU quarterback Max Duggan threw for a season-high 10.1 yards per attempt in a 37-27 win over Texas, and Kansas dropped 48 in Brent Dearmon’s first game as offensive coordinator.

The Longhorns believe a switch from Orlando’s 3-3-5 to Ash’s 4-2-5, with Ossai as one of the four, is the key to unlocking the talent on the roster.   “I don’t think it’s any secret that we want to be in some more four-man front,” Herman said. “If we are in a three-man front, I think our guys need to be in position to rush the passer — playing more five-technique than 4i — but if that gets the 11 best on the field, that’s what we’ll do.”

“We want to be more disruptive and I think this scheme gives us the opportunity to do just that,” Ossai told 247Sports. “The D-line or the front seven, linebackers included, needs to set the tone so that the game can be [dictated]. If you can control the line you can control the run, you can put pressure on the quarterback, you can predict the plays of the offense and you can call the game easier.   “It’s just a better game and it flows better for us if the defense can be dominant, especially up front,” he added. “We’re taking that and we’re running with it.”

“If we want to win at a high level,” Ash said, “be a team that can win championships here, it’s going to start at the front back.”

Ash, who worked with Herman at Iowa State and Ohio State, leads an almost entirely new defensive staff. Jay Valai joined him from Rutgers as cornerbacks coach, Mark Hagen was hired from Indiana as defensive tackles coach, and Coleman Hutzler left South Carolina to coach linebackers. (Defensive ends coach Oscar Giles is the lone survivor.)

“When I look up front, there are a lot of big, strong, physical players that are coming back that played a lot of snaps last year,” Ash said in February. “We have to identify who are going to be our primary pass rushers; I think Joseph (Ossai) has an opportunity to be one of those types of guys. And then I look at the secondary and the number of players that are coming back that have played snaps in games, there are a lot — 14, 15, 16 guys that have played or have a chance to play for us moving forward… It has the most players that have the potential to play of any secondary I’ve been a part of in my career.”

It’s the job of those men to make sure, after a decade of falling short, that the whole finally adds up to the sum of its parts.

“I’m not concerned about what happened in the past. The past is behind us,” Ash said. “We’re focused on the process to get this defense to where everyone would like it to be.”

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 5: Chad Morris, Auburn


By Zach Barnett -    June 12, 2020

Who: Chad Morris, Auburn

Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: Arkansas head coach (2018-19)

Why he’s important: When high school buddies room together in college, the relationship typically goes one of two ways. You’ve likely witnessed this phenomenon, or perhaps experienced it yourself. Either the personalities of the roommates click together like pieces of a puzzle and the friendship elevates another plane — peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, twins born from separate wombs.

Or, the relationship goes in the opposite direction — quickly, and with a vengeance. One roommate’s a neat freak and the other’s a slob, or one’s a night owl and the other’s an early bird, and by Thanksgiving two guys (or gals) that were best friends when they lived apart find themselves sharing a living space in icy silence.

Such are the stakes for the Gus Malzahn-Chad Morris relationship at Auburn.

This arrangement in nearly two decades in the making. Depending on how deep in the legend you want to go, Malzahn saved Morris’s career, back when the former was a legend-in-the-making in northwest Arkansas and the former a Texas high school coach struggling to salvage his career.

“And since then, he and I have been friends. We’ve talked ball every year,” Morris said in 2018. “And I definitely consider him and his wife Kristi, Paula and I consider them very dear friends and have helped me get to where we are today.”

“I always knew he had something special about him,” Malzahn said of Morris before the pair met as opponents for the first time in 2018. “He’s a great person. He’s one of the good guys in our business. But he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. So we just kind of developed that relationship.”

Malzahn has been the trailblazer of the relationship. It was he who made the jump from high school head coach to college OC first, at Arkansas in 2006. Morris did the same at Tulsa in 2010, occupying the same chair at the same program where Malzahn coached in 2008-09. Malzahn became a head coach in 2012, Morris in 2015. Malzahn got an SEC job in 2013, Morris in 2018.

After close to 20 years as colleagues and confidents, Malzahn and Morris have turned their platonic relationship into a professional one.

“I’m super excited to have Chad Morris join our staff at Auburn,” Malzahn said upon announcing Morris’s hire back in December. “He’s a tremendous offensive mind who has had success with several top-ranked offenses during his time in the college ranks. I’ve known Chad for almost 20 years, and he is a tireless worker and a perfectionist. He is a great addition to our program.”

Morris wasn’t convinced he wanted to coach at all in 2020 after his two-and-done run at Arkansas, but the offer from his old buddy and a stern conversation with his son pulled him back in.

“When you go through (a firing), my focus was my family and what was right for the next step in our journey,” Morris said in December. “I was wanting to make sure that if I did get back in that it was going to be in the right situation. And here it is.”

After having a documented push-pull relationship with play-calling, Malzahn is handing the proverbial clipboard over to Morris.

“You don’t hire a guy like Chad Morris unless you’re going to do that,” Malzahn said in January.

On paper, this is absolutely the right call. Morris runs a similar scheme to Malzahn’s — that’s the genesis of this story, after all — and he made his name at the major college level as an excellent offensive coordinator and an elite identifier and developer of quarterbacks. In fact, one could argue Morris’s early identification of Deshaun Watson college football’s single biggest turning point of the last decade.

Bo Nix showed plenty of flashes in his true freshman season: throwing for 2,500 yards with 16 touchdowns against just six picks while running for seven more scores. In a season where Auburn faced six of the year-end AP Top 10 teams, Nix led Auburn to wins over No. 5 Oregon and No. 8 Alabama, with 1-score losses to No. 10 Minnesota, No. 4 Georgia and No. 1 LSU. In fact, no one played the 2019 national champions closer than Auburn.

With three years to mold Nix, it’s absolutely possible that the Malzahn and Morris pairing could lead Auburn to the College Football Playoff, if not in 2020 then quickly thereafter.

And yet.

This is still the SEC West, and this is still Auburn. Alabama, Georgia and LSU are still on the schedule every year, and because of that Auburn will remain the ultimate pressure-cooker job in a pressure-cooker sport.

It’s easy to pat your buddy on the back and say nice things when your first game is nine months away. What’s the dynamic going to be like when Alabama’s up a touchdown and the Auburn offense just went three-and-out for the second straight drive?

We all hope that won’t end with Gus threatening to put a  rat trap in between Chad’s knees,  but it’s impossible to know for sure until the moment arrives.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 4: Bo Pelini, LSU


By Zach Barnett -   June 15, 2020

Who: Bo Pelini, LSU

Title: Defensive coordinator

Previous stop: Youngstown State head coach (2015-19)

Why he’s important: Really? Him?    When Dave Aranda left for Baylor in January, Ed Orgeron could have had his choice of the top available defensive minds in college football. Any of them. The job sits directly on top of an absolute oil gusher in talent — both on the roster and within LSU’s recruiting footprint. The previous defensive coordinator was the highest-paid assistant coach in college football history, and left to become a first-time head coach at a Power 5 school. The LSU defensive coordinator job checks every box with a diamond-encrusted check mark. What up-and-coming defensive mind wouldn’t want that kind of opportunity?

And Orgeron hired Bo Pelini.

Orgeron and Pelini have never worked together previously. (To be fair, O had never worked with Joe Brady, either.) Pelini has coached at LSU before, helping Les Miles to a national championship in 2007 before bouncing for Nebraska.

That happens to be the last time Pelini coordinated a defense, when George W. Bush was President and, outside of Gus Malzahn’s Arkansas, most everyone in the SEC West was still huddling and sticking their quarterback under center.

LSU will switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 which (outside of what he sees as an opportunity to increase the Tigers’ pass rush from the interior defensive line) Pelini downplayed the significance of.

“You have to do what your players do best. It’s not about the scheme, it’s about giving them the best chance to have success,” he said.

“(Pelini’s) defense had the ability to kind of morph from week to week to stop whatever we were most concerned about going into the game,” John Papuchis, Pelini’s defensive coordinator at Nebraska and a GA under him at LSU, told The Athletic.

Orgeron also said LSU plans to play more 2-high safety looks, compared to Aranda’s preference of Cover 1.

But biggest change will be in the personality of the men implementing those schemes. LSU moves from the quiet intensity of Aranda — the perfect yin to Orgeron’s yang — to the, uh, intense intensity of Pelini.

“I think our players will get used to it,” he said in an April interview. “I think they liked it so far, but they haven’t seen anything yet.”

Though six draftees are gone from a defense that tied for 29th in yards per play (5.11), LSU returns plenty of talent.

Pelini said he had multiple defensive lineman who had “Glenn Dorsey potential,” and envisioned playing senior safety JaCoby Stevens in a jack-of-all-trades position similar to how LaRon Landry used to prowl sideline-to-sideline on Pelini’s first defenses. Pelini recruited North Dakota State linebacker, an FCS All-American, Jabril Cox to Baton Rouge; Cox could have been selected in this year’s draft, but chose to play another college football season instead. Sophomore cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr., enters 2020 as — in my eyes, at least — the best defensive player in college football.

The Tigers will enter 2020 firmly in the Top 10, though no one expects a repeat. Some amount of a rebuild is inevitable. But the 2019 season unlocked the potential of what LSU can be — a perennial national power on par with Alabama and Clemson.

All the ingredients are there, as long as Coach O’s bet on Pelini proves to be the right one.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 3: Kerry Coombs, Ohio State


By Zach Barnett -   June 16, 2020

Who:  Kerry Coombs

Title: Defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach

Previous stop: Tennessee Titans defensive backs coach (2018-19)

Why he’s important: When you’re a coordinator at Ohio State, you live life on a margin that is both a mile wide and an inch thick.  Kerry Coombs wasn’t hired to coach Ohio State to wins over Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland, or even Michigan State and Michigan. When the talent gap is as big as it will be in 2020, the players could win those games on their own.

Coombs was hired to do two things:

1) To keep the talent gap between Ohio State and 90 percent of its schedule as wide as it is today.
2) To beat Penn State, Clemson and the SEC.

We’re pretty sure Coombs can handle Job No. 1. With 4 5-stars and 11 4-stars on board, Ohio State is in the process of running away with the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for 2021.

It’s Job No. 2 where we won’t know until we know.

Coombs, 58 going on 28, didn’t join the college game until he reached his mid 40s — he was a Cincinnati high school coach prior to that — and rose the ranks as a defensive backs coach. An original member of Urban Meyer’s Ohio State staff, Coombs held an assistant defensive coordinator title in 2017, but that was Greg Schiano’s defense.

To be sure, it’s not as if Coombs walked in and hit CTRL + X on the play book. Greg Mattison return as co-defensive coordinator. As does associate head coach Larry Johnson, linebackers coach Al Washington, and the sport’s most talented roster north of Clemson, S.C.

Jeff Hafley, Chase Young and Jeff Okudah are gone, but Ohio State is going to remain an elite defense.

“At the end of the day somebody has to walk out of that room with the final say,” Day said in February, “and that will be Kerry.”

Coombs doesn’t regret leaving Ohio State for the Titans, because he returns to Columbus a smarter coach than he was before.

“The library of defense that I have right now is extraordinary,” he said on Signing Day in February. “The things that we will be able to do adjust, adapt versus specific opponents is going to be really helpful from a scheme perspective. I learned another dynamic leadership style. You sit in the back of the room and you watch Urban Meyer run a meeting, you watch Brian Kelly run a meeting, you watch Mike Vrabel run a meeting… you learn an awful lot. Mike had a very distinct leadership style. It was phenomenal.

“More than anything, though, I learned to be a better coach, to relate better, in a different way, to players who make a lot of money. How to get those guys to maximize what they do for themselves and for the team. Instead of saying, ‘Go do this,’ now I’ve got to say, ‘Here’s why we’re going to do this.’ I’m bringing that back to the room.”

At some point, though, Ohio State will find itself staring down Trevor Lawrence on a gotta-have-it 3rd-and-5. Ultimately, Jeff Hafley did not find the right call, or at least enough of them to put Ohio State back on top of the mountain.

Will Coombs find the right call somewhere in his library? We won’t know until we know.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 2: Kirk Ciarrocca, Penn State


By Zach Barnett -   June 17, 2020

Who: Kirk Ciarrocca, Penn State

Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: Minnesota offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2017-19)

Why he’s important: You know what they say — if you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em.

While Kirk Ciarrocca didn’t get hired as Penn State’s offensive coordinator on the strength of that 31-26 victory over the Nittany Lions alone, that 460-yard performance (against a defense that allowed 346 per game) certainly didn’t hurt.

“We wanted to get a proven play-caller, a guy who’s got a history of calling plays but also somebody that our systems were similar, there would be some carryover,” James Franklin said after the Cotton Bowl. “It’s a fine line — you go out and hire someone who’s successful doing what they do, and then you also say, ‘Look, Penn State’s returning a bunch of starters.’ Someone that would be willing to come in and say, ‘Okay, what can we keep the same from a verbiage, terminology standpoint. What are the things that I have conviction about, that I need to do to be comfortable? What’s the blend?'”

The hiring is the latest of big moves for the Lewisberry, Pa., native, who was Western Michigan’s offensive coordinator in 2016 and Delaware’s running backs coach in 2012.

“The system that we’ve developed fits, it has answers, and we know what the answers are,” Ciarrocca said in February. “We know how to move our pieces as the defense moves their pieces. The core philosophies of what I believe in have been with me for a long time. The actual plays have evolved with time and the different players I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”

Ciarrocca will have the pleasure of working with the most talented roster he’s ever had in 2020:

–Quarterback Sean Clifford returns for his junior season after throwing for 2,654 yards on 8.3 per attempt, rushing for 402 yards and accounting for 28 total touchdowns.

— Running back Journey Brown is also back for his junior season, having rushed for 890 yards and 12 touchdowns on 6.90 a pop. Among all returning college football rushers, only Travis Etienne averaged more yards on an equal or greater number of carries as Brown’s 129.

Running back Noah Cain also returns after a freshman season in which he splashed with 443 yards and eight scores on 5.27 a carry.

— Penn State does lose KJ Hamler and his 904 receiving yards, but Pat Freiermuth is an All-America candidate at his tight end position.

It’s undeniable that Penn State has been a top-10 program over the past four seasons. The Nittany Lions are 42-11 over that span with a Big Ten title, two New Year’s Six wins and three top-10 finishes.

It’s also undeniable that Penn State has not been a top-4 program since 2016, at least not yet. No program has accomplished more over the Playoff era without actually reaching the Playoff.

With the entire backfield returning, plus a loaded defense (linebacker Micah Parsons may be the first defensive player selected in next year’s draft) and a favorable schedule that sees Ohio State come to Beaver Stadium, Penn State may never have a better opportunity to compete for a national title in the James Franklin era than it does this fall.

Glad you’re here, Coach Ciarrocca. Now get to work.

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The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season — No. 1: Todd Monken, Georgia


By Zach Barnett -   June 22, 2020

Who: Todd Monken, Georgia

Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator (2019)

Why he’s important: A year ago, LSU paired an NFL passing game expert with a graduate transfer quarterback to instantly produce the most fearsome passing attack college football has ever seen, in the process taking the entire sport by storm en route to an all-timer of a national championship run.

Georgia has its own NFL passing game expert on staff, and not one but two transfer quarterbacks.

Time to start celebrating, right?

It’s hard to imagine any Georgia signal caller repeating Joe Burrow’s numbers — 76.3 percent completions for 5,671 yards (10.8 per attempt) with 60 touchdowns against six picks, good for an FBS-record 201.96 rating — but the good news is those bonkers numbers won’t be remotely necessary.

That’s because Georgia’s 2020 defense has a chance to be every bit as good as LSU’s 2019 offense.

The Bulldogs led FBS in 2019 in scoring defense (12.6 points per game), rushing defense (75 yards per game), ranked second in yards per play (4.29) and return 80 percent of their production from a year ago — more than everyone else on the SEC portion of their schedule, save for Vanderbilt.

This has led some to wonder if this could be Smart’s best defense at Georgia.

Whether that proves to be the case or not, we know Smart’s program is thisclose to joining a stratosphere occupied only by Alabama and Clemson (and now LSU). Georgia has won 36 games over the past three seasons. They’re 21-3 in regular season SEC games with three straight SEC East crowns, and they did not trail in the 2017 national championship until the game’s final play. The defense, whether it be better than previous iterations or merely equal to them, is already championship caliber. It’s the offense that needs to catch up.

This is, of course, where Monken comes in.

Monken’s rise to prominence came in 2011, when he became the offensive coordinator of what turned out to be the best Oklahoma State team of all-time. Those Cowboys averaged 48.7 points a game in a 12-1 season, winning the Big 12 title and the Fiesta Bowl and losing only at Iowa State in double overtime. That success won him the Southern Miss head coaching job, where he turned an 1-11 team into a 9-5 team in three years’ time.

He then spent the last half of the previous decade as an NFL offensive coordinator, with the Bucs and Browns. Those travels, from the Big 12 to Conference USA to the AFC North, taught him a lot about what a balanced offense truly means.

“I think balance is multiple skill players touching the football,” he said in Cleveland. “It’s not always run-pass. Do you have enough skill players that can touch the football? If you have a run play with an RPO built in it, that’s a play. That’s not run-pass. The efficiency of that play is what matters, not who touched it. Sometimes we get caught up in run yards, pass yards; it’s efficiency of what you do, being explosive, not turning it over, scoring touchdowns.”

Monken’s 2015 Southern Miss team was the second in college football history to produce a 4,000-yard passer and two 1,000-yard rushers. His 2018 Tampa Bay offense led the NFL in passing offense and finished third in total yards.

“Coach Monken sees the game through the quarterback’s eyes,” Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played under Monken with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said upon his hiring. “He is aggressive and calls a game based on the strengths of his players. He does a great job of teaching and instilling confidence in the entire unit.”

On that front, Monken will have one — and perhaps two — sets of eyes to see the game.

Georgia acquired graduate transfer Jamie Newman in February after a season in which he threw for 2,868 yards, rushed for 574 and accounted for 32 touchdowns. Newman was a master of the RPO game at Wake.

The Dawgs added USC transfer JT Daniels late last month, though it’s uncertain he’ll see meaningful action for Georgia this fall because: A) he’s three months behind Newman in learning Monken’s playbook, and B) he’s yet to receive a waiver to play this season as an undergraduate transfer.

Still, he threw a nice deep ball as a true freshman on a bad USC team in 2018.

No matter who wins the job, Georgia will have to replace a lot around him. The Bulldogs lost four starting offensive linemen from last year’s team, plus O-line coach Sam Pittman. Their top two running backs, D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien (1,708 rushing yards in 2019) are both gone, as are four of their top seven pass catchers.

Still, the recruiting classes that will comprise Georgia’s 2020 roster ranked No. 3, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 1 in the country, with a whopping 19 5-stars among them. This is every bit the most talented roster in America.

Georgia’s revamped offense doesn’t necessarily need to rack up 8,526 yards and 726 points, as LSU did a year ago. As long as Monken gets the Bulldogs within barking distance of those numbers, Georgia is likely your 2020 national champion.

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On 6/17/2020 at 4:41 PM, LTtxfan said:

The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season....

Looks like Yurcich is gonna be #1 🤘


WRONG.  In Summary from FootballScoop:

The 20 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2020 season 

By Zach Barnett -   June 22, 2020 

The assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2020 season and beyond:

No. 20: Zach Arnett, Mississippi State
No. 19: Larry Fedora, Baylor
No. 18: Justin Hamilton, Virginia Tech
No. 17: Sean Gleeson, Rutgers
No. 16: Adam Fuller, Florida State
No. 15: Matt Lubick, Nebraska
No. 14: Mike Bobo, South Carolina
No. 13: Rhett Lashlee, Miami
No. 12: Marvin Lewis and Antonio Pierce, Arizona State
No. 11: David Ballou and Matt Rhea, Alabama
No. 10: Scott Cochran, Georgia
No. 9: DJ Durkin, Ole Miss
No. 8: Joe Moorhead, Oregon
No. 7: Todd Orlando, USC
No. 6: Chris Ash, Texas
No. 5: Chad Morris, Auburn
No. 4: Bo Pelini, LSU
No. 3: Kerry Coombs, Ohio State
No. 2: Kirk Ciarrocca, Penn State

No. 1:  Todd Monken, Georgia


(Hard to believe Yurcich was left out.)



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