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10 Most Indispensable Assistants in College Football

Carl StineCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2016

10 Most Indispensable Assistants in College Football

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    We all like to sing the praises of Nick Saban, Les Miles, Brady Hoke and Chip Kelly.

    In the college football universe, it seems head coaches get most of the credit for a team's success or lack thereof.

    But without an excellent assistant or two, the greatest head coach is going to struggle at times.

    The 10 assistants on this list are the best of the best, the assistants that help make their program elite, or have seen vast improvement in recent seasons.

10. Nick Aliotti, Defensive Coordinator, Oregon

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    Nick Aliotti has been leading the Oregon defense for 15 seasons, showing tremendous longevity and loyalty to the program.

    In a time when the coaching carousel seems to run at supersonic speed, those are two qualities that are rare in great assistants.

    While the Ducks' high-flying offense gets all the credit, Aliotti has done a tremendous job of keeping the defense solid.

    While not as stingy as some of the other elite teams in the nation, the Ducks' defense gave up fewer than five yards per play in 2012, good enough to place it at 26th in the nation.

9. Noel Mazzone, Offensive Coordinator, UCLA

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    Mazzone has only been at UCLA for one season, but his impact was felt immediately.

    The Bruins' quarterback, Brett Hundley, showed tremendous growth and talent as a freshman, while running back Johnathan Franklin posted a monster season.

    It's no coincidence that this success took place in Mazzone's first season.

    With Mazzone leading the offense, and Hundley with at least two more seasons at quarterback for the Bruins, this team is going to be a force in the Pac-12 for the near future.

    Hundley's skill set as a dual threat is ideal for Mazzone's offense, while Mazzone's ability to lead an offense makes him one of the elite assistants in the game.

8. Greg Mattison, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan

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    Michigan's weakness during the Rich Rodriguez era was a defense that 107th in the nation in total defense during his final season at the helm.

    Enter Mattison.

    Not only is the man a great recruiter, who almost single-handedly salvaged the Wolverines' recruiting class in the same season that Brady Hoke was hired, but he's led the Wolverines' defense to two consecutive seasons in which the defense has improved dramatically.

    Without Mattison, Hoke may not still have his job as head coach at Michigan.

7. Tosh Lupoi, Defensive Line Coach, Washington

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    For four years before heading to Washington, Lupoi coached at Cal, and consistently pulled in big-time recruits, earning a reputation as one of the best recruiting coaches in the nation.

    The instant he moved to Washington, his impact was felt, as he helped flip top recruits Shaq Thompson and Pio Vatuvei to Steve Sarkisian's Washington squad, and continues to have an impact in a big way on the recruiting landscape.

    The Huskies finished recruiting season with the 18th-ranked class in the nation, in part due to Lupoi's exploits.

    If Sarkisian and Washington hope to again be relevant in the Pac-12, Lupoi's recruiting talent will be much in demand.

6. Calvin Magee, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona

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    Not only is Magee the offensive coordinator of the Arizona Wildcats, but he is also the running backs coach.

    So far, so good.

    During the 2012 season, Magee demonstrated his talent, helping develop Arizona running back Kadeem Carey into the nation's leading rusher at the position and a viable candidate to start of the 2013 season with Heisman buzz.

    Magee has already shown his ability to excel as an assistant, helping develop Steve Slaton while at West Virginia.

    Keep an eye on Arizona and Magee in the upcoming seasons, as under Magee's leadership the Wildcats are going to develop into one of the best rushing attacks in the nation.

5. Derek Mason, Defensive Coordinator, Stanford

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    Mason is one of the most underrated assistants in the nation.

    He's been the defensive coordinator for David Shaw's Stanford Cardinal for two years.

    In both of those seasons, the Cardinal have been top five in rushing defense, and in 2012, the team finished 11th in scoring defense.

    The Cardinal have been dominant on the defensive side of the ball, pounding opponents and displaying an aggressive, punishing style that reflects the teaching and training of Mason and his staff.

    David Shaw has done a phenomenal job retaining his staff, and keeping Mason will help this team continue to compete near the top of the Pac-12.

4. John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, LSU

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    Les Miles gets tons of press for his coaching acumen.

    However, much of his success can be credited to defensive coordinator John Chavis.

    Chavis' defenses are consistently loaded with talent, but Chavis has the coaching skill to take them to the next level and help generate an extremely polished finished product, ready for the NFL.

    The Tiger's defense has been top 15 in total defense and scoring defense in each of the past three seasons.

    The strength of the Tigers is absolutely the defense, and Chavis, as the leader of that defense, would be difficult for LSU to get along without.

3. Chad Morris, Offensive Coordinator, Clemson

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    Chad Morris, Clemson's offensive coordinator, is the highest paid assistant coach in college football.

    And he deserves it.

    In 2012, the Clemson offense finished in the top ten in both scoring and total offense, and routinely put up huge offensive numbers under Morris' leadership.

    The Tigers have all the momentum, after winning a huge bowl game over LSU, and Morris has plenty of tools returning again in 2013 to make this offense scary good.

    Given that the Tigers' defense is not that great, the offense has to put up tons of points to keep the team in every game.

    With Morris at the helm, they will continue to do so.

2. Bob Diaco, Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame

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    Yes, Notre Dame's defense looked lost against Alabama, and that might be generous.

    However, the unit was still one of the best in the nation for the entire regular season.

    Diaco was a huge contributor to the success Notre Dame enjoyed this past season.

    His defense generated several standout players, including Louis Nix and Manti Te'o, and his scheme was effective in shutting down just about every opponent the Irish faced during the regular season.

    Diaco won the Broyles award in 2012, awarded to the nation's best assistant coach, and was a finalist for the award in 2011.

    If he hangs around with the Irish, expect the resurgence being experience in South Bend to continue, as the defense continues to be stingy.

1. Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

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    If there is any assistant coach more influential to his team's success than Kirby Smart, I don't know where he can be found.

    He probably won't be around the assistant coaching ranks very long, as his talent is to great to remain at that position for too long.

    He doesn't get near enough credit, as he coaches in the shadow of the great Nick Saban.

    His defense at Alabama has ranked first in scoring defense and total defense for the past two seasons, and the Tide defense has been on another level than the rest of the elite teams in college football.

    Credit Smart, as the defensive coordinator, for much of the team's success.

    He's an underrated recruiter, with the ability to pull in stud playmakers on a regular basis.

    Somebody is going to hire this guy away at some point, and immediately the impact of his departure will be felt by the Tide defense.

    Smart is far and away the best and most indispensable assistant in the nation.

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