College Football: 12 Coordinators with the Most Freedom to Run Their Own Show

Jonathan McDanal@@jdmcdanalContributor IIIMarch 15, 2013

College Football: 12 Coordinators with the Most Freedom to Run Their Own Show

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    Offensive coordinators have a high-profile, high-stress position. Regardless of execution on the field, the coordinator in charge is always held accountable for what happens.

    Some get to run their own shows, while others pretty much operate within the confines of the head coach's system. The ones that are given complete control of their own offenses frequently find themselves with promotions all across the country.

    A couple of the coaches on this list are actually starting at new schools in 2013. These coaches all finished in the top 25 during the 2012 season in terms of total offense.

    Here are the nation's 12 offensive coordinators with the most freedom to run their own schemes.

12. Kenny Edenfield, Troy Trojans

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    Kenny Edenfield has been given command of the Troy offense since 2010. He responded to that trust with great seasons in 2010 and 2011 before finishing 2012 ranked No. 11 in the nation in total offense.

    After averaging over 450 yards per game in 2010, almost 300 passing yards per game in 2011 and just shy of 500 yards per game in 2012, Edenfield is far from getting fired.

    He's going to continue to have everything he needs to run this offense as long as he's this successful. You won't find anyone in Troy who disagrees with that, either. Almost 500 yards per game certainly earns a lot of respect.

    The Trojans will be lucky to keep him for two more seasons. After that, he will rightfully be given a shot at a major school.

11. Bill Legg, Marshall Thundering Herd

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    Bill Legg has led the Thundering Herd to some great seasons as far as offense is concerned. He's got a coaching history as an offensive coordinator that stretches all the way back to Purdue in 2006 and 2007.

    His Boilermakers led the Big Ten in quite a few offensive categories, including total offense in both seasons. He moved to Marshall and hasn't looked back.

    In 2012, the Thundering Herd finished at No. 6 in the nation in total offense, with 534.3 yards per game. He has earned Marshall's trust, and he's earned the respect of anyone who has been paying attention.

    Granted, at Marshall, it may not be that many people, but he's going to continue to turn heads as long as he has the control of his offense. He proved it in the Big Ten, so he can clearly do it in a power conference.

    If the Herd had a defensive coordinator that was as skilled as Legg is on offense, the Herd would be champions of their conference every season.

10. James Coley, Miami Hurricanes

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    James Coley took Florida State to new heights ever since he arrived. He's been the tight ends coach since 2009, and he added the offensive coordinator tag in 2011. He has joined the Miami Hurricanes for the 2013 season.

    Entering his third season as an offensive coordinator, there's really only one question surrounding the Hurricanes: Will they compete for an ACC title?

    The Seminoles finished at No. 19 in total offense in 2012, and Miami will provide Coley with plenty of raw talent to work with.

    The Seminoles immediately started contending for the ACC title against Clemson when he took over as offensive coordinator, and they fell just short of it in 2011.

    They made no such error in 2012, though they did falter big-time against NC State. That game cost Florida State a shot at a national title. Had they played against Notre Dame, the Seminoles would have probably been the ones to dethrone the SEC. (They would have had to beat South Carolina to continue the unbeaten streak that got them to the BCS title game.)

    Coley has the reins of the Miami offense, and the horse will be well under control before too long. If he continues in his vein, a power school from a superior conference is going to have him on the phone before 2014 is over.

9. Jim Chaney, Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Jim Chaney was the lone bright spot on the Tennessee staff during the post-Kiffin debacle that put Derek Dooley at the helm of a sinking ship.

    Chaney, Tyler Bray and Co. did everything they could to secure Tennessee some wins, but the defense always fell short. (Well, not always. The Vols did win five games in 2012.)

    Tennessee's passing offense ranked No. 15 in the nation, and its scoring offense ranked No. 22. The scoring defense was a gut-wrenching No. 107 nationally.

    Chaney's total offense ranked No. 18 in the country, and that earned him a job with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas had Tyler Wilson in 2012, and they couldn't do anything that mattered with John L. Smith as head coach.

    The Razorbacks have a new head coach to go along with their new offensive coordinator, and Chaney will prove to be a great investment for the Hogs.

    Chaney earned his stripes during one of the worst periods in Tennessee history. That just made him look even better. Chaney should be given complete control of the Arkansas offense. It will pay off quickly, and Chaney may be looking at a top coaching position sooner rather than later.

8. Dave Schramm, Fresno State Bulldogs

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    Dave Schramm's Fresno State offense owned the Mountain West Conference in 2012, and the Bulldogs were No. 16 in the country in total offense as well.

    Schramm took the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record in 2012. To put that in perspective, the Bulldogs went 4-9 in 2011 without Schramm's offensive scheme. That's an incredible turnaround.

    It may have been a step of faith to put Schramm in charge of the offense, but he rewarded Fresno State handsomely.

    The Bulldogs are poised to win the MWC outright next season, provided they can get by the Boise State Broncos this time around.

    Schramm has carte blanche to run his offense, and with results like 2012, he will continue to have that level of say-so until he's hired away by a bigger school with enough money to persuade him to leave.

7. Neal Brown, Kentucky Wildcats

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    Neal Brown is heading to Kentucky after an offensively brilliant run with the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He coached the Red Raiders offense impressively, and he's retaining the same position at his new school.

    Brown was in charge of the Red Raiders for the past three seasons, beginning in 2010. Texas Tech's passing attack ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2012, and the Red Raiders' total offensive numbers were more than just admirable in all three seasons:

    2010: No. 15 nationally in total offense

    2011: No. 13 nationally in total offense

    2012: No. 13 nationally in total offense

    Brown has earned every bit of his acclaim as an offensive coordinator, and if Kentucky is looking to contend in the SEC, he was one of the best decisions that the Wildcats could have made—right behind the new head coach (Mark Stoops) that picked him.

    If Brown can make a turnaround of any significance at Kentucky, then his days as an offensive coordinator are numbered.

6. Shannon Dawson, West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Shannon Dawson ran one of the most explosive offenses in the nation in 2012. Sure, there were a couple of instances where his scheme was ineffective, but it wasn't bad enough to take the responsibility away from him.

    Dawson was promoted from inside receivers coach to offensive coordinator between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. At the same time, West Virginia moved from the Big East to the Big 12.

    Even against the new competition in the power conference, Dawson's offense finished No. 10 nationally and No. 3 in the Big 12 in total yardage.

    Sure, he had Geno Smith under center, but that still doesn't take away from his seven-win 2012 season. In fact, his offense was one point away from defeating both TCU and Oklahoma. Those two losses were equally the defensive coordinator's fault.

    Dawson will need to repeat his success in the near future in order to retain his position at WVU, but he will get a bit of a pass in 2013. The defense will be the focus next year as the offense will be breaking in a new quarterback.

5. Nick Rolovich, Nevada Wolf Pack

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    Nick Rolovich led Nevada to a great season in 2012. It was the Wolf Pack's first year in the MWC, and they finished at the top of the conference in total offense.

    Not only did Nevada own the MWC offensively, the Wolf Pack finished No. 8 in the country in total yards per game as well.

    In 2013, Rolovich won't have the star power that Stefphon Jefferson provided in 2012, but Rolovich will just have to find another rock-toting beast to storm through the enemy's defensive line.

    Rolovich can make a name for himself at Nevada as long as the Wolf Pack gurus leave him in charge of the offense. He was given control for a reason, and if a No. 1 conference ranking doesn't earn him the right to keep that control, nothing will.

    Nevada needs to maintain focus, let him have his offense and focus on getting the defense to join him in terms of success. If that happens, Nevada could be the perennial BCS-buster instead of Boise State. (Of course, the BCS as we know it is only going to be around for one more season.)

4. Tony Franklin, California Golden Bears

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    Tony Franklin will be the offensive coordinator under head coach Sonny Dykes yet again. After the 2012 season, Dykes was hired by California as its head coach. Dykes pulled Franklin's name when it came time to hire an offensive coordinator.

    Who can blame him? Franklin engineered the nation's No. 1 scoring offense in 2012, and his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs even managed to put up far more points against Texas A&M than eventual national champion Alabama did.

    Franklin may not be heading for a national championship in 2013, but he will certainly provide Cal with the ability to contend for the Pac-12 in a few short years.

    If Franklin's scheme works as well at Cal as it did at Louisiana Tech, Oregon's offensive reputation may have some serious competition sooner rather than later.

    In his profile (linked at the beginning of the article via, Franklin says that Cal will be his last stop. He also makes it clear that he has no interest in being a head coach.

    If both those statements remain true through all the serious offers he will undoubtedly get, then Cal football is in for a Renaissance that will rival Alabama's after the Tide hired Nick Saban.

    No, Franklin and Dykes may not end up with as many national championships as Alabama, but Rose Bowl victories are coming. For that, Franklin will retain control of his offense totally until the day he retires.

3. Chad Morris, Clemson Tigers

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    Chad Morris and the Clemson Tigers had a great run in 2012. The only thing standing between them and the ACC title was Florida State.

    While Florida State headed to a lackluster Orange Bowl, Clemson took the opportunity to transform the Chick-fil-A Bowl into a sandstorm of adrenaline that even got Les Miles some negative press. (To be fair, Miles blew the last three minutes of the game and got his lumps.) Clemson may not have dominated the scoreboard during that game, but the Tigers offense dominated the stat line.

    Clemson will declare open season on the ACC in 2013, as Florida State loses its starting quarterback. Every other team (Miami, Duke, UNC, etc.) will still be rising toward the top of the conference.

    In 2013, Clemson and the Chad Morris offense will already be at the top, waiting. Clemson has an outside shot at the national title, too.

    With both Georgia and South Carolina on the schedule, an undefeated season would definitely earn them a berth in the final BCS title game.

2. Mike Bobo, Georgia Bulldogs

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    Mike Bobo led the Georgia Bulldogs to their second-straight SEC title game appearance in 2012. Though the final outcome was still a loss, the game played out completely differently from the 2011 iteration against LSU.

    If the trend continues, then Georgia is due for a conference title in 2013. With Clemson on the schedule, Georgia can even afford to take one loss during the season.

    Bobo and quarterback Aaron Murray obviously won't be gunning for a loss; they'll be shooting for that awe-inspiring, envy-inducing 14-0 record and a victory in the final BCS title game.

    Bobo orchestrated the nation's 22nd-ranked total offense in 2012, and that was in the conference that's currently the strongest in college football. (Argue the schedules all you want, the SEC is undefeated in the title game over the last seven years, other than the LSU vs. Alabama rematch.)

    Murray also finished the 2012 season as the second-most efficient quarterback in the country, behind only Alabama's A.J. McCarron.

    Georgia is ready to make the final drive toward the top of the conference, and the Bulldogs fell only four points, four yards and four seconds short of that mark last season.

    If that's not a successful enough campaign for Bobo to remain in control of the offense, then there is no such thing.

1. Phillip Montgomery, Baylor Bears

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    Phillip Montgomery is the offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach for the Baylor Bears. While he had a great run in 2012, it is worth mentioning that he held those two positions when Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy in 2011.

    With RGIII as a giant bullet point on his resume, he could have taken a little bit of a break in 2012 and still retained his control over Baylor's offense.

    He did nothing of the sort. He fielded the nation's No. 2 total offense, behind only Louisiana Tech's record-setting Colby Cameron.

    In passing yards alone, Baylor finished No. 4 in the country, and the Bears held the same position in the points-per-game category as well.

    The rest of the Baylor staff stays out of Montgomery's way, and the reward in 2012 was a monster victory over then-No. 1 Kansas State.

    Baylor can look forward to a ton of success under Montgomery's reign as offensive coordinator. Why wouldn't you let him have free reign? Baylor needs to recognize that he's going to get serious offers.

    If the Bears can pay him enough to stay, Baylor may very well have a Big 12 title coming before too long.