10 College Football Coordinators Who Could Be on the Move This Offseason
When a college football head coaching job opens up, there are usually three different routes that schools take to fill that position: poach someone else's head coach, find someone that's been out of the game or scoop up a "hot" assistant or coordinator who's made a name for himself.
So far, though, most FBS teams that have hired new coaches this offseason have gone the poaching route, with six of the nine hires (as of Sunday) going to existing head coaches at other schools.
There are four vacancies still left to be filled in FBS: Texas, Arkansas State, Bowling Green and Army, which reportedly fired Rich Ellerson on Sunday, according to Sports Illustrated. Countless more will no doubt open up as the bowl games are played out over the next three weeks, with coaches shifting all around the country.
Head coaches are mostly known quantities in college football circles.
But what about those assistants and coordinators, the ones who often do most of the behind-the-scenes (and during-the-game) work to lead a team to success? Which of them are most likely to grab a head coaching gig this offseason, or at least jump to a better job somewhere else?
Assistants Who Have Already Taken New Jobs
Several top assistants have already made moves to new positions, whether it's to become a head coach for the first time or to move to a better gig:
Bob Diaco: The Notre Dame defensive coordinator was hired as Connecticut's head coach.
Chuck Martin: Notre Dame also lost its offensive coordinator, who is now head coach at Miami (Ohio).
Doug Meachem: Houston's offensive coordinator left to take the same position at TCU.
Charlie Partridge: The Arkansas associate head coach has taken the head job at Florida Atlantic.
Blake Anderson, North Carolina Offensive Coordinator
Blake Anderson has run North Carolina's offense the past two seasons under head coach Larry Fedora. In 2012 the Tar Heels set 35 school records on offense, according to his bio on the UNC athletics website.
UNC struggled to a 1-5 start this season before running off five wins in a row to become bowl-eligible. During that late win streak the Tar Heels put up 80 points against transitioning FBS program Old Dominion, and for the year are ranked 44th in total offense.
Anderson was offensive coordinator under Fedora when the two were at Southern Miss as well, and he reportedly showed interest in going back there to be head coach before this season.
Mike Bajakian, Tennessee Offensive Coordinator
Mike Bajakian is wrapping up his first season at Tennessee, where he also coaches the Volunteers quarterbacks. He came along with Butch Jones from Cincinnati, where the two put together potent offenses for three years. Prior to that, the tandem had the same success on offense at Central Michigan.
Despite Tennessee going 5-7 while averaging just 23.8 points per game and a total offense (353.3 yards per game) that ranked 101st nationally, Bajakian's name is surfacing for current head coach openings. He's rumored as a candidate for the Bowling Green job, according to SB Nation's Rocky Top Talk blog.
Eddie Gran, Cincinnati Offensive Coordinator
Eddie Gran is a career assistant who's been all over in 26 years on the job, but he might finally be ready for someone to snatch up as a head coach.
He's finishing his first year as offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to a 9-3 record and turning sixth-year senior quarterback Brendon Kay into one of the top arms in the college game.
Gran, who previously has coached at schools such as Auburn, Florida State and Tennessee, among others, seems to have his name thrown about for coordinator and head coach openings every year. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman has indicated he'd be a good candidate for the Arkansas State position that's opened for the fourth straight year.
Rhett Lashlee, Auburn Offensive Coordinator
Gus Malzahn is getting most of the attention for Auburn's amazing season, but a lot of credit deserves to go to Rhett Lashlee as well.
Lashlee has been Malzahn's right-hand man at both Auburn and in 2012 at Arkansas State, with both seasons showing amazing offensive numbers and an incredible run game. And prior to a stint at FCS Samford as an offensive coordinator, Lashlee worked under Malzahn at Auburn when he was the Tigers offensive coordinator.
Only 30, Lashlee was a finalist for the Broyles Award given to the nation's top assistant coach. He has been speculated for the vacancy at Arkansas State, and he'll probably get consideration for some bigger openings if they come about this offseason.
Noel Mazzone, UCLA Offensive Coordinator
With as en vogue as the spread offense has become in college football, it's hard to believe Noel Mazzone is still an assistant coach considering his involvement over the years with developing that style of play.
Mazzone is in his second year at UCLA, coming from Arizona State and previously had stops at, among other places, Auburn, North Carolina State, Ole Miss and Oregon State. Each of those teams had strong offenses under his guidance.
His name has been linked to numerous openings over the years, most recently as a candidate for the Connecticut opening that went to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. But considering his journeyman-like career of job-hopping, he just as easily could end up in another offensive coordinator position.
Chad Morris, Clemson Offensive Coordinator
Chad Morris is the highest-paid assistant coach in the country, earning a reported $1.3 million per year, according to USA Today. This, for a guy who was coaching high school football as recently as 2009.
Morris has been behind one of the most potent offenses in the country since coming to Clemson in 2011, turning Tahj Boyd into the ACC's most prolific passer ever and guiding the Tigers to more than 40 points and 500 yards per game this season.
His name was mentioned as a "big player" in Wake Forest's search for a new coach, according to CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman, but that job went to Bowling Green's Dave Clawson.
Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State Defensive Coordinator
Pat Narduzzi is the top college football assistant coach in the country, at least as far as awards go. He won the Broyles Award that goes to the nation's top assistant, thanks to piloting the top-ranked defense in FBS that allows just 248 yards per game (including less than 81 on the ground) and only 12.7 points.
He's been the defensive coordinator at Michigan State for seven years, and you'd think he's ready to branch out on his own. But Narduzzi appears to be taking the leap very carefully, as evidenced by his decision to turn down the Connecticut job last week.
Mike Norvell, Arizona State Offensive Coordinator
When Todd Graham took the head job at Arizona State two years ago, he knew instantly who he'd be bringing along as his offensive coordinator. It's a variation of same role Mike Norvell has held under Graham during Graham's brief stops at Pittsburgh and Tulsa, too.
And Norvell's work at ASU has been nothing short of spectacular, with the Sun Devils averaging 41 points per game with one of the most balanced offenses in the nation.
Though Graham has said he expects Norvell to be a head coach very soon, before that happens he could end up going to a more high-profile coordinator slot, such as Florida. CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler, among others, has reported this possibility.
Kirby Smart, Alabama Defensive Coordinator
Nick Saban is the face of Alabama football. But Kirby Smart is a big part of the reason the Crimson Tide perennially have one of the best defenses in the game.
Now finishing his seventh year in Tuscaloosa, Smart is widely considered as one of the game's best assistants, not to mention one of the highest paid. It's expected he'll eventually become a head coach, and could this be the year?
Bleacher Report's SEC Lead Writer, Barrett Sallee, wrote that Smart could be a good fit for Texas. Sallee noted that Texas had previously tabbed an untested Will Muschamp as Mack Brown's coach-in-waiting, so the school could be willing to go with someone without head coaching experience.
And if you can't get Saban, why not get his top assistant?
Charlie Taafee, Central Florida Offensive Coordinator
Charlie Taaffee has probably put together one of the more impressive coaching resumes without much notoriety. He's the guy who's responsible for Central Florida's great offense this season, and why a relatively unknown Blake Bortles has suddenly become a hot NFL prospect at quarterback.
Taaffee has been a head coach three times, including twice in the Canadian Football League and also for 10 seasons at FCS The Citadel, another military school. And with the Army job opening up, he's already being bandied about as a top candidate for that gig, the Orlando Sentinel reported.