The 15 Best Defensive Coordinators in College Football

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The 15 Best Defensive Coordinators in College Football
Dave Martin/Associated Press

Offenses—along with any potential rule changes designed to slow them down—have been the talk of college football this offseason, but the old adage about the other side of the ball winning championships has never been more true.

Last year's national champion, Florida State, finished No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, passing defense and Football Outsiders' defensive F/+ ratings. The two national champions before that—both times the Alabama Crimson Tide—finished No. 1 in the country in scoring defense (along with total defense) as well.

The offensive renaissance in college football has not been overblown, but it also hasn't made offense the most important unit on the field.

Au contraire, it has actually shined an even brighter light on the men running each program's defense. The only thing more important than having one of these new-fangled, high-scoring offenses is having someone capable of slowing them down.

In looking for the 15 best defensive coordinators in college football, a number of factors were considered. Historical, time-tested success was obviously preferred over a one- or two-year wonder, but because of the offensive innovation in college football, recent years were weighted more heavily than older ones.

Their results are more germane.

Also of note: First-year coordinators such as Charles Kelly at Florida State were not considered for the list. Regardless of how they fared as positional coaches, it would be unfair to project that onto a new role—and to list them over someone who is proven—with no resume.

Sound off below, and let me know who I missed.


Note: All defensive F/+ rankings—an opponent-adjusted metric that was featured heavily in this list—come courtesy of Football Outsiders.

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