Head Coaches always get the bulk of the credit for a program’s success, but their assistant are usually the backbone of the team.
Rather a Coordinator is calling plays from the sidelines or up in the booth, they play a huge role in the outcome of a game. Regardless of which side of the ball they orchestrate plays, they all give their respective teams instant credibility. Some remain loyal and can’t be lured away for greener pastures elsewhere.
Not only are these 15 Coordinators exceptional at the x’s and o’s, but they also do a marvelous job leading young men on and off the field. With spring ball in session, they’ll be looking to add more success to their legacies in 2022.
15. Aaron Roderick, OC, BYU: No Zach Wilson, no Jeff Grimes, no problem. Roderick took over play-calling duties for the Cougars in 2021 and kept the wheels rolling. BYU won 10 games during the regular season and finished 17th in the FBS in total offense. The 49-year old also coached the quarterbacks. Not to mention he helped Jaren Hall finish 23rd in the FBS in passing efficiency. BYU scored a season-high, 66 points in the victory over Virginia. The following week, the Cougars put 59 points on the scoreboard. With Hall and star wide receiver Puka Nacua back in the lineup, BYU’s offense could very well put up video game numbers in 2022. If that happens Roderick will prove 2020’s success was no fluke.
14. Todd Monken, OC, Georgia: The Illinois native increased the Bulldogs’ production in scoring, rushing, passing and total offense last season. Although Georgia’s stout defense got most of the exposure, the offense did its’ part for the reigning National Champs. Monken helped former walk-on Stetson Bennett blossom into one of the league’s best signal-callers. Not to mention Bennett finished second in the conference and fourth in the FBS in passing efficiency. The signal-caller was named Offensive MVP of the National Championship Game. With Bennett behind center again this fall, the 49-year old Monken will have an opportunity to get him some Heisman consideration.
13. Mike Tressel, DC, Cincinnati: He’s the nephew of former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel, who won a Natty with the program in 2002. Tressel ‘s specialty is linebackers and he was Mark Dantonio’s Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State from 2018-19. The 48-year old fielded some solid defenses during his time in East Lansing. However, what Tressel accomplished at Cincinnati last season, was nothing short of phenomenal. The Bearcats finished first in the AAC in scoring and total defense. Cincinnati’s defense picked off 19 passes, which tied for third in the FBS. Tressel’s defense also generated 39 sacks. Tressel might have his biggest coaching challenge in 2022, replacing all of the departures.
12. Bill O’Brien, OC, Alabama: The 52-year old has had successful stints as a head coach at Penn State and the Houston Texans. O’Brien was also part of the New England Patriots’ dynasty in the late 2000’s and his work with Tom Brady. Last season was O’Brien’s first year on the job with the Crimson Tide, and he helped them win an SEC Title. Not to mention Bryce Young became the program’s first quarterback to win the Heisman. Under O’Brien’s guidance, Young broke school records for passing yards and touchdown tosses in a single season. Although the Crimson Tide didn’t have a dominant rushing attack, they still finished first in the SEC and seventh in the FBS in total offense.
11. Mark Whipple, OC, Nebraska: He’s coming off an unforgettable campaign at Pittsburgh in 2021. Whipple called the plays for the past three years with the Panthers, and improved their numbers each season. However, last fall everything came full circle, and Pittsburgh won its’ first ever ACC Title. Whipple molded quarterback Kenny Pickett into the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner. Not to mention wide receiver Jordan Addison won the Biletnikoff. The Panthers finished first in the league and eighth in the FBS in total offense. Whipple brings a ton of knowledge and experience to Lincoln. Which is why Husker fans are hoping he’ll have the same impact on their sleeping giant program this fall.
10. Kurt Mattix, DC, San Diego State: Over the past two seasons he’s been on the job, the Aztecs have fielded some elite defenses. Mattix was also named the Mountain West Wire’s Coordinator of the Year in 2021. His 3-3-5 scheme has dominated foes on the gridiron, especially against the run. The numbers don’t lie and San Diego State has had one of the best rush defenses in the FBS with Mattix patrolling the sidelines. Everyone knows the Aztecs won 12 games last year, because of their tenacious defense. San Diego State also ranked second in the league and 12th in the FBS in total yards allowed. Mattix is underrated, but deserves more recognition for his successful impact on the program thus far.
9. Josh Gattis, OC, Miami: The 38-year old has had successful stops at Alabama and Michigan. Gattis is the reigning Frank Broyles Award winner for his work with the Wolverines last season. Michigan’s offense steamrolled opponents with a punishing ground game, which ranked first in the Big Ten and 15th in the FBS. The Wolverines’ offensive line mauled defenders so much up front that the late John Madden gave Jim Harbaugh praise. Michigan’s offense racked up 487 total yards in the victory over Ohio State. Not to mention the Wolverines won a Big Ten Title and their first-ever berth in the Playoffs. Now Gattis is back in the ACC where he once played, and will try restore some swagger with The U.
8. Jon Heacock, DC, Iowa State: The 61-year old doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for fielding one of the Big 12’s best defenses over the past four seasons. During that span Iowa State hasn’t finished no lower than third in the conference in points allowed. That’s because Heacock is a defensive guru, who also orchestrates the safeties. The Cyclones finished second in the Big 12 and ninth in the FBS in total defense last year. Not to mention Iowa State dominated in the secondary and ranked first in the league in pass defense. Mike Rose was named the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, and Will McDonald was named co-Defensive Lineman of the Year last fall.
7. Warren Ruggiero, OC, Wake Forest: He has been orchestrating the Demon Deacons’ offense since 2014, and does great work with the quarterbacks. Over the past four seasons Ruggiero has made the Demon Deacons one of the ACC’s highest-scoring teams. Wake Forest averaged 41 points per game last season, which ranked second in the league and fourth in the FBS. Quarterback Sam Hartman scored a jaw-dropping, 50 total touchdowns. Hartman’s 4,228 passing yards and 39 touchdown tosses, were both single-season, school records. Ruggiero is the reason why Hartman is the program’s career leader in passing touchdowns. Expect video game numbers from Wake Forest with both returning.
6. Kevin Wilson, OC, Ohio State: The 60-year old has been Ohio State’s Offensive Coordinator since 2017, and was a head coach for six seasons at Indiana prior to that. Wilson is a former Broyles Award winner, who knows the Big Ten’s style of play like the back of his hand. The Buckeyes’ offense have been miraculous over the past four seasons. Ohio State ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring and total offense every year during that span. Wilson is magical with his tight ends too. Jeremy Ruckert hauled in eight touchdown passes on just 39 catches over the past two years. Wilson has arguably the nation’s best quarterback in C.J. Stroud, so expect Ohio State’s offensive numbers to improve in 2022.
5. Morgan Scalley, DC, Utah: The 42-year old has been orchestrating the Utes’ defense since 2016. However, over the past four seasons Scalley has been arguably the Pac-12’s top Defensive Coordinator. Utah’s defense has ranked No. 1 in the league against the run every year of that span. Not to mention the Utes haven’t finished no worse than third in the conference in total defense. Scalley’s unit was a big reason why Utah captured its’ first-ever Pac-12 Title in 2021. The Utes’ defense also led the conference with 42 sacks. It’s mind-boggling that Scalley hasn’t accepted a head coaching position. That’s because he’s a Salt Lake City native, and will be Utah’s top candidate once Kyle Whittingham retires.
4. Phil Longo, OC, North Carolina: Mack Brown gave him the nod as his Offensive Coordinator in 2019 and Longo hasn’t disappointed. In just his first year on the job Longo improved the Tar Heels from 11th to second in the in the ACC in scoring offense. In season two under his direction North Carolina averaged 537.2 yards per game, which ranked first in league and fifth in the FBS. Last year North Carolina finished third in the ACC and 10th in the country in total offense. Longo is also a quarterback guru, and a big reason why quarterback Sam Howell broke several school passing records before he took the NFL route. Bottom line, skill position players are able to thrive in Logno’s amazing scheme.
3. Phil Parker, DC, Iowa: He’s one of the Hawkeyes’ longest-tenured assistant coaches, who’s been leading their defense since 2012. Parker is as loyal as they come, despite not being one of the highest-paid Coordinators in the FBS. It’s no mystery that he annually fields one of the Big Ten’s best defenses. Parker is the epitome when it comes to defensive efficiency and Iowa has remained consistent. Defensive backs are the 59-year old’s specialty, and the Hawkeyes led the entire FBS with a jaw-dropping, 19 interceptions last season. Cornerback Riley Moss was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year. Not to mention Iowa has had countless defenders drafted through the years of Parker’s leadership.
2. Jeff Lebby, OC, Oklahoma: His offenses are fun to watch and put up video game numbers. In 2019 at UCF, Lebby’s offense led the AAC in scoring and finished fifth in the FBS. The 38-year old’s magic continued in the almighty SEC. Ole Miss led the SEC in total offense for the past two seasons under Lebby’s direction. His scheme is very quarterback-friendly, and allows everyone to get involved. Lebby is the reason why Matt Corral will be one of the top quarterbacks selected in this year’s NFL Draft. New Oklahoma Coach Brent Venables made arguably the best offseason hire in landing Lebby in Norman. Now Lebby is reunited with gunslinger Dillon Gabriel, which is bad news for Big 12 defenses.
1. Jim Leonhard, DC, Wisconsin: The former Wisconsin safety is always one of the most sought-after head coaching prospects after every season. However, Leonhard remains loyal to his alma mater. So much so that he turned down the Green Bay Packers for the same gig in February of 2021. The 39-year old has been arguably one of the nation’s most successful assistant coaches since becoming the Badgers’ Defensive Coordinator in 2016. Last season was Leonhards’ best yet and Wisconsin led the entire FBS in total defense. On top of that the Badgers’ ranked first in the Big Ten in total defense for the past two seasons. Leonhard understands what it takes to be annually dominant in the physical Big Ten.