May 25, 2024

College football’s 15 best Coordinators of 2024

College football's 15 best Coordinators of 2024

Nebraska Defensive Coordinator Tony White (center) watches a play unfold in the fourth quarter against Iowa Friday November 24, 2023 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Although head coaches receive the most credit for a program’s success, Coordinators are the true masterminds behind all of the action on both sides of the ball.

Some of them are up and coming, using their current positions as a stepping-stone. While others are comfortable where they’re at, despite the lure of money. Rather they’re calling plays from the sidelines, or up in the booth, Coordinators play a huge role in the outcome of a game.

These 15 individuals are looking to build on last season’s success this fall, and add more credibility to their legacies.

15. Chad Scott, OC, West Virginia: He’s been on Neal Brown’s staff since 2019, and has served as Offensive Coordinator, and Running Backs Coach during that span. It’s no mystery that the Mountaineers led the Power Five, and finished third in the FBS in rushing yards last season. West Virginia rushed for a jaw-dropping, 228.9 yards per game, and posted 32 touchdowns on the ground. Not to mention Scott’s group ranked 27th nationally in total offense. Scott isn’t no one-season wonder either. The Mountaineers averaged 171.5 rushing yards per game in 2022. With West Virginia approaching the expanded Big 12 this fall, Scott will have his boys ready with a punishing ground attack.

14. Joe Klanderman, DC, Kansas State: The Wisconsin native is approaching his fifth season of leading the Wildcats’ defense. Klanderman’s unit has remained consistent, and been one of the best defenses in the Big 12. His defense was a big reason why Kansas State captured a conference crown in 2022. Klanderman also works closely with the safeties, and four of his defensive backs were selected in the NFL Draft over the past five years. Last season the Wildcats only allowed 21 points per game, which ranked second in the Big 12, and 26th nationally. Kansas State was third in the league in team tackles for loss. He’ll field another talented group this fall, with playmakers at every level.

13. Jon Heacock, DC, Iowa State: The 63-year old is currently the longest-tenured assistant coach in the Big 12. Heacock has fielded some of the Big 12’s best defenses through the years, and molded a plethora of diamonds in the rough into high-caliber defenders. Under Heacock’s watch, the Cyclones have had four defenders drafted over the past three years, including T.J. Tampa last month, and Will McDonald in the first round of 2023. His longevity is rare in today’s game. Heacock also knows the Big 12 like the back of his hand. The Ohio native understands the type of speed and physicality it takes to succeed in the league, which will be vital with four teams from the Pac-12 invading this July.

12. Chip Lindsey, OC, North Carolina: He did a marvelous job replacing Phil Longo last season, and kept the wheels rolling for the Tar Heels’ offense. After all, North Carolina led the ACC, and finished seventh in the FBS in total offense. Under Lindsey’s watch quarterback Drake Maye continued to play at a high level, and running back Omarion Hampton led the ACC in rushing yards. The Tar Heels also averaged 34.5 points per game, which ranked second in the conference, and 20th nationally. Lindsey also had success as UCF’s Offensive Coordinator in 2022, when his unit averaged 32.9 points per game. With Maye in the NFL, Lindsey must find other ways to replicate last year’s numbers.

11. Adam Fuller, DC, Florida State: He’s approaching his fifth season leading the Seminoles’ defense, and coming off a solid campaign. Fuller’s unit finished 15th nationally in total defense in 2022. Although Florida State ranked 28th in the FBS in total defense last year, Fuller’s group was just as tenacious. The Seminoles led the ACC, and finished sixth in the FBS with 46 sacks. Fuller’s boys ranked 15th nationally in team tackles for loss per game. Not to mention Florida State had five defenders selected in last month’s NFL Draft, including a first-rounder. The means Fuller has a major rebuilding job on his hands, but with Mike Norvell’s recruiting, the Seminoles shouldn’t miss a beat on defense.

10. Will Stein, OC, Oregon: Last season he did remarkable work in his first year of co-leading the Ducks’ offense, and working solely with the quarterbacks. Stein made Bo Nix one of four Heisman finalists. After all, Nix increased his completion percentage from the year prior, and led the entire FBS in that category. Oregon led the Pac-12, and finished second nationally in total offense, and points per game. Stein has had success as a co-Offensive Coordinator at UTSA too. In 2022 under his leadership, the Roadrunners averaged 36.8 points per game, which ranked 14th in the FBS. Now Stein is operating with Dillon Gabriel, who’s one of the country’s top gunslingers, and they’ll be ready for the Big Ten.

9. Brennan Carroll, OC, Washington: He has spent the past three seasons as Arizona’s Offensive Coordinator under Jedd Fisch. Carroll had one of the nation’s most explosive offenses in 2023. After all, the Wildcats ranked eighth nationally in passing yards, 18th in points per game, and 20th in total offense. Noah Fifita became an elite gunslinger, who finished fifth in the FBS in completion percentage, and 10th in passing efficiency. Carroll followed Fisch to Washington, but won’t have Fifita in his arsenal. However, Carroll will have Will Rogers, who set several school passing records at Mississippi State. Now Carroll needs Rogers to make an impact on the Big Ten like Fifita did on the Pac-12.

8. D’Anton Lynn, DC, USC: The 34-year old has an impressive NFL background, with stints as a defensive assistant with the Los Angeles Chargers, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens. Last season was Lynn’s first as a Defensive Coordinator at UCLA, and he took the Pac-12 by storm. The Bruins led the conference, and finished 10th in the FBS in total defense. It was a huge improvement from 2022, when UCLA ranked 87th nationally in total defense under Bill McGovern’s leadership. Lynn helped mold Laiatu Latu into an elite pass rusher, and a first-round draft pick. Now Lynn is replacing Alex Grinch. USC’s defense has been a liability, and needs a spark in the expanded Big Ten.

7. Kyle Flood, OC, Texas: The New York native was a head coach at Rutgers for four seasons, and an assistant for the Atlanta Falcons, and Alabama before he landed in Austin. So there’s no denying Flood has a ton of experience. He is approaching his fourth season as the Longhorns’ Offensive Coordinator, and put together a remarkable campaign in 2023. After all, Texas won the Big 12, finished ninth nationally in total offense, 15th in scoring, and 17th in passing yards per game. The Longhorns also had seven offensive players selected in last month’s NFL Draft. Flood has a talented quarterback room again with former five-stars Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning ready for the SEC.

6. Al Golden, DC, Notre Dame: The 54-year old has a ton of head-coaching experience, with stints at Temple and Miami. Golden has also been a position coach for the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals. He has orchestrated Notre Dame’s defense for the past two seasons, and put up some impressive numbers. The Fighting Irish finished 22nd in the FBS in total defense in 2022. Golden improved Notre Dame from 22nd to fifth nationally in total defense in 2023. Not to mention the Fighting Irish led the FBS in passing efficiency defense, and were second in the red zone. Now Golden will have one of the nation’s best secondaries, with the return of Benjamin Morrison, and All-American Xavier Watts.

5. Jim Knowles, DC, Ohio State: The Philadelphia native has been a Defensive Coordinator in the ACC, Big 12, and Big Ten. Knowles orchestrated Oklahoma State’s defense in 2021. His unit led the Big 12 in scoring, rushing and total defense that year. Knowles has led the Buckeyes’ defense for the past two years. In 2022 Ohio State finished 14th in the FBS in total defense. Knowles improved the Buckeyes from 14th to third nationally in total defense last season. Ohio State tied for eighth in the FBS in defensive touchdowns. Knowles has an All-Big Ten caliber player on every level of his defense, including Jack Sawyer on the line, and Caleb Downs in the secondary, so the Buckeyes are expected to dominate.

4. Andy Kotelnicki, OC, Penn State: He has spent the past three seasons as an Offensive Coordinator at Kansas, where he fielded some explosive units. Last year the Jayhawks finished eighth nationally in rushing yards, 17th in points per game, and 21st in total offense. Devin Neal became a two-time, 1,000-yard rusher under Kotelnicki’s watch. Quarterback Jason Bean led the Big 12, and finished fourth in the FBS in passing efficiency. Now Kotelnicki is working with more talent at Penn State, including former five-star quarterback Drew Allar, who led the Big Ten in passing touchdowns last season. If Kotelnicki is successful in Happy Valley, he’ll be well on his way to a head-coaching job.

3. Tony White, DC, Nebraska: The 45-year old’s 3-3-5 stack defense did wonders at Syracuse in 2022. That year the Orange finished third in the ACC, and 21st in the FBS in total defense. White’s success continued at Nebraska last season, and he made an immediate impact on the Blackshirts. Not only did the Huskers rank eighth nationally against the run, but they were 11th in total defense and 13th in points allowed. The Blackshirts finished third in the Big Ten, and 23rd in the FBS in sacks per game. White’s first year in Lincoln was so impressive, that he received a hefty salary bump last December. Now Big Red Nation is expecting the Blackshirts to be more dominant in season two.

2. Morgan Scalley, DC, Utah: The 44-year old has been on Kyle Whittingham’s staff since 2007. Scalley is approaching his ninth season leading the Utes’ defense. His units helped Utah capture two Pac-12 Titles. The Utes finished 19th nationally in total defense in 2022. Scalley’s boys improved to 13th in the FBS in total defense last year. Utah ranked 19th nationally in scoring defense for the past two seasons. Scalley has longevity, and he’s a natural at developing underrated talent. Which is why Utah has had 16 defenders drafted under his watch, including two last month. Now the Utes are approaching uncharted territory in the expanded Big 12, and his experience will be vital.

1. Phil Parker, DC, Iowa: The former Michigan State defensive back is currently the Big Ten’s longest-tenured assistant. Parker became Iowa’s first Frank Broyles Award winner as the nation’s top assistant coach. The hardware was long overdue for Parker, who has fielded some of the nation’s best defenses through the years. Last season the Hawkeyes ranked fourth nationally in points allowed, fifth against the pass and seventh in total defense. On top of that, Parker is as loyal as they come. The 61-year old is comfortable being Kirk Ferentz’s right-hand man, and will field another elite group this fall. Countless Hawkeye defenders have been drafted under Parker’s watch, including two last month.

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