Our series highlighting assistant coaches ready to take on more responsibility in their careers — either at a new stop on on their current staff — rolls on to the Big Ten.
Before we get going: This list is presented in no particular order (in fact, it’s alphabetical) and is in no way a comprehensive collection of talented coaches in the league.
Walt Bell, Maryland offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: Bell broke records as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State from 2014-15, and has now put up numbers at Maryland — the Terps are up nearly a touchdown per game from the year prior to his hiring — despite losing his top two quarterbacks.
Brian Brohm, Purdue co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: Due to a lengthy NFL career, Brohm didn’t begin coaching until 2016. No matter. Jeff Brohm’s offense is as technically efficient as any in college football, and Brian is in lock step with his older brother.
Kenni Burns, Minnesota running backs coach: Outside of one year at Wyoming, Burns has spent his entire career in the Heartland and has a fan in P.J. Fleck — after producing two 900-yard rushers at Western Michigan, Burns was one of Fleck’s first hires at Minnesota.
Ryan Day, Ohio State co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: Day was hired after two seasons in the NFL to do one thing — fix J.T. Barrett. And how has he done? A year ago Barrett averaged 6.7 yards per attempt and ranked 55th nationally in passing efficiency. This season, Barrett is up to 8.8 per attempt, third in efficiency (his TD-to-INT ratio has jumped from 16-7 to 25-1) and is a leading Heisman contender. Job done.
Greg Frey, Michigan tackles and tight ends coach: Frey was the most costly casualty when Kevin Wilson was let go. Frey churned out 1,000-yard rusher after 1,000-yard rusher no matter who was carrying the ball. Anyone looking to improve their running game would be smart to contact him.
Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach: One of the fastest risers in college football, this former All-Big Ten safety jumped immediately into the safeties role at his alma mater and was named defensive coordinator just one year later. This year’s club ranks No. 7 nationally in yards per play allowed.
Matt MacPherson, Northwestern running backs coach/recruiting coordinator: MacPherson is a bright, young, personable coach that knows what it takes to build a roster at an academic school and was a strong candidate for the Western Michigan head job last winter.
Mick McCall, Northwestern offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: This season marks 10 years as offensive coordinator at Northwestern for McCall. That stretch has included many of the best offensive numbers Northwestern has ever produced. A coach with 10 seasons in the Big Ten and experience navigating football at an academically prestigious school makes a lot of sense for a number of private schools looking for a new head coach.
Joe Moorhead, Penn State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: Moorhead is the Big Ten’s Brent Venables — the coordinator most ready to become a head coach — except he’s one step ahead of Venables with a successful run as an FCS head coach under his belt.
Brent Pry, Penn State associate head coach/defensive coordinator/linebackers coach: Pry has been a defensive coordinator since 2010 and with James Franklin since ’11. This year’s defense is No. 7 nationally in yards per play allowed and scoring defense. Like Franklin, Pry is a Pennsylvania native — his first coaching job was as a defensive assistant on the East Stroudsburg teams James Franklin quarterbacked — that will get head coaching interviews this winter.
Joe Rudolph, Wisconsin associate head coach/offensive coordinator/offensive line coach: Rudolph is a Wisconsin graduate who has spent the past decade working hand-in-hand with Paul Chryst. So he’s pretty happy where he is. But any programs looking to build a program around a tough, run-first identity should make Rudolph one of their first calls.
Matt Simon, Minnesota wide receivers coach: P.J. Fleck is a young head coach and his legacy as a Big Ten coach is just building. But as his reputation builds and others look to emulate his #RowTheBoat blueprint, Simon is a natural choice to hire away. He followed Fleck at Northern Illinois and Rutgers and led the incredibly productive wide receiver unit at Western Michigan before joining him in the Twin Cities. Rule of thumb: Any assistant handling their head coach’s speciality position (Fleck is a wide receivers guy) can coach, or he wouldn’t last long on the staff in the first place.
Tim Tibesar, Wisconsin defensive run game coordinator/outside linebackers coach: Tibesar shared the FootballScoop Linebackers Coach of the Year award with Dave Aranda in 2015 and has kept Wisconsin’s defense rolling after Aranda’s departure. Tibesar’s rush defense ranks in the top five nationally in rushing yards per game and total rushing touchdowns allowed.