Yesterday we started a new daily feature – The Top Ten – examining aspects of coaching, stats, storylines and any other specks of the college football universe we find interesting with a top ten list each day.
We debuted with 10 staffs that will impress you this season, and today we continue with ten coordinators to keep an eye on this fall.
1. Scott Frost, Oregon offensive coordinator
2. Clarence McKinney, Texas A&M offensive coordinator
The situations before Frost and McKinney are so parallel they’re almost identical. They’re both first-time play callers. They’re both riding absolute thoroughbreads at quarterback. They’re both walking into situations where expectations could not be higher. And they’re both replacing one of the most best minds in the business.
Frost grew close to Chip Kelly over the past few seasons, but being close to The Guy is a whole lot different than being The Guy. And all McKinney has to do is duplicate the success of the ultra-creative Kliff Kingsbury without the benefit of the future No. 2 pick at left tackle and the psychological advantage of being the hunter instead of the hunted. Another benefit Kingsbury had that McKinney won’t is that Manziel and Kingsbury were joined at the hip Sunday through Saturday in meetings and practices. With Kingsbury’s departure, now that guy is new quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital (McKinney coaches A&M’s running backs). Yet McKinney is the guy who has to be in sync with his quarterback on Saturday.
How each first-timer performs could end up shaping the narrative of the entire 2013 college football season.
3. Hal Mumme, SMU offensive coordinator – How will Mumme’s system mesh with June Jones’ philosophy? That’s not a rhetorical question, we’re just as curious as you are. Entering year 37 of his career, Mumme’s reputation preceeds him and his place inside coaching lore is secure but, in the immediate sense, he has to get the most out of a quarterback playing for his fourth coordinator in five years with a career 28-38 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
4. Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator – You’ve been aware of the narrative for months now: a 37-year-old coordinator pushed by the winds of destiny from a Division II school in Pennsylvania to the big time. Now reality is here. Oklahoma State is the preseason Big 12 favorite, Mike Gundy wants to play two very different quarterbacks and Yurcich has to figure out the right mix.
5. Ellis Johnson, Auburn defensive coordinator – Following 16 very successful seasons as an FBS defensive coordinator and one very unsuccessful season as a head coach, Johnson is back in his element. All he has to do is turn around a defense that ranked 97th nationally against the run and 99th against the pass as part of a new staff implementing a hurry-up offense in the toughest conference in college football.
6. D.J. Durkin, Florida defensive coordinator – After an award-winning season at Florida’s special teams coordinator, Durkin takes a step up on the ladder. The return of quarterback Jeff Driskel should afford Durkin a greater margin for error than his predecessor, Dan Quinn. But there are no guarantees in this business. The good news: he inherits a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally in five categories, so the talent is there.
7. Cam Cameron, LSU offensive coordinator – Les Miles’ old buddy returns to the college game for the first time after a decade and a half in the NFL. How unbeatable would the Tigers have been the last two seasons with another 10 points a game from the offense? With John Chavis working in almost an entirely new unit, now’s as good a time as ever to find out.
8. Andy Buh, Cal defensive coordinator – Provided true freshman quarterback Jared Goff can keep his wheels on, we know what we’re getting with Tony Franklin’s offense, so that means Andy Buh’s work with a defense that placed ninth or tenth in the Pac-12 in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense in 2012 will write the script for Sonny Dykes’ debut in Berkeley. There’s no easing into it, either, with Northwestern, Ohio State and Oregon on the schedule in the first four weeks.
9. Dave Aranda, Wisconsin defensive coordinator – Speaking of Ohio State, Aranda’s plan for keeping Braxton Miller and company in check on September 28 at Camp Randall is probably the only thing standing between Wisconsin and a shot at a fourth straight Rose Bowl. Aranda is very highly regarded within coaching circles, and Gary Andersen has full confidence in his second-year defensive coordinator. It will be fun to see what Aranda holds back for the matchup with Tom Herman’s offense.
10. Eddie Gran, Cincinnati offensive coordinator – After 26 years as a position coach and a well-earned reputation as a recruiter, Gran takes his first turn as a play caller. With a strong offensive staff we think he’ll do just fine but, as they say, you’ve never done it until you’ve done it. It will be fun to see how the offense performs in the opener versus Purdue.
Honorable mention: BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae, N.C. State offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, Utah co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson.