It can be tough to be a new offensive coordinator hired to an existing staff. You’re hired to execute a specific vision with players you didn’t have a hand in recruiting while either picking up the pieces the previous guy left behind, or keeping a successful unit moving in the same direction – often without many of the same players that made your predecessor so successful in the first place.
With two-thirds of the season now gone, we took a look at the progress of the 20 new coordinator hires (some by choice, others by necessity) across college football before this season. We found five new coordinators that have indisputably improved their respective offenses, while the other 15 are still varying works of progress.
Lane Kiffin, Alabama (Previous job: USC head coach)
The Crimson Tide lost longtime starting quarterback A.J. McCarron with first-time starter Blake Sims, and dropped all the way from fifth to eighth nationally in yards per play. Quality of opponent and sample size has a lot to do with it, but Alabama’s home/road splits have to be among the most stark in college football: 610 yards and 48.5 points per game on 7.87 yards per play (fifth nationally) in four games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and 387 yards and 21.3 points per game and 5.53 yards per play (69th nationally) in three games outside of Tuscaloosa.
Doug Meacham, TCU (Previous job: Houston co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach)
Considering we’ve already written on the transformation job Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have done with the TCU offense, I think it’s safe to say Gary Patterson got what he wanted in changing the direction of his offense. How’s this for validation? With 31 points against Texas Tech on Saturday, TCU will surpass its scoring output from the entire 2013 season.
Mark Mangino, Iowa State (Previous job: Youngstown State assistant head coach/tight ends coach)
Mangino’s arrival hasn’t had an impact on the Cyclones’ record (2-5), but there’s no doubt the offense feels like a crisper unit with Mangino in charge. Just ask Charlie Strong.
Iowa State’s 22 plays of 10+ yards were second-most a Charlie Strong D has allowed in his 5 years as a head coach.
— Max Olson (@max_olson) October 20, 2014
Dave Christensen, Utah (Previous job: Wyoming head coach)
Wyoming’s loss has been Utah’s gain. The Utes have bounded from 66th nationally in scoring to 22nd, up more than a touchdown a game – though, notably, their yards per play and per game have stayed stagnant. Most crucially, Christensen has helped Utah match its 2013 win total with half the season still ahead.
Ralph Friedgen, Rutgers (Previous job: Maryland head coach)
Friedgen’s done such a good job with the Rutgers offense it leaves you wondering how in the world he could be left without a job the past three seasons. Rutgers ranks 10th nationally in pass efficiency. They ranked 94th last season, and 82nd the year before that. The Scarlet Knights are also up from 90th to 32nd in yards per play.
Kurt Roper, Florida (Previous job: Duke offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach)
Roper took a gamble jumping from a secure position under his coaching mentor David Cutcliffe to move a couple rungs up the ladder at Florida and, barring a major turnaround, it appears like he’ll be working for his third head coach in as many years in 2015. The Gators have moved up in the rankings in yards per play and yards per carry and scored a full 10 points a game more than 2013, but an uptick in turnovers has cost the offense any real progress.
Doug Nussmeier, Michigan (Previous job: Alabama offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach)
Similar to Roper, Nussmeier stepped into a situation with serious problems on every level of the offense… and there are still serious problems on every level of the offense. The Wolverines have seen their scoring average drop from 32.2 points a game to 21.7, topping the 24-point barrier only twice this season.
Mike Denbrock, Notre Dame (Previous job: Notre Dame wide receivers coach)
Denbrock and Brian Kelly have sped up the Irish attack, moving from 66 to 75 plays per game, and seen the offensive output jump from 405 to 448 yards per game, but fall from 6.07 to 5.92 yards per play. Scoring is up a touchdown per game, but it certainly helps to upgrade from Tommy Rees to Everett Golson at quarterback.
John Reagan, Kansas (Previous job: Rice offensive coordinator)
Reagan is living out the situation that may be in Roper and Nussmeier’s future. After helping Rice to a Conference USA championship in 2013, Reagan left Houston for Lawrence and will be working for a new head coach next season. Behind talented but inconsistent quarterback Montell Cozart, KU’s offensive numbers have jumped slightly from 2013 to 2014, but the Jayhawks again rank at the bottom of the Big 12 in everything but rushing.
Jake Spavital, Texas A&M (Previous job: Texas A&M quarterbacks coach)
Everything started so perfectly, and then the Aggies started playing good teams. In retrospect, South Carolina was highly overrated in preseason, and that inflated performance carried over into A&M’s weak non-conference schedule when, in effect, their season did not start until that fateful trip to Starkville. It makes sense that an offense transitioning from a unit with three first-round picks and a generational talent at quarterback to a group largely relying on first-year players would regress. But these past three weeks have shown that Spavital is not on a magic carpet ride taking him to his first head coaching job by age 30.
Seth Littrell, North Carolina (Previous job: Indiana offensive coordinator/fullbacks/tight ends coach)
North Carolina’s defense falling apart isn’t Littrell’s fault. Taking over for new Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson, the Tar Heels are scoring six more points per game and throwing for 30 more yards per game, though their yards per play average has dropped from 5.87 to 5.69.
Scottie Montgomery, Duke (Previous job: Duke wide receivers coach)
Montgomery, a former wide receiver, has transferred the emphasis of Duke’s attack from the air to the ground. The Blue Devils have dropped from 248 to 201 passing yards per game and from 47th to 101st in passing efficiency while playing with the same quarterback in Anthony Boone, while seeing their rushing rank rise from 54th to 37th in rushing with a leap from 178 to 218 yards per game. The end result? The Devils are up half a point a game in scoring.
John Garrett, Oregon State (Previous job: Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers coach)
Sadly, John is not having nearly a good a fall as his brother Jason. Without the dynamic receiver Brandin Cooks, the Beavers are down a full touchdown and extra point per game and have fallen more than 100 yards per game in passing.
Kevin Johns, Indiana (Previous job: Indiana co-offensive coordinator)
Fantasy owners of Hoosiers running back Tevin Coleman certainly approve of Johns’ work. After rushing 131 times for 958 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games a year ago, Coleman ranks second nationally with 135 carries for 1,192 yards and a dozen scores. After ranking 17th nationally in passing with 306.7 yards per game on nearly 40 attempts per game, Indiana has downsized its passing department with 28 passes per game for 170 yards. Losing your quarterback for the season, again, plays into that; but its hard not to be impressed that Indiana has risen from 96th to eighth nationally in rushing over the course of two seasons.
Paul Wulff, South Florida (Previous job: San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant)
Wulff has helped South Florida climb out of the basement of college football’s offensive rankings to the lower floor of the house. After ranking 122nd at 13.8 points per game, the Bulls are up to 108th at 21.7, while also moving from 120th to 103rd in rushing, and from 256 total yards per game (123rd nationally) to 311 yards per game (120th), a boost of nearly a full yard per play. Most importantly, the Bulls have improved to 2-10 in 2013 to 3-4 thus far in 2014.
Chip Lindsey, Southern Miss (Previous job: Auburn offensive analyst)
Similar to Wulff, Lindsey has helped Southern Miss improve from 1-11 last year to 3-4 this fall while being incrementally better on offense. Scoring is up three points per game – the Eagles have hit 30 points in two straight games, something they only did once last season – and total offense is up to 315 yards per game to nearly 380.
Travis Bush, Houston (Previous job: Houston co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach)
Quarterback John O’Korn, a revelation in his freshman season under Meacham, has now been benched in favor of Greg Ward, Jr. After sputtering to a 2-3 start, Houston is 2-0 with wins over impressive defenses in Memphis and Temple, with Ward completing 46-of-61 passing for 456 yards with three touchdowns and only one interception while rushing 30 times for 139 yards and another touchdown.
Larry Edmondson, Rice (Previous job: Rice quarterbacks coach)
The Owls are up 20 yards per game and about a foot per play. After an 0-3 start and 27 total points in losses to Notre Dame and Texas A&M, Rice has ripped off three straight wins and 38 points per game in their last four outings.
Jordan Wynn, Hawaii (Previous job: Hawaii graduate assistant)
The Warriors are down more than 50 yards per game (416 to 351) and almost a full yard per play (5.27 to 4.48), while scoring has dropped six points per game. That 513-yard, 38-28 win over Wyoming on Oct. 11 was a nice showing, though.
Joey Lynch, Ball State (Previous job: Ball State tight ends coach)
The Cardinals have fallen from 20th to 114th in yards per play and 15th to 91st in scoring, but losing quarterback Keith Wenning, wide receiver Willie Snead and a number of other starters likely has more to do with that than the change at offensive coordinator.