Mike Hankwitz – Northwestern University

FootballScoop is proud to announce that Mike Hankwitz is the recipient of the 2020 FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year presented by AstroTurf as selected by prior winners.

The 2020 campaign marked the end of Hankwitz’s career, closing out a 13-year run at Northwestern and a full five-decade career in coaching, one that began in 1970 as the coach of a college JV program.

We should all be so lucky to go out like Hankwitz, making our last work our best work. In an age where passing offenses have never been more explosive and more efficient, Northwestern’s 2020 pass defense was one of the best in recent memory.

Opponents completed just 51.9 percent of their 337 passes for 1,758 yards with just eight touchdowns against 14 interceptions. The Wildcats’ opponent completion percentage tied for fourth in the nation, and their 5.2 yards per attempt average not only led the country, it stands as the single best yards per attempt number since 2013.

Northwestern was one of two teams to rank among the top 15 in touchdowns allowed and interceptions, and its overall 95.27 pass efficiency rating not only led the nation, it did so by more than five points and stood as the best number by any team since 2016.

As a unit, Northwestern limited foes to 4.86 yards per play (tied for 10th nationally) and 15.9 points per game (fifth). Hankwitz’s defense was the only Power 5 unit to play at least nine games and hold all nine below 30 points, and in an age where the median FBS offense produces 28 points per game, Northwestern permitted just two of its nine opponents to score more than 20.

That included the nation’s No. 11 scoring offense, Ohio State, who scored a season-low 22 — nearly half the Buckeyes’ season average of 41. In fact, Ohio State averaged 46.6 points in its five other Big Ten games.

Beyond Ohio State, Northwestern held Maryland (3), Nebraska (13), Iowa (20), and Purdue (20) to season-low outputs.

On third down, Northwestern surrendered just 40 conversions on 134 attempts, making the Wildcats one of eight teams holding opponents under 30 percent. In 27 red zone trips, Northwestern permitted eight touchdowns, a 29.6 percent conversion rate the led the country.

Defensive back Brandon Joseph was named a Freshman All-American and won Freshman of the Year honors from the Big Ten and the AP after collecting 52 tackles and six interceptions, and Paddy Fisher won the Butkus-Fitzgerald Award as the Big Ten’s top linebacker for registering 86 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, one forced fumble and one interception. In fact, Fisher and fellow NU linebackers Blake Gallagher and Chris Bergin finished second, third and fourth in the Big Ten in tackles, posting 86, 84 and 78 stops apiece.

Defensive back Greg Newsome II joined Joseph and Fisher on the All-Big Ten First Team, while Gallagher made the Second Team and lineman Eku Leota made the Third Team.

A Michigan graduate, Hankwitz began coaching under College Football Hall of Famer Bo Schembechler and devoted 51 years of his life to the game. He coached at nine different institutions and coordinated defenses for Arizona, Western Michigan, Colorado, Kansas, Texas A&M, Wisconsin and Northwestern. He won a national title as Colorado’s defensive coordinator in 1990. Northwestern’s 35-19 Citrus Bowl win over Auburn, Hankwitz’s last as a coach, marked his 400th career victory.

“Well, he’s the GOAT, like the guys call him,” Fitzgerald said of Hankwitz. “He’s the best. He’s the best person. He’s so humble. He’s an amazing teacher. Even today, we are going and adjusting all the way ‘til the last series. He’s a coach’s coach and I’m just so thankful that he and Cathy and Jake chose to come here to Northwestern. We are just so thankful for them and for Hank.”

The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by AstroTurf are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Marcus Freeman [Cincinnati], Joseph Gillespie [Tulsa], Brad Lambert [Marshall], Phil Parker [Iowa] and Hankwitz) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year’s winner.

Previous winners of the Defensive Coordinator of the Year award are Nick Holt (USC, 2008), Kirby Smart (Alabama, 2009), Vic Fangio (Stanford, 2010), John Chavis (LSU, 2011), Bob Diaco (Notre Dame, 2012), Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State, 2013), Brent Venables (Clemson, 2014), Don Brown (Boston College, 2015), Jim Leavitt (Colorado, 2016), Kevin Steele (Auburn, 2017), Bob Shoop (Mississippi State, 2018), and Phil Snow (Baylor, 2019).

keystats

5th Nationally – Scoring           10th Nationally – Yards Per Play
1st Nationally – Pass Efficiency           1st Nationally – Red Zone TDs Allowed

Since 1965, the AstroTurf brand has been driven by forward thinking ingenuity. Today AstroTurf continuously improves its system design to deliver playing surfaces with the most realistic, sport-specific performance, longest lasting durability, and sound player protection. For more information please visit AstroTurf.com

Created in 1999, FootballScoop.com is the premier source for coaching job information and has long been the most widely viewed website by coaches, athletic directors, strength & conditioning coaches, operations and equipment staff across America. As the leading coaching job information venue, FootballScoop.com serves our viewers’ needs by providing first hand, timely & accurate information for our audience. FootballScoop.com is the premier provider of official job postings.

SHARE
National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.