In college football, a coaches' or athletic director's star can rise at a meteoric rate and fall just as fast. While no coach is single handedly responsible for their team's success, it's important to give credit where credit is due-especially in a high-paced sports world where it's much easier to knock a coach than give them kudos. Below are the 40 most intriguing coaches, 40 or younger, who you will hear great things about in the years to come.
Blake Baker-Louisiana Tech/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers- Baker was part of a staff that helped the Texas Longhorns to the #11 defense in the nation in 2011 and coached a La. Tech secondary that last year was 26th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. At only 32 years of age, Baker will be called upon to take over defensive coordinator duties in 2015 as Manny Diaz departs for Mississippi State.
Tyson Helton-Western Kentucky/Offensive Coordinator-In his first year as an OC, Helton helped the Hilltoppers achieve the 2nd best passing offense in the nation behind QB Brandon Doughty. Hardly a one trick pony, Helton was part of a Cincinnati staff that mentored the best offense in Bearcat history and served as a early mentor to UAB great Joe Webb during his six years coaching in Birmingham.
Anthony Johnson-Toledo/Running Backs-In the absence of David Fluellen, Johnson found a way to coach the Rockets to the #11 rushing offense in the nation after placing 35th the year prior. Johnson previously had success at Sam Houston State and as part of a staff at Texas that was responsible for the development of Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles.
Matt Campbell-Toledo/Head Coach-Three winning seasons, two bowl wins and a boat load of enthusiasm is the best way to sum up the success of the 35-year-old Campbell at Toledo. An already established and respected offensive coordinator at Mt. Union when he arrived in 2011, Campbell stepped in as former Coach Tim Beckman’s OC and helped lead the Rockets to a Military Bowl victory over Air Force. Look for Campbell to show up on many head coach wish lists in the next few years.
Mike Hart-Western Michigan/Running Backs-What a treat for WMU Running Backs to work under the tutelage of the Michigan Wolverine legend. Hart’s expertise paid off in 2014 as he was in charge of coaching MAC super freshman RB Jarvion Franklin who racked up over 1,500 yards as the Broncos won 8 games and earned a birth in the Idaho Potato Bowl. Another season like 2015 could put Hart in line for a promotion.
PJ Fleck-Western Michigan/Head Coach-In Fleck’s first season in Kalamazoo, the Broncos won only once over hapless UMass. In 2014, the 32-year-old head coach won an eye-popping eight games. As the youngest coach in the FBS, Fleck is also credited with putting together the two best recruiting classes in MAC history. Fleck’s “Row The Boat” philosophy has become a sort of gospel in Kalamazoo, and if the Broncos continue to win, it won’t be long until Waldo Stadium is seeing record crowds as well.
Marquase Lovings-Louisina Lafayette/Running Backs-Lovings is responsible for the Ragin’ Cajuns' two headed monster known as Alonzo Harris and Elijah McGuire. As if the 1,800-plus rushing performance wasn’t enough in 2013, the two surpassed 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2014. Lovings has been a part of the Cajuns' turnaround and a big reason for their ground dominance over the past four seasons.
Mike Theissen-Air Force/Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers-Thiessen has served as the offensive coordinator for the high flying Air Force offense for the past five seasons. Thiessen played a major role in the development of the legendary Chad Hall, and current standout receiver Jalen Robinette. His most impressive feat may be how quickly he was able to repair and kick-start an Air Force offense that sputtered to an injury plagued 2-10 record in in 2013. Should Troy Calhoun give up his post in Colorado Springs, Mike Thiessen may be the academy’s next head coach.
Nick Rolovich-Nevada/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks- If you’ve been impressed by high-powered, dual-threat QB play over the last decade, Nick Rolovich probably had something to do with it. Hawaii’ was sixth in the nation in total offense under Rolovich in 2010, and with Cody Fajardo at his disposal the past four seasons in Reno, the Wolfpack offense has maintained much of its spark from the days of Colin Kaepernick. Rolovich will face his toughest task this season, as he looks to replace the talented Fajardo.
Major Applewhite-Houston/Offensive Coordinator- Applewhite has been mentioned as an up-and-coming star in the CFB ranks for a while, but with the demise of Texas football, Applewhite’s star fell as well. Now at Houston, the Longhorn great will have the opportunity to mold a creative, high powered offense much like he did at Rice in 2006. Look for Applewhite to do great things for the Cougars the next couple of seasons.
Brent Davis-Army/Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line-Brent Davis is a wunderkind of the triple option as evidenced by his time at Georgia Southern. While Army’s offense was down in Davis’ first season as Army OC, the Black Knights won two of their final four including a close loss to Navy. Look for a less chaotic offensive line in 2015 giving Davis’ offense a chance to shine.
Brian Johnson-Miss. State/Quarterbacks-Whether it’s been publically admitted or not, there seemed to be some chaos among the Utah coaching staff near season’s end in 2014. 2015 will give Brian Johnson the chance to start fresh in Starkville. Despite injured QBs in nearly every year of his tenure, Johnson managed to orchestrate an offense that just kept winning at Utah. While not serving as the offensive coordinator, adding SEC experience to an already impressive resume will only serve Johnson well in the years to come.
Justin Fuente-Memphis/Head Coach-A 10 win season, an AAC championship and an impressive and entertaining double overtime bowl win put Memphis football back on the map in 2014! Fuente not only can coach but he can recruit as evidenced by QB Paxton Lynch. Fuente was also the offensive mastermind behind the 2010 and 2011 BCS-busting TCU teams. Another big season at Memphis could land Fuente a few Power 5 conference offers.
Bryan Harsin-Boise State/Head Coach-Many people saw Chris Petersen’s departure as the end of Boise State’s king-of-the-underdogs campaign. Enter Bryan Harsin. In year one, the Broncos went 8-5 before rebounding with a 12-2 season in 2015 capped with a Fiesta bowl win over Arizona. Harsin continues the strong recruiting of his predecessor and could be at Boise for a long, long time.
Josh Huepel-Utah State/CO-Offensive Coordinator-Believe the Heupel! The new Utah State offensive coordinator has mentored some terrific QBs in his 11-year coaching career, including Sam Bradford and Landry Jones. Huepel will inherit QB Chuckie Keeton and a receiving core he can get creative with in 2015.
Scottie Montgomery-Duke/Offensive Coordinator-Act one for Montgomery was to not set the Duke offense backwards in his first season as the Blue Devils offensive coordinator. Mission accomplished. Act two, will be maintaining the offense’s momentum as they say farewell to QB Anthony Boone. Montgomery, who played receiver at Duke, did a fantastic job mentoring WRs like Jamison Crowder and a very young Antonio Brown during his time with the Steelers. With a favorable schedule to start 2015 (Tulane, NC Central, Northwestern), well see what he can create, execute and tweak.
Joe Craddock-SMU/Offensive Coordinator-Craddock doesn’t have a lot on the resume, but he didn’t spend three years with Dabo Swinney and new SMU head coach Chad Morris at Clemson and get fast-tracked into an offensive coordinator position at SMU for nothing, so we’ll bite. Craddock was a solid player at MTSU and has quite possibly taken on the biggest task of anyone on the list as SMU was 1-11 in 2014.
Marcus Satterfield-Temple/Offensive Coordinator-Satterfield was able to mold QB B.J. Coleman into a 7th round draft pick as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee-Chattanooga before heading to Philadelphia where the Temple offense was able to put up 400 yards per game under freshman QB P.J. Walker in 2013. Walker suffered the common sophomore slump in 2014, but with the return of WR Robbie Anderson, Satterfield should get better execution and be able to open up the playbook a bit more.
Kalani Sitaki-Oregon State/Defensive Coordinator-If this is the first time you’ve heard of Sitaki you haven’t been paying attention. Sitaki has served as Utah’s defensive coordinator since 2009, and has been integral in building their dominating defense and reputation. The Utes led the NCAA with 55 sacks in 2014. Sitaki is the first Tongan DC in FBS, and could very well be its first head coach very soon.
Tommy McClelland-Louisiana Tech/Athletic Director-McClelland was hired as Louisiana Tech’s athletic director at only 31 years old, and has already seen great success at the university. The Tech football program racked up nine wins in 2014 including a Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl win over Illinois. McClelland helped spearhead a $20 million project to build a south end-zone project. The youngest AD in FBS, he has a knack for recognizing and maintaining talent and should be a great ally for Head Coach Skip Holtz as Tech keeps improving in football.
Danny White-Buffalo/Athletic Director-White made the brilliant decision to give the school a new wordmark and emphasis on the New York portion of their brand. In his short tenure, he certainly hasn’t been afraid to make changes. He turned heads when he hired division III head coach Lance Liepold from Wisconsin-Whitewater and was responsible for the now departed Bobby Hurley who lead Buffalo to the NCAA basketball tournament in 2014. Under White, Buffalo secured their biggest single donation of $3 million dollars which will be used to build a new football headquarters among other projects.
Graham Harrell-Washington State/Outside Receivers-Harrell was an outstanding QB at Texas Tech from 2004-2008. Having been with Mike Leach in Lubbock, the all-time NCAA passing touchdowns leader has great grasp of Leach’s vision and will give receivers invaluable information on what QBs need on the outside. We like this hire!
Brian Lindgren-Colorado/Offensive Coordinator-In two seasons, the Buffs have jumped in the passing offense rankings finishing 47th (from 96th) in 2013, and 19th in FBS in 2014. The Buffs scored 36 more points in Lindgren’s 2nd season as OC against a schedule that featured no FCS opponents. With the addition of Jim Leavitt as defensive coordinator, the offense could improve even further with more possessions and defensive takeaways in 2015.
Zak Hill-Eastern Washington/Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks-The reason FBS teams don’t want to play EWU is because of their unstoppable air attack. Hill has coached and coordinated for QBs Vernon Adams Jr. (now at Oregon) Kyle Padron and Bo Levi Mitchell as Eastern Washington has become a force to be reckoned with. Hill can take on a FCS head coaching position whenever he’s ready to give it a shot.
Tosh Lupoi-Alabama/Outside Linebackers-Lupoi is entering his first year as the outside linebackers coach at Alabama, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Lupoi, 34, is a master recruiter and was an integral cog in the recruiting machines at Washington and now at Alabama. He was Rivals.com’s 2010 recruiter of the year, and now he gets a bigger role with more input in his second year at Alabama.
Kelvin Sigler-Northern Illinois/Cornerbacks-The Alabama native and former Crimson Tide cornerback coached up a very young group of CBs at NIU in 2014 helping to lead the Huskies to another MAC Championship. Sigler’s southern roots and pedigree certainly haven’t hurt as NIU continues to reach into the south and land talented recruits like Shawun Lurry, and Albert Smalls while overseeing the development of already established talent like Paris Logan.
Mike Tressel-Michigan State/CO-Defensive Coordinator-Pat Narduzzi gets the lion’s share of the credit for Michigan State’s crushing defense, but Tressel’s linebackers have been the heart of those units. Under Tressel, the Spartans have enjoyed 13 All-Big Ten honors, and four All-Americans. This season, Tressell along with Harlon Barnett will take over as MSU’s co-defensive coordinators.
Mark Yellock-East Carolina/Defensive Line-Yellock’s defensive line finished 11th nationally against the run in both 2013 and 2014. He also served as coach for nose tackle Michael Brooks who has since gone on to win a super bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks. It will be interesting to see if the ECU alum can keep up the momentum with the loss of Chrishon Rose and Terry Williams in 2015.
Jeff Koonz-Cincinnati/Safeties-If you’ve been privy to noticing the resurgence of Louisiana Tech Football in recent years, Jeff Koonz has a lot to do with that. Koonz coached Tech linebackers Adrian Cole and Jay Dudley who combined for a whopping 230 tackles and first team All-WAC honors. Not to be undone, in his first season coaching safeties at Cincy, Koonz furthered the development of Zach Edwards who turned in a 121 tackle campaign as a sophomore.
Nick Toth-Fresno State/Defensive Coordinator-High risk, higher reward is probably the way to describe Toth’s style of defense. Last season was anything but rosy for Fresno’s defense, but that’s more the effect of rebuilding than play-calling. Toth’s defense was sixth in FBS nationally in 2013, and current Cincinnati Bengal, Derron Smith, enjoyed his two best year’s under Toth where he amassed 13 interceptions in two seasons.
Brian Ferentz-Iowa/Offensive Line-Iowa has always turned out solid offensive line play, but in recent years a lack of feature running backs has taken the luster off a bit. Regardless, the Hawkeye’s were able to average over 400 yards of offense per game in 2014, an improvement over 2013’s 377, and Ferentz is responsible for the development of top 5, 2015 draft pick Brandon Scherff.
Jemal Singleton-Arkansas/Running Backs-One of the best hires of the year, Singleton joins Arkansas after building a strong run game at Oklahoma State for the better part of 4 years. Over his career, Singleton has coached Air Force legend Chad Hall, OSU star Joseph Randall, and made ball control a successful point of emphasis. Working with the nation’s #1 running back combo in Johnathan Williams and Alex Collins should make for a powerful collaboration.
Tavita Pritchard-Stanford/Quarterbacks-In his sixth year at Stanford, Pritchard will really have a chance to get maximum production from his QB Kevin Hogan. In season one as QB coach, Pritchard helped Hogan improve his completion percentage from 61% to nearly 66% and cut his interception total. While still early in his coaching career, the Stanford alumni is getting the job done thus far.
Ricky Rahne-Penn State/Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks-While QB Christian Hackenburg’s numbers were not as strong in his 2nd season under Rahne’s guidance, his intelligence, patience and running ability was. Hackenburg threw the ball nearly 100 more times and did not have the benefit of a great running attack, or WR Allen Robinson as he did in 2013. We think Rahne’s emphasis on fundamentals and maturity will pay big dividends in 2015.
Inoke Breckterfield-Wisconsin/Defensive Line-Breckterfield has great accolades in his very young career, namely coaching Pitt DT Aaron Donald who was selected 13th in the 2014 draft by the St. Louis Rams. Brecketerfield has followed former Pitt HC Paul Chryst to Wisconsin where he will look to develop the Badgers defensive front line.
Steve Clinkscale-Cincinnati/CO-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs-As part of a not-so-great 2014 Illinois team, Clinkscale still managed to lead the Illini to a top 20 finish in pass defense. Prior to that, Clinkscale did wonders at Toledo with not only the secondary, but in the development of one of the best kick/punt returners in MAC history in Eric Page.
Duane Price-East Carolina/Outside Linebackers-Price’s linebacking corps have been the other half of the equation in ECU’s success against the run. At 111.8 yards per game, the Pirates were 11th in the nation against opposing ground games a season ago. Price’s linebackers are athletic and have a knack for being a disruption against not only the run but the pass as well.
Sonny Cumbie-TCU/CO-Offensive Coordinator -A stud QB in his own right as a player, Cumbie is responsible for TCU’s breakout 2014 campaign. As co-offensive coordinator, the Horned Frogs put up 188.2 more yards per game, and 21 more points per contest. Throw in a Big-12 player of the year honor for QB Trevone Boykin and you’ve got yourself a hot commodity on the coaching market!
Bryan Cook-Georgia Tech/Quarterbacks/B-Backs-Georgia Tech’s offense has been unstoppable the past two seasons, and Bryan Cook has a lot to do with that. Under his tutelage QB Justin Thomas led the Yellowjacket offense to nearly 4,800 rushing yards and an 11-3 record. Cook is an expert on the triple option and was able to lead Cal Poly to the 3rd best offense in the nation in his previous gig.
Darrin Chiaverini-Texas Tech/Outside Receivers/Special Teams-We’ve got a feeling about this guy. Chiaverini was a sound, smart player during his days at Colorado before turning into a serviceable player for several seasons in the NFL. Texas Tech had plenty of problems in 2014, but receivers weren’t one of them. The Red Raiders were 5th in the nation in passing offense and Chiavereni will only continue to help the offense develop young receivers over the next few years.
Mike Norvell-Arizona State/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks-Mike Norvell’s name is becoming synonymous with offense in the NCAA. As QB coach at Tulsa, Norvell helped mentor five 1,000 yard receivers. After coming to ASU in 2012, the Sun Devils averaged 464 yards of offense per game. More surprising is that 205 of those yards came on the ground. In 2013, ASU scored 556 points and put up an eye-popping 6,402 yards of offense. 2014 saw more of the same as Norvell’s offense was 16th in the nation. A head coaching job could be on the horizon
Troy Walters-Colorado/Wide Recievers-Is it coincidence that after Walters appeared on the scene in Boulder in 2013, that wide receiver Nelson Spruce bloomed into a star? We think not. Aside from Spruce, Walters has done a great job of molding a young group of receivers, namely Shay Fields and Bryce Bobo, who contributed to the offense in 2014 and are primed for breakout performances in 2015. Look for CU’s passing game to eclipse last season’s #19 ranking.
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