Guilbeau: Ranking The SEC’s New Offensive, Defensive Coordinators

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There is the NCAA transfer portal, and then there is the NCAA coaching carousel, which has not been nearly as active but it has been around much longer.

At last count, there are 11 new offensive and defensive coordinators in the SEC, with defensive coordinator or co-coordinator positions open at Ole Miss, Missouri and Kentucky.

Former LSU linebackers coach Blake Baker, who is a former Miami defensive coordinator, may become Missouri’s new defensive coordinator. But at the moment, the school lists him as a safeties coach with another defensive hire on the way.

1. D.J. DURKIN, Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator: Jimbo Fisher finished off the No. 1 signing class in the nation this month, but another major coup was hiring Durkin away from the same post at Ole Miss. In his second season with the Rebels, Durkin turned one of the nation’s worst defenses into a solid unit that helped pave the way for the Rebels’ first 10-win regular season ever. Fisher did not give Durkin, 44, an NIL deal, but he did throw a lot of that A&M money at him to come. And that probably did more to spawn the “luxury tax” comment about Fisher from Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, who made an otherwise dull national signing day on Feb. 2 go viral with his reaction. No wonder Kiffin was mad. Durkin is very experienced as he was Maryland’s head coach (2016-18) and defensive coordinator at major programs Florida (2013-14) and Michigan (2015) before Ole Miss.

2. MATT HOUSE, LSU Defensive Coordinator: New LSU coach Brian Kelly took his time and made one of the best coordinator hires in the SEC. House, 43, is young and very experienced, having been the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh (2013-14), Florida International (2015) and Kentucky (2017-18), where he served under Mark Stoops, one of the best defensive coaches in the SEC. In addition, he gained valuable NFL experience as a linebackers coach with Kansas City from 2019-21 with a Super Bowl title in the 2019 season and an appearance in the 2020 season.

3. WILL MUSCHAMP, Georgia Co-Defensive Coordinator: Muschamp, 50, may have failed as a head coach at both Florida and South Carolina, but he got those jobs because of his prowess as a defensive coordinator at LSU under Nick Saban (2002-04), Auburn (2006-07), Texas (2008-10) and Auburn (2015). He has been away from it somewhat as he was an analyst and special teams coordinator at Georgia last season after exiting South Carolina before replacing Dan Lanning, who became Oregon’s head coach after this past season. Glenn Schumann returns as co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach. Muschamp will also handle safeties, a position he played at Georgia and usually specialized in coaching. Some coaches are just meant to be great coordinators and maybe not head coaches, and Muschamp will likely be a great one again. And, who knows, maybe a third chance as a head coach awaits somewhere?

4. MIKE DENBROCK, LSU Offensive Coordinator: Denbrock, 58, is a key reason Cincinnati has become a national player in recent years and reached the College Football Playoff last season. He ran the Bearcats’ offense from 2017-21. Cincinnati finished No. 13 in the nation in 2021 in scoring with 36.4 points a game and No. 17 in 2020 with 37.5. He also helped develop quarterback Desmond Ridder, who finished 13th in the nation in efficiency at 158.7 last season.

5. ERIC KIESAU, Auburn Offensive Coordinator: Auburn coach Bryan Harsin may have finished better than 6-7 last season had he made Kiesau, 49, his original offensive coordinator hire. He wanted to, as Kiesau was his offensive coordinator at Boise State, but Kiesau was up for the head coaching job that Harsin left. Kiesau did not get that and came to Auburn as an analyst, then became wide receivers coach after an early-season firing of Cornelius Williams. He became offensive coordinator after an end-of-season firing of Mike Bobo. Kiesau was previously offensive coordinator at Fresno State (2016) and Washington (2012-13). Kiesau could be the man to bring some much needed stability to Auburn, and a few more touchdowns would be nice.

6. ROB SALE, Florida Offensive Coordinator: A rising star in the industry, this former interior offensive lineman for Nick Saban at LSU (2000-02) was Louisiana-Lafayette’s offensive coordinator from 2018-20, learning under head coach/offensive coordinator Billy Napier, another Saban disciple who became Florida’s head coach after the 2021 season. Sale, 42, coached the New York Giants’ offensive line in the 2021 season and previously coached the offensive line at Georgia in 2015 and at Arizona State in 2017.

7. CHARLIE WEIS, JR., Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator: Weis, 28, is the youngest offensive coordinator in the SEC and is a student of Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, whom he was offensive coordinator under at Florida Atlantic in 2018 and ’19. He then was offensive coordinator at South Florida in 2020 and ’21. Weis, whose father is former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, was also an analyst under Kiffin when Kiffin was Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2015 and ’16.

8. NICK HOWELL, Vanderbilt Defensive Coordinator: Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea made an impressive hire of an experienced defensive coordinator. Howell, 41, was defensive coordinator at Virginia (2016-21) and at BYU (2013-15).

9. JEFF SCHMEDDING, Auburn Defensive Coordinator: Another logical move by Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin. Schmedding, 42, was Auburn’s defensive run game coordinator last season, and the Tigers finished a solid fifth in the SEC and 29th nationally with 128 yards allowed a game. He was the defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington (2015-18). He was linebackers coach under Harsin at Boise State (2019-20).

10. PATRICK TONEY, Florida Co-Defensive Coordinator: Like new Florida offensive coordinator Rob Sale, Toney, 32, is a young, rising star and has followed Billy Napier from Louisiana-Lafayette. Toney was ULL’s defensive coordinator (2020-21). He will be assisted by Sean Spencer, a more experienced defensive line coach who has the co-coordinator title. Spencer, 51, has never been a coordinator, but he was the defensive line coach with the New York Giants (2020-21) and coached the defensive line under head coach James Franklin at Penn State (2014-19) and at Vanderbilt (2011-13).

11. JOEY LYNCH, Vanderbilt Offensive Coordinator: Lynch, 38, was promoted from pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Vanderbilt after last season. He was previously offensive coordinator at Ball State (2014-19), at Ashland University in Ohio (2008) and at St. Mary’s College in Indiana (2007).

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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