Which Coordinator Hire Will Make Biggest Impact in 2019?
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
There were 27 head coaching changes at the FBS level prior to the beginning of the 2019 offseason. Along with the head coaching changes, there were also a number of offensive and defensive coordinator changes. Which of the coordinator changes will have the biggest impact in the 2019 season? Here are five that should reap huge benefits.
Oklahoma Defense Despite going 12-2 and winning the Big 12 Conference for the fourth consecutive season, the Oklahoma Sooners were awful on defense. It’s a good thing they had Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray running the offense and seemingly scoring points at will. The Sooners gave up 32.4 points (96th) and 448 yards (108th) per game last season. As a result, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley went out and got himself a new defensive coordinator in Alex Grinch.
Grinch spent last year at Ohio State and the previous three seasons rebuilding the defense at Washington State. Grinch turned the Cougars into a defensive power and Riley is hoping he can do the same for the Sooners. Riley will not have the benefit of a quarterback like Murray or Baker Mayfield, so the defense is going to have to learn quickly.
No More Clouds of Dust in Michigan This is not your father’s Michigan offense. Spring football in Ann Arbor has been much different than in year’s past. Gone are the three tight end sets with what seems like nine fullbacks, a couple of extra offensive linemen, and a lunch bucket to boot. Josh Gattis, who spent last season as the co-offensive coordinator at Alabama, has come in and installed an up-tempo spread attack that has modernized head coach Jim Harbaugh’s offense. Gattis has a strong pedigree coming from the James Franklin coaching tree having served at both Vanderbilt and Penn State. The Wolverines offense will be better because of him.
Sarkisian Returns With Gattis leaving Alabama, Nick Saban has called on a familiar face to lead the Crimson Tide offense – Steve Sarkisian. The former Washington and USC head coach served on Saban’s staff in 2016 as an analyst before being named the offensive coordinator for the Tide’s national championship contest against Clemson on January 2, 2017. While Sarkisian and Alabama lost that game to Clemson, Sarkisian will have plenty of talent with which to operate.
Keep in mind after Sarkisian’s one-game stint as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, he took his game to the NFL and served in the same role for the Atlanta Falcons. The year prior to Sarkisian’s arrival the Falcons led the NFL in scoring averaging 33.8 points per game. In Sarkisian’s first season, the Falcons production dropped to 22.1 points a game. That is probably not the impact that Saban is looking for on offense.
Keep It Simple USC had hired former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury to come in and run his Air Raid offense but then the Arizona Cardinals came in and took Kingsbury to the NFL. Trojans head coach Clay Helton still like the idea of the Air Raid, so he went out and got the next best thing – Graham Harrell. A former quarterback under the legendary Air Raid guru Mike Leach, Harrell spent the last three seasons running the offense at North Texas. The Mean Green went 9-4 last season and averaged 461 yards and nearly 35 points per game under Harrell’s direction.
Trojans offensive coaches were surprised that there was no playbook. Harrell, like Leach and other Air Raid disciples, often do not use playbooks because their offenses are based on the execution of just a few plays. Harrell will attempt to keep it simple and lead the Trojans back to national prominence.
Seminoles Get a Shot in the Arm Anemic might be too kind a word to describe the 2018 Florida State offense. It will definitely not explain the 2019 version. Former Baylor, Houston, and Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Kendal Briles steps in at FSU looking to revitalize the Seminoles. Florida State will operate at a much quicker tempo and head coach Willie Taggart is hopeful that the new-look Seminoles will become one of the nation’s more prolific offenses.