With Tom Arth’s hiring at Akron, the FBS coaching carousel has officially stopped—at least at the head coach level. There are still plenty of assistant and coordinator roles yet to be made official, but for now, the picture of who will be coaching where in 2019 looks pretty clear. And with the firings and hirings, another set of coordinators has moved around—through promotions to head coaching jobs and as they’ve traveled with their head coaches to greener pastures.
These men aren’t the faces of their programs, necessarily, but many of them have called plays for some of the country’s better units. We’re about to get much more familiar with several longtime coordinators elevated to their first head coaching jobs—Manny Diaz at Temple may be the most intriguing first-year head coach out there—and we’re also poised to see some very bad units under new leadership. With that, here’s a look at five coordinator moves that will have big impact in 2019, either on the teams they traveled to or the programs they left behind.
Alabama losing Mike Locksley
Locksley was hired as Maryland’s head coach on Dec. 4, and he’ll split his duties between Tuscaloosa and College Park until Alabama’s College Football Playoff run ends. The Crimson Tide have churned through several offensive coordinators over the past few seasons, and it has the organizational approach and talent to move on successfully—but Locksley does have the distinction of being on Nick Saban’s staff during all of Tua Tagovailoa’s tenure with the Crimson Tide. (He was the co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2017 and the OC this year.) And the team hasn’t had an offense like this one in all of Saban’s tenure; it scored an average of 47.9 points per game, outgaining opponents by an average of 527.6 yards to 296.2.
Locksley won the Broyles Award this season, which honors the nation’s best assistant coach. Maybe he’s not just another Alabama OC to be replaced seamlessly—although Saban will certainly come up with a well-regarded replacement—and it’ll be interesting to see how the Crimson Tide offense evolves in Tagovailoa’s probable last year in college in 2019.
Louisville gaining Bryan Brown
Louisville should be almost as pleased that Scott Satterfield was able to bring along his coordinators as it is that it snagged the former Appalachian State head coach after Jeff Brohm elected to stay at Purdue. Brown’s defense was the No. 6 unit in the country in the regular season, allowing opponents just 15.5 points per game and 279.3 total yards. Brown has just one year of experience as a coordinator, having coached the Mountaineers’ cornerbacks from 2012 to ’17, and he does have some FBS experience prior to his stint at Appalachian State. He spent time as a graduate assistant and in player development in the mid-2000s at Ole Miss and Rutgers, and he played at Ole Miss.
Still, the transition from the Sun Belt to the ACC will be a big step for Satterfield and his staff, and Louisville’s defense needs a makeover. It was the third-worst in the FBS last year, giving up an average of 44.1 points per game during a disaster of a season. Brown inherits a pretty depleted roster, so he’ll have to work the kind of magic he employed in Boone, getting a ton of production from non-blue-chip recruits. This may be a multi-year endeavor, but bringing some element of respectable defense to the Cardinals will be a major feat in 2019.
Georgia losing Mel Tucker
Tucker followed Kirby Smart from Alabama to Georgia back in 2016, and the defenses under his direction have been spectacular and deserve much of the credit for the Bulldogs’ run to the national championship a year ago. After giving up an average of 24.0 points per game in ’16, Tucker’s unit improved to sixth-best in the country last year, allowing just 16.4. This season, that number ticked up just slightly, to 18.5 points per game—but the Bulldogs still finished in the top 30 against both the pass and the run.
Without Tucker, Smart, a former defensive coordinator himself, will have to find another likeminded deputy, and the Bulldogs haven’t yet announced a new hire (Smart will call defensive plays in the Sugar Bowl). Georgia should be able to pull in a strong hire, and it continues to recruit like gangbusters, so there won’t be a shortage of talent for Tucker’s successor. Still, the Bulldogs are competing at the game’s highest level, where any minor setback can be the difference between a playoff bid and being left out of the final four. They’ll be looking to hire a coordinator not just to help them win, but to try to help them finally beat Alabama. And that’s a big difference.
Miami losing Manny Diaz
Diaz, who spent three years as the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator, was named Temple’s head coach last week. Miami moved quickly to name his replacement—or in this case, replacements—promoting safeties coach Ephraim Banda and outside linebackers coach Jonathan Patke. And while this was a disappointing season at Miami, filling the void left by Diaz isn’t going to come easily. His defense gave up only 18.2 points per game, and it was the No. 1 pass defense in the country, giving up only 140.8 passing yards per game and just 5.5 yards per pass attempt.
As Miami fights to reclaim its footing in the ACC Coastal after going 7–5 in year two under Mark Richt, it’s going to win with its physical, opportunistic defense. If it wants to compete in the conference, its best unit can’t miss much of a beat without Diaz, who should get a ton of credit for making the Hurricanes and their turnover chain a subject of national fascination these past two years.
Kansas gaining Chip Lindsey
Lindsey spent an up-and-down past two years as Gus Malzahn’s offensive coordinator. In his first season, Auburn’s offense put up an average of 33.9 points per game, and the Tigers went 10–4. This fall, they were 7–5, and their offensive output took a step back, to 28.2 points per game. It wasn’t the season Auburn was hoping for after its SEC championship game berth in 2017, and it makes sense that both sides would benefit from a change.
Kansas isn’t going to win the Big 12 next season, or the season after, but every move Les Miles makes on his coaching staff will be highly scrutinized after the Jayhawks’ headline-grabbing hire. Like Miles, Lindsay has deep ties to SEC country, but he’s never worked with the head coach before, and taking a job at Kansas is a risk for any coach at this point. If Lindsay can help KU’s struggling offense—it was No. 106 in the FBS this fall in yards per play allowed—steady itself, he’ll gain some instant credibility outside of the SEC.