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50 rising-star position coaches you need to know

Matt Zenitz08/16/21
Article written by:On3 imageMatt Zenitz


Adam Lacey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the final part of On3’s three-part project on up-and-coming coaches, we take a look at rising-star position coaches as well as some highly regarded support staffers. (Part one in the series was on Group of 5 and FCS head coaches; part two was on nine non-Power 5 coordinators you need to know.)

To put this list together, we gathered feedback from a combination of head coaches, coordinators, team officials, etc., around college football after asking them about position coaches whom they expect to be in line for bigger jobs this next coaching cycle or at some point in the near future.

Based on that feedback, here are 50 coaches (including a few support staffers) you need to know entering the 2021 season. They’re listed alphabetically.

A note: We limited the list to coaches under 45 and did not include anyone who is already an offensive or defensive co-coordinator at the Power 5 level, which is why you won’t see guys such as Glenn Schumann (Georgia), Jon Sumrall (Kentucky) or Brian Williams (Maryland) despite their names coming up several times during the information-gathering process.


Florida State offensive line coach Alex Atkins

Recent jobs: FSU (2020-present), Charlotte offensive coordinator (2019), Tulane offensive line coach (2016-18)

  • Despite having to use different offensive line configurations in six of FSU’s nine games last season, Atkins’ group paved the way for the Seminoles to post their highest rushing average since 2016 (199.9 yards per game).
  • As Charlotte’s offensive coordinator in 2019, Atkins led a unit that ranked 28th nationally in yards per play (6.31).
  • Has been the lead recruiter on six on the 18 players that FSU has committed in its 2022 recruiting class, including four four-star recruits.
  • Turned down a Power 5 offensive coordinator job this past coaching cycle to continue to learn under Seminoles coach Mike Norvell. Also has been contacted in recent years about NFL and SEC offensive line jobs.

Boston College defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim

Recent jobs: BC (2020-present), UMass defensive coordinator (2019), Maryland cornerbacks/defensive backs coach (2016-18), Alabama assistant director of player personnel/analyst (2014-15)

  • Was promoted earlier this year to associate head coach. Also is Boston College’s defensive pass game coordinator.
  • Helped BC’s defense improve by an average of 71 yards per game against conference opponents in 2020 (from 494 yards per game under the previous staff in 2019 to 422.8 yards per game last season)
  • Continues to be regarded as one of the nation’s top recruiters. Led the way for BC’s 2021 class that was the Eagles’ top-ranked group in the modern recruiting era. Was one of the lead recruiters on nine BC signees, including four-star cornerback Clinton Burton.
  • Abdul-Rahim was contacted about a Power 5 defensive coordinator job and at least one SEC secondary coach opening this past cycle.
  • Was a high school head coach at Friendship College Academy in Washington, D.C., for 10 seasons (2004-13).

Ohio State offensive quality control coach Keenan Bailey

Recent jobs: Ohio State quality control coach (2019-present), Ohio State offensive intern (2016-18)

  • Viewed as a rising star inside the Ohio State building — and outside of it as well.
  • The belief is that it won’t be long before Bailey gets a big-time assistant job, whether it’s at Ohio State or elsewhere.
  • Is assisting with Ohio State’s quarterbacks after previously working with Brian Hartline and the Buckeyes’ wide receivers unit.
  • Before Ohio State, Bailey spent two years as a recruiting analyst at Notre Dame.
  • Was brought to Ohio State by former Buckeyes and current Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, who remains high on Bailey.

Houston running backs coach Marquel Blackwell

Recent jobs: Houston running backs coach (2020-present), Houston co-coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2019), West Virginia running backs coach (2018), Toledo running backs coach (2016-17)

  • Coached Kareem Hunt, who ran for 1,475 yards at Toledo in 2016 before being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
  • Interviewed for the Alabama running backs coach opening this past coaching cycle.
  • Was a four-year starter at quarterback for USF (1999-2002).

Marshall cornerbacks coach Dominique Bowman

Recent jobs: Marshall (2021), Austin Peay co-coordinator/secondary coach (2019-20), UT-Martin secondary coach/assistant head coach (2017-18)

  • Joined Charles Huff’s first Marshall staff after initially planning to return to UT-Martin as the program’s co-coordinator and secondary coach.
  • In 2019, Bowman helped Austin Peay win its first Ohio Valley Conference title since 1977. That 2019 Austin Peay defense ranked in the top 16 of the FCS in total defense (No. 12), pass efficiency defense (No. 14) and interceptions (No. 16).
  • Was an all-conference defensive back in 2007 and ’08 at Lambuth University, an NAIA school in Jackson, Tenn., playing for current Liberty coach Hugh Freeze.

Mississippi State special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach Matt Brock

Recent jobs: Mississippi State (2020-present), Washington State special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach (2018-19), Bowling Green special teams/linebackers coach (2016-17), Texas Tech inside linebackers coach (2014-15)

  • Is the right-hand man for highly regarded Mississippi State coordinator Zach Arnett. Also is a respected special teams coordinator.
  • Played a role in the Bulldogs ranking fourth in the SEC in total defense in 2020 (380.3 yards per game) after ranking 11th under the previous staff in 2019 (419.3 yards per game).
  • Led a special teams unit that ranked second in the SEC in kick-return average (28.0). The Bulldogs were the only SEC team with multiple 50-plus-yard kick returns.
  • Under Brock in 2019, Washington State ranked first in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (95.2) as well as second in punt-return average and kick-return defense. That came after Brock’s group ranked either first or second in the Pac-12 in net punting, kick-return average and kick-return defense in 2018.
  • Brock’s special teams unit at Bowling Green in 2017 ranked in the top 20 nationally in kick-return defense (No. 3), net punting (No. 4) and punt-return defense (No. 20).

Rutgers secondary coach Fran Brown

Recent jobs: Rutgers (2020-present), Temple co-coordinator/cornerbacks coach (2019), Baylor assistant head coach/cornerbacks coach (2017-18), Temple associate head coach/secondary coach (2016)

  • Was Greg Schiano’s first hire for his Rutgers staff.
  • Currently ranked among the nation’s top 15 recruiters for the 2022 recruiting class. Has been one of the lead recruiters on six of the Scarlet Knights’ 14 commitments, including the primary recruiter on three four-star pledges.
  • Helped Rutgers tie for second in the Big Ten with 19 takeaways last season, almost double what the Scarlet Knights tallied in 2019 (10) despite playing four fewer games.
  • Worked under current Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule at Baylor and Temple.
  • Has received NFL interest each of the past two years.
Rutgers is Fran Brown’s fourth stop in six years, but he has done yeoman work on the recruiting trail for the Scarlet Knights. (Courtesy of Rutgers Athletics)

James Madison special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Grant Cain

Recent jobs: James Madison (2019-present), Mercer special teams coordinator/inside linebackers coach (2013-18)

  • Cain’s 2019 James Madison special teams unit ranked No. 1 nationally (both FBS and FCS) with nine blocked kicks and set a Colonial Athletic Association record with 27 made field goals by Ethan Ratke.
  • Led Mercer’s 2018 special teams operation to four top-12 rankings in the FCS — net punting (No. 1), kick-return average (No. 9), punt-return average (No. 12) and punt-return defense (No. 12).
  • Also coached an all-conference tight end during that 2018 season (Dylan Stapleton).
  • Was contacted about an FBS special teams coordinator job this past cycle but opted to stay at James Madison.

Oklahoma outside linebackers/defensive ends coach Jamar Cain

Recent jobs: Oklahoma (2020-present), Arizona State defensive line coach (2019), Fresno State defensive line coach (2017-18), North Dakota State defensive ends coach (2014-16)

  • Under Cain’s watch, Oklahoma outside linebacker Nik Bonitto broke out as a second-team All-American in 2020 and enters this season as one of the nation’s top defensive players.
  • Ranked as one of the top recruiters in the Big 12 for the 2021 recruiting class. 
  • Has secured commitments from five four-star recruits in the past two recruiting classes, including top-100 2022 prospect Derrick Moore.
  • Turned down an NFL linebackers coach job and an SEC defensive run game coordinator opportunity this past cycle.

Oregon cornerbacks coach Rod Chance

Recent jobs: Oregon (2020-present), Minnesota cornerbacks coach (2019), Oregon defensive analyst (2018), Southern Utah defensive coordinator (2016-17), Vanderbilt defensive quality control coach (2013-15)

  • Already has worked in a few Power 5 conferences and has coordinator experience at the FCS level (Southern Utah).
  • Contributed to Southern Utah winning the Big Sky championship in 2017 with a defense that forced 29 turnovers and ranked third in the conference in scoring defense. Left after the season to take an analyst position at Oregon, then returned to the Ducks two years later to be the Ducks’ cornerbacks coach.
  • Has helped Oregon cornerback Mykael Wright develop into a first-team All-Pac 12 selection and a projected early-round 2022 NFL Draft pick.
  • Ranked as the sixth-best recruiter in the Pac-12 for the 2021 recruiting cycle. Landed two four-star defensive backs in that 2021 class.
  • Before Oregon, Chance was part of Minnesota improving from No. 51 nationally in pass defense the year before his arrival (212.4 yards per game) to No. 9 in 2019 (184.2).

USC wide receivers coach Keary Colbert

Recent jobs: USC (2018-present), USC quality control assistant (2016-17), Alabama analyst (2014-15)

  • Former USC star wide receiver (2000-03) who left as the Trojans’ career leader in receptions. 
  • A 2004 second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers. Posted 130 catches in six NFL seasons, including 47 catches for 754 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie.
  • Shifted to wide receivers coach at USC in 2019 after spending 2018 as the Trojans’ tight ends coach.
  • In the past two years, Colbert has produced four all-conference wide receivers, a Biletnikoff Award finalist (Michael Pittman in 2019) and two top-four-round draft picks (2021 fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown and Pittman, a 2020 second-round selection).

Army tight ends coach Matt Drinkall

Recent jobs: Army (2019-present), Kansas Wesleyan head coach (2014-18), St. Ambrose University offensive coordinator (2012-13)

  • Arrived at Army as a quality control coach, then was promoted last year to tight ends coach.
  • Went 42-17 in five seasons as coach at Kansas Wesleyan, an NAIA school located about two hours from the University of Kansas. That includes a 40-8 mark from 2015-18, the best four-year run in program history.
  • In his second season as the offensive coordinator at St. Ambrose (an NAIA school in Davenport, Iowa), Drinkall’s offense ranked No. 4 in NAIA in scoring, total offense and passing offense.

Auburn cornerbacks coach Zac Etheridge

Recent jobs: Auburn (2021), Houston cornerbacks coach (2019-20), Louisiana cornerbacks coach (2018), Western Carolina outside linebackers coach (2016-17)

  • Was a four-year starter at safety for Auburn and a captain on the Tigers’ 2010 national championship team.
  • Played and learned under coaches such as Will Muschamp and Ted Roof and got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant under Roof at Penn State (2012) and Georgia Tech (2013-14). Also has worked and learned under Billy Napier at Louisiana, one of the nation’s top up-and-coming head coaches.
  • Helped Houston go from No. 11 in the AAC in total defense in 2018 (496.8 yards per game) and No. 11 in 2019 (467.5) to No. 4 in 2020 (398.5).
  • Scored a big early recruiting win at Auburn, playing a role in getting standout cornerback Roger McCreary to return for his senior season instead of leaving for the NFL. 
  • Led by Etheridge and coordinator Derek Mason, the Tigers are expected to have one of the better secondaries in the SEC this season.

Oklahoma tight ends/H-backs coach Joe Jon Finley

Recent jobs: Oklahoma (2021), Ole Miss tight ends coach/pass game coordinator (2020), Texas A&M tight ends coach (2019), Missouri tight ends coach (2016-18)

  • A former All-Big 12 tight end at OU who played five seasons in the NFL.
  • Serves as Oklahoma’s associate head coach of offense in addition to being the Sooners’ tight ends and H-backs coach.
  • Played a big role behind the scenes last season at Ole Miss, contributing to a Rebels offense that ranked third nationally in total offense (555.5 yards per game) and seventh in passing offense (344.9 ypg).
  • Coached one of the more productive tight ends in the SEC last season (Kenny Yeboah) after mentoring 2019 Freshman All-American Jalen Wydermyer at Texas A&M and Mackey Award finalist Albert Okwuegbunam at Missouri in 2018.
  • Has been contacted about at least a couple of coordinator opportunities the past few years.


Texas safeties coach Blake Gideon

Recent jobs: Texas (2021), Ole Miss special teams coordinator (2020), Houston special teams coordinator/nickel backs coach (2019), Georgia State cornerbacks coach (2018), Western Carolina secondary coach/defensive pass game coordinator (2016-17)

  • Coaches consistently have mentioned him the past couple years as someone they expect to be a head coach — and a good one — at some point in the not-too-distant future.
  • Was a four-year starter at safety for Texas (2008-11) and a two-time captain.
  • His 2020 Ole Miss special teams unit ranked 17th nationally in kick-return defense and 23rd in kick-return average.
  • Under Gideon, Houston ranked No. 1 nationally in blocked kicks (six) and blocked punts (five) in 2019. The Cougars also were first in the AAC in kick-return defense and net punting.

TCU safeties coach Paul Gonzales

Recent jobs: TCU safeties coach (2018-present), TCU cornerbacks coach (2015-17), TCU defensive graduate assistant (2012-14)

  • Has produced at least one first- or second-team All-Big 12 selection in each of the past five seasons. That includes 2020 Jim Thorpe Award winner Trevon Moehrig, who was selected by the Las Vegas Raiders in the second round of this year’s NFL draft.
  • In 2019, Pro Football Focus’ two highest-graded safeties were from Gonzales’ group — Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington.
  • A former college baseball player at UC Davis, Gonzalez got his first opportunity as a football coach in 2007 and has been at TCU since 2012, working and learning under one of the top defensive minds in the country in Gary Patterson.
  • Aided by Gonzales and his group, TCU has finished No. 1 in the Big 12 in opponents’ completion percentage each of the past four seasons. Opposing quarterbacks have completed just 53.6 percent of their passes vs. TCU during that span. To put that into perspective, that’s the same percentage allowed by Clemson during this four-year stretch and better than the figure posted by Alabama (55.1).

Liberty offensive line coach Sam Gregg

Recent jobs: Liberty (2019-present), West Georgia offensive coordinator (2014-18), West Alabama offensive coordinator/offensive line coach (2008-13)

  • Was part of helping Liberty go 10-1 in 2020.
  • Behind Gregg’s line, the Flames ran for a school-record 2,776 yards in 2020 and ranked No. 9 nationally in rushing offense (252.2 yards per game). Liberty also was 15th in the country in average time of possession (32:58).
  • Produced 48 all-conference players during his seven seasons as an offensive coordinator at West Georgia and West Alabama, including two All-American offensive linemen at West Georgia (Harley Vaughan and Austin Kastl).
  • Has coached 11 All-American offensive linemen throughout his career.
  • Worked at West Georgia with three other current Flames coaches (defensive coordinator Scott Symons, defensive line coach Josh Aldridge and cornerbacks coach Rickey Hunley). They helped West Georgia advance to the Division II playoffs four times in five years.

Tennessee quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle

Recent jobs: Tennessee (2021), UCF quarterbacks coach (2020), UCF offensive analyst (2019), Missouri analyst (2016)

  • Being groomed by new Tennessee coach Josh Heupel, whose UCF offenses ranked No. 2 nationally in total offense each of the past two seasons.
  • Was a quarterback at Oklahoma (2006-08) when Heupel was the Sooners’ quarterbacks coach, then got his start in coaching under Heupel as a support staffer at Oklahoma from 2009-14.
  • Returned to coaching in 2019 after two years working in the private sector. Was UCF’s quarterbacks coach last season after working as an analyst in 2019.
  • Under Halzle, UCF QB Dillon Gabriel led the nation in passing yards per game (357.0) last season.
Joey Halzle followed Josh Heupel from UCF to Tennessee. (Courtesy of Tennessee Athletics)

Georgia wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton

Recent jobs: Georgia (2018-present), Vanderbilt wide receivers coach (2015-17), Dartmouth wide receivers coach (2012-14)

  • A former NFL receiver who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-06.
  • Has been Georgia’s pass game coordinator since 2019.
  • His current wide receiver corps includes two players who have developed into 2022 NFL Draft prospects. George Pickens, who suffered a torn ACL during the spring, is viewed in the NFL scouting world as a potential Day 2 pick. Kearis Jackson enters the year with Day 3 grades. The group also includes talented young players such as sophomore Jermaine Burton and promising freshman Adonai Mitchell, whom Hankton landed after he was initially committed to Ole Miss.
  • A veteran Power 5 head coach mentioned Hankton as someone he sees as a potential Group of 5 head-coach candidate. He interviewed for the South Alabama head coach job this past cycle and has interviewed for NFL wide receivers coach openings with the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers.

UCF co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Tim Harris

Recent jobs: UCF (2021), FIU running backs coach (2015-20)

  • Was set to be FIU’s offensive coordinator this season but decided to join Gus Malzahn’s staff at UCF.
  • Under Harris, FIU running back D’Vonte Price developed into one of the nation’s most productive running backs last season (116.2 yards per game) and a potential early-round 2022 NFL Draft pick.
  • Is a highly respected and connected figure in south Florida. His dad is legendary Florida high school coach Tim “Ice” Harris. 
  • Was his father’s offensive coordinator at Miami Booker T. Washington from 2009-13 and then served as the team’s coach in 2014 before being hired at FIU. During his one year as the Tornadoes’ coach, Harris led the team to a 14-0 record, a state title, a No. 2 ranking nationally from USA Today and was a finalist for U.S. Army All-American National Coach of the Year.

Washington secondary coach Will Harris

Recent jobs: Washington secondary coach (2020-present), Washington assistant defensive backs coach (2018-19), San Jose State secondary coach (2016-17), Dixie State secondary coach (2015)

  • In his first season as Washington’s defensive backs coach, Harris was part of the Huskies improving from No. 56 nationally in pass defense in 2019 (222.2 yards per game) to No. 13 nationally and No. 1 in the Pac-12 last season (184.9 yards per game).
  • Had two all-conference defensive backs last year — first-teamer Elijah Molden (who was picked by the Tennessee Titans in the third round of this year’s NFL draft) and second-team selection Trent McDuffie.
  • Previously assisted in the development of Molden, McDuffie and others as the Huskies’ assistant defensive backs coach.
  • Was contacted by Boise State about a job with a bigger title this past coaching cycle. Was also on the radar as a possibility for multiple other teams with secondary coach openings, including LSU as the Tigers explored potentially hiring a safeties coach.

Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart

Recent jobs: Michigan (2021), Indiana running backs coach (2017-20), Syracuse running backs coach (2016), Western Michigan running backs coach (2014-15)

  • Was a two-time Doak Walker Award finalist as a running back at Michigan and finished his Wolverines career (2004-07) as the program’s leading career rusher (5,040 yards).
  • Played three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
  • Was part of an Indiana staff that transformed the Hoosiers’ program from 23 losing records in a 24-year period to back-to-back winning seasons in 2019 and ’20, including a 6-1 mark in Big Ten play last fall. 
  • Also was Indiana’s associate head coach last year.
  • Under Hart, Stevie Scott was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2019 and ’20.
  • Has received interest for both college and NFL jobs in recent years, including from Notre Dame in 2019.

Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline

Recent jobs: Ohio State wide receivers coach (2018-present), Ohio State graduate assistant (2017)

  • Is back at Ohio State after starring for the Buckeyes as a wide receiver (2005-08).
  • Was a fourth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2009 NFL Draft and played seven seasons in the NFL. Finished his career with 344 catches, two 1,000-yard seasons and 14 career touchdowns.
  • Has been a catalyst in Ohio State building what’s regarded as the nation’s best wide receiver unit entering the 2021 season. The headliners are preseason All-Americans Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who has evolved from a three-star recruit into a first-round 2022 draft prospect under Hartline’s coaching.
  • Hartline was the only non-coordinator among the 15 semifinalists for the 2020 Broyles Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top assistant.
  • Regarded as one of the best recruiters in the country. Ranked as the No. 1 recruiter in the country in 2020 and is No. 1 thus far for the 2022 class. Has been one of the lead recruiters on eight top-50 overall recruits that Ohio State has landed in its past three classes, including two quarterbacks and three five-star wide receivers.
  • Has been heavily pursued for college and NFL jobs in recent years.

Louisiana Tech inside wide receivers coach Trey Holtz

Recent jobs: Louisiana Tech (2020-present), Ohio State graduate assistant (2017-19)

  • Is the eldest son of Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz, who also has been a head coach at UConn (1994-98), East Carolina (2005-09) and USF (2010-12). Is the grandson of Lou Holtz.
  • Was a reserve QB at Texas (2012-16) and played in 23 games as a snapper for field goals and extra points.
  • Had two All-Conference USA honorable mention selections in his first season at Louisiana Tech (Smoke Harris and Cee Jay Powell).
  • Assisted with Ohio State’s running backs and tight ends for three seasons in his role as a Buckeyes graduate assistant from 2017-19.

Indianapolis Colts offensive quality control coach Jerrod Johnson

Recent jobs: Colts (2019-present), Houston St. Thomas High offensive coordinator (2017-18)

  • Former Texas A&M starting quarterback; he beat out current Tennessee Titans starter Ryan Tannehill for the Aggies’ starting QB job. 
  • Threw for 3,579 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior at A&M in 2009.
  • Interviewed for the job as the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach before the Eagles hired Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. There were also multiple Power Five programs (one in the Big 12 and one in the Pac-12) that inquired with Johnson about quarterbacks coach jobs this past cycle.
  • In addition to his work with the Colts and St. Thomas High, he has been a Nike Elite 11 quarterbacks coach.

UCF co-coordinator/quarterbacks coach G.J. Kinne

Recent jobs: UCF (2021), Hawaii offensive coordinator (2020), Philadelphia Eagles special projects assistant (2019), Arkansas offensive analyst (2018)

  • Was a three-year starting QB at Tulsa and was the 2010 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year with Chad Morris as his coordinator.
  • Has worked or played under several other prominent coaches, including Ohio State coach Ryan Day, ex-Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson, Florida State coach Mike Norvell and UCLA coach Chip Kelly.
  • The move to UCF reconnected him with Gus Malzahn, who was his quarterback coach at Tulsa in 2008.
  • Will be coaching star QB Dillon Gabriel, who has thrown for 7,223 yards and 61 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Knights.

Tennessee running backs coach Jerry Mack

Recent jobs: Tennessee (2021), Rice offensive coordinator (2018-20), North Carolina Central head coach (2014-17)

  • His résumé includes a successful run as an FCS coach, time as an FBS offensive coordinator and now SEC experience with a coach known for putting up big offensive numbers.
  • At North Carolina Central, Mack posted a 31-15 record and was a finalist for the 2016 Eddie Robinson FCS Coach of the Year award.
  • Has been interviewed for multiple FBS head-coach openings, including South Alabama this past cycle. Also received interest for multiple NFL job openings.

Pitt wide receivers coach Brennan Marion

Recent jobs: Pitt (2021), Hawaii wide receivers coach (2020), William & Mary offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2019), Howard offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2017-18), Oklahoma Baptist running backs coach (2016), Arizona State quality control coach (2015)

  • A former record-setting wide receiver at Tulsa, where he set FBS records for single-season yards per catch (31.9) and career yards per catch (28.7).
  • Has been working up at the college level since 2015 after two jobs as a high school coach. In his first, he took Vallejo (Calif.) St. Patrick-St. Vincent to the playoffs in 2013 a year after the team finished 1-9. He then led Waynesboro Area (Pa.) to a share of the league title a year after finishing 0-10.
  • Running his unique “go-go” offense, which combines up-tempo spread concepts with some old-school triple-option elements, Marion had success as a coordinator at two FCS programs (Howard and William & Mary). Under Marion, Howard’s offense ranked in the top 25 in the FCS in three categories (scoring, total offense and passing) and led the way for one of the largest upsets in recent college football history (a win over UNLV as a 45-point underdog). In Marion’s one season at William & Mary, the Tribe nearly doubled their point production (from 13.6 points per game in 2018 to 25.2 in 2019) and improved their total offense by almost 100 yards per game (from 241.5 in 2018 to 340.9).
  • In addition to the opportunity at Pitt, which is less than an hour from where Marion grew up in Greensburg, Pa., he also garnered interest for a Group of 5 coordinator opening this past cycle.

Tennessee senior offensive analyst Matt Merritt

Recent jobs: Tennessee (2021), James Madison running backs coach (2019-20), Elon running backs coach/special teams coordinator (2017-18)

  • Was hired to be Heupel’s running backs coach at UCF before then following Heupel to Tennessee as a senior analyst.
  • The Heupel-led staff felt like they uncovered a diamond in the rough when they initially hired Merritt at UCF.
  • Aided by Merritt, James Madison ranked sixth in the FCS in rushing offense last season (232.6 yards per game) and 10th in 2019 (242.9 yards per game).
  • Under Merritt, James Madison running back Percy Agyei-Obese was a first-team all-conference selection each of the past two seasons.
  • Is a former Ohio State grad assistant (2013-15) who assisted with players such as current Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott.


Oklahoma inside linebackers coach Brian Odom

Recent jobs: Oklahoma (2019-present), Missouri outside linebackers coach (2017-18), Washington State defensive quality control coach (2015-16)

  • The feel in the coaching world is that Odom likely would be a top contender for the Oklahoma coordinator job if Alex Grinch leaves for a head-coaching opportunity.
  • Is a former Sooners player (2000-01) and the younger brother of Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom.
  • Previously worked under Grinch at Washington State.
  • Has helped Oklahoma go from last in the Big 12 in total defense in 2018 to second in 2019 and third in 2020.

Georgia State cornerbacks coach Cory Peoples

Recent jobs: Georgia State (2020-present), Georgia Southern cornerbacks coach (2018), Albany State defensive coordinator (2017)

  • An ex-NFL defensive back who spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005 and ’06.
  • As coordinator at Division II Albany (Ga.) State in 2017, his unit held opponents to an average of 287 yards per game.
  • Had a second-team All-Sun Belt cornerback last season in his first year at Georgia State (Quavian White).
  • Promoted to defensive pass game coordinator earlier this year.
  • Was looked at by Kentucky for its secondary coach opening this offseason.

Memphis defensive line coach Kyle Pope

Recent jobs: Memphis (2020-present), Liberty linebackers coach (2019), Alabama graduate assistant (2017-18)

  • Got his first FBS opportunity as a grad assistant at Alabama and consistently receives rave reviews from those who worked around him with the Crimson Tide. 
  • At Alabama, he worked with players such as 2018 first-round NFL draft pick Daron Payne and 2019 first-round selection Quinnen Williams.
  • Produced a first-team All-AAC selection in his first season at Memphis (O’Bryan Goodson).
  • Received inquiries about at least a few Power 5 defensive line coach openings this offseason and turned down a job offer from a Big 12 program.
  • Has a twin brother, Kelsey, who’s also an up-and-coming coach. Kelsey is in his first season an offensive analyst at Tennessee after a year as the wide receivers coach and pass game coordinator at Gardner-Webb.

Baylor special teams coordinator/safeties coach Matthew Powledge

Recent jobs: Baylor (2020-present), Louisiana special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach (2018-19), ULM special teams coordinator/tight ends coach (2016-17)

  • Regarded as one of the best kickoff-return and special teams coaches in the country. Has coached four top-10 kickoff-return units in his career.
  • Under Powledge, Baylor tied for first nationally last season with five kick returns of at least 40 yards. Returner Trestan Ebnar was the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year and became the first player in modern school history with two kick-return touchdowns in one game. 
  • That came after Powledge’s 2019 return man at Louisiana (Raymond Calais) earned first-team all-conference honors and led the Sun Belt in kick-return average. Powledge’s 2019 Louisiana special teams crew also ranked first in the Sun Belt in kickoff-return defense and net punting.
  • In addition, Powledge coached Baylor’s only first-team All-Big 12 selection on either offense or defense in 2020 — safety Jalen Pitre.
  • Alabama interviewed Powledge this past cycle.
Christian Robinson has been an on-field assistant for just three seasons, all at Florida. (Tim Casey/Florida Athletics)

Florida linebackers coach Christian Robinson

Recent jobs: Florida (2018-present), Mississippi State graduate assistant (2017), Ole Miss graduate assistant (2015-16)

  • Was a linebacker at Georgia (2009-12) and made 17 career starts for the Bulldogs.
  • Has had members of his Florida linebacker room taken in two of the past three NFL drafts — 2020 third-round pick Jon Greenard and 2019 fifth-round selection Vosean Joseph.
  • Has been one of the lead recruiters on 10 four-star players that the Gators have landed the past three years.
  • Turned down a job offer from Michigan this offseason. Florida coach Dan Mullen fought hard to keep him.

Texas A&M defensive line coach Elijah Robinson

Recent jobs: Texas A&M (2018-present), Baylor defensive line coach (2017), Temple defensive line coach (2014-16) 

  • Has played a large role in setting up Texas A&M to have one of the best defenses in the country this season.
  • Has recruited and coached players like DeMarvin Leal, a former five-star recruit who could be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
  • In the past three years, four A&M defensive linemen have been selected in the first four rounds of the NFL draft.
  • Robinson’s 2020 defensive line helped the Aggies finish No. 3 nationally in rush defense.
  • Turned down NFL job opportunities this past coaching cycle.

Texas A&M defensive backs coach TJ Rushing

Recent jobs: Texas A&M (2020-present), Memphis secondary coach/defensive pass game coordinator (2018-19), Arizona State secondary coach (2016-17)

  • An ex-Stanford and NFL defensive back who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006.
  • Texas A&M ranked No. 2 in the SEC in pass defense in its first season under Rushing and should be even better this fall. Every starter returns from last season’s secondary.
  • Rushing was contacted about several jobs this past cycle, including Alabama and Georgia, but decided to remain with A&M. Also received interest for multiple NFL secondary coach openings.
  • Turned down a Mountain West defensive coordinator job last year.

SMU running backs coach Ra’Shaad Samples

Recent jobs: SMU running backs coach (2020-present), SMU offensive assistant (2019), Texas offensive analyst/on-campus recruiter (2018)

  • A 26-year-old who has quickly established himself as one of the premier recruiters and top young coaches in the nation.
  • Within a four-day period in July, he landed two of the top-ranked recruits in SMU program history — five-star wide receiver Jordan Hudson and four-star safety Chace Biddle. Samples, a former Oklahoma State and Houston wide receiver, currently is ranked among the top-15 recruiters in the country for the 2022 class.
  • As the Mustangs’ running backs coach, Samples has aided in the progression of players such as Ulysses Bentley and Tyler Lavine. After serving as a little-used backup in 2019, Bentley broke out in his first season under Samples and led the AAC with 913 rushing yards in 2020. Lavine, a former walk-on, added 310 rushing yards.
  • Sonny Dykes promoted Samples to associate head coach earlier this year.
  • The belief with some in the coaching world is that Samples could be this year’s Randall Joyner. Joyner was SMU’s defensive line coach from 2018 through last season. Ole Miss, LSU and SMU competed for his services after the season before he ultimately decided to join Lane Kiffin’s staff at Ole Miss.

Texas A&M linebackers coach Tyler Santucci

Recent jobs: Texas A&M (2020-present), Wake Forest (2019), Texas A&M analyst (2018), Notre Dame analyst (2017), Texas State linebackers coach (2016)

  • A protege of Texas A&M coordinator Mike Elko, Santucci was a grad assistant at Wake Forest under Elko (2014-15), an analyst under Elko at Notre Dame (2017) and Texas A&M (2018) and now is in his second season back with Elko as the Aggies’ linebackers coach.
  • Is seen in the coaching world as someone who will be a coordinator in the near future.
  • Contributed to A&M improving from 29th nationally in total defense in 2019 to ninth in 2020.
  • Was an FCS All-American linebacker at Stony Brook as a player (2006-10) and was named to the Big South Conference All-Decade Team.

Iowa State running backs/wide receivers coach Nate Scheelhaase

Recent jobs: Iowa State (2018-present), Illinois analyst (2016-17), Illinois running backs coach (2015)

  • Was a four-year starter at quarterback at Illinois (2010-13) and ranks seventh in Big Ten history in career total yardage (10,634 yards). 
  • Helped Iowa State compile a top-10 ranking in 2020 along with a Fiesta Bowl win over Oregon.
  • Has mentored a first- or second-team All-Big 12 selection each of his first three season with the Cyclones. That includes Xavier Hutchinson, who emerged as a first-team all-conference player as a freshman under Scheelhaase in 2020. His 64 catches led the Big 12.
  • Scheelhaase was promoted to run game coordinator after last season.

Penn State running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider

Recent jobs: Penn State (2018-present), Florida running backs coach (2017), West Virginia running backs coach (2013-16)

  • A former West Virginia and Florida A&M quarterback, he won the Doug Williams National Offensive Player of the Year award as a senior at Florida A&M in 1999.
  • Ranked as a top-10 recruiter nationally for the 2019 class and currently is ranked as one of the top recruiters in the Big Ten for the 2022 class. In July, he secured a commitment from four-star 2022 running back Nicholas Singleton, while also teaming with offensive line coach Phil Trautwein to land five-star 2023 offensive lineman Alex Birchmeier.
  • Has coached multiple all-conference and future NFL running backs, including Miles Sanders at Penn State and Charles Sims and Wendell Smallwood at West Virginia.
  • Was promoted to run game coordinator for the Nittany Lions in 2020.
  • Was under consideration for the Marshall coaching job before the hire of Charles Huff. Also received interest for the Philadelphia Eagles’ running backs coach opening.
JaJuan Seider’s recruiting ability has been a constant at each of his coaching stops. (Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

LSU offensive graduate assistant Derek Shay

Recent jobs: LSU (2020-present), McNeese State tight ends coach (2019), Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy offensive line coach (2017-18)

  • Serves as LSU’s de facto tight ends coach and is highly regarded inside the Tigers’ building.
  • Was hired as the replacement for Jon DeCoster, who now works for the Cleveland Browns.
  • Was a leader in the recruitment of recent LSU tight end commit Mason Taylor, the son of former NFL star Jason Taylor.
  • Has worked with coaches such as Syracuse coach Dino Babers, Orange offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and  Kent State coach Sean Lewis.

UAB cornerbacks coach Jay Simpson

Recent jobs: UAB cornerbacks coach (2019-present), UAB analyst/grad assistant (2016-18), South Alabama quality control coach (2014-15)

  • UAB has finished in the top-10 nationally in total defense in each of Simpson’s two seasons as cornerbacks coach. 
  • The Blazers also have been in the top 10 nationally in pass defense each of the past two seasons — No. 7 in 2020 and No. 8 in 2019.
  • Two of Simpson’s cornerbacks were named second-team All-Conference USA last season (Brontae Harris and TD Marshall).
  • As a player, Simpson was a starting cornerback at South Alabama in 2010 and ’11, when current UAB coach Bill Clark was the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator.

Virginia Tech cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith

Recent jobs: Virginia Tech (2020-present), James Madison safeties coach (2019), Elon secondary coach (2017-18), Penn State graduate assistant (2015-16)

  • Is one of the latest coaching stars to emerge from the tree of former William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock, which also has produced the likes of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott. All of them played under Laycock at William & Mary.
  • At James Madison in 2019, Smith helped lead a defense that ranked No. 1 in the FCS.
  • In Smith’s first season at Virginia Tech, cornerback Dorian Strong developed into a Freshman All-American.
  • Smith, who filled in as the Hokies’ defensive play-caller during a 45-24 win over NC State, was promoted to defensive pass game coordinator earlier this year.
  • Has been the primary recruiter on five Virginia Tech 2022 commits, including four-star running back Ramon Brown and four-star cornerback Cam Johnson.


Notre Dame running backs coach Lance Taylor

Recent jobs: Notre Dame (2019-present), Carolina Panthers wide receivers coach (2017-18), Stanford running backs coach (2014-16)

  • Taylor coached current NFL star Christian McCaffrey at Stanford and now has 2020 All-ACC running back Kyren Williams at Notre Dame.
  • After recording just four carries in 2019, Williams has developed into one of the best running backs in the country under Taylor’s watch. He rushed for 1,125 yards during the Fighting Irish’s run to the College Football Playoff last season.
  • Taylor, who was promoted to run game coordinator for Notre Dame last year, was looked at during the South Alabama and Buffalo coaching searches.

Ohio running backs coach Tyler Tettleton

Recent jobs: Ohio (2021), LSU analyst (2020), Cleveland Browns quality control coach (2019), New York Jets pro personnel intern (2018), Oklahoma graduate assistant (2015-17)

  • Tettleton, a former record-setting quarterback at Ohio (2009-13) and the son of former major league catcher Mickey Tettleton, was hired as the Bobcats’ running backs coach in late July. 
  • Made a big-time impression with people at LSU during his one season on the Tigers’ staff.
  • “Freakin’ superstar” was the feedback from one LSU staffer.

Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington

Recent jobs: Ohio State (2019-present), Michigan linebackers coach (2018), Cincinnati defensive line coach (2017), Boston College assistant (2012-16)

  • Washington, who has known Ohio State coach Ryan Day since they were together at Boston College in 2003 and ’04, joined the Buckeyes’ staff after Day became coach.
  • Has had a first-team All-Big Ten linebacker in each of his first two seasons at Ohio State — Malik Harrison in 2019 and Pete Werner in 2020.
  • Was the lead recruiter on five-star 2022 linebacker C.J. Hicks, who committed to the Buckeyes in May.
  • Interviewed for the Boston College coaching job two years ago and turned down the Tennessee coordinator job this past cycle.

Charlotte co-coordinator/defensive line coach Marcus West

Recent jobs: Charlotte (2019-present), Minnesota defensive line pass rush specialist (2018), Austin Peay co- coordinator/defensive line coach (2016-17)

  • Rejoined Will Healy in 2019 after one season at Minnesota.
  • Initially was hired by Healy at Chattanooga in 2009 and has worked for him every year since other than the one season at Minnesota.
  • Under West, Alex Highsmith ranked in the top five nationally in sacks and tackles for loss in 2019. He went on to be selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Healy has said before of West: “I don’t think there’s a better defensive line coach in the country. The way he’s been able to develop linemen at the FCS level and now at the Power 5 level speaks for itself.”
Marcus West has spent almost all of his coaching career working for Will Healy. (Courtesy of Charlotte Athletics)

USC secondary coach Donte Williams

Recent jobs: USC (2020-present), Oregon cornerbacks coach (2018-19), Nebraska cornerbacks coach (2017), Arizona cornerbacks coach (2016), San Jose State secondary coach/recruiting coordinator (2013-15)

  • Ranked as the top recruiter in the Pac-12 in 2020 and ’21, and is ranked No. 1 for the 2022 recruiting cycle.
  • Was the lead recruiter for the Trojans on five-star 2022 cornerback Domani Jackson, who committed to USC in January.
  • Under Williams, USC allowed just 216.3 passing yards per game last season, its lowest number since 2013.
  • Williams coached Chris Steele to second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2020. Another Trojans cornerback, Olaijah Griffin, finished with the third-highest Pro Football Focus grade for 2020 among Pac-12 corners.
  • Was promoted to associate head coach after last season. 
  • While Williams’ salary numbers aren’t public, a source told On3 that Williams is the highest-paid non-coordinator in the nation.
  • At Oregon in 2018, Williams’ cornerbacks group contributed to the Ducks posting 20 interceptions, which ranked second nationally.

Florida State secondary coach Marcus Woodson

Recent jobs: Florida State (2020-present), Auburn secondary coach (2018-19), Memphis secondary coach (2016-17), Fresno State secondary coach (2014-15)

  • Has had six of his defensive backs selected during the past three NFL drafts, including Asante Samuel in the second round of the 2021 draft. Under Woodson at Auburn, Noah Igbinoghene developed into a first-round pick at cornerback after beginning his career as a wide receiver.
  • Woodson has been the lead recruiter on three highly ranked FSU 2022 commits. One is five-star cornerback Travis Hunter, rated as the nation’s No. 2 overall player in the On3 2022 rankings.
  • Woodson, an ex-Ole Miss defensive back, also has the defensive pass game coordinator title at Florida State.
  • He was Auburn’s recruiting coordinator in 2019 in addition to being the Tigers’ secondary coach.

UTSA co-coordinator/defensive line coach Rod Wright

Recent jobs: UTSA (2019-present), East Carolina defensive line coach (2018), Sam Houston State defensive line coach (2014-17)

  • Led by Wright and his group, UTSA ranked No. 1 in Conference USA in sacks and tackles for loss last season.
  • Wright, who was promoted to co-coordinator this offseason, previously led the way as the Roadrunners broke multiple school records during his first season at UTSA in 2019. Among them were sacks per game (2.2) and tackles for loss per game (8.0).
  • That came after East Carolina broke multiple records in 2018 with Wright, including the AAC record for tackles for loss in a game (15) and the conference record for tackles for loss in a season (105).
  • At East Carolina, end Nate Harvey was the AAC Defensive Player of the Year under Wright. At Sam Houston State, one of Wright’s linemen (P.J. Hall) was a three-time finalist for FCS Defensive Player of the Year.
  • As a player, Wright was an All-American defensive lineman at Texas and was one of the leaders of the Longhorns’ 2005 national championship team.

Other college position coaches who received mention: Josh Aldridge, Liberty defensive line coach; Matt Barnes, Ohio State secondary coach; Kelvin Bell, Iowa defensive line coach; Brian Braswell, Maryland offensive line coach; Elijah Brooks, Maryland running backs coach; Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech running backs coach; Michael Desormeaux, Louisiana co-OC/tight ends coach; Joe Graves, Georgia Southern tight ends coach/special teams coordinator; Tyler Grisham, Clemson wide receivers coach; Jim Harding, Utah offensive line coach; Jeremy Hawkins, Eastern Kentucky defensive line coach; Mark Hogan, Davidson safeties coach; Scott Huff, Washington offensive line coach; Chris Marve, Florida State linebackers coach; Gary McGraw, Sam Houston State cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator; Slade Nagle, Tulane tight ends coach; Rod Ojong, Buffalo safeties coach; Clay Patterson, Minnesota tight ends coach; Lee Rousell, Nicholls offensive line coach; Eric Sanders, Stanford inside linebackers coach; De’Rail Sims, Louisville running backs coach; Clint Sintim, Virginia defensive line coach; Omarr Smith, Morgan State secondary coach; Jeremy Springer, Marshall special teams coordinator; Cole Weeks, Troy running backs coach; Ron Whitcomb, Buffalo tight ends coach; Jeremiah Wilson, Akron secondary coach; Levar Woods, Iowa special teams coordinator.

Other college support staffers or NFL staffers who received votes: Stephen Adegoke (Michigan); Max Bullough (Alabama); Jamar Chaney (Mississippi State); Steve Cooper (Nebraska); Zachary Crabtree (Oklahoma State); Ty Darlington (Oklahoma); Jon DeCoster (Cleveland Browns); Ross Douglas (New England Patriots); Declan Doyle (New Orleans Saints); Will Johnson (Oklahoma); Conner McQueen (Oklahoma); Nick Perry (Atlanta Falcons); Ryan Osborn (Michigan); Effrem Reed (Michigan State); Ronnie Regula (Miami); Zac Robinson (Los Angeles Rams); Spencer Whipple (Arizona Cardinals); Nick Williams (Texas A&M).