Impact assistants (cont.)
Posted: Friday February 15, 2008 2:10PM; Updated: Friday February 15, 2008 4:51PM
6. Ed Donatell, defensive coordinator, Washington
Huskies fans clamoring for the dismissal of Tyrone Willingham did not get their wish, but Willingham made what had to be a saddening decision to part ways with Kent Baer, his defensive coordinator of 13 seasons, dating to their days at Stanford. Baer's first three Husky defenses all ranked 94th or lower nationally.
For his replacement, Willingham tapped Donatell, a familiar name in NFL circles for his tenures as defensive coordinator for the Packers and Falcons. Once upon a time, he was a GA at Washington under Don James. UW's offense already held promise with budding QB Jake Locker, but the defense was in desperate need of a new direction. Donatell obviously brings significant experience.
7. Dave Clawson, offensive coordinator, Tennessee
Phillip Fulmer has had just two offensive coordinators over the past 15 years, David Cutcliffe (1993-98, 2006-07) and Randy Sanders (1999-2005), which means the Vols' offense has changed very little. When Cutcliffe left for Duke, Fulmer made the bold move of replacing him with Richmond head coach Clawson, 40, a career-long I-AA coach.
It will be interesting to see what direction Tennessee's offense takes under the two-time I-AA coach of the year, who ran a version of the West Coast offense at Villanova when he had star RB Brian Westbrook and both a spread and power-running style at Richmond. One thing's for sure: he needs to boost the Vols' running game, which hasn't ranked higher than 73rd nationally since 2004.
8. Dan McCarney, defensive assistant, Florida
For the first time since his 2005 arrival, Gators coach Urban Meyer had had to deal with staff attrition, losing running backs coach Stan Drayton (to Tennessee), associate head coach Doc Holliday (West Virginia) and co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Greg Mattison (Baltimore Ravens).
It appears McCarney, Iowa State's head coach from 1995-2006, will take over Mattison's old defensive-line duties, but more importantly was the fact that Meyer was able to add such an experienced coach to what was fast becoming an extremely young staff. He had also pursued recently deposed head coaches Sonny Lubick (Colorado) and Ed Orgeron (Ole Miss).
9. Phil Bennett, defensive coordinator, Pittsburgh
The recently deposed SMU coach made a name for himself under Bill Snyder at Kansas State, where his defenses ranked in the top five nationally all three seasons (1999-2001). At Pittsburgh, he inherits another that ranked fifth in the country last season, trailing only Ohio State, USC, LSU and Virginia Tech.
Led by star LB Scott McKillop, the Panthers return 18 of 22 players on the defensive two-deep that bottled up West Virginia in their memorable season-ending upset. That defense is a major reason many prognosticators (myself included) expect Pitt to make the leap from 5-7 to top-25 contender next season, but it will require a successful transition from Paul Rhoads (now at Auburn) to Bennett.
10. Mike Hankwitz, defensive coordinator, Northwestern
While the Wildcats have become synonymous with high-scoring spread offenses this decade, they have not fielded a respectable defense since their 1995 Rose Bowl season. That unit happened to be led by their last respected coordinator, Ron Vanderlinden, now the linebackers coach at Penn State.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald scored a coup, however, in landing accomplished veteran Hankwitz, 60, a coordinator the past two decades at Colorado, Kansas, Texas A&M, Arizona and, most recently, Wisconsin, where his 2006 unit ranked fifth nationally. If he can manage to develop a decent defense in Evanston, Northwestern, which returns veteran QB C.J. Bacher and RB Tyrell Sutton on offense, should return to the postseason.
2 of 2