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Impact assistants

Ten coaches who'll help their new schools right away

Posted: Friday February 15, 2008 2:10PM; Updated: Friday February 15, 2008 4:51PM
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Will Muschamp
Will Muschamp (center), one of the nation's top defensive minds, moves from Auburn to Texas.
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Much is made of the annual coaching carousel, and rightfully so -- obviously, anytime a Rich Rodriguez goes to Michigan or a Bobby Petrino goes to Arkansas, there's likely to be a major impact, not only on the programs involved, but potentially the national landscape.

Here's the thing, though: Oftentimes the results of a head-coaching change aren't truly felt until a few years down the road. Just look at Alabama, where anticipated savior Nick Saban failed to significantly improve the Tide on the field last season (they went from 6-7 to 7-6) but took a huge step toward bolstering the program's future last week by landing the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.

There is, however, no shortage of recent coaching hires who could have an immediate effect this coming season. You just have to look one level down.

Over the past couple of months, many highly respected assistant coaches -- most notably offensive and defensive coordinators -- have changed addresses. These are the guys who mold the schemes, install the game plans and call the plays on Saturdays. In many cases, they were hired by incumbent head coaches to address a specific deficiency.

On that note, here are 10 recently hired coordinators/assistants likely to have a significant impact on their new teams this coming season:

1. Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator, Texas

When Mack Brown needs a defensive coordinator, he goes to Auburn. In 2005, he recruited then-Tigers coordinator Gene Chizik, who served on the 'Horns national championship team. However, Texas' pass defense has gone in the tank the past two seasons, bottoming out at 109th nationally last season.

Enter Muschamp, formerly Saban's defensive coordinator at LSU when the Tigers won their 2003 national championship. Muschamp's Auburn defense last season ranked sixth nationally in both pass defense and total defense. Clearly, the guy knows what he's doing, and it's reasonable to expect significant improvement from the ever-talented 'Horns.

2. Jon Tenuta, assistant head coach/defense, Notre Dame

One of the biggest surprises of the off-season was that Tenuta -- one of the nation's most respected defensive coordinators at Georgia Tech, who was, at one point, rumored to be following Les Miles to Michigan -- wound up taking a non-coordinator job.

However, while Corwin Brown remains Notre Dame's coordinator, it's clear Charlie Weis went out of his way find a spot for Tenuta (secondary coach Bill Lewis was moved to an administrative post), whose blitz-heavy defenses he's faced first-hand past two seasons. And Tenuta will almost certainly play a significant role. There's no question the Irish's long-struggling defense could use his type of spark.

3. Tony Franklin, offensive coordinator, Auburn

While former coordinator Al Borges was widely hailed for his impact on the Tigers' undefeated 2004 team, Auburn's offense had deteriorated every year since then, and Tommy Tuberville decided it was time for a change. This one, however, is quite radical.

Tuberville took Franklin from nearby Troy, specifically to install the increasingly popular spread-option offense. Franklin, hired Dec. 12, wasted no time, and we got to see a rough draft of athletic QB Kodi Burns running the offense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. By the time the season opens, Burns and his teammates should be better prepared and potentially more explosive.

4. Norm Chow, offensive coordinator, UCLA

As far as potential long-term implications, Chow would be No. 1 on this list without a close second. He's only the sport's most decorated offensive coordinator in recent history. However, Chow's main attribute -- his noted history of developing star quarterbacks -- does not necessarily happen overnight.

The good news is Chow inherits a pair of veteran quarterbacks in rising seniors Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan. The bad news is both have been fairly average to date and Chow only has a few months to work with them, not to mention UCLA's top two receivers from last season (Joe Cowan and Brandon Breazell) are gone.

5. Ron English, defensive coordinator, Louisville

While the former Michigan coordinator's reputation quickly sunk from that of genius (when the Wolverines started 11-0 in 2006) to fraud (when his unit got torched in four straight games after that), the fact is Michigan's defense finished in the top 25 nationally both seasons he was there.

At Louisville, he walks into a program that seemed to implode under first-year coach Steve Kragthorpe. The biggest problem: a wretched defense that slipped from 40th the year before to 87th nationally. If English, who's known for his aggressive style and use of hybrid linebackers like Shawn Crable, can work his magic, the Cardinals should return to the postseason.

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