Judging coaching staffs based upon raw numbers – wins and losses – is an inexact way to evaluate their effectiveness. For example, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo inherited Paul Johnson’s Navy program, which won 43 times in five seasons after taking over a program that won once in two years.
Steve Addazio has won 14 games in two years at Temple. How do you compare that to Brian Kelly’s 17 wins at Notre Dame in his fourth and fifth years with the Irish? Or what about Massachusetts head coach Mark Whipple, who took over a Minutemen program – for the second time in his career – with just two victories in 2012-13 combined?
Now mix in the coordinators and their backgrounds. At best, the rating is a partial picture, often shaded significantly by what happened the previous year.
13) Pittsburgh (HC-Pat Narduzzi, OC-Jim Chaney 1st yr., DC-Josh Conklin 1st yr.)
Narduzzi: 1st season as head coach. Narduzzi tabbed Chaney, who has an NFL background (St. Louis Rams) and coordinator assignments at Purdue, Tennessee and Arkansas. Conklin’s only experience as a coordinator came at The Citadel and Florida International, the latter of which he took from the 94th total defense in ’13 to the 36th best in the FBS last season.
12) Virginia (HC-Mike London, OC-Steve Fairchild 3rd yr., DC-Jon Tenuta 3rd yr.)
London: 23-38 in five seasons at Virginia; 47-43 overall. London’s only winning record in Charlottesville came in 2011 (8-5). His other four years are a combined 15-33, including 10 losses in ’13. Virginia is Fairchild’s first coordinator’s job in a Power 5 conference, although he called the shots for the Rams and Bills in the NFL. Tenuta earned his reputation as an effective, aggressive DC during a successful six-year stint (2002-07) at Georgia Tech. In his only year as coordinator at Notre Dame (2009), the Irish ranked 86th in total defense.
11) Temple (HC-Matt Rhule, OC-Marcus Satterfield 3rd yr., DC-Phil Snow 3rd yr.)
Rhule: 8-16 in two seasons at Temple. Rhule took the Owls from two victories in his first season to five last year with the greatest inroads made on the defensive side of the football. Of the 16 losses in two years, nine have been by single digits. Satterfield – in his first FBS job – needs a strong ’15 after the Owls finished 120th in total offense. Snow has coordinated defenses at Arizona State, UCLA and Washington, and spent four years as an assistant in the NFL. Temple was 24th nationally in total defense last year.
10) Massachusetts (HC-Mark Whipple, OC-Mark Whipple 8th yr., DC-Tom Masella 2nd yr.)
Whipple: 53-35 in seven seasons at UMass; 123-69 overall. Whipple is one of two opposing coaches this year (along with Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson) who calls his own shots offensively. The Minutemen were 51st in the FBS last year in total offense. Masella has head-coaching experience at Boston University, Central Connecticut and Fordham. This is his first coordinator’s job in the FBS outside of Louisiana Tech.
9) Wake Forest (HC-Dave Clawson, OC-Warren Ruggiero 2nd yr., DC-Mike Elko 2nd yr.)
Clawson: 3-9 in one season at Wake Forest; 93-90 overall. Clawson got his start as a head coach at the 1-AA level (Fordham and Richmond) before landing the Bowling Green job in the MAC, where he won 10 games in his fifth and final season, propelling him to the Wake Forest job. Ruggiero experienced success at Bowling Green and followed Clawson to Wake, where the Demon Deacons have work to do after finishing last in the FBS in ’14 in total offense. Elko also followed Clawson to Wake from Bowling Green. His ’14 unit ranked 41st in total defense.
8) Navy (HC-Ken Niumatalolo, OC-Ivin Jasper 8th yr., DC-Buddy Green 14th yr.)
Niumatalolo: 57-35 in seven seasons at Navy. With the exception of a 5-7 season in 2011, Niumatalolo has done a nice job of maintaining a winning program began by current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson (2002-07). In fact, Niumatalolo’s winning percentage with the Midshipmen (.619) is better than Johnson’s was (.608), although the former got a running start by inheriting the latter’s foundation. Jasper and Green are by far the longest-tenured coordinators at one school on Notre Dame’s 2015 schedule.
7) USC (HC-Steve Sarkisian, OC-Clay Helton 3rd yr., DC-Justin Wilcox 2nd yr.)
Sarkisian: 9-4 in one season at USC; 44-33 overall. The former BYU quarterback standout, Oakland Raiders QB coach, USC offensive coordinator and Washington head coach won nine games in his debut season as head coach of the Trojans. Helton – the former Duke, Houston and Memphis running backs coach – came to USC as the quarterbacks coach in 2010, and is now in his sixth season. His ’14 offense ranked 31st in total offense. Wilcox, just 38, coordinated defenses at Boise State, Tennessee and Washington (under Sarkisian) before arriving at USC, where his unit ranked 78th in total defense last year.
6) Boston College (HC-Steve Addazio, OC-Todd Fitch 1st yr., DC-Don Brown 3rd yr.)
Addazio: 14-12 in two seasons at Boston College; 27-23 overall. Addazio, the former tackles/tight ends/special teams coach at Notre Dame (1999-2001), was a member of Urban Meyer’s Florida staff from 2005-10 before landing the Temple job. The Owls won nine games in his debut season in 2011. He’s won seven games in each of his first two seasons at Boston College, including victories over Virginia Tech in ’13 and USC, Virginia Tech and N.C. State in ’14. Fitch, the former Lou Holtz assistant at South Carolina and Skip Holtz’s coordinator at South Florida, will look to improve the No. 83 total offense. Veteran DC Brown, a long-time East coast assistant, was a head coach at Northeastern and UMass.
5) Texas (HC-Charlie Strong, OC-Joe Wickline 2nd yr., DC-Vance Bedford 2nd yr.)
Strong: 6-7 in one season at Texas; 43-23 overall. The former Irish defensive line coach (1995-98) under Lou Holtz and Bob Davie parlayed successful DC stints at South Carolina and Florida into the head-coaching job at Louisville, where he went 23-3 in his final three seasons with the Cardinals, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Florida. Strong had an up-and-down first season in Austin with most of the problems on the offensive side of the football. Long-time offensive line coach Wickline made stops at Oklahoma State, Florida and Baylor before taking the OC job at Texas under Strong. Bedford – who coached for Lloyd Carr at Michigan and Urban Meyer at Florida – coordinated Strong’s 2010-13 Louisville defenses before following him to Texas, his alma mater. Texas had the 23rd best total defense under Bedford in ’14.
4) Stanford (HC-David Shaw, OC-Mike Bloomgren 3rd yr., DC-Lance Anderson 2nd yr.)
Shaw: 42-12 in four seasons at Stanford. Is the bloom off the rose in Palo Alto? After recording a 34-7 mark his first three seasons in the footsteps of Jim Harbaugh, Shaw’s fourth Cardinal squad lost five times last year. And yet Stanford still had the third best total defense in the country in ‘14. Year Five will be a significant test with much of the key defensive personnel gone and a suddenly middle-of-the-road rushing attack. Former New York Jets OC Bloomgren is accountable for reviving the offensive attack. Anderson has been at Stanford since 2007 and is in his second year as DC.
3) Notre Dame (HC-Brian Kelly, OC-Mike Sanford 1st yr., DC-Brian VanGorder 2nd yr.)
Kelly: 45-20 in five seasons at Notre Dame; 216-77-2 overall. The most veteran HC among the 13 programs on this list has averaged nine victories per his five seasons in South Bend and has not won less than eight in a year. Yet the Irish enter the ’15 season having lost five of their last seven games. Sanford comes over from Boise State, where he made a splash in his first foray as an OC. He is expected to help Kelly place a greater emphasis on the rushing attack. Veteran NFL DC/assistant Brian VanGorder’s unit held Notre Dame’s first five ’14 opponents to 12 points per game, and then allowed 40 per contest over the final eight.
2) Georgia Tech (HC-Paul Johnson, OC-Paul Johnson 8th yr., DC-Ted Roof 3rd yr.)
Johnson: 58-35 in seven seasons at Georgia Tech; 166-74 overall. The veteran of the option attack made his bones at Georgia Southern, where he won an astonishing 62 games in five seasons and a pair of 1-AA (FCS) championships. He quickly revived the Naval Academy program and has now taken Georgia Tech to four first-place Coastal Division finishes in the ACC in seven seasons. DC Roof first coached at Georgia Tech in 1998, where he served as DC from 1999-2001 before moving on to Duke, Minnesota, Auburn and Penn State before returning to Atlanta.
1) Clemson (HC-Dabo Swinney, OC-Tony Elliott/Jeff Scott 1st yrs., DC-Brent Venables 4th yr.)
Swinney: 61-26 in seven seasons at Clemson. Swinney followed Tommy Bowden to the head coach’s seat at Clemson after coming over from Alabama – his alma mater – to serve as receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Now in his eighth full season as head coach, Swinney is 42-11 in his last four campaigns with the Tigers, including an Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State two seasons ago. Clemson has finished first or second in the ACC Atlantic Division five of the last six seasons. Swinney tabbed a couple of young former Clemson players to handle OC duties. Elliott, 36, and Scott, 34, are in their first years as coordinators. They’re replacing Chad Morris, who landed the SMU head-coaching job following the ’14 season. Venables has been a DC since he was 29 when he took over at Oklahoma in 1999, where he coached for 13 seasons.
Here is the running tally:
1. USC (29--QB 1st, RB 3rd, WR 3rd, OL 1st, DL 5th, LB 2nd, DB 3rd, ST 4th, C 7th)
2. Notre Dame (37 -- QB 7th, RB 2nd, WR 2nd, OL 3rd, DL 6th, LB 1st, DB 2nd, ST 11th, C 3rd)
3. Clemson (39 -- QB 4th, RB 6th, WR 1st, OL 5th, DL 2nd, LB 7th, DB 5th, ST 8th, C 1st)
4. Stanford (51 -- QB 5th, RB 4th, WR 6th, OL 2nd, DL 11th, LB 3rd, DB 13th, ST 3rd, C 4th)
5. Georgia Tech (53 -- QB 2nd, RB 8th, WR 13th, OL 4th, DL 7th, LB 10th, DB 1st, ST 6th, C 2nd)
6. Pittsburgh (60 -- QB 6th, RB 1st, WR 5th, OL 7th, DL 8th, LB 9th, DB 9th, ST 2nd, C 13th)
7. Boston College (65 -- QB 13th, RB 5th, WR 10th, OL 11th, DL 1st, LB 6th, DB 12th, ST 1st, C 6th)
8. Texas (70 -- QB 10th, RB 7th, WR 8th, OL 8th, DL 3rd, LB 12th, DB 4th, ST 13th, C 5th)
9. Virginia (80 -- QB 12th, RB 10th, WR 7th, OL 9th, DL 4th, LB 11th), DB 8th, ST 7th, C 12th)
10. UMass (81 -- QB 8th, RB 11th, WR 4th, OL 6th, DL 13th, LB 8th, DB 11th, ST 10th, C 10th)
11. Temple (83 -- QB 11th, RB 12th, WR 11th, OL 12th, DL 10th, LB 5th, DB 6th, ST 5th, C 11th)
12. Wake Forest 85 -- QB 9th, RB 13th, WR 9th, OL 13th, 9th, LB 4th, DB 10th, ST 9th, C 9th)
13. Navy (86 -- QB 3rd, RB 9th, WR 12th, OL 10th, DL 12th, LB 13th, DB 7th, ST 12th, C 8th)
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