1. Bob Shoop- Penn State
A former Ivy-league player and coach, Bob Shoop knows defense. Although his head coaching experience at Columbia didn’t go as planned, Shoop has proven himself at Vanderbilt alongside his current boss, James Franklin. A defensive back guru, Shoop’s current defense features standout linebacker Mike Hull and has helped Penn State to a 5-4 record despite the loss of key scholarships. Shoop is a proven commodity for head coach James Franklin—but that won’t stop other schools from calling once Shoop proves himself at Penn State.
2. Clint Bowen- Kansas
We know that Kansas isn’t very good this year. Bowen was named the interim coach after Charlie Weis was fired in late September. Despite a 3-6 record on the year, Bowen has the attention of many national pundits because of the repair job he and Dave Campo have done to hold KU together. The Jayhawks have held their last two opponents to under 30 points, which is impressive in a conference that is one of the most prolific offensive powers in college football.
3. Tyson Summers- UCF
Summers is still in his first year as a defense coordinator, but the going has been good. After dropping a close opener to Penn State and facing the #20 Missouri Tigers, the Golden Knights got rolling by winning 5 straight games. Currently 5-3 on the year, the Golden Knight defense is statistically one of the best in the nation: they allow only 308.3 yards a game, and have only had 19 touchdowns scored on them this year. Although young, Summers has coached in two BCS games, and has the acumen to turn himself into an impressive coach.
4. Lance Anderson- Stanford
Another first year coordinator, Anderson has already begun to prove himself as a coach. Under the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh, who Anderson began coaching with at the University of San Diego, Anderson has become adept at not only finding outstanding talent, but finding it with the character and GPA required by Stanford admissions. Currently, his defense is ranked 5th overall in the nation, allowing just 281 yards per game in the offensively oriented PAC-12.
5. David Gibbs- Houston
Ok, so if you follow college football, you’ve probably heard of David Gibbs. It seems like he is destined to be an outstanding head coach at some point very soon. His father was the offensive coordinator at Auburn while David was in high school, and David himself would coach the Tigers as defensive coordinator in 2005. Gibbs has coached all around the football world, notable with the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Auburn Tigers, and the UFL Virginia Destroyers. Gibbs is exactly the kind of coach every player wants to play for: smart, experienced, and seasoned with a combination of experience at every level.
6. Manny Diaz- Louisiana Tech
You’ve definitely heard of Manny Diaz, probably from his time as defensive coordinator under Mack Brown at Texas. Before the debacle at Texas, though Diaz coached at Mississippi State in 2010, turning the Bulldog defense around and paving the way for the stellar defense they are playing today. Diaz is currently coaching under Skip Holtz, and has helped guide the team to a 7-3 record, with losses to Auburn and Oklahoma. The defense, which ranks 27th in the nation, averages 2.5 sacks per game and allows only 342.9 yards a game. The Bulldogs (of Louisiana Tech) lead the nation in forcing turnovers with 11 fumble recoveries and 17 interceptions. Diaz has the potential to become a big time coach at any moment. If not for the implosion at Texas, he might have been a candidate to take over once Mack Brown left.
7. Troy Reffett- University of Louisiana-Monroe
The University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks don’t play patsy football teams. They pride themselves on playing the best teams they can schedule, and playing them well. Don’t let the 2-6 record fool you…the Warhawks losses are to real teams: LSU, TA&MU, and Kentucky make up half of their defeats. With those exceptions, the ULM team has been able to keep its opponents in check on defense. Even with those games (a 31-0 blowout against LSU and a 48-14 clobbering from Kentucky) the ULM defense still ranks 34th in the nation, with 29 sacks on the year (12th), and 9 interceptions on the season. Reffett is a coach with amazing upside, and a unique ability to find quality football players and turn them into NFL material.
8. Jason Jones- Ole Miss
Surprise! No, Jones isn’t the “Associate Head Coach for Defense”, but he is the co-coordinator, and he has done a standout job in that capacity. A coach at Oklahoma State before he joined the Rebels staff, Jones’ teams have gone to a bowl game every year he has coached—10 years total. Ole Miss is currently 8-2, and started the year off with hopes of a playoff berth. Although those hopes have probably faded, the Rebels will still look to upset rival Mississippi State at the Egg Bowl on November 29th. Jones is another coach with a huge upside: young, eager, and with a pedigree as a player from Alabama (2001 graduate) and coach at Oklahoma State, look for him to advance quickly in the next couple years.
Unless you’re a long time Iowa fan, Phil Parker isn’t a name you’ve heard a lot. But in his 16 years at Iowa (3 as defensive coordinator), Parker has made himself a staple of Hawkeye football. The Hawkeye defense has led the team to a 6-3 record this year, and is currently ranked 19th in the nation. The Hawkeye’s also have 23 sacks and 10 interceptions on the season, and are poised to play Wisconsin on November 22nd—A game that could turn into a trap for the Badgers.
10. Chuck Heater- Marshall
Praised by Urban Myer during his time as co-coordinator at Florida, Chuck Heater has 37 years of college football coaching. Heater has three national championships under his belt (2 at Florida, 1 at Notre Dame) and has coached in 25 bowl games. The current Marshall defense, ranked 22nd overall nationally, has led the Thundering Herd to a 9-0 record, with only Rice, UAB, and Western Kentucky left on the schedule. Without a doubt, Heater has become one of the best technical and position coaches in college football.