Record numbers of new hires and head coach changes have dominated the headlines this offseason. However, several key assistants have been hired – from coordinators to positional coaches – that will spell massive change for the teams that made the hires. Which assistants should we keep an eye on?
Jim Knowles, Defense Coordinator, Ohio State
This is by far the most notable coordinator change this offseason, and perhaps the best take of them all. Ohio State’s defense has been abysmal for the past few seasons. They changed the play caller midseason after Oregon coached circles in Ohio State in Week 2.
Enter Jim Knowles – Conductor of Oklahoma State’s dominant 2021 unit. He is a quick-fire and aggressive caller known for his exotic fronts and stunts. The Buckeyes used to hang up their hats in their defense, particularly their secondary school, which was dubbed the “Silver Bullets.” It’s clear that Ryan Day is trying to restore this unit to its former glory.
What did it take to bring one of the nation’s top defense coordinators to Columbus? Nearly $1.9 million, making him the highest-paid assistant in college right now (the previous three — Brent Venables, Tony Elliott, and Mike Elko — have all taken on managerial jobs this offseason).
Jeff Lebby, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma
Not only has Jeff Lebby taken the Ole Miss offense to new heights and produced a Heisman-fighting quarterback in Matt Corral, but he has also worked with Oklahoma transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel in the past. It’s a match made in heaven and a well-executed strike from defensive-minded head coach Brent Venables.
The Rebels were a top-30 offense in points per drive a season ago. They did so with the ninth most talented roster (according to 247Sports player ratings) against SEC West. Like Knowles, it took a pretty penny to pull Lebby out of Oxford, which is a real fling: $1.8 million annually for three years.
It’s worth noting that Lebby is an Oklahoma graduate and has a real chance with Gabriel in town. If you’re a bettor, it’s worth checking out Gabriel’s Heisman Market.
Zach Kittley, offensive coordinator, Texas Tech
Zach Kittley was the King Midas of offensive coordinators at every collegiate rank. It started at the Houston Baptist, where he led the Huskies to an average of 49.3 points per game in his sophomore year (33.3 his senior year). He was hired from Western Kentucky, where he helped what is now the household name Bailey Zappe break temporary records.
Scroll to Next
Kittley started out in Lubbock as a student and assistant before joining Houston Baptist. He’s a true airstrike coordinator, a system Texas Tech will return to in the coming year. He was an assistant to Sonny Cumbie-Tech’s offensive coordinator and caretaker coach through late 2021.
Couple him with talented Oregon transfer QB Tyler Shough and there should be fireworks in Lubbock this season.
Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, Penn State
The former Miami head coach managed to land himself in a great position at Happy Valley. Although Miami hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in recent seasons, Diaz wasn’t ousted for poor performance, but because they got Mario Cristobal’s nod.
The Nittany Lions hit an absolute home run in Diaz, who runs a tight ship. Penn State has been a head coach producer of late, with both 2021 coordinators taking head jobs elsewhere. It brings James Franklin’s coaching tree to four current head coaches in the collegiate ranks.
Diaz is likely a short-term hire while he falls back into the coaching rotation and earns a head coaching job in the future. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a well-known head-coach-caliber assistant on your staff. The icing on the cake: Diaz operates the same system that existed under the late coordinator Brent Pry.
Brennan Marion, Passing Game Coordinator, Texas
It turns out you’ll generate interest when you coach a true newbie receiver (Jordan Addison) to win the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s top receiver. Texas knocked on his door and likely gave him the bag to move from Pitt to Texas (his salary is unavailable at the time of writing).
Who does Marion have to work with this season? Rising sophomore Xavier Worthy, who — if it weren’t for Addison and record-breaking Jaxon Smith-Njigba — would have been the nation’s top freshman receiver. Worthy had 12 touchdowns, one of the highest in the country, despite a maligned Longhorns passing game a season ago. Texas is also fielding Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor, who I’ve talked about on numerous occasions about being a stud (19.9 yards per reception last year, for those who need a refresher).
This year takes real bones for Texas to be one of the nation’s deadliest felonies. Marion was the perfect job for the Longhorns.
Would you like to join the discussion? Click here to join the Killer Frogs message board community today!
Follow KillerFrogs on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest TCU news! Follow KillerFrogs on Facebook and Instagram also. Download the KillerFrogs app from Google Play or the Apple App Store.