Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Pat Forde

Rising College Coordinators Who Could Command Head Jobs

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where a 330-pound cartwheeler should never be penalized:

MORE DASH: Congrats, You’re Stuck | CFP Pros & Cons

Third Quarter

Rising Coordinators

With six FBS head-coach openings already and more certain to come, the coaching carousel will be accelerating in the coming weeks. Among those who could be in line for jobs—as head coaches or assistants at a different program—are a slew of coordinators who have boosted their profiles this season.

A Dash list, which comes with the following caveat—all these guys have good jobs already and might not want to leave:

Ryan Walters (21), Illinois defensive coordinator. Age: 36. Years on the job at Illinois: two. Why his profile is rising: The Illini are one of the nation’s surprise teams, with a 6–1 record and the lead in the Big Ten West. While there are offensive reasons for the Illini surge, the biggest explanation is a defense that leads the nation in points allowed per game (8.9), yards allowed per game (221.1) and yards allowed per play (3.78).

Potential job fit: Walters and his father, Marc, both played at Colorado, which has an opening. But alumni heartstrings aside, that’s a tough job. Walters might be putting himself in position to be very choosy.

Kenny Dillingham (22), Oregon offensive coordinator. Age: 32. Years on the job at Oregon: one. Why his profile is rising: Dillingham is the Nix Whisperer, among other attributes. He was the offensive coordinator at Auburn when Bo Nix was a freshman sensation, then left for Florida State. Nix’s development stalled the next two seasons. Now they’re reunited at Oregon, and Nix is having a career season: He’s producing his highest pass efficiency rating by far (165.93), and his most impactful rushing (382 yards and eight touchdowns). After shredding UCLA, the Ducks lead the Pac-12 in total offense and scoring.

Oregon has won six straight since a season-opening loss to Georgia.

Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard/USA TODAY Network

Potential job fit: Dillingham is an Arizona native and Arizona State alum, and the Sun Devils are looking for a new coach. It seems a little wild to suggest someone born in the 1990s is ready to be a Power 5 head coach, but Dillingham has been coaching since age 17 and would presumably come with recommendations from a couple his bosses who got good jobs in their 30s—Mike Norvell (promoted at Memphis at age 34) and Dan Lanning (got the Oregon job at 35).

Tony White (23), Syracuse defensive coordinator. Age: 43. Years on the job at Syracuse: two. Why his profile is rising: It’s a rarity when Clemson isn’t the best defensive team in the ACC, but at the moment the Orange can lay claim to that honor. Syracuse (6–1) is allowing league lows of 4.73 yards per play, 294.7 yards per game and 15.1 points per game. That defensive scoring average is on pace to be the lowest at Cuse since the 1987 team gave up 14.1 while going 11-0-1.

Potential job fit: The former Rocky Long 3-3-5 disciple has Mountain West ties, if head-coaching jobs should open up there. Or he could stay in the coordinator pipeline for a while longer, either at Syracuse or elsewhere.

Garrett Riley (24), TCU offensive coordinator. Age: 33. Years on the job at TCU: one. Why his profile is rising: Lincoln’s little brother is calling plays for an undefeated team with the nation’s No. 3 offense in terms of scoring (44.7 points per game) and yardage (522.1). Riley also worked for Sonny Dykes at SMU in 2020 and ’21, when the Mustangs averaged more than 38 points per game. Dykes and Riley have made a star out of quarterback Max Duggan, who didn’t even start the season opener.

Potential job fit: He’s got a last name that will resonate in Texas and Oklahoma, where multiple jobs could come open at the Group of 5 level. But Riley also could be a couple more successful seasons as a coordinator away from a shot at something bigger.

Alex Golesh (25), Tennessee offensive coordinator. Age: 38. Years on the job at Tennessee: two. Why his profile is rising: Have you seen the Volunteers’ offense? They lead the nation in yards per game and scoring, putting on a series of pyrotechnic displays in this 7–0 season start. Yes, it’s head coach Josh Heupel’s offense, but Golesh is a full partner in game plan and scheme—he previously worked with Heupel at UCF as well. Plus, how many schools have a chance to hire a coach born in Moscow during the Cold War?

Potential job fit: Golesh has extensive Midwestern experience as an assistant. Could be a candidate for Mid-American Conference openings. Or, depending how dominoes fall, could the former Iowa State assistant under Matt Campbell end up in play there if Campbell leaves?

Jesse Minter (26), Michigan defensive coordinator. Age: 39. Years on the job at Michigan: one. Why his profile is rising: Michigan is second in the Big Ten to Illinois in points allowed per game (12.1) and yards allowed per play (4.03). That’s despite replacing seven starters, including the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, another first-round selection and a second-rounder—three of the top 45 picks, all told.

Potential job fit: Minter is the son of longtime former college coach Rick Minter, who is now on the Michigan staff as an analyst. But Jesse also spent four seasons in the NFL with the Ravens—making him part of the ongoing Harbaugh Brother Lend/Lease Staff Arrangement. Could he have interest in returning to the pros, or does he end up a college guy like his dad?

Watch Michigan football with fuboTV: Start a free trial today!

Gino Guidugli (27), Cincinnati offensive coordinator. Age: 39. Years on the job at Cincinnati: six, but this is his first as the solo OC. Why his profile is rising: The Bearcats lost a four-year starting quarterback, a 1,300-yard rusher and a second-round draft pick receiver and are still averaging the same number of points this season (36.9) as last season’s Playoff team. That’s a big reason why Cincy is 6–1 and has extended its American Athletic Conference winning streak to 19 games.

Potential job fit: There could be some upheaval within the AAC, and those schools might want to try to import some championship culture from the dominant program’s staff.

Mike Denbrock (28), LSU offensive coordinator. Age: 58. Years on the job at LSU: one. Why his profile is rising: Transfer quarterback Jayden Daniels has been unlocked in the last two games, leading the Tigers to 90 points and more than 1,000 yards in SEC wins over Florida and Mississippi. Denbrock, who Guidugli replaced at Cincinnati, is the oldest guy on this list—but so what? LSU is substantially improving its offense over the past two years despite a disappointing season from star receiver Kayshon Boutte and a different running back rotation than expected.

Potential job fit: Where Brian Kelly ends and Denbrock begins has always been a question, dating back to when the two worked together at Notre Dame. But Denbrock is another guy with deep Midwest roots who could be of interest for schools in that area.

Todd Monken (29), Georgia offensive coordinator. Age: 56. Years on the job at Georgia: three. Why his profile is rising: The Bulldogs have shed their staid offensive image for a fun, free-wheeling and highly productive approach. If Georgia can maintain its current 41.7 points per game scoring average, it would break the school record.

Potential job fit: Monken’s name has been floated at Georgia Tech (open), Arizona State (open) and Auburn (will be). He also has extensive NFL experience, and there are plenty of franchises currently wallowing in bad offense. But he also has a great job making $2 million a year in Athens.

Brian Hartline (30), Ohio State passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. Age: 35. Years on the job at Ohio State: five, though this is the first with a coordinator title. Why his profile is rising: Monster recruiter with a monster position group at an elite program. While coach Ryan Day is the play-caller and primary game planner for the Buckeyes, Hartline is a star in the making who has amassed an ungodly amount of receiver talent at Ohio State with more on the way.

Potential job fit: He was playing in the NFL as recently as 2015 and didn’t become a full-time assistant coach until ’18, so more seasoning might be required before going after head-coaching jobs. But Hartline will be one to watch in the years to come.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.