Rutgers football coach Chris Ash has been hitting the recruiting trail hard the past couple of days, trying to make up ground before the recruiting dead period starts on December 14th. Another important task on Ash's list of things to do, is to fill out his coaching staff. Hiring coordinators for all three phases of the game are crucial in shaping Ash's vision for the program.
Last night, class of 2016 commit Alex Barbir tweeted out a picture with Vince Okruch, declaring him the new special teams coordinator at Rutgers. It was made official this afternoon. Okruch was the quality control coach for the kicking game and defense at Ohio State. Okruch has coached at Minnesota under Lou Holtz, at Northwestern and Colorado under Gary Barnett, and Illinois under Ron Zook. He is an experienced coach and joined the Ohio State staff under Urban Meyer prior to the 2013 season. Chris Ash is off to a good start in assembling his staff.
The position that is most crucial for Ash to fill is the offensive coordinator role. Being a defensive coordinator for the past 5 seasons, his inexperience on the offensive side of the ball makes that hire the key to his staff. Let's discuss a few potential candidates that Ash may be considering.
Offensive coordinator candidates:
Brandon was the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for Meyer at Bowling Green for two seasons. He replaced Meyer as the head coach at Bowling Green and was there for six seasons, finishing with a 44-30 record. Since then, he has been the offensive coordinator at Virginia, Wyoming, and New Mexico State. He is currently the head coach at Division II Colorado Mines. Maybe he is not interested in being a coordinator anymore, but it's possible Ash would inquire based on his connection with Meyer.
The former national coach of the year at Kansas was most recently fired as offensive coordinator, by former Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, in the middle of this past season. However, Mangino could be considered by Ash, as he comes from the Bill Snyder coaching tree. Snyder worked for Iowa coach Hayden Fry. I highlighted Ash's connections and influence from that coaching tree earlier this week. He also worked with Bret Bielema, another former boss of Ash. If Ash and Mangino see eye to eye on their vision for the offense, he would be a seasoned addition to the staff.
Tedford is known for having a brilliant offensive mind and had significant success as the head coach of Cal, registering a record of 82-57. While at Cal, he mentored a quarterback by the name of Aaron Rodgers. In addition, he has coached and mentored quarterbacks Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, and Kyle Boller. Tedford just resigned on December 2nd as head coach of the BC Lions of the CFL. Hiring Tedford would make major waves and be a potential home run hire by Ash.
Tedford got his start at Oregon under Mike Bellotti, who has built his own successful coaching tree. Another coach from the Bellotti family is Chip Kelly, current Philadelphia Eagles coach and offensive connoisseur. Lazor worked for Kelly in his first season with the Eagles, before moving on to the Miami Dolphins as their offensive coordinator. Lazor was fired in the middle of this season, once head coach Joe Philbin was removed, despite having success with quarterback Ryan Tannehill the season before. He has worked for NFL legend Joe Gibbs and Super Bowl champion coach Mike Holmgren. He also served as offensive coordinator for head coach Mike London at Virginia and is a graduate of Cornell. Since Ash mentioned wanting to use a "multiple" offense, Lazor could be considered after learning from Kelly.
Ash has zero ties to Helton, but he is a rising star, serving as the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky. In the two seasons in this role, his offense has ranked in the top five for FBS schools in yards per play and points per game. He runs spread and zone read offenses for the Hilltoppers, mostly out of the shotgun with one running back and some motion. He coached NFL dual threat quarterback Joe Webb at UAB, where he served as quarterbacks coach. Helton may be in high demand, as its been reported new Georgia coach Kirby Smart may be considering him. His brother, Clay, was just hired as the new coach at USC. He would be an out of the box hire, but someone Ash should inquire about.
There has been some chatter about the possibility of Maryland coach Mike Locksley, who was their interim head coach at the end of this season. I find that highly unlikely, as he has been on the recruiting trail with new head coach D.J. Durkin and I doubt the Terps would like to see Locksley end up at a division rival. Also, there is little chance current offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels is retained by Ash (Update: McDaniels and six other assistants have been fired. Only Jim Panagos and Anthony Campanile have been retained, with their future still unclear). Time will tell who Ash hires as the new offensive coordinator and until he does, we will not know much about the 'multiple" offensive approach Ash is looking to implement.