A week or so ago, I published my personal list of 25 football coaches for Kansas fans to keep an eye on. Thanks to your comments, that list has now grown to 35.
Today, we’ll begin the rundown of the names on that list. I’ve divided it almost equally into three categories: 1) Coaches who are sitting coordinators, mostly at P5 schools; 2) Coaches who are head coaches, at mostly G5 schools; 3) “Veteran Options” who are active or former head coaches over the age of 50.
None of these lists will include Ken Niumatalolo, Mike Leach, Jim Leavitt, or Brent Venables, for reasons detailed earlier. (So I guess you could say my list is actually 31 names. Whatever.)
In the following days I’ll take a look at “up and comers” and “veteran options” that might be interested in Kansas, but for today, let’s look at current coordinators.
Once again, we’ll run it down in alphabetical order.
Dave Aranda, 41, DC, LSU
Aranda is set to begin his third year as LSU’s DC. He has also coordinated defenses at Hawaii, Utah State, and Wisconsin. Since 2012, defenses under his coordination have finished in the top-15 in total defense, which includes one year at USU, three at UW, and the last two at LSU. He was a Broyles award nominee in 2015 and 2016.
However, in January of 2018 Aranda signed a four-year, $10M contract - that’s $2.5M per year - that is fully guaranteed. As Toto once sang, “It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you.”
Tim Beck, 52, OC, Texas
Beck was an assistant coach at Kansas previously, from 2005-07 under Mark Mangino. He has been coordinating offenses since 2011 at Nebraska, Ohio State, and now Texas, where he has been since 2017. Beck is currently on year two of a three-year deal that pays him $800k annually, making him the highest-paid OC in the Big 12.
Matt Canada, 46, OC, Maryland
Canada has been coordinating offenses since 2005, with stints at Indiana, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, NC State, Pitt, LSU, and now Maryland. A 2016 finalist for the Broyles award at Pitt, Canada currently makes $650k with a $225k buyout.
Mike Elko, 41, DC, Texas A&M
Elko has been a defensive coordinator since 2006, where at age 29 he was put in charge of Hofstra’s defense. Subsequent stops include Bowling Green, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame. Since 2012, he has not had a defense ranked outside of the top 50 in total defense. 2018 will be Elko’s first season in College Station as he begins year one of a three-year deal that pays an average of $1.8M per year.
Tony Elliott, 38, OC, Clemson
Elliott is from the southeast and played his college ball at Clemson, so he’s one of the more unlikely candidates on this list. He’s been an OC since 2015, all at Clemson, and won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach in 2017. He currently pulls in an annual salary of $850k.
Tony Gibson, 44, DC, West Virginia
Gibson has been the DC at WVU since 2014, adding the associate head coach title in 2016. Previously, he coached defensive backs at WVU under Rich Rodriguez, and has also been a position coach at Michigan, Pitt, and Arizona. WVU’s total defense ranks don’t look good the past two years, but keep in mind that the Mountaineers have replaced 8 starters each of the past two seasons. He currently makes just over $750k per year.
Pete Kwiatkowski, 50, DC, Washington
“Coach K” as I’ll refer to him has spent his entire career in the Pacific northwest, making him an unlikely candidate as well. He played at Boise State in the mid-1980s, and has been coordinating defenses since 2000 at places like Montana State, Boise State, and now Washington, where he’s been since 2014 when he came over from Boise with Chris Peterson. Coach K just signed a three-year extension that will pay him $900k annually.
Jim Leonhard, 35, DC, Wisconsin
A Wisconsin native who walked on to the Badgers to become a starter, then went undrafted by the NFL before a 10-year pro career, Leonhard has only been coaching since 2016, and 2017 was his first year as a coordinator. He was good enough, however, to be named a Broyles Award finalist in 2017. He currently makes “just” $600k at UW, but would reportedly need “something special” to get him to leave his alma mater.
Jake Spavital, 33, OC, West Virginia
Yes, both WVU coordinators are on my list. Spavital was a hot name for a number of coaching vacancies the past couple of years, but so far has elected to stay at West Virginia. He’s been coordinating offenses since 2013 at Texas A&M, Cal, and now WVU, where he prepares to begin his second season with the Mountaineers. He has worked under Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin, Dana Holgorsen, and Mike Gundy, coaching college stars like Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, and Geno Smith.
Spavital is currently working on a contract that pays him $500k, but he has an interesting clause in his contract. Unlike other WVU assistants, if he leaves for another position within the Big 12, he would not owe West Virginia the amount remaining on his contract.
Mike Yurcich, 42, OC, Oklahoma State
Yurcich was a bit of an unknown hire when Mike Gundy pulled him from Shippensburg College, a D2 school in Pennsylvania. Since his arrival in Stillwater in 2013, OSU has finished in the top-20 in total offense every year except once. Yurcich makes $800k a year.