The right head coach can change a program’s trajectory, and so can the right coordinator. Just ask national champion LSU, which got over the hump last season after reshaping its passing game under innovative assistant Joe Brady.
Ed Orgeron’s brilliant hire of Brady, a little-known, 29-year-old offensive assistant for the New Orleans Saints, helped the Tigers transform into one of the most dominant offenses in college football history. LSU had been a program where offensive talent often went to waste. Brady’s arrival changed everything.
After examining the top 25 head-coaching hires of the past 25 years, it’s time to spotlight the 10 best coordinator hires of the past decade (2010 to 2020). I tried to select assistants who not only impacted an offense or a defense, but changed programs and helped them to bigger goals. As with the list of head coaches, this list placed some value on longevity, although Brady is included after a spectacular season in Baton Rouge. In some cases, coaches were considered in pairs if hired or promoted simultaneously.
Here’s the full list.
10. Dave Aranda, Wisconsin defensive coordinator
Hired: Dec. 21, 2012
What he inherited: A solid defense that ranked in the top half of the Big Ten in most categories but wouldn’t be described as nationally elite. In 2012, Wisconsin ranked 20th in yards per play, 17th in points allowed and 37th against the run.
What happened next: Aranda, who came to Wisconsin with new head coach Gary Andersen, oversaw an incredible stretch of defense that has continued even after his departure. During Aranda’s three seasons as coordinator, Wisconsin led the nation in yards allowed (289.4 YPG), while ranking second in points allowed (16.9 PPG), third in pass defense (179.9 YPG) and fourth in rushing defense (109.6 YPG). His defenses recorded five shutouts and allowed only one touchdown in 18 of 40 games. Although Andersen left Wisconsin for Oregon State in December 2014, Aranda stayed and coordinated the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense in 2015 (13.1 PPG). He set a standard that has been maintained by the two coordinators who followed, Justin Wilcox and Jim Leonhard. Since 2013, Wisconsin trails only Alabama and Clemson in points allowed (17.1 PPG).