How New Big 12 Coaches Are Filling Their Staffs
Four of the 10teams in the Big 12 Conference have welcomed new head football coaches this offseason, and each is taking a somewhat different approach in filling their staffs. The 40-percent turnover in the league is higher than the national rate among the 130 FBS schools (19 percent), but there are still 21 other universities joining Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia in filling out new assistant coaching rosters.
The Jayhawks went for name recognition in their hire as head coach, opting for Les Miles, who did not coach the last two years after 11 seasons at LSU. Without a current staff to build from, Miles has assembled a group from a number of different directions.
From the previous KU roster, Miles kept two coaches: Clint Bowen and Tony Hall. His splashiest hire was probably Chip Lindsey, formerly the offensive coordinator at Auburn, and he also brought DJ Eliot, who was not retained as Colorado’s defensive coordinator, on board at KU in the same position.
Miles also hit Colorado for his defensive line coach (Kwahn Drake) and two other Power 5 schools (North Carolina – Mike Ekeler and Texas Tech – Emmett Jones) for special teams and wide receivers. He also wasn’t afraid to drop to the Group of Five, promoting Chevis Jackson (Ball State), Luke Meadows (Eastern Michigan) and Jeff Hecklinski (Indiana State) to the top tier of coaching.
New Wildcat boss Chris Klieman leaned a good bit on his former staff at North Dakota State, bringing four coaches (offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, offensive line coach Conor Riley, wide receivers coach Jason Ray, defensive backs coach Joe Klanderman) to similar positions in Manhattan. He also angled for some continuity, retaining quarterbacks coach Collin Klein and defensive line coach Blake Seiler to their previous positions.
He did go in a new direction for defensive coordinator, hiring Missouri defensive analyst Ted Monachino to man that D.C. position. Monachino had several collegiate coaching spots from 1996-2005, but then spent the next 11 seasons with three NFL teams, culminating with a two-year stretch as the Colts’ defensive coordinator.
Klieman also brought Mississippi State defensive quality coordinator Van Malone (cornerbacks) and Indiana State’s Brian Anderson (running backs) on board. He still has one open position in his staff of 10 left to fill.
New head coach Matt Wells gathered up 70 percent of his staff from Utah State and brought them with him to Lubbock. Included are offensive coordinator David Yost and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson (who coached at WVU as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive coordinator from 2012-13). Experience on the high FBS level might be a question with some of them, but Yost and Patterson both have more than a decade of top-tier experience. There’s also something to be said for the enthusiasm of facing a new challenge at a higher level of competition, and Wells will have to build on that as he tries to build a more balanced program.
Wells still has three positions left to fill on his staff, with spots on the defensive line, linebackers and secondary still open. His approach is clearly to keep things as familiar as possible in rebuilding the Red Raider program.
* * * * * *
Which one of these models will new West Virginia head coach Neal Brown follow?
To be sure, there are no hard and fast rules, or a template that has to be followed. Circumstances of a hiring often have an influence in how the new staff is put together. When a coach is fired for poor performance (Kansas, Texas Tech), it’s not a surprise to see a mostly new cast come on stage. When it’s due to other reasons (Kansas State, West Virginia), there might be more impetus to retain some holdovers in the hopes of keeping what was good about the previous regime in place.
Brown is definitely his own man in making his decisions, and he was not “handcuffed” (Director of Athletics Shane Lyons’ word) in being forced to retain any members of West Virginia’s previous staff. It looks, though, as if he will likely bring his own offensive and defensive coordinators on board, while possibly making some offers to retain some holdovers from the Mountaineer staff. In that regard, he’ll probably be closer to the Kansas State model than any other, but he is not in a rush to make final decisions.
“I want to make sure I get it right. I’m not worried about getting in a hurry,” Brown told the Montgomery Advertiser before departing for WVU. “With the new signing day, the way it works, it’s more about getting it right and getting the right fit. I have to understand what that culture looks like before I can really make some staff decisions.”