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Whitman’s List: Top Power 5 Assistant Coaches

Lovie is NOT on the “Hot Seat” but a smart AD always has a list of potential replacements.

We’ve been adamant that Lovie is not on “Hot Seat” going into 2018 and we will continue to be adamant until it becomes evident that Lovie is actually on the “Hot Seat.” Regardless, in any program, even if the head coach is not in danger of losing his job, every smart Athletic Director has (or should at least have) a list of potential replacements in a secure password protected/encrypted file.

We recently discussed the Group of 5 Coaches Whitman should have on his list. Here are the Power 5 Assistant Coaches he should have on his list.

As a bonus, we will also throw in a current Power 5 Head Coach who would be upgrading programs by going to Illinois.

Manny Diaz - Defensive Coordinator - Miami (FL)

A longtime defensive coordinator ready to take the next step

Manny Diaz is the creator of the “Turnover Chain” and is largely credited with the Miami Hurricanes’ emergence under Mark Richt. Diaz is a high energy coach and a brilliant tactician. He also has the type of coaching resume that will have ADs fawning over him. Diaz first worked with Mark Richt in 1998 and ‘99 at Florida State when Richt was the offensive coordinator for the Seminoles. Diaz then worked on the defensive staff at NC State under Chcuk Amato, before landing his first Defensive Coordinator gig in 2006 at Middle Tennessee.

After great success at MTSU where his defenses set records for creating turnovers, then-Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen brought Diaz to Starkville where he coordinated another defense that set school records for turnovers. After only one season at Mississippi State, Mack Brown lured Diaz to Texas in 2011 where he continued to lead defenses that created turnovers. In 2013, Diaz was scapegoated for Texas’ problems and was shown the door early in the season. Mack Brown would resign later that season and Brown’s successor, Charlie Strong, failed miserably at Texas. The Longhorns issues had little to do with Diaz.

In 2014, Diaz took over as Defensive Coordinator at Louisiana Tech. With Diaz, the Bulldogs led the nation in turnovers. Diaz then returned to Starkville in 2015 to again coach with Dan Mullen.

In 2016, Mark Richt brough Diaz to Miami and the rest is turn over chain history. Diaz is a Miami native pulling him away from Miami will be no easy task but he has shown a willingness to travel the country for better coaching opportunities. It would behoove Whitman to reach out to Diaz to discuss the possibility of coming to Champaign.

Alex Grinch - Co-Defensive Coordinator- Ohio State

A Rising Star

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Grinch is a star in the making. He played Safety at D-II Power Mount Union. Then he was a cornerbacks coach at New Hampshire where he went up against Offensive Coordinator Chip Kelly’s offense on a daily basis. He then coached the secondary at Wyoming before going to be Safeties Coach at Missouri where he was part of the best defenses in Mizzou’s recent history. Mike Leach saw the promise and brought Grinch to Pullman to become the savior of a Washington State defense that struggled tremendously in the years prior to Grinch’s arrival.

Here is the Cougar’s Defense under Leach in the year prior to Grinch’s Arrival:

  • 2014 - 101st S&P

Then Grinch took over the Defense in Pullman:

  • 2015 - 74th S&P
  • 2016 - 64th S&P
  • 2017 - 29th S&P

After taking the Cougars defense from lauging stock to highly respectable, Grinch heads to Ohio State to be Co-Offensive Coordinator with Greg Schiano. Grinch’s stock will certainly rise in the coming years and programs looking for a head coach will come knocking. The longer Grinch is in Columbus, the higher the profile job he will be able to get.

Brent Venables - Defensive Coordinator - Clemson

The Top Assistant Coach in College Football

Troy v Clemson Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images

Brent Venables is widely considered the best assistant coach in College Football. The winner of the Broyles Award in 2016, an annual award given to the top assistant coach, Venabales has been Dabo Swinney’s right hand man during Clemson’s rise to College Football royalty.

Venables was shamed out of Oklahoma in 2011 after the defenses he coordinated collapsed at Baylor and at Oklahoma State. Sweeney saw through the nonsense at OU and knew that bringing Venables to Clemson could take his program to the next level. The plan has worked perfectly. The more Clemson rises the more Venables stock rises.

One thing to keep in mind is that Venables’ son now plays at Clemson and the elder Venables has shown no interest in leaving for another job. Still, Whitman must contact Venables and sell him on the Illini’s program if that time were to come.

Ryan Day - Co-Offensive Coordinator- Ohio State

A Great Recruiter with an Offensive Mind

**This story was written before the Urban Meyer news, that culminated with Ryan Day being named interim Head Coach at Ohio State. So, we might soon enough find out whether is Day is Head Coach material**

Ryan Day has kind of offensive resume that would make Athletic Directors drool.

  • He played Quarterback for Chip Kelly at New Hampshire
  • He was a graduate assistant for Urban Meyer at Florida
  • He was the offensive coordinator and Wide recievers coach as as well as quaterbacks coach for Urban Meyer protege Steve Addazio at Temple and Boston College .
  • His final year as offensive coordinator at BC, the Eagles’ offense finished a respectable 50th in S&P. The year after he left in 2015, the Eagles’ offense dropped to No. 125.
  • He was Chip Kelly’s Quarterback Coach in Philadelphia and San Fransisco
  • Now, Day is co-anchoring the Buckeye’s offense with Kevin Wilson, one of the best offensive minds in College Football.

In addition the impressive offensive resume, Day is No 9. in the 247 Recruiter Rankings for 2019. Day is ready to be a Head Coach somewhere. Getting him to Champaign would be an absolute steal.

Mark Hudspeth - Assistant Head Coach- Mississippi State

The Under-the-Radar Hire

NCAA Football: UL Lafayette at Texas A&M Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Go back in time to 2014 when Hudspeth was at Louisiana-Lafayette. He was on every short list for Top Group of 5 Head Coaches. However, as is common, he stayed with the Rajun Cajuns and missed his window to move up to be a Power 5 Head Coach. The Cajuns let Hudspeth go after 2017.

New Mississippi State Head Coach Joe Moorehead immediately snagged Hudspeth to be his Assistant Head Coach in Starkville. In the few months Hudspeth has been on the job, Miss. State’s recruiting profile has improved dramatically thanks to Hudspeth who is ranked No. 2 on the 247 Recruiter Rankings. Having brought in 4 Blue Chip recruits already in the 2019 cycle — an absurdly high number by Mississippi State standards — Hudspeth is showing himself to be a force on the recruiter trail. Although Moorehead has never been a Head Coach in the Power 5, several are expecting him to exceed what Dan Mullen accomplished in Starkville. If this does happen, expect Hudspeth’s star to rise again.


Dave Clawson- Head Coach Wake Forest

College Football’s Extreme Makeover Artist.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

If “Extreme Makeover: College Football Edition” existed, Dave Clawson would certainly appear frequently on the show. Bill Connelly put it best when describing Dave Clawson’s program building capabilities.

Clawson...has done this a few times now. He just needs four years to win anywhere.

Fordham: 0-11 in year one, 10-3 in year four

Richmond: 3-8 in year one, 11-3 in year four

Bowling Green: 2-10 in year two, 10-3 in year five

Wake Forest: 3-9 in year one, 8-5 in year four

Clawson has done nearly identical refurbishing jobs in non-scholarship FCS, scholarship FCS, a Group of Five conference, and a power conference. That’s astounding.

Basically, Clawson turns around every program he touches. The consistency and pace at which he accomplishes these turn arounds is outstanding. Now, Clawson could be looking to take the next step away from Wake Forest. Make no doubt about it, Illinois is a much better job than Wake Forest and Clawson would almost certainly get the Illini to respectability. Clawson should be near the top of Whitman’s List.