It's not often that people pay attention to the assistants, no matter how good they might be. But for those who follow the game closely, the impact that position coaches have is unmistakable. And with most of the Big Ten's coaching carousel now complete, we'll start taking stock of what's changed at these positions. There's a whole lot more to digest in the Big Ten East, thanks in no small part to Rutgers and Maryland. Here we go.
Don Brown, Michigan DC: Good-bye, D.J. Durkin, hello, someone who did better than D.J. Durkin. As much fun as we all had with Durkin's defenses, 2016 will mean a lot, and in some ways more. It's rare to find the perfect replacement, and finally, Michigan did just that. A+
Chris Partridge, Michigan LB Coach: Harbaugh has spoken highly of Partridge a number of times, and he's not afraid to give young guys a shot as a position coach if they show the right composition. But as unproven candidates go, there aren't actually many question marks around Partridge. He connects with players, recruits very well, and works hard. What he knows, he'll be able to transmit to players very well. The only possible concern is whether he has the knowledge and experience of the position, but he'll have two seasoned linebacker coaches - Greg Mattison and Don Brown - there to help him. A+
Greg Schiano, Ohio State Co-DC: Like Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh, Meyer just seems to reload. Something something hydra. A+
Greg Studrawa, Ohio State OL Coach: After a long tenure at LSU, Studrawa has spent the last couple years at Maryland and now will serve as an understudy to Ed Warinner in Columbus. This will give Warinner more time to coordinate the offense, which makes this move feel like an attempt to keep Warinner in town - and attached to Urban Meyer's hip - as long as possible. C
Joe Moorhead, Penn State OC: James Franklin isn't in Meyer or Harbaugh territory, but his moves were pretty underrated. Moorhead will take Penn State's offense to new levels next year, with minimal transition. A+
Tim Banks, Penn State Co-DC: When Pat Narduzzi moved on from Michigan State, Mark Dantonio turned to a pair of co-coordinators to fill the void. Here, Franklin has given Pry more responsibility and also brought in Tim Banks. Banks has a nice touch in the secondary and cut his teeth recruiting in the DMV area. B+
Matt Limegrover, Penn State OL Coach: Whatever you might say about Minnesota's offense, their line was a big reason for their success. Pass blocking has been an issue with both Limegrover's teams and Penn State's recent squads, but Minnesota's guys were beefier and less athletic than what Limegrover will now have to work with. I'm confident Limegrover will train his guys well and maximize their physical attributes. A
Tom Allen, Indiana DC: Will the fifth time be the charm? Kevin Wilson is betting a lot on Allen's success. Indiana fans will be happy with getting a hometown guy who reportedly turned down the Auburn job a few weeks earlier. A-
Keith Caton, Indiana S&C Coach: Baylor's done some great work the last few years with their strength and conditioning. Losing Mark Hill hurts Indiana a lot, but this seems to be another underrated pick-up. A-
Drew Mehringer, Rutgers OC: Mehringer was a wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator for one year at Houston. Before that, he was the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the FCS program James Madison. He was a graduate assistant at Ohio State before that.
Chris Ash is a defensive guy, and five of the nine assistant coaches are defensive guys as well. The four assistants who will be helping Ash direct the offense are Mehringer, Blazek, Williams, and Kuhr. I don't doubt Mehringer knows his stuff, and sometimes things are just crazy enough to work - like climbing trees to get recruits, for example. But I can't talk myself into this one. F
A.J. Blazek, Rutgers OL Coach: (Three years at Western Illinois, Winona State before that.) Or this one. F
Zak Kuhr, Rutgers WR Coach: Kuhr was a graduate assistant at Old Dominion in 2013, but like Mehringer he's moved up the ranks quickly, helped in no small part by Ash. For better or worse, let's see what he's got. F
Jafar Williams, Rutgers RB Coach: The running backs at Kent State and Purdue struggled in his first year, but did very respectably after that. Williams is a young guy - he played at Maryland from 2000 to 2003 - without much big-time coaching experience. But he's steadily turning into a fine coach. B-
Jay Niemann, Rutgers DC: Niemann has experience, he knows Ash already, and they'll be on the same page defensively. Given that Ash will (supposedly) want to put a lot of focus on the defense, you can't ask for much more than what Niemann will give you. He's a veteran guy who knows how to make more with less. B+
Vince Okruch, Rutgers Special Teams Coordinator: Okruch has bounced around a lot of places, and was a defensive coordinator for schools like Colorado and Northwestern around the turn of the century. A+
Shane Burnham, Rutgers DL Coach: Spent a number of years at Iowa State, and has a reputation as a strong Florida recruiter. C-
Bill Busch, Rutgers DB Coach: The highest position Busch has ever had was the defensive coordinator for two years at Utah State, after which Gary Andersen shuffled him around and took control of the coordinator duties. It's not clear Busch is a rising star, but he's always been able to fall back on coaching the secondary. A
Aaron Henry, Rutgers Asst. DB Coach: A Florida native who played at Wisconsin as recently as 2011, Henry seems like another hire based as much on recruiting as it is on coaching. Coaching is much, much more important than recruiting. Henry was a G.A. last year. F
Kenny Parker, Rutgers S&C Coach: This is a wild card; Parker served as an assistant S&C coach at Ohio State, and spent ten years before that with Florida as either a player or coach. My gut gives him a C+.
Scott Shafer, Maryland DC: Shafer would have been a pretty good choice for Michigan's DC spot. An easy A+ hire for Durkin.
Walt Bell, Maryland OC: On the surface, this might seem like the hire Chris Ash was aiming for. A young, bright, energetic coach. But Bell will be bolstered by plenty of experience elsewhere on the staff while bringing in two years of successful coordinating experience in the Sun Belt. His second year with the Red Wolves, his team didn't lose a conference game. And before that, Bell was the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach (tutoring Eric Ebron, now in the NFL) at North Carolina. Bell has shown he can prepare guys for the next level, so jumping from the Group of Five to the Power 5 shouldn't be that concerning. A
Mike London, Maryland DL Coach: A great recruiter in the DMV, a veteran coach who can mask the deficiencies of those around him, and whose deficiencies will be masked with his role at Maryland. London has been a position coach in the NFL (coaching the Houston D-line in 2005), so he should be successful here in all his roles. A+
Pete Lembo, Maryland Swiss Army Knife: Lembo, most recently the head coach at Ball State, will serve as an assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach for Maryland. He's overly qualified, to say the least. A+
Dave Borbely, Maryland OL Coach: Notre Dame under Bob Davie. Colorado under Gary Barnett. Louisville under Charlie Strong. Borbely has worked under a lot of good coaches, and finally he can make a mark in the Big Ten. A-
Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, Maryland DB Coach: A rising star under Nick Saban who specialized in DMV recruiting, Abdul-Rahim founded a high school football program in the area in 2004 and quickly turned it into a winner from scratch. Good luck betting against him, in other words. A
Matt Barnes, Maryland LB Coach: Durkin swiped Barnes from Jim Harbaugh on his way out the door; Barnes was a defensive analyst for Michigan until Durkin hired him away. The resume is sparse, but he's worked extensively with Durkin up to this point, both at Michigan and at Florida. Durkin knows what he's getting. C
Chris Beatty, Maryland WR Coach: Recruiting skills, DMV experience, young but grizzled enough. A clone of Maryland's other assistants. C+
Anthony Tucker, Maryland RB Coach: Another Red Wolves off-shoot, Tucker is another young guy who will be asked to recruit and rebuild Maryland's stable of running backs. He built up Michael Gordon into a beast before he helft Arkansas State. C+
Rick Court, Maryland S&C Coach: Finally, Durkin also stole the head strength coach from Mississippi State. If only the rest of the Big Ten was as predatory... A
Hitting the Links Takes A Stroll
Close to 1,000 coaches have signed up for the event. Dominating headlines in the off-season used to usually be a bad thing, but Harbaugh's flipped that around.
I'll let this topic go for the most part, and it's true we don't (and won't) know all the details here. But I'm not a fan. I think a lesson here is that, whatever the situation may be, it's important for recruits to keep their options open and take visits and communicate with other schools - as much consternation as that might cause the fans.
This was also a good link with some very interesting quotes by Brady.
Give that man all the honorary doctorates. Give him a star and a statue. He's been amazing.
Don't be lulled by Jonathan Jones' three-star ranking. The 6'0", 225-pounder has decent straight-line speed, but his agility, technique, and strength are all very impressive. Football has started turning to flexibility exercises like yoga to help athletes, and Jones plays like a guy who wins his time in the yoga room, the weight room, and the film room.
It's hard to quantify the work Weist did, but Michigan excelled at developing their passing game this year as soon as things clicked for Jake Rudock. Some of that is on Weist, and he'll be missed.
Needless to say, Taylor-Douglas would be a big get for Chris Ash.
Encouraging news for the Illini, who've had on- and off-field troubles dominating the headlines for a while. If they can get a few more commitments, they'll be in pretty good shape with spring ball around the corner. To keep the good vibes going, I won't mention that Joshua Black just decommited.
Brandon Ross is graduating, and Wes Brown is suspended indefinitely. Trey Edmunds can fly:
His numbers tailed off after a 675-yard 2013 campaign, but he's got some mitts, doesn't fumble it often, and has the potential to get big gains if he's given space. Having a highlight back makes things a little easier on Durkin; Maryland could do a lot worse than pairing Edmunds with the 4.9-yard average of quarterback Perry Hills.
Here's a fun fact: I'll be 150 years old in 2030. Still, it'll be fun to watch.
In related news, Purdue has taken some more steps to beefing up their out-of-conference scheduling in a big way. They announced dates with Louisville (2017 at Lucas Oil Stadium) and Boston College (2018, 2020), adding to dates with Missouri, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech. Way to go, Purdue.
He was joined by Eddie Jordan, the basketball coach, and the AD. A very nice move by him. Also, here was a good article on Ash's focus on getting back to fundamentals on defense and tackling well. In less fortunate news, the only four-star Rutgers commit in the 2016 cycle has been swiped by North Carolina.
Being a night owl myself, I enjoyed this piece on Cam Chambers and Messiah DeWeaver settling into college life by going to exercise when they couldn't sleep.