The Big Ten’s offseason coordinator carousel was in full effect for 2017, as nine of the 14 teams experienced some change in the offensive or defensive coordinator position. The offseason’s biggest and most impactful change took place at Ohio State, as Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day were hired as co-coordinators following the CFB Playoff loss to Clemson. Wilson and Day have plenty of talent to work with, but the Buckeyes need to regain their big-play ability on offense after generating only 10 plays of 40 or more yards in 2016. In addition to Wilson and Day, Rutgers (Jerry Kill), Iowa (Brian Ferentz) and Minnesota (Kirk Ciarrocca) deserve high marks for offseason moves in the coordinator ranks.
Which teams made the best coordinator hires in the Big Ten for 2017? Here are six names to know, followed by a handful of assistant coach hires to watch.
Big Ten’s Top Coordinator Hires for 2017
Kirk Ciarrocca, Offensive Coordinator, Minnesota
New coach P.J. Fleck is handing the controls of Minnesota’s offense to Ciarrocca after the two worked together at Western Michigan from 2013-16. After the Broncos averaged 17.2 points a game in 2013, the offense showed marked improvement over the next three seasons. Western Michigan’s scoring average climbed to 33.8 in 2014, 36.0 in 2015 and 41.6 in 2016. Additionally, the Broncos finished first or second in the MAC in yards per play in three consecutive years (2014-16). Ciarrocca’s 2016 unit was one of the most-balanced attacks in the nation, as Western Michigan posted 3,204 yards on the ground and 3,533 through the air. Ciarrocca also worked as an assistant at Princeton, Penn, Delaware and Richmond, along with a three-year stint as Rutgers’ offensive coordinator from 2008-10.
Ryan Day/Kevin Wilson, Co-Offensive Coordinators, Ohio State
Even though Ohio State finished 2016 ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring offense and yards per play, it was clear change was needed following the CFB Playoff loss to Clemson. Since Tom Herman left Columbus, the Buckeyes haven’t the same level of explosiveness or rhythm on offense. However, that should change in 2017, as former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is set to take over the play-calling duties, with Ryan Day working as the team’s quarterback coach. Under Wilson’s direction, the Hoosiers averaged over 30 points a game in three out of four years from 2012-15, including a 36.5 mark that led the Big Ten in 2015. Additionally, from 2012-16, Indiana never finished below sixth in the Big Ten in yards per play generated on offense. As evidenced by his tenure at Indiana and previous stints as an offensive coordinator at Northwestern, Oklahoma and Miami (Ohio), Wilson is one of the nation’s top play-callers. With one of college football’s best quarterbacks (J.T. Barrett) to build an offense around, look for Wilson to develop a dynamic attack at Ohio State in 2017 and beyond.
Bob Diaco, Defensive Coordinator, Nebraska
Nebraska’s defense hasn’t quite resembled some of the standout Blackshirt groups since Mike Riley took over this program prior to the 2015 season. The Cornhuskers ranked ninth in conference-only games by giving up 28.4 points per game in 2015. This unit was slightly better in 2016, finishing seventh in the Big Ten (conference-only matchups) by holding offenses to 23.8 points per game. Nebraska also ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in yards per play allowed in both seasons (5.9 in 2015 and 5.5 in 2016) and have accumulated only 50 sacks over the last two years. Riley swapped long-time assistant Mark Banker in favor of Bob Diaco and plans on transitioning to a 3-4 scheme this fall. Diaco was previously the head coach at UConn and also made stops as a coordinator at Notre Dame and Cincinnati. His 2012 defense with the Fighting Irish limited opponents to 12.8 points per game and was a big reason why Notre Dame reached the national title game. Additionally, in five seasons as a coordinator, Diaco never had a defense allow more than 23.1 points per game on average at the end of a year. Transitioning to the 3-4 may take a season, but Diaco’s hire should pay dividends for the overall performance of Nebraska’s defense.
Source: Athlon Sports