Dave Razzano is a former NFL scout and Playmaker Mobile correspondent with more than 22 years of professional scouting experience with the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals under NFL coaches including Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Chuck Knox and Dick Vermeil. He's been a part of five Super Bowls with three Super Bowl wins (49ers, 1989, 1990; Rams, 2000).
Who will be the next Nick Saban, or Urban Meyer? Not long ago these top-flight coaches were roaming the sidelines as highly respected coordinators. As with any coach who rises through the ranks, when given an opportunity to be in charge you must succeed. Recruiting is key. All winning coaches have one thing in common: people and organizational skills, discipline, and the ability to hire a motivated and competent staff. Below is a list of Division 1 defensive coaches who could very well become stars in their own right if given the opportunity. My list is based on first-hand knowledge and exposure after 22 years as an NFL Scout.
1) Tyrone Nix, Ole Miss – Will be highly successful when given an opportunity. Too many players absolutely rave about his defensive acumen. Strong communicator as well.
2) Justin Wilcox, Tennessee – Son of Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Wilcox, worked his magic the last few years turning Boise State’s defense in to a tough and attacking group. Watch what he does at Tennessee!
3) Kirby Smart, Alabama – Another star in the making. Turned down head coaching gigs to stay with the Crimson Tide and a $750,000 pay day.
4) Manny Diaz, Mississippi State – Interesting pedigree. Son of mayor of Miami, Florida. Smart as a whip and possibly the best defensive strategist in the college ranks. Mark it down. Will be a BIG success!
5) Todd Orlando, Connecticut – Highly organized and intense, this guy deserves a lot of credit for Uconn’s recent success on the field. Knows how to handle players.
6) Jamie Bryant, Vanderbilt – Does an outstanding job of competing with the big boys of the SEC without the talent level of most opponents. This guy is an excellent communicator who likes to have fun.
7) Will Muschamp, Texas – There is a reason why this guy is the “coach in waiting” at Texas. He is outstanding with people and knows how to utilize the skills of players as well as anyone.
8) Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State – Has all the ingredients to be a very successful head coach. Intense competitor who knows how to motivate young people.
9) Jeff Casteel, West Virginia – Bright and energetic, this defensive specialist can attack an offense with the best of them.
10) Scott Shafer, Syracuse – His reputation as a defensive guru continues to grow. Knows how to put players in position to achieve maximum results.
11) Dan Disch, Illinois – Highly decorated high school coach in the talent rich state of Florida prior to taking the leap to the college ranks. Outstanding leader with people skills to match. Will succeed in big way when given opportunity.
12) Nick Holt, Washington – Might be the most intense coach in the college game. This former linebacker has a passion for defensive football that is difficult to find.
13) Tim DeRuyter, Texas A@M – Expect the Aggie defense to start playing at a championship level under this defensive whiz.
14) Steve Brown, Kentucky – This ex NFL DB knows X’s and O’s as well as anyone and is a big reason why the Wildcats have been very competitive the last several years with the big boys of the SEC. Outstanding communicator.
15) Mark D’Onofrio, Temple – Another former linebacker who found his niche in the coaching ranks. Known for his football intelligence as a player, he is helping restore order for the resurgent Owls.
16) Buddy Green, Navy – Has worked wonders at the Naval Academy over the last several years now. His squads always come prepared and are as hardnosed as any you will find.