Last week we started up our off-season roundtables by discussing new coaches, National Championship long-shots and teams that might be ripe for a fall from the top.
This week we are back with three more questions that our CFBZ contributors will be discussing but I thought I would split them up into three different posts over the weekend so the topics don't get lost in the shuffle. Feel free to chime in down below in the comments section or you can shoot us an e-mail at collegefootballzealot at gmail.com.
Question: Which team made the best off-season assistant coaching hire?
Jay: I give the nod to Maryland's hire of Mike Locksley as offensive coordinator. Yes, it is possible for the worst head coaching hire of all time to also be the best coordinator hire of the year. There were a lot of coordinator hires that I liked this offseason, but when I think "best" in this situation I think "game changer." Instant impact.
After a debut season where Randy Edsal seemed to make precious few good decisions, he was in need of a game changer, and that's who he got. From a recruiting perspective, Locksley is one of the best in the country, and the Maryland/DC area is his personal playground. It's a perfect match, and his plane had barely touched down on the runway when he helped the Terps keep highly-touted receiver Stefon Diggs home. As far as the x's and o's of being a coordinator go, he's not some offensive mastermind, but he was calling the shots at Illinois when the Illini went to the Rose Bowl a few years back. All in all, Locksley represents a shot in the arm for a program that desperately need something, anything, good to happen.
Pete: When Rich Rodriquez packed to move from Morgantown to Ann Arbor four years ago, he extended invitations to several of his West Virginia assistants to follow him. One coach he really wanted to add to his Michigan staff was WV defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. An eleventh hour offer persuaded Casteel to stay behind, to RichRod's surprise and dismay -- and probably to his ultimate demise.
Michigan had a terrible defensive in all three years that Rodriquez lasted. Casteel, who runs the 3-3-5, and RichRod were once D-II rivals until achieving success as a team in West Virginia. The synergy that was lacking in Michigan should help Arizona find success going forward.
Ross: I didn't think there were a lot of standout hires in the coordinator ranks this offseason, but one that could prove to be very shrewd was Rich Rodriguez luring Jeff Casteel away from West Virginia to coordinate RichRod's defense at Arizona. Casteel was the DC at West Virginia for almost a decade, including during RichRod's head coaching tenure there and he put together some defenses that didn't garner a lot of fanfare, but were very effective. RichRod's inability to pry Casteel out of Morgantown when he took the Michigan job 5 years ago may have been one of the key reasons his run at Big Blue was so miserable. Rodriguez ended up hiring Greg Robinson and, well, the results spoke for themselves. But Casteel was effective at West Virginia and if he can put together some solid defenses at Arizona, the Wildcats will have a much better chance of making some noise in the Pac 12 in the near future.
Kevin: I liked the defensive coordinator hires in the SEC by Auburn (Brian Van Gorder) and Tennessee (Sal Sunseri). That being said, I'm not sure Auburn has the talent for BVG to make an impact this year and I'm not sure if Dooley will stick around long enough for Sunseri to really have an impact. So for this one I'm going out West and I'm not picking a coordinator. Nope, I'm going for a position coach.
My pick is Tosh Lupoi. Steve Sarkisian and Washington grabbed him from Cal and it paid immediate dividends on the recruiting trail when the Huskies landed Shaq Thompson. They also grabbed three more defensive players on NSD so it's clear that Tosh is doing his job so far. The Huskies also hired DC Justin Wilcox from Tennessee. Wilcox didn't really make an impact at Tennessee but they were so thin on talent I'm not sure who could have. The Huskies have a lot of room to grow on defense (Baylor put 67 points on the scoreboard in their bowl game) but there is no place to go but up and Wilcox and Lupoi should help them get there pretty quickly.
Come back to the site tomorrow as we will discuss the college football hot seat without using the names Derek Dooley and Randy Edsal.