college football looked tame compared to the , with seismic moves like Brian Kelly to LSU, Lincoln Riley to USC, and Mario Cristobal to Oregon. But there was still a lot of movement in the Power Five ranks, and some coordinators were among those listed to start their head coaching careers at major schools.
Purdue plucked Ryan Walters from his Illinois defensive coordinator position after a top year for the Fighting Illini’s defense, while Arizona State Oregon hired offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham after helping the Ducks win 10 games in Year 1 of the Dan Lanning regime. In Mississippi, the Bulldogs tapped defensive coordinator Zach Arnett — long considered a rising star — to lead the program in the wake of Mike Leach’s death.
Coordinators being given such high positions was only a continuation of a trend. The 2021 cycle saw Brent Pry (Virginia Tech), Tony Elliott (Virginia), Dan Lanning (Oregon), Brent Venables (Oklahoma), Marcus Freeman (Notre Dame) and Mike Elko (Duke) hired from the Coordinators to Power Five jobs as a head coach. The group had some mixed results, but Lanning and Elko exceeded expectations, and Freeman also enjoyed a solid first season in South Bend, Indiana.
So as the 2023 season approaches, who are the coordinators to keep an eye on as potential Power Five head coaching options come in November and December? Let’s look at six possible candidates.
College football coordinators to watch in 2023
Garrett Riley, Clemson offensive coordinator: At 33 years old, Riley is a rising star tasked with reviving Clemson’s offense in his first season with the Tigers. If he pulls it off, he’ll be in the mix for Power Five head coaching jobs. Riley spent the past three seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Sonny Dykes at SMU and TCU, and he also spent time as quarterback at Texas Tech under Mike Leach. In case those connections aren’t enough, Riley is also the younger brother of USC coach Lincoln Riley. With such strong ties to other successful coaches and a thriving track record, Riley is poised to become one of the biggest names in the sport for years to come.
Jesse Minter, Michigan defense coordinator: Michigan ranked No. 5 nationally in total defense last season, throwing just 292.1 yards per game. The Wolverines also finished in the top 10 for both yards allowed per rush and yards allowed per pass attempt. Not bad for Minter’s first season on the track. He arrived after a one-year stint at Vanderbilt and time with the Baltimore Ravens, working for John, the brother of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Minter, 40, began his career with entry-level jobs at Notre Dame and Cincinnati NFL and SEC experience and is now proving to be an elite defensive coordinator for one of the sport’s top brands. All signs point to Minter being an interesting coach for Power Five schools with openings as long as the Wolverines maintain their defensive standard in 2023.
Shannon Dawson, Miami offensive coordinator: A product of the Air Raid boom, Dawson has a chance to make a name for himself in Miami this season after four years on Dana Holgorsen’s Houston staff. The Hurricanes regressed significantly after a first-season strike by coach Mario Cristobal, which led to the sudden departure of Josh Gattis and Dawson was listed as his replacement. For this change to produce results, Cristobal must relinquish control and allow Dawson to implement a system that requires more passes than Cristobal has historically preferred. With an elite quarterback like Tyler Van Dyke, it could be a resounding success. This is as much about Cristobal letting his new acquisition flourish as anything. If he wants Dawson to shine and the Hurricanes to make significant progress, Dawson could immediately become a head coaching candidate.
Ryan Grubb, Washington offensive coordinator: Grubb goes way back with Washington coach Kalen DeBoer, which might explain why he stayed put when Nick Saban courted him as a possible replacement for Bill O’Brien as Alabama offensive coordinator. Saying no to Saban takes some guts, but Grubb and the Huskies have a good deal with Michael Penix Jr. back at quarterback after an 11-2 debut campaign for DeBoer. Washington is ranked No. 2 nationally in total offense, and should that success be repeated in 2023, Grubb will be a viable Power Five head coaching candidate.
Josh Gattis, Maryland Offensive Coordinator: Things quickly went wrong in Miami for Gattis in his lone season as Hurricanes offensive coordinator. But how much was that his fault, and how much was Cristobal trying to put his own stamp on things? We are still talking about a former Broyles Award winner with experience under James Franklin (Vanderbilt and Penn State), Nick Saban (Alabama), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Cristobal (Miami) and now Mike Locksley (Maryland). There may not be a college football coordinator with a more impressive roster of former bosses. His time at Maryland may qualify as a recovery period for his image, but the highlights of Gattis’ resume still suggest he could be a Power Five head coach.
Jeff Lebby, Oklahoma offensive coordinator: Lebby will be under some pressure to get Oklahoma back in the right direction after a disappointing start to the Brent Venables regime last season. But at just 39 years old, he’s already established himself as one of the sport’s top offensive minds, working under the likes of Josh Heupel at UCF and Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. Red flags about Lebby’s time at Baylor working for Art Briles during his scandalous spell won’t completely disappear, but as that period of his career fades further into the distance, his viability as a head coach improves.