Broyles Award likely candidates: Week 13

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday November 22, 2016


Later this week, nominees for the Broyles Award will be announced. The award goes to the nation's top assistant coach, and a number of coaches are worthy of the honor this season.

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley won the award last season. Since the award’s inception in 1996, more than 20 percent of finalists have become head coaches, including six of the past eight winners (Kirby Smart, Kevin Wilson, Gus Malzahn, Bob Diaco, Pat Narduzzi and Tom Herman). Finalists will be named next Monday.

Through 12 weeks, here are CoachingSearch’s top candidates, in alphabetical order. (Note: Schools can only nominate one coach, but for the purposes of this, we’ve included multiple)

Dave Aranda — LSU defensive coordinator

In his first year with the Tigers, Aranda has improved LSU’s scoring D by 10 points per game and jumped more than 30 spots. Aranda’s defense is No. 6 in scoring D (14.1 ppg) and has yet to allow more than 21 points in a game. They lead the nation in red zone defense, with opponents scoring touchdowns in just 24.1 percent of RZ trips. Last week, the LSU defense held Florida to 3.6 yards per rush and 4-for-13 on 3rd down.

John Baxter — USC special teams coordinator / tight ends coach

Baxter has taken USC’s special teams efficiency from No. 74 last year to No. 9 this season in his first year back, per FootballOutsiders. The Trojans have held some of the nation’s top punt returners to nothing: Alabama’s Calvin Ridley (4 yards on 2 returns), Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey (0 returns on 5 punts) and Washington’s Dante Pettis (0 yards on 4 punts). The USC punt team has allowed just 18 total return yards all season, which ranks No. 6 nationally.  Meanwhile, Adoree Jackson is averaging 28.3 yards on kick returns, with 1 TD, and 14.7 yards on punt returns, with another TD. Jackson is top 10 nationally in both stats. On Saturday, USC went 3-for-3 on field goals against UCLA and didn’t allow a punt return.  In addition, the USC tight ends have been as productive as any group of tight ends in the country.  

Don Brown — Michigan defensive coordinator

Brown’s aggressive defense leads the nation in several stats, including scoring D (10.9 ppg), 3rd downs (21.0 percent) and tackles for loss (9.1), and they’re top-10 in rushing D. The Wolverines have shut out opponents in the first half of six of 11 games this season. Last week, U-M held Indiana to 1.8 yards per rush and 14-for-30 passing in a 20-10 win.

Matt Canada — Pitt offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach

Pitt has scored 432 points through 11 games, which is already the most in school history. The Panthers are No. 15 in scoring (39.2 ppg), which is an increase of more than 11 points from a year ago, and would be the second-highest average in school history. Pitt has also scored at least 28 points in 12 straight games, the longest active streak among Power 5 teams. Currently, the Panthers rank No. 1 nationally in red zone touchdown scoring percentage at 81%.  Red zone success was played an integral role in the 43-42 upset win over Clemson.

Kirk Ciarrocca — Western Michigan offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach

WMU is one win away from an undefeated regular season and closer to the Cotton Bowl. Ciarrocca’s offense is scoring more than 43 points per game, No. 5 in the country. Senior QB Zach Terrell is completing more than 71 percent of his passes and is in the top three nationally in completion percentage and QB rating, and he has an unreal 27-1 TD-INT ratio. The Broncos have scored at least 34 points in 10 straight games.

Ivin Jasper — Navy offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach

Navy lost Keenan Reynolds from last year’s team and then lost this year’s starting QB in Week 1, but backup Will Worth has led the Midshipmen to an AAC West division title. Worth has rushed for 1,000 yards and 22 TDs while completing 61 percent of passes. Navy is No. 10 nationally in rushing at 5.6 yards per carry. The Midshipmen will actually play Army after the AAC title game, and it’s possible that could delay the College Football Playoff rankings.

Lane Kiffin — Alabama offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach

For the third year in a row, Kiffin has taken a first-year starting quarterback and built a powerful offense around its strengths. This year, it’s a true freshman quarterback with running ability in Jalen Hurts, who is completing 65 percent of his passes and averaging 5.6 yards per rush with 30 total TDs. The Tide are scoring 30 points per game (when you remove all the non-offensive TDs), and averaging more than 5.8 yards per rush (No. 7).

Jim Leavitt — Colorado defensive coordinator / linebackers coach

The Buffs have already clinched a share of the Pac-12 South, and are one win away from the Pac-12 title game, thanks in part to that defense. The Colorado defense is No. 13 in scoring (18.5 ppg), all the way up from No. 70 a year ago, and allowing 10 fewer points per game. The Buffs have allowed fewer than 17 points in six of 11 games this season. CU is also top-15 in takeaways and third down defense.

Greg Schiano — Ohio State defensive coordinator / safeties coach

The Buckeyes haven’t allowed a touchdown in five of 11 games this year, and the 13 points per game allowed is No. 3 nationally. The also have 17 interceptions, returning six for touchdowns. The defense has even outscored the opposing offense three times. Ohio State is also No. 2 in red zone defense and top 20 in rushing D and third down D.

Jonathan Smith — Washington offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach

The Washington offense has jumped more than 50 spots to No. 4 nationally in scoring (44.7 ppg) compared to a year ago, and sophomore QB Jake Browning is fourth in the nation in QB rating and has 37 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. The 37 TD passes are a school record and six behind the Pac-12 record. The Huskies have scored at least 31 points in 10 games and at least 40 points in eight games.

Jeremy Pruitt — Alabama defensive coordinator / inside linebackers coach

This may be the best defense Alabama’s ever had under Saban. Through 11 games, this defense has allowed 13 touchdowns and scored nine of its own. The Tide are No. 1 in rushing defense at just 2.1 yards per carry. They’re also No. 2 in scoring D (11.4 points per game) and sacks (3.6 per game) and top 10 in third down D and red zone D.

Justin Wilcox — Wisconsin defensive coordinator / linebackers coach

In Wilcox’s first year with the group, Wisconsin is No. 5 nationally in scoring D (13.4 points per game), despite losing several of its top defensive players to injury this year. The Badger defense held Michigan to 14 points, Nebraska to 17 points and Ohio State to 23 points in regulation. They’ve allowed three touchdowns this month. The Badgers have an outside shot at the playoff, and it's on the back of this defense.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.