Chart: The most improved scoring defenses in 2016

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday January 17, 2017

Some takeaways:

- 14 of the 17 teams with the largest improvements made a bowl game, while 10 of the 17 teams with the largest increase in scoring D missed a bowl.

- 9 of the 17 most improved defenses had a new play-caller in 2016: UCF (Erik Chinander), Eastern Michigan (Neal Neathery), Indiana (Tom Allen), South Alabama (Kane Wommack), Miami (Manny Diaz), Auburn (Kevin Steele), North Texas (Mike Ekeler), Tulane (Jack Curtis) and LSU (Dave Aranda).

- It’s possible every one of the most improved defenses will have the same play-caller in 2017. Indiana and WMU are up in the air. Tom Allen was promoted to Indiana head coach, and Ed Pinkham could be retained by Tim Lester at WMU.

- Indiana, UCF, Tulsa, North Texas, Idaho, EMU, SMU and Kansas were among the 11 worst scoring defenses in 2015, so there was a lot of room for improvement.

- Miami’s improvement under first-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz came with three true freshmen starting linebackers. The defensive line faced heavy injuries, but still finished fifth nationally with 8.3 TFLs per game under Craig Kuligowski, which was up from 5.0 the year before.

- Three schools are among the most improved scoring offenses and defenses: UCF, North Texas and Old Dominion.

- Indiana and Arkansas State are among the most improved defenses but also among the largest decrease in scoring offense.

- 7 of the schools with the largest scoring D increase will have a new play-caller in 2017: Missouri (Barry Odom took over defense), Cal, Ole Miss, FAU, USF, Mississippi State and UConn. Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack retired and Hugh Freeze hired Wes McGriff. At Mississippi State, Dan Mullen essentially traded defensive coordinators with Louisville, adding Todd Grantham. Cal, FAU, USF and UConn have head coaching changes.

- Missouri, Pitt and USF are among the most improved offenses, but also among the largest increases in points allowed.

2017 offseason studies

Most improved scoring offenses

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 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