In college football, coordinators can make all the difference. Finding the right offensive or defensive coordinator can elevate these sides of the ball and help their team improve dramatically. So who will be the best and most influential coordinator hires heading into the 2022 season? ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit tapped Ohio State’s new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Leby the best athletic coordinator hires for 2022.
“I think Jeff Lebby, who is leaving Ole Miss,” Herbstreit said on the Herbie Award broadcast. “…Jeff Lebby was leading that offense and calling the games at Ole Miss last year with Matt Coral. He is now with Brent Venables in Oklahoma with Dillon-Gabriela quarterback who can have a great year at the OU.
“And I think the best defensive coordinator, remember Ohio State, they were doing everything offensively despite their defense in those higher profile games. Whether it was Michigan, Oregon at the start of the year, and now you bring Jim Knowles Oklahoma State, and I think Ohio State will be much better.”
Lebby received his first chance as FBS offensive coordinator in 2019 at UCF, where he previously served as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. With Gabriel as quarterback, UCF ranked fifth nationally in total and scoring offense, with 43.4 points per game.
This led Lebby to join the SEC, where he served as Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. His first Rebels offense was 39.2 ppg, with Ole Miss dropping a bit last year to 33.7 ppg. All three seasons saw Lebby’s team produce a top-25 offense.
Knowles has a longer coaching resume, with the former Cornell football player working his way up to head coach at Cornell, where he served from 2004 to 2009. This led to an eight-year stint years as Duke’s defensive coordinator and, ultimately, his place at Oklahoma State.
He started with the Cowboys in 2018, with Oklahoma State building an elite defense last season. Despite the No. 53 offense in ESPN’s SP+ rankings, the Cowboys finished one goal line away from a Big 12 title and finished 12-2, thanks to SP+’s No. 4 defense.
Only Georgia, Wisconsin and Clemson had better rankings in that category, and he supports an Ohio State defense that is more talented than his Oklahoma State team, but doesn’t didn’t have the same kind of results last year, placing 20th in SP+.
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Both should have a say in the success of their respective teams. The sports betting has Oklahoma as the favorite to win the Big 12 this year, while Ohio State is seen as perhaps Alabama’s top competition in the national title chase.