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Replacing Pry: Defensive Coordinator Big Board

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Big Board SZN

NCAA Football: Youngstown State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

With Brent Pry off to be the head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies, it’s time for the best part of the year: Big Board SZN!

As always, these are simply names that could make sense. This isn’t based on any reporting, just my dumb brain.


Jim Knowles (Oklahoma State DC)

  • Age: 56
  • Why He Makes Sense: Knowles has been a Power 5 defensive coordinator since 2010. He spent the first 8 years of the decade as Duke’s DC before making the move to Oklahoma State in 2018. The work he’s done in Stillwater is nothing short of amazing, taking the Pokes from a defense that gave up 32.5 points per game in 2018 to one that only allowed 16.4 points per game in 2021. He’s also originally from Philadelphia, having attended St. Joe’s Prep for high school.

Tony Gibson (NC State DC)

  • Age: 49
  • Why He Makes Sense: One of the most respected defensive coordinators in the country, Gibson has turned around defenses at both West Virginia and NC State. During his stay in Morgantown, Gibson’s defenses finished 6th, 2nd, 2nd, 7th, and 5th — all in all, impressive numbers for a West Virginia program that was making the switch to the Big 12. Since taking over as the sole DC at NC State, he improved the Wolfpack’s defense from 10th in the ACC 7th (2020) and 2nd (2019).

Tem Lukabu (Boston College DC)

  • Age: 40
  • Why He Makes Sense: Lukabu left his position as the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker coach to become Boston College’s defensive coordinator under Jeff Hafley. With Lukabu’s arrival, the Boston College defenses jumped from being the 12th ranked defense in 2019 to being the 3rd ranked defense this past season. He also does have a quasi-tie to the staff, having coached for Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State.

Vince Kehres (Toledo DC)

  • Age: 45
  • Why He Makes Sense: The former head coach of DIII powerhouse Mount Union, Kehres made the move to Kent State in 2020 to take control of the defense. Early returns show that Kehres won’t be just a G5 coordinator for long — he improved Toledo’s defense from 10th in the MAC to 3rd and 1st in the last two seasons.

Jimmy Lake (Former Washington HC)

  • Age: 44
  • Why He Makes Sense: Timing might be off given one of the reasons he was fired, but one thing is for sure: Lake can coach defenses. Washington finished in the top 3 of all defenses in the PAC 12 since Lake took over as the defensive coordinator in 2018.

Elijah Robinson (Texas A&M DL Coach)

  • Age: 36
  • Why He Makes Sense: Oh, good ol’ Elijah Robinson. There was some smoke that Robinson was going to return to Penn State to replace Sean Spencer as DL coach back in January 2020, but Robinson opted to stay at Texas A&M. But now that the defensive coordinator role is open, how does that change thing? It would certainly be a big swing from Penn State — putting the defense in the hands of someone who has never called plays. But Robinson is a stupidly elite recruiter in Philadelphia/New Jersey, and from an on-the-field perspective, is certainly a top 5 defensive line coach in the country. Toss in that he has spent the last couple seasons learning under Mike Elko, and it’s only a matter of time before Robinson gets control of his own defense. Why not here in Happy Valley?

Al Washington (Ohio State LB Coach)

  • Age: 37
  • Why He Makes Sense: A personal favorite of mine, Washington has quickly moved up the coaching ranks, with stops at Cincinnati, Boston College, Michigan, and now Ohio State in the last half-decade. Washington doesn’t have any previous experience calling plays, but like Robinson, when you recruit and produce like he does, it won’t take long for a P5 program to give Washington the keys to the defense.

Sean Spencer (New York Giants DL Coach)

  • Age: 50
  • Why He Makes Sense: Everyone associated with Penn State football loves Coach Chaos. Really good recruiter, top-tier defensive lines, and a guy who was beloved in the locker room even beyond his own unit. Similar to the two aforementioned names, Spence has never called a defense before, only having served as a position coach. After two years in the NFL with the New York Giants — and now losing his closes confidant in Brent Pry — maybe Franklin brings back a familiar, trusted face?

Tosh Lupoi (Jacksonville Jaguars DL Coach)

  • Age: 40
  • Why He Makes Sense: Lupoi was widely known as maybe the best recruiter in college football for a number of seasons as a DL/LB coach at Cal, Washington, and Alabama. In fact, he was good that it seemed like he was only a couple years away from a head coaching gig of his own. Instead of waiting around though, Lupoi went to the NFL where he’s been the DL coach for the Browns, Falcons, and now Jaguars.

This list will be updated information comes available.