With Ryan Neilsen returning to the Saints, LSU is still without a defensive coordinator
Oh boy, where to begin. With Ryan Neilsen being unable to get out of his contract, the Tigers are back to square one in their search for a new defensive coordinator.
Not only are the Tigers without a defensive coordinator, but it seems most of the guys near the top of the list for consideration are now accounted for in terms of coaching.
If you want to find a silver lining in this process it’s that LSU hasn’t rushed the hire nor has Orgeron defaulted to someone from his past coaching. History says that Orgeron is quick to learn from his mistakes and is willing to be innovative, perhaps at times out of his comfort zone, in order to find the best fit, something he has made point of mentioning heavily through the off-season. As devastating as the Nielsen news is, Orgeron would be wise to maintain his patience and not make a rash decision for his final hire.
With all that, here are some yet mentioned candidates that might be worth some more investigation.
Illasia Tuiaki, DC BYU
Having just finished his fourth year at BYU, Tuiaki has had defenses that have ranged from solid to great. The Cougars defense finished the year near the top of the league in most major statistical categories, both basic and advanced. A look a little deeper shows there are elements that would appeal to the Tigers. From a schematic standpoint, BYU “went all in” on a four man front in 2020 and saw a boost in pass defense, notably going from 111th in sacks in 2019 to 27th in 2020. Tuiaki is on the younger side at 42 and has only coached on the west coast, giving the Tigers another recruiter with ties west of Texas. Tuiaki also serves as the BYU defensive line coach, presumably the other roll he would take on if he were to join the Tigers.
Glenn Schumann co-DC/inside linebackers coach, Georgia
Schumann has been name that has been picking up a little steam on the internets these past few days. Currently Schumann is the co-defensive coordinator with the Bulldogs. Georgia has never been lacking defensively since Schumann came over as one Kirby Smart’s first hires. Prior to that Schumann held various administrative roles with the Tide. The concerns? He is REALLY young at just 30 years old and Georgia is his first time as an on-field coach. Also, when outgoing DC Mel Tucker left, Smart opted to promote Dan Lanning as “Defensive Coordinator” and Schumann “co-defensive coordinator.”
David Reeves DC/linebackers coach, UAB
Bit of an interesting candidate here. Look at the last few years and UAB has quietly put together one of the better defensive units in the country. Reeves has led units that have ranked in the top-40 in both pass and rush defense since 2017, and in 2018 and 2019 he the Blazers posted 44 and 48 sacks, respectively. Both ranked in the top-15. His defenses tend to be better against passing offenses, given that his rush yards allowed totals are usually not as good as his pass yards allowed totals. He is pushing 50 so not in line with the youth movement, but he has southern roots, including a stint on the Alabama coaching staff as an analyst.
Nate Woody DC, Army
Woody does not have a very sexy resume with the biggest name job being at Michigan, where he was an analyst in 2019. Nor is he young at 60. However, he has a track record of running some good units. As DC for App State in 2014, when the Mountaineers first moved to FBS, his unit ranked 71st in points per game allowed. For the next three seasons App State never ranked worse than 25th. At Army this year the Knights were number three in scoring defense, and although the schedule was not great, the defense had good showings against both Cincinnati and Tulane, both of which were top-25 scoring offenses. It speaks well of him that he was able to have strong units without necessarily having top tier talent. He had a one year stint as Georgia Tech’s DC in 2018 which did not go well, but it’s unclear how much his departure was tied to Paul Johnson retiring.
Kurt Mattix DC, San Diego State
Mattix replaced Zach Arrnett at San Diego State, and even with the change in leadership the results were mostly the same. The totals took a dip in 2020, the Aztecs still ranked in the top-15 in scoring, passing, and rushing defense. Although 2020 was Mattix first year as a coordinator at SDSU, he was hired following a successful tenure at Eastern Kentucky. The other notable job stop was as a QC at Michigan under his now boss, Brady Hoke.