If Emery decides to tap the college ranks instead, here is a list of the top defensive coordinators in the NCAA.
Derek Mason (Stanford: DC) – With current Stanford head coach David Shaw reportedly in Palo Alto for the long haul, Mason is effectively blocked from a promotion at Stanford. In his four years there Mason has turned the Cardinal into a perennial top ten defense. In 2013 Stanford’s defense led the NCAA in sacks, finished 3rd in rushing yards allowed, 7th in tackles for loss and 16th in total defense. In 2012 they also led the NCAA in sacks, finished 5th in rushing yards allowed and 2nd in tackles for loss. That kind of consistency at a non-traditional football power speaks volumes for coach Mason and his defensive scheme.
Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State: DC) – Has led the Spartans defense for the last seven years and help build them into an annual top 10 defense. MSU is one of 5 teams to have a top ten defense two years in a row (Alabama, LSU, Florida, FSU) and he did it without the benefit of the 5-star recruits his counterparts at those other schools are working with. This past year MSU ranked in the top ten nationally in 8 defensive categories. The core mandate of his defensive scheme is stopping the run, which we all know the Bears need help with. Narduzzi knows defense; In every stop of his career his defensive squads have improved dramatically (Cincinnati, Miami-Ohio).
Jeremy Pruitt: (Florida St: DC / DB) – In his first year at FSU, Pruitt’s defense led the country in passing yards allowed, interceptions, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and was 3rd in the nation in overall defense. Before his stint at FSU he was the defensive backs coach at Alabama for three seasons and in each Alabama was in the top ten in pass efficiency defense and the top 15 in passing yards allowed. He’s young (38), but will be a top candidate for defensive coordinator jobs as soon as next year and I think Emery would be smart to lock him up now.
Kirby Smart (Alabama: DC) – I know Smart is working with more talent at Alabama then any other team in the country, but he also loses a few of his best players to the NFL every season. Alabama has had the #1 defense in the country for 2 of the last 3 years (5th in 2013). Smart won the AFCA assistant coach of the year award in 2012 and the Broyles award (top assistant) in 2009. It’s actually kind of surprisingly that Smart is still an assistant coach with his pedigree and track record of success. At 38 years old, it’s about time for Smart to get promoted to a head coaching job in the college ranks or a DC job in the pros. He’s at least worth a look if Emery is considering dipping into the college coordinator ranks as Smart has been one of the best defensive minds available for the last few years.
Dave Aranda (Wisconsin: DC) – Wisconsin finished 7th in the nation in total defense in Aranda’s first year in Madison. Before his stint with the Badgers, Aranda led a Utah State defense that finished 8th in point allowed, 8th in total sacks, 12th in rushing defense and 15th overall. If Aranda can build a dominant defense with middle tier recruits at Utah State, I am confident this guy can turn the Bears defense around. His success in one year at Wisconsin proves it wasn’t a fluke. Like most candidates on this list, Aranda is young (37) and will soon be a top candidate for a head coaching job in the college ranks.
Defensive scheme: 3-4 (1/7)
Current Bear Free Agents: (1/8)
NFL Free Agents: (1/9)
Possible Defensive Draft Picks: (1/10)