Ranking the Big Ten playcallers

Deseret News

When you look at the playcallers of the Big Ten, you find that the bar to decency can be low, but there is some talent in surprising places.

So the Big Ten has a problem. We saw it in the draft. Hooray that the Badgers got the only first-round pick from the conference. But that's as many picks as Syracuse. As a conference, we brought as many No. 1 picks as a mediocre team on a dying conference. That is no bueno. In fact, it's muy mal.

I mean, I received some condolence notices from some Pac-12 fans when Matt Wells decided to stay in Logan so the Badgers hired Andy Ludwig. Truth be told? I understood. Ludwig had some struggles in previous major college appearances. But then the year went on. Other offensive coordinators got hired.

And if we're looking at a way to make the B1G look more cool and whiz-bang? The fact of the matter is, there could very well be an intelligence gap on the play-calling side of the ball. At least that's what I'm thinking going in.

I'll explain.

Illinois: Bill Cubit

He's not exactly the sort of name that will automatically illicit laughs. He led Western Michigan to some good seasons along the way. But the thing of it is? He struggled mightily in his last stop at as an offensive coordinator at Stanford. This was during the Buddy Teevens dork age, but there was skill position talent that spent time in the NFL from Palo Alto a decade ago. For Illinois fans? There's a real possibility Cubit's not going to be a real answer.

Indiana: Seth Litrell/Kevin Johns

I know what you're thinking. Indiana has one of the best offensive coordinators in the conference? I must be in a really insulting mood. But when Seth Litrell came to Bloomington, the offense coalesced into something that was dangerous and made trouble for teams along the way. If they had a defense that was even decent? (35.3 points per game allowed; one of 20 teams of who allowed more than 35). This would have been a bowl team.

Iowa: Greg Davis

Ask an Iowa fan about Greg Davis and you will get tears. The Kirk Ferentz offense plus bubble screens equals punt, yeah, punt, win. Davis was once the second highest-paid offensive coordinator in the country. But this was a time before Mack Brown recruiting people as a safety was a readymade joke amongst the college football. And the itinerant 1990's coach offensive coordinator/failed Tulane coach has forced his way back to the surface.

Michigan: Al Borges

He's always been good for some success early in his tenure. He was the offensive coordinator for UCLA in 1996, Auburn's 13-0 season in 2004, and in 2010? He built a top-20 offense in San Diego. He's going to get resources in Ann Arbor. If degeneration of the offense doesn't happen, he's generally going to be regarded as a solid choice

Michigan State: Jim Bollman/David Warner

Don Treadwell leaves and it all goes catty whompus. I'm not going to mock David Warner, who's a solid quarterback whisperer. But when you're looking to replace Dan Roushar, you give Warner help in the form of the run game coordinator for the 119th-ranked running game in the nation slash easy Big Ten joke in the form of Jim Bollman? You're only looking for trouble in East Lansing.

I'm still stunned that he was hired away from Purdue.

Minnesota: Matt Limegrover

If Jerry Kill is Hayden Fox, then Matt Limegrover is Luther Van Damm. Limegrover is a loyal wingman to the Kill administration, and as he gets his hands on the offense, improvement occurs. Minnesota's offense isn't there yet. But this team already has a bowl berth. There is some real hope in Minneapolis. A Badger fan? Saying something nice about the Gophers? This post must be a unicorn.

Nebraska: Tim Beck

Tim Beck's been a good offensive assistant before he had his chance to be an offensive coordinator. He was the passing game coordinator when Mark Mangino was well-regarded. He was the running backs coach when Roy Helu became a top prospect, and he ran the best offense in the Big Ten this year. In fact, some would say that Nebraska's season was what Indiana was writ large.

Northwestern: Mick McCall

The former Bowling Green offensive coordinator doesn't have the cachet of an Al Borges or the new car smell of a Seth Litrell, but he's been consistently good. He knows how to use his pieces well. From Mike Kafka and Tyrell Sutton to this past season's tag team of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, he's been able to have offenses that matriculate down the field. He gets a lot out of the pieces that qualify in Evanston.

Ohio State: Tom Herman/Ed Warriner

As tag-teams go? This one has a chance to become highly dangerous for years to come. Warriner's a marked upgrade over the comedic Jim Bollman on the offensive line. And Tom Herman's managed to get offense that put together a lot of yardage in places where it's hard to get talent in Rice and Iowa State. Ohio State has good offensive coordinators.

Penn State: Bill O'Brien

You know my theory that any NFL coach can find college success unless they're an idiot or an anachronism? Yeah. This one counts. Though the whole quarterback scenario is definitely a challenge for him going into 2013.

Purdue: John Shoop

You know my theory that any NFL coach can find college success unless they're an idiot or an anachronism? John Shoop is an idiot. He was marginal at best when he was at Chapel Hill. And Purdue just put a big roadblock to its existence as a college football team. It was a first-guess hire.

Wisconsin: Andy Ludwig

So where does that leave Andy Ludwig? He wasn't the Badgers' first choice. He has struggled in previous stops. And there are certain unanswered questions that remain (offensive line, wide receiver two). But that being said, as new offensive coordinators go, he's definitely the best of the new class.

Even if the Big Ten has better coordinators than I thought going in.

Am I damning with faint praise? Perhaps. But here's the thing. Ludwig's got a better chance than you think to become a well-regarded coordinator. Even if he's not there yet.

Rankings-wise:

  1. Tom Herriman/Ed Warner
  2. Bill O'Brien
  3. Al Borges
  4. Seth Litrell/Kevin Johns
  5. Tim Beck
  6. Matt Limegrover
  7. Mick McCall
  8. Andy Ludwig
  9. Bill Cubit
  10. Jim Bollman/David Warner
  11. Greg Davis
  12. John Shoop

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