Ranking the 2019 Pac-12 Offensive Coordinators
1. Mike Leach, Washington State
#33 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #7
2017 Beta_Rank: #81 2018 was a pretty magical year for the Cougs and it was a nearly complete reversal of 2017. As you can see from the 2017 ranking the Air Raid is not just plug and play. You need to have quality players who understand the scheme to make it work. A lot of the big jump is Gardner Minshew being an extension of Leach out on the field, but it's not like Luke Falk was some slouch. The offense struggled in 2017 for a lot of reasons; especially as new WR's learned the system, but in 2018 it all came together with the right signal caller to produce an excellent offense. Leach himself seems to have learned a bit from 2017 too.
2. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State
#69 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #62
2017 Beta_Rank: #14 (Washington) A big part of this ranking is how far the Beavers climbed under Smith in year one, but also how far Washington fell without him. The Beavers climbed from #98 to #62 and the Huskies fell from #14 to #49. It's not like the Huskies suddenly lost everyone in 2018 or that Smith walked into a treasure trove of talent in Corvallis. I watched the Beavs a few times last season, including in person and the Horseshoe, and the offense was drastically improved. A big part of it was the playcalling sequencing which probes the defense and sets them up for big plays. I am excited to see this offense in 2019 with super-sophomore Jermar Jefferson carrying the load.
3. Andy Ludwig, Utah
#29 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #12 (Vanderbilt)
2017 Beta_Rank: #35 (Vanderbilt) Full disclosure I did my graduate work at Vanderbilt and I happen to know how crazy difficult that job is. The Dores are a tiny private elite academic school competing against some SEC juggernauts that I might describe as athletic departments with junior colleges attached. Ludwig put together some very good offenses in Nashville and he returns to Utah with a hefty salary and a promise that the Utes are going to make a run at it this year. Ludwig should have the tools to make his system work in SLC this season and I expect the Utes to put together their best offensive season under Whittingham and end the revolving door of OC's.
4. Chip Kelly, UCLA
#39 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #47 People, including us, are still believers in Kelly, but he's definitely testing our faith. The offense regressed a little from Jedd Fisch's work in steadying the ship in 2017. Some of that is talent attrition, see Josh Rosen, but lots of other things were just weird. I am not going to argue that Devon Modster was the second coming of Troy Aikman, but he was pretty good in 2017 when he had to play. He was certainly good enough to make you question bringing in Wilton Speight. The Speight play made more sense if you were committed to Dorian Thompson-Robinson and didn't want to road block him behind Modster; except that wasn't at all how it played out. Thompson-Robinson played and played poorly with a short leash and mystifying play calling for a true freshman QB. They didn't run him enough to make the defense key on him and simplify his reads. Then, well into the season getting buried under a brutal schedule and an awful defense, they brought Speight back when he was healthy and Thompson-Robinson didn't see the field again; it was the perfect play your young guys season and UCLA didn't. There were some bright spots; the Bruins could run the ball pretty well, but you came away from the season thinking that Kelly needs his guys to be successful and that he can't tailor the offense to what he has on hand.
5. Rob Likens, Arizona State
#36 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #26 I was harsh on the Likens hire last season and I have reevaluated post 2018; somewhat. the ASU offense was far better than expected and finished to 2018 season just outside the top 25 in Beta_Rank. Likens was especially good at his running game calls behind a well coached offensive line by Dave Christiansen, but that same line struggled in pass protections and Manny Wilkins took some licks. Of the three new OC's in the South Likens certainly inherited the most talent and he didn't entirely waste it, BUT we really need to talk about some predictable playcalling. 4 verts is a great play, and is a staple of modern spread with roots in the Air Raid, but calling it nearly every time you need a 3rd down so you can try to throw it up to N'Keal Harry in tight single coverage is a bit predictable. The playcalling was particularly bad in the Stanford and Colorado games where Likens could not seem to find any kind of rhythm, against OK defenses NOT great defenses, and it cost the Sun Devils dearly in both games. He'll have to earn it this year with both Wilkins and Harry gone.
6. Bush Hamdan, Washington
#14 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #49 If I am not going to make Jimmy Lake the best defensive coordinator in the Pac-12 after one year's worth of data then I won't make Bush Hamdan the worst, but last year's Washington offense was bad; particularly given how they have recruited, performed in the past under Smith, and how much they returned in 2018. The Huskies were equally balanced and mediocre at rushing and passing, ranking #42 in Effective Rush and #49 in Effective Pass. The Huskies project to be a lot better than they were last season in 2019 and Hamdan is going to have to live up to it if he wants to keep playcalling duties. Husky fans should be circling 2020 for a run at the Playoff and Petersen should make a change if it isn't working this season. 7. Noel Mazzone, Arizona
#55 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #57
2017 Beta_Rank: #44 (Texas A&M) Mazzone has a long track record and he's had some truly excellent units at NC State, ASU, and UCLA. His stint at A&M was a little more middle of the road, but he didn't run out a bad offense; even when he had human tank/shot-putter Trevor Knight at QB. It is fair to say he struggled in the SEC and last season at Arizona. The Wildcats had sky high expectations following 2017, but so much more of that was built on Tate's legs than people realize (Arizona finished #5 in Effective Rush and #89 in Effective Pass). Mazzone brought more balance to the offense and improved Tate as a passer in 2018, but without Tate running, due to both injury and design, the offense was stagnant for long stretches. I expect the Wildcats to outperform their offensive prediction in 2019 with Tate being more comfortable in the system.
8. Tavita Pritchard, Stanford
#31 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #41 Are we grading Pritchard more harshly than Hamdan for a similar disappointing first season calling plays? Maybe, but Hamdan didn't have Bryce Love and produce the #109 ranked Effective Rush last season. The bright side is that the passing offense was special; ranking #9 in Effective Pass. Pritchard is blessed in that he returns the top QB in the conference this season, but he loses almost all the WR talent that made Costello's job somewhat easy last season. The Cardinal could be in a lot more 22 personnel instead of 11 personnel this season. Stanford projects to be better than last season even without Love and the WR's so if Pritchard can meet those projections he could grade out better next season.
9. Marcus Arroyo, Oregon
#19 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #64 Arroyo's offense really didn't work well last season in Eugene. Some of it was injuries and adjustments, and some of it was personnel issues. Outside of Dillon Mitchell the Ducks lacked playmakers at WR and the running game struggled with injuries on the OL. They project to be pretty good this season, but they could be thin on playmakers at WR again outside of Juwan Johnson the Penn State transfer. All that said, the Ducks have recruited well enough to potentially mix in young players judiciously and identify difference makers. Arroyo's playcalling keys off the run game so he needs to make that work to make Herbert's life easier.
10. Graham Harrell, USC
#11 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #66 (North Texas) #16 Group of 5
2017 Beta_Rank: #50 (North Texas) #23 Group of 5 Gluten-free Kliff Kingsbury just doesn't quite roll off the tongue, but it's very true. The Air Raid isn't new, but it's having it's overdue moment in the sun in the pro's and college. Harrell doesn't have anything like Kingsbury's playcalling chops; he graded out in the good, but not great range of the Group of 5. It's not that Harrell can't improve on last season's awful unit, but he has more to prove than the first guy they hired. The surprising part isn't that the Trojans are going Air Raid it's that they chose to stick with the offense after they lost the playcaller and just went out to hire Air Raid again.
11. Jay Johnson, Colorado
#11 Preseason Beta_Rank
2016 Beta_Rank: #92 (Minnesota)
2015 Beta_Rank: #103 (Lafayette) #44 Group of 5 I could be proven quite wrong here in season one because he'll have some very interesting tools on hand, but I was not enthusiastic about this hire. Johnson had the chance to learn some new tricks at Georgia, but I think Tucker could have done better with an open position. Johnson's offenses have never graded out particularly well. He runs a fairly balanced spread system that could work well, but I wonder if the Buffs can run the ball well enough to key up some of his playcall sequences. Like I said he'll probably have the most talent he's ever had this upcoming season so he has a chance to be rated better next season.
12. Beau Baldwin, Cal
#65 Preseason Beta_Rank
2018 Beta_Rank: #119
2017 Beta_Rank: #80 I always feel obligated to say that I liked the Baldwin hire when it went down, but it really isn't working. Baldwin has a rep as a smart coach running an innovative multiple system and I thought 2017 was a blip, but it turns out that things went even further south last season. The offense was simply terrible, one of the worst in college football. Just based on recruiting and returning production they project to make a HUGE leap in 2019. I think the projection could be a little rosy, but getting back to merely bad might put the Bears in line for 8-9 wins.