Mountain West Football: Examining The Conference's 2023 Coordinator Hires

Mountain West Football: Examining The Conference's 2023 Coordinator Hires

Boise State

Mountain West Football: Examining The Conference's 2023 Coordinator Hires


Mountain West Football: Examining The Conference’s 2023 Coordinator Hires

Mountain West football will have seven new coordinators for the 2023 season. Here’s what to know about each of the new (and, in some cases, returning) hires.

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New faces in new spaces.

Boise State

Dirk Koetter ended up being the right man at the right time for the Broncos, helping to engineer the team’s turnaround through conference play and earning our nod as the Mountain West’s top assistant in the process. He made clear, however, that the arrangement would exist only for the short-term, so the team turned to Bush Hamdan as Koetter’s replacement.

Hamdan, of course, has a strong connection to the program as he played quarterback for the Broncos from 2004 to 2008. After season-long stints at Colorado, Maryland, Sacramento State, and Florida, he got his first chance to be a coordinator at Arkansas State in 2013, sharing those duties with Eliah Drinkwitz under Bryan Harsin. That year, Red Wolves quarterback Adam Kennedy replaced record-setter Ryan Aplin and earned an all-Sun Belt honorable mention after leading the conference with a 69.1% completion rate, but ASU’s offensive SP+ ranking fell from 42nd to 100th that year.

When Harsin left Jonesboro for Boise State in 2014, Hamdan moved on to FCS Davidson. The Wildcats struggled to a 1-11 record that season, but you can really only pin so much of that on Hamdan, who served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. His unit averaged 4.78 yards per play and averaged 23.3 point per game but were largely undone by 26 giveaways. From there, Hamdan jumped to Seattle to work with Chris Petersen at Washington, first as an offensive quality control assistant and then as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator during the Huskies’ run to the College Football Playoff in 2016.

He then spent one year as a quarterbacks coach with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, working with Matt Ryan in what would prove to be his last playoff campaign with the team, before returning to Washington in 2018. While he would guide Jake Browning to the program’s all-time passing yards record in his first season back, he would eventually come up against criticism for his playcalling while the Huskies fell from 8th in offensive SP+ to 34th and then 24th in 2019, prompting his dismissal at the end of the year.

However, Drinkwitz brought him on board at Missouri before the 2020 season and Hamdan played a role as quarterbacks/wide receivers coach in perking up a Tigers offense which had scuffled the previous year. Missouri improved from 1.88 points per drive to 2.26 and from 43.8% of available yards earned per drive to 49.5% during his first year in Columbia, held on to most of those gains in 2021, but struggled again last fall before Hamdan assumed playcalling duties in the second half of the season. As a result, quarterback Brady Cook completed 65.2% of his throws and had seven touchdowns with zero interceptions in four November games. The Tigers finished 74th by offensive SP+.

Fresno State

Coincidentally enough, Eliah Drinkwitz dipped into the Mountain West to replace Hamdan by hiring Kirby Moore as offensive coordinator in early January. The Bulldogs had previously promoted Moore from within to replace Ryan Grubb, who left in 2021 to follow Kalen DeBoer to Washington, and did so again to replace Moore with Pat McCann.

This isn’t McCann’s first stint as a coordinator, though. A graduate of Western Washington, he got his start in the coaching world at Massachusetts’s Stonehill College, where he began as a wide receivers coach and video coordinator in 2009 before getting elevated to offensive coordinator in 2011. He spent two years in that position before UC Davis brought him on as a wide receivers coach in 2013, where Tom Hemmingsen would earn an all-Big Sky honorable mention after missing the previous season with injury. Ramos Vargas and Chris Martin did the same in 2014 and 2015, respectively, then Keelan Doss got selected as a second-team pass catcher before McCann jumped to Northern Iowa in 2017.

At UNI, Daurice Fountain became a first-team all-Missouri Valley selection in McCann’s first year while the Panthers as a team made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs in both seasons he was there. Eastern Washington brought him on to coach their wide receivers in 2019, and it was that work which almost certainly caught Jeff Tedford’s attention. He became the Eagles’ passing game coordinator in 2020 and, in the FCS season the following spring, quarterback Eric Barriere would finish as the Walter Payton Award runner-up after throwing for 348 yards per game with 19 touchdowns in just seven games.

McCann then spent 2021 as EWU’s interim offensive coordinator, while Barriere opened that season by leading an upset over UNLV. He’d eventually win the Walter Payton Award outright and finish his career with program and Big Sky records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. After that, McCann arrived in Fresno as the Bulldogs’ wide receiver coach, where Jalen Moreno-Cropper, Nikko Remigio, and Zane Pope became the first trio of Fresno State wide receivers with 50 catches in the same season since 2013.

New Mexico

The Lobos offense struggled mightily in 2022, but Danny Gonzales landed a savvy offensive coordinator in Bryant Vincent. A graduate of West Alabama, Vincent got his start in the coaching world as a student assistant for the Tigers in 1996 before building his resume as a high school coach throughout Alabama until 2011, when South Alabama brought him on board for their young football program.

He spent three in Mobile, first as a tight ends coach and then as quarterbacks coach. Quarterback Ross Matheny led the Sun Belt Conference in yards of total offense per game in 2013 and set numerous program records during his two years as a starter, but the unit’s offensive SP+ performance also improved from 123rd to 85th. That served as a springboard toward his first offensive coordinator post at UAB in 2014, though that was short lived as the program shut down in December that year.

South Alabama welcomed him back for the next three seasons, though, where he served as associate head coach, co-OC, and quarterbacks coach under Joey Jones. In that second stint, another USA quarterback, Dallas Davis, paced the Sun Belt in total offense per game in 2016 while the program reached its second bowl game ever and managed its second-best finish by points per drive and third-best available yards percentage per drive average that same year. By offensive SP+, the Jaguars improved from 97th to 90th before falling back to 123rd in 2017.

That didn’t dissuade Bill Clark from bringing Vincent back to UAB, however, as he was named quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in 2018. In his first season back with the Blazers, the team won a program-record 11 games while setting a then-highwater mark of 2.34 points per drive. That team also finished 108th by offensive SP+ and took a step back to 118th in 2019 before surging forward to 92nd and 48th.

In 2022, though, Vincent got his first chance to be an FBS head coach when Clark stepped aside because of health concerns. He led the Blazers to a 7-6 record while five different Blazers earned a spot on the all-Conference USA first-team roster. Running back Dewayne McBride finished second in the country with 1,713 rushing yards, as well, while quarterback Dylan Hopkins (who followed Vincent to Albuquerque) finished second among CUSA signal-callers in overall passer rating.

On defense, Gonzales decided to promote from within to replace Rocky Long, who left for Syracuse. Troy Reffett has an extensive resume which began as a graduate assistant at UTEP in 1990, after previously playing for the Miners. He wouldn’t get his first crack as a defensive coordinator until 2002, but the Miners would struggle to just two wins in each of his two seasons at the helm while allowing roughly 40 points per game. However, it’s worth noting that opponents completed under 57% of their throws and his unit managed at least 1.5 takeaways per game in both campaigns.

He joined Long in New Mexico as a cornerbacks coach in 2004 and later got promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008, when had a big hand in helping two defensive backs, Glover Quin and DeAndre Wright, get selected in the following year’s NFL Draft. Though the Lobos went just 4-8 in 2008, Reffett’s defense ranked in the top 50 nationally by points per drive allowed, available yards percentage allowed per drive, and defensive SP+. Long would depart the program before the 2009 season, though, at which point Reffett became the defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Monroe.

Reffett would hold that post for six seasons, helping revitalize a Warhawks defense which had ranked 116th out of 120 FBS teams by defensive SP+ before his arrival. They would improve to 97th in his first season and he would guide Cardia Jackson to the Sun Belt Conference’s defensive player of the year award, and later peaked at 76th in 2011 and 73rd in 2014. In terms of points per drive and available yards per drive allowed, the Warhawks have not come close to replicating Reffett’s success since his departure after that latter season.

After a one-year stint at Memphis, Reffett got his next coordinator posting at North Texas in 2016 and again engineered a strong turnaround. The Mean Green had ranked 118th by defensive SP+ the year before, but they improved for three straight years and rose as high as 78th in 2018. He’d make a return to New Mexico in 2020 as Gonzales’s cornerbacks coach and help navigate a difficult situation, though it wouldn’t be until 2021 that the Lobos ranked second in the Mountain West by completion rate allowed.



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