4 Minnesota Gophers Defensive Coordinator Candidates to Replace Joe Rossi

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Per Matt:

Top Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive coordinator candidates​

Joe Klanderman, Kansas State defensive coordinator​

Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Recruiting means ties to a region matter. Fleck doesn’t just have to look for a defensive coordinator who can be a respected voice in the locker room, mentor young athletes and orchestrate a good defense, he’d also like someone who knows the region. Look no further than Joe Klanderman.

While the Kansas State Wildcats defensive coordinator was born in Wisconsin, he played defensive line at Minnesota State (1997-2001). After finishing his playing career, Klanderman’s leadership and defensive intellect was so well-respected that Minnesota State immediately made him its defensive line coach after his playing days were over. He was later promoted to defensive backs coach, before coaching linebackers and serving as the Mavericks’ defensive coordinator (2007-’13).
  • Kansas State Wildcats defense 2023: 55.91% completion rate allowed, 28.67% third-down conversion rate allowed, 2.0 takeaways per game, 121.0 QB rating allowed
While Klanderman’s defense ranked outside the top 80 in total yardage allowed, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Kansas State had one of the best pass defenses in college football and this unit was phenomenal on third downs. Klanderman’s ties to Minnesota could entice him to take the Gophers’ job, if Fleck decides that he’s a good fit.

Corey Hetherman, Rutgers linebackers co​

With Joe Harasymiak staying at Rutgers. If that happens, Fleck could pursue an alternative that would have a huge endorsement from Harasymiak. Scarlet Knights linebackers coach Corey Hetherman joined the program in 2022, hand-picked by Harasymiak to develop Rutgers’ linebackers. Before that, Hetherman was the defensive play-caller at James Madison (2019-’21).

  • Rutgers Scarlet Knights defense 2023: 332.5 total ypg allowed (28th), 5.0 yards per play allowed (30th), 22.6 points per game allowed (32nd), 40.54% third-down conversion rate allowed (82nd)
James Madison finished all three seasons with Hetherman as a top-10 scoring defense in the nation. Not only did the Dukes lead the country in turnovers (31) in 2021, but they also held opponents under 90 rushing yards per game with a third-down defense (27.2% conversion rate) that was one of the best marks in college football. Heterman enjoyed similar success as Maine’s defensive coordinator.

Leadership is obviously another factor Fleck is considering during his search. Hetherman offers that trait, serving as associate head coach at James Madison where he worked under Curt Cignetti, one of the most well-respected head coaches in the Group of Five. Minnesota would be the next step up in Hetherman’s career and he could also help the Golden Gophers’ defense take a step forward in 2024.

Geoff Collins, former Georgia Tech head coach​

When searching for a defensive coordinator, one of the best avenues for a program to take is pursuing former head coaches. Zach Arnett was one of the options we considered for Gophers defensive coordinator candidates, but he might take a year off after being fired by Mississippi State. Instead, our focus shifts to Geoff Collins.

There’s no getting around the fact that Collins wasn’t cut out to be a head coach. He had two opportunities at Temple and Georgia Tech, but finished with a 25-38 record. However, Collins’ track record as a defensive coordinator, including outstanding stints in the SEC, speaks volumes about his mind for the game.

Greg Gasparato, Troy Trojans defensive coordinator​


When Jon Sumrall left the Troy Trojans to become Tulane’s head coach, defensive coordinator Greg Gasparato was named interim coach for the bowl game. A program turning to its defensive coordinator during a time of uncertainty speaks to Gasparato’s leadership. Now, let’s focus on the football side of things.
  • Troy Trojans defense 2023: 312.2 total ypg allowed (14th), 4.6 yards per play allowed (11th), 16.1 points per game allowed (6th), 32.53% third-down conversion rate (21st)
Name the statistic, Troy’s defense was one of the best in college football this fall under Gasparato. It didn’t rely on takeaways to slow down opponents and consistently keep them off the field. Troy ranked seventh in punts per offensive score (1.8), better than the Georgia Bulldogs and Texas Longhorns. It had the 12th-best scoring defense in the second half of games and had a top-25 defense in the red zone.

With Troy already naming its head coach for 2024, Gasparato will be looking for another opportunity to prove himself as a defensive play-caller. He’s also experienced, working with safeties and linebackers at Louisville (2021-’22) and serving as Army’s co-defensive coordinator in 2020. If the Rutgers connections don’t pan out for Fleck, Gasparato would be a sneaky option for Minnesota.


Go Gophers!!
 




He might already be out of the Goph’s price range (as he just became DC of the Cardinals). But he’s only 29! And he can coach LBs great. How about former Gopher LB Nick Rallis?
 
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The Gophers are going to spend money they don't have a lot of if they want an experienced DC with notoriety.
 

The Gophers are going to spend money they don't have a lot of if they want an experienced DC with notoriety.
I bet he'll go to his yearly offseason coaching symposium and come back with a complete unknown who many will be absolutely pissed about (it doesn't matter who he hires, actually, this will be the response from a third of the board), and the rest of us will be meh or cautiously optimistic depending on the dude's resume. I'd love to be wrong and it be a big hit, but you're right. We likely can't afford a top tier dude.
 



And then it will be none of them. Smokescreen.

What would I know, they all sound qualified.
 

The choices listed are intriguing. There doesn’t seem to be a bad one listed there, I’d hope they go outside for the hire as new blood is needed here (that’s my personal opinion). Winston I like but he’s not ready.
 

I think he should try to get a guy with ties to the Midwest for the simple fact that these Eastern guys seem to like to move eastward when they can. Continuity PJ, continuity.
 

The Gophers are going to spend money they don't have a lot of if they want an experienced DC with notoriety.
Yes they do. Fleck pays assistants and arranges all the salaries from his own budget. He will do whatever he needs to do. Not “the Gophers”.
 



He might already be out of the Goph’s price range (as he just became DC of the Cardinals). But he’s only 29! And he can coach LBs great. How about former Gopher LB Nick Rallis?
NFL coordinators next move is to become an NFL coach.
 


Lots of firings starting to happen. LSU has fired their DC and other defensive staff. Chizik parting ways with North Carolina.
Both those kinda uh ... bad so I wouldn't think there is much in the way of folks to pick up for us.

But then again coaches do better sometimes.
 

Both those kinda uh ... bad so I wouldn't think there is much in the way of folks to pick up for us.

But then again coaches do better sometimes.
Both would possibly have Robb Smith type vibes based on their 2023 performances.
 




They missed my friend Dylan. He had support in another thread. I bet he’d do it $250k. Good guy. Coaches part time at a ninja gym so you know he is physically prepared and connected to today’s youth.
 

They missed my friend Dylan. He had support in another thread. I bet he’d do it $250k. Good guy. Coaches part time at a ninja gym so you know he is physically prepared and connected to today’s youth.
Dylan, the traffic guy from KFAN??? Dude has energy.
 

Klanderman is a local guy...played HS at St Croix Central.
 


I'd do it for free. And I would bet my life we would've beaten NW and Illinois if any one of us had been coordinator. 🤣🤣🤣
 

I always think of Dylan's voice as...

"I'm Dylan and I do the traffic while taking a deuce."
He seems to LOVE his job...which is great.
 



Both would possibly have Robb Smith type vibes based on their 2023 performances.

If we're basing on 2023, Rossi had some of the worst vibes in the country. I wouldn't place judgement on just one year.
 

If we're basing on 2023, Rossi had some of the worst vibes in the country. I wouldn't place judgement on just one year.
I agree, but I can at least know that our LB group was a mess all year not knowing if $45 was going to play week to week.
 




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