- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
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With three head coaching changes, it’s been a busy offseason for the conference so far. But lost amongst those big changes are the smaller ones, the assistant coaching coaching hires that can have a profound effect on a team’s success.
So, this edition of the #BigFridayFive looks beyond the head guys and takes a closer look at five of the most important assistant hires this offseason. Our five is listed below; let us know yours by using the hashtag #B1GFridayFive.
1. Nebraska OC/QB coach Danny Langsdorf
He spent last year coaching Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib with the New York Giants and was considered a bright coach with a bright NFL future. (Manning even threw for a career-high 63.1 percent completion rate.) So it was unexpected when he decided to ditch the NFL in favor of the NCAA -- and Giants coach Tom Coughlin sure wasn’t happy about it. Ultimately, Langsdorf couldn’t turn down a reunion with Mike Riley and a chance to call the plays. But he won’t have an easy task in Year 1 with the Cornhuskers because dual-threat QB Tommy Armstrong doesn’t fit his system. Still, Langsdorf is smart enough to make adjustments and he should serve as a more-than-capable upgrade.
2. Michigan DC/LB coach D.J. Durkin
Forget the fact he led Florida’s defense to back-to-back top-15 rankings as its coordinator. And forget that he even led the Gators to a bowl win as their interim head coach. Durkin is a rising star at just 37 years old and has a lot more left to accomplish. Not only does he provide the Wolverines a competent replacement for Greg Mattison, who’s now the defensive line coach, but he’s also renowned for his ability as a recruiter. He has won “Recruiter of the Year” awards and he’s just as intense as Jim Harbaugh.
3. Michigan OC/OL coach Tim Drevno
Surprised another Wolverine is on the list? Or that Drevno decided to move from sunny California to Michigan? You shouldn’t be -- on either count. Drevno spent last season as USC’s run game coordinator, but before that he was with Harbaugh dating back to 2004 at FCS San Diego. He and Harbaugh obviously boast a strong relationship, but Drevno has also built up an impressive résumé at every stop he’s been. At Idaho -- Idaho! -- he coached three offensive linemen into the NFL, he helped San Diego set school records in points scored, he teamed up to rebuild Stanford, and he sent several San Francisco 49ers linemen to the Pro Bowl. Michigan’s offensive line is in great hands here, and the offense obviously needs a lot of help. Drevno is the right man for the job.
4. Ohio State QB/Co-OC Tim Beck
No assistant coach in the nation will be more scrutinized than Beck this season. But with J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller, it shouldn’t be too hard to find success here. Beck obviously isn’t an upgrade over Tom Herman -- who could be? -- but he’s a good fit for the Buckeyes. Beck spent the last four seasons coaching Nebraska’s signal-callers, so he’s more than familiar with making the most out of dual-threat quarterbacks. Plus, Urban Meyer wanted someone who could recruit Texas -- and Beck spent six seasons coaching high school football there. It also doesn’t hurt that Beck has Ohio roots since he was born in Youngstown, or that he’s already familiar with the Big Ten.
5. Illinois Co-DC Mike Phair
OK, he wasn’t even the Fighting Illini’s first choice -- that would be Missouri DL coach Craig Kuligowski -- but he’s still a solid addition to a team that sorely needs a boost on defense. Phair has a lot of NFL experience and is coming off a season as the DL coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which saw its front four finish with 33 sacks. (He’s also coached for both the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks.) He doesn’t have much college experience, but there’s really nowhere for Illinois to go but up. The Illini had the worst defense in the Big Ten last season and ranked No. 109 nationally in total defense. Phair should improve that number.
310dAustin Ward, Mitch Sherman and Josh Moyer