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Five Big Ten defensive coaches who should be future head coaches

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The influx of offensive coaching talent this offseason in the Big Ten creates new challenges around the league on the defensive side of the football. Across the conference, expect headaches in the defensive meeting rooms.

But a group of defensive coordinators match the offensive guys with their skill. Here’s a look at five defensive coaches in the Big Ten who appear equipped to make the jump to the top level of their profession.

Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda: Spend 10 minutes in the company of the Badgers’ third-year assistant and you’ll get a sense of the vibe that separates the 38-year-old from his peers. The confident Californian arrived in Madison after coordinator stops at Hawaii and Utah State. And over the past two seasons, his defensive units have allowed less than 300 yards per game. As inside linebackers coach as well, Aranda has already mentored all-league choices Chris Borland and Derek Landisch at Wisconsin.

Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop: Shoop got his shot as a head coach at Columbia in 2003, and it didn’t work out in the Ivy League. He was fired after three seasons but has since rebuilt his resume as a coordinator, shining over the past four seasons under James Franklin at Vanderbilt and PSU. The Nittany Lions’ 2014 defense ranked as the second best at the school in yardage allowed since 1990. LSU pursued the 48-year-old Shoop in January to coordinate its defense. Instead, he signed a lucrative extension at Penn State. Suitors will continue to call.

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash: Who noticed the improvement last season of OSU safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell? Surely, a good number of athletic directors, a few of whom may have added the 41-year-old Ash to their short list of coaches to watch. The Buckeyes, in Ash's first season after jumping from Arkansas, moved from 112th nationally in pass defense to 29th and ranked fourth with 24 interceptions. Ash, who coaches the safeties, played at Drake and coached at Iowa State, San Diego State and Wisconsin before his 2013 stopover in the SEC.

Michigan State co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett: The architect of the Spartans’ famed “No Fly Zone,” Barnett moved to a coordinator spot after Pat Narduzzi’s recent departure to become the head coach at Pitt. The MSU defense remains in good hands, with assistance from co-coordinator Mike Tressel. Barnett, 48, is the veteran of the duo, coaching under Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati and since 2007 at MSU. He has tutored the likes of Darqueze Dennard, Trae Waynes and Kurtis Drummond in East Lansing. Barnett played seven years in the NFL and got his start in coaching at LSU in 2003.

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin: He got a taste of the top job at Florida as interim coach for the Gators’ win in the Birmingham Bowl in January. And it likely won’t Durkin's last head-coaching experience. Despite Florida’s struggles under Will Muschamp, Durkin’s defense, in two years as coordinator, finished twice among the top 15 nationally in yardage allowed. The 37-year-old Ohio native rejoins Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor after their three seasons together at Stanford, during which time Durkin coached the Cardinal’s productive group of defensive ends. He rose quickly from linebackers coach at Florida. Expect the ascension to continue.