Jim Knowles, Ohio State DC
Another piece of the Kirby Smart hiring at Georgia was that the Bulldogs were smart enough to poach a great coach from a more successful rival. Alabama was dominating the SEC and the country at the time, similar to how Ohio State has controlled the Big Ten.
Jim Knowles hasn’t been around for all of that dominance in Columbus, but he’s taken their defense to a new level. Tommy Rees was lacking the seasoning, but that’s not an issue for the 58-year-old Knowles who was the head coach at Cornell in 2004 when Rees was just 12.
Last season, was Knowles first as the defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes and Ohio State was too susceptible to deep plays because of his aggressiveness. This year, Knowles has shown that even as a veteran coach, he can adapt to modern football.
His defense is still getting pressure, but he’s learned how to commit fewer resources to the pass rush and still disrupt the opposing quarterback. Ohio State is at No. 1 in the country because of his defense, not Ryan Day’s offense.