- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The silly season isn't quite over, as several Big Ten coaching vacancies (including at incoming member Rutgers) have yet to be filled. But several teams recently made important coordinator hires to bolster units for the 2014 season.
We saw in 2013 how much a good coordinator can impact a unit, as Illinois' offense surged under the direction of Bill Cubit, improving from 119th nationally to 46th. Other coordinator hires haven't worked out so well.
Today's poll question asks: Which Big Ten coordinator hire will be the most important going forward?
Here are the options ...
Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash: The team has yet to officially announce Ash's hiring, but he is headed to Columbus after spending four seasons on Bret Bielema's staffs at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. Ash will be a co-coordinator at Ohio State and coach defensive backs, but he'll likely be the primary defensive play-caller, a role he held at both Arkansas and Wisconsin. Ohio State's defense struggled at times in 2013, particularly against the pass, an area Ash will be tasked with shoring up.
Penn State offensive coordinator John Donovan: Donovan also hasn't been officially announced, but as his Twitter page confirms, he went with head coach James Franklin from Vanderbilt to Penn State. He spent the past three seasons as Vanderbilt's offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Donovan takes over a unit that performed well under previous coach Bill O'Brien and boasts reigning Big Ten freshman of the year Christian Hackenberg at quarterback. The Lions lose top wide receiver Allen Robinson but bring back several talented tight ends and running backs. Donovan and his staff must continue to develop Hackenberg and keep the unit on the right track.
Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr: No coach on this list has a bigger challenge than Knorr, who must bolster a defense that has struggled for the better part of two decades. The former Ohio head coach and Wake Forest defensive coordinator inherits a unit that returns 10 starters but finished 114th nationally or worse in the four major categories (total defense, scoring defense, rush defense and pass defense). Indiana doesn't need its defense to become nationally elite overnight, but some improvement is needed to get the Hoosiers back to bowl games.
Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier: After two seasons as Alabama's offensive coordinator, Nussmeier takes over a Michigan offense that went through a wildly inconsistent 2013 season, setting records for both production and futility. The Wolverines struggled up front and couldn't generate an inside run game, so the ground game will be a priority for Nussmeier. He also must design a system to best feature dual-threat quarterback Devin Gardner, who put up monster numbers in several games last season but also struggled with turnovers early and accuracy late.
4dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer