New head coach Jonathan Smith has quickly put together a top-notch staff. By top-notch, I mean keeping the best position coach (wide receivers coach Courtney Hawkins) while replacing everyone else. It has been announced that he is bringing his offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren with him, but his defensive coordinator, Trent Bray, has been named head coach of Oregon State.
The fact that a new defensive coordinator has not been named could have implications that they are trying to get someone who played in a conference title game (Iowa defensive coordinator and MSU alum Phil Parker) or could just be thoroughly vetting other candidates.
Here are three names to look for in the next few days.
1. Jim Leonhard
Many people thought Jim Leonhard would get the Wisconsin head coaching job after Paul Chryst was fired in October of last year. He was named interim head coach and won 4-of-7 games to finish the season.
While Luke Fickell ultimately got the job, everyone was sure Leonhard would get a coordinator job at another Power Five school. He was a Broyles Award finalist, had the top defensive in the Big Ten in 2017, and never finished lower than fifth while being the full-time defensive coordinator.
When he wasn’t retained at Wisconsin, he became a senior football analyst at Illinois.
He was born and raised in Wisconsin, played there, coached there, and has recruited well in the Midwest, something Smith needs from his staff. He played in the NFL up until 2014 so he still has some ties in the pros as well. If Smith needs a reference, he just needs to ask his good friend Paul Chryst, who was Smith’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when he was playing at Oregon State.
The connection is there, Smith just needs to make the call.