Jeremy Pruitt had Goliath-sized shoes to fill when he replaced longtime defensive coordinator Kirby Smart at Alabama last year.
While the then-41-year-old had a stacked résumé that included two years as the nation's highest-paid assistant coach ($1.3 million) at Georgia, one year as defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at Florida State during their national championship season in 2013 and three years as Nick Saban's defensive backs coach, he was still entering uncharted territory.
Not only did Pruitt keep the gold standard of defenses firing on all cylinders despite losing four players in the 2016 NFL Draft, he engineered a dominating season. The Tide ranked first nationally in yards (248) and points allowed per game (11.8) and allowed 33 fewer rushing yards per game (63.4) than the next best team.
The Pruitt hiring felt right from the beginning. It was a home run hire on Dec. 11, 2015, and it remains a home run hire. Who's next? Which head coaches nailed their coordinator hires this offseason?
Here are the top five coordinator hires in the FBS, ranked.
5. Brian Daboll – Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
Nick Saban opted for an old friend in replacing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who held the title all of five weeks before bolting for the same position with the Atlanta Falcons.
Saban tapped Brian Daboll, the New England Patriots' 42-year-old tight ends coach whose college coaching experience includes just one year as a volunteer at William and Mary and two years as a graduate assistant for Saban at Michigan State.
At this point, the only thing that can end Alabama's dynasty is internal disruption. Daboll provides a seamless transition from Lane Kiffin.
4. Jim Leavitt – Defensive Coordinator, Oregon
In 2014, Colorado's defense yielded 461 yards and 39 points per game. They won two games. In 2015, Jim Leavitt's first season at defensive coordinator, the Buffs gave up 417 yards and 27.5 points per game. They won four games. Last year, Colorado allowed only 328 yards and 20.5 points per game. They won 10 games and had four defensive players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
First-year Oregon head coach Willie Taggart stole Leavitt from Colorado in a move that instantly improved a miserable Oregon unit that ranked 126th nationally in yards and points allowed per game.
3. Doug Meacham – Offensive Coordinator, Kansas
Though the losses have piled up for David Beaty in two seasons as head coach (22), the man tasked with cleaning up after Charlie Weis' dumpster fire has also turned some heads, most recently by luring Doug Meacham away from the comforts of TCU to a program that's won 14 games since 2010.
After leading powerful offenses at Houston and TCU, the 52-year-old Meacham was convinced by Beaty to revamp a KU offense that's ranked 113th or worse nationally the last five seasons.
2. Kevin Wilson – Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State
After the 31-0 Fiesta Bowl debacle, Urban Meyer wasted no time in changing his offense. Co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner voluntarily left — or whatever you want to believe — and Meyer quickly scooped up Kevin Wilson after his dismissal from Indiana.
Wilson never won more than six games at Indiana but he did have respectable offenses, finishing 14th nationally in yards per game in 2015. He was a highly sought-after coordinator at Oklahoma from 2002-10 and won the Broyles Award as the nation's top coordinator in 2008.
1. Mike Elko – Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame
After hiring Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko to the same position at Notre Dame, head coach Brian Kelly said his new coordinator leads defenses that "keep the points down, negate big plays, create negative plays."
Yep, there's no other way to describe Elko's defenses at Wake Forest (2014-16) and Bowling Green (2009-13). In 2016, the Deamon Deacons ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense (20th), sacks (12th), turnovers forced (10th) and fumbles recovered (third).
Meanwhile, the Irish ranked 62nd in scoring defense, 118th in sacks, 104th in turnovers forced and 94th in fumbles recovered.