15 Best Defensive Coordinators in College Football in 2024

Over the years, college football has taken its spot as one of the best sports young ones is enthusiastic about while in college. This is especially so if their goal is to become professional footballers and the best defensive coordinators in most college football when they are out of school.

College football involves the collective effort of the players, as well as the coaches who hone their skills and develop strategies to suppress their opponents.

With the head coach overseeing the general affairs of the teams and the players, we cannot overemphasize the need for a defensive coach. He is the one who manages the defensive players and develops a defensive game plan to sabotage the efforts of the opponent playing offense.

While the offensive coordinator will tell his players that the best defense is a good offense, the defensive coordinator makes it his duty to train for defense during practices and also call for defensive plays during games.

Let’s take a look at the best defensive coordinators in college football in 2024 in this article.

It is American football played by students from colleges or American universities. Students from various colleges form teams to compete against each other. It is the work of the coaches to recruit students who are top players from high school and have them join their teams.

The game involves both parents, alumni, faculties, students, fans of college football, and two teams each with 11 players competing against one another for the top four spots.

Each game of college football has a duration of 60-minutes divided into four quarters, 15 minutes each. There is a 20-minute break after the first two quarters. The coaches utilize this halftime break to discuss strategies with their team, and the players take the time to rehydrate before the start of the second half.

Not all students meet the requirement to join a college football team but those that are eligible are recruited by the coaches and form a team of offensive, defensive or special team players.

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Depending on what the defensive coordinator for a college football wants for the team, the defense schemes vary. The 4-3 defense involves 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers. This scheme is especially useful to guard against passing and running plays. The defensive linemen guard against any ploy to take the ball across the middle line while the 3 linebackers placed strategically in the backfield defend the runners.

If the defensive coordinator chooses to call a play of 3-4 defense, then he will use 3 players as the defensive linemen and then 4 others as the linebackers. The 3 defensive linemen are at the frontline against the offensive line while the 4 linebackers stay a little distance behind them.

With the 3-4 defense scheme allowing for great complexity in the game, and the 4-3 which affords the team a chance to pressurize the opposing attacking team, it is left to the defensive coordinator to choose which defense strategy is best for his team.

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The major role of the defensive coordinator in college football is to assist the head coach in managing the football team. Beyond assisting the head coach in the team management, we listed other roles of the defensive coordinator below.

1. The defensive coordinator coordinates the affairs of assistant coaches including the linebackers coach, cornerbacks coach, defensive line coach, and safeties coach.

2. He comes up with a game plan to play in the defense and calls for a defensive play during games. Before the games, he will study the approach the opposing team is likely to use during the game and then come up with a game plan that will work well against the opponent.

3. The defensive coach oversees the affairs of the defense unit, assigns roles to players, and helps them prepare better during practices. During the practice period, he plays tapes of the opponent’s games and points out areas to look out for.

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With defense plays being an important aspect in college football, then defensive coordinators should be too.

Look at the 15 best defensive coordinators in college football in 2024 ranked based on the success of the team and the defense strategies used, endurance, and accomplishment at other jobs outside the team.

1. Phil Parker, Iowa

In the game of football, continuity is key and that is what Phil Parker has gifted us with. He has been coaching Iowa Hawkeyes for over 10 years after taking over as the defensive coordinator in 2012.

Molding young players to form a strong unit of defense, Phil has done his work as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football since he stepped into the shoes of his predecessor. Despite losing three of his linebackers and defensive backfield to the NFL draft some years back, his Hawkeyes team is still a force to reckon with.

In 2011, he bagged a spot as a first-team member of the college football dream team. With Iowa earning 6 straight wins in the 2021 season and a West Division title to their name, Phil is set to take the team to the top spot in college football.

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2. Geoff Collins, Mississippi

When we talk of the top best defensive coordinators in college football, Geoff Collins should be reserved a special position.

He did a great job being the defensive coordinator for the Mississippi state unit which finished at top-20 for their defensive play making the Bulldogs snatch him up with a two-year extension for his contract.

Having coached as a defensive coach in college football for the majority of his career at the University of Florida and Mississippi state university, but now a head coach at the Georgia Tech, Geoff Collins is known for his numerous achievements as a defensive coordinator in college football.

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3. Nate Woody, Army

After coaching and coordinating for more than 30 years, Nate Woody has established himself as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football.

His longest stay was at Wofford where he was the defensive coordinator from 2000-2012. Over at Appalachian state, he coordinated the team to play defense 3 times in the Sun Belt Conference thereby earning a top 30 position in the NCAA division.

Leading the men on the Army team, the veteran defensive coordinator in college football has his work cut out for him. With his many achievements as being a defensive analyst at Michigan in 2019 and leading the Mountaineers to rank 15th in scoring defense on the FBS National ranking, Nate Woody is no doubt the man to watch in the match.

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4. Pete Golding, Alabama

In the game of defensive football, no one does it better than Pete Golding, one of the best defensive coordinators in college football so far.

Ever since inheriting a few linebackers starting with Nick Saban in 2018 and going through some rough patches in 2019, the Alabama team did not remain the same. Pete Golding was promoted to be the defensive coordinator for the Alabama college football team, leading the team to finish in the top 3 in the SEC in total defense.

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5. Brent Venerables, Clemson

Until he became a head coach, Brent held national titles and numerous awards. He holds the position as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football easily as the last two years saw some tough performances in the season but Brent wasn’t swayed.

With his havoc creation in football coming in form of tackles, interceptions, and passes, Brent has havoc ranging averaging 5.5 over the course of 4 seasons. He is known for strategic defense schemes which take the ball away from the opposing teams.

His arrival almost made them at Clemson break their bank but the golden question- was it worth it?  Totally worth it! He helped coach Clemson’s defense making them rank top 10 and on their way to making a top-5.

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6. Alex Grinch, USC

Oklahoma’s defense has not been the same since Alex Grinch started overseeing the affairs of its defense. He successfully transformed Oklahoma’s defense within the period of two years and became one of the best defensive coordinators in college football.

The Oklahoma defensive coordinator refused the offensive teams from earning points as under him, the Sooners went from conceding 33 points to as low as 22 points per game.

Presently with USC as a defensive coordinator, his defense scheme includes the defensive line attacking the gaps and creating opportunities for the linebackers to tackle. Alex Grinch is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football ever known.

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7. Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin

If delivering stunning defense is a thing, Jim Leonhard delivers it well, and everyone loves it. After having played in the National Football League for 10 seasons, this legend became the Wisconsin defensive back coach in 2016 and has been the defensive coordinator of the same team from 2017 till this moment.

His football stunts precede him as he is arguably one of the best defensive coordinators in college football in 2024. He exploits different defense tactics with a 2-4-5 scheme against teams coming in heavy on passes.

With his strategies, the Wisconsin team has ranked top 5 in defense rank, and the Badgers ranked third in scoring defense and improving the points and yards allowed per game.

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8. Micheal Elko, Duke

This 44-year-old legend has made his mark as a top defensive coordinator in college football stealing our hearts with the great work he did when he was at Texas A&M.

Aggie’s defense team improved while he was in charge. He also led the unit to rank second in passing defense. At Notre Dame, the veteran defensive coordinator improved their ranking and allowed an average of 369.2 yards for each game played.

The previous season saw him commanding the Aggies’ defense as a top 10 unit. Now the head coach at Duke, and with expertise in playing on both the offensive and defensive side of the game, Micheal Elko is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football in 2024.

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9. Dave Aranda, LSU

In his first season at Wisconsin, Dave led a defense that was ninth nationally in defensive F/+. He commanded a Utah State unit that placed No.9 in the nation in defensive F/+ the last two seasons.

The team under him at Hawaii returned as the No.32 S&P+ defense. On getting to Wisconsin, they got the No. 10, 29, and 7 with him as their defensive coordinator. He was one of the best defensive coordinators in college football the Wisconsin team has ever seen before going over to Baylor Bears to be the head coach.

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10. Manny Diaz, Penn State

Manny Diaz started his career at Florida State University placing him on the list of defensive coaches after working together with Mickey Andrews, a veteran defensive coordinator.

He has handled his losses and wins remarkably well. During his time at NC State, he made defensive calls at the Tangerine Bowl in 2003 to win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Before that, NC State was placed in the 14th position in total defense and 10th in scoring defense.

After building something special at Miami with the Hurricanes ranking high in defense categories, he led his team to finish with a 7-5 but was later fired. His fame as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football got him a spot at Penn State as a defensive coordinator in no time.

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11. Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame

One of the well-known names in Notre Dame is Marcus Freeman. With a history as a defensive coordinator and linebacker coach at Notre Dame, he is the best man for the job of head coach.

With the programs at LSU, Texas, Michigan, and Cincinnati vying for his attention, Freeman joined them at Cincinnati to rank their defense third in yards allowed per pass. His achievement was noticeable when they went 9-1 in the last season and the Bearcats were ranked 13th in total defense.

 In Notre Dame, spirits are high with hopes that he will continue with his winning streaks and run a great defense program.

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12. Justin Wilcox

The head football coach who is in his sixth season at Cal was a top defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, USC, and Wisconsin. His wins at the Wisconsin team include a ranking as the 9th in the AP top 25 and top 10 in defense categories.

Regardless of college football being one very competitive sport, Wilcox still led the Boise State team to a victory of 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl. He is no doubt one of the best defensive coordinators in college football in 2024.

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13. Brent Pry, Virginia Tech

Brent is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football and a force to reckon with in 2024. All the way from Penn State University, Brent took his 4-3 defense scheme over to Virginia Tech to bring back the winning tradition of the team.

He coached the Penn State defense to have an 11-2 record in 2019 and also led the Nittany Lions to the 2016 Big Ten Championship.

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14. Chris Marve, Virginia Tech

Marve spent the previous two seasons as Florida State’s linebacker coach and defensive run game coordinator before going over to Virginia Tech. He assisted the Seminoles last year to make notable improvements in their run defense.

In the previous season, he coached the Florida team to allow 147.6 running yards per game, which was a 51.6-yard increase over the 2020 record. Marve is one of the youngest defensive coordinators in the ACC and ranks as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football in 2024.

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15. Tim DeRuyter, Texas Tech

This defensive coordinator turned the defense in Cal around but that is just one of his numerous achievements as a defensive coordinator.

He extended his reach to the Falcons at Air Force taking them on a winning streak from the 78th position in total defense to the 11th ranking. Under his 3-4 defense scheme, Texas A&M recorded an improvement in their scoring defense.

While at Cal, he got a title as the best Linebacker coach of the year. He honed the few talents he has which included Evan Weaver leading the nation in tackle games.

Tim DeRuyter will hopefully take the Texas Tech team on a winning journey this 2024 with his spot reserved as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football.

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With Georgia easily topping the table as the best college football team in terms of defense, and Clemson coming stealthily behind, it is difficult to say which of the teams has the number one defense.

Behind a historically strong defense that produced eight picks in the NFL drafts with a record five in the first round, Georgia won its first national championship in 41 years.

A great defense can lead the team to titles and awards, and that seems to be the watchword for the Clemson Tigers as the defensive lines look promising for the coming season.

Other teams in the foremost position striving to earn the title as the number one defensive team in college football include Texas A&M, Iowa, NC State, and Penn State.

In college football, players typically wear protective gear while playing. They serve to protect the player’s body while participating in the game.

The equipment worn includes a helmet, shoulder pads, gloves, shoes, thigh and knee pads, a mouth guard, and compression shorts. Others such as neck rolls, elbow guards, hip guards, tailbone guards, and rib guards may be worn.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many players are there on each football team?

For each team, there are 11 players with a total of 22 players on the field at a time. The NFL allows a team size of 53 players to allow for adequate substitutions during the game.

How long is a game of football?

A football game, both in the NFL and college football, has a duration of 60-minutes. It is then divided into four quarters, each with a length of 15 minutes. Most times, they extend this 60 minutes duration due to time allowed for penalties, fouls, and others.

What is the difference between offensive and defensive play in college football?

An offensive play in football involves the team having the ball playing offense by trying to score points at the opponent’s end, while a defensive play involves the team trying to sabotage the efforts of the opposing team from scoring and getting custody of the ball.

How do you score in college football?

The ways to score in college football include touchdowns, which will earn a total of 6 points, field goals to give 3 points, two-point conversions, extra points, and safety.

Who has the best college football stadium?

The Ohio State Buckeyes have the best college football stadium.


With other defensive coordinators ranking high as top coaches and going ahead to become respected head coaches in various teams, these are our 15 best defensive coordinators in college football in 2024.

We hope it was worthwhile reading through and knowing more about the top defensive coordinators of all time.



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