Pick 6: Contenders hand offenses to 35-and-under assistants
Offensive coordinators wanted. Only limited experience required.
Power programs in recent years have been more willing to entrust their offenses to assistant coaches who were born during the Reagan administration, such as new Notre Dame offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford.
The 33-year-old will play a pivotal role on Brian Kelly's best team since he took over in South Bend, Indiana, six seasons ago.
Sanford is one of several 35-and-under offensive coordinators who could impact the College Football Playoff race this season - and soon be leading programs of their own.
1. Kendal Briles, 32, Baylor. Like most of the coaches on this list, Briles first made his name as ace recruiter. This season he will be calling plays for his father, Art. He made his debut as a play caller in last season's Cotton Bowl. Baylor lost 42-41, but passed for 583 yards against Michigan State.
2. Sonny Cumbie, 34, TCU. The former Texas Tech quarterback for now-Washington State coach Mike Leach is now a coach on rise. In one season, Cumbie and co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham installed a no-huddle spread and transformed TCU into one of the most prolific offensive teams in the country.
3. Rhett Lashlee, 32, Auburn. Lashlee played quarterback for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn in high school and has been working for Malzahn for eight of the last 11 seasons. It probably won't be much longer before Lashlee is running his version of the up-tempo spread offense as an FBS head coach.
4. Lincoln Riley, 31, Oklahoma. Bob Stoops hired Riley away from East Carolina after last season in a move that in some ways turns back the clock for the Sooners. Riley played and coached for Leach, who was Stoops' first offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.
5. Jeff Scott, 34, and Tony Elliott, 35, Clemson. When Chad Morris left the Tigers to become SMU's head coach, Dabo Swinney decided continuity was the key and promoted Scott and Elliott to lead the offense. Scott is also the wide receivers coach and Elliott coaches the running backs.
6. Jake Spavital, 30, Texas A&M. Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin went from one young gun offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (Kliff Kingsbury) to another in Spavital. Texas A&M has plenty of talent at quarterback in sophomore Kyle Allen and freshman Kyler Murray. If they go from five-stars to first-round draft picks, Spavital's stock will soar.