At most schools, an open coordinator position wouldn't be cause for serious contemplation. Coordinators come and go, in most circumstances. Iowa football isn't most schools, though; the program hasn't hired a new coordinator in thirteen years, and a full-on head coaching search looks to be years away. Defensive Coordinator LET'S TALK ABOUT IT.
A former Iowa linebacker and team captain who worked on the staffs of both Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz, has a decade of experience coaching every conceivable defensive position for some heavyweight coaches, is currently working as a defensive coordinator at a mid-major, and is clearly upwardly mobile. William Inge checks the boxes as well as any other candidate.
You might remember him as Bill Ennis-Inge, a monster defensive end that Hayden Fry plucked out of St. Louis in the mid-90's. In two years as a starter, Inge racked up some staggering statistics: 150 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 22 sacks. He was a team captain in 1996, and an honorable mention all-Big Ten and academic all-conference selection. After a brief, largely unsuccessful stint in the pros, Inge returned to Iowa City as the recruiting coordinator for Fry's final season. When Fry retired, Inge remained in the same position on Ferentz's first staff, and was instrumental in signing the classes that eventually won Ferentz two Big Ten championships. Inge wasn't there to see the fruits of his labor; he left in 2001 to become linebacker and defensive line coach for Mark Farley at Northern Iowa, earning a promotion to co-coordinator in 2004. In 2005, Inge left UNI for Colorado, acting as defensive line coach in Gary Barnett's final season with the Buffaloes. When Barnett was fired, Inge signed on with Chuck Long at San Diego State as linebackers coach. Two years later, he was off to coach linebackers for Brian Kelly at Cincinnati. In his two seasons at Cincinnati, the Bearcats went 23-2 and won two Big East championships. Kelly cashed in with an offer from Notre Dame; his top assistant, offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn, became the head coach at Buffalo. Quinn took Inge with him, making him the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Inge's results at Buffalo have been slightly suspect. The Bulls have gone just 5-19 over the last two years, but that has been largely due to offensive ineptitude. Inge's first defense finished fifth in the conference in total defense, eighth in scoring defense, second in passing defense, and seventh in rushing defense. The Bulls finished this season with almost identical rankings: Sixth in total defense, eighth in scoring, though their actual yardage statistics were comparable to Iowa's numbers (and in the MAC, where half the teams were playing ridiculous offensive football). Quinn's seat -- and, by virtue of being Quinn's guy, Inge's seat -- is beginning to heat up, even though Buffalo has virtually no history of success.
The record at Buffalo does beg the question, though: Is his track record good enough? Inge was on the Chuck Long staff at San Diego State that finished with the only 10-loss season in school history. He was on the final Gary Barnett staff at Colorado, the one that lost 70-3 to Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game after losing its last three regular season games. There's Buffalo, with three wins over FBS competition in his two seasons as defensive coordinator. And even at his one significant success as an FBS assistant, Cincinnati, the defense floundered: Fourth in the Big East in total defense in 2008, dead last in 2009. Blaming a position coach for the problems of an entire defense is probably unfair, but there aren't many other metrics available. Inge hasn't been with any FBS program longer than two years, so any examination of player development or recruiting acumen is suspect at best. We're left with his success as a recruiting coordinator at Iowa, his work at UNI, and the fact that a number of name brand coaches have tapped him as a part of their defensive staffs. Is what was good enough for Gary Barnett or
Chip Brian Kelly (though not good enough to follow Kelly to Notre Dame, apparently, as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach job went to another former Hawkeye, Bob Diaco) good enough for Kirk Ferentz?
The Inge rumor percolated on the message boards for a few weeks, then boiled to the surface after a post-bowl trip to the northeast (we have it on good authority that was a recruiting trip to check in on Tevaun Smith, by the way). The fact is that, while Inge checks the boxes, he doesn't yet have the track record to justify the promotion. If the writing is on the wall at Buffalo, Inge would be a coup as a position coach; he's coached every position on defense, he's recruited in every region, and he's an impressive man. This isn't about position coaches, though; it's about defensive coordinator, and as of right now, William Inge would be a reach.