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February 16, 2010

Tenuta among top position-coach hires

Something has been missing for N.C. State under Tom O'Brien.

In three seasons under O'Brien, the Wolfpack have yet to post a winning record and have just one bowl appearance. A big reason for the struggles: defense.

The units have been average, at best. Last season, N.C. State ranked No. 8 in the ACC in total defense (361.3 ypg). In 2008, the Wolfpack had the worst defense in the league (390.9 ypg). In 2007, the unit ranked No. 11 (393.9 ypg).

Enter Jon Tenuta.

Tenuta won't be the defensive coordinator; that job belongs to Mike Archer. But you can bet Tenuta, who will coach linebackers, will have a major impact on N.C. State's defense.

"He is a longtime friend and will help us," O'Brien said.

Tenuta has coordinated defenses at Notre Dame (2008-09), Georgia Tech (2002-07), North Carolina (2001), Ohio State (2000), SMU (1990-94), Kansas State (1988) and Marshall (1987). He is known for having aggressive, attacking units. That edgy attitude and style could translate into a more opportunistic defense.

Tenuta was one of many assistants who changed jobs this offseason. Most schools already have their staffs in place, but some continue to be in flux as assistants leave for other posts in the college ranks or NFL.

Now that the coaching carousel has slowed down, following is a look at the best position-coach hires of the offseason. This does not include assistants who were hired at a school that has a new head coach, nor does it include coordinators who also oversee a position.

Quarterbacks coach: Dave Rader, Ole Miss. He brings a wealth of experience to the program, having most recently been offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2003-06. Rader, who also will be co-coordinator for the Rebels, was head coach of Tulsa from 1988-99. With Jevan Snead gone, Rader will be charged with developing sophomore Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton.

Running backs coach: Stan Drayton, Florida. This will be Drayton's second stint in Gainesville. He also coached running backs for the Gators from 2005-07 before leaving to coach running backs at Tennessee in 2008 and at Syracuse last season. Drayton is a student of the game and one of the top recruiters in the Southeast.

Receivers coach: P.J. Fleck, Rutgers. He's one of the fast-rising assistants in the nation. That's why Greg Schiano plucked him from Northern Illinois, Fleck's alma mater. Fleck spent the past two seasons coaching wide receivers and serving as recruiting coordinator at NIU. Expect him to one day be a head coach.

Offensive line coach: Shawn Elliott, South Carolina. It hurt to lose Eric Wolford, who left to become head coach at FCS member Youngstown State. But Steve Spurrier made an underrated hire by tabbing Elliott from Appalachian State. Elliott, 36, has spent his entire coaching career at Appalachian State, helping the program win three national titles behind a powerful running game.

Defensive line coach: Terrell Williams, Texas A&M. Purdue did all that it could to try to retain Williams, but the Aggies still landed one of the nation's most underrated d-line coaches. Williams was Purdue's top recruiter and also is a demanding on-field coach.

Linebackers coach: Jon Tenuta, N.C. State. Tenuta's work running Notre Dame's defense the past two seasons wasn't impressive, but he's still one of the nation's best tactical minds. Tenuta is back on familiar ground in the ACC, where he was defensive coordinator of Georgia Tech for six years before going to Notre Dame. He'll be in a comfort zone working with longtime friend Tom O'Brien.

Secondary coach: Scott Lakatos, Georgia. He spent the past six seasons coaching defensive backs at Connecticut, which has had one of the nation's most underrated defenses under coach Randy Edsall. Lakatos is an adept teacher and well-respected tactician.

Special teams coach: Jeff Genyk, California. The former Eastern Michigan coach sat out last season, but he wasn't idle. Genyk consulted with then-Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly often last season, helping him develop a "warp speed" element to the UC offense. Genyk is one of the nation's most cerebral coaches, and he also was a strong special teams coach while an assistant at Northwestern.

HONORABLE MENTION: Warren Belin, LB, Georgia; Gary Emanuel, DL, Purdue; Randy Hart, DL, Stanford; Chris Klenakis, OL, Arkansas; Steve Kragthorpe, WR, Texas A&M; Van Malone, DB, Tulsa; Tee Martin, WR, Kentucky; Willie Martinez, DB, Oklahoma; Andy McCollum, LB, Georgia Tech; Brian Polian, ST, Stanford; Mike Summers, OL, Kentucky; Ron West, LB, Illinois.

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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