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Offensive Line Coach POAPS - Part I

The POAPS series returns in a different format... just taking shots in the dark

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at North Carolina
This man has a hire to make
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Inspired by a comment from our own OmegaWolf in the comment section of the story about NC State Offensive Line Coach Dwayne Ledford leaving to rejoin his former employer at Louisville, I decided to take a look at some potential replacements for Ledford. Rather than do a full-on POAPS series with a single post dedicated to a single candidate, I’m going to do a more shotgun blast approach covering a few potential candidates in each post. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually hit on the guy that gets hired.

Offensive line is probably the most interesting positional coach to evaluate because, well, they’re the the hardest position to gather player and position-specific stats for. Thankfully, our good buddies over at Football Outsiders maintain offensive line statistics for us. These combine a blend of Run-blocking and Pass-blocking stats to give us a picture of how an overall offensive line unit is performing. You can click on that link and peruse through the various stats and rankings, but below is a screenshot of the various stats they look at:

For the sake of evaluation, I looked at OL data from 2016-2018, the same time span during which Ledford was at State. Looking at anything more is rather useless since OL coaches, like most any other non-coordinator assistant coaching positions, rotates through at a pretty robust rate. Of the 28 coaches I looked at, only five had been at their current post for longer than that time span, and 17 had been there for less than three years.

To identify potential OL Coach candidates, I took the Football Outsiders OL stats and did some basic level calculations. I took both an average and a standard deviation of the rankings for each of the stats listed above for each year (2016-2018). The ideal offensive lines would have a low average ranking (lowering being better, obviously) and a low standard deviation. After all, we want to find the offensive lines that have both produced the best all-around results with the least amount of fluctuation in performance (that’s great if you can run block, but if you can’t keep the QB from getting killed, then you’re not really doing much good). Then I looked at the trends from 2016 to 2018. After that, I weeded out coaches that run the triple-option offense and also eliminated coaches that were either making more than Ledford did this year ($450k) or held offensive coordinator duties in addition to their OL coaching role.

For reference, here’s how Ledford’s OLs ranked over the last three years at State:

Three-year Average Ranking: 62.5 (Average Standard Deviation of 44.0)

  • 2016 - Avg: 55.0 (sd = 33.3)
  • 2017 - Avg: 60.1 (sd = 45.4)
  • 2018 - Avg: 72.4 (sd = 53.3)

The numbers weren’t kind to Ledford and certainly don’t accurately portray his impact as a coach (while also potentially calling out a significant flaw in using this data to identify candidates), but that’s a discussion for another time. We’re just looking to find some dudes who may be good hires. So let’s look at those.

First, here’s the list of coaches I evaluated:

A few guys I removed from this list for various reasons, but there are more than a few worth talking about.

Today we’re going to cover some solid candidates, but guys who are likely longshots due to their lack of ties to the state and/or region (or other reasons): Randy Clements, Daryl Agpalsa, Eman Naghavi, and Tim Polasek.

Randy Clements

Current Gig: Houston OL Coach

Current Salary: $290k

Years at Current Gig: 2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 29.8 / Standard Deviation: 10.7

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: Houston (2003-2007), Baylor (2008-2016)

By far, the most intriguing OL coach on this list. The dude can flat-out coach and with his current contract at Houston, the financials shouldn’t be hard to pull him away, and his past performance would warrant the financials. His 2018 Houston OL ranked in the Top 50 in every single OL category, including Top-20 finishes in Pass Down Line Yards, Opportunity Rate, and Standard Downs sack rate.

He has an impressive resume of developing lineman, too. During his almost decade in Waco, he coached 5 All-Americans and 12 future NFL offensive lineman.

Everything would point to this being your main guy, but there are, however, two downsides:

  1. The guy has never coached or even lived outside of the state of Texas, and (more significantly)
  2. He was a member of Art Briles’ staff at Baylor when some very unsavory stuff went down.

Clements rose from the high school coaching ranks riding shotgun with Briles all the way to Baylor. That close of an association raises some significant red flags. Granted, Clements was never officially named in anything, and if Briles’ son, Kendall (former Baylor OC under his father and current Houston OC), can resurrect his career to become a current top OC candidate at Tennessee and Florida State, then why can’t Clements also pull his career back out of the gutter? Still, I’m not sure if Doeren and/or Yow would want to risk the negative publicity that might come from such a hire.

Daryl Agpalsa

Current Gig: Buffalo OL Coach (the college, not the NFL team)

Current Salary: $80k

Years at Current Gig: 2015-2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 44.2 / Standard Deviation: 22.9

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: UW-Whitewater

Agpalsa has a lighter resume than most of those evaluated, but he has also shown an ability to coach some great OLs and has been successful at every level of his career. He started off as a graduate assistant at Minnesota, then coached for two years at UW-Whitewater, where the team won the D-III national title both years. He followed head coach Lance Leipold (who won six national titles in eight years at UW-Whitewater) to Buffalo in 2015 and helped lead a turnaround of that program. After struggling to a 7-17 record over the first two seasons in Buffalo, Agpalsa and crew have gone 16-9 since, including 10-3 this year.

His offensive lines have shown improvement in each of the last three seasons, including excelling this year in pass blocking (14th in Sack Rate and 8th in Standard Down Sack Rate) while having no obvious weakness across the board. Also, just listen to him speak. He sounds like a Doeren-type assistant.

The downsides are fairly obvious, though: Agpalsa has no ties to the region (he’s a native of Hawaii and went to college in Oregon), having only worked in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York, and his recruiting abilities are an unknown. Hiring Agpalsa would be taking a chance, but one with a potentially high ceiling.

Eman Naghavi

Current Gig: Louisiana-Monroe OL Coach

Current Salary: $100k

Years at Current Gig: 2017-2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 26.8 / Standard Deviation: 17.3

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: McNeese State (2015-2016), Texas (2013-2014, Assistant OL Coach)

Naghavi took over a decent, if unspectacular, OL group at UL-Monroe and created more consistency in his first season before turning them into one of the best performing O-lines in the country this year. His 2018 OL ranks in the Top 30 in all but two categories (Power Success Rate and Pass Down Sack Rate), but neither of those are real weaknesses.

He’s young and light on overall coaching experience, but he’s been successful. Naghavi, similar to Agpalsa, would be taking a big risk, but with a potential high upside. Similar to the two guys listed above, he has no ties to this state or the immediate region, so recruiting ability would be tested.

Tim Polasek

Current Gig: Iowa OL Coach

Current Salary: $355k

Years at Current Gig: 2017-2018

2018 OL Stats: Average Ranking: 20.8 / Standard Deviation: 15.2

Notable Previous OL Coach Positions: North Dakota State (2014-2016, OC/RB Coach)

Polasek appears to be a fast rising star among young coaches. While his current run at Iowa marks his only OL coaching experience, he has been a part of successful programs everywhere he’s been. During Polasek’s three years as Offensive Coordinator at North Dakota State, the Bison played in three consecutive FCS National Championship games, including winning it all in 2014 and 2015. His 2018 OL has been outstanding, ranking in the Top 20 in six of nine categories, including Power Success Rate, Stuff Rate, and Sack Rate.

Similar to the guys mentioned above, he has no ties to the state or region. He has, however, displayed an ability to coach and could be a potential replacement for Eli Drinkwitz when the time comes calling that Drinkwitz moves on to a head coaching position or larger OC role.

Polasek is making a pretty penny at Iowa, so pulling him and his family away from there might require something closer to what NC State was paying Ledford. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for someone with only two years of OL coaching experience, but if Doeren is looking for a more versatile coach with experience in a bigger role, Polasek could be his guy.