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April 4, 2011

Dienhart: Best Big Six assistant hires

Todd Monken loves the situation he is in as the new offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.

"This is great," says Monken, who was hired off the staff of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. "The people here are tremendous, beginning with [coach] Mike [Gundy]. Everything is top-notch.

"And we have some talent to work with, too."

Monken, who was hired after Dana Holgorsen left to become coach-in-waiting at West Virginia, inherits quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who each should be among the best in the nation at their position.

Monken also inherits an attack that led the Big 12 and ranked third in the nation in scoring (44.3 ppg). The Cowboys ranked second in the country in passing (345.9 ypg) and third overall (520.2 ypg).

Monken knows the landscape of Stillwater. He was a receivers coach at Oklahoma State from 2002-04 under Les Miles, whom he followed to LSU before leaving for the NFL. Monken spent the past four seasons coaching receivers with the Jaguars, who had promoted him to quarterback coach right before he left for Oklahoma State.

"Todd is a really good fit for what we need," Gundy said when the hire was announced in February. "He's been in the Big 12 and SEC, and he's coached at places that have won at a high level. He's an experienced, intelligent coach who will be able to come in and help us pick up where we left off. We're excited to have him join our staff."

Monken was one of the top assistant hires in the offseason. Following is a look at the top five assistant hires in each of the Big Six conferences; the coaches are listed alphabetically.

The buzz: Beamer returns home to work for his dad after serving as an assistant at South Carolina and Mississippi State. Beamer is one of the nation's top recruiters and a proven teacher.
Mark D'Onofrio, Miami defensive coordinator
The buzz: D'Onofrio, a former Penn State linebacker, quietly developed into one of the nation's better coordinators while working for Al Golden -- another former Penn State linebacker -- at Temple. Now that he's on a bigger stage and working with better talent, look for D'Onofrio's star to continue to rise.
Art Kehoe, Miami offensive line
The buzz: "Mr. Miami" is back in Coral Gables, where he belongs. Kehoe was part of the Hurricanes' program as a player and coach from 1979-2005, when Larry Coker unceremoniously dumped him. Kehoe coaches like his hair is on fire, a volatile combination of passion and know-how.
Chad Morris, Clemson offensive coordinator
The buzz: He has enjoyed a mercurial rise. Morris was coach at Austin (Texas) Lake Travis before being tabbed by Todd Graham to run Tulsa's offense last season. Morris, who coached Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert in high school, is an innovative offensive mind who could follow the career path of Gus Malzahn -- hot-shot high school coach becomes coordinator of prolific college offenses before becoming a hot coaching commodity.
The buzz: He brings a wealth of experience to the Heights, having served as quarterback coach the past five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Rogers also has coached quarterbacks at Virginia Tech and has been offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and Syracuse.
The buzz: He heads to West Virginia from Arizona to work with old college teammate Dana Holgorsen (both attended Iowa Wesleyan, where Mike Leach was coach). In addition to coaching the line in Tucson, Bedenbaugh, 38, also served as run-game coordinator and co-offensive coordinator. He's a smart coach and an excellent teacher.
Frank Cignetti, Rutgers offensive coordinator
The buzz: It's this simple: Cignetti will be a head coach one day. He's the perfect combination of dynamic personality, teacher and strategist. Cignetti has experience running offenses at Pittsburgh, California, North Carolina and Fresno State in addition to NFL stints coaching quarterbacks with the San Francisco 49ers.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia offensive coordinator
The buzz: He brings his high-scoring, one-back scheme from Oklahoma State to Morgantown, where Holgorsen will serve as coach-in-waiting in 2011 before taking over the program. He learned at the feet of Mike Leach and is taking the one-back offense to another level.
Calvin Magee, Pittsburgh offensive coordinator
The buzz: He had been Rich Rodriguez's right-hand man for years, helping run those prolific and dynamic offenses in West Virginia before heading to Michigan with Rodriguez. Magee is a former NFL tight end.
Shawn Watson, Louisville quarterbacks
The buzz: Watson brings a wealth of experience to Derby City, having most recently served as offensive coordinator at Nebraska. Watson, a passing-game guru, also has coordinated the offense at Colorado and was coach at FCS member Southern Illinois.
Al Borges, Michigan offensive coordinator
The buzz: A proven veteran, Borges brings vast experience to Ann Arbor. He has run offenses at Boise State, Oregon, UCLA, Cal, Indiana and Auburn, and he helped Brady Hoke turn around San Diego State. Look for Borges to max out talent such as quarterback Denard Robinson at Michigan with his multiple offense.
The buzz: Fighting Illini coach Ron Zook loves to hire former NFL coaches, so he was thrilled to get Gillhamer, who spent the past seven seasons coaching safeties with the Carolina Panthers. Gillhamer has 11 years of NFL experience, having last coached in the college ranks in 2003 with Louisville, where he was defensive coordinator. He also has coached at Oregon, Utah, San Jose State, Rutgers and Nevada.
Thomas Hammock, Wisconsin running backs coach
The buzz: He had been the lone assistant retained by new Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, but Hammock was hired away by Wisconsin after John Settle left for the NFL's Carolina Panthers. Hammock is a top-notch recruiter who did a good job grooming runners such as Duane Bennett at Minnesota. Hammock also coached Garrett Wolfe at Northern Illinois.
Dave Huxtable, Wisconsin linebackers
The buzz: He's coming off a seven-year run at UCF, including the past three as defensive coordinator. That acumen will benefit a Badgers defense that lost coordinator Dave Doeren, who is the new coach at Northern Illinois.
Kevin Johns, Indiana passing game coordinator/receivers
The buzz: The underrated Johns was receivers coach at Northwestern the past five seasons before moving to Bloomington to work with new Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson. Johns consistently took overlooked wide receivers and turned them into some of the Big Ten's most productive pass catchers at Northwestern, Eric Peterman, Zeke Markshausen, Jeremy Ebert, Ross Lane and Andrew Brewer among them.
BIG 12
Phil Bennett, Baylor defensive coordinator
The buzz: One of the nation's most respected defensive minds, Bennett was hired to improve a woeful defense. He has coordinated defenses at Iowa State, Purdue, LSU, Texas A&M, TCU, Kansas State and, most recently, Pitt. Bennett also was coach at SMU (2002-07).
Bo Davis, Texas defensive line
The buzz: He will bring much-needed toughness to the Longhorns' front. Davis spent eight of the past nine seasons coaching under Nick Saban at Alabama, LSU and with the Miami Dolphins. In 2010 at Alabama, Davis helped guide a unit that ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense (13.5 ppg), fifth in total defense (286.4 ypg), ninth in rushing defense (110.2 ypg) and seventh in pass efficiency defense (103.5) while leading the SEC in all four categories.
Manny Diaz, Texas defensive coordinator
The buzz: One of the sport's rising stars, Diaz enters his first season in Austin as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. He's a cerebral coach who helped turn around defenses at Middle Tennessee and Mississippi State before landing at Texas. Diaz, who was MTSU's coordinator in 2009, will be a head coach one day.
Chad Glasgow, Texas Tech defensive coordinator
The buzz: Tommy Tuberville plucked him off TCU's staff -- where he was safeties coach -- in hopes of solidifying a spotty Red Raiders defense. Glasgow helped build five defenses that led the nation (2000, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2010) while working for Gary Patterson at CU.
Todd Monken, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator
The buzz: He returns to Stillwater, where he coached receivers from 2002-04 under Les Miles. Monken went on to work at LSU with Miles before coaching receivers the past four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Norm Chow, Utah offensive coordinator
The buzz: Chow is just what a struggling Utes offense needs. While his most recent stint at UCLA was rocky, Chow is a renowned offensive mind who rose to prominence at BYU. Chow has developed myriad great quarterbacks, including the likes of Heisman winners Ty Detmer, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Chow also groomed Philip Rivers and Steve Young.
Ted Gilmore, USC receivers coach
The buzz: He arrives from Nebraska, where he spent the past six seasons and coached five wide receivers who finished among the school's top eight in career receptions. Also a top recruiter, Gilmore has coached at Colorado, Purdue and Wyoming, among other stops.
Eric Kiesau, California passing game coordinator/receivers
The buzz: He returns to Cal after spending the past five seasons on Colorado's staff. Kiesau, who will double as passing game coordinator, is an excellent teacher who groomed the likes of DeSean Jackson and Geoff McArthur in his first stint at Berkeley. He spent his first five years after college in the business world.
Jim Mastro, UCLA tight ends coach
The buzz: He spent 11 seasons at Nevada and played a big role in helping Chris Ault install and tweak the "Pistol" attack. In addition to working with Bruins tight ends, Mastro will play a big role in the continued development of the running component of UCLA's version of the "Pistol."
Rip Scherer, Colorado quarterbacks
The buzz: He has 31 years of coaching experience at 11 colleges, and that includes head-coaching stints at Memphis and FCS member James Madison. Scherer also has coached for six seasons in the NFL. Along the way, he has developed some good quarterbacks.
Geoff Collins, Mississippi State co-defensive coordinator
The buzz: Dan Mullen hired Collins from Florida International, where he did a standout job in his first season as coordinator in helping FIU win its first bowl in 2010. Collins, whose unit paced the Sun Belt in total defense in last season, also will serve as co-coordinator for Mississippi State. Before heading to FIU, Collins was an assistant at UCF and Georgia Tech.
Mike Groh, Alabama receivers coach
The buzz: The son of Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh, Mike Groh comes to the Capstone from Louisville, where he coached quarterbacks last season. Groh played quarterback at Virginia and later served as offensive coordinator there under his father.
David Lee, Ole Miss offensive coordinator
The buzz: This will be Lee's third stint working with Houston Nutt. Lee was with the Miami Dolphins as quarterbacks coach, playing a big role in implementing the Wildcat formation. Lee is a bright offensive mind with an expansive resume that includes a stop with the Dallas Cowboys, where he helped develop Tony Romo.
Jeff Stoutland, Alabama offensive line
The buzz: He spent the past four seasons as line coach at Miami. The Hurricanes paced the ACC in total offense and ranked third in rushing offense in 2010. Before landing at Miami, Stoutland built some strong lines at Michigan State and produced six All-Big Ten selections.
Charlie Weis, Florida offensive coordinator
The buzz: He had an unsuccessful stint as Notre Dame's coach, but new Florida coach Will Muschamp is hoping Weis can conjure the offensive magic he showed as coordinator with New England and Kansas City, where he was the coordinator last season on a playoff team. The biggest adjustment for Weis is going to be putting players recruited to play the spread option into a pro-style attack.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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