College News & Analysis

College Football 2023: Ranking the nation's 10 best offensive coordinators

Gainesville, Florida, USA; Utah Utes offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig prior to the game against the Florida Gators at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson’s Garrett Riley comes in at No. 1: After winning the Broyles Award for the best assistant coach in college football last year, the new Clemson OC comes in at No. 1. 

Washington’s Ryan Grubb ranks second: Grubb had top schools such as Alabama and Texas A&M trying to poach him away this offseason.

Utah’s Andy Ludwig rounds out the top three: Last season, Ludwig orchestrated one of the most efficient offenses in college football.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

There are 21 Saturdays until meaningful college football returns — and it can't come quickly enough.

As we while away the time before Week 0, we’ve already gone over the top 10 returning players at every position, named our way-too-early 2023 All-America Team and presented the PFF College 101 — our annual ranking of the 101 best players from the past season.

Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the sidelines. Here are the 10 best offensive coordinators in college football going into 2023.

1. Garrett Riley, Clemson Tigers

The younger brother of USC head coach Lincoln Riley, Garrett is proving that offensive brilliance runs in the Riley genes.

In his two years as SMU offensive coordinator in 2020 and 2021, he led the Mustangs to two consecutive top-25 finishes in expected points added (EPA) per play. This past season — his first as TCU’s offensive coordinator — he won the Broyles Award for the top assistant coach in college football after elevating a Horned Frogs squad that ranked 41st in the country in EPA per play in 2021 to a 15th-place finish in 2022. His quarterback, Max Duggan, was ultimately named as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, the best finish for a TCU player since 1955.

According to the Athletic’s Grace Raynor, Clemson just inked Riley to a three-year deal worth $1.75 million a year, making him one of the highest-paid coordinators in the country. He’ll try to fix the Tigers offense that finished just 47th in EPA per play in 2022.

2. Ryan Grubb, Washington Huskies

Grubb received heavy interest from both Alabama and Texas A&M this offseason, but he opted to stay with Washington, who recently made him one of the highest-paid assistants in the country at $2 million per year.

In his first year with the team, the Huskies led the Power Five in scoring drive percentage (58.7%) and finished third in EPA per play behind only USC and Tennessee after finishing 112th in 2021. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. had a career resurgence, leading the Power Five in passing yards (4,641) and putting up an 88.1 passing grade that was a near-20-point improvement from his mark in 2021.

3. Andy Ludwig, Utah Utes

The Utes have fielded a top-20 offense in EPA per play in three of Ludwig's four years as offensive coordinator. In the last two years, Utah’s offense has placed in the top 10.

Last season, Ludwig’s offense finished fifth in the country in terms of positive EPA percentage (51.7%). And before he was hired at Utah, he led Vanderbilt’s offense to a top-30 finish in EPA per play in 2018 — the Commodores’ best finish in the four years since is 97th, which came last past season.

Notre Dame nearly poached Ludwig this offseason but balked at his contract buyout.

4. Phil Longo, Wisconsin Badgers

After four years as North Carolina’s offensive coordinator, Longo joined Luke Fickell’s staff in Wisconsin this offseason.

Under Longo's leadership, the Tar Heels ranked top-20 in EPA per play in each of the last three seasons and notably finished fourth in 2020. He runs a version of the air raid offense that is designed to be either pass- or run-oriented, depending on the game. It’s a scheme that star Badgers running back Braelon Allen is excited to play in next season.

5. Mike Denbrock, LSU Tigers

Denbrock worked with Luke Fickell in Cincinnati from 2018 to 2021, and in his final year there, the Bearcats ranked fifth in the nation in positive EPA rate (49.6%) on their way to the Group of Five’s first-ever College Football Playoff appearance.

Denbrock rejoined head coach Brian Kelly at LSU this past season, and the Tigers won the SEC West on the back of his incredibly efficient offense that generated positive expected points added on 50.9% of its plays, the eighth-best mark in the country.

Quarterback Jayden Daniels had his best year yet as a passer, leading the nation's quarterbacks in turnover-worthy play rate (0.9%).

6. Jeff Lebby, Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma’s offense wasn’t as dominant as we've come to expect in Lebby’s first year at the helm, as it ranked just 25th in the Power Five in EPA per play —  the Sooners' worst finish since PFF began charting college football in 2014.

However, Oklahoma was going through a major transition after losing head coach Lincoln Riley and two starting-caliber quarterbacks in Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler.

In his three years as an offensive coordinator before 2022, Lebby produced two top-10 offenses in EPA per play (2019 at UCF and 2020 at Ole Miss). His proven track record suggests that he should be able to turn it around at Oklahoma sooner rather than later.

7. Jeff Grimes, Baylor Bears

Grimes was a finalist for the Broyles Award in 2020, his final season as BYU’s offensive coordinator. That year, the Cougars finished third in EPA per play.

Grimes was named as a Broyles Award finalist again in 2021 after the Bears finished the campaign with the sixth-highest-graded offense in the Power Five (92.0) and a top-15 ranking in positive EPA rate (47.6%).

Even after losing many key players from the 2021 team, the 2022 Bears still finished 21st in the Power Five in EPA per play.

8. Warren Ruggiero, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Ruggiero is entering his 10th season as Wake Forest’s offensive coordinator and has really found his stride lately. His slow-mesh, RPO-based offense has finished top-20 in EPA per play in every season since 2020.

In 2021, he was a finalist for the Broyles Award after the Demon Deacons finished fourth in the Power Five in EPA per pass.

9. Alex Atkins, Florida State Seminoles

Atkins was promoted to offensive coordinator this past season and was a major reason for Florida State’s turnaround.

In 2021, the Seminoles were just 71st in the country in EPA per play. The following year, they were 10th. Quarterback Jordan Travis was the highest-graded quarterback in the Power Five (91.7) and is a legit Heisman candidate next season.

Atkins was a semifinalist for the Broyles Award in 2022 and is one of the fastest-rising stars at offensive coordinator.

10. Tommy Rees, Alabama Crimson Tide

Rees is Nick Saban’s new offensive coordinator after Bill O’Brien left for the same role with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

Rees led a top-25-graded offense in all three years as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator. He employs a pro-style offense and does a very good job of playing to his offense’s strengths.

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