“Unpack the Pac Offseason Edition” is a column by Jacob Hare that discusses offseason football news in the Pac-12 conference.
Everyone knows the top head coaches in the Pac-12 from USC’s Lincoln Riley, UCLA’s Chip Kelly, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and Oregon’s Dan Lanning. But who are the guys whose faces you don’t see on TV every weekend? The guys who do all the behind-the-scenes work that doesn’t get recognized enough. I wanted to give them their spotlight this week. I guess FAU’s run inspired me to do an underdog theme this week. I analyzed every coaching staff in the Pac-12 to find out who is the best of the assistant coaches in the Pac-12. In this week’s Unpack The Pac Offseason Edition, I talk about three assistant coaches who should be in contention to land head coaching jobs next season.
3. Ben Arbuckle, offensive coordinator, Washington State
Ben Arbuckle is one of the most exciting stories that has gone under the radar in college football this offseason. Arbuckle was hired as Washington State’s head coach after Eric Morris left the position to become North Texas’s head coach. Arbuckle is only 27 years old, making him the nation’s youngest power five coordinator. Arbuckle was a quarterback at West Texas A&M from 2016 to 2017 and was named Western Kentucky’s quality control coach in 2021. Within one year at WKU, he was promoted to the quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator. In his first year as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Western Kentucky finished first in total passing yards per game and led one of the best offenses in the nation last year. In his previous stint as Houston Baptist quarterback coach from 2018 to 2020, he worked with senior transfer quarterback Bailey Zappe, who broke the FBS record for passing yards with 5,967. Washington State made a great hire with Arbuckle, and his fast rise should continue as I expect him to get a head coaching job soon.
2. Josh Henson, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, USC
A former offensive lineman at Oklahoma State, Josh Henson has risen to one of the top assistant coaches in the country. Henson has 24 years of coaching experience with stops at Kingfisher, Oklahoma State, LSU, Missouri and Texas A&M before joining Lincoln Riley in his first season with the Trojans in 2022. This year he helped guide offensive linemen Brett Neilon and Andrew Vorhees to first-team All-American seasons. Unfortunately, Vorhees is dealing with a torn ACL that he suffered at the combine, and Neilon is dealing with a ruptured Achilles severed in USC’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 championship. However, both are still expected to hear their names called at the 2023 NFL draft. Henson also coached two-time All-American Kenyon Green at Texas A&M, drafted in the first round by the Houston Texans last season. With the recent success of these superstar performances under Henson, I would not be surprised to see him interviewing for some head coaching jobs next season. Even moving up to the NFL level would be within the realm for him.
1. Tosh Lupoi, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Oregon
The former Cal defensive lineman has now helped Dan Lanning run one of the best defenses in the Pac-12 after joining his staff in 2022. Lupoi is also a two-time national champion as a coach. He won in 2015 as a defensive analyst for Alabama and again in 2017 when he became their defensive coordinator. That year, he helped Nick Saban lead the best defense in the nation as the top ranked scoring defense. Lupoi also has NFL experience, as he was the defensive line coach for the Browns, Falcons and Jaguars. Lupoi could make a case to be an NFL defensive coordinator next season if Oregon has a successful fall.
“Unpack the Pac Offseason Edition” runs every Wednesday.