Defensive Coordinators at the University of Colorado, 1979 – 2014

Colorado has gone through ten defensive coordinators over the past 35 seasons. As has been the case with the team, these men have had varying degrees of success. Beyond the statistics, though, I thought it might be interesting – and perhaps instructive – to look at where these men coached before they came to Boulder, and where they landed after their stints coaching the Buffs …



1979 – 1981 – Head Coach – Chuck Fairbanks

1979 – 1981 – Defensive Coordinator – Doug Knotts

1979 – Total Defense: 331.8 ypg., 77th … Scoring Defense: 24.9 ppg., 116th … Team Record: 3-8

1980 – Total Defense: 464.4 ypg., 138th … Scoring Defense: 41.0 ppg., 139th … Team Record: 1-10

1981 – Total Defense: 376.9 ypg., 106th … Scoring Defense: 29.3 ppg., 127th … Team Record: 3-8

Doug Knotts … A three-year offensive lineman at Duke in the mid-1950’s, Knotts was on teams which won three consecutive ACC championships. Knotts served as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 1956-64, before going on to Tennessee (1965-69), and Florida (1970-78), before joining Chuck Fairbanks’ staff in 1978. After posting a 7-26 record over three years, Fairbanks left CU for the USFL. Knotts did not follow Fairbanks, and did not coach again. He did later return to Duke as an administrative assistant, remaining in that position from 1994 until his death in 2000.

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator … Defensive Coordinator, Florida …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … None.



1982 – 1994 – Head Coach – Bill McCartney

1982 – Defensive Coordinator – Dale Evans

1982 – Total Defense: 396.7 ypg., 83rd … Scoring Defense: 27.4 ppg., 84th … Team Record: 2-8-1

– Dale Evans … A graduate of West Virginia University, Evans was the West Virginia state high school coach of the year before moving on to serve under Jim Carlen at South Carolina from 1975-81. Evans was with McCartney for only the 1982 season, before moving on to stints at USC, North Carolina, Texas Tech and his alma mater, West Virginia. Evans returned to high school coaching in South Carolina, retiring in 2004.

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator at … Assistant coach, South Carolina …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … Assistant coach, USC …

1983 – 1987 – Defensive Coordinator – Lou Tepper

1983 – Total Defense: 444.1 ypg., 100th … Scoring Defense: 31.1 ppg., 97th … Team Record: 4-7

1984 – Total Defense: 395.2 ypg., 88th … Scoring Defense: 33.1 ppg., 101st … Team Record: 1-10

1985 – Total Defense: 296.8 ypg., 17th … Scoring Defense: 14.0 ppg., 15th … Team Record: 7-5

1986 – Total Defense: 282.4 ypg., 11th … Scoring Defense: 15.6 ppg., 17th … Team Record: 6-6

1987 – Total Defense: 321.2 ypg., 24th … Scoring Defense: 16.4 ppg., 18th … Team Record: 7-4

Lou Tepper … A graduate of Rutgers, Tepper was a coach at New Hampshire from 1968-71, serving as defensive coordinator his last two seasons (with New Hampshire giving up only 9.8 ppg). From there, Tepper went to William and Mary, where he served as the defensive coordinator from 1972-77, serving as assistant head coach in 1976 and 1977. Before joining CU’s staff, Tepper, was at Virginia Tech (1978-82), serving under Bill Dooley. For three straight seasons, the Hokies were in the top ten nationally in scoring defense, and, in 1982, were first in rushing defense, giving up only 49 yards per game.

While at Colorado, Tepper’s responsibilities increased as the defense improved. In addition to serving as defensive coordinator in 1983-85, Tepper coached the inside linebackers. In 1986, Tepper was elevated to assistant head coach, while also maintaining the titles of defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach.

In 1988, Tepper was lured away by Illinois head coach John Mackovic to serve as the defensive coordinator for the Illini. When Mackovic left for Texas in 1991, Tepper was elevated to head coach. Tepper served as the head coach at Illinois for five seasons, compiling an overall record of 25-31-2. Let go by Illinois, Tepper moved on to coach as the defensive coordinator at LSU (1997-99), coaching at smaller schools in Pennsylvania from 2000-2010 (Edinboro and IUP). Tepper landed a new job as the defensive coordinator for the University of Buffalo in 2012.

… Last job before named defensive coordinator at Colorado … defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … defensive coordinator, Illinois …

1988 – 1994 – Defensive Coordinator – Mike Hankwitz

1988 – Total Defense: 358.9 ypg., 54th … Scoring Defense: 16.0 ppg., 18th … Team Record: 8-4

1989 – Total Defense: 300.0 ypg., 18th … Scoring Defense: 13.6 ppg., 6th … Team Record: 11-1

1990 – Total Defense: 309.3 ypg., 25th … Scoring Defense: 18.3 ppg., 29th … Team Record: 11-1-1

1991 – Total Defense: 321.4 ypg., 28th … Scoring Defense: 13.6 ppg., 6th … Team Record: 8-3-1

1992 – Total Defense: 278.0 ypg., 9th … Scoring Defense: 18.0 ppg., 30th … Team Record: 9-2-1

1993 – Total Defense: 369.3 ypg., 49th … Scoring Defense: 20.0 ppg., 34th … Team Record: 8-3-1

1994 – Total Defense: 343.7 ypg., 40th … Scoring Defense: 19.2 ppg., 26th … Team Record: 11-1

Mike Hankwitz … A 1970 graduate of the University of Michigan, Hankwitz began his coaching career in Ann Arbor, coaching the junior varsity. He was on the Michigan staff for two more years before moving on to the University of Arizona as a position coach. After four years in Tucson, Hankwitz went to Purdue, where he coached linebackers for Jim Young for five years (1977-81). In 1982, he obtained his first job as a defensive coordinator at Western Michigan, where he coached for three years before joining Bill McCartney’s staff at Colorado.

In Boulder, Hankwitz started as the outside linebackers coach in addition to coordinating special teams. His punt team was the No. 1 rated unit over eight seasons (1985-92), twice leading the nation in net average (1985 and 1989). After Lou Tepper left for Illinois, Hankwitz took over as defensive coordinator, serving in that post from 1988-94.

Passed over for the heading coach job when Bill McCartney retired, Hankwitz moved on to serve as defensive coordinator under Glen Mason at Kansas (1995-96), under R.C. Slocum at Texas A&M (1997-2002) and John Mackovic at Arizona (2003). Mackovic was fired four games into the 2003 season, with Hankwitz named the interim head coach for the remainder of the year. Hankwitz compiled a 1-6 record as interim head coach for the Wildcats.

Hankwitz returned to Boulder for the 2004-05 seasons (more on that below), serving as the defensive coordinator for Gary Barnett. After Barnett was forced to resign, Hankwitz again served as interim head coach, leading the Buffs in their bowl game against Clemson.

After leaving Colorado a second time, Hankwitz went on to serve as the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin (2006-07), and has been at Northwestern as the defensive coordinator and safeties coach since 2008.

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator at Colorado … elevated from coaching outside linebackers and punters

… Next job after leaving Colorado … defensive coordinator, Kansas …



1995 – 1998 – Head Coach – Rick Neuheisel

1995-98 – Defensive Coordinator – A.J. Christoff

1995 – Total Defense: 329.4 ypg., 33rd … Scoring Defense: 21.3 ppg., 40th … Team Record: 10-2

1996 – Total Defense: 315.5 ypg., 23rd … Scoring Defense: 18.1 ppg., 21st … Team Record: 10-2

1997 – Total Defense: 350.7 ypg., 45th … Scoring Defense: 26.8 ppg., 70th … Team Record: 5-7

1998 – Total Defense: 296.0 ypg., 13th … Scoring Defense: 19.1 ppg., 21st … Team Record: 8-4

A.J. Christoff … A 1972 graduate of the University of Idaho, Christoff had many jobs before finding his way to Boulder. Christoff coached the secondary in 1973-74 at New Mexico State before returning to his alma mater, coaching at Idaho as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator (1975-76). Christoff then moved on to Oregon from 1977-82, the final three seasons serving as defensive coordinator and secondary coach. After one season in the same roles at Stanford, Christoff took the same positions at Notre Dame, 1984-85. Christoff served under Bill Curry at Georgia Tech (1986) and Alabama (1987-89), before joining Terry Donahue’s staff in 1990. Christoff then joined Rick Neuheisel at Colorado in 1995, serving as defensive coordinator and secondary coach.

After head coach Rick Neuheisel left Colorado for Washington after the 1998 season, Christoff coached at both USC and Cincinnati before being hired by the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL in 2003 to coach defensive backs. In 2006, Christoff returned to the collegiate ranks, this time returning to Stanford to serve as defensive coordinator and coach defensive backs.

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator at Colorado … defensive coordinator, UCLA …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … assistant coach, USC …



1999 – 2004 – Head Coach – Gary Barnett

1999-2001 – Co-Defensive Coordinator – Tom McMahon

1999-2003 – Co – Defensive Coordinator (1999-2001); Defensive Coordinator (2002-03) – Vince Okruch

1999 – Total Defense: 347.6 ypg., 41st … Scoring Defense: 25.7 ppg., 64th … Team Record: 7-5

2000 – Total Defense: 422.1 ypg., 99th … Scoring Defense: 25.8 ppg., 63rd … Team Record: 3-8

2001 – Total Defense: 357.3 ypg., 44th … Scoring Defense: 23.2 ppg., 43rd … Team Record: 10-3

2002 – Total Defense: 366.5 ypg., 60th … Scoring Defense: 22.6 ppg., 39th … Team Record: 9-5

2003 – Total Defense: 432.1 ypg., 97th … Scoring Defense: 33.2 ppg., 98th … Team Record: 5-7

Tom McMahon … A graduate of the University of Montana, McMahon began his coaching career at Colorado State in 1973, coaching under Sark Arslanian for six seasons. McMahon then began the itinerant life of an assistant coach, with stops at Wyoming (1979), New Mexico (1980-82), South Carolina (1983-88), East Carolina (1989), Arizona State (1990-91), Wisconsin (1992-94) and Notre Dame (1995-98), before joining coach Barnett’s staff as the co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach in 1999. While at Notre Dame, McMahon’s pass defenses were twice ranked in the top 25, allowing only 16 touchdown passes over two seasons combined.

While in Boulder, McMahon was diagnosed with lung cancer, dying in June, 2002. “We have lost a great coach and a great man,” CU head coach Gary Barnett said at the time. “Everybody in the Colorado football family is mourning.”

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator at Colorado … secondary coach, Notre Dame …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … N/A.

Vince Okruch … A 1977 graduate of Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri, Okruch began coaching at his alma mater, working is way up to head coach in 1980. Okruch first came to Boulder in 1983, working with the running backs for two seasons. Okruch coached running backs at Minnesota in 1985, before moving to the defensive side of the ball, coaching linebackers for the next four seasons (1988-91). Okruch was reunited with Gary Barnett when Barnett became the head coach at Northwestern. Okruch coached the defensive line for five seasons before becoming the defensive coordinator in 1997. When Barnett returned to Colorado in 1999, Okruch came with him, serving as co-defensive coordinator with Tom McMahon for three seasons before taking over the position in 2002.

After leaving Colorado, Okruch coached at Louisiana-Monroe (2004) and Western Illinois (2005) before being named the defensive coordinator at Illinois in 2006. After only one season with the Illini, Okruch moved onto Akron (2009-11).

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator at Colorado … co-defensive coordinator, Northwestern …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … Assistant coach, Louisiana-Monroe …

2004-05 – Defensive Coordinator – Mike Hankwitz

2004 – Total Defense: 426.6 ypg., 94th … Scoring Defense: 25.3 ppg., 61st … Team Record: 8-5

2005 – Total Defense: 347.8 ypg., 41st … Scoring Defense: 24.0 ppg., 45th … Team Record: 7-6

Mike Hankwitz … The 2004-05 seasons were the second stint for Hankwitz as CU’s defensive coordinator (information on his coaching career is detailed above).

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator at Colorado … Interim head coach/defensive coordinator, Arizona …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … Defensive coordinator, Wisconsin …


2006 – 2010 – Head Coach, Dan Hawkins

2006 – 2010 – Defensive Coordinator – Ron Collins

2006 – Total Defense: 340.9 ypg., 66th … Scoring Defense: 22.3 ppg. 56th … Team Record: 2-10

2007 – Total Defense: 389.4 ypg., 64th … Scoring Defense: 29.4 ppg., 78th … Team Record: 6-7

2008 – Total Defense: 381.6 ypg., 78th … Scoring Defense: 29.3 ppg., 86th … Team Record: 5-7

2009 – Total Defense: 363.0 ypg., 57th … Scoring Defense: 28.8 ppg., 88th … Team Record: 3-9

2010 – Total Defense: 400.0 ypg., 83rd … Scoring Defense: 30.8 ppg., 91st … Team Record: 5-7

Ron Collins … A 1987 graduate of the University of Washington, Collins spent the first 13 years of his coaching career at Washington University in St. Louis, rising to defensive coordinator in just his second season, also serving as the strength and conditioning coach during his entire tenure. In 1999, Washington had the top Division III defense in the nation. In 2001, Collins moved on to Boise State, where he served for five years under Dan Hawkins. He was linebackers coach his first season, then spent the next four seasons as defensive coordinator. After leaving Colorado, Collins has spent the last four seasons as the linebackers coach at Ohio University under former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich.

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator at Colorado … Defensive coordinator, Boise State …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … Linebackers coach, Ohio University …



2011 – 2012 – Head Coach, Jon Embree

2011 – 2012 – Defensive Coordinator, Greg Brown

2011 – Total Defense: 439.3 ypg., 102nd … Scoring Defense: 36.5 ppg., 109th … Team Record: 3-10

2012 – Total Defense: 488.5 ypg., 117th … Scoring Defense: 46.0 ppg., 120th … Team Record: 1-11

Greg Brown … Brown graduated from UTEP in 1980, working as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 1981. After a year of high school coaching in Colorado (Green Mountain in Lakewood), Brown joined the staff of the Denver Gold of the USFL, coaching in the secondary. After two seasons with the Gold, Brown moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL, coaching different positions for the next three seasons. Brown returned to the college game in 1987, coaching defensive backs at Wyoming for two seasons before doing the same for two seasons (1989-90) at Purdue.

Brown came to Colorado for the first time in 1991, coaching the secondary for three seasons under Bill McCartney, coaching CU’s two Thorpe Award winners, Deon Figures and Chris Hudson, along the way. In 1994, Brown returned to the NFL, coaching in Atlanta (1994) and San Diego (1995-96) before moving onto the Tennessee (1997-98), San Francisco (1999), Atlanta again (2000-01) and New Orleans (2002-05).

Brown came back to Colorado in 2006, serving as defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach under Dan Hawkins. In 2010, Brown was named co-defensive coordinator at Arizona, returning to Colorado one year later. After leaving the Buffs for a second time, Brown spent a year coaching the secondary at Alabama, serving this past season as the secondary coach at Louisville (picking up his third Thorpe Award winner).

… Last job before being named defensive coordinator at Colorado … Co-defensive coordinator, Arizona …

… Next job after leaving Colorado … Secondary coach, Alabama …


2013 – 2014 – Head Coach, Mike MacIntyre

2013 – 2014 – Defensive Coordinator, Kent Baer

2013 – Total Defense: 468.0 ypg., 106th … Scoring Defense: 38.3 ppg., 112th

2014 – Total Defense 461.0 ypg., 111th … Scoring Defense: 39.0 ppg., 116th

Kent Baer … Baer played for Utah State, graduating in 1973. From Logan, Utah, Baer went to Japan, coaching a military team for three seasons. Baer returned to Utah State in 1977, coaching under Bruce Snyder, serving as linebacker coach for six seasons before being elevated to defensive coordinator, a position he held for three more seasons. After a year in Idaho, Baer was reunited with Snyder at California, where he was the defensive coordinator for five more seasons (1987-91). He went with Snyder to Arizona State and was the defensive coordinator there for three years (1992-94) before teaming up with Tyrone Willingham at Stanford. For the next nine seasons, Baer coached with Willingham at Stanford, then Notre Dame, then Washington. In 2008, Baer joined the staff at San Jose State, and stayed on when Mike MacIntyre was hired in 2010.

… Last job before being named as defensive coordinator at Colorado … Defensive Coordinator, San Jose State

… Next job after leaving Colorado … Defensive Coordinator, UNLV



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