Head coaching candidates on the rise

Pat Narduzzi, James Franklin and Tim DeRuyter are on the radars of athletic directors. AP Photos

Even before I crunched the numbers on Michigan State while doing some research Monday, I knew the Spartans would be near the top of some of our defensive statistics. But the results were even more revealing than I had anticipated.

In a three-year window, the Spartans were third in defensive efficiency (in terms of yards allowed per play), behind only Florida State and Alabama, the odds-on favorites to play for this year’s BCS national title. The two teams behind Michigan State were LSU and Florida. South Carolina was sixth.

There’s some geography at work, if you didn't notice. FSU and MSU were the only two non-SEC teams. Even more interesting, the Spartans were the only team outside the South to make the list. But Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who has served in East Lansing since 2007, has been able to produce defensive sustainability even outside the talent-rich South. The Spartans (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten), strong from front to back, are first in yards allowed per play (3.46) this season.

“They’re sound and simple,” a top-10 defensive coordinator told me this week. “They have the best technique guys in the country. They line up to formations well. And they tackle.”

He added one more thing: “[Narduzzi] will be an excellent head coach.”

With that, the 47-year-old Narduzzi leads off our short list of hot, up-and-coming coaching commodities in 2013.