A two-time ad hoc defensive coordinator for Arkansas and Ohio State will try to fill some freshly-dug large footprints left behind by Darrell Hazell at Kent State.
And there we have it. All MAC head coaches are now accounted for. Purdue football coach Darrell Hazell will coach Kent State in the bowl game, but the assumption is that Purdue will not want him to also coach Kent State as well. (Although I'd like to see him try that.)
Instead Joel Nielsen acted quickly and agreed to terms with Paul Haynes, most recently the Arkansas defensive coordinator.
Akron Beacon Journal columnist Marla Ridenour wrote about how much this might be costing Kent State. She noted that despite a large pay increase for Hazell over his predecessor, KSU still ranked near the bottom among head coach salary. If Haynes did actually make $475,000 at Arkansas, that's terrific. SEC coordinators make as much or more than MAC head coaches. But after a throwaway 4-8 season, he wasn't retained as DC, and that usually portends a pay decrease. See: Dave Clawson at Tennessee. My guess is Haynes will make more than Hazell did (and we'll find out soon) but it's not going to break the bank or make him the highest paid MAC coach.
Now, about Haynes. He's had an interesting past two years. With stops at BGSU, Ferris State, Northern Iowa, Kent State, the Jaguars, Louisville and Michigan State, he spent six seasons coaching defensive backs before being thrust into the position of co-defensive coordinator in 2011 to help out Luke Fickell and a weird Tressel-less year, but the defense did well enough that he parlayed that into a job with Arkansas. Once Bobby Petrino was fired after that whole weird thing, he remained on board when John L. Smith showed up, but after a forgettable 2012, most of the coaches were not retained.
The real connection here is not his brief time as secondary coach for KSU, but his playing time with them. He turned a walk-on opportunity into a four-year career, serving as a team co-captain his senior year. Twice he led the team in tackles and once in interceptions. His 440 tackles is seventh most in MAC history, and twice he was named second team All-MAC as a defensive back.
Switching from an offensive mind to a defensive one flips the focus back to a critical need: for all the success Kent State had in attaining 11 wins, their pass defense was rather porous when they didn't grab the interception.
Haynes is about 41 or 42 years old so this also makes him not only the youngest MAC East coach, but one in which if he continues the success at the Golden Flashes, he could find himself back in the Big Ten, this time in charge. First order of business: convince Dri Archer to stay for his senior year. Secondly, see what you can do to keep offensive coordinator Brian Rock, lest he leave for Purdue as well, or find someone who can groom a young quarterback, because that's what they'll need the most, be it David Fisher or someone else.
And what will constitute as success? Obviously going back to the days of 3-9 seasons is not what they want anymore. There's actual "expectations" here, man, especially because a MAC title still fell out of their grasp. Cool-headed Golden Flashes fans should expect that, as long as their in the hunt, that's acceptable enough.