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A Closer Look at the Gophers' Coaching Staff Additions

01/21/2019, 3:00pm CST
By Daniel House

The Gophers’ coaching staff is now set for next season. 

Minnesota announced the hiring of Rod Chance as cornerbacks coach on Monday. Chance fills a vacancy opened by defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae, who left the program for a position at his alma mater, West Virginia. With the addition of Chance, Minnesota has officially set the coaching staff for 2019. 

Last season, Rod Chance was a defensive analyst at Oregon and helped with certain aspects of the team’s innovative 3-4 defensive scheme. In past stops, Chance’s defenses have valued athletic, small and speedy cornerbacks with ball skills. However, he equally blended those profiles with length and physicality during his tenure as Southern Utah’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach. In his last season coaching at the FCS level, Southern Utah defeated four ranked opponents and made the FCS playoffs for the third time in five years. In 2017, his defense had 15 interceptions, forced eight fumbles and posted 21 sacks. While at Southern Utah, Chance led defenses that produced a combined 55 turnovers during a two-year span. The ability to be opportunistic and rush the passer are certainly two areas the Gophers will try to improve in 2019.

Chance has primarily coached and worked within a 3-4 defensive system with a hybrid edge player or “jack.” Considering his experience with diverse packages and the utilization of unique skill sets, he could bring a creative schematic approach to the Gophers’ defense. The team has emphasized finding length, speed and athleticism across position groups. Those are all traits that can be maximized, developed and used creatively on defense. 

Chance has a wide background coaching multiple positions, but specializes in defensive backs. He played the position at Rhode Island from 2001-05 and immediately entered the coaching ranks. He also played high school football at St Thomas Aquinas in Florida, which is the same high school current defensive back Benny Sapp III once attended. 

Chance comes off the James Franklin coaching tree and started his career as a quality control coach under him at Vanderbilt. When Derek Mason joined the staff in 2014, Chance shifted to defensive quality control. Mason, the current Vanderbilt head coach, has a strong history as a defensive backs coach and spent three seasons as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2007-09. Mason is widely considered one of the most innovative defensive minds in college football due to his scheme. Mason’s two-gap scheme helped his teams better defend spread offenses. The nose tackle holds two gaps at the point of attack and helps create a numbers advantage. Not only that, but Mason is known across college football for mixing his fronts and coverages. This includes using sub-packages consistently, such as nickel and dime sets to get team speed on the field. The good news: Chance came off of this coaching tree. 

Outside of collegiate work at Vanderbilt, Chance earned a Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship in the summer of 2014. During that time, he worked with the Titans in training camp and was exposed to NFL approaches. 

From a recruiting standpoint, he’ll likely provide another injection into the team’s efforts in Georgia and Florida. He was an assistant and special teams coordinator at Alpharetta High School from 2009-12. Outside of coordinating work, Chance specialized in coaching defensive backs and wide receivers. With his relationships in this region, he can add another dimension to their recruiting efforts in the South. It’s already an area of emphasis, but Chance’s relationships in those areas will likely be valuable. 

In addition to Chance coaching the cornerbacks, new defensive assistant Joe Harasymiak has been named safeties/defensive backs coach. Harasymiak, an energetic coach from Maine, aligns with the personality type of this staff. He was the head coach of the Black Bears, leading them to their first FCS semifinal appearance in school history. Haraymiak was recently named Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. He also worked with Gophers’ defensive coordinator Joe Rossi for three seasons and will help Minnesota’s recruiting efforts on the east coast. Eventually, he is likely to become a future FBS head coach. 

Harasymiak also has extensive experience coordinating defenses and specializes in defensive backs. His expertise in this area may help the Gophers’ innovation with their coverages. Most NFL teams and a few college programs have multiple defensive backs coaches to handle the safeties and cornerbacks separately. This makes sense because the technical nuances of the position are different. Harasymiak will likely focus on the pass coverage strategies and safety technique, while Chance works with the cornerbacks. The split of these responsibilities helps make the coaching more specific, giving Harasymiak and Chance the opportunity to collaborate on the coverage schemes. 

With the addition of Jim Panagos as defensive line coach, the Gophers are also bringing in additional experience. Panagos coached for five years at Central Florida and worked with Joe Rossi at Rutgers from 2012-15. In addition to college jobs, Panagos coached with the Minnesota Vikings from 2002-2005. He was on the staff that identified defensive tackle Kevin Williams, one of the best pure three-technique defensive tackles in team history. The lineage of players developed by Panagos extends to almost all of his stops. Defensive tackles Darius Hamilton and Bruce Miller, defensive end Kemoko Turay and second-round pick Torell Troup are a few examples. He has a history of developing defensive linemen with athletic prototypes and unique frames. With these skill sets arriving in a heavily recruited defensive line class, Panagos will have plenty of players to develop. 

I’ll be producing more content on these additions during the offseason, but it’s clear to see the team wanted to add several young and innovative minds to the defensive staff. With Haraymisk and Chance, they have two coaches in the secondary to develop players and schemes. This can help with the delegation of schematic responsibilities and allows more hands-on coaching between the cornerbacks and safeties. In addition, Jim Panagos brings experience and a developmental pedigree to a position that will be pivotal to Minnesota’s future success. In addition, Minnesota’s offensive staff will return for 2019, which allows them to continuing building upon last season’s strides. In 2018, eight underclassmen were featured in prominent roles on offense. The coaches will have the chance to add new talent and continue developing players across position groups. 

Here is the complete 2019 coaching staff: 

Offense: 

Kirk Ciarrocca- Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
Kenni Burns- Running Backs Coach
Matt Simon- Wide Receivers Coach
Clay Patterson- Tight Ends Coach
Brian Callahan- Offensive Line

Defense: 

Jim Panagos- Defensive Line
Joe Rossi- Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
Joe Harasymiak- Defensive Backs/Safeties
Rod Chance- Cornerbacks
Rob Wenger- Special Teams Coordinator/Outside Linebackers

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