After an eleven-day search for a new defensive coordinator, the wait for Wyoming fans is over. Cowboy football head coach Craig Bohl hired a familiar face in Scottie Hazelton to be his defensive coordinator. Hazelton coached under Bohl at North Dakota State from 2007 to 2011. Hazelton most recently served as the assistant linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. Below is the rest of Hazelton’s coaching resume:
- 1996–1998 – Fort Lewis College (Defensive Backs)
- 1999 – Fort Lewis College (Defensive Coordinator)
- 2000–2001 – North Dakota State (Graduate Assistant)
- 2002–2003 – St. Olaf College (Defensive Backs)
- 2004–2005 – Missouri Southern State (Defensive Coordinator)
- 2006 – Michigan Tech (Linebackers)
- 2007–2009 – North Dakota State (Defensive Line)
- 2010–2011 – North Dakota State (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)
- 2012 – USC (Linebackers)
- 2013 – Nevada (Defensive Coordinator)
- 2014-2016 – Jacksonville Jaguars (Assistant Linebackers)
There is an awful lot to like about Hazelton’s resume. He is a coach who has worked his way up the ranks from D-II college football to the NFL. He has also coached every position group on defense at some point in his career. This is a great advantage for him as someone who is coordinating a defense. He should be able to effectively teach and communicate concepts to defensive lineman, linebackers and defensive backs alike.
Hazelton brings six years experience as a defensive coordinator in multiple levels of college football with a mixed bag of success. In 2010 the North Dakota Bison advanced to the FCS playoffs for the very first time. In that season his defense produced 38 sacks, 18 interceptions and only allowed 361 yards and 18.2 points per game. He followed that up in 2011 with an elite defense that included 41 sacks, 21 interceptions allowing 315 yards and just 12.7 points per game in route to the FCS title.
His next defensive coordinator job was in 2013 for the Nevada Wolf Pack where his defense forced just 13 turnovers and allowed 34.4 points per game. Wyoming and Bohl will be hoping the results as the Cowboy defensive coordinator match the output of the green and gold rather than the silver and blue.
Familiarity & Continuity
The key to this selection by Bohl is his familiarity and trust in Hazelton. Just nine days ago I put forth a number of questions including asking what direction Bohl would go. Would he select someone he had worked with before or would he select someone new? He has now selected someone he was familiar with and a coach that helped him win an FCS national title in 2011. This is totally understandable as the number one thing in coaching is communication and trust in each other. Bohl knows the program is on the right track and he did not want to upset the coaching staff dynamic by bringing in an outsider.
The familiarity Hazelton has with Bohl’s system will be a great benefit to the Wyoming players. They will not have to learn a new defense system or terminology over the spring and summer. Therefore, Bohl’s former defensive coordinator at NDSU will slot right into the defensive staff. He will be able to teach the concepts of Wyoming’s Tampa 2 defense using the same terminology the players have been using the last three seasons. Hazelton will hopefully be able to mix in a few wrinkles he has learned since being away from Bohl for four years while in the NFL. Fresh concepts brought into the Wyoming defense will hopefully see the Pokes take strides to becoming a Mountain West championship caliber defense.
Another factor to take into consideration is Hazelton on the recruiting trail. Having been with Bohl before he knows the type of players that fits the “Wyoming profile”. It also doesn’t hurt that he has been in the NFL for the last three seasons with Jacksonville. As a Jaguars linebacker coach, Hazelton coached Pro Bowl linebacker Paul Posluszny. He can say confidently in living rooms across the country I know what it takes to get to the NFL. It will be interesting to see what states he focuses on in recruiting in future recruiting cycles. He has experience recruiting California, the Upper Midwest and all places in between.
What Does It Mean For 2017?
Scottie Hazelton brings familiarity and continuity to the Wyoming defense. That is good news on that side of the ball for 2017 as the defense looks to catch up with the offense. We may not see the full benefits of this hire until the 2018 or 2019 seasons as the Cowboys look to build depth in the front seven. The defense does have the potential to take a significant step forward next season though. That is all Wyoming fans can ask for as of now after three straight seasons of allowing over 30 points per game.