Here's who Arizona Football should consider for its next Defensive Coordinator

UTEP v Arizona
UTEP v Arizona / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

With Johnny Nansen leaving for Texas, we add our two cents on who Arizona Football should look at for its next Defensive Coordinator.

Welp, for the third time in the last four seasons, Arizona Football head coach Jedd Fisch finds himself in the unfortunate position of having to hire yet another, defensive coordinator.

As we are all aware by now, it is that Johnny Nansen is leaving Arizona to become the next Co-Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers coach at Texas.

A move that is leaving Wildcat fans a bit perplexed, regardless, Arizona has to move on, and luckily for them, they have a great opportunity to find a solid replacement to help lead a group that returns a large majority of its starters.

With Arizona Football searching for yet another defensive coordinator, we provide our two cents on who could (should), replace Johnny Nansen.

*Keep in mind, this is an article based on our opinion and does not reflect the actual thoughts of head coach Jedd Fisch, nor does it provide any insight into Arizona's actual coaching search. With that said, here's who we think the Wildcats should consider!

Duane Akina

Age: 67
Position: Senior Defensive Assistant/Secondary
Current Team: Arizona
Alma Mater: Washington


  • Washington – 1976-79
  • Washington (Graduate Assistant) – 1979-80
  • Hawaii (Defensive Back Coach) – 1981-82
  • Hawaii (Outside Linebacker Coach) – 1983
  • Hawaii (Defensive Back Coach) – 1984-85
  • Calgary Stampeders (Defensive Back Coach) – 1986
  • Arizona (Defensive Back Coach) – 1987
  • Arizona (Associate Head Coach / Defensive Back Coach) – 1989-91
  • Arizona (Offensive Coordinator) – 1992-95
  • Arizona (Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Back Coach) – 1996-00
  • Texas (Defensive Back Coach) – 2001-02
  • Texas (Associate Head Coach / Defensive Back Coach) – 2003-04
  • Texas (Co-Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Back Coach) – 2005-07
  • Texas (Assistant Coach / Defensive Back Coach) – 2008-10
  • Arizona (Defensive Back Coach) – 2011
  • Texas (Associate Head Coach / Defensive Back Coach) – 2011-14
  • Stanford (Defensive Back Coach) – 2014-22
  • Arizona (Senior Defensive Assistant/Secondary) – 2023-Present


The man is a wealth of knowledge and his reputation speaks for itself. Everywhere he goes he succeeds, and I don't think it is a coincidence that Arizona's secondary/defense took a major step forward once he arrived on campus this year.

Also, it seems like making him the defensive coordinator would be the next logical step for him and for Arizona should he want the responsibilities. 


Assuming Texas doesn't try to poach him too, Akina is 67, so does he have the energy and stamina to be the next defensive coordinator? How would he handle recruiting responsibilities and being out on the road?

Regardless of his stellar background and qualifications, there are some questions (concerns) I have if he were to become the next defensive coordinator.

Derrick Odum

Age: 53
Position: Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
Current Team: San Jose State
Alma Mater: Utah


  • Utah – 1989-93
  • Utah (Graduate Assistant) – 1996-97
  • Montana (Secondary Coach) – 1998-99
  • Utah State (Secondary Coach) –2000-02
  • Houston (Secondary Coach) – 2003-04
  • Utah (Safeties Coach) – 2005-07
  • SMU (Secondary Coach) – 2008-14
  • Oregon State (Defensive Backs Coach) – 2015
  • Oregon State (Safeties Coach) – 2016
  • San José State University (Defensive Coordinator) – 2017
  • San José State University (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) – 2018-Present


A West Coast-based guy, Coach Odum has made a name for himself by putting together a stout defense at San José State and his defenses have been ranked as such; 125th (2018), 106th (2019), 26th (2020), 54th (2021), 32nd (2022), and 42nd (2023).

Additionally, he could transition quickly as coach Odum runs a mix of 3-4, 4-3, and 4-2-5 with the Spartans now, and Arizona has the personnel to compete right away!


Would he even come to Tucson? With no ties to Arizona, would we have to worry about him leaving in the next couple of years should he do well here? Beyond that, how would he do with an increased level of competition? Would he experience the same level of success?

Joe Salave’a

Age: 48
Position: Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
Current Team: San Jose State
Alma Mater: Arizona


  • Arizona – 1994-97
  • Drafted by the Tennessee Oilers/Titans in 1998
  • Oilers/Titans – 1998–01
  • Baltimore Ravens – 2003
  • San Diego Chargers – 2003
  • Washington Redskins – 2004–06
  • San Jose State (Defensive Line Coach) – 2008–09
  • Arizona (Defensive Line Coach) – 2011
  • Washington State (AHC/DL) – 2012-16
  • Oregon (AHC/DL/Co-DC) – 2017–21
  • Miami (AHC/RGC/DL) – 2022-Present


We are all aware of the obvious. Coach Salave'a has Arizona ties being a former player here himself, so he understands the history, culture, and tradition at Arizona.

He’s also a strong recruiter with Polynesian ties, and he was a tough-nosed player at Arizona which seems to translate into his coaching style. At Washington State and Oregon, Joe put together some solid Defensive Lines, and with the talent the Wildcats have returning, his flare could mesh well with the defense.


As it was rumored at Oregon, does Joe even call his own plays on defense at Miami, and if he doesn't, would that be an issue by jumping into a full-fledged defensive coordinator role at Arizona?

Beyond that, does Arizona even have the money and prowess to pull him from Miami? He has done well for himself in climbing the coaching ranks, and at this point, is Joe too big of a name to even come to Arizona?

Peter Hansen

Age: 44
Position: Linebackers Coach
Current Team: Carolina Panthers
Alma Mater: Arizona


  • Arizona – 1998-02
  • Cannes Iron Mask (France) - Football – 2003
  • Club Falcon (Denmark) - Basketball – 2003-04
  • Palo Alto (Calif.) High School (Assistant Coach) – 2004-05
  • Palo Alto (Calif.) High School (Defensive Coordinator) – 2006-07
  • Stanford (Strength and Conditioning) – 2008
  • Stanford (Defensive Assistant) – 2009-10
  • San Francisco 49ers (Defensive Assistant/Quality Control) – 2011-13
  • Stanford (Inside Linebackers Coach) – 2014-19
  • UNLV (Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach) – 2020-21
  • Denver Broncos (Linebackers Coach) – 2022
  • Carolina Panthers (Linebackers Coach) – 2023-Present


As suggested by Justin Spears of the Arizona Daily Star, perhaps this is a candidate that gets a look for the Wildcats! After all, Peter Hansen was a two-sport star and graduate of the University of Arizona and he also coached alongside coach Akina at Stanford from 2014-19, so could Fisch pair them up in Tucson?


But does he have an interest in Arizona, and would he leave the NFL though? Yes, he went to school here but not every Arizona alum or person with ties to Arizona has to come here.

Beyond that, how would he be as a defensive coordinator? His stint at UNLV from 2020-21 didn't exactly go all that well.

Chris Partridge

Age: 43
Position: Linebackers Coach
Current Team: Michigan
Alma Mater: Lafayette College 


  • Paramus Catholic (NJ) High School (AHC/DC/WR) – 2003-04
  • Lafayette (Defensive Back/Special Teams Coach) – 2005
  • The Citadel (Defensive Line/Special Teams Coach) – 2006-07
  • Paramus Catholic (NJ) High School – 2010–14
  • Michigan (Director of Player Personnel) – 2015
  • Michigan (Special Teams Coach/Linebackers Coach) – 2016–17
  • Michigan (Special Teams Coach/Safeties Coach) – 2020–22
  • Ole Miss (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safties Coach) – 2020–22
  • Michigan (Linebackers Coach) – 2023


Already a candidate being suggested and tied to Arizona's coaching search, Chris is someone who makes a ton of sense for a lot of reasons. For starters, he and Coach Fisch have previously coached together a Michigan, so there is familiarity there, and Coach Partridge is a bright defensive mind. 


However, bringing him also brings a bit of extra attention to Arizona Football for all the wrong reasons. For those that didn't know, Coach Partridge was wrapped up in the Michigan sign-stealing debacle just a couple of months ago, and he was the scapegoat in the whole thing as he was terminated this past November.

So does Arizona take the risk and bring him in, and is he worth the extra drama and attention? Those are some difficult questions Fisch and staff will need to answer before proceeding!

Next. HOT TAKE: Arizona Football still in good hands with Johnny Nansen leaving. HOT TAKE: Arizona Football still in good hands with Johnny Nansen leaving. dark

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