BOWLING GREEN — Assistant football coaches at the collegiate level often toil in anonymity.
Generally the spotlight shines on the head coach when smart plays are called, blitzes are dialed up successfully, highly regarded recruits are signed and players and teams perform well.
But an assistant coach often is the direct contact with players, whether that contact comes in film study and meetings or on the practice field. And it is often an assistant coach who has the main connection with recruits in particular parts of the country.
Toledo offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Wright, center, has been nominated for the Broyles Award, which honors the top assistant coach in Division I football.
So it is noteworthy that two local assistant coaches — one each from the University of Toledo and from Bowling Green State University — have been recognized as two of the top assistant coaches in Division I football.
Brian Wright, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Rockets, and Matt Brock, the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach for the Falcons, both are nominees for the Broyles Award.
This honor, named for the long-time Arkansas coach who became a well-known television broadcaster after his coaching retirement, honors the top assistant in the country in a vote of his peers.
Past winners include Kirby Smart, the current Georgia head coach who won as an Alabama assistant in 2009; Tom Herman, who was honored in 2014 while at Ohio State and now is the head coach at Texas; and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, who won the honor in 2015 before becoming the Sooners head coach this season.
“It means a lot,” Wright said of the honor. “I think it’s a true testament to our football team though. That’s the result of a lot of hard work for our players and our coaching staff.
“First and foremost you have to have a great player in the position that you coach, and we certainly have that with Logan Woodside. It’s a true testament to him, to the players, and to our coaching staff.”
Wright has directed a Toledo offense that leads the Mid-American Conference and is ranked 11th among FBS schools in total offense, rolling to 497.6 yards per game entering Wednesday’s Battle of I-75 with Bowling Green.
And at the center of the Rockets’ impressive offense is Woodside at quarterback. He ranks fifth nationally with his 167.9 passing rating; the senior has completed 193-of-298 passes for 2,919 yards and 20 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
“I think he’s done a really good job of mentoring and developing our quarterbacks the last couple of years,” UT head coach Jason Candle said of Wright. “He does a good job of working with our offensive personnel to get us into situations where we can be successful.
“Most importantly, he’s a good teacher and good person. He’s good at developing relationships with players, and he’s very selfless.”
Meanwhile Brock has helped the Falcons shine on special teams. He has worked with Findlay native Joseph Davidson to help BG rank fifth nationally in net punting at 42.74 yards per kick, and Central Catholic graduate Jake Suder has blossomed as a kicker under Brock’s tutelage, connecting on 16-of-18 field goals this season.
Bowling Green also ranks seventh among FBS schools in kickoff return defense, allowing just 16.33 yards per return.
“I was surprised [about receiving the honor],” Brock admitted. “Any time you go through a year like we’re having, you don’t expect something like that.
“But I didn’t expect anything like that anyways — that’s not why I do what I do. I appreciate it, but I’m more worried about this team and this game.”
BG coach Mike Jinks said he understands the value of good special teams, and he appreciates the improvement Brock has fostered in all areas.
“The thing that has come on this year is the return game,” Jinks said. “I know we had a few drops early, but I thought the guys we had there would make an impact – and they have.
“This honor is a testament to [Brock]. I believe special teams can be the difference between good and great, and he has done well.”
This season Brock also added the duties of coaching the linebackers, who have been solid for the Falcons. Nate Locke is second on the team with 71 tackles while Brandon Harris is third with 70. Meanwhile freshmen such as Armani Posey, who is fourth on the team with 52 stops, and Kholbe Coleman, who has 18 tackles in his first season of college football, have shown promise for the future.
“I had handled the linebackers at some previous stops, and I had handled some special teams units along with the linebackers before,” Brock explained. “But handling both is all about being efficient with your time.
“As long as you’re efficient and prepared, it’s not a problem at all.”
Some of the other candidates for this award also have ties to these two teams.
Former Toledo assistant coach Jon Heacock, now defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Iowa State, also has been nominated. Among the former Bowling Green assistants who have been honored are Mike Elko, now the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame; Brian Ward, currently the defensive coordinator at Syracuse; and Wake Forest offensive coordinator Warren Ruggerio.
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