WMU completes staff, taking Miami’s special teams coordinator

Joe Palcic has been hired away by Western Michigan from Miami, completing Tim Lester’s coaching staff for the 2019 season.

From the WMU press release:

Palcic will fill WMU’s final assistant coaching position and will be the first special teams only coach in the Lester era at Western Michigan. Earlier this month, Western Michigan announced its other staff changes, which included Lou Esposito’s promotion to defensive coordinator, as well as the hiring of four new position coaches – James Adams (cornerbacks), Trevor Andrews (linebackers), Mike Bath (running backs), and Keith Gaither (wide receivers).

“We felt it was important to have a person dedicated solely to special teams to complete all three phases of our game – offense, defense and special teams,” Lester said. “Joe won a MAC title in 2003 as a defensive backs coach, has been a coordinator in the Big Ten and has led Miami’s special teams units, which were the best in our league last year. He brings a ton of experience to our staff and will really make an impact on our special teams.”

Miami led the Mid-American Conference and ranked No. 12 nationally for special teams S&P+ Ratings in 2018. S&P+ Ratings are derived from the play-by-play and drive data of all 800-plus of the season’s FBS college football games (140,000-plus plays). The ratings take into account efficiency, explosiveness, and factors related to field position and finishing drives. In regards to special teams, the ratings are measured play-for-play special teams efficiency and weighted for overall importance.

Palcic’s special teams were dominate throughout the MAC in 2018, finishing first in the conference in both kick return average (25.7) and kick coverage average (45.3). The RedHawks produced a pair of All-MAC performers in Maurice Thomas and Kyle Kramer. Thomas finished first in the MAC in kick return average (26.7), while Kramer had 30 of his 65 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Prior to focusing on Miami’s special teams, Palcic coached safeties from 2015 to 2017 and the RedHawk linebackers in 2014. In 2017 Miami ranked third in the MAC in scoring defense, third in total defense and fourth in pass defense. The RedHawks were ranked first in the MAC in total defense in 2016 and fourth in pass defense. (WMU press release)

This strategy within this news is meant to improve in two areas with one hire.

Palcic, as noted, is going to focus on special teams on his own. Dontae Wright had co-special teams coordinator responsibilities last year, but now he’s going to just focus on safeties. Dave Duggan was last year’s main STC, but he also had to coach up the linebackers.

WMU finished the 2018 season with an overall S&P+ rank of 98, nationally. The Bronco’s offensive S&P+ rank finished at 47, which is good, but then the defense (110) and special teams (130, worst in the country) were major contributors to WMU finishing with a 7-6 record. With Palcic focusing on the special teams units and letting defensive coaches focus on coaching defense, there’s certainly a clear, organized approach to solving WMU’s problem from the last two years, which is: WMU’s recruiting has been too good (under Lester and P.J. Fleck) to have six-loss teams.

WMU’s coaching staff: 2018 vs. 2019

2018 2019
Tim Lester (HC) Tim Lester (HC)
Eric Evans (Pass GC/QB) Eric Evans (Pass GC/QB)
Terry Malone (AHC/RB) Mike Bath (RB)
Ashton Aikens (WR) Keith Gaither (WR)
Bill Kenney (TE) Bill Kenney (TE)
Jake Moreland (OC/OL) Jake Moreland (OC/OL)
Tim Daoust (DC) Lou Esposito (DC/DL)
Lou Esposito (Co-DC/DL) Trevor Andrews (LB)
David Duggan (STC/LB) Dontae Wright (S)
Dontae Wright (Co-STC/S) James Adams (CB)
Nick Sanchez (CB) Joe Palcic (STC)

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