After 2-7 first year, ACU football adds new def. coord.

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                </div>  Just weeks after completing its inaugural season of football, the Arizona Christian University Firestorm has made a major change to its coaching staff, adding a new defensive coordinator. The […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Just weeks after completing its inaugural season of football, the Arizona Christian University Firestorm has made a major change to its coaching staff, adding a new defensive coordinator.

The small private college in northeast Phoenix, which competes as an NAIA member, just announced the hire of Dave Johnson to replace Adam Olson, who left after just one season to return to the high-school ranks.

Olson, who was hired by head coach, Donnie Yantis, to begin building a football program at ACU, took the college job after spending a year as the defensive coordinator at Phoenix Christian Prep.  He will return as that school’s new head coach.

“I will always support our coaches making moves that will be best for their families,” said Yantis in a prepared statement.  “We are so happy for Adam and we wish him the best of luck with his new position and are so thankful to him for helping us start this program here at ACU.”  Yantis also came to ACU from a high-school program after spending 13 years as the head coach at Paradise Valley High School .

Olson had college coaching experience, working as the defensive backs coach at three different small-college programs out of state, and one season in that capacity at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe.  All but one of those stints lasted just one year, and his stop at ACU followed that pattern.

Addressing his new hire, Yantis said, “Dave comes to us with a wealth of experience as a former head coach at the NCAA Division II level for seven years. He will bring some great ideas and strategies to improve our defense and our program.”

The defense can use some improvement.  It gave up an average of 36 points a game under Olson as the team wrapped up its first season with a 2-7 record.

Coincidentally, that was almost the same record that cost Johnson his job at Simon Fraser University, where he spent seven years as head coach, trying to revive a program on life support. He took over the Canadian school’s program after two winless seasons and struggled to pull it up to a 5-6 record in 2012.  But a fall-back in 2013 to a 3-7 finish sent the school looking for a new head coach.

The SFU challenge proved to be too much for his successor as well.  His replacement, Jacques Chapdelaine, lasted just 11 months before he resigned the position earlier this week. Chapdelaine posted a 2-9 record at the school, which is the only football program outside of the United States that participates in the NCAA; the school is currently in a transition period to be able to play Division II ball.

Johnson will be working with a program at ACU that relies heavily on local talent, with two-thirds of the first season’s roster culled from Arizona high schools and junior-college programs.  However, a young team laden with freshman players last year, will have a year of experience under its belt as the 2015 season opens.

And however much improvement he is able to make on the defensive side of the ball, the Firestorm will need to up their offensive game if the 2015 record is to show any more than three wins.  They averaged just 24 points a game last season.

ACU fans will long remember the school’s first-ever football game, played on the school’s “home” field at Shadow Mountain High School, thanks to a 108-yard punt return by Gabriel Jordan that made the highlight reel at ESPN. But that big play couldn’t avoid an early-season home loss, and the team went on to post an 0-5 record at home.

The change in defensive coordinators just six weeks after the final game of a three-win season will likely not be the last adjustments Yantis will be making as he works to build a foundation for a new program.

As a former head coach, Dave Johnson hopefully will also bring some recruiting savvy to his new job.  An influx of new talent can’t be limited to the coaching staff if this expensive experiment by a small school is to be successful.

(Photo: ACU Athletics)