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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Johnny Nansen named new Arizona football defensive coordinator

Marison Bilagody


The Arizona defense tackling a University of California Los Angeles player at Arizona Stadium on Oct. 9th. The Arizona defense gave up 329 rushing yards in the loss to UCLA.

Johnny Nansen was named as Don Brown’s successor to lead the Arizona football team’s defense.

Nansen is known as one of the best recruiters in the Pac-12. He comes over from UCLA where he was their defensive line coach. He was one of the main architects behind UCLA leading the Pac-12 in run defense. 

Nansen was at the University of Southern California for six seasons before UCLA and coached linebackers mainly. He was named as 247Sports’ Pac-12 Recruiter of the year in 2017 and served as USC’s run game coordinator in 2019. The recruiting database on 247Sports lists Nansen as the primary recruiter on eight top-100 players throughout his career.

He was at University of Washington before he came over to USC. Nansen also has experience coaching special teams, linebackers and running backs. He’s a rare coach that has experience coaching on both sides of the ball. Nansen went to school at Washington State University and played linebacker there from 1992 to 1996.  

Related: Arizona loses their fifth straight Territorial Cup to ASU by 23 points

He started as a graduate assistant for University of Louisville in 1999, then went back west to Idaho State University from 2001-2003 and then University of Idaho from 2004-2008. He coached defensive backs at Idaho State and while at Idaho worked with the running backs and coached special teams.

Jedd Fisch hired Nansen mainly for his recruiting prowess and great track record, even though he’s never called plays on the defensive side of the ball before. Arizona is in dire need of talent, and any way to get better on the recruiting trail is a plus. 

One of the eras of Arizona football that Fisch is trying to emulate is that of the Desert Swarm. So getting talent on the defensive side of the ball is a must if they want to live up to those expectations at all. Nansen’s recruiting speaks for itself, but having to call plays is a whole different animal. 

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