NFL Coaches Leaving for College Football in 2024 Include DeShaun Foster, Eric Bieniemy

    Several high-profile NFL coaches jumped back into the college football ranks for 2024. Let's take a look at which ones and where they ended up.

    The life of a football coach means a transient, roller-coaster career filled with frequent relocation and a constant revolving door of job titles. While the ideal evolution of those job titles is to go from the collegiate to the professional ranks, it doesn’t always work out that way, either by choice or by circumstance.

    There was plenty of talk about college coaches jumping to the pros, but what about the other way around? Several reverted from the NFL to college football despite the rigorous demands of a chaotic sport. Let’s look at which NFL coaches are back to coach in college this coming season.

    NFL Coaches Swapping Sundays for Saturdays

    DeShaun Foster, HC, UCLA

    DeShaun Foster wasn’t a coach in the NFL for long. In fact, his stint lasted about 10 days. Foster, the RB coach at UCLA from 2017-2023, was hired to be the Las Vegas Raiders RB coach on February 2. A week later, on February 9, Chip Kelly left UCLA for an OC job at Ohio State, vacating the Bruins’ head coaching spot. That led Foster to accept the UCLA job three days later.

    Foster, a seven-year NFL pro, hasn’t been a head coach before, but he’s in the Bruins’ Hall of Fame as a player (1998-2001) and has been on staff off and on for 10 seasons. Going from a running back coach at either level to a Power Five head coach is quite the jump, so it’s not surprising he spurned the pros and accepted the offer at his alma mater.

    Eric Bieniemy, OC, UCLA

    Foster convinced an NFL OC with a lot of cache to leave the pros when he brought in Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator. A two-time Super Bowl champion as OC with the Kansas City Chiefs (2018-2022), Bieniemy is coming off an unsuccessful one-year campaign as OC with the Washington Commanders.

    While Bieniemy has reportedly interviewed with half of the NFL teams to be head coach at some point, he’s back with the Bruins after a long hiatus. He was the RB coach and recruiting coordinator at UCLA (2003-2005) before embarking on a 16-year NFL coaching career, with a stop as OC at his alma mater, Colorado (2011-2012).

    He’s also rumored to be bringing long-time NFL assistant Juan Costilla to coach the Bruins’ OL.

    Wink Martindale, DC, Michigan

    Like Bieniemy, Wink Martindale is a Super Bowl-winning assistant coach choosing the college ranks over the NFL. Martindale was expected back with the New York Giants for a third season in 2024, but a disagreement with head coach Brian Daboll over staffing led to his departure.

    The Giants could have blocked a deal for him to go to another NFL team since he was under contract for 2024, but he was free to leave for a college team. While it may be a step back into his past, it’s hardly a step-down.

    This is the first time he’s back coaching college ball in over 20 years, but he’s taking over a Wolverine defense that just won the National Championship. Martindale is bringing some of his NFL confidants to Ann Arbor, reportedly adding Giants defensive analyst Kevin Wilkins as a Michigan defensive analyst.

    Jim Salgado, DC, Louisiana

    One of Martindale’s first hirings at Michigan was bringing in Louisiana DC Lamar Morgan as DB coach, leaving a vacancy at DC in Lafayette.

    Jim Salgado was announced to have filled that vacancy last week, marking a quick return to college football for the veteran NFL assistant. Salgado spent six seasons on staff with the Buffalo Bills (2017-2022), his first three seasons as a defensive assistant and last three coaching safeties and nickels.

    He spent part of the 2023 season at Michigan State, but he was let go when head coach Mel Tucker was fired. In November, he accepted an interim job with the Washington Commanders to finish the season when Jack Del Rio was fired.

    Jonathan DeCoster, co-OL, Florida

    Jonathan DeCoster is back coaching college after three seasons as an offensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns. While he didn’t play for Florida head coach Billy Napier, they both have a Louisiana connection, with DeCoster playing for the Ragin’ Cajuns (2006-2010) and Napier coaching them (2018-2021).

    KEEP READING: 2024 College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    He’s back in college after starting his coaching career as a GA at Nevada (2014), OL coach at West Virginia State (2015-2016), and TE coach at LSU (2017-2019).

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

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