If you can’t remember a time when they were a nationally ranked force in the Big East, the UConn Huskies are likely your yardstick for whatever name you chose to associate with the opposite of college football excellence. But in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend. Led by Jim Mora, a young UConn coaching staff is putting the Huskies back on the football map.
UConn Huskies Coaching Staff 2023
Head Coach, Jim Mora
After an absence of over four years from the coaching game, Jim Mora returned to college football in emphatic and successful fashion as the head coach of UConn for the 2022 season. He guided the Huskies to their first six-win season and a bowl game appearance since 2015. Now, Mora is back in Storrs for the 2023 college campaign with the aim of building on that initial success.
In his pursuit of bringing success to the Huskies, Mora completely overhauled the UConn coaching staff ahead of his first season in charge. As part of that, the UConn head coach also doubles up as the head of a defensive coordinator-by-committee approach. His grounding in that side of the ball helped facilitate a favorable 12-point swing in scoring defense from 2021 to 2022.
Mora’s college coaching career began at his alma mater, Washington, with a 28-year NFL-filled gap between his stint as a graduate assistant with those Huskies and his only other college role at UCLA. Despite being relieved of his duties by the Bruins before the end of the 2017 season, he compiled a 52-37 winning record and coached two consensus All-Americans while at UCLA.
Mora’s full coaching résumé:
- Washington (graduate assistant, 1984)
- San Diego Chargers (defensive quality control, 1985-1988; secondary coach, 1989-91)
- San Francisco 49ers (secondary coach, 1997-1998; defensive coordinator, 1999-2003)
- Atlanta Falcons (head coach, 2004-2006)
- Seattle Seahawks (defensive coordinator, 2007-2008; head coach, 2009)
- UCLA (head coach, 2012-2017)
- UConn (2022-2023)
Offensive Coordinator, Nick Charlton
One feature of Mora’s initial UConn coaching staff was faith in young, up-and-coming coaches, and none typify that more than offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Nick Charlton. In his first season as a full-time coach at the FBS level, Charlton’s unit improved by almost four points and nearly 40 yards per game compared to the 2021 campaign.
A 2011 graduate of Boston College, his exposure to now-Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and players like Andre Williams and Alex Amidon as a three-year graduate assistant helped develop his coaching arsenal, and he took that into his initial positional coaching role working with the wide receivers at Maine.
Charlton’s ascension with the Black Bears is a testament to his talent and ability to transform an offense. After just one season as the WR coach, he added special teams responsibility to his résumé, and his success in the two roles saw him promoted to offensive coordinator and QB coach for the 2018 season.
Charlton arrived in Storrs after spending the final three seasons of his time at Maine as the Black Bears’ head coach. His time there produced a laundry list of firsts for the program, including their first-ever freshman 1,000+ yard rusher and making the FCS playoff semifinal for the first time. Although UConn was his initial FBS coaching role, he helped Maine defeat FBS opposition.
Special Teams Coordinator, Doug Shearer
After establishing himself as a high-profile special teams coordinator at Miami (OH), Doug Shearer joined Mora’s UConn coaching staff in the same role while adding defensive recruiting coordinator duties to his coaching résumé. Shearer got his first coaching break as a graduate assistant with the Huskies while also spending several years with the NC State specialists.
Linebacker Coach, Siriki Diabate
A co-captain during his time at Syracuse, Siriki Diabate started his career as a graduate assistant with the Orange and also has Power Five experience from a year spent as an analyst at Notre Dame. His five-year spell as the Middle Tennessee linebacker coach earned him a role on Mora’s UConn coaching staff, where he is a voice in the defensive coordinator committee approach.
Defensive Back Coach, Dalton Hilliard
Defensive back coach Dalton Hilliard’s addition to the UConn coaching staff ahead of the 2022 college season continued a long-established relationship with the Huskies’ head coach. Hilliard concluded his college playing career as a safety at UCLA in Mora’s first year with the Bruins and returned to the program to coach after leading Seamen Milano to the Italian Super Bowl.
Hilliard coached the secondary at UT-Martin and Arkansas State in the three seasons prior to his arrival in Storrs. While he has full responsibility for the UConn defensive back room, he is another influential voice in the defensive decision-making committee in lieu of a full-time coordinator.
Tight End Coach, John Marinelli
John Marinelli is no stranger to fans of high school football in Connecticut. His father is synonymous with New Canaan High School, and he gave the Huskies’ TE coach his coaching break with the Connecticut powerhouse in 2010. John trod his path as the head coach at Greenwich HS before joining the college ranks with Arizona and Illinois, where he was a senior analyst.
Defensive Line Coach, Kenny McClendon
A four-year defensive lineman at Central Michigan, Kenny McClendon joined the coaching ranks at the Chippewas before gaining Power Five experience in 2017 with Iowa State. He joined the UConn coaching staff ahead of the 2022 season as the defensive line coach after excelling at Youngstown State and Valdosta State. McClendon also assists with defensive coordinator duties.
Offensive Line Coach, Gordon Sammis
A former guard at Virginia, Gordon Sammis worked with the Cavaliers’ offensive line and tight ends in his first college coaching role. He joined the UConn coaching staff ahead of the 2022 college football season, returning to the FBS level after gaining an impressive reputation at William & Mary, Lafayette College, Virginia Military Institute, and Columbia University.