IU defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler leaves for USC.

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

The former Kansas State player and Nebraska assistant heads west to work for Lane Kiffin.

While IU's offense took big strides in the 2012 season, the defense, despite showing promise on occasion, ultimately ended up with numbers nearly as bad as in 2011. The effort to rebuild the defense has suffered a blow, however, with the departure of co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Mike Ekeler to USC. Ekeler shared the DC position with Doug Mallory, who remains. This is the second departure in the last month from the defensive coaching staff. Mark Hagen left his position as defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator a few weeks ago to take a comparable position at Texas A&M.

Ekeler was well regarded, and if nothing else was fun to watch on the sideline. I prefer to put a positive gloss on the number of departures that have happened since Wilson has been at IU. None of the moves appear to be made from desperation. Every move has been to a program of greater prestige. I do have to say that this move is more of a headscratcher than most of the departures. The typical move (Hagen, Rod Smith, etc.) has been to a comparable position at a more prestigious program. Unquestionably, USC is at or near the top of the big time college football hierarchy while IU is at or near the bottom. Still, Ekeler is giving up the co-defensive coordinator title for a job in which he will be only a position coach. In addition, USC's head coach, the contemptible Lane Kiffin, is not exactly the picture of job security. Last season, Kiffin led the preseason #1 Trojans to a 7-6/5-4 record. He's generally considered a devious and dishonest guy even by the standard of big time college football coaches. Still, Coach Ekeler is an ambitious and energetic guy, and if he thinks that the USC job puts him in a better position for upward mobility than the IU job, he's probably correct. (And, I'm assuming that the money is much better, even for a position coach, and even accounting for the high cost of living).

Now, Kevin Wilson is in the unenviable position of having to fill a coaching position just a few weeks before spring practice, but again, it's nice to have assistants that other programs want to hire.

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