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Arizona defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen leaving to join Texas staff, per report

arizona-wildcats-football-johnny-nansen-defensive-coordinator-texas-longhorns-linebackers-sarkisian Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Arizona managed to avoid any significant losses to its roster to the NCAA transfer portal, but its staff wasn’t as lucky.

247Sports is reporting that defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen is leaving to be the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Texas. The school confirmed it later Saturday that it had hired Nansen to take the spot opened when Jeff Choate was hired to be head coach at Nevada.

The 49-year-old Nansen has been Arizona’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons, and in 2023 he oversaw a massive turnaround to that unit. The Wildcats tied for 30th in FBS in scoring defense, allowing 21.1 points per game, after giving up 36.5 per game the previous year.

Arizona’s defense was a key reason for the team going 10-3, its fourth 10-win season in school history, and that unit forced six takeaways that led to 28 points in the comeback win over Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl.

At Texas, Nansen will be reunited with longtime friend Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian, who has been Texas’ head coach since 2021, had Nansen on his staffs at Washington and USC. The Longhorns went 12-2 this season, falling to Washington in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl.

The Wildcats are set to return the bulk of their defensive starters but Jedd Fisch must now hire a third defensive coordinator in four seasons as head coach. Don Brown coached the defense in 2021 before leaving to take the UMass head coaching job and then Nansen was hired away from UCLA’s staff.

If the UA were to promote from within the best option would be veteran assistant Duane Akina, who was Arizona’s defensive coordinator under Dick Tomey from 1996-2000 and also served as co-D with Texas from 2005-07.