Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch has found his defensive coordinator.
He’s hired Johnny Nansen to be the next defensive coordinator for Arizona Football. Nansen has spent the last two seasons coaching the defensive line for UCLA and has coached in the Pac-12 since 2009.
This season, Nansen has played a significant role in UCLA’s success defending the run as the Bruins allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per game in the conference (124.2), 26th nationally. In his first season with UCLA in 2020, the Bruins defense led the Pac-12 in fewest rushing yards per carry allowed (3.6) and rated eighth in the nation while leading the league in sacks per game (3.29).
Prior to his time at UCLA, Nansen spent six seasons on the coaching staff at USC. In 2019, he guided the inside linebackers and was the defensive run game coordinator. From 2016-18, Nansen held the title of assistant head coach while working with the linebackers and coordinating recruiting efforts.
In 2017, Nansen was named the Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports.com and helped guide the USC defense that ranked fourth nationally in red zone defense (.712) and fifth in sacks (3.3) while coaching linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, who was a first team All-American and a second-round pick in the NFL draft.
Nansen’s first two seasons at USC in 2014 and 2015 were spent as the running backs coach and special teams coordinator. In 2015, tailbacks Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis each rushed for more than 900 yards, while Jones set the USC freshman season rushing record and became just the second true freshman to lead USC in season rushing. In 2014, tailback Javorius Allen made All-Pac-12 first team while rushing for 1,489 yards (the most by a Trojan since 2005) and he was an NFL fourth round draft pick. USC’s special teams also returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Nansen spent the previous five seasons at Washington in a variety of roles from 2009-13. From 2012-13, he was the assistant head coach, running backs coach and special teams coordinator. In 2012 and 2013, Bishop Sankey put together back-to-back top-20 national rushing finishes. Sankey, who was a Doak Walker Award finalist in 2013, ranked fourth nationally in rushing yards per game (143.8) that season and the Huskies rated 15th-best in the country in rushing offense. In 2012, Sankey was 19th in the NCAA with a 110.7 rushing yards per game mark and went on to play in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans.
In 2011, Washington ranked No. 7 in the nation in net punting and No. 21 in punt return defense. In 2010, his special teams featured school record-setting punter Kiel Rasp and in 2009, Nansen coached defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim an NFL draftee who finished his career with a school-record 30 sacks.
Before coaching at Washington, Nansen spent five seasons from 2004-08 at Idaho, where he worked with the linebackers his first three years, defensive line the final two years and special teams each season.
He began his college coaching career as a graduate assistant at Louisville in 1999, working with the defensive line as the Cardinals earned a berth in the Humanitarian Bowl. His first full-time coaching job came in 2000 as the Montana State running backs coach and went on to coach three seasons (2001-03) at Idaho State, coaching cornerbacks and the secondary.
Nansen was a three-year letterman linebacker at Washington State and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1997. He and his wife, Hale, have three children – Makena Lei, Kealia Kei and Johnny Jr.
The University of Arizona Communications office provided the information for this story.