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BREAKING: Northwestern set to hire South Dakota State’s Zach Lujan as offensive coordinator

Northwestern now has two former Jackrabbit assistants on staff.

Dave Eggen/Inertia Sports Media

Just 10 days after firing Mike Bajakian — and minutes after the FCS National Championship game — Northwestern appears to have its new offensive mastermind.

On Sunday afternoon, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that David Braun has found his first offensive coordinator in the form of South Dakota State’s Zach Lujan. Lujan, the Jackrabbits’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, was named the 2023 FCS Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop. FootballScoop’s John Brice first reported NU’s interest in Lujan on Jan. 4.

Lujan oversaw national championship-winning offenses in 2022 and 2023, as SDSU posted over 34 points per game in both seasons of his tenure. Before serving as OC, Lujan worked as the running backs coach in Brookings. Prior to that, he was an offensive quality control analyst beginning in 2017, the year after he finished playing quarterback for South Dakota State.

The 28-year-old has produced several Jackrabbit NFL draft picks, including Green Bay Packers tight end Tucker Kraft, Cleveland Browns running back Pierre Strong Jr. and former Pittsburgh Steelers/Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chris Oladokun. Moreover, he’s aided the success of FCS Offensive Player of the Year QB Mark Gronowski, who’s posted Pro Football Focus grades north of 90 in each of the last two seasons. Gronowski, a Naperville native, could be a key acquisition to the Wildcats’ suddenly depleted quarterback room.

Lujan will reconnect with Braun, against whom he coached for four seasons in the Dakotas. Likewise, Lujan will be on the same staff yet again as Christian Smith, Northwestern’s budding defensive line coach who also spent six years at SDSU.

Lujan hails from Anchorage, Alaska, so he’ll be no stranger to Evanston’s bitter winters. On top of that, though, he’s hoping to uplift an offense that ranked 106th in points per game, scored 30+ points in just six of its past 37 contests and ranked 11th in the Big Ten in offensive EPA/play this past year, per College Football Data.