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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have filled a key opening on their 2015 coaching staff, naming former University of Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Mike Bajakian their new quarterbacks coach.
Bajakian replaces the recently-departed Marcus Arroyo and will work under newly-hired Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter. The Buccaneers are seeking to improve upon on offense that struggled to find consistency in 2014 and to stabilize a quarterback position that did not play up to expectations.
Bajakian (pronounced buh-JAKE-ian) begins his second stint in the NFL on the heels of a strong finish to his two seasons at Tennessee. The Volunteers won four of their final five games last season behind the strong play of freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs. In a 45-42 overtime win at South Carolina, Dobbs paced a Tennessee offense that racked up 645 yards of offense and a school-record 35 first downs. Tennessee capped the year with a win over Iowa in the 2015 Taxslayer Bowl, the school's first bowl appearance since 2010.
Bajakian's first stint in the NFL allowed him to cross paths with current Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith. When Smith took over as the Chicago Bears head coach in 2004, he brought Bajakian in from Central Michigan, where he had been the quarterbacks coach for the previous two seasons, to serve as the team's offensive quality control coach. Bajakian spent three years in that role while also working with the Bears' wide receivers, and was part of the 2006 squad that advanced to Super Bowl XLI.
Photos of new Buccaneers Quarterbacks Coach Mike Bajakian. (Photo credit: University of Tennessee Athletics)
From there, he went back to Central Michigan to serve as the Chippewas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2007-09. During that time, CMU posted its three highest-scoring offensive attacks since joining the MAC in 1975, and quarterback Dan LeFevour set a since-broken FBS record with 150 touchdown passes. LeFevour racked up 15,853 yards of total offense, then the second-highest career mark in NCAA history, and won two conference Offensive Player of the Year awards.
Bajakian's next stint was at the University of Cincinnati, where he was once again the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and where he once again helped a passer put up big numbers. Bearcats quarterback Zach Collaros threw for 6,278 yards and 51 touchdowns, most of it as the starter in 2010 and 2011, and in 2010 helped Cincinnati lead the Big East in scoring offense, passing offense and total offense.
Prior to his first stop at Central Michigan, Bajakian also coached at Rutgers (graduate assistant/defensive backs, 1998-99), Sacred Heart (quarterbacks coach, 2000) and Michigan (graduate assistant/quarterbacks, 2000-01). He got his start in coaching in 1996 as the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey.