The search for a defensive coordinator
With the Pirates’ season ending just days before Christmas, head coach Ruffin McNeill made the announcement that defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell will no longer be with the Pirates. Mitchell joined the coaching staff in 2010, and it has been announced that his contract will not be renewed. Before Mitchell came to ECU, he spent four years as a cornerback’s coach at Texas Tech and also spent 11 seasons at his alma mater, Brigham Young University.
“There’s never a good time to make a coaching change, especially one that involves a friend and colleague who I respect professionally,” McNeill said. “However, I have the responsibility and commitment to maintain the best interest for this program and East Carolina University.”
It was no secret that the Pirates had a tough time on the defensive side of the ball this season. Opponents averaged nearly 32 points against ECU this season. The team had its worst defensive performance in the last game of the regular season against Marshall, where the Pirates gave up 65 points in a two-overtime loss. ECU gave up at least 24 points all season, while giving up at least 40 points in seven games this season.
After an 8-4 season, the Pirates were invited to play in the R+L Carriers New Orleans bowl against LA-Lafayette. Although the Pirates had a strong offensive effort, they still came up short after allowing 43 points, which was powered by a 24-point second quarter by ULL.
While the defensive coordinator position has not been filled, the Pirates are in a constant search for someone to fill the position. At one point during the search, Greg Hudson was headlining all candidates after showing interest in the position. Hudson, who was the linebacker’s coach at Florida State University, was also a former defensive coordinator for ECU. He decided to accept a position at Purdue. With Hudson out, the Pirates are evaluating virtually anybody interested in the job.
Art Kaufman has also shown interest in the position, just days after being named defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bearcats (Jan.4). Kaufman worked at Texas Tech under the same title.
Kaufman was ECU’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2003-2004. North Carolinians might also recognize him as the former defensive coordinator for UNC-Chapel Hill during Everett Withers stint as interim head coach of the Tar Heels in 2011.
Tyrone Nix, defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State is another candidate who has shown interest in the position. Nix made his career at Ole Miss, where his defense was among the nations best in tackles for loss and sacks. While the defensive coordinator at Ole Miss, his defense was tied for the most tackles for loss in 2008, and topped the Southeastern Conference in 2009. Nix has produced many NFL draft choices, including Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers.
While news has just stirred up of Randy Shannon being interested in the job, this could slow down the process of making a decision. Randy Shannon is the current linebackers coach at Arkansas, but is most known for serving as Miami’s head coach from 2007-2010.
With the search for a defensive coordinator still an ongoing project, one of these coaches could be seen on the sidelines at Dowdy-Ficklen. Both Nix and Kaufman seem to be qualified for the job, and with spring football coming soon, look for the football program to make a decision in the next few weeks.
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