NATCHITOCHES – The new Northwestern State football defensive coaching staff includes three coaches who have been collegiate defensive coordinators and quality recruiters, first-year head coach Jay Thomas said Thursday.
Joining previously-announced defensive coordinator and associate head coach Chris Boone, who will coach the safeties, are linebackers coach Shep Campbell, cornerbacks coach De'Von Lockett and defensive line coach Jake Landoll. Thomas will also work with the defensive tackles.
Campbell will also serve as special teams coordinator. He was defensive coordinator at Ouachita Baptist for the last two seasons. Thomas was defensive coordinator at Nicholls State before he became head coach there for six seasons. Boone was defensive coordinator at Jacksonville State for the past two seasons following five years in the same post at Tennessee-Martin.
Lockett, a former standout receiver for the Demons from 1999-2002, was retained after working for two years on the previous coaching staff. Landoll was a graduate assistant coach at NSU in 2011, working under Thomas, who was the Demons' defensive line coach and assistant head coach in 2010-11.
The appointments are subject to the approval of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, which includes Northwestern.
"I couldn't be more pleased with how this has come together," said Thomas. "We have coaches who have worked together before and we all share the same philosophy, so we'll get a quick start installing our system instead of having to spend time coaching the coaches. They all bring a ton to the table as recruiters and they are truly quality people, men of character."
Campbell coached cornerbacks in 2006-07 under Boone at UT-Martin. Thomas and Boone coached together at Nicholls. Thomas and Landoll have coached together for the past two seasons, at NSU and in 2012 at Missouri Southern, and in 2011 they worked with Lockett on the Demons' defensive staff.
"Chris and I have the same beliefs, starting with having worked together at Nicholls," said Thomas. "He's been a defensive coordinator ever since (2004) and he has a really impressive record in this role. He brings a ton of knowledge, energy, and experience at the FCS level with a lot of success at two really competitive Ohio Valley Conference programs. He is a football guy through and through. He turns over every rock. He's a good teacher. Our kids will enjoy playing for him.
"His experience in successfully recruiting Mississippi and Alabama, and south Louisiana, makes him a really great hire in that regard. I know, because when I was the head man at Nicholls, he beat me on a couple of guys from Louisiana when he was at UT-Martin," said Thomas.
Along with his two seasons as defensive coordinator at OBU and two more with Boone at UT-Martin, Campbell has been on football staffs at Baylor, East Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas-Monticello and Lambuth, along with six years of high school coaching in Arkansas. Among his references are LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, Auburn tight ends coach Tim Horton, and Arkansas State defensive coordinator (and former NSU DC) John Thompson.
"It's a huge benefit for us to get him since he's been a coordinator and he and Chris have coached together," said Thomas. "His dad coached a long time at Arkansas and Alabama, and Shep has been around it his entire life. He is such a good person, and very similar to Coach Boone -- high energy, fundamentally very sound as a teacher.
"You look for even-keeled coaches and that's him. Having been a defensive coordinator, he understands how the pieces fit. He'll be really impactful coordinating special teams, and helping coach Boone on the defensive side," said Thomas. "Shep is a go-getter on the recruiting side and is a great addition for us."
Lockett remains as the Demons' cornerbacks coach after helping 2011 senior Jeremy Lane develop into a sixth-round NFL Draft pick who started twice this season for the Seattle Seahawks, then mentoring three first-year corners in the 2012 season. The Franklin native, son of a prep coach, has nine years of collegiate coaching experience at NSU, Bethel and Missouri Southern (2008-09).
I've known De'Von for a long time, not just when we worked together here in 2011. He's a rising star in our profession on the defensive side," said Thomas. "What he's done with the cornerbacks here, it's no easy task at that position because they get challenged every week. Being a Northwestern grad, a Demon, a good family man, he brings added value to our staff.
"His football knowledge and what he understands about corner play, is hard to find. He loves it here, and he has a huge upside. We'll be blessed to keep him because he is very, very talented in his area," said Thomas. "I've watched him grow into a guy that everyone who competes against us has to deal with on the recruiting trail. You look at the whole package, and he's a great fit for our staff."
Landoll was defensive line coach and academic coordinator last season as Missouri Southern won six games for only the second time in 20 seasons. He coached Senior Bowl selection Brandon Williams, an All-American who was chosen national defensive player of the year by Beyond Sports Network.
"I didn't know Jake until he arrived as a graduate assistant in 2011 here, and after working with him that fall, I brought him with me to Missouri Southern to be on my defensive staff. I've had him underneath my wing for two years, and I've steadily given him more and more responsibility and never been disappointed," said Thomas.
Landoll, a native Kansan who began coaching after graduating in accounting in 2006 from Saint Mary, has coached defensive linemen in all but one season at Saint Mary, Bethel College, NSU and Missouri Southern. The 2007 Saint Mary team ranked 14th in the nation in total defense and last year Missouri Southern had a top 10 NCAA Division II ranking in rushing defense.
The Lions raised their team grade point average to 2.8 last spring as Landoll implemented the "Fast Start" study hall program.
"Last year, he ran our academic program there and his effort helped raise the team GPA by a bunch. He's a very smart, very talented young man, very driven to be successful, a detail guy. You surround yourself with good folks and he fits that description," said Thomas.
The Demons' offensive staff is in place and will be announced Friday, Thomas said.