FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas head football coach Chad Morris finished off his coaching staff on Wednesday, announcing the hiring of four assistants on defense. On Tuesday, Morris announced the addition of SEC veteran John Chavis as the program’s defensive coordinator.
Steve Caldwell – Defensive Line
Recently the assistant head coach/defensive line coach for four seasons at Boise State, Caldwell returns to Arkansas for the second time in his career and reunites with defensive coordinator John Chavis, who he spent 15 seasons with at Tennessee.
Ron Cooper – Secondary
A former head coach and a longtime defensive assistant coach, Cooper spent the 2017 season at Texas A&M as the secondary coach under Chavis.
John Scott Jr. – Defensive Line
Served as defensive line coach at Arkansas in 2017 and has 15 years of experience at the college and NFL levels.
Mark Smith – Secondary
The Director of Recruiting for three years for coach Morris at SMU, Smith also served as the program’s defensive analyst in 2017, and was a Texas high school head coach for four seasons from 2011-14.
The Steve Caldwell File
Position: Defensive Line
Hometown: Thayer, Mo.
Education: Arkansas State, 1977 (B.S. & M.S. Physical Education)
Coach Morris on Caldwell
“I consider Steve Caldwell one of the best defensive line coaches around. Steve has a great reputation across the country and when I started to look for a defensive line coach his name was the first to pop up. He has great familiarity with Coach Chavis, this program and has built great relationships in the state. I’m excited about Steve’s strong recruiting ties in our state and to see him development our defensive line.”
Caldwell on joining Coach Morris’ staff at Arkansas
“I’m thrilled to be joining coach Morris’ staff and returning to a place that means so much to me and my family. I have so many fond memories during my time as a Razorback and I’m excited to work with a group of young men that will create more memories for this great fan base.”
Caldwell comes to Fayetteville for the second time in his career with more than 30 years of coaching experience, highlighted by a 1998 national championship alongside coach Chavis at Tennessee, and 20 bowl games appearances.
From 2014-17, Caldwell served as associate head coach at Boise State while overseeing the defensive line room. Over his four seasons, Boise State accumulated a record of 42-12 with three bowl wins in four appearances while his defensive line unit helped hold 24 of 54 opponents to under 100 yards rushing over that span.
Caldwell mentored an All-Mountain West first team selection in each of his four seasons at Boise State, including defensive end Sam McCaskill and nose tackle David Moa in 2016. In 2017, Caldwell coached defensive lineman Curtis Weaver, who became the first freshman in Mountain West history to earn first-team honors as a freshman. Weaver led the conference and currently leads all FBS freshmen with 11 sacks (T-6th nationally) en route to being named to the USA TODAY Freshman All-America team.
This past season, Boise State tied for the Mountain West lead in sacks and was the only program to finish in the top four in the conference in sacks each of Caldwell’s four seasons (2014-17). The Broncos also ranked second in the Mountain West in rushing defense in 2017, highlighted by holding an explosive Oregon offense to a season-low 47 yards on the ground during their 38-28 win over the Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl. It also marked the fourth time in Caldwell’s four years that Boise State finished in the top four in the conference in rushing defense.
Caldwell oversaw one of the most dominant defensive lines in the country in 2015, as his front four was the Mountain West standard and ranked fifth in FBS in rushing defense, allowing just 108.2 rushing yards per game. The stubbornness against the run helped the Bronco defensive unit rank second in the conference and 18th in the country in scoring defense with 20.2 points allowed per game.
Among the numerous standouts in the trenches in 2015 was junior Kamalei Correa, who racked up a team-best 11.0 sacks and 7.0 tackles-for-loss, and was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 11th pick of the second round (42nd overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. Correa finished his collegiate career with a Defensive MVP performance during a Poinsettia Bowl victory over Northern Illinois after recording 2.0 sacks and 2.5 tackles-for-loss.
Prior to Boise State, Caldwell rejoined his alma mater Arkansas State for the 2013 campaign. Red Wolves captured a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship in 2013, and won the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl. Under Caldwell’s tutelage, Ryan Carrethers garnered first-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors, and went on to be selected by the San Diego Chargers in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Caldwell’s first stint at Arkansas came from 2010-12, when he was in charge of the defensive line. During his time with the Razorbacks, Arkansas posted back-to-back 10-win seasons (2010-11) and played in the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas ranked 36th-or-better nationally in sacks in each of Caldwell’s three seasons, highlighted by finishing the 2010 campaign tied for eighth nationally in sacks.
In 2011, Arkansas’ defensive end group of Jake Bequette, Tenarius Wright, Trey Flowers and Chris Smith combined for 27 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. Bequette earned All-SEC first team honors after leading the SEC with 10 sacks, a mark that was good for ninth nationally. Bequette was named the Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl after two sacks and a forced fumble, and went on to be selected by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Caldwell spent the 1995-2008 seasons coaching defensive ends at Tennessee alongside Chavis. Over 14 seasons, the Volunteers won the 1998 National Championship, made 13 bowl appearances and finished 10 seasons ranked in the top 25.
Tennessee ranked in the top four among SEC schools in total defense 10 times, and led the league in rushing defense three times. In 2008, the Vols ranked third nationally in total defense (263.5), and in 2005 the team’s rushing defense ranked second nationally (82.5).
A dean’s list student at Arkansas State, Caldwell played four years of football as a defensive end and linebacker. The start of his coaching career came over three seasons at his alma mater from 1978-80. Caldwell then moved on to Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he coached the offensive line for four seasons and was part of a national championship team in 1982.
Caldwell rejoined Arkansas State in 1985 as linebackers coach, and was with the Red Wolves through 1989. The school won back-to-back league championships (1985-86), and made three-straight trips to the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs from 1985-87.
He worked as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1990, before moving on to Pacific from 1991-93. He was the linebackers coach in 1991, and added co-defensive coordinator responsibilities in 1992 and 1993.
The Ron Cooper File
Hometown: Huntsville, Ala.
Education: Jacksonville State, 1983 (B.S. Physical Education/Biology) & Appalachian State, 1986 (M.S. Athletic Administration)
Coach Morris on Cooper
“I’m excited to have Ron join our staff and help lead our secondary. His time working with coach Chavis along with his knowledge and experience in the SEC are invaluable. He will be a big part of our defensive staff having great continuity right away and I’m excited to see his impact on the recruiting trail.”
Cooper on joining Coach Morris’ staff at Arkansas
“I know from my experiences in the SEC that the University of Arkansas is a special place and I’m excited and grateful about the opportunity to join Coach Morris’ staff. I can’t wait to get to work with a talented group in the secondary.”
Cooper brings more than 30 years of coaching experience to Arkansas, including 10 as a head coach on the collegiate level, and he has served four stints as a defensive coordinator. He has also worked one year in the NFL as a defensive backs coach while making stops at four other SEC schools during his career.
Cooper took over a youthful secondary room at Texas A&M, as seven different underclassmen, including four freshmen, started in the defensive backfield for the Aggies during the 2017 season. One of the mainstays in the lineup was junior Armani Watts, who finished the season with 87 tackles, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one touchdown en route to being named to Associated Press (AP) All-America third team and the All-SEC first team (Coaches & AP)
Prior to Texas A&M, Cooper served as the interim head coach at FIU for the final eight games of the 2016 season. Cooper also served as head coach at Eastern Michigan (1993-94), Louisville (1995-97) and Alabama A&M (1998-2001).
Cooper spent two seasons at FIU with the first as the team’s assistant head coach and defensive backs coach in 2015. He was elevated to the Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 2016 before leading FIU to a 4-4 records as the interim head coach.
Prior to FIU, Cooper served as the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach at South Florida from 2013-14. He helped lead the Bulls to a team record 20-plus takeaways each season and the defense scored four touchdowns.
He coached one season in the NFL as the defensive backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012.
Cooper has deep ties to Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis, having served as the LSU secondary coach under Chavis from 2009-11. He mentored one of the top secondary rooms in the country, highlighted by national award winners Morris Claiborne, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. In both 2010 and 2011, Cooper and the Tigers defense featured the Thorpe Award winner (nation’s top defensive back) in Patrick Peterson in 2010 and Claiborne in 2011, as well as the Bednarik Award winner (nation’s top defender) in Peterson and Mathieu in 2011. LSU was also home to the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in Peterson (2010), Mathieu (2011 by AP) and Claiborne (2011 by Coaches).
Cooper also made stops in the SEC at South Carolina (2004-08) and Mississippi State (2003). In 2008, Cooper assisted with a defense that ranked No. 1 in the SEC and No. 2 in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 160 yards per game. With the Gamecocks, Cooper helped lead the team to appearances in the 2005 Independence Bowl, 2006 Liberty Bowl and 2009 Outback Bowl.
He broke into the head coaching ranks with Eastern Michigan and went on to become head coach at Louisville and Alabama A&M. Cooper’s 1995 Louisville team led the nation in takeaways and finished No. 9 nationally in scoring defense. The following season, the Cardinals ranked No. 4 in both total defense and rushing defense.
At Alabama A&M, Cooper guided the Bulldogs to the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game in 2000. His squad led the nation in rushing defense and they ranked No. 8 nationally in scoring defense. He also discovered defensive end Robert Mathis and coached him in his first three collegiate seasons. Mathis went on to a 14-year NFL career with the Colts, making six Pro Bowls and earning AFC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013.
Before becoming the head coach at Eastern Michigan, Cooper served as an assistant coach at Notre Dame (1991-92), helping the Irish to victories in the 1992 Sugar Bowl and 1993 Cotton Bowl.
Cooper also served coaching stints at UNLV (1990), East Carolina (1989), Murray State (1987-88), Austin Peay (1985-86), Minnesota (1984) and Appalachian State (1983).
As a player, Cooper was a four-year letterman at Jacksonville State, where he helped the Gamecocks to Gulf South Conference titles in 1981 and 1982. Cooper played in the NCAA Div. II playoff three times during his career, including a semifinal run in 1982.
The John Scott Jr. File
Position: Defensive Line
Hometown: Greer, S.C.
Education: Western Carolina, 2000 (B.S. Communication) & Louisiana-Lafayette, 2006 (M.S. Education)
Coach Morris on Scott Jr.
“I’m excited to have John on our staff. His connections with our current players and his background at both the college and NFL level is valuable to our growth. We had many quality candidates for this job, but John’s ability to connect with our players here as well as his NFL background is really what intrigued Coach Chavis and myself.”
Scott Jr. on joining Coach Morris’ staff at Arkansas
“I’m thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Coach Morris’ staff and a member of the Razorback program. I can’t wait to get to work with Coach Chavis and the rest of the defensive staff, and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop our players and get back out on the recruiting trail.”
Scott Jr., will enter his second season with the Razorbacks after serving as defensive line coach in 2017.
Scott Jr. spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the New York Jets, beginning as a defensive quality control coach in 2015 before being promoted to defensive line assistant coach. Prior to his time in the NFL, Scott Jr. spent time as a defensive line or outside linebackers coach at Texas Tech, Georgia Southern, Missouri State, Norfolk State and his alma mater Western Carolina.
The Jets led the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed and red zone defense in 2015, while finishing second in rushing defense and fourth in total defense. Both defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and cornerback Darrelle Revis earned Pro Bowl Honors. Scott Jr. was promoted to defensive line assistant prior to the 2016 season in which the Jets finished fifth in the AFC in rush defense and rushing touchdowns allowed. Defensive tackle Leonard Williams earned a Pro Bowl nod.
Scott mentored and coached a trio of defensive lineman at Texas Tech that worked their way into the NFL. In his first season, he tutored Kerry Hyder to All-Big 12 honors and an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine. In his first full season with the Detroit Lions in 2016, Hyder led the team with 8.0 sacks to go along with 36 tackles. Branden Jackson had his best season under Scott Jr. in 2014 as a junior before getting an invite to the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. Jackson recently finished his rookie season with the Oakland Raiders.
Prior to joining Texas Tech, Scott Jr. spent three seasons (2010-12) as the defensive line coach and special teams coordinator on three Georgia Southern teams that advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. Along the defensive line, he mentored two All-Americans, including Brent Russell, who was an All-American all three years under Scott Jr. and finished as the program’s all-time sack leader. In 2011, the Georgia Southern defensive line featured Russell, All-American Roderick Tinsley and All-Southern Conference selection John Douglas. In 2010, Russell was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award for the nation’s top defensive player at the Championship Subdivision level.
Scott Jr. was named defensive line coach at Georgia Southern in January 2010 after one season coaching outside linebackers at Missouri State and three seasons at Western Carolina coaching defensive ends and outside linebackers. As defensive line coach at Norfolk State for the 2005 season, Scott Jr. helped the Spartans achieve a No. 12 national ranking in passing defense. That season, Norfolk State allowed just over 158 yards per game. The Greer, South Carolina, native attended the NCAA’s Minority Coaches Academy in 2008 after being selected from a pool of 400 applicants.
A 2000 graduate of Western Carolina and four-year Catamount letterman, Scott returned to coach at his alma mater in 2006. An All-Southern Conference choice at defensive end in 1998, Scott Jr. had 17 tackles for loss. His career total of 31 tackles for loss ranks 10th in Western Carolina history.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in communications from Western Carolina, Scott Jr. played three years of professional football, including two years with the Greensboro (N.C.) Prowlers of the Arena Football League 2. He was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2000.
While playing for the Greensboro Prowlers, Scott Jr. gained coaching experience at the high school level as defensive line coach at West Davidson High School in 2001. Scott Jr. then went to Louisiana-Lafayette as a graduate assistant for two years, serving as a defensive line graduate assistant. He completed his master’s degree in education at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2006.
The Mark Smith File
Hometown: Abilene, Texas
Education: Hardin Simmons University, 2000 (B.S. Behavioral Science) & Texas Arlington, 2004 (M.S. Educational Administration)
Coach Morris on Smith
“I’m excited to have Mark Smith join our coaching staff. He did a great job leading our recruiting department at SMU while also handling analyst responsibilities on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. His knowledge and ability to recruit along with his passion for the game excites me about his future. I know he’ll work extremely well with Coach Chavis and Coach Cooper in leading our secondary unit.”
Smith on joining Coach Morris’ staff at Arkansas
“My family and I are thrilled to be a part of Coach Morris’ staff at the University of Arkansas. The fan base and excitement around the program right now is truly amazing. I’m looking forward to working with our student-athletes on being the best that they can be.”
One of the assistants that helped recruit Arkansas’ early signing class in December, Smith will help lead the secondary. Along with his three seasons at SMU, Smith also has college experience as defensive quality control coach at Oklahoma.
Smith arrived at SMU as Director of Recruiting in 2015, and added defensive analyst to his duties for 2017 season. He arrived at SMU with experience at both the college and high school levels.
Prior to SMU, he served at Hurst L.D. Bell from 2009 to 2014, earning a promotion to head coach in early 2011. With Smith at the helm, Bell made the playoffs for three straight seasons. He also served as an assistant at Irving MacArthur and Colleyville Heritage high schools in Texas.
Smith was a member of the Board of Directors for the Texas High School Coaches Association and served as the President of the North Texas Football Coaches Association.