FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema officially announced the promotion of Paul Rhoads to defensive coordinator on Wednesday.
This will be Rhoads’ third stint as a defensive coordinator and second in the SEC. Prior to joining Bielema’s staff last February, Rhoads spent 16 years as either a head coach or defensive coordinator at Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Auburn, including the previous seven seasons (2009-15) as Iowa State’s head coach.
A native of Ankeny, Iowa, Rhoads served as defensive backs coach during his first season with the Razorbacks in 2016.
“With the hiring of Paul as our defensive coordinator, we are gaining a defensive coach who has coached at the highest level as both a head coach and a defensive coordinator in some of the most competitive conferences in the nation,” Bielema said. “When I first hired him as our defensive backs coach, I knew of his outstanding reputation and his experience. But in Paul’s time here at Arkansas, I’ve been able to see the way he’s developed our secondary and how our guys react to him. I have full confidence in him leading our defense. I was excited to share with our team Monday night that he will be the voice and coordinate our defense moving forward. Our players are very excited about the opportunity to get back to work for the upcoming season under his leadership. In the next few weeks, Paul and I will complete the defensive staff as part of our continued commitment to be much improved as a team heading into the future.”
Over his nine combined seasons as a defensive coordinator at Auburn (2008) and Pittsburgh (2000-07), Rhoads’ units ranked in the top 30 nationally in scoring defense six times and the top 12 for fewest yards three times.
“I’m honored and appreciative of this opportunity given to me by Coach Bielema,” said Rhoads. “We are looking forward to finishing up a great 2017 recruiting class followed by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on our defense.”
Rhoads has been a part of 10 bowl games and has mentored six defensive backs that have been selected in the NFL Draft, highlighted by seven-time Pro Bowl selection and 2009 AFC Defensive Player of the Year Darrelle Revis. Revis was the 14th overall pick by the New York Jets in 2007 after playing for coach Rhoads when he was the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh.
In 2016, Arkansas’ defensive backs unit forced 10 interceptions, returning four of those for touchdowns. The four interceptions returned for scores were the program’s most in one season since at least 1985, tying for fourth-most in the nation and second-most in the SEC. Three different Arkansas defensive backs recorded two interceptions apiece, including sophomore cornerback Ryan Pulley, who added 13 pass breakups to rank second in the SEC and tie for 12th nationally. In addition, senior cornerback Jared Collins tied for third in the SEC and 18th nationally with 12 pass breakups. Arkansas was one of just two schools in the conference with two players to rank in the top five of that category.
In his seven seasons at Iowa State, Rhoads led the Cyclones to three bowl game appearances. He recorded four wins over ranked opponents, including three on the road – half of the school’s all-time road victories over ranked teams.
Taking over a program that had gone a combined 8-27 the previous three seasons, Rhoads’ success in his first season at Iowa State was underscored by his place as the first Cyclone football coach to win seven games in his initial campaign since 1907 and the first ISU coach since 1931 to post a winning record in his initial season. His first season as head coach was highlighted by the program’s first win at Nebraska in 32 years and a victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.
In addition, the Cyclones registered six Big 12 road victories under Rhoads. Prior to his arrival, the Cyclones had won just nine conference road games in the previous 17 seasons. Under Rhoads’ direction, four linebackers garnered All-Big 12 first team honors, while two also received All-America accolades.
Prior to returning to Iowa State, he spent the 2008 season as the defensive coordinator at Auburn under former head coach Tommy Tuberville, where his defense ranked 18th nationally in scoring, allowing 18.0 points per game and 178.8 yards passing to rank 22nd nationally.
From 2000-07, Rhoads served as defense coordinator at Pittsburgh for eight seasons. Five of his defenses ranked in the nation’s top 30 for scoring and three in the NCAA’s top 12 for fewest yards allowed. Additionally, 14 of his Panther defenders earned All-Big East first team acclaim. In 2006, The Sporting News named him the Big East’s best defensive coordinator. His 2004 defense ranked ninth nationally with 17 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns, helping propel the Panthers to a Big East Conference championship and an appearance in the 2005 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Rhoads had five players selected to NFL drafts, including Revis (2007, Jets), Bernard “Josh” Lay (2006, New Orleans Saints), Shawntae Spencer (2004, San Francisco 49ers), Torrie Cox (2003, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Ramon Walker (2002, Houston Texans).
Under Rhoads’ guidance, Revis was a two-time All-American, two-time All-Big East selection and a 2006 Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist. Revis has spent a majority of his career with Jets while also spending one season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one with the New England Patriots. In 2014, Revis helped the Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX before returning to the Jets in 2015 as the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history with a five-year $70 million contract. Revis has made over $125 million in his career.
During Rhoads’ first stint at Iowa State (1995-1999), he served as the secondary coach his last four years after coaching the inside linebackers in 1995. He also assisted with the Cyclones’ special teams.
Prior to Iowa State, Rhoads spent three years at Pacific (1992-94). In his first three seasons he served as the defensive backs coach. The Tigers’ defense ranked 20th nationally, allowing just 152 yards passing per game in 1993. In his final season, Rhoads coordinated the Tigers’ pass defense.
Rhoads began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State (1991) and Utah State (1989-90), working with the secondary at both schools.
A three-year letterwinner as a defensive back at Missouri Western, Rhoads earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1988. He and his wife Vickie have two sons, Jake and Wyatt.
2017, Arkansas (DC)
2016, Arkansas (DB)
2009-15, Iowa State (HC)
2008, Auburn (DC)
2000-07, Pittsburgh (DC)
1995-99, Iowa State, (Assistant Coach)
1994, Pacific (Pass Game Coordinator)
1992-93, Pacific (Assistant Coach)
1991, Ohio State (GA)
1989-90, Utah State (GA)