University of Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell announced the addition of assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach Luke Paschall to the Minuteman staff on Fri., Jan. 11, 2019. Most recently, Paschall coached the wide receivers at North Carolina in 2018 following a four-year tenure as the special teams coordinator and receivers coach at Arkansas State.
During his year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Paschall oversaw the development of a balanced Tar Heels wide receiver unit and a stout special teams group that ranked among the nation’s most successful over the course of the 2018 season.
The UNC special teams group posted quality numbers among the nation’s leaders in kickoff return defense (19.35; 35th), punt return defense (3.5; 10th) and punt return average (14.3; 16th). Individually, return specialist Dazz Newsome ranked No. 4 in FBS for punt return average (15.1) and sixth with three punt return touchdowns, while kicker Freeman Jones ranked 11th in the country for field goals per game (1.64).
Spearheaded by all-ACC choice Anthony Ratliff-Williams, who ranked sixth in the ACC for receiving yards per game, the UNC wide receivers corps spread 14 touchdown catches across nine targets. The group averaged nearly 250 receiving yards and more than 22 receptions per game in 11 contests during 2018.
Paschall arrived at UNC following four successful seasons at Arkansas State, which included four bowl games and a pair of Sun Belt championships. The Red Wolves won at least seven games in each of Paschall’s four seasons and took home their conference crowns in 2015 and 2016.
Under his direction, the Red Wolves' receiving corps and special teams units excelled and helped the team break the school record for total offense and scoring offense while they also ranked among the top teams in the nation in numerous special teams' statistical categories from 2014-17.
Paschall’s guidance of the outside receivers and the special teams unit in 2017 aided the Red Wolves as they made their fourth consecutive bowl trip as both units sustained high levels of success throughout the season.
Arkansas State’s special teams unit ranked among the nation’s leaders in punt return defense (2nd; 2.0), punt return average (9th; 13.70) and net punting (21st; 40.35) with two blocked kicks and one blocked punt. On the offensive side, the wide receiver corps accounted for 30 of the team’s 38 touchdown catches, which went as the program record for most in a single season.
Individually, Paschall oversaw the development of key playmakers on offense and special teams, including 2017 All-Sun Belt selections Omar Bayless (wide receiver), Cody Grace (punter), Justin McInnis (wide receiver), Chris Murray (wide receiver), Blaise Taylor (return specialist) and Sawyer Williams (kicker).
The 2016 campaign came to a close emphatically with senior receiver Kendall Sanders earning Cure Bowl MVP honors after he recorded three touchdown receptions, which tied the school record for a postseason game. Sanders, also named an All-Sun Belt Conference selection, was among four A-State receivers that caught at least 20 passes and produced over 300 yards. Sanders led the way with 38 catches for 553 yards and seven touchdowns, while seven others hauled in at least one scoring catch. The group helped A-State post 3,148 passing yards, the fourth-most in school history.
His 2015 receiving corps was responsible for 154 of the team's 207 receptions and produced 2,192 combined yards for the squad that finished the season with the fifth most passing yards in school history. The group also recorded 19 receiving touchdowns, including All-Sun Belt Second Team selection Tres Houston with a school-record-tying 10.
Additionally, Paschall coached All-SBC? First Team selection J.D. McKissic, who signed as a free agent with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, for the final two years of his career. ?McKissic stands as the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in receptions and A-State's all-time leader in receiving yards. The 2015 season also saw sophomore Dijon Paschal earn All-SBC?honors, which gave the Red Wolves three all-conference wideouts.
Under Paschall’s leadership, A-State's 2014 receivers combined for 223 receptions, 2,685 yards and 14 touchdowns as the Red Wolves completed the year with a school-record tying 25 passing touchdowns and the third most passing yards (3,381) and completions (276) in the program's history.
Paschall tutored eight receivers, including Houston (All-Sun Belt Conference) and Paschal (Sun Belt Conference Newcomer Team), who set career-best numbers for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Among the group, Houston caught a team-high 53 passes – the 10th most in school history – while McKissic moved into third place at Arkansas State for career receiving yards and former walk-on Booker Mays recorded three touchdown receptions in the GoDaddy Bowl for the second-most ever by an A-State player in a single game.
Three of Paschall’s receivers, including Houston, McKissic and Paschal, all recorded over 600 receiving yards and posted at least 37 catches.
Overseeing special teams as well, Paschall helped the Red Wolves rank among the nation’s leaders in at least four statistical categories each of his four seasons.
The 2016 season saw A-State stand third in the nation in kickoff return defense (16.13 average) and among the top eight teams in blocked kicks (5) and blocked punts (2). Coaching return specialist Blaise Taylor for the third consecutive season, Paschall saw the junior earn All-Sun Belt Second Team honors after breaking the school record for career punt return yards with 781 to his credit. Taylor returned a punt for a touchdown in each of his four seasons, which ranked him among the top seven active players in the nation in the category.
The 2015 Red Wolves ranked No. 7 in blocked kicks (4), No. 8 in kickoff returns (25.9 ypg), No. 13 in net punting (40.39 avg.), No. 18 in kickoff return defense (18.7 avg.), No. 23 in punt return defense (4.70 avg.) and No. 30 in punt returns (11.5 avg.). The squad posted 413 punt return yards, which were the third most in school history and the most by an A-State team since 1975. ?The Red Wolves also averaged a school-record 25.9 yards per kickoff return, while returning two kickoffs and one punt for a touchdown.
Under the direction of Paschall, McKissic was a ?All-Sun Belt First Team choice at the all-purpose position and Taylor completed the season with a career-best 322 punt return yards that were the second most in A-State history.
The year prior, A-State ranked No. 4 in the nation in kickoff return defense (16.31 ypr), No. 9 in punt return defense (3.10 ypr), No. 19 in net punting (39.82) and No. 31 in kickoff returns (22.49 ypr). Additionally, the Red Wolves' 41.6 team punting average was the second highest in school history, while their 22.5 yards per kickoff return ranked tied for the fourth highest.
Paschall coached Taylor, who ranked second in the league and 35th in the nation in punt return average, All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team laurels as well. The true freshman's 234 punt return yards were the fifth most in school history at the time, and he returned three punts for a season-high 104 yards (school-record 34.7 yards per return) and one touchdown against Appalachian State. Taylor's touchdown return was the first by an A-State player since 2007.
Paschall tutored junior punter Luke Ferguson, A-State's second all-time leader in punting average, during the final two years of his career as well. Paschall's leadership also helped backup quarterback Stephen Hogan break the school record for punting average in a game (58.0) during the 2014 campaign.
Paschall spent the previous two seasons working with Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson and he also served on the coaching staffs at Ole Miss, Oklahoma State and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community over a seven-year period before arriving at A-State.
A former player under Anderson at Middle Tennessee, Paschall was a part of eight bowl games as a coach, and helped each of his former schools compile statistical numbers that ranked among the top teams in the nation.
Working primarily with the special teams while also assisting with the wide receivers during his two seasons at North Carolina as a graduate assistant, Paschall was part of a coaching staff that led the Tar Heels to 15 victories and a win over Cincinnati in the 2013 Belk Bowl.
The 2013 UNC?squad led the nation in punt return average (18.13 ypr) and ranked fourth in punt return defense (2.9 ypr), 10th in net punting (40.3 average), 19th in kick return average (23.8 ypr) and 28th in passing offense (277.4 ypg). The 2012 Tar Heels finished first in the ACC and 10th in the nation in net punting during Paschall's first season at the school.
Paschall's time at North Carolina saw him work with some of the team's most productive players at the wide receiver and special teams positions. All-ACC wide receiver Quinshad Davis ranked 22nd in the nation with 10 touchdown receptions and 13th in the ACC with 730 receiving yards in 2013. Davis led the team in receiving in 2012 with 61 receptions for 776 yards and five touchdowns to earn freshman all-America honors from College Football News as well.
Heavily involved with UNC's special teams, Paschall coached FWAA Freshman All-American and CFPA Punt Returner of the Year Ryan Switzer in 2013. Switzer turned in one of the most impressive seasons in school history when he broke the ACC record and tied the NCAA's best mark for punt returns for touchdowns (5). He finished the season with a school-record 502 punt return yards and a 20.9 average per attempt.
The Tar Heels' 2012 special teams unit included second team all-conference punter Tommy Hibbard and their punt return team, led by All-ACC return man Giovani Bernard, ranked 10th in the country. Bernard was also named the CFPA?Punt Returner of the Year.
Paschall arrived at UNC after spending one season at Ole Miss as an offensive graduate assistant coach under Houston Nutt. He was primarily responsible for working with the wide receivers and tight ends, but also assisted with the Rebels' special teams.
Ole Miss ranked third in the nation in punt returns and 24th in net punting Paschall's lone season at the school, where he worked with wide receiver Donte Moncrief during his freshman all-America season.
Paschall spent the 2008-10 seasons at Oklahoma State in a quality control position (2010) and as an offensive graduate assistant (2008-09).
With at OSU, Paschall was primarily responsible for helping coach the wide receivers and quarterbacks positions as a graduate assistant, working with future NFL quarterback Zac Robinson and NFL wide receiver Dez Bryant during his tenure. He helped lead OSU to the 2008 Holiday Bowl and the 2009 Cotton Bowl, while the Cowboys also played in the 2010 Alabama Bowl. Oklahoma State's 2008 team ranked sixth in the nation in total offense (487.7 ypg) and ninth in scoring offense (40.7 ppg).
The 2007 season saw Paschall serve as wide receivers coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community?College, where he helped lead the Bulldogs to an NJCAA national championship victory over Kilgore in the H.O.T. Bowl played in Copperas Cove, Texas. The Bulldogs ranked 20th in the NJCAA in total offense that season.
Prior to joining MGCCC, Paschall was a four-year letterman at the wide receiver position at Middle Tennessee. The former walk-on who earned a scholarship as a sophomore hauled in a personal-best 13 receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown as a senior.
A native of Dickson, Tennessee, Paschall earned a psychology degree in 2006 and a master's in sports management in 2007 from Middle Tennessee State University.
Luke and his wife, Lauren, have one daughter, Emma Rose.
Defensive Coordinator/Cornerbacks Coach
University of Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell welcomed Aazaar Abdul-Rahim to the program’s staff as the team’s defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach on Fri., Jan. 11, 2019. Highly regarded for his coaching acumen and equally sought after for his established ability to evaluate and recruit, Abdul-Rahim brings experience at the high school and collegiate levels to Amherst, including most recently tenures with the Alabama and Maryland programs.
“I am excited for this chance to work alongside Walt (Bell) again, and to lead this defense,” Abdul-Rahim said. “I share Walt’s vision for what the future of this program can hold and we are hard at work to make it happen.”
Abdul-Rahim spent the prior three seasons at Maryland working in the secondary. Abdul-Rahim developed Maryland’s defensive backs into one of the strongest units in the Big Ten, with all-conference recognition given to Darnell Savage, Jr., and Antoine Brooks, Jr., in 2017 and 2018, JC Jackson in 2017 and Tino Ellis in 2018.
In addition to his coaching duties, Abdul-Rahim was instrumental in the Terps’ recruiting efforts. He was a key factor in Maryland signing a consensus top-20 recruiting class in 2017 and a top-30 group in 2018. During his final two years as a member of the staff, Maryland inked 17 four-star student-athletes and eight members of the ESPN300 to National Letters of Intent. As a result, Abdul-Rahim was recognized by 247Sports in 2018 as one of the top recruiting assistant coaches in the Big Ten.
Overall, 2018 was a rousing success on the recruiting trail and in the secondary for the Terrapins. Abdul-Rahim oversaw the recruiting efforts as Maryland collected its consensus top-30 class before he helped the Terps’ defense develop into one of the most disruptive in the nation. The defense recorded 23 turnovers forced, including 18 interceptions and five fumble recoveries, and added 32 pass breakups. The 18 interceptions rank tied for the fifth-most in FBS during the season.
In 2017, Abdul-Rahim was vital in aiding the Terps in landing nine of the top 20 players from the state of Maryland and three of the top nine players from Washington, D.C. Rivals.com and 247Sports recognized him as one of the top 25 recruiters nationally for the class of 2017.
Abdul-Rahim also made an impact coaching Maryland's defensive backs. In 2017, the Terps posted 10 interceptions on the year, which ranked as the most for a Maryland team since 2003.
Abdul-Rahim joined the Maryland staff in 2016 after a two-year stint at Alabama where he first served as a defensive analyst in 2014 before he was promoted to the assistant director of player personnel in 2015.
During his two seasons at Alabama, the Crimson Tide were selected for the College Football Playoffs in both years and won the national championship during 2015. Additionally, they collected the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the nation during each season, according to 247Sports.
Abdul-Rahim, a Washington, D.C. native, made his mark in his hometown as the head coach of Friendship Collegiate Academy. After he founded the school’s football program in 2004, Abdul-Rahim turned it into a national powerhouse and accumulated 62 wins during his tenure while he also lead the team to a District of Columbia State Athletic Association championship in 2012. He helped over 100 players earn scholarships to play college football.
Abdul-Rahim is also the founder “Cover One”, a defensive back training academy that works with dozens of NFL players on skill development.
Abdul-Rahim played three seasons at San Diego State (1997-1999) after a stint at Mesa Community College. After college, the Dunbar High School standout competed for the San Diego Riptide of the Arena Football League.
Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach
University of Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell announced the hiring of Tom Restivo to the program’s coaching staff as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach on Thursday. Restivo brings more than a decade of coaching experience at the FCS and FBS levels to Amherst, including tenures at Florida, Louisville and USF.
“I am excited to be a part of this outstanding university and its football tradition,” Restivo said. “I am ready to get to work with Coach Bell and the excellent coaching staff he has assembled at UMass. I am ready to get to work and win games here in Amherst.”
More recently, Restivo spent the 2018 season on the University of South Florida staff as the safeties coach. Restivo’s position group helped USF field a disruptive defense throughout the season as the Bulls posted 22 takeaways (11 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries) and 42 pass breakups.
“Tom has a great track record of success as a coordinator at the FCS level,” Bell said. “He is someone who I’ve known personally for a long time and I am confident he will do a great job with his position group on and off the field.”
Restivo served as the South Carolina State defensive coordinator during the 2014, ’15 and ’17 seasons spanning two tenures with the program.
During 2017, Restivo’s guidance of the defense helped SCSU hold opponents to just 18.8 points and 279.9 total offensive yards per game, while the team allowed the second-fewest opponent first downs (151) in the nation.
With future second round NFL draft pick Darious Leonard guiding the defense from his spot at linebacker, SCSU ranked in the top 25 nationally for a host of defensive categories, including first down defense, team passer efficiency defense (7th), rushing defense (8th), total defense (8th), red zone defense (19th), scoring defense (19th) and third down conversion percentage (22nd).
Leonard was the standout of the 2017 SCSU group and ranked fourth in the nation for tackles per game (11.3) as the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year.
During the 2015 campaign, Restivo steered the Bulldogs defensive unit to performances that led the nation in sacks, tackles for loss, pass efficiency defense and third-down defense. The Bulldogs also finished the year ranked third nationally in passing defense, fourth in scoring defense, sixth in total defense and 25th in rushing defense.
Restivo coordinated the SCSU defense that was led by Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 third round draft pick Javon Hargrave, who ranked third across FCS with 13.5 sacks and fifth with 22 tackles for loss in his senior season. The defensive tackle was a two-time MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and earned several postseason all-America honors, before he made his NFL debut and started in 13 games for the Steelers in 2017.
Before heading to S.C. State, Restivo spent four seasons (2010-13) at the University of Louisville under head coach Charlie Strong. In his first two years with the program, Restivo was a quality control coach on the Cardinals defensive staff, working with the linebackers and defensive line. In 2012, he was promoted to Louisville’s secondary coach.
At Florida, Restivo served as the defensive quality control assistant in 2008 and 2009 and coached on the team that won the BCS National Championship in 2009. When Strong was hired as Louisville head coach a year later, he took Restivo along to serve in the same capacity on the defensive staff.
Restivo’s postseason coaching experience includes five bowl games in addition to the 2009 national title game. Restivo was on the sidelines for the 2010 and 2013 Sugar Bowls, 2010 Beef ‘O Brady’s Bowl, the 2011 Belk Bowl and the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, Restivo was a defensive graduate assistant at Marshall in 2007-08 and graduated from Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky. in 2006 with a degree in kinesiology, where he also lettered as a linebacker.
Recruiting Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach
University of Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell welcomed Jon Bills to the program’s staff as the team’s recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach on Mon., Jan. 14, 2019. A young, up-and-coming coach, Bills most recently worked alongside Bell as offensive analyst at Florida State during the 2018 season.
“I am honored to be a part of Coach Bell’s staff here at the University of Massachusetts,” Bills said. “Having the opportunity to work alongside Coach Bell this past year, I was able to see first-hand his attention to detail, organization and emphasis on program culture. I am excited to get to work and continue to build on the rich tradition of UMass football.”
In part helped by Bills, the Florida State passing offense ranked second in the ACC for passing yards per game (270.1) and 28th overall in the country during the 2018 season. Bills helped in the development of sophomore Tre’ McKitty during the year as McKitty finished second in receptions and fourth in receiving yards by a tight end across the ACC with 26 catches for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Bills trekked to Tallahassee from UCLA following a two-year stint as an offensive graduate assistant with the Bruins, during which he assisted with the development of the offensive line and the tight ends.
En route to the 2017 Cactus Bowl, the Bruins put together the Pac-12’s third-best offense (457.8 yards per game), which also ranked No. 22 nationally. Bills worked closely with tight end Caleb Wilson, who totaled 38 receptions for 490 yards despite only playing in five games due to injury.
The 2015 season saw Bills coach the offensive line at Division II Adams State in Alamosa, Colorado. That came after he spent 2013 and 2014 at USF in a graduate assistant capacity under head coach Willie Taggart. During Bills’ first year at USF he coached the tight ends and worked closely with Mike McFarland as McFarland developed into an all-AAC player who hauled in 23 receptions for 288 yards and two scores.
Bills followed Taggart to USF from Western Kentucky, where he earned his first graduate assistant experience in 2012.
In just the Hilltoppers’ fourth year of FBS football, the squad won seven games and capped the season with its first-ever appearance in an FBS bowl game. Antonio Andrews was tabbed third team all-America (all-purpose) by Phil Steele as well as second team (all-purpose) and third team (running back) all-America by Sports Illustrated. Four players received Sun Belt offensive all-conference recognition during the program-defining season.
A native of Farmington Hills, Michigan, Bills played tight end at the University of Michigan and earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management in 2011. He garnered a master’s degree in physical education from South Florida in 2014 and a master’s in social sciences and competitive education from UCLA in 2018.
Run Game Coordinator/Co-Offensive Line Coach
Jim Jackson joined University of Massachusetts football as the program’s offensive line coach on Tues., Jan. 15, 2019, as announced the UMass Athletics and football head coach Walt Bell. Jackson arrives in Amherst following a successful five-year stint at the University of San Diego, where he held roles as the offensive line coach and the co-offensive coordinator.
“I am extremely excited to be working with the University of Massachusetts offensive line,” Jackson said. “We are going to bring passion and positive energy every day. I look forward to working with Coach Bell to help our student-athletes achieve their goals, academically and athletically.”
During Jackson’s five seasons as San Diego, the Toreros went a combined 47-13 (.783), including a unprecedented 38-2 (.950) in the Pioneer Football League (PFL). The squad won at least nine games in all five of Jackson’s campaigns with the program, and went undefeated at 8-0 in conference play during the 2016-18 seasons.
“Jim is a fantastic coach who earned great success everywhere he has worked,” Bell said. “He is going to be instrumental in the development of our offensive line and in building our offense overall.”
Over the course of his tenure, the San Diego offense remained instrumental in the program’s sustained success. With the offensive line providing the time for dynamic playmaking, USD reached four NCAA Division I FCS playoffs and advanced to the second round in 2016 and 2017, while it also appeared in the 16-team field in 2014 and 2018.
Jackson oversaw the development of the offensive line for all five years of his time with the Toreros, while he served as the co-offensive coordinator during 2018, when the team averaged 37.8 points and 470.6 offensive yards per game.
In particular, Jackson’s guidance of offensive lineman Daniel Cooney’s development saw Cooney collect three consecutive all-America accolades from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), one each his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
The Toreros offensive line developed into a well-round corps following Jackson’s hire, highlighted by the group’s ability to protect the quarterback. After USD ranked No. 7 in sacks against among all PFL teams with 23 in 11 games during Jackson’s first year, the unit only allowed 36 total over 48 combined games during the 2015-18 season, and never finished lower than tied for second in the league. USD ranked among the nation’s leaders for fewest sacks allowed during each of the last three seasons, including No. 2 nationally in 2017.
Over the course of the 2018 season, San Diego stood among the top-four within the Pioneer League in more than a dozen per-game offensive categories, including points, total offense, passing offense, passing efficiency, first downs, red zone offense and time of possession.
Six Toreros collected all-PFL recognition, including first team choices Michael Bandy (WR), Cooney, Anthony Lawrence (QB) and Jake Michaels (OL), and second team selections Emilio Martinez (RB) and Aidan Valencia (OL). With Jackson’s guidance, Bandy earned five national all-America awards while Cooney collected three from the American Football Coaches Association, the Associated Press and STATS.
The 2017 season was another rousing success for San Diego, with the offensive line paving the way as USD averaged 36.4 points and 421.8 yards per game. The season culminated in an upset of No. 25 Northern Arizona in the FCS Playoff First Round as the team earned the school and PFL’s second-ever postseason victory.
Jackson’s offensive line fostered the team’s balanced attack in 2017 as it allowed the passing game to post 254.2 yards per appearance while the run game added 167.6 over the 13-game slate. The year culminated in Cooney’s second career all-America award from the AFCA.
2016 marked San Diego and the PFL’s first-ever postseason victory when the Toreros went to No. 21 Cal Poly and took a 35-21 victory from the Mustangs on their home field. The offense put forth 473 total yards and averaged 5.8 gained per play against Cal Poly behind Jackson’s offensive line. Cooney again led the blocking efforts for Jackson and won all-America as a result.
The year marked a season of renewal on the offensive line as the unit lost four starters from the 2015 campaign to graduation, including All-PFL First Team selections Pono Keni (left tackle) and right guard Jeff Starr (right guard). Despite the changeover, the unit limited foes to 4.0 sacks in 12 games, the third-fewest nationally and best among PFL teams. Additionally, as a whole, USD ranked in the top 10 nationally for time of possession (No. 1), third down conversion rate (No. 2), completion percentage (No. 5), winning percentage (No. 6), red zone offense (No. 7) and scoring offense (No. 10).
Prior to USD, Jackson coached eleven years for six collegiate programs, including Southern Illinois (2010-13), Minnesota (2007-09), Louisiana-Lafayette (2006), Toledo (2005), Lehigh (2004) and Methodist College (2003).
Jackson served as the tight ends coach at Southern Illinois for four seasons and spent the final two of his tenure as the team’s recruiting coordinator.
During his time at SIU, Jackson played a key role in the development of tight end MyCole Pruitt, who earned first team all-America honors in 2013. Pruitt finished the regular season with 601 receiving yards and became SIU's all-time leader in career receptions (140) and receiving yards (1,740) by a tight end.
Prior to that, Pruitt was a third-team All-America selection by The Sports Network and named to the All-MVFC First Team in 2012. Additionally, with Jackson’s guidance, Pruitt earned all-conference and picked up a spot on the MVFC All-Newcomer Team in 2011.
In 2010, his first year at Southern Illinois, Jackson's tight ends were instrumental in helping the Saluki offense average 30.1 points per game and 378.2 yards of total offense. The tight ends, playing a major role in run blocking, helped pave the way for the Saluki rushing attack that averaged 189.5 yards per game and scored 22 touchdowns on the year.
Kyle Harruff tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions under Jackson's guidance in 2010 and Harruff had 17 catches for 294 yards - an average of 17.3 yards per reception. Fellow tight ends C.J. Robertson, Philip Schumacher and combo-tight end/fullback John Goode also hauled in touchdown catches in 2010. Goode was an All-MVFC selection in 2010 under Jackson.
Jackson arrived at Southern Illinois from the University of Minnesota, where he was an assistant offensive line coach from 2007-09.
In 2007, Jackson helped coach the Gopher front that ranked 10th in the nation in fewest sacks allowed (13 total). He worked directly with the Gopher centers, along with his various other coaching duties.
Prior to joining the Minnesota staff, Jackson spent one season as a defensive graduate assistant working with the defensive line at Louisiana-Lafayette.
Jackson spent the 2005 season as a graduate assistant working as a video coordinator and with the offensive line at Toledo, one year after he served as assistant defensive backs coach and assistant video coordinator at Lehigh in 2004. He started his coaching career in 2003 as the outside linebackers coach at Methodist (N.C.) College.
Jackson played football and baseball at Cornell. He was a three-year starter and a team captain on the baseball team and played two seasons of football.
A Mesquite, Texas, native, Jackson received his bachelor's degree in communications from Cornell in 2003. He earned his master's degree from Minnesota in sports management in 2009.
Jackson and his wife Michelle have one daughter, Mae, and one son, Grant.
Co-Offensive Line Coach
University of Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell announced the addition of Micah James to the football staff on Thursday. A graduate of Bell’s alma mater, Middle Tennessee State, James will assist offensive line coach Jim Jackson.
“I am honored to be a part of the coaching staff at UMass under the leadership of my long-time mentor and friend, Walt Bell,” James said. “I’ve had the opportunity for the last five years to witness Coach Bell’s work ethic and dedication. He has served as a shinning example of what true leadership looks like. I look forward to partnering with Coach (Jim) Jackson to bring excellence to the offensive line and to be a part of the outstanding coaching team that Walt has assembled. I am excited about our future and making the vision Coach Bell has cast for UMass a reality.”
James joined the Massachusetts staff following graduate assistantships at Arkansas State during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, at Maryland in 2017 and at UCF during 2018.
“I’m glad Micah shares my vision for this program,” Bell said. “He will undoubtedly help us develop our offensive line group alongside Jim Jackson, with an emphasis on the run game. He is a great mentor and teacher.”
James’ work with UCF included time spent coaching the offensive side of the game as the No. 12 nationally ranked Knights went 12-1 overall, swept its eight-game American Athletic Conference schedule, won the AAC Championship Game and earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
During his season with the Terrapins, James worked on the offensive side of the ball alongside Bell and assisted in the development of receiver D.J. Moore. With James’ help, Moore eared All-Big Ten First Team and ranked ninth in the country for receptions per game (6.7).
James arrived at A-State after completing an All-Sun Belt Conference playing career at Middle Tennessee State University in 2012, which was followed by an invitation to participate in the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys’ rookie mini-camps in 2013.
James was voted one of five permanent team captains as a senior and then selected first team All-Sun Belt Conference after helping the Blue Raiders to an 8-4 regular season record.
The 2012 campaign saw James start all 12 games at center, and he was third among linemen with 844 total snaps. He was part of a line that ranked second nationally in fewest sacks allowed and paved the way for three different 100-yard rushers. He collected 78 knockdowns, including a season-high 10 against Memphis and Western Kentucky.
James earned his bachelor’s degree in general studies with an emphasis in criminal justice and coaching from Middle Tennessee in 2012. He achieved his associates degree in 2010 from Georgia Military before transferring to MTSU.
James transferred to MTSU in 2011 after playing at Georgia Military as a freshman and sophomore in 2009 and 2010. His sophomore season saw him start all nine games on a team that went 6-3.
A Hoschton, Georgia, native, James earned first team all-region and all-county honors while playing at Mill Creek High School. He participated in the 2009 Gwinnett County All-Star Game, and also lettered in track.
Running Backs Coach
University of Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell welcomed Fredi Knighten to the program’s staff as the team’s running backs coach on Tues., Jan. 15, 2019. Knighten arrives in the Pioneer Valley following a one-year stint as a graduate assistant alongside Bell at Florida State.
“Coach Bell gave me an opportunity to learn what it takes to be a good coach,” Knighten said. “After being with him for five years now, I’ve had time to talk with him about his vision of what he wants UMass to be: a fun, family atmosphere where we are competing with a blue-collar attitude, and helping to influence and enhance the lives of our players.”
During his time in Tallahassee, Knighten worked primarily with the Seminoles’ quarterbacks. In part under Knighten’s guidance, Deondre Francois continued his ascent up the Seminole record book rankings with a strong 2018 season that included 2,731 passing yards and 15 touchdown passes after Francois missed all but one game in 2017 due to injury. FSU’s passing offense ranked third in the ACC at 270.1 yards per game, as did Francois in completions per game (20.64).
“Fredi is an incredibly intelligent individual and I’m thankful he joined me in building this program here,” Bell said. “He is a diligent, hard-working coach and a rising star in this profession.”
Prior to his stint with the Seminoles, Knighten served two seasons in a graduate assistant capacity at Maryland. In his final campaign, the Terrapins rotated through four quarterbacks due to injuries, and was one of just two teams in the nation with three or more wins by three different starting quarterbacks. Despite the rotation, Maryland’s offense ranked in the top-20 nationally for fewest turnovers (14), which tied a team record.
Also in 2017, DJ Moore broke the single-season school record with 80 catches, a conference-high average of 6.7 per game. Moore also led the Big Ten with 1,033 receiving yards in 2017, as he became only the program’s third 1,000-yard receiver. Following the season, the Carolina Panthers selected Moore in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The previous year, Maryland scored a program-record 173 points in the first four games of the season. Maryland’s 2,594 rushing yards created the program’s seventh 2,500-yard rushing season ever and first since 2003, while the 26 rushing touchdowns were the most in College Park since 2007. Quarterback Perry Hills led the Big Ten in completion percentage and ranked second in the conference in passing efficiency.
Knighten enjoyed a decorated playing career as a dual-threat quarterback at Arkansas State (2012-15) for head coaches Gus Malzahan (2012), Bryan Harsin (2013) and Blake Anderson (2014-15).
As the team’s starting quarterback, he finished fourth in program history with 6,986 career total yards and also posted a figure of 4,056 yards in 2014, a feat that then ranked second all-time. Knighten twice was a Sun Belt all-conference honoree as well as a two-time Little Rock Touchdown Club MVP.
In addition to his postseason accolades, Knighten was tabbed to a plethora of watch lists in 2015, including the Wuerffel Trophy, Johnny Unitas Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award and Maxwell Award.
Knighten was named MVP of the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl after recording a career-high 212 yards of total offense and leading the Red Wolves on a three-play, 55-yard game-winning drive in the final one minute, 25 seconds.
Knighten, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Arkansas State in 2016. Prior to college, he played scholastically at Pulaski Academy for Kevin Kelley, where he was twice chosen for all-America by ESPN while also collecting Parade and MaxPreps all-America.
University of Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell welcomed Jason Tudryn to the program as defensive assistant on Tues., Jan. 15, 2019. A native of Western Massachusetts and 1996 alumnus of UMass, Tudryn returns to the Commonwealth after most recently spending five seasons at North Carolina as Director of High School Relations.
"My wife, Barbie (UMass '95), and I are excited to get back to Amherst," Tudryn said. "It's really a dream-come-true to be able to come home and do what I love. In 23 years of coaching I don't think I've ever been more excited to get on the field again. I'm thankful and forever grateful to Coach Bell for giving me the opportunity to represent for everyone that has ever worn the UMass logo on their chest."
While at Carolina, Tudryn spearheaded the development of recruiting strategies for the Tar Heels’ staff. He was the program liaison to high school coaches and organized the organization’s recruiting database, official visits schedule and summer camps.
“I am excited to welcome a former standout for the University of Massachusetts who has incredible pride for this university back to his alma mater in Jason,” Bell said. “Jason brings great success at the high school and college level aiding and directing modern college football recruiting.”
During his time in Chapel Hill, UNC reached the Quick Lane Bowl (2014) and the Russell Athletic Bowl (2015), while it also appeared in the ACC Championship Game in 2015. That season, the squad set a school record with 11 consecutive wins and tied a team-best with 11 overall victories. The Tar Heels also ran the table in the ACC, going undefeated in conference play (8-0) for the first time since 1980.
Tudryn transitioned to UNC following seven years as the head coach at Carrboro High School in nearby Carrboro, North Carolina.
After founding the program in 2007, Tudryn guided the Jaguars to four consecutive playoff appearances in 2009-12 and advanced to the 2AA state championship game in 2012. Tudryn was awarded the NCHSAA's 2012 Homer Thompson Memorial Award, which is given annually to "Eight Who Make A Difference" in high school athletics.
From 2002-06, Tudryn worked under his father as defensive coordinator at Naples Gulf Coast High School in Florida. He made his initial foray into the head coaching world at Miami Coral Park High School (2000-01) and was an assistant at Immokalee High School in 1999.
Prior to his high school coaching stops, Tudryn spent three seasons in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an assistant coach at American International College (1997-98) and Curry College (1996).
Tudryn hails from nearby Northampton, Massachusetts. A four-year safety for the Minutemen, he graduated from UMass with a degree in sociology before earning a master’s degree in special education from AIC in 1999.
He and his wife, Barbie have two daughters, Taliana and Ana, and a son, Phoenix. Tudryn’s father, Frank, coached high school football for more than 30 years and is a member of the Massachusetts High School Hall of Fame.
Defensive Line Coach
University of Massachusetts football head coach Walt Bell introduced Cedric Douglas as the team’s defensive line coach on Thursday. Douglas joins the program following time spent coaching at the scholastic and collegiate levels over the prior seven years.
“When the opportunity to work under Walt Bell, understanding the vision he has for the UMass football program, as it's new defensive line coach came to me I was extremely excited,” Douglas said. “This University has the ability to produce an athletic and academic experience that is unlike any other, and so I am extremely excited to do my part to help this program reach its highest potential.”
Most recently, Douglas helped Arkansas State reach back-to-back bowl games in 2017 and 2018, during which he was a graduate assistant working with the defensive line. His efforts in guiding the defensive line led to a pair of major awards for Red Wolves standouts as Ja’Von Rolland-Jones won 2017 Sun Belt Player of the Year and Ronheen Bingham followed as the 2018 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. Both also won All-Sun Belt First Team during their respective seasons.
“Cedric is a great young coach with a true passion for defensive line play,” Bell said. “I know he is going to do an incredible job developing the techniques and fundamentals of the position. He is also a great recruiter with strong ties within the junior college system.”
The 2018 Arkansas State team went 8-5 overall, including five wins in the Sun Belt and earned a berth in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. The defensive line featured prominently into the team’s success as the Red Wolves’ overall defense ranked among the nation’s leaders in tackles for loss (No. 13), total defense (No. 17), first down defense (No. 21) and red zone defense (No. 27).
Arkansas State finished Douglas’ first year with the team sporting a 7-5 overall record, a 6-2 mark in the Sun Belt and an appearance in the Camellia Bowl. The defense again ranked among the nation’s most prolific, including a spot in the top-10 with 8.8 tackles for loss per game (No. 6).
Douglas spent 2016 as defensive line coach and academic liaison at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. During his lone season at Hutchinson, the Blue Dragons defense ranked No. 12 in the nation in scoring defense (18.0 ppg), No. 10 in total defense (242.0 ypg) and No. 13 in rushing defense (91.0 ypg).
Hutchinson's defense at Hutchinson led the conference and ranked 14th nationally in sacks with 44, and the defensive line accounted for 24.5 of those to go along with 74.5 tackles for loss.
Douglas tutored two All-Region VI First Team selections, including Ronheen Bingham and J.J. Holmes. He also coached second team all-conference pick Tayland Humphrey, the No. 1 JUCO defensive tackle in the nation for his signing class.
Douglas went to Hutchinson after serving as the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas during 2015. The Red Ravens posted an 8-3 record, while their offense ranked No. 5 in the nation in scoring (over 50 ppg) and No. 8 in total offense (over 480 ypg). He coached Second Team All-Jayhawk Conference selection Trevor Neloms as well.
The 2013 and 2014 seasons saw Douglas coach at Ave Maria University in Florida in multiple roles.
Working as the running backs and return specialist coach in 2013, Douglas was part of the staff that achieved the program's first winning season while also being recognized as the NAIA Independent Conference champions. The Ave Maria staff was selected to coach the NAIA All-Star Team in the NAIA vs. Division II All-Star game.
During 2013, Douglas tutored USCAA All-America running back Scott Jones, who led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns, while the kick return unit averaged 23.2 yards per attempt. Ave Maria went 8-2 overall on the year, the most wins in a single season in the history of the program.
Douglas was promoted to recruiting coordinator in 2014 and also moved from running backs coach to wide receivers coach. The 2014 season saw his receiving corps post over 2,200 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns, both of which led the conference. He coached Travis Makauskas, who led the league in receptions, yards and touchdowns and was selected for the 2014 NAIA vs. D2 All-Star Game.
Douglas began his coaching career at Lincoln High School in the fall of 2012, operating as the varsity outside linebackers and running backs coach. He helped lead the team to a 6-3 record, and the squad produced three all-conference players.
The Milan, Michigan, native was a member of the Northern Michigan University football team from 2007-11, appearing in 35 games as a linebacker and defensive end while recording 89 tackles, 9.0 sacks and two interceptions.
Douglas earned his bachelor's degree in special education/secondary education in 2011.
Director of Sport Performance
University of Massachusetts football and head coach Walt Bell welcomed the addition of Matt Shadeed to the program’s staff on Thursday. Shadeed serves as the athletic department’s Director of Sports Performance and will work closely with the football team to foster physical, mental and emotional develop on and off the field.
“My family and I cannot begin to express our excitement about the opportunities that lie ahead for UMass football with Coach Bell at the helm,” Shadeed said. “Walt and I have essentially come up together in our profession, and because of our relationship there is unwavering alignment on how we want to train, teach and grow our young men. For him to entrust the cultural and physical components of his football program to our sports performance staff is truly humbling. We are excited to hit the ground running.”
Shadeed arrived at the University of Massachusetts following a two-year stint at Baylor, where he served as the Director of Athletic Performance and oversaw strength and conditioning efforts for the nationally-ranked women’s basketball program.
“Matt Shadeed is an incredible teacher, mentor, motivator and culture-builder,” Bell said. “He will not only improve our kids’ bodies, but also their hearts and minds as well.”
While at Baylor, Shadeed helped longtime Bears head coach Kim Mulkey develop Baylor into a team that went 33-2 during the 2017-18 season, with a perfect 18-0 mark in regular season conference play. The squad won the Big 12 regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament round of Sweet Sixteen.
Prior to his tenure at Baylor, Shadeed led Arkansas State from 2014-17 as the assistant athletic director for athletics performance.
Shadeed oversaw strength and conditioning efforts of the Red Wolves' football program while at Arkansas State, which made three consecutive postseason bowl appearances and won back-to-back conference championships (2015, 2016) under his direction. Operating under a philosophy built around being the toughest and most conditioned team on the field, the Red Wolves went a combined 20-4 in league play over three years under Shadeed’s direction. Additionally, he coordinated nutrition, social media, massage therapy, continuing education and technology efforts for the athletics performance department.
Before heading to Arkansas State, Shadeed spent two years as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for football at the University of Mississippi and nine months as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for women's basketball and softball at the University of Southern Mississippi.
After getting his start in the profession as an intern strength and conditioning coach at Louisiana State, where he completed more than 800 hours working with six different athletics programs in five months, Shadeed served as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach at Nova Southeastern University.
While pursuing a master's degree at Nova Southeastern, Shadeed directed strength and conditioning programs for men's basketball, men's soccer, women's tennis, softball, men's and women's swimming and diving and men's and women's track and field. He also assisted the head strength coach in all phases of design and development of the institution's new strength and conditioning complex.
Shadeed earned a bachelor of science degree with an emphasis in exercise science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2009 and a master of science degree with an emphasis in athletic administration in 2012.
Shadeed is certified as a strength and conditioning coach by CSCCa, a corrective exercise specialist by NASM, a sports performance Level 1 coach by USAW and a PN-1 by Precision Nutrition. A 2016 Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year nominee (NSCA) and 2011 John Stucky Award (CSCCa) recipient, Shadeed is also certified in first aid by the American Red Cross and in adult CPR/AED by the American Heart Association.
His wife, Emily and his son, Bear join Shadeed in Amherst.