A national championship winner, Jimmy Ray Stephens is in his sixth year as the offensive line coach on Rick Stockstill's staff at Middle Tennessee. Stephens made his way to the Blue Raiders after four years with the University of Tennessee.
Behind the play and leadership of All-Conference player Mark Fisher, Stephens' 2010 unit did a great job protecting the quarterback and opening up running lanes for one of the top rushing attacks in the country. The Blue Raiders averaged over 180 yards on the ground to rank 31st nationally and scored 32 rushing touchdowns to rank in the top 20 in the nation.
Finally blessed with some experience after three years of injuries and youth, Stephens molded an offensive line in 2009 that was equally adept at blocking for the run and protecting the passer. The result was the most total yards of offense since 2001 and the best rushing total since 2002, including a stretch of four straight games where the Blue Raiders topped the 200-yard rushing mark. For their efforts, the offensive line had two players in Mark Thompson and Mark Fisher who earned all-conference honors.
In 2008, Stephens had four linemen who started every game and all five starters were underclassmen while two earned Sun Belt Conference All-Freshman honors. With another year filled with youth and inexperience, Stephens' unit helped Phillip Tanner to unleash a career season and Joe Craddock to pass for a senior record 2,677 yards.
In 2007, Stephens molded a starting unit that included two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior, and a senior. But despite the youth and inexperience, Stephens' group helped produce the league's top touchdown maker in DeMarco McNair and a top-10 rusher and passer in Dwight Dasher.
Stephens did one of his better coaching jobs in 2006 even though he went into the season with only five players who had seen meaningful snaps the year before. The unit went on to produce two all-conference players and the league's top scoring offense, allowing MTSU to be the only school in the SBC to have two players ranked in the top ten in rushing.
As offensive line coach of the Vols, Stephens helped develop one of the top lines in the SEC. During his tenure, Stephens tutored Michael Munoz to consensus All-American status in 2004 after placing Scott Wells into a starting position with the Green Bay Packers in 2003. Stephens went to three bowls with the Vols and was part of the 2004 SEC Eastern Division Championship squad.
Prior to arriving at UT, Stephens spent nine seasons coaching the Florida offensive line -- part of a high-powered offense that led to five SEC championships for the Gators. At Florida, Stephens coached four Jacob's Blocking Trophy winners (Best Offensive Lineman in SEC) and eight players who were drafted by the NFL.
Stephens himself sparkled both on the offensive line and at tight end during his playing career at Florida. He was a second-team All-SEC performer at center under Gators head coach Doug Dickey before making the move to tight end and earning second-team all-league honors there as well. Stephens went on to be drafted in the 12th round of the NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
His most recent responsibility at Florida was as offensive line coach and run-game coordinator during the 2001 season. Prior to that, Stephens also coordinated the unit's pass protection.
The Eustis, Fla., native coached on the Gators' 1996 national championship team and helped Florida to nine January bowl games. During that span, Florida's offense was ranked among the nation's top 15 six times and its passing offense among the top 10 seven times.
Stephens rejoined the Gators staff in 1993 after a stellar high school coaching career that saw him compile a 63-7 head coaching mark. That record came during a pair of three-year coaching and athletics director stints from 1987 to 1992 at Williston and Fort Walton Beach.
All told, Stephens spent 13 years in the Florida high school coaching ranks as either a head or assistant coach. His recruiting ties to the Sunshine State are strong and serve as a huge asset for the Blue Raiders.
Stephens is married to the former Regina Gouge and has two sons, Chris -- who lettered two years in football at North Carolina -- and Timmy.