Stockstill elevates Ellis, Simmons

Two of youngest coordinators in the country

January 24, 2011 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill announced today he has elevated Steve Ellis and Willie Simmons to coordinator roles for the Blue Raiders. Ellis will take over as the program's defensive coordinator while Simmons will be Stockstill's new offensive coordinator.

"Both Steve and Willie have everything I am looking for in the coordinator positions," said Stockstill. "They possess great knowledge of what we want to run at Middle Tennessee, are highly organized, and coach with unmatched passion and enthusiasm. Our players will feed off their energy level.

"I am totally confident in both Steve and Willie and know they will do an outstanding job in preparing our players both offensively and defensively."

Ellis, who just completed his second season with the Blue Raiders as cornerbacks and special teams coach, was the defensive coordinator at Nicholls State from 2006 to 2008. In 2006, his unit ranked 19th nationally in total defense and the 2007 squad ranked 33rd.

The 30-year old Stringer, Miss., native produced a first team all-conference selection in Rod Issac and helped the defense lead the league in pass defense for a second consecutive season in 2010. Starters Issac and Arness Ikner accounted for four interceptions and nine pass breakups, while Issac scored twice.

Ellis' special teams was solid once again in 2010 with six blocked kicks and produced first team all-conference picks in placekicker Alan Gendreau and punter Josh Davis.

In 2009, Ellis' cornerbacks had 152 tackles, nine interceptions, 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 21 pass breakups on their way to leading the Sun Belt Conference in pass defense and interceptions. Seniors Marcus Udell and Alex Suber were tabbed first team all-conference as Udell led the league with seven interceptions and Suber had 12 pass breakups while ranking 28th nationally in passes defended.

His special teams blocked eight kicks, hit 18 of 22 field goal attempts, had 1,119 yards in kick returns, downed 22 punts inside the 20-yard line, and had seven punts of 50 yards or more. Gendreau earned first team all-conference honors.

"I am very excited about the opportunity and can't wait to get started," said Ellis, who will also remain as the cornerbacks coach. "We will play with a lot of confidence and a sense of urgency. Our mentality will be when the ball is kicked, here we come.

"We lost a lot of guys on defense but that will not be an excuse. We will get guys ready to play, go fast and swarm to the football."

Simmons, 30, has been the Blue Raiders' running backs coach the past four years and will be handling coordinator duties for the first time in his career. Simmons will also continue coaching the running backs.

"Personally, I am excited about the opportunity for me as a young coach in the profession," said Simmons. "It says a lot about Rick Stockstill and his belief in me and I am grateful for the chance."

A native of Quincy, Fla., Simmons had his deepest group of backs in 2010 with Phillip Tanner, Benjamin Cunningham, and D.D. Kyles leading the way. The threesome helped the Blue Raiders produce one of the top rushing attacks in the country while combining for 21 touchdowns. All three averaged more than 4.5 yards a carry and Tanner went on to garner all-conference honors.

Simmons had a real challenge in 2009 when Tanner went down with an injury in the second game of the season, leaving the Blue Raiders without an experienced running back. Simmons guided Kyles to a career year as the sophomore posted 857 yards on 139 carries (6.2 ypc average), scored three touchdowns, and had 14 receptions. Kyles, the team's leading rusher down the stretch, had three straight 100-yard rushing games during the last half of the season.

In 2008, Tanner had personal bests at the time in rushing yards, receptions, and touchdowns. Also under Simmons' watch, Tanner earned National Player of the Week honors after setting a Sun Belt Conference and Blue Raider scoring record with six touchdowns in a win over North Texas. "We have a lot of guys coming back who are eager to take another step in the development of this program," added Simmons. "We have a veteran offensive line, two good quarterbacks, and productive skill players so the pieces are in place. The job now is to work on our fundamentals and limit the turnovers.

"We want to be as balanced as possible, maximize our strengths, and put the best players on the field. Our tempo will be a major focus. We need to improve on what we have built in the past and try to be the fastest team in the country between snaps."

Stockstill hopes to announce a new quarterbacks coach and linebackers coach in the very near future.

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