JMU roundup: Dukes name Withers as new football coach

Daily Staff Report – sports@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University named Everett Withers as its new head football coach on Friday.

The sixth head coach in JMU history, Withers’ appointment is effective immediately, though he will remain with his current position through the bowl season.

“We are so thrilled to welcome Coach Withers and his family to James Madison,” JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne stated in a news release. “Everett is a proven winner and has shown his ability to lead, having spent time as a head coach. The entire committee was incredibly impressed when we met with him, and I have no doubt that he will be a great leader for our football program and mentor to our student-athletes for many years to come.”

A 26-year coaching veteran, Withers comes to the Shenandoah Valley from Ohio State University, where he served as assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the past two years. During his time with the Buckeyes, he has been a part of a school-record 24-game win streak and a 24-1 mark heading into the upcoming Discover Orange Bowl against No. 12 Clemson. In 2012, OSU compiled a perfect 12-0 record and finished No. 3 in the national rankings. The undefeated 2012 slate was only the sixth unbeaten/untied season in school history, as Ohio State ranked second in the Big Ten with 14 interceptions and all four starting defensive backs earned All-Big Ten Conference recognition.

During his career, Withers has split time between the collegiate and professional coaching ranks, having worked in the NCAA Division I level for 19 years and in the National Football League for seven seasons. Withers’ collegiate coaching resume includes 11 years as a defensive coordinator with a vast majority of his time — 17 seasons — spent also coaching the defensive backfield.

Prior to accepting his position with Ohio State in Dec. 2012, Withers spent four years at the University of North Carolina. He was promoted to interim head coach at the school in July 2011 and he led the Tar Heels to a 7-6 overall record and to a berth in the Independence Bowl against Missouri. His first defensive unit — in 2008 — ranked eighth in the country with 20 interceptions, a number that was just one off the UNC single-season record. His 2009 defense was among the nation’s elite, ranking sixth in total defense, 10th against the run, 13th in scoring and 14th in pass defense. His 2010 unit ranked fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 30th nationally. Five players off that unit were taken in the NFL draft, including first-round pick Robert Quinn. In his final season in 2011, the Tar Heels ranked 14th nationally against the run. Additionally, Withers’ UNC defenses picked off 71 passes in four seasons.

Withers spent one year as defensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota prior to his North Carolina position. He also has been an assistant coach at the University of Texas (1998-2000; defensive backs), Louisville (1995-97; defensive coordinator/assistant head coach/defensive backs), Southern Mississippi (1992-93; defensive backs/assistant special teams), Tulane (1991; outside linebackers) and Austin Peay (1988-90; defensive coordinator/defensive backs; tight ends/special teams).

In the NFL, Withers spent six years (2001-06) as a defensive backs coach with the Tennessee Titans and then-head coach Jeff Fisher, now head coach of the St. Louis Rams. In his tenure in Nashville, Withers was a part of an AFC South championship in 2002 and two playoff berths in 2002 and 2003. He coached All-AFC selections in Lance Schulters (2002) and Adam “Pacman” Jones (2005), as three times the Titans’ defense ranked in the top five in the NFL in rushing yards against. While he was the defensive backs coach of the Titans, the squad ranked among the top-10 defenses in 2002, his first season with the Titans. From 2002 to 2004, the Titans grabbed 57 interceptions, the best ever for a three-year span for the franchise, fourth best in the AFC and eighth best in the NFL. The Titans tallied 21 picks in 2004, with 16 coming from the Withers’ coached secondary. Withers also spent the 1994 season with the New Orleans Saints as a defensive quality control coach.

A native of Charlotte, N.C., Withers attended Appalachian State University and was a four-year letter-winner as a defensive back. He served as team captain in 1984.

Withers and his wife, Kara, have a daughter, Tia, and a son, Pierce.