Georgia Southern Football Camps
Defensive Coaching Staff
Defensive Coordinator / Secondary Coach
In just his first season as defensive coordinator, Jack Curtis helped the Eagles to their ninth Southern Conference championship. Curtis, who joined the coaching staff after the 2010 season, brings with him more than 20 years of college coaching experience to Georgia Southern.
In 2011 four defensive starters were named All-Southern Conference and three players (Brent Russell, Laron Scott, Roderick Tinsley) were selected as All-Americans. Russell also won the SoCon’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. Scott drew interest from a number of scouts and signed as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints.
Curtis came to Statesboro after one season as the defensive coordinator at Central Missouri. Central Missouri posted a program-best 11 wins and finished the 2010 season with a No. 5 ranking, the highest in Mules’ history. Curtis joined UCM after a year on the staff at Memphis, where he coached the safeties and had responsibilities for the kickoff, punt and field goal block aspects of the Tigers’ special teams units.
After eight years on the defensive staff at Northwestern State University, including the last three as defensive coordinator, Curtis was offered the position of co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Arkansas State. Curtis took over a defense that had ranked 61st nationally in pass defense the year before and he helped the Red Wolves improve to 16th nationally in pass defense and 39th in total defense. In those eight seasons, the NSU defense produced 18 All-Sun Belt honorees and two Sun Belt Defensive Players of the Year in Tyrell Johnson (2007) and Alex Carrington (2008).
Johnson, a four-time All-Sun Belt selection, was the top tackler for the Red Wolves and broke the league’s all-time tackles record. He was selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Carrington was a third-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2010. Joining Johnson in the Red Wolves secondary as a member of the All-Sun Belt first team was Khayyam Burns, who signed a rookie free agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Curtis coached six first-team All-Americans and nine players who were selected in the NFL draft. More than a dozen of his former players signed with NFL teams, including several who are on current rosters. The list includes 2005 Pro Bowl cornerback Terrence McGee and Michael Green. Fourth-round draft pick Kenny Wright, Keith Thibodeaux and David Pittman, a third-round draft pick, were also coached by Curtis. Several of Curtis’ other former players continued their football careers in the Canadian, NFL Europe and other professional leagues.
During Curtis’ tenure at Arkansas State, the Red Wolves ranked in the top 30 in the country in pass defense four times and in the top 50 in total defense five times. In 2007 and 2009, ASU was the leading defensive unit in the Sun Belt Conference. ASU was ranked 30th nationally in rush defense and in the top 50 in both scoring and total defense in Curtis’ final season with the program.
Curtis’ 4-3 defensive play calling was instrumental in Arkansas State’s 18-14 win over Texas A&M in 2008 as the Red Wolves shutout the Aggies in the final three quarters. His switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme was also key to the Red Wolves’ 2005 Sun Belt championship season and their first-ever appearance in a bowl game.
Northwestern State’s players thrived under Curtis’ direction, most notably All-American defensive backs Jermaine Jones and Tony Joe Maranto. Jones, a cornerback, was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year in 1998. He was selected as the 1997 Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
A first-team all-state defensive back at Silver City High School in New Mexico, Curtis played three years at Evangel University before injuries cut his collegiate football career short. He began his coaching career in what would have been his senior year as a student coach for the Crusaders.
After graduation Curtis accepted a position as a graduate assistant coach at Henderson State University and earned his master’s degree in physical education in 1990. He moved to Starkville, Miss., where a graduate assistant coaching position at Mississippi State allowed him to begin his specialist’s degree in educational leadership and work with the Bulldogs’ coaching staff. Curtis remained as a volunteer coach from 1991 through August of 1992 and worked with the Bulldogs’ defensive backs.
Western New Mexico hired Curtis as its secondary coach in 1993. He returned to Silver City, N.M., and helped lead the Mustangs to a 7-3 record, the NAIA playoffs and a No. 3 NAIA final national ranking. Curtis’ defense led the nation with 29 interceptions and free safety Chris Edmond snatched 13 to lead the nation in that category.
Born in Birmingham, Ala., Curtis grew up in the South before his family moved to New Mexico where he attended high school. He is married to the former Michelle Weser of Dumas, Ark., and they have two daughters, Carolina and Georganna.
Defensive Ends Coach
After four years with Coach Willie Fritz at Sam Houston State, Johnny Jernigan begins his first year with Georgia Southern and will coach the Eagle defensive ends.
Fritz assembled a defensive staff that made an immediate impact on the Bearkat program and Jernigan’s arrival in early 2010 signaled a new approach to the coaching of the defensive line. The high-energy Houston, Texas, native helped Sam Houston State’s defensive rankings in several categories rise more than 50 spots from the year prior. The Bearkats’ rushing defense vaulted from 86th to eighth nationally, allowing 100 only rushing yards per game, an average of 69.82 yards less than the previous year.
That impressive average would fall again as the Sam Houston State won the 2011 FCS statistical title with the best defense of the run. The Bearkats allowed only 72.9 yards per game, an average second only to Alabama in the NCAA Division I rankings. The dominating defense during Sam Houston’s 2011 Southland Conference championship season and NCAA title run was second in the country in scoring defense and turnover margin, third in total defense and fourth in pass efficiency defense.
Again in 2012, as Sam Houston State won back-to-back Southland Conference titles and advanced to the NCAA championship game for the second-straight year, Jernigan's defensive line helped place the Bearkats among the national leaders in total defense, scoring defense and turnover margin. Sam Houston State posted a final ranking of sixth in rush defense (98.53 yards per game) and tied for fifth in quarterback sacks with 38 that season.
In the league, the Bearkats held the No. 1 spot in 11 different defensive categories over the last three seasons. Evidence of the commanding defense line play, Sam Houston State has ranked first in rushing defense for four straight years (2010-2013) with no other Southland Conference team coming close to that streak in the last 10 seasons.
Jernigan coached three Bearkat linemen who would earn postseason accolades for their performances with J.T. Cleveland and Andrew Weaver both receiving All-America recognition. Cleveland, a All-Southland Conference selection three times in his career, would be included as a Phil Steele Publications All-American in 2011. Gary Lorance joined Cleveland as an All-SLC honoree in 2011 and 2012.
Andrew Weaver led Sam Houston State with the most tackles by a lineman with 44 and was credited with a team-best seven sacks in 2013. His 8.5 tackles for loss were second on the team and he also forced two fumbles. With 17 career sacks, he stands third on the Bearkats’ all-time list. An All-SLC honoree as a senior, he was named to the Associated Press’ All-America third team.
Jernigan spent time at two Ohio Valley Conference institutions and coached a year at Henderson State before his appointment to Sam Houston State. At Murray State from 2006-2009, he helped the Racers’ defense make significant improvements in their statistical standings as they moved to a No. 2 ranking in total defense, and to third in both rush and pass defense in 2008.
Included among the Murray State players Jernigan coached was two-time All-America defensive end and OVC Defensive Player of the Year Austen Lane. Twice selected to the OVC All-Conference first team, Lane set Murray State’s single-season record and career records for sacks and tackles for loss. He became the Racers’ highest-ever NFL draft pick, selected in the fifth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010.
At Tennessee-Martin for five years, Jernigan was the Skyhawks’ defensive line coach and served as the team’s interim head coach for its final four games of the 2002 season. In 2005, UT-Martin led the OVC in total defense and ranked second in pass defense.
Jernigan’s defensive lines in both 2003 and 2005 made their mark in the Skyhawk record book by posting two of the top-10 season sack totals. Defensive end Andre Plummer topped the annual list of leaders for 2003 in the individual sack category and by the end of his career, tied for the second-highest UT-Martin total with 15.0.
A coaching opportunity after graduation brought Jernigan to Kilgore College where he would begin his coaching career. Jernigan served as the Rangers’ defensive line coach from 1994 until 1999. During those six seasons, the Kilgore defense claimed either second or third in the conference in total defense.
Derrick Pickens, one of Jernigan’s players, became the first Kilgore defensive lineman to earn All-America honors and was named the Southwest Junior College Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He led the SWJCFC in tackles for loss and registered a league-best nine sacks in 1999. He signed with Iowa and started 22 games for the Hawkeyes over two seasons, earning Big Ten honors and was named the 2001 Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP.
A first-team All-Texas Junior College Football Conference defensive end at Tyler Junior College, Jernigan earned an associate of arts degree in health and physical education in 1992 and continued his collegiate career at Stephen F. Austin.
As a senior at SFA in 1993, Jernigan was a member of the Lumberjack team that secured a bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs and No. 14 final national ranking. The two-time letterwinner was a preseason second-team All-Southland Conference selection in 1993 after a solid effort in 1992 with 45 tackles and two sacks for All-SLC honorable mention laurels. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology from Stephen F. Austin in 1994.
Jernigan was a linebacker on the 1988 Navasota High School defense that was a major factor in the Rattlers’ trip to the state finals that year. He and his wife LaShunta have two sons, Davon, who was a member of Navasota’s 16-0 state championship team in 2012, and Amontae.
Michael Mutz begins his first year at Georgia Southern as the Eagles’ linebackers coach after one season at Sam Houston State.
In 2013, Mutz coached the Bearkat cornerbacks with Bookie Sneed earning first team All-Southland Conference and Sports Network All-America third-team honors. Sneed finished his career ranked in the Sam Houston State top-10 for interceptions with while De’Antrey Loche tied the single-season mark for interception returns for touchdowns with three.
From San Antonio, Texas, Mutz spent three years as a defensive coordinator, two at Missouri Southern State and one at Blinn College before returning to the Sam Houston State program under Coach Willie Fritz.
Mutz’s MSSU Lions ranked at the top of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) in total defense and rush defense in 2010, and held opponent defenses to the lowest first downs total in the league. The following season, MSSU posted solid numbers in the conference and ranked eighth nationally in both tackles for loss and sacks.
All-Americans on the Lions’ defense included defensive tackle Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State’s career sacks leader, who was selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Williams was among the 16 MIAA All-Conference team members coached by Mutz during his tenure there, along with two Lions who were honored as academic All-Americans.
Mutz was also responsible for Missouri Southern State’s kickoff and kickoff return teams in 2008 and 2009. In his first year in that coaching role, the Lions led the MIAA in that statistical category with more than 1,000 kickoff return yards for an average of 23.59 yards per return, good for 17th nationally.
At Blinn, Mutz oversaw the 2012 Buccaneers’ defense, coached the linebackers and was responsible for the punting unit for special teams. Seven of his student-athletes from the 2012 season went on to sign scholarships at Division I programs.
Hired to Sam Houston State by legendary coach Ron Randleman in 2004, Mutz coached the defensive line, helping the Bearkats tie for the Southland Conference lead with 16 fumble recoveries. Sam Houston State won the Southland Conference championship that season and advanced to its first-ever NCAA FCS semifinal game. Polls placed that 11-3 squad as the No. 4 team in the nation, with its highest-ever wins total and highest-ever ranking to that point.
Mutz worked his way up the coaching ranks, earning his graduate degree at Southern Illinois while serving for two years as an assistant football coach working with the defensive line and secondary. He accepted a full-time position at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas in early 2001 and was part of the coaching staff that led the Greyhounds to three-straight playoff appearances.
In addition to his on-field coaching responsibilities, Mutz coordinated the video needs for Sam Houston State in 2013 as well as for both the Southern Illinois and Fort Scott programs. He coached the punt and kickoff coverage teams at Fort Scott and also handled duties as the assistant strength coach.
A 1997 graduate of Colorado Mesa University, Mutz was a two-year letterwinner at defensive back for the Mavericks. He will reside in Statesboro with his two Boston Terriers, Hank and Hudson.
Defensive Line Coach
Veteran coach and recruiter Kevin Peoples joins Georgia Southern Football for 2014 and will coach the defensive line. Peoples spent last season as defensive line coach for UAB after three seasons at Arkansas, serving as the Razorbacks’ defensive tackles coach in 2012.
Under Peoples’ direction, the 2012 Arkansas defensive line earned a top-25 national ranking in sacks and the Razorbacks boasted a rushing defense that finished in the top 20. The Razorbacks posted consecutive 10-win seasons for just the third time in school history and made back-to-back BCS bowl appearances in 2010 (Sugar Bowl) and 2011 (Cotton Bowl). The 2011 squad capped its 11-2 season with a No. 5 national ranking following a 29-16 victory over Kansas State.
Peoples was part of the defensive staff at Arkansas State in 2002 that vaulted the Red Wolves 41 spots in the national rankings in total defense from 80th to 39th, one of only a handful of teams to make such a dramatic improvement. The Red Wolves’ coaches built off that success, entrenching Arkansas State as one of the top two teams in in the Sun Belt in total defense for the next five years. Arkansas State won its first Sun Belt title in 2005 and appeared in the New Orleans Bowl.
In his eight years at Arkansas State, Peoples coached 11 all-Sun Belt Conference selections and mentored several student-athletes who earned All-Sun Belt Conference awards, including Corey Williams (2002, 2003), Jon Bradley (2002, 2003) Myron Anderson (2005), Jonathan Najm (2006), Jammarrow James (2006), Alex Carrington (2008, 2009) and Bryan Hall (2009).
Carrington, the league’s Defensive Player of the year in 2008, was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills while both Williams and Bradley spent multiple seasons in the NFL. Hall was a member of the Baltimore Ravens when they won Super Bowl XLVII.
Team accomplishments and student-athlete accolades at Arkansas State were products of Peoples’ coaching, effort and caring. In 2003, he was selected from 500 coaches as one of the recipients of the AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year Award, recognizing those coaches who made a significant contribution to their teams.
Peoples’ experiences at different programs and levels have exposed him to a number of philosophies that have helped mold his evolving approach to defensive line play. He first joined Fritz’s staff at Blinn Community College, helping the Buccanneers to the national junior college championship in 1995. The following year, he coached the defensive ends and worked with the kickoff coverage team at Northwestern State.
Reuniting with Fritz at Central Missouri for the 1997 and 1998 seasons, Peoples served as defensive line coach, tutoring first-team All-MIAA and All-Midwest Region defensive lineman Kenneth Bouie. The Mules’ record holder with 23 tackles for loss in a single season in 1998, Bouie still appears in the UCM top 10 list for most tackles in a game and season as well as career tackles for loss. He earned All-America honors as a member of the Blinn championship team before continuing his collegiate career with UCM.
Peoples left for Northern Arizona in 1999 to coach the defensive line and special teams for the Lumberjacks and moved to the professional ranks with the XFL’s Las Vegas Outlaws for the 2000 season. In 2001, he accepted a position coaching defensive tackles back at Northwestern State for then-Demons and current Georgia Southern defensive coordinator Jack Curtis. When Steve Roberts took the reins of the Arkansas State program, Peoples became the Red Wolves’ defensive line coach in January 2002.
A four-year starter at linebacker in college, Peoples launched his coaching career at his alma mater, Carroll College (Mont.) in 1993, spending two years under the tutelage of legendary coach Bob Petrino, Sr. A two-time all-conference pick and all-district selection as a senior, Peoples helped lead the Saints to the 1989 Frontier Conference crown and a berth in the NAIA playoffs.
Peoples is married to the former Rebecca Chilton of Buckeye, Ariz.
Defensive Graduate Assistant
Defensive Graduate Assistant