Jan. 9, 2012
BLOG: Rebels In Coaching Ranks
OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze continues to assemble an impressive staff, adding co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Wesley McGriff, wide receivers coach Grant Heard and strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson, it was announced Monday.
McGriff joins the Rebels after a one-year term at Vanderbilt, where he served as defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator and helped the program to its fifth bowl appearance.
Led by All-American Casey Hayward, McGriff’s secondary produced 12 interceptions, three returns for touchdowns, eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage and more than 20 pass breakups. The group was also responsible for returning interceptions for TDs in three consecutive games for the first time in school history.
McGriff’s season in Nashville was preceded by four at Miami, where he mentored some of the ACC's top defensive backs. He coached former Hurricane All-American safety and 2009 NFL first-round draft pick Kenny Phillips for two seasons, as well as All-ACC cornerback Brandon Harris and safety Ray-Ray Armstrong. McGriff also helped mold Sam Shields from a wide receiver to a defensive back who is now starting for the Green Bay Packers.
McGriff's 2010 unit helped Miami rank second nationally in pass defense allowing just 164.3 yards per game. The Hurricanes, who posted their third straight winning season and a Sun Bowl appearance, also ranked No. 16 nationally in total defense (317.2 ypg) and No. 21 in scoring defense (19.7 ppg).
Before joining the Miami staff, McGriff served four years at Baylor as recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach. With McGriff's assistance, the Baylor defense notched 16 interceptions and ranked 13th in pass efficiency in 2005. As a recruiter, McGriff was responsible for signing offensive lineman Jason Smith, who left Baylor as an All-America tackle and the No. 2 pick of the 2009 draft.
McGriff earned his first SEC coaching experience at Kentucky, where he coached running backs in 2001 and cornerbacks in 2002. His coaching career also includes stops at Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky State and his alma mater, Savannah State, where he graduated cum laude in 1990.
“Wesley not only brings tremendous experience, but experience in the SEC,” said Freeze. “He has coached DBs to great success at the highest level, and he has been a recruiting force everywhere he has been.”
A former Rebel player and graduate assistant, Heard will be at his third stop with Freeze, having served as his quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator at Arkansas State, offensive coordinator at Lambuth and GA at Ole Miss.
Heard helped A-State to a record-breaking year in 2011 led by his star pupil, Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year Ryan Aplin. The junior quarterback established school single-season records for total offense and passing yards per game while finishing the regular season No. 10 in the nation in total offense.
Heard’s passing attack ranked 17th in the nation, and the Red Wolves were 25th in total offense en route to a Sun Belt championship and an appearance in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
An 11-year coaching veteran, Heard spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons as the offensive coordinator at Lambuth. During the 2008 campaign, the Eagles offense accumulated 5,861 yards while becoming the No. 1 offense in NAIA. Lambuth finished third in the nation in scoring offense and fourth in passing efficiency.
A wide receiver during his collegiate career (1996-2000), Heard helped lead Ole Miss to four bowl games and graduated as the Rebels’ all-time leader in career receptions and touchdowns. He earned his bachelor's degree in 2001 before embarking on a brief NFL career.
After beginning his coaching career with stints at Jackson (Miss.) Preparatory High School, Hargrave Military Academy and N.C. State, Heard was an offensive graduate at Ole Miss in 2005 and 2006, when he assisted in coaching the wide receivers and tight ends and mentored, among others, future Pro Bowler Mike Wallace.
“Having worked together for many years, Grant has a great understanding of what we are trying to do offensively,” Freeze said. “He is also one of the best receivers to ever play for the Rebels. His familiarity and love for Ole Miss makes him a perfect fit.”
Jackson comes to Oxford after spending 2011 at Southern Miss, where he oversaw the strength and conditioning for the entire USM athletics department with direct responsibility over the football program. His one season In Hattiesburg saw the football team soar to its best record in school history at 12-2, a Conference USA championship and a victory in the Hawaii Bowl.
Jackson arrived in Hattiesburg after serving the 2010 season as the Director of Athletic Conditioning for Football at Miami (Ohio). In his lone season at Miami, Jackson helped lead the Redhawks to the 2010 MAC championship and a victory in the 2011 GoDaddy.Com Bowl, while becoming the only team in NCAA history to go from double-digit losses one year to double-digit wins the next (1-11 in 2009 to 10-4 in 2010).
From 2007-10, Jackson served as an Assistant Strength Coach at LSU, working directly with the Tigers football and volleyball teams. During his time in Baton Rouge, Jackson won an SEC and national championship with the football team as well as three consecutive SEC Western Division and one SEC championship with the volleyball team. While working for the Tigers, Jackson worked under and was mentored by strength and conditioning legend Tommy Moffitt.
A graduate of Montclair State (N.J.), Jackson got his start in the business as a Professional Intern Strength Coach with the NFL’s New York Giants. He also spent time as a Performance Enhancement Specialist at the Parisi Speed School in Garwood, N.J., where the focus is sport-specific speed and agility training as well as combine preparation.
“Paul is one of the young and up-and-coming stars in strength and conditioning,” said Freeze. “At each of his stops, he has helped turn the program around. He will make us the type of team we need to be to compete for championships.”