Sam Houston Football Bolsters Defensive Coaching Staff with Notable Hires

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K.C. Keeler announces Reggie Johnson and Julian Wilson as key additions to Bearkats’ defensive coaching lineup

Sam Houston head football coach K.C. Keeler announced the hiring of Reggie Johnson and Julian Wilson to the defensive coaching staff on Thursday. 

Johnson will oversee the Bearkat linebackers, while Rodgers will handle defensive backs.  

Johnson comes to Huntsville after spending the past four seasons coaching linebackers at Missouri State. Wilson, meanwhile, immediately reunites with newly-appointed Bearkat defensive coordinator Skyler Cassity after having spending each of the past two seasons on the staff with him at Abilene Christian. Johnson joins the Kats with an impressive resume which includes coaching in 10 bowl games, including the 2005 Gator Bowl, 2006 Orange Bowl, 2010 Sugar Bowl and 2011 Cotton Bowl. 

His most-recent stint began when he reunited with Bobby Petrino on the Missouri State staff in 2020 as the team’s inside linebackers coach. He was promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2023 under new head coach Ryan Beard while retaining his duties with the linebackers.  

“We are excited to add Coach Johnson to our staff as a veteran presence with an extensive resume coaching at the Division-1 level,” Keeler said. “His experience and knowledge of the game will help continue to grow and develop our talented linebacker room.”

Headlining Johnson’s position group in 2022, his third season with the Bears, were All-MVFC performer Ferrin Manuleleua and standout Von Young. Manuleleua racked up a team-high 82 tackles with Young ranking second on the team with 66 total stops. The impact defenders were pivotal to the Bears defensive efforts in Johnson’s third season with the program. 

 Linebacker Tyler Wiltz was back on the All-MVFC team in 2021 and earned third-team All-American honors from Phil Steele after racking up 106 tackles and 14.5 TFLs. 

 In his first campaign in Springfield in 2020-21, Johnson helped guide the Bears to a share of the MVFC championship and first NCAA FCS Playoff appearance in 30 years. Wiltz also earned All-MVFC that season after posting a team-high 80 tackles, including 51 solo stops and 7.0 tackles for loss.

Johnson preceded his time in Springfield by serving three seasons as defensive line coach at Purdue from 2017-19. His tenure with the Boilermakers netted five All-Big Ten Conference selections. He joined
the Boilermakers after spending the 2016 season at WKU, where he coached the defensive ends. The Hilltoppers’ primary defensive ends had 98 total stops, 22 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.

Prior to WKU, Johnson spent two seasons (2014-15) as defensive coordinator, linebackers and defensive line coach at Alabama A&M, two seasons as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at UAB (2012-13) and four seasons as linebackers coach at Arkansas (2008-11).

Johnson had previously worked with Petrino at his alma mater, Louisville, where he served four seasons as linebackers coach (2004-07), one season as defensive line coach (2003) and two years as a graduate
assistant (1997-98).  

Johnson had a three-year stint at Alabama A&M, where he served as special teams coordinator and defensive coach (1998-99) and inside linebackers coach (2000) and spent two seasons at UTEP as defensive ends (2001) and linebackers (2002) coach.

At Louisville, he helped mentor consensus All-American and Broncos draft pick Elvis Dumervil in 2003, as well as freshman and future first-round NFL Draft pick Amobi Okoye. Okoye, was the youngest player
ever drafted at the age of 19 when he was selected by Houston in 2007. 

He was a four-year letterman as a linebacker at Louisville from 1987-90 and played on a team that went 10-1-1 his senior year. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 1996 and a Master’s degree
in Education from Louisville in 1998. 

Wilson brings plenty of familiarity with Cassity to Huntsville after having spent the past four seasons with him, including the past two in Abilene mentoring the Wildcats’ defensive backs.  

“Coach Wilson is a young coach on the rise, who has worked with Coach Cassity the past two years,” Keeler said. “His familiarity with the defense, as well as his background playing the position will be great assets to help our defensive backs reach their full potential.” 

During his two-year stint with Cassity at ACU, the pair helped the Wildcats post a dozen wins, its most in a two-year period since the program moved to Division I. While there, the defense held 14 of its 19 FCS opponents under their season scoring averages and was a Top-35 Massey-rated defense each year. 

The 2022 ACU defense was proclaimed as the top in the school’s history and was near the top of the WAC in multiple statistical categories. A year later Wilson helped lead ACU to five more victories while his defensive-back unit ranked second in the newly-formed United Athletic Conference and 23rd
in the FCS with 12 interceptions. 

A former cornerback in the NFL and at Oklahoma, he also spent his two years prior to Abilene as a graduate assistant on the staff at Texas Tech, working primarily with the Red Raider secondary.

In his first season coaching at Texas Tech, Wilson helped mentor Zech McPhearson into an All-Big 12 cornerback and an NFL Draft selection.
The Red Raiders were tied for the league lead in pick-sixes in 2021 while claiming two of the top three individuals in the Big 12 in passes defended. Texas Tech totaled five All-Conference selections in Wilson’s two years, including three of the conference’s top defensive backs in production in 2021.

The Oklahoma City native played in 48 games during his collegiate career at OU, totaling 99 tackles over his four seasons to go along with four interceptions and 15 pass breakups. He made 20 of his 22 career
starts over his final two seasons as a Sooner, and he earned his degree in Human Relations in 2014.

A four-time Academic All-Conference selection, Wilson followed his collegiate career with the Sooners by spending time with the Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL before later joining the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.