DEFENSIVE COACHING STAFF
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers Coach
Joe Cauthen is in his second season as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for Arkansas State.
Cauthen has 24 years coaching experience, including 18 at the collegiate level, and most recently spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee. Cauthen served as the Blue Raiders’ defensive line coach in 2012 and 2013 after working as the linebackers coach in 2011. He was also the special teams coordinator all three years he spent at MTSU.
The Blue Raiders put together back-to-back eight win seasons Cauthen’s last two years at the school and played in the Armed Forces Bowl in 2013. He tutored a pair of all-conference players during his time as defensive line coach, including Jimmy Staten in 2013 and Omar McLendon in 2012.
MTSU proved to be an opportunistic defense in 2013 with Cauthen a part of the coaching staff as the Blue Raiders ranked fifth in the nation in turnovers gained with 33, including 15 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries. MTSU also ranked 17th nationally in red zone defense (.755) and 19th nationally in passing defense (203.4 ypg). His defensive line also helped the team rack up 67 tackles for loss and 27 sacks.
In his first year guiding the defensive line, Cauthen molded a young group that showed marked improvement from 2011. McLendon earned all-conference honors while Kendall Dangerfield and Staten enjoyed career years.
Cauthen made his way to Middle Tennessee after spending the previous four seasons at Valdosta State as the Blazers defensive coordinator. In 2010, Cauthen helped lead Valdosta State to a Gulf South Conference Championship after his defense finished ranked 23rd nationally in total defense and 18th in scoring defense. His unit was led by All-American (both coaches and SIDs) and National Defensive Player of the Year Larry Dean. Dean, who had 122 tackles, became the first player in school history to earn the player of the year award.
Cauthen molded a solid group in 2009 despite losing seven starters off the 2008 squad and seeing two more suffer season-ending injuries over the course of the first three games. Under his direction, the Blazers still managed to register 68 TFLs, 18 sacks, and force 19 turnovers while giving up just 112.9 yards per game on the ground.
Cauthen’s defense was dominant during the 2008 season as it finished 31st nationally in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. The Blazers allowed opponents just 304.6 yards per game during his second season with the school while surrendering just 18.6 points per outing. On the rushing side, the Blazers only allowed 108.3 yards per game to rank 31st in the nation while opponents found throwing the ball even tougher as they were held to a 104.91 efficiency rating, a number that ranked VSU 20th nationally. In 2007, Cauthen directed a unit that finished 14th in the nation in scoring defense at 17.6 points per game as VSU won its second national title. Cauthen’s knowledge of the defensive side of the ball was no more evident than in the 2007 NCAA Championship game, where his scheme held Northwest Missouri State running back Xavier Omon, who had averaged 236 yards a game in three previous playoff contests, to just 63 yards on 27 carries, an average of 2.3 yards per carry.
Cauthen’s aggressive, ball-hawking defensive approach helped VSU lead the nation in passes intercepted with 27 in 2007 while finishing second in turnovers gained with 40. Additionally, Valdosta State was 25th in passing efficiency defense (105.9) and 33rd in rushing defense (120.9 yards per game).
Cauthen’s ability to teach the game of football helped several Blazers earn individual honors during his tenure. He had two players earn three All-America honors, five named all-region, and 13 make all-conference. Cauthen’s tutelage also helped Sherard Reynolds earn GSC All-Decade Team honors after the 2009 season, the only VSU defensive player to earn first team honors on that list.
Cauthen joined the Blazers after eight seasons with Texas A&M-Commerce, during which the Lions consistently ranked among the top defenses in the nation. A&M-Commerce led the Lone Star Conference and was ranked 23rd nationally in total defense in 2006 as the Lions compiled a 5-5 mark. Cauthen’s defense surrendered just 258.3 yards per game, including 95.3 on the ground and 163.0 through the air. The Lions allowed just 15.1 points per game, 19th-best nationally, and were 24th in rushing defense.
The Lions were equally as impressive in 2005 as they again led the Lone Star Conference in total defense (318.9 yards a game), rushing defense (127.4 yards per game) and scoring defense (18.3 points an outing). A&M-Commerce was 47th nationally in total defense and 42nd in rushing defense while finishing 22nd in scoring defense. Additionally, under Cauthen’s leadership, Lion linebacker J.D. Hearn led the nation in tackles in 2005 and earned eight national post-season awards.
During his seven seasons with the Lions, Cauthen coached six All-Americans, four Lone Star Conference linebackers of the year, three defensive lineman of the year, a defensive back of the year and 34 defensive players that earned All-Lone Star Conference at least once during their career.
Cauthen spent little time in establishing his mark on the Texas A&M-Commerce defense as in just his third year he directed a defense that ranked second in the league in total defense, first against the run, second against the pass and third in scoring defense. Two years later, his 2003 defense was fourth in the 15-team league and 41st nationally in total defense.
Cauthen joined the Lion staff in 1999 after two seasons at I-AA (now FCS) Stephen F. Austin. He began his tenure with SFA as a restricted earnings coach in 1997 before becoming full-time in 1998. He worked with the defensive line during his two seasons and aided the Lumberjacks to an 11-11 overall record. Cauthen’s line was instrumental in Stephen F. Austin finishing the 1997 season ranked 21st in the nation in the final national poll.
Prior to Stephen F. Austin, Cauthen spent a season as defensive line coach at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas. He also worked with the special teams unit at TVCC and served as the school’s strength and conditioning coach. He began his coaching career at Sherman High School in Sherman, Texas during the 1990 season and worked with the school for five seasons. In addition to teaching biology for the school, Cauthen worked with the freshman team his first year and as an assistant for the varsity squad from 1992 through 1995. Additionally, he served as an assistant for the school’s baseball, power lifting and basketball programs. Cauthen’s coaching was instrumental in leading both Trinity Valley and Sherman to post-season berths during his time with the schools.
Cauthen earned his Bachelor’s in Health and Kinesiology with a minor in Biology from Stephen F. Austin in 1990. He also obtained a Master’s in Sports Administration from the University of Texas-Tyler in 1997. Cauthen has three children, Brooklyn, Dakota and Jackson.
Defensive Line Coach
Brian Early is beginning his second season as Arkansas State's Defensive Line coach.
With previous coaching stops at Central Arkansas, Arkansas-Monticello and three Arkansas high schools, Early brings deep ties to the state with him after most recently serving as the University of Arkansas Defensive Quality Control Coach in 2013. His journey to Arkansas State also included a stop on the coaching staff at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Early has coached or recruited eight All-Americans, two conference players of the year and three NFL Draft picks in his career that spans over 18 years, including 10 at the collegiate level.
Prior to joining the Arkansas staff, Early spent the previous four years as defensive coordinator at Fayetteville High School, where he helped the Bulldogs to three straight 7A state championship game appearances and back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. The 2011 and 2012 Fayetteville teams were ranked in the top 50 nationally by MaxPreps.
His 2012 Fayetteville defense included Brooks Ellis, a two-time Arkansas High School Defensive Player of the Year, and Alex Brignoni, whose 19 career interceptions ranked first all-time in Arkansas history in the state’s largest classification.
Early went to Fayetteville High School after coaching defensive line for four years and linebackers for one year while also serving as special teams co-coordinator at Central Arkansas. In his time with UCA, the Bears won two conference championships in two different classifications, taking the Division II Gulf South crown in 2005 and the FBS Southland Conference title in 2008.
They twice led the conference in scoring defense, and Larry Hart was named the 2008 Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year. UCA also led the nation in net punting in 2008, and in 2007 All-American Tristan Jackson led the country with an average of 23.6 yards per punt return. Early also coached the two highest-drafted players in UCA history as Hart was a fifth-round pick by Jacksonville in 2010 and Jacob Ford was a sixth round selection by Tennessee in 2007.
During the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Early was the linebackers coach and co-special teams coordinator at Minnesota State-Mankato. He was the defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coordinator at West Memphis High School in 2001, helping lead the Blue Devils to the state quarterfinals.
In 1999 and 2000, he was the linebackers coach and strength and conditioning coordinator at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. There, he coached Danielle Rollins, who led the nation in total tackles in 1999 and in tackles per game in 2000 and was named the Gulf South’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2000.
Early began his coaching career in 1994 as defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coordinator at Greenland High School. He helped lead the Pirates to back-to-back conference championships in 1997 & 1998. The '98 team was the first to complete an unblemished regular season and recorded the first playoff win in school history.
Early graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health in 1994 and earned his master’s degree in secondary education from UAM in 2000. He has three daughters (Sydney, Aivery and Camryn), and is married to Nanci.
Allen Johnson is beginning his second season as Arkansas State's safeties coach.
Johnson brings over 15 years coaching experience at both the collegiate and high school levels with him to A-State, most recently spending the last three seasons at Lamar University as the assistant head coach from 2012-13 and the defensive coordinator in 2011, while also overseeing the secondary all three years.
Johnson was part of Lamar’s coaching staff charged with reviving a program that took the field in 2010 for the first time since 1989. Competing in the NCAA FCS as a Southland Conference (SLC) member, the Cardinals led the league in both pass defense and pass efficiency defense in 2012 and 2013 with Johnson serving as the secondary coach.
Not only did Lamar’s secondary function as one of the top units in the SLC, the group boasted several players that were recognized for their individual efforts under the direction of Johnson. Safety Chad Allen and cornerbacks Branden Thomas and Tyrus McGlothen were All-Southland Conference choices during their career. McGlothen earned first team recognition in 2013 when he posted 81 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack and a fumble recovery.
Prior to his time at Lamar, Johnson coached the cornerbacks at the University of Texas-El Paso for three seasons. While at UTEP, Johnson coached such star defensive backs as Cornelius Brown, Melvin Stephenson and Clarence Ward, all of whom played briefly in the National Football League. Johnson’s final season at UTEP (2010) saw the Miners make their first appearance in a postseason game since 2005, competing in the New Mexico Bowl.
Before going to UTEP, Johnson spent the 2007 season as the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Midwestern State University, which fielded the top defense in the Lone Star Conference (LSC) that year. In going 8-3 that season, Midwestern State led the league in scoring defense (18.6 points-per-game average), total defense (294.2 yards-per-game average) and rushing defense (93.9 yards-per-game). The Mustangs also ranked third in the LSC in pass defense and pass defense efficiency.
In 2006, Johnson served as the quality control coach at Oklahoma State University, helping lead the Cowboys to seven wins and an Independence Bowl victory. He doubled as the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Blinn College in 2005, helping the team qualify for the National Junior College Athletic Association playoffs.
Johnson started his coaching career as a defensive graduate assistant coach at Texas A&M-Commerce in 1999 before being elevated to a full-time position as running backs coach in 2000. After his two-year stint on the Lions’ coaching staff, he spent the next four seasons in the high-school coaching ranks at Gaither HS (2001) in Tampa, Fla., at Plant HS (2002) in Tampa and at Newman Smith HS (2003-04) in Carrollton, Texas. He worked with the secondary at all three high schools and was also the defense coordinator his lone season at Gaither.
Johnson, who earned his bachelor's degree in health and kinesiology at Texas A&M University-Commerce in 1999 and his master's degree in the same field a year later, played collegiately at Kilgore College, Central Oklahoma and A&M-Commerce. He is currently on course to earn his doctorate in educational leadership from Lamar University in December of 2014.
After taking a break in his college career to serve in the U.S. Air Force, Johnson earned All-Lone Star Conference South Division honors and a trip to the Snow Bowl as a senior in 1998. He also competed for the A&M-Commerce track and field team and served as president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Johnson, who was an all-district defensive back at Desoto (Texas) High School, and his wife, Jennifer, have three daughters - Jayla, Kyra and Olivia.
Trooper Taylor, a 22-year coaching veteran at the NCAA FBS level who helped lead Auburn to a 2011 BCS National Championship, is in his second year as Arkansas State’s cornerbacks coach.
“As a main of faith, family and football, I am excited to be a part of the Jonesboro community and the outstanding football program here at Arkansas State,” said Taylor said upon joining the A-State coaching staff. “With back-to-back GoDaddy Bowl victories and three straight Sun Belt Conference championships, this program’s sustained success obviously speaks for itself.”
Taylor has been a part of 10 bowl games during his career, which includes stops at Baylor, New Mexico, Tulane, Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Auburn in addition to Arkansas State. His first season at A-State saw the Red Wolves post a 7-6 record and make an unprecedented fourth consecutive appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl.
Taylor’s cornerbacks were part of A-State’s defense that ranked No. 14 in the nation in defensive touchdowns (4), No. 15 in passes intercepted (16), No. 17 in team sacks (2.85 per game), No. 21 in turnovers gained (28), No. 27 in third down percentage defense (.359), No. 28 in fumbles recovered (12), No. 36 in fourth down percentage defense (.435) and team tackles for loss (6.6 per game), No. 42 in red zone defense (.795), No. 44 in passing yards allowed (216.0 ypg) and No. 45 in team passing efficiency defense (122.26). Additionally, A-State’s 28 turnovers gained were its third most ever as an FBS member.
Under Taylor’s direction, seniors Artez Brown and Andrew Tryon enjoyed the best seasons of their career in 2014 and earned first team and honorable mention All-Sun Belt Conference honors, respectively.
Brown was responsible for four interceptions, which tied the most on the team, to go along with 26 tackles and five pass break-ups. Tryon posted career-best numbers for tackles (71), tackles for loss (5.5), interceptions (2) and pass break-ups (9).
As a group, A-State’s cornerbacks were responsible for 137 tackles, seven interceptions, 19 pass break-ups and three fumble recoveries, including a 93-yard return for touchdown by Rocky Hayes that was the longest fumble return in school history.
Taylor came to A-State after serving as the Auburn’s assistant head coach and wide receivers coach from 2009-12.
In Auburn’s 2010 national championship season, Taylor's receiver corps produced in all phases, making impact catches and providing hard-nosed blocking for the Tigers' conference-best rushing attack. Auburn receivers connected on 45 plays of 20 yards or more, including five plays of 60 yards or more, as the Tigers set a school record for points (577) and led the Southeastern Conference averaging 41.2 points per game. The Tigers had three receivers total 500 yards or more and as a unit averaged 16.9 yards per catch, hauling in 2,461 of Auburn's total 3,002 total passing yards.
He helped lead the Tigers to a 43-24 Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory over Virginia and a No. 25 BCS ranking in 2011. Receiver Emory Blake was responsible for six receptions for 108 yards in the bowl-game victory that gave the Tigers their eighth win of the year.
During his first season, he helped the Auburn offense emerge as one of the nation's finest, while also solidifying his reputation as a top-notch recruiter. The Auburn offense set numerous school records during the 2009 season, including points in a season (433), most total yards of offense in a season (5,613) and most plays in a season (914).
Taylor coached Darvin Adams, who broke the Auburn single-season record for receptions with 60 for 997 yards and ranked second in the SEC with 10 touchdown catches. Adams, who entered the season with just three career catches for 18 yards, was named the MVP of the Outback Bowl after hauling in career highs of 12 receptions for 142 yards.
In addition to his coaching duties on the field, Taylor was also instrumental in helping Auburn bring in some of the most highly regarded recruiting classes in the nation as the Tigers’ 2010, 2011 and 2012 recruiting classes were ranked fourth, third and 17th, respectively, by ESPN.com.
Auburn signed a consensus top-five recruiting class in 2010, when Taylor was named to Rivals.com’s its list of the top-25 recruiters in the nation and one of the top 10 recruiters in the SEC. It marked the third time he was named to the top-25 list by Rivals.com, having previously earned the recognition in 2005 and 2007.
In 2008, his only season at Oklahoma State, Taylor helped the Cowboys’ offense produce two first-team All-Americans in wide receiver Dez Bryant and running back Kendall Hunter. A Biletnikoff Award finalist, first-team All-Big 12 selection and academic all-conference member, Bryant led the Big 12 in receiving and was third nationally.
With Taylor working as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, the Cowboys played in the 2008 Holiday Bowl and ranked sixth in the nation in total offense (487.7 ypg), eighth in rushing offense (245.46 ypg), ninth in scoring offense (40.7 ppg) and 38th in passing offense (242.23 ypg).
Prior to OSU, Taylor served as Tennessee’s assistant head coach from 2004-07, coaching wide receivers his last two seasons after serving as the running backs coach from 2004-05. While a member of the Tennessee staff, he helped lead the Volunteers to the 2005 Cotton Bowl and 2007 and 2008 Outback Bowl. The Vols posted a pair of 10-win seasons, claimed 34 total victories and finished ranked among the top-25 teams in the nation three times during Taylor’s time with the program.
His first season as running backs coach, Tennessee ranked 24th in the nation in rushing yards (186.0 ypg) with Gerald Riggs Jr. leading the team individually with 85.2 yards per game to rank 47th in the country. Riggs and fellow running back Cedric Houston became UT’s first pair of 1,000-yard rushers in the same season in 2004. His second season, he tutored now NFL All-Pro running back Arian Foster.
Following his move wide receivers coach, the Volunteers ranked 12th in the nation in passing yards with 264.5 yards per game in 2006. Under Taylor’s direction, Robert Meachem was a first-round NFL draft pick after ranking fourth in the nation in receiving yards (99.9 ypg) to earn All-America recognition. The 2007 Tennessee team ranked No. 35 in the nation in passing yards (262.5 ypg), while Lucas Taylor ranked among the top 44 players in the NCAA FBS in both receptions and receiving yards.
Taylor went to Knoxville after coaching receivers at Tulane from 1999-2003. He coached four wideouts into the NFL during his tenure in New Orleans, including Adrian Burnette, Kerwin Cook and Terrell Harris. The fourth future NFL player under his tutelage at Tulane was Roydell Williams, who went on to set school and Conference USA career records for touchdown catches with 35.
Prior to Tulane, he was the running backs coach at New Mexico in 1998 after a five year stint on the coaching staff at Baylor, his alma mater. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at Baylor in 1992, then spent the 1994-97 seasons as the Bears’ wide receivers coach (1994, 1997) and secondary coach (1995-96). He helped lead Baylor to the Alamo Bowl in 1994.
Taylor played defensive back at Baylor from 1988-91 and finished his playing career as the school's leader in kickoff returns (53) and return yardage (1,063), while also helping the Bears to the Copper Bowl his senior campaign. He earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from Baylor University in 1992.
The Cuero, Texas, native is married to the former Evi Crosby of Harbor City, Calif. He and his wife, who was a track and field scholarship student-athlete at Baylor, have one daughter, Starr, and a son, Blaise.