Former Wofford head coach Josh Conklin joining Arkansas State football staff

The former Wofford head coach is joining Butch Jones' staff at Arkansas State
The former Wofford head coach is joining Butch Jones' staff at Arkansas State(WHNS-TV)
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 7:34 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 14, 2023 at 3:16 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Former Wofford head coach and Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin is joining Arkansas State football’s staff as the special teams coordinator and safeties coach, sources confirmed to KAIT. Arkansas State football made the hire official Tuesday.

FootballScoop was first to report the news Conklin is joining A-State Monday morning. 247Sports added Conklin will serve as the safeties coach.

Conklin resigned as Wofford’s head coach in October after leading the Terriers to back-to-back Southern Conference Championships in 2018 and 2019. He was named the SoCon Coach of the Year after the 2019 season. He went 19-27 overall over his five-season run as head coach.

Prior to his stop at Wofford, Conklin served as defensive coordinator for Pitt from 2015-2017 and FIU from 2013-2014. He’ll reunite with defensive coordinator Rob Harley, who coached linebackers at Pitt from 2015-2020.

The 2016 Pitt squad ranked top 20 nationally in sacks (6th), rush defense (16th) and defensive TDs (8th). Defensive end Ejuan Price had 24.5 sacks over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, getting drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

At FIU, Conklin was nominated for the Broyles Award in 2014 after the Panthers ranked 4th in the nation in turnovers forced (33).

The Wyoming native also had stops at Tennessee (safeties coach), The Citadel (defensive coordinator), Wofford (defensive backs coach) and South Dakota State (defensive backs coach/special teams).

Conklin replaces Jake Schoonover, who left the Red Wolves to join Ole Miss as the special teams coordinator.

The Red Wolves were second in the country in special teams in 2022 according to ESPN’s SP+ rankings. Pro Football Focus graded A-State top 50 in the nation in the same category.

The unit had impressive individual performances. Kicker Dominic Zvada became the first player in program history to be named to five Freshman All-American teams after drilling 17 of 18 field goals in 2022. Six of those kicks were good from over 40 yards.

Johnnie Lang was named an All-American on several outlets, including being named the College Football Network Kick Returner of the Year after leading the Sun Belt and FBS with 886 kick return yards, adding a 98-yard kickoff return TD against ULM. Lang was top 15 in the country in all-purpose yards.

The full Arkansas State press release is below

Arkansas State head football coach Butch Jones announced Tuesday that veteran coach Josh Conklin, a former head coach at the FCS level and defensive coordinator at multiple FBS schools, has been named the Red Wolves’ special teams coordinator and safeties coach.

Conklin comes to A-State after most recently spending the last five years as the head coach at Wofford, where he led the Terriers to a pair of Southern Conference titles and was named the league’s Coach of the Year in 2019.

Prior to Wofford, he served as the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh for three seasons (2015-17) after spending the previous two years (2013-14) in the same role at Florida International. He moved into the FBS coaching ranks in 2012 as the safeties coach at Tennessee.

Conklin was the defensive coordinator at The Citadel from 2010-11, and his path to Jonesboro also included his first stop at Wofford (2007-09) and a two-year stint (2005-06) at South Dakota State as a defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator at both schools.

“Having a successful coaching background and extensive experience, including time as an FCS head coach and FBS defensive coordinator, we’re excited to add a coach of Josh’s caliber to our staff,” said Jones. “Josh is an individual who not only has a strong and well-rounded knowledge of the game, but also possesses proven traits as a leader and communicator with attention to detail. We’re excited to welcome Josh, his wife Molly, their sons Clark and Davis and daughter Millie to our Red Wolves family.”

During Conklin’s time as a head coach, defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and position coach, he has been a part of 91 victories, helped lead his teams to either a bowl game or playoffs appearance in six different seasons and mentored over 50 all-conference selections.

“My family and I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity with Coach Jones and Arkansas State football,” said Conklin. “There is a standard being built (at A-State) and excellence is expected. I am looking forward to getting to work.”

Conklin’s first two seasons at Wofford saw him lead the Terriers to back-to-back Southern Conference championships while reaching the NCAA FCS playoffs in 2018 and 2019. At the conclusion of the 2019 season, he was named the conference’s Coach of the Year by the media.

The 2019 squad dropped its first two games of the season before winning the next five in a row. Following a setback to Clemson, Wofford claimed wins over Mercer, Furman and The Citadel to finish its conference slate with a 6-1 record and advance to the playoffs.

A total of nine players earned All-Southern Conference honors, including quarterback and Offensive Player of the Year Joe Newman. Offensive lineman Blake Jeresaty earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, along with multiple All-America honors. The Terriers were ranked No. 17 by the FCS Coaches and No. 16 in the STATS FCS poll at the end of the season. Overall, the team led the conference in rushing offense, rushing defense, total defense, sacks and sacks allowed.

The 2018 campaign began with SoCon wins over The Citadel and VMI, and the team held a 6-2 record heading into the month of November. A win over Western Carolina on Nov. 10 secured a 6-2 mark in league play, which was good for a share of the Southern Conference title. The Terriers went on to defeat Elon, 17-9, in the first round of the playoffs before falling 13-10 against No. 4-ranked Kennesaw State.

Wofford had 11 players earn all-conference recognition following the season. Additionally, Miles Brown, Justus Basinger and Andre Stoddard were selected as All-Americans. The squad ended the year ranked No. 12 by the FCS Coaches and No. 13 in the STATS FCS poll, while leading the SoCon in total defense, scoring defense, rush defense, pass defense and rushing offense.

Conklin took his first head coaching position after serving three seasons as Pitt’s defensive coordinator. Under Conklin’s watch, Pitt featured one of the most productive pass rushes in the country, compiling 111 sacks during his time with the program. The Panthers ranked sixth nationally in sacks in 2016, averaging 3.31 per contest.

In 2017, the Panthers ended the season with a 24-14 upset of undefeated and No. 2-ranked Miami. Pitt had four sacks in the game and held the Hurricanes to 45 rushing yards. Senior cornerback Avonte Maddox was recognized as a Third Team All-ACC selection, while junior linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu and junior safety Jordan Whitehead received Honorable Mention All-ACC honors.

Conklin’s 2016 unit also boasted lofty national rankings in rush defense (16th, 119.6 yards per game) and defensive touchdowns (eighth, four TDs). The Panthers collected a 43-42 win over eventual national champion Clemson in Death Valley to highlight an 8-5 season that culminated in a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl. In his first season as defensive coordinator, Pitt posted an 8-5 record and earned a berth in the Military Bowl.

Defensive end Ejuan Price enjoyed the finest two years of his career playing in Conklin’s defense. Price racked up 24.5 sacks over the 2015-16 seasons and was twice selected First Team All-ACC. As a senior, he led the conference and ranked second in the country in tackles for loss (1.8 per game) en route to Second Team All-America honors. Price was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2017 NFL Draft. In the secondary, safety Jordan Whitehead was an All-ACC selection each of his first two seasons and was the league’s 2015 Rookie of the Year.

Conklin joined Pitt after building an impressive resume as FIU’s defensive coordinator for two years. In his final season, he was nominated for the prestigious Broyles Award after overseeing a unit that ranked first nationally in fumble recoveries (19), second in defensive touchdowns (6), fourth in turnovers gained (33), eighth in turnover margin (plus-11 overall; 0.92 margin per game) and 35th in total defense (363.8 ypg).

Prior to FIU, Conklin was the safeties coach at the University of Tennessee and defensive coordinator and safeties coach at The Citadel. During his lone season in Knoxville, he coached safety LaDarrell McNeil, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Cornerback Byron Moore also finished the season with five interceptions, the fifth most in the country.

While at The Citadel, Conklin coached cornerback Cortez Allen, a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2011-15. Conklin’s defenses at The Citadel ranked among the best in the Southern Conference. The Bulldogs were especially stingy in scoring defense in 2011, holding their opponents under 20 points in seven of 11 contests.

From 2007-09, Conklin coached the defensive backs at Wofford. He added special teams to his responsibilities in his final season working with the Terriers.

During Conklin’s initial two years, Wofford had 33 interceptions. The Terriers led the Southern Conference in 2007 with 20 interceptions and ranked second in 2008 with 13. Wofford advanced to the FCS Playoffs in each of those seasons.

In 2007, the Terriers won the second Southern Conference title in school history and led the league in scoring defense. After a historic win at Montana in the first round of the playoffs, the Terriers were defeated in the quarterfinals by Richmond. Cornerback Brian Kemp was named Second Team All-Southern Conference.

The 2008 team advanced to the first round of the playoffs before ending the year with a 9-3 record. Safety Jason Leventis and cornerback Mychael Johnson earned Second Team All-Southern Conference honors as the squad was second in the league in interceptions. While working with the specialists in 2009, punter Chris Tommie was named First Team All-Southern Conference with a 43.8 average.

Conklin’s coaching career was launched at South Dakota State, where he served as a graduate assistant in 2003 and 2004. He was then promoted to a full-time post with the Jackrabbits, coaching the secondary and special teams in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, SDSU finished 21st in the nation and ranked second in the conference in pass defense.

During his two seasons as the special teams coordinator, he coached kicker and Great West Conference Special Teams MVP Parker Douglass.

Conklin, native of Gillette, Wyoming, is a 2003 graduate of Dakota State University. He was a starting linebacker and Academic All-American for the Trojans. In addition to his bachelor’s in physical education from DSU, Conklin also earned a master’s in sport administration from South Dakota State.

Conklin and his wife, Molly, have three children – sons Clark and Davis and daughter Millie.