GREENVILLE, N.C. – David Blackwell, who was part of ECU’s 1992 Peach Bowl championship squad and a pair of Liberty Bowl appearances before following with 20 seasons of full-time collegiate coaching experience, has been named the Pirates’ defensive coordinator according to an announcement from head football coach Scottie Montgomery on Thursday.
His acceptance to direct the Pirates’ defense ends a four-year stay on the Jacksonville (Ala.) State staff where he served in a similar role and coached the Gamecocks’ linebacking corps during an era of unprecedented success. The Gamecocks posted a 43-8 overall record and captured four-straight Ohio Valley Conference titles with a perfect 32-0 mark, which currently serves as the longest active league win streak in Division I football.
Additionally, during the four-year span from 2014 to 2017, Jacksonville State collectively ranked first nationally at the FCS level in defensive completion percentage (50.2), second in pass efficiency defense (105.5) and rushing yards allowed per carry (3.0), third in total defense (284.1 ypg) and yards per pass attempt (5.93), sixth in rushing defense (104.4 ypg), eighth in scoring defense (18.8 ppg) and ninth in sacks (133) during a timeframe covering 51 total games.
He was a finalist for FCS Defensive Coordinator-of-the-Year honors in both 2015 and 2016.
“While David’s credentials speak volumes about his accomplishments on the defensive side of the ball, his endearment for this program and ingrained Pirate spirit is unequivocal,” Montgomery said. “We’re excited to welcome him home and ready to embrace a new era of relentless pursuit that uniquely ties into our past.”
Blackwell will formally begin his duties at ECU effective Friday, Dec. 8.
After signing with Bill Lewis’ Pirates as an offensive lineman in 1989, Blackwell experienced action in six games during the 1990 campaign and was on the offensive two-deep the following fall before a neck injury ended his playing career prematurely. However, he remained close to the program and joined Steve Logan’s staff as an undergraduate coach in 1992 and directed ECU’s rush linebackers during the 1993, 1994 and 1995 seasons.
He then embarked on a successful 20-year full-time coaching career which included stops at Illinois State (1996-1999), Pittsburgh (2000-2002), Clemson (2003-2008), USF (2009) and Fordham (2012-2013) before turning Jacksonville State’s defense into one of the nation’s premier units.
At the FBS level alone, he has helped guide teams to a combined 11 bowl games in 15 seasons at college football’s top tier.
Most recently, Blackwell’s defense was a key component during JSU’s 10-2 campaign in 2017. Prior to earning a No. 3 national seed and dropping a 17-7 decision to Kennesaw State in the second round of the FCS Playoffs on Dec. 2, the Gamecocks capped their regular season with a 36-6 victory over Tennessee State to push their OVC win streak to a league-record 32 games.
JSU stood among the FCS Top 10 in five major defensive categories this fall, rating third in rush defense (75.6 ypg) and total defense (239.6 ypg), fifth in pass efficiency defense (102.4), seventh in scoring defense (15.0 ppg) and 10th in third-down conversion percentage (30.1).
Individually, senior end Darius Jackson was named as one of three finalists for the 2017 Buck Buchanan Award, presented by STATS to the FCS National Defensive Player-of-the-Year. The two-time OVC Defensive Player-of-the-Year ranked fourth nationally in tackles for lost yardage after racking up a JSU single-season record 20.5, while also tallying 55 overall tackles, 7.0 sacks and 19 quarterback hurries in 12 contests. Jackson was also one of six Gamecock players on defense to earn All-OVC honors under Blackwell’s tutelage.
From 2014 to 2016, Jacksonville State compiled 10-2, 13-2 and 10-2 records, respectively, won OVC titles and made FCS Playoff appearances each season. Blackwell coached 25 defensive standouts who earned all-conference honors, including nine during the Gamecocks’ run to the FCS National Championship Game in 2015.
Blackwell served the previous two years as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Fordham where he molded the Rams into one of the top takeaway producers in the country with an FCS-leading 40 turnovers gained in 2013. He and linebacker Stephen Hodge, who was selected Patriot League Defensive Player-of-the-Year, helped Fordham to a 12-2 record and playoff appearance.
During his first year with the Rams in 2012, he played a pivotal role in the nation’s second-biggest turnaround with a 6-5 ledger that followed a 1-10 mark a year before his arrival.
As co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at then-Big East member USF in 2009, Blackwell directed a group which ranked 24th at the FBS level in total defense and tied for 19th in scoring defense on the way to an 8-5 record and an International Bowl victory.
Prior to his brief stay in Tampa, Blackwell was an assistant at Clemson for six years where he was in charge of the linebackers and played a key role leading a resurgence in the Tigers’ defense. Clemson was bowl eligible on five occasions during his tenure with appearances in the 2008 Gator Bowl, 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl, 2006 Music City Bowl, 2005 Champs Sports Bowl and the 2004 Peach Bowl as the Tigers were ranked in the Top 25 in both polls in three of those seasons.
Clemson also stood among the Top 25 in the four major defensive categories each of his last four years, a first in program history.
He also directed Clemson’s recruiting efforts during his first three years. Both his 2005 and 2006 classes were ranked in the Top 20 by nearly every service, while the latter edition had the most Parade and USA Today All-America selections for the Tiger program in 16 years.
The Greenville, S.C. native was the linebackers coach at Pittsburgh for three seasons from 2000 to 2002 and helped the Panthers to a trio of bowl games during that period (2000 and 2002 Insight.com, 2001 Tangerine). One of his prized pupils was All-America performer Gerald Hayes, who turned in three-straight 100-tackle campaigns and was a three-time all-conference honoree.
From 1996 to 1999, Blackwell served as assistant coach at Illinois State where he played a major role in one of the top turnarounds in Division I-AA during that period. In his final year with the Redbirds, ISU compiled a school-best 11-3 record and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs before losing to eventual national champion Georgia Southern.
Blackwell, 46, earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from ECU in 1997. He and his wife, the former Melissa Androutsos, are the parents of a son – D.J.