Jan. 12, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Kerry Cooks, a former all-Big Ten Conference safety and National Football League veteran who has spent the last seven seasons coaching in college, has been hired as outside linebackers coach at the University of Notre Dame, Irish head football coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday.
Cooks just completed his fourth season as defensive backs coach at Wisconsin where he helped develop 10 all-Big Ten honorees, including three first-team selections. He has helped lead the Badgers to a 38-14 record since 2006, with Wisconsin finishing the season ranked in the top 25 three times.
In 2009, two members of Cooks’ secondary received all-Big Ten accolades and a third player burst onto the scene as a first-year starter. Safeties Jay Valai and Chris Maragos directed the Badgers defensive backfield and ranked in the top 10 in tackles on the team. Valai was named a second-team all-Big Ten performer for the second year in a row, after ranking sixth on the team with 51 tackles while adding three and a half tackles for loss and four pass breakups. Maragos led Wisconsin with four interceptions and ranked seventh with 49 tackles to garner honorable mention all-conference accolades from the coaches and media. Sophomore Devin Smith started every game at cornerback and led the team with nine pass breakups, while adding two interceptions and ranking fourth on the team with 55 tackles.
Wisconsin’s defensive backs shined against Ohio State and Purdue during the 2009 Big Ten season. The Badgers limited Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes to only 87 passing yards, while Purdue’s passing attack managed only 81 yards and completed nine of 33 attempts. Wisconsin also forced three interceptions each in wins over Fresno State and Michigan State.
Against Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl, Cooks’ defensive backs blanketed the Hurricanes’ wide receivers and frustrated quarterback Jacory Harris. Harris entered the game with the third-most passes of at least 25 yards in the nation but only registered two completions longer than 16 yards. He finished 16 of 29 for 188 yards and one touchdown, but until four minutes remained in the game Harris had been limited to seven of 16 for 109 yards.
Cooks’ star pupil in 2008 was cornerback Allen Langford who earned first-team all-Big Ten plaudits and was named the team’s MVP after recording 47 tackles, two interceptions and a team-best 13 pass breakups. Valai was named second-team all-Big Ten as a sophomore after posting 56 tackles and forcing three fumbles in his first season as a starter. Another first-year starter was cornerback Niles Brinkley who led the Badgers and tied for fifth in the conference with four interceptions. As a secondary, Wisconsin allowed 195.8 yards passing per game and opposing quarterbacks completed 52.4 percent of their passes.
Injuries and inexperience were the story of Cooks’ 2007 secondary as multiple starters were lost to injury during the season. Despite that, junior cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu and sophomore free safety Shane Carter both received postseason accolades from the Big Ten. Ikegwuonu led the Badgers and tied for third in the conference with 16 passes defended en route to being named first-team all-Big Ten. Carter was a consensus honorable mention all-conference pick after his seven interceptions led the Big Ten and tied for sixth nationally.
In his first season at Wisconsin in 2006, Cooks helped the Badgers lead the nation in pass efficiency defense (84.19 rating), and the 138.3 passing yards allowed per game ranked second in the nation. Cooks helped Wisconsin allow 111.5 fewer passing yards per game in 2006 than 2005 and opposing quarterbacks only completed 47.8 percent of their passes against the Badgers. Wisconsin finished 12-1 in 2006 and ranked fifth in the final coaches’ poll after defeating Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl.
Each of Cooks’ four starting defensive backs in 2006 received postseason recognition from the Big Ten, including Ikegwuonu who earned first-team honors after tallying 41 tackles, two interceptions and 11 pass breakups. Free safety Roderick Rogers was named to the Big Ten second team while Langford and strong safety Joe Stellmacher both were named honorable mention all-Big Ten.
Cooks spent one season at Minnesota coaching defensive backs in 2005. He helped guide the Golden Gophers to the Music City Bowl, and his defensive backs allowed opponents to complete just 55.3 percent of their passes during the Big Ten season, second best in the league.
Prior to his year at Minnesota, Cooks coached defensive backs and assisted on special teams for one season at Western Illinois in 2004. The Leathernecks limited opponents to a Gateway Conference-best 157.2 passing yards per game, held opponents to the lowest completion percentage (45.4) in the conference and finished second in the league with 17 interceptions.
Cooks began coaching at his alma mater, Nimitz (Texas) High School, in 2003 before joining the coaching staff at Kansas State as a graduate assistant for the 2003 campaign. While with the Wildcats, he worked mostly with defensive game plan preparation and assisted with the Kansas State secondary. The Wildcats registered an 11-4 record in 2003 and won a Big 12 title with a defense that was sixth nationally in total defense, eighth in scoring defense, 12th in pass efficiency defense and 17th in rushing defense. Kansas State earned a trip to the Fiesta Bowl after limiting each of its last six opponents to 14 points or less, including Oklahoma, the nation’s highest-scoring team.
A four-year letterwinner and two-year starter as a strong safety at Iowa, Cooks played for the Hawkeyes from 1994-97. As a senior, he was a team captain and earned all-Big Ten honors. A fifth-round draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFL Draft, Cooks also played for Green Bay, Atlanta and Jacksonville before retiring from the NFL in 2001. He also played for the XFL’s Chicago Enforcers in 2001.
A native of Irving, Texas, Cooks was born March 28, 1974, and graduated from Iowa in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
THE COOKS FILE
|2003||Kansas State||Graduate Assistant|
|2004||Western Illinois||Defensive Backs/Asst. Special Teams|
|2010||Notre Dame||Outside Linebackers|