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Willingham Names New Secondary Coach

March 31, 2004

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Steven Wilks, defensive backs coach in 2003 for a Bowling Green squad that tied a school record for victories, has been named the secondary coach on Tyrone Willingham’s football coaching staff at the University of Notre Dame.

Wilks replaces Trent Walters, who served in that role for the Irish in 2002 and ’03 before taking a position last month as secondary coach for the NFL Philadelphia Eagles.

As a member of head coach Gregg Brandon’s staff in ’03, Wilks helped the Falcons become the first Bowling Green football team in history to finish in the final polls (23rd in both Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls) — after a 28-24 Motor City Bowl win over Northwestern pushed the final Falcon record to 11-3. In 2003, he saw junior defensive back Keon Newson lead the Mid-American Conference in forced fumbles (with six) and senior All-America cornerback Janssen Patton lead the league in interceptions (with seven, giving him 18 in his career). The Falcons ranked second in the MAC in both total defense and scoring defense in ’03.

Wilks came to Bowling Green after spending the ’02 season as East Tennessee State’s co-defensive coordinator under head coach Paul Hamilton. At East Tennessee State, three members of the Buccaneers’ secondary earned all-Southern Conference honors in ’02, including two (Tony Tiller and Gerald Sansabaugh) who earned first-team honors. Under Wilks’ direction, East Tennessee State led the league in turnover margin (plus-0.83 per game) and ranked second in pass efficiency defense (104.0 rating), while permitting only 156.2 passing yards per game.

He also coached defensive backs on staffs at Appalachian State (2001) and Illinois State (2000). Working under head coach Denver Johnson, he helped the Redbirds in ’00 to a 7-4 record and a final ranking of 24th in The Sports Network NCAA I-AA poll – while coaching a pair of defensive backs (Ryan Szokola and Sam Young) to all-conference honors. At Appalachian State under head coach Jerry Moore, Wilks contributed to a Mountaineer unit that finished 10-4 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA I-AA playoffs. Appalachian State in ’01 finished fourth in the final TSN I-AA poll.

Wilks served as head coach at Savannah State University in Georgia in 1999. He also coordinated defenses at Savannah State (1997-98) and Johnson C. Smith University (1995-96) in Charlotte, N.C. At Savannah State in ’98, his defense finished number-one in the nation in total defense (166.3 yards per game) in Division II — and he was honored as the Division II defensive coordinator of the year by American Football Quarterly. That same year he saw four players earn all-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors, including the SIAC player of the year, linebacker Reginald Jackson.

Wilks played for the Charlotte Rage Arena Football League team in ’93 (as a 5-11, 185-pound defensive back/wide receiver), helping the team to the playoffs that year. He was invited to training camp with the NFL Seattle Seahawks in ’92. As a ’92 graduate and defensive back in football at Appalachian State (1987-91), he recorded 103 career tackles, with four interceptions and four blocked kicks. The Mountaineers played in the NCAA I-AA playoffs in both ’89 and ’91, finishing with respective 9-3 and 8-4 marks.

Born August 8, 1969, the Charlotte, N.C., native holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. He and his wife Marcia have a daughter, Marissa.