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Walden announces Defensive Coordinator J.J. Clark to Football Staff


EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- UTEP Football Head Coach Scotty Walden has started to build his staff as he announced the hiring of J.J. Clark, the Miners’ new defensive coordinator/linebackers coach on Wednesday.

Clark joined Walden’s staff at Austin Peay to coach linebackers in March 2022 after spending three seasons as a defensive coordinator at the NAIA Level. Clark was promoted to defensive coordinator and safeties coach in January 2023 prior to Austin Peay’s nine-win campaign. Clark’s defense helped the Governors finish 6-0 in United Athletic Conference action and win a ’23 UAC Championship.

“J.J. is one of the best defensive minds in the nation. He comes from a family of coaches and has an amazing track record as a defensive coordinator,” Walden said. “He is a great teacher and inspires his players to play above themselves daily. He will have an attack style and multiple defense that will be fun for Miner fans to watch. I cannot wait to see him lead the ‘Orange Swarm Defense’ as we develop our fearless, fast, physical brand of football! We are thrilled to have J.J. and his awesome family here in El Paso!”

Austin Peay’s total defense ranked third in the UAC (396.0 yards allowed per game). APU rated third in the UAC and 42nd in FCS in scoring defense (24.4). The Governors were first in the UAC and 12th in FCS with a trio of defensive touchdowns. APU’s defense forced 16 turnovers, while it ranked third in UAC and 29th in FCS with 11 interceptions.

A pair of linebackers, in grad student Tyler Long and redshirt junior Sam Howard, topped the Governors with 100+ tackles each. Long led the way with 109 stops (43 solo), while Howard tallied 105 tackles (41 solo). Long ranked second in the league and 27th in FCS with 9.1 tackles per game. Howard’s 8.8 per contest was third in the UAC and 35th in FCS. Both Long and Howard were honored as 2023 All-UAC First Team members. Senior DE Hosea Knifeley Jr. was recognized as a second team member after posting 52 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and a team-high 4.0 sacks.

Defensive back redshirt sophomore Jevon Mclver Jr. ranked 12th in FCS and led the UAC with 13 total passes defended (12 breakups) during the 2023 season. The Governors’ defense was all the over ball as it amassed 63 pass breakups. Senior DB Kory Chapman was named All-UAC Second Team with 73 tackles (37 solo), 4.0 TFLs, two interceptions, and three pass breakups. Redshirt senior DB Cedarius Doss was also named all-conference second team after leading APU and ranking second in the UAC with three interceptions. Doss rated fifth in the UAC with 10 total passes defended.

The Austin Peay ‘D’ allowed 20 or less points in six contests – going 6-0 in those games. The Governors yielded only a field goal during a 63-3 thrashing of ETSU.

In his first season at Austin Peay, Clark mentored sophomore LB Antoine Williams to become the fifth player in program history to be a finalist for the Stats FCS Buck Buchanan Award, which is given annually to the best defensive player in the FCS.

Prior, Clark spent three season at Indiana Wesleyan where he was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in addition to serving as the strength and conditioning coach. In his final season at Indiana Wesleyan, Clark was named the 2021 Mid-States Football Association Assistant of the Year. During the 2021 campaign, the Indiana Wesleyan defense ranked no. 2 in the NAIA in scoring defense (11.9 ppg), no. 4 in rushing defense (63.8 ypg), no. 12 in total defense (281 ypg) and no. 20 in sacks (29). DB Justin Johnson was named to the AFCA NAIA All-American first team in 2021 after registering 52 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 13 passes defended, 3.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and two INTs. Johnson was also named to the All-MSFA Mideast first team.

Clark spent four years in various defensive coaching roles at his alma mater Wheaton College. After starting at Wheaton College in 2015, he was elevated to defensive coordinator starting in the 2017 season. The team finished the 2018 season ranked no. 23 in the poll with an 8-2 overall record and 7-2 mark in CCIW play. During the 2018 campaign, the Wheaton defense ranked no. 2 in Division III in first downs defense (124) and fourth-down conversion percentage defense (0.125), no. 3 in scoring defense (9.0 points per game allowed) and third-down conversion percentage defense (0.213) and no. 4 in total defense (218.2 yards per game). LB Eric Stevenson was named a unanimous first team All-American and the CCIW Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 after tallying 74 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, three interceptions, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble. He was also named All-CCIW first team. In 2017, Wheaton College finished 8-2 (6-2 CCIW), while five defensive players garnered All-CCIW honors.

During the 2013-14 season, Clark was a graduate assistant coach at Akron while completing his master’s in sports science and administration. Clark’s coaching career begun at Humboldt State, where he coached running backs in 2012.

Prior to his collegiate career, Clark worked as a football operation assistant at the Seattle Seahawks’ training camp from 2007-2010.

Clark received his bachelor’s degree in history from Wheaton College in 2012 and earned his master’s in sports science and administration in 2014.

Clark was a four-year letterwinner and three-year starter at tight end and fullback while playing at Wheaton College. The team compiled a 36-10 record during his playing career, while he was honored to the 2011 NCAA Division III Capital One Academic All-American second team honors.

Clark and his wife Samantha have two sons, Shepard and Seeker.


2023 – Austin Peay (defensive coordinator/safeties)

2022 – Austin Peay (linebackers)

2019-21 – Indiana Wesleyan (defensive coordinator/defensive backs)

2017-18 – Wheaton College (defensive coordinator)

2016 – Wheaton College (co-defensive coordinator/LB/strength & conditioning coordinator)

2015 – Wheaton College (defensive pass game coordinator/cornerbacks)

2013-14 – Akron (graduate assistant/defensive backs coach)

2012 – Humboldt State (running backs coach)

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Rachel Phillips

UTEP Athletics


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