Veteran Hargreaves Joins MTSU as Defensive Line Coach

Vernon Hargreaves
Vernon Hargreaves

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee head football coach Derek Mason announced today the hiring of Vernon Hargreaves as the program’s new defensive line coach.

“Vernon Hargreaves is one of the best I have been around,” said Mason. “He is a veteran coach who is a true student of the game and has developed several players that went on to play in the NFL. What we get from him is a tireless recruiter, experience, and an Xs and Os guy who can develop players for the next level.”

Hargreaves arrives in Murfreesboro after four years as the defensive line coach at Howard while also adding special teams coordinator to his list of duties the last three seasons.

In 2023, Hargreaves coached Darrian Brokenburr to first team All-MEAC honors and Jamel Stewart to second team recognition on a defense that ranked 22nd nationally in total defense.

Hargreaves coached defensive lineman Jevin Jackson to first team honors while Brokenburr earned second team recognition in 2022. Brokenburr and kicker Faraji Woodson received All-MEAC honors in 2021.

A well-respected veteran of the coaching industry, Hargreaves has over 35 years of collegiate coaching experience under his belt, including nearly 30 years as linebackers coach for some very successful programs.

Before arriving at Howard, Hargreaves spent two seasons at Mizzou (2018-19) after joining as inside linebackers coach. In Hargreaves’ first year with Mizzou, junior LB Cale Garrett blossomed into the undisputed glue of a Tiger defense that improved significantly during the year, one that played a big role in MU’s eight-win season and berth in the 2018 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Garrett was one of the main forces on the defense, as he led Mizzou and ranked seventh in the Southeastern Conference with 112 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six quarterback pressures. Garrett was named second-team All-SEC by league coaches, and also earned first-team All-SEC acclaim from Pro Football Focus for his efforts.

Mizzou’s defense made huge strides from the previous year in a handful of significant statistical categories in 2018. The Tigers ranked 22nd nationally in rushing defense (126.5 avg.), up from 58th in 2017 (159.6), and also improved to 50th in scoring defense in 2018 (25.5 avg.), up from 97th in 2017 (31.8 avg.), while also making a big jump in total defense, ranking 62nd nationally in 2018 (388.5 avg.), up from 82nd in 2017 (414.1 avg.).

Prior to Mizzou, he spent three seasons as linebackers coach (2015-17) at Arkansas. In 23 seasons coaching at the FBS level, Hargreaves’ teams have advanced to 17 bowl games, including a pair of appearances in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship while at Miami, Fla., where he coached linebackers from 1998-2005. At Miami, Hargreaves was the position coach for National Football League stars Jonathan Vilma, Dan Morgan and D.J. Williams.

He helped lead the Hurricanes to a BCS National Championship title in 2001 and another BCS title game appearance in 2002. At Miami, Hargreaves helped mold Vilma, Morgan, Williams, Rocky McIntosh and Nate Webster into NFL linebackers. Seven of his linebackers at Miami were selected in the NFL Draft, including Morgan who won the Butkus Award, Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award in 2000.

The 2001 Hurricanes were one of the best defensive units in college football history, allowing just 9.4 points per game and only 138.2 passing yards per contest. Hargreaves helped Miami to a perfect 12-0 season, culminating in the 2002 BCS title game win over Nebraska.

During his three seasons at Arkansas, Hargreaves coached several award winners, including sophomore MLB De’Jon Harris, who was named second-team All-SEC by the Associated Press in 2017 after he finished second in the league with 115 tackles, a year after he earned SEC All-Freshman team honors.

In his first two years at Arkansas, Hargreaves mentored Brooks Ellis into one of Arkansas’ top producers on and off the field. Ellis, the team leader in tackles in 2015 and 2016, closed out his career with 290 tackles, was a four-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member and became the first Arkansas football student-athlete to earn Academic All-America honors twice. Ellis was also named the 2016 SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year and was honored as one of 12 finalists for the 2016 William V. Campbell Trophy, also known as the “Academic Heisman.”

Prior to Arkansas, Hargreaves spent two seasons at Houston where he coached linebackers. In 2014, he helped the Cougars finish 8-5, including a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Pittsburgh in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. The Cougars ranked second in the American Conference and 11th nationally with 30 forced turnovers and were 15th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 20.6 points per game.

In 2013, Hargreaves helped Houston rank as the third-most improved defense nationally after allowing just 21.8 points per game, 14.2 points per game lower than the previous season. Houston led the nation with 43 turnovers created and also led the country in turnover margin.

Hargreaves served as special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach at South Florida from 2010-12. The Bulls finished second nationally in tackles for loss and fourth nationally in sacks during the 2011 season, in large part due to the outstanding play of Hargreaves’ defensive ends. He helped South Florida claim its fourth bowl victory in school history with a win in the 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl over Clemson.

Hargreaves also spent three seasons as the special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach at East Carolina from 2007 to 2009. He helped defensive end C.J. Wilson earn back-to-back Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2008 and 2009. Wilson was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFL Draft and started at defensive end for the Packers in Super Bowl XLV. The Pirates played in a bowl game in all three seasons Hargreaves was on the coaching staff.

Hargreaves finished his playing career at Connecticut in 1983 where he was a two-time All-American. He earned all-conference honors twice during his career and was selected as a team captain as a senior. His 393 career tackles still rank sixth all-time in school history. Hargreaves was named a member of UConn’s 100th anniversary team. The New Haven, Conn., native earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Connecticut in 1986.

Source: MTSU
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