Via the official site, head coach Matt Wells has finalized his coaching staff and hired Duke associate head coach Derek Jones to be the secondary, co-defensive coordinator, and associate head coach at Texas Tech. Here’s Wells:
“Coach Jones has long been one of the top defensive backs coaches in the country, and we couldn’t be happier for him to join our staff,” Wells said. “Our players will love playing for Coach Jones. He has a knack for getting the most out of his players and pushing them to be their best on and off the field. He is an elite recruiter who will have an immediate impact here in that area. We are excited to welcome he, his wife, Naketa, and their girls to our Red Raider Football family.”
Jones has been at Duke for the past 12 years, which is a really long time for any coach to be at any one place. In fact, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe tweeted this yesterday:
It’s never easy to say goodbye to family, and Derek, Naketa and their daughters are family. Karen and I have shared so many special moments with him for more than 20 years. We’ll keep those memories fresh in our minds. We could not be more appreciative of Derek’s commitment to the Duke Football program over the past 12 years. He defines DukeGant and everything we stand for and represent. DJ has done it the right way on and off the field, working extremely hard to become a well-respected football coach in all facets of the profession. The entire Jones family will be missed and we wish them the best. AP2W!
— David Cutcliffe (@DavidCutcliffe) February 12, 2020
I’ve been doing this for a long time and I don’t recall a head coach making this sort of comment after an assistant coach leaves. That’s some high praise. In terms of data, it’s so difficult to find consistent data at one spot. In 2018, Duke had the 29th best passing S&P defense, 22nd in 2017, 97th in 2016, and 99th in 2015. Duke’s FPI, an ESPN metric, had the Duke defense at 29th in the nation. So the idea here is that Duke wasn’t bad defensively, at least not in the most recent years. Duke had a down year last year, but they’ve been a program doesn’t done relatively well over the past few years and I don’t think that Jones is being forced out, that basically Wells has hired a guy away from a program and a coach that loves him.
If you want to know a bit about Jones, there is this Duke Chronicle article that helps explain a bit about Jones and Cheetah U:
Building a brand at a school that lacked success for over a decade is hard enough, let alone having to overcome a “basketball school” label at every turn. Jones and co-defensive coordinator Matt Guerrieri—who joined the Blue Devil staff in 2012—made it an emphasis to repeat their same ideas and push them out in any way possible.
Known for being a larger-than-life character, Jones has attracted more than 50,000 followers on Twitter. He wakes up every morning and sends out a few tweets with words of wisdom or cheetah philosophy to reach his players, fans and especially potential recruits.
“It’s a way of communication that didn’t exist 15-20 years ago that’s around in recruiting now,” Jones emphasized of social media. “What I’ve been able to do is just be able to reach guys that I wouldn’t normally be able to talk to using Twitter.”
Jones also includes “#Ap2w”, an acronym for “always play to win”, and “#CheetahU”, emphasizing the Blue Devils’ success in the secondary, on many of his tweets. He sees it as just another way to spread his message, as any football enthusiast can click on the hashtag to see what The Coalition is all about. He will even still write letters to high school coaches and teachers to bring light to the movement and use word of mouth so high school recruits think of Duke as a premier destination.
“They are going to go ahead and convince a lot of these kids that these are the people and this is the program that you want to be involved with,” Jones explained.
And this also plays in with what Wells did with the short stint of Todd Orlando and Kevin Cosgrove, which is that Wells is hiring defensive coordinators, Cosgrove was essentially a defensive coordinator for the past few years besides his year as a defensive analyst, and Jones was the co-defensive coordinator at Duke for a handful of years. I now that there’s concern about too many chefs and not enough cooks, but I sort of like the idea of having lots of good, smart people in the room. And this completes the staff for Wells and I do think that Jones is a definite upgrade over Kerry Cooks and Juice Brown. This also means that with Cosgrove at linebacker and Jones coaching the secondary, Patterson can just concentrate on coordinating? I’m not sure how that will work and maybe that’s where Wells will have to explain how that will work.