Ole Miss Names Jake Schoonover as Special Teams Coordinator
OXFORD, Miss. — When there is vacancy on Lane Kiffin’s staff, you can bet it will not be open for long. The house that Kiffin is building is swiftly becoming THE place where not just the nation’s top athletes are making home, but also some of the nation’s best coaches.
Following the departure of special teams coordinator Marty Biagi to South Bend to join the Notre Dame staff in the same capacity, the Rebs didn’t have too far to travel to fill the vacancy. Ole Miss announced the hiring Wednesday of Arkansas State’s Jake Schoonover as the next special teams coordinator here in Oxford.
“We are excited to add Coach Schoonover’s special teams expertise to our staff. He has a great track record of success in both recruiting and special teams, and we look forward to elevating that facet of our program.“
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on Jake Schoonover
Jonesboro with Jones
While he only spent one season (2022) under Butch Jones at Arkansas State, Schoonover continued Jones’ strong emphasis on special teams.
In Schoonover’s one season with the Red Wolves, he helped A-State rank No. 35 nationally in kickoff returns (21.7 yards per return) and No. 34 in kickoff return defense (18.04 yards per return).
He also mentored true freshman kicker Dominic Zvada. A Lou Groza Award semifinalist and freshman All-American, Zvada broke the Sun Belt Conference single-season record by a true freshman for points by kicking in a season with 81, going 17-for-18 in field goal attempts in 2022.
Coach Schoonover also served as a defensive assistant which will be another asset as the Rebels have placed a great deal of emphasis on the return of a strong Landshark defense in 2023.
Swift Success in Lawrence
Schoonover joined Arkansas State after spending the 2021 season at Kansas as the Jayhawks’ special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach.
Under Schoonover’s direction, Kansas ranked second in the nation in kickoff return defense (12.7 ypr), 11th in punt returns (13.5 ypr) and 38th in kickoff returns (23.0 ypr). He helped the Jayhawks kickoff unit improve their national ranking from 127th in 2020 to second in 2021, while their ranking in punt returns led the Big 12 Conference and jumped from 128th to 11th during Schoonover’s lone season with the program.
Building in Bowling Green
Schoonover joined the Falcons’ staff in 2018 as the linebackers coach and eventually would serve as their special teams coordinator in back-to-back seasons in 2019 and 2020.
During the 2020 season, his unit was second in the MAC in kick returns and ranked fourth in punt returns. The Falcons were also ranked fifth in field goal percentages and perfect on extra point attempts. In the same season under his direction, linebacker Darren Anders finished fifth in the MAC in tackles per game at 11.0 and named Academic All-MAC.
Setting the Standard In Illinois
Schoonover’s longest coaching stay was at Illinois State where he spent seven seasons helping the Redbirds build. He began his time in Normal as the linebackers coach in 2011 where he eventually added the special teams coordinator in 2013 to his coaching duties.
During his time there, he helped set the tone in a big way as far as linebackers, coaching middle linebacker Pat Meehan who went on to earn back-to-back first team all conference.
When it came to special teams, he also made an impact and helped mentor kicker Nick Aussierker who finished as Illinois State’s all-time leading scorer with 310 points.
Another notable player was 2014 punter CJ Laros who was named to the second team all conference unit. Laros averaged 40.6 yards per punt which was the 3rd best in a single season in school history.
Coach Schoonover played collegiately at Missouri Western State, where he started 30 games at linebacker and was a team captain. He played two seasons for the arena league Peoria Pirates as a linebacker and wide receiver.
Schoonover earned a degree in physical education from Missouri Western in 2008 and received a master’s degree in sports management with a concentration in administration in 2010 from American Public University. Schoonover and his wife, Katherine, have one son, Jackson, and one daughter, Kenley.
It is evident that no matter where he has made a coaching stop or the time he spends at a program that he is going to be an instant impact to teams and defense. He clearly has demonstrated under his direction that his units are going to produce immediate results and remain consistent across the board.
Welcome to the ‘Sip, Coach! Hotty Toddy!
Lee Ann is the Director of Recruiting for The Rebel Walk. She is a veteran SEC sports journalist and NFL content writer. She is also the Sr. Editor for MESPORTS digital. Herring-Olvedo is a Brown University graduate who loves good cigars, good games, and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order.