Powledge Named Baylor Defensive Coordinator
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Matt Powledge – who spent the 2022 season as the co-defensive coordinator at Oregon following two years as the safeties and special teams coordinator at Baylor – has been named the defensive coordinator for the Bears, as announced Thursday by head coach Dave Aranda.
Powledge rejoins the Baylor coaching staff following a season as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Oregon in 2022. He spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons on Aranda’s staff in Waco, following two-year stints at Louisiana-Lafayette (2018-19), ULM (2016-17) and Sam Houston (2014-15). He opened his coaching career at Kentucky (2013), Northwestern State (2012) and Southeastern Louisiana (2010-11) after playing fullback for his hometown Sam Houston (2005-09).
“We are thrilled to welcome Matt back to Waco,” Aranda said. “Matt is an elite defensive mind who has a great understanding of our system, on and off the field. His experience both on our staff and elsewhere, paired with his understanding of person over player and his ability to connect with student-athletes, make him an ideal fit to serve as our defensive coordinator.”
A native of Huntsville, Texas, Powledge is coming off a 10-win season with the Ducks, leading Oregon to a 7-2 mark in the Pac-12, three top-15 wins and the Holiday Bowl Title. The Ducks, ranked No. 15 in the College Football Playoff top-25, ranked eighth in the nation in interceptions, 24th in red-zone defense and 33rd in rushing defense leading into their bowl game on Wednesday.
Under Powledge’s tutelage, Oregon defensive back Bennett Williams earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors in 2022 for the Ducks while logging time at the safety or STAR position. Williams led the team with 67 tackles, including two interceptions, six pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.
Powledge shined as Baylor’s safeties coach – a key position under Aranda’s defensive system – while also directing one of the nation’s top special teams units. He helped the Bears secure the 2021 Big 12 Championship and the 2022 Sugar Bowl title after a win over Ole Miss in New Orleans.
The safeties shined under Powledge in 2021, helping Baylor establish one of the nation’s leading defensive units, ranking among the NCAA leaders in a bevy of categories, including fifth in interceptions (17) and 14th in scoring defense (19.2 points per game allowed). The stingy Bears held their 2021 opponents to 13.1 points below their season scoring average and on special teams, Powledge helped Baylor rank ninth in the nation in starting field position.
Individually, Powledge helped mentor the dynamic Jalen Pitre into a 2021 Thorpe Award finalist and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, while running back and electric return man Trestan Ebner earned his second-consecutive Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year honors.
Pitre led the Big 12 with 17.5 tackles for loss – seventh in the nation – in 2021 and had 70 tackles on the year, adding three forced fumbles, three recoveries, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and seven pass break-ups. Ebner totaled 133 all-purpose yards per game (133.8) and had 603 total return yards. He returned a kick 98 yards for a TD vs. Iowa State in Waco to earn Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week accolades.
In 2020, Powledge’s safety group featured Christian Morgan and JT Woods, who finished tied for the team lead with three interceptions. Additionally, Pitre led the team with 60 tackles and 13.0 tackles for a loss and returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns.
On special teams, Ebner was named to four All-America teams as a returner or all-purpose player. Against Kansas, he became the first player in Baylor’s modern history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. Kicker John Mayers also earned All-Big 12 honorable mention honors.
Powledge coached at Louisiana-Lafayette from 2018-19, working as the outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. While in Lafayette, Powledge coached six All-Sun Belt performers as the Ragin’ Cajuns won the Sun Belt West Division twice and played in two bowl games.
In 2019, Louisiana outside linebacker Joe Dillon earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors after finishing third in the conference with seven sacks. ULL had the league’s best scoring defense, allowing just 19.7 points per game while finishing second in the Sun Belt with 33 sacks. The special teams unit ranked first or second in the Sun Belt in kickoff return defense, kickoff returns and net punting. The Cajuns also ranked among the top 24 in the nation in each category.
Powledge helped lead the Ragin Cajuns to the program’s first 10-win season ever in 2018. Outside linebacker Justin Middleton earned All-Sun Belt honorable mention recognition after recording 67 tackles, four tackles for a loss with a sack. Cajun kicker Kyle Pfau also earned honorable mention honors after making 15-of-18 field goals, including a 52-yarder against Arkansas State.
Powledge moved from the FCS to the FBS level in 2016-17, serving as the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator for two years at Louisiana-Monroe. While at ULM, he coached Marcus Green to a stellar season as a kick returner. Green returned four kicks for touchdowns in 2017 and averaged 32.4 yards per return. As a team, ULM ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference in kickoff returns averaging 25.2 yards per return. The Warhawks also were among the league leaders in field goal percentage and punting.
He served as the running backs coach and special teams coordinator at his alma matter in 2014-15 at Sam Houston. In 2015, Corey Avery earned first-team All-Southland honors with Powledge as his position coach after racking up 1,483 yards on the ground with 15 touchdowns. It was the best season of Avery’s career, which culminated with him ranking second in career rushing yards and touchdowns. He coached five players to All-Southland honors and two special teamers earned All-America honors after the 2014 season. In 2014, the Bearkats ranked atop the Southland Conference leaderboard in four different special teams categories (punt return yards, blocked kicks, special teams scores and PAT percentage). The squad was also one of six teams in the NCAA to block multiple punts and return two or more for touchdowns.
As a graduate assistant under Mark Stoops at Kentucky, Powledge primarily assisted with the defense and special teams. As a defensive assistant, he worked with two second-team All-Southeastern Conference choices, elite pass rusher Bud Dupree and tackling machine Avery Williamson, during the 2013 season before both went on to successful NFL careers.
Powledge coached in 2012 at Northwestern State, serving as the running backs coach for a team that piled up 1,286 rushing yards and 14 TDs. Three Bearkat backs ran for at least 250 yards.
He started his career as a graduate assistant at Southeastern Louisiana in 2010-12. He worked primarily with the tight ends during his second season. Antoine Duplessis caught five passes for 33 yards and a touchdown while also blocking for a Lion rushing attack that contributed 21 of SLU’s 38 offensive touchdowns.
Powledge played fullback for Sam Houston from 2005-09, earning All-Southland accolades and served as the team captain in 2009. He earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Sam Houston in 2009. Playing for coach Mitch Coey at Huntsville High School, Powledge was an all-district running back and linebacker and earned area “Red Zone Player of the Year” honors.
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