JONESBORO — John Thompson, the interim head coach for Arkansas State for the GoDaddy.com Bowl, will remain as defensive coordinator on head coach Bryan Harsin’s new staff.
Thompson, a University of Central Arkansas graduate and former athletic director for the Bears who served as the Red Wolves’ defensive coordinator last season, has more than 30 years’ experience at the collegiate level as both an assistant and head coach.
He oversaw Arkansas State’s 2012 defense that ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring defense and third in total defense. The Red Wolves had four defensive players named All-Sun Belt Conference this year, including first-team choices Nathan Herrold at linebacker and Ryan Carrethers on the defensive line.
The Red Wolves shut out two opponents this season, including an 8-4 Middle Tennessee squad in the regular-season finale, for the first time since 1987. Under Thompson’s direction, A-State also ranked third in the Sun Belt in turnovers gained, picking up 10 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions. A-State had eight players post an interception to tie for the 15th most in the nation.
Thompson’s defensive unit continued to evolve and improve as the season progressed. Against Sun Belt Conference opponents only, the Red Wolves ranked first in the league in rushing defense (119.9 yards per game) and second in pass defense efficiency (132.6). The defense allowed just 396 rushing yards over the last five games for an average of just 79.2 yards per contest and also recorded 11 interceptions over the last nine games.
“I am excited about working with one of the top defensive coordinators in the country in John Thompson,” said Harsin, named ASU’s 29th all-time head coach on Dec. 12. “He has done an outstanding job with our defense, and this will be a great opportunity for him to continue what he’s already accomplished in molding a championship-caliber defense here at Arkansas State.”