It was known the pieces of new Miami Hurricanes football coach Mark Richt’s staff were coming together. Now some of those pieces are officially in place.
After days of reports and speculation, Richt and the UM football team announced the hiring of four assistants Wednesday.
The names and titles: Thomas Brown as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach, Craig Kuligowski as defensive line coach, Todd Hartley as special teams coordinator and Richt’s son, Jon Richt, as an offensive assistant.
“I could not be happier to add each of these individuals to our coaching staff,” Richt said in a statement. “Not only are they great coaches, but they are great people who instill the values that our young people will need to be successful in the classroom, in the community and on the field.”
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Brown, 29, spent the 2015 season as running backs coach on Richt’s staff at Georgia. Prior to UGA, he coached running backs at Wisconsin, Marshall and Chattanooga in the three previous seasons. That means Brown has experience coaching Georgia leading rusher and former Plantation American Heritage star Sony Michel, who totaled 1,076 rushing yards as a sophomore, and 2014 Heisman Trophy runnerup Melvin Gordon, who that season rushed for 2,587 yards and 32 touchdowns and is now with the San Diego Chargers.
This past season under Brown, Georgia averaged 5.24 yards per carry, totaling 2,332 yards and 21 touchdowns over 12 games. Brown himself was a Bulldogs running back from 2004-07 and played three seasons in the NFL.
He will take over a strong position group for Miami as Joseph Yearby will become a junior in 2016, Mark Walton a sophomore and junior Gus Edwards returns after missing all of 2015 due to injury. Rising junior Trayone Gray provides depth, and the corps will welcome incoming four-star recruit Travis Homer of West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy.
Kuligowski, he of the moniker Coach Kool, has been heralded as one of the nation’s top defensive line coaches. He has spent the past 15 seasons in that role for Missouri, making him the longest-tenured position coach in the Southeastern Conference.
During that tenure, Kuligowski coached 24 players to all-conference honors and produced four first-round NFL Draft picks since 2009. Some of those top players: SEC Defensive Player of the Year winners Michael Sam and Shane Ray and NFL Pro-Bowl selections Aldon Smith and Sheldon Richardson.
This past season, the Tigers ranked second in team tackles for loss and ninth in total defense under Kuligowski’s tutelage. The Canes were middle-of-the-pack in sacks in 2015 with 26.
Hartley was director of player personnel with the Bulldogs under Richt – a position he took last January after spending three seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Marshall.
“Been waiting to do this for awhile… #ItsAllAboutTheU,” Hartley said in a post on Twitter accompanied by an emoji of a pair of hands throwing up “The U” symbol.
Hartley recruited Florida profusely while with the Thundering Herd. In four recruiting classes he helped put together from 2012-15, Marshall had 33 players from Florida sign a National Letter of Intent – many from South Florida.
It is believed Brown and Hartley will still coach Georgia in the Taxslayer Bowl on Jan. 2.
Jon Richt joins his father’s staff for the second time in his coaching career after spending the 2014 season as a quality control assistant at Georgia. He spent this football season with the Buffalo Bills as an offensive assistant.
▪ News has also come out on former Hurricane assistant coaches who will be departing. Media reports have linked Mark D’Onofrio and Randy Melvin to Purdue.
For Melvin, it would be his second stint with the Boilermakers, which he coached defensive ends for from 1997-99.
▪ While the Canes secondary for next season took a hit Monday with cornerback Artie Burns announcing he would enter the NFL Draft as a junior, there was also a lift provided from Corn Elder, who let it be known he will return to UM for his senior season.
Elder said in an Instagram post: “Senior year about to be epic!! I promise I’m coming back even harder next season! #Canes stand up cause next year is about to be something special!”