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Report: Exodus of Kennesaw State defensive assistants continues

December 29, 2018

Kennesaw State’s football team will need to replace nearly its entire defensive coaching staff as it prepares for the 2019 season.

The Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland, reported Friday that defensive ends coach Kevin Downing had accepted the same position at the Naval Academy, where he will join linebackers coach P.J. Volker and defensive coordinator Brian Newberry in moving from the Owls to the Midshipmen.

The departures of Volker and Newberry had been previously reported. Kennesaw State officials declined comment and would not confirm coaching departures prior to the destination school announcing the hiring.

In addition, a source close to the program confirmed that cornerbacks coach Chris Bland would be leaving to join the coaching staff at Elon.

The latest defections mean four of the five members of the defensive coaching staff will need to be replaced. It leaves Liam Klein, Kennesaw State’s recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach, as the lone remaining member.

Downing and Bland each joined the coaching staff in February 2014 and helped build the Kennesaw State defense into one of the best in the Football Championship Subdivision.

During their tenure under Newberry’s direction, the Owls have gone a combined 37-12, winning two Big South Conference titles and advancing to the FCS quarterfinals in each of the last two seasons.

In each of the last three seasons, Kennesaw State’s defense has improved.

In 2016, with a team that consisted of mainly redshirt sophomores, the Owls allowed 21.7 points and 321.8 yards per game. In 2017, those numbers dropped to 15.5 and 301.4. It was also a season in which the team was second in the FCS in turnovers, forcing 35, including 24 interceptions.

This year, the numbers improved again, as the Owls allowed only 263.7 yards and 15.4 points per game.

Downing came to Kennesaw State after four years as an assistant at Elon, one season as defensive ends coach and three as wide receivers coach. He also spent four years at Winston-Salem State.

For Newberry and Downing, Navy will be their first job at an FBS program.

Bland is returning to his alma mater, where he played football and baseball at Elon. He was a team captain as a senior.

Bland came to Kennesaw State after three years at Division III Brevard, where he served as cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator. He also spent three seasons at East Carolina.

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