Joey Didier/Eric Wagoner – University of Saint Francis

FootballScoop is proud to announce that Joey Didier and Eric Wagoner are the 2016 FootballScoop NAIA Coordinators of the Year presented by ProGrass as selected by prior winners.

Saint Francis won its first NAIA national championship in 2016, and a best-in-class defense was the chief reason why.

The Cougars collected a 13-1 record, in the process holding eight of their 14 foes to 20 points or fewer. Overall, their 18.4 scoring defense averaged ranked sixth in NAIA.

Saint Francis’s rush defense was among the best in the nation, limiting 529 opponent carries to 1,522 yards and 13 touchdowns — good for 108.7 yards and less than one touchdown per game on 2.9 yards per carry.

Opposing passers connected on 55.9 percent of their passes for 6.98 yards per attempt with 20 touchdowns against 17 interceptions.

The Cougars’ pass defense was bolstered by one of the best pass rushes in NAIA. Saint Francis collected 45 total sacks — good for 3.2 per game, a top-five number nationally.

Overall, Saint Francis limited opponents to 346.7 yards per game and 4.8 yards per play, both top-25 numbers nationally.

The Saint Francis defense saved its best performance for its most threatening opponent in its most important game. Facing a Baker (Kan.) offense that finished the year averaging 47.7 points and 536.6 yards per game on 6.9 yards per play, Saint Francis limited the Wildcats to 403 yards and 4.58 yards per play in a 38-17 Cougars victory.

Defensive lineman Lucas Sparks was named an AFCA NAIA Second Team All-American and selected as the Mid-States Football Association’s Mideast League Defensive Player of the Year. Linebackers Spencer Cowherd and Piercen Harnish, defensive tackle Eric Hemmelgarn (the NAIA national leader with 25.5 tackles for loss) and defensive back Na’Shawn Lewis joined Sparks on the All-Mideast League’s first team.

A Saint Francis graduate, Didier has spent six seasons on staff at his alma mater. Didier jumped into coaching as an assistant at Fort Wayne’s Homestead High School, his high school alma mater, before returning to Saint Francis. Didier handles defensive backs and serves as the Cougars’ co-recruiting coordinator.

Wagoner started on Saint Francis’s staff as a student assistant at 2007 and has served as an assistant coach ever since. A former Cougars defensive lineman, he now coaches the team’s defensive line and serves as special teams coordinator.

The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by ProGrass are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Brock Caraboa [Marian], Lucas Lueders [Morningside College], Miguel Regalado [Baker], Tommy Scott [Reinhardt] and Didier and Wagoner) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year’s winner.

Didier and Wagoner will receive their award and be recognized at an event at the AFCA Convention in January.

Previous winners of the NAIA Coordinator of the Year award are Joe Woodley (Grand View [Iowa], 2013), Ken Fasnacht (Southern Oregon, 2014) and Scott Power (Marian [Ind.], 2015).

keystats

4th Nationally – Rushing Defense           First NAIA national championship
6th Nationally – Scoring Defense           5th Nationally – Sacks Per Game
          

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.