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Jim Knowles -- 2021 FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year

No team owned the line of scrimmage and everything behind it in 2021 like Oklahoma State.

FootballScoop is proud to announce that Jim Knowles (Oklahoma State) is the recipient of the 2021 FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year presented by AstroTurf as selected by prior winners.

To build an elite defense, Jim Knowles started up front: No team was better at the point of attack than Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' 8.69 tackles for loss and 4.15 sacks per game led the nation. 

Aided by their constant ability to make plays in the opponent's backfield, Oklahoma State was also stellar against the run. They ranked sixth in FBS at 91.2 yards per game, fifth with 2.74 yards per rush, and fourth with just 38 runs of 10-plus yards. The Pokes limited six opponents to fewer than 70 rushing yards, and held Iowa State's Breece Hall and Baylor's Abram Smith (top 10 runners, both) below 100 yards in all three combined meetings. 

Oklahoma State posted at least one sack in every game, with a season high of eight in their 24-3 defeat of West Virginia on Nov. 6, then followed that up with seven sacks in a 63-17 demolition of TCU a week later. 

Jim Knowles OK State

But simply claiming the line of scrimmage and everything behind it as Cowboy territory wasn't the most impressive feat of the 2021 Oklahoma State defense. That was their ability to put opposing offenses in a chokehold when it mattered most.

It started with a September trip to Boise, when the Cowboys shutout the Broncos in the second half. At Texas in mid-October, Oklahoma State allowed an opening drive touchdown and nothing thereafter, turning a 24-13 deficit into a 32-24 win, salted away with four straight three-and-outs, a four-and-out, and an interception. 

And in their most important games of the season, Oklahoma State pitched two second-half shutouts. In Bedlam, Oklahoma scored only on a safety and a muffed punt after halftime as the Cowboys advanced to their first Big 12 Championship with a 37-33 win. And in that title game, the Cowboys ultimately lost but did not allow Baylor to score after the break in a 21-16 setback. 

For the season, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 and tied for seventh nationally at 16.8 points per game. All 12 opponents were held under their scoring average. 

Lest it be forgotten, Oklahoma State was also outstanding against the pass. Opposing passers averaged 6.3 yards per attempt, 187.2 yards per game -- both 12th nationally -- and the Pokes' 116.21 rating was 13th in the nation. 

Defensive end Collin Oliver was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, while senior defensive lineman Brock Martin, senior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, and senior defensive backs Jarrick Bernard-Converse and Kolby Harvell-Peel were First Team All-Big 12 performers. 


An All-Ivy League defensive end at Cornell, Knowles' coaching career began with a 9-year run at his alma mater. In 1997, he took his first FBS job as the defensive coordinator at Western Michigan. After a 6-year stay in Kalamazoo and one at Ole Miss, Knowles returned to Cornell as head coach, where he went 26-34 in six seasons. He left in 2010 for the defensive coordinator job at Duke, where he has remained until taking the Oklahoma State job in 2018. 

Knowles has since taken the defensive coordinator job at Ohio State.

The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by AstroTurf are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Doug Belk [Houston], Dan Lanning [Georgia], Jim Leonhard [Wisconsin], Mike Macdonald [Michigan] and Knowles) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year's winner.

Previous winners of the Defensive Coordinator of the Year award are Nick Holt (USC, 2008), Kirby Smart (Alabama, 2009), Vic Fangio (Stanford, 2010), John Chavis (LSU, 2011), Bob Diaco (Notre Dame, 2012), Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State, 2013), Brent Venables (Clemson, 2014), Don Brown (Boston College, 2015), Jim Leavitt (Colorado, 2016), Kevin Steele (Auburn, 2017), Bob Shoop (Mississippi State, 2018), Phil Snow (Baylor, 2019), and Mike Hankwitz (Northwestern, 2020). 


1st Nationally -- Sacks Per Game

5th Nationally -- Yards Per Carry Allowed

1st Nationally -- Tackles For Loss Per Game

7th Nationally -- Scoring Defense

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