FootballScoop is proud to announce that Joe Gillespie is the 2020 FootballScoop Linebackers Coach of the Year presented by AstroTurf as selected by prior winners.
In 2020, Tulsa's defense was led by linebacker Zaven Collins. The former 3-star recruit was one of the most productive players in college football last fall. Despite collecting "only" 55 tackles, the unanimous selection for the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award led the league with 1.44 tackles for loss per game, finished sixth with 0.5 sacks per game, and tied for sixth nationally with 0.5 interceptions per game.
Two of Collins's four interceptions were returned for touchdowns, including a 96-yarder that clinched the Golden Hurricane's 30-24 win over Tulane in November.
The only FBS player to record at least 11.5 TFLs and four interceptions, Collins won the Lombardi award as the nation's top linebacker, the Bednarik and Nagurski trophies as the national defensive player of the year, and in the process became the second consensus All-American in Tulsa history.
But Tulsa's linebacking corps was more than just its leader. In fact, sophomore Justin Wright led the unit with 63 tackles over nine games, and senior Treyvon Reeves ranked fifth on the team with 43 stops.
Tulsa's defense was one of the tops in the conference, ranking second in the league in yards per play (4.7), total defense (333 yards per game), and scoring defense (21.6 points per game). The Golden Hurricane improved from 69th to seventh nationally in yards per play, from 70th to 19th in total defense, and from 92nd to 27th in scoring defense. Tulsa's defense sliced a full 10 points per game off their scoring defense from 2019 to '20.
In addition to the All-Everything Collins, Wright was named a Second Team All-AAC honoree.
Also Tulsa's defensive coordinator, Gillespie has run Philip Montgomery's defense since 2019 and served on staff since 2015. The Angelo State graduate began his career as an assistant at Stephenville High School, working under Art Briles, Texas High School Hall of Famer Mike Copeland and Chad Morris. Gillespie took over the program in 2008 and went 72-23 with one state championship and seven playoff appearances in seven seasons.
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 (Jeff Casteel and Jeff Koonz [West Virginia], Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann [Georgia], Clark Lea [Notre Dame], Travis Williams [Auburn] and Gillespie) 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 Linebackers Coach of the Year award are Bill McGovern (Boston College, 2008), Bob Fraser (Rutgers, 2009), Luke Fickell (Ohio State, 2010), Dave Huxtable (Wisconsin, 2011), Bob Gregory (Boise State, 2012), Jim Reid and LeVar Woods (Iowa, 2013), Jeff Casteel (Arizona, 2014), Dave Aranda and Tim Tibesear (Wisconsin, 2015), Mike Siravo (Temple, 2016), Tyson Veidt (Iowa State, 2017), Dave Aranda (LSU, 2018) and Tim DeRuyter and Peter Sirmon (Cal, 2019).
7th Nationally - Yards Per Play
19th Nationally - Total Defense
27th Nationally - Scoring Defense
Butkus Award winning LB
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