Clarksville, TN – J.J. Clark, who served as the Austin Peay State University (APSU) football’s co-special teams coordinator and linebackers coach last season, has been elevated as the Governors’ new defensive coordinator, head football coach Scotty Walden announced on Friday.
Walden also promoted Chris Jones, who served as the Govs’ defensive run-game coordinator last season, to co-defensive coordinator.
“I am excited to promote J.J. Clark to become our next defensive coordinator,” said Walden. “When we hired J.J. as our linebackers coach, we were looking for someone with coordinating experience and that is exactly what we found. He was a defensive coordinator for five years prior to Austin Peay, leading dominant, nationally-ranked defenses, including two years where his defenses allowed 9.0 and 11.9 points per game. I am excited for J.J. and his family as they continue the aggressive #BlackReign defense tradition here at Austin Peay!”
Clark spent the 2022 season on Austin Peay State University’s sideline, leading one of the ASUN Conference’s best linebacker tandems. Antoine Williams earned All-ASUN honors, Third Team All-America honors, and was a finalist for the Stats Perform Buck Buchanan award after ranking second in the ASUN in tackles (91) and third in tackles for loss (12.5) – he was the only player in the league that ranked in the top three in both categories. Flanking Williams, Josh Rudolph ranked sixth in the conference with 73 tackles and was tied for eighth in the league with 7.5 tackles for loss.
Clark’s first year at APSUsaw the Governors put the ASUN Conference’s best defense on the field after leading the league in total defense (317.2 ypg), scoring defense (22.2 ppg), and third-down conversion defense (.308) – those marks ranked 12th, 32nd, and third, respectively, in the FCS. The Govs defense also posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1964 after blanking Presbyterian and Mississippi Valley State during Clark’s first year in Clarksville.
Prior to joining Austin Peay State University in March 2022, Clark spent three seasons at NAIA-member Indiana Wesleyan, where he was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, in addition to serving as the strength and conditioning coach. In his final season at Indiana Wesleyan, Clark was named the 2021 Mid-States Football Association Assistant Coach of the Year. During that 2021 season, Clark’s defense allowed just 11.9 points per game – the second-fewest at the NAIA level – while intercepting 11 passes and forcing 19 fumbles – 11 of which were recovered by the Wildcats.
Prior to his time at Indiana Wesleyan, Clark spent four years in various defensive coaching roles at his alma mater Wheaton College. In his final season at Wheaton in 2018, Clark was the defensive coordinator for a unit that allowed just 9.0 points per game – the third-best mark at the NCAA Division III level. The Thunder also ranked fourth in total defense (218.2) and ninth in rushing defense (66.2) at the DIII level, while posting the third-best third-down conversion percentage by a defense (0.213) and the second-best fourth-down conversion percentage by a defense (0.125). Clark’s opportunistic defense scored five touchdowns, which were the ninth-most in DIII.
As a player, Clark was a four-year letter winner and three-year starter at tight end and fullback at Wheaton College, 2008-12. He was named to the 2011 NCAA Division III Capital One Academic All-America Second Team during his senior season.
“I am also excited to announce Chris Jones‘ promotion to co-defensive coordinator,” said Walden. “He will still serve as our defensive line coach as well. I am thrilled that by promoting Chris, he will play an even more integral role in our defense! As our run game coordinator last year, he helped lead our defense to become one of the top rushing defenses in the country. I am excited for Chris, his family, and the future of the #BlackReign defense!”
During the 2022 season, Jones led an Austin Peay rush defense that ranked 32nd in the FCS, allowing just 128.5 yards per game during the regular season. The Governors were also tied for 21st in the FCS, allowing just 12 rushing touchdowns on the season. In the 19 FCS games Jones has led the run defense, the Govs have only allowed one team to rush for 200 yards and have held eight opponents under 100 yards – including a 34-yard rushing day for Murray State in 2022, which was the fewest yards APSU has allowed during the Walden Era.
Jones joined APSU as the defensive line coach and defensive run-game coordinator prior to the 2021 season. In his first season, the Govs led the OVC with 1.64 sacks per game (18 sacks) and ranked second in the league in rushing defense (148.5 yards per game). That effort was part of a total defensive effort that had the Govs leading the OVC in scoring defense (24.9 points per game). Terrell Allen also earned Second Team All-OVC and Hero Sports Sophomore All-America honors under Jones’ tutelage.
Before his time in Clarksville, Jones spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach in Texas, first for Hardin-Simmons – his alma mater – and then a year at Texas A&M-Kingsville. Jones was the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for the Division II Javelinas in his lone season in Kingsville. TAMUK played just two games during the Spring 2021 schedule and averaged 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
In 10 seasons at Hardin-Simmons, Jones’ defensive line unit paced a defense that ranked among Division III’s Top 40 in tackles for loss in eight consecutive seasons (2012-19). The Cowboys reached the NCAA Division III Football Tournament in three-straight seasons (2016-18) for the second time in program history.
Before his coaching career began, Jones played four seasons at Hardin-Simmons as a defensive lineman and did not miss a game, playing 41 consecutive contests and starting 22 straight. He helped the Cowboys win American Southwest Conference titles (2003 and 2004) and make NCAA Division III tournament appearances twice (2004 and 2006). Jones finished his career with 126 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, and nine sacks. He earned Second Team All-America recognition as a senior and was a two-time All-ASC selection.
The Governors kick off the 2023 season when they travel to Southern Illinois, on September 2nd, and are back at Fortera Stadium when they host a Week 3 contest against East Tennessee State University (ETSU), on September 16th. For more offseason news and updates on Austin Peay football, follow along on Twitter and Instagram or be sure to check back at LetsGoPeay.com.