FAYETTEVILLE, AR – University of Arkansas football head coach Bret Bielema announced Thursday the hiring of Clay Jennings as defensive backs coach. Jennings, who earned a reputation as TCU’s ace recruiter, brings 16 years of coaching in the secondary and more than a decade at schools in the state of Texas to the position.
“I’m thrilled to add Clay Jennings to our staff as his experience blends well with our defensive coaches’ philosophy and terminology.” Bielema said. “He was an instrumental part of a defensive unit at TCU known for giving an opposing offense a variety of looks while keeping schemes simple for their own players. In addition, his knowledge of the recruiting landscape in Texas will be a great benefit to our program.”
Jennings joined the TCU football staff as cornerbacks coach in January 2008. In his first three seasons with the Horned Frogs, TCU led the nation in total defense. From 2008-10, TCU became just the third program in NCAA history to lead the nation in total defense in three consecutive seasons.
In 2012, Jennings coached Jason Verrett to All-America honors in addition to being the San Antonio Express-News Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Verrett was also tabbed by CollegeFootballNews.com as the nation’s top cornerback. He topped the Big 12 in interceptions (six) and passes defended (22) while being the only player nationally to rank in the top 10 in both categories. Verrett and Greg McCoy, a 2012 draft pick of the Chicago Bears, earned All-Mountain West honors in 2011. Jason Teague was a 2010 second-team All-MWC selection.
Both Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders were first-team All-MWC picks in 2009. Priest was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation’s sixth-best cornerback, while Sanders was tabbed by Sporting News as the MWC’s hardest hitter. The duo also received all-conference accolades in 2008.
Jennings, who has coached six NFL defensive backs, came to the Horned Frogs after serving as the cornerbacks coach at Baylor in 2007.
Jennings worked two seasons (2005-06) as safeties coach at Houston. He helped the Cougars to back-to-back bowl appearances and the 2006 Conference USA championship. In 2006, Cougars’ free safety Will Gulley earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year honors while Brandon Brinkley was named to the league’s all-freshman squad.
In his first season at Houston, Jennings saw Rocky Schwartz earn Conference USA third-team all-conference honors and Kenneth Fontennette be named an honorable-mention Freshman All-American by Sporting News.
Prior to his two-year stint at Houston, Jennings spent two seasons (2003-04) as the defensive backs coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he helped the Ragin’ Cajuns to a No. 11 national ranking in pass defense. At Louisiana- Lafayette, Jennings tutored NFL players Antwain Spann (New England Patriots), C.C. Brown (Houston Texans) and Michael Adams (Arizona Cardinals).
Jennings also worked two years (2001-02) as secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Sam Houston State. He helped the Bearkats to a share of the 2001 Southland Conference championship and the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs. At SHSU, Jennings coached All-American and Buck Buchanan Award finalist Keith Davis, who just completed his fifth season with the Dallas Cowboys.
Jennings also coached the secondary at Southern Arkansas (2000), Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa (1999) and Morehouse College in Atlanta (1998). At SAU, Jennings mentored Jordan Babineaux of the Seattle Seahawks. At Morningside, Jennings coached first-team All-American Matt Walker.
A four-year letterwinner (1992-95) as a defensive lineman and special teams standout at North Texas, Jennings was a member of the Mean Green’s 1994 Southland Conference championship team and the school’s first NCAA Division I-A squad in 1995. He began his coaching career as a student assistant (1996) and then graduate assistant (1997) at North Texas before moving on to Morehouse.
Jennings is a 1992 graduate of Waco’s La Vega High School and a 1996 North Texas alumnus (Bachelors of Science in kinesiology). Jennings and his wife, Belinda, have two children: son Kirby and daughter Kenzie.