JONESBORO, AR – One day after losing its head coach to his alma mater, the focus at Arkansas State University turns to the search for a new coach and preparations for the GoDaddy.com Bowl game.
Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach John Thompson is leading the team for now. He’s also in consideration for the opening left by Harsin, said A-State Athletic Director Terry Mohajir in a morning news conference.
Thompson told reporters his first priority is to get ready for the bowl game. He said Harsin had met with the players yesterday.
Mohajir says the Red Wolves program will “find the right person at the right time” and that inquiries about the head coaching job are already coming in to the search committee. He also disclosed that there would be a buyout (amount not disclosed) on the next coach.
The Red Wolves play the bowl game January 5 in Mobile, Alabama. It’s the third year in a row that the team has played in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
John Thompson Bio
Courtesy: Arkansas State
John Thompson, a coaching veteran with over 30 years experience at the collegiate level as both an assistant and head coach, will begin his second season as Arkansas State’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2013.
Thompson also acted as A-State’s interim head coach in the 2013 GoDaddy.com Bowl, leading the Red Wolves to a 17-13 victory over then-ranked 25th Kent State. The victory was ASU’s first in a bowl game since 1970 and also marked its first win over a top-25 team since it joined the FBS in 1992.
Thompson was also a part of ASU’s staff in 2012 that led the Red Wolves to a 10-3 season and a Sun Belt Conference championship with a 7-1 league mark.
Thompson oversaw Arkansas State’s 2012 defense that ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring defense and second in total defense. The Red Wolves had four defensive players named All-Sun Belt Conference this year, including first-team choices Nathan Herrold at linebacker and Ryan Carrethers on the defensive line.
The Red Wolves shut out two opponents during the 2012 season, including an 8-4 Middle Tennessee squad in the regular-season finale, for the first time since 1987. Under Thompson’s direction, A-State also ranked third in the Sun Belt in turnovers gained, picking up 10 fumble recoveries and 13 interceptions. A-State had eight players post an interception to tie for the 15th most in the nation.
Thompson’s defensive unit continued to evolve and improve as the season progressed. Against Sun Belt Conference opponents only, the Red Wolves ranked first in the league in rushing defense (119.9 yards per game) and second in pass defense efficiency (132.6). The defense allowed just 396 rushing yards over the last five regular-season games for an average of just 79.2 yards per contest and also recorded 11 interceptions over the last nine games.
As linebackers coach, Thompson’s position group combined to record 281 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 12 pass break-ups, five interceptions, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Herrold and fellow linebacker Qushaun Lee both posted the best numbers of their career and ended the regular season as A-State’s top two tacklers.
In fact, Herrold posted a career-best 114 tackles for the most by an ASU player since 2003. Both Herrold and Lee were named all-conference at the end of the regular season, and Lee was named the GoDaddy.com Bowl’s Defensive MVP after recording 13 tackles and two pass break-ups.
Thompson has worked 26 seasons as a coordinator and was also the head coach at East Carolina for two years. Recognized as a top defensive mind, Thompson has worked as defensive coordinator or co-coordinator at Southeastern Conference schools Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU, as well as at Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State.
As a defensive coordinator, Thompson has seen more than 40 of his defensive players drafted by, or sign with, National Football League teams. Forty-four of his defenders earned all-conference honors, five were named all-America, and one, former Northwestern State linebacker Gary Reasons, has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Thompson came to A-State after serving as Georgia State’s assistant head coach for scheduling and strategic planning and defensive coordinator. Thompson also coached inside linebackers at Georgia State, where he spent the previous four seasons.
Thompson went to Georgia State in July 2008 after spending the 2007 season as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Ole Miss. That followed a one-year stint as athletics director at his alma mater, the University of Central Arkansas, which he guided in its move to NCAA Division I. He served as co-defensive coordinator at South Carolina in 2005.
As the head coach at East Carolina in 2003-04, he coached three first-team all-conference players and seven all-freshman selections.
Thompson was the defensive coordinator at Florida in 2002, when the Gators’ pass defense was ranked seventh in the nation, allowing just 162.4 yards per game. He also spent two years at Arkansas, serving as co-defensive coordinator in 2000 and then defensive coordinator in 2001. In 2000, the Razorbacks were second in the nation in pass defense while leading the SEC in pass defense and total defense. The following year, Thompson helped lead Arkansas to the Cotton Bowl.
Thompson’s first position as a defensive coordinator came at Northwestern State, where he served from 1983-86, and again from 1988-89 after spending the 1987 season as linebackers coach at Alabama.
In 1990, he became the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech for two seasons before moving to Southern Miss as defensive coordinator in 1992. He was given additional responsibility as assistant head coach in 1993. In Thompson’s seven seasons at Southern Miss (1992-98), the Golden Eagles won or shared two Conference USA titles, twice ranked among the top 25 nationally in scoring defense and made two bowl appearances.
In one season at Memphis in 1999, his Tiger defense ranked 11th in the nation in scoring defense and 23rd in total defense.
A native of Forrest City, Ark., Thompson began as a high school coach in 1977 while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at UCA. He continued to coach prep football until moving to the college ranks in 1982 as a graduate assistant at Arkansas, where he worked under Lou Holtz.
A high school quarterback, Thompson was inducted into the Forrest City High School Hall of Fame in 2006. His playing career also includes two seasons as a defensive back at Central Arkansas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from UCA in 1978.
Thompson and his wife, Charleen, have two sons, Cabe and Hays.