Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina head football coach Mark Speir has completed his coaching staff for the 2016 season, adding former University of Texas standout, Blake Gideon, to his defensive staff. Gideon, who has experience with three SEC programs, will coach the Catamount defensive backs, working primarily with the safeties.
Gideon's addition completes a busy spring for Speir, filling his coaching vacancies. Gideon joins new defensive coordinator Dustin Landry, who will also coach the nickel backs, linebackers coach Chris Collins, and defensive assistant Zac Etheridge, who will coach the cornerbacks. Six-year WCU coaching veteran, Mark Rhea, who has spent the past two seasons concentrating on the defensive ends, will again assume responsibility for coaching the entire defensive line.
All told, WCU's football 11-member coaching staff of includes the aforementioned four new faces on the defensive side of the ball and one new coach on offense in running backs coach, Jason Nichols.
"We're very excited to add Blake Gideon to our coaching staff," said Speir. "Blake was a tremendous player at Texas who brings passion and a high level of intensity to our defense. He has proven to be an exceptionally bright young coach who is already well respected in our coaching profession. He brings the experience of both playing -- and coaching -- in big-time college football atmospheres."
Gideon has an extensive background with first-year South Carolina head coach, Will Muschamp. He played for Muschamp when he was the defensive coordinator at Texas, with Gideon's first coaching stint on the defensive quality control staff specializing with the secondary coming under Muschamp at Florida. Gideon followed Muschamp to Auburn in 2015 in a similar capacity, and eventually to South Carolina before taking the position in Cullowhee.
A four-year starter at safety for the Longhorns under head coach Mack Brown, Gideon was named to the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award watch list. He was a four-time honorable mention All-Big XII selection who started 52 games -- second-most in Texas history. He finished his collegiate career with 276 tackles including 166 solo stops with 20 pass break-ups and 10 interceptions. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology and health
Gideon was signed as an undrafted free agent by the NFL's Arizona Cardinals in 2012, completing training camp before being waived. He was then signed by the Denver Broncos to their practice squad before being signed to a futures contract following the 2012 season, and ultimately retiring from the NFL in 2013 when he joined Muschamp's staff in Florida.
Following a season in Gainesville, Fla., Gideon made the move within the SEC to The Plains, assuming a graduate assistant at Auburn. In what proved to be his final season at Auburn, Gideon was given the defensive back coaching duties on an interim basis by head coach Gus Malzahn during preparations for the 2015 Birmingham Bowl vs. Memphis after DB coach Travaris Robinson followed Muschamp to South Carolina. Under Gideon's guidance in the bowl victory, Auburn's defensive secondary had one of its best performances of the year, holding the high-powered Memphis offense to just 205 yards of total offense and three points. The secondary helped limit Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch to 16-of-37 passing and 108 yards through the air with an interception.
A native of Leander, Texas -- and the son of a veteran high school football coach -- Gideon made the move to Columbia, S.C., in January of 2016 as a linebackers and special teams graduate assistant coach before taking the full-time position at Western Carolina in April.
After dodging rain showers during Thursday's 12th practice of the spring, Western Carolina football returns to the turf on Saturday for the squad's annual Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo. Festivities get underway with tailgating at 9:30 am with the practice to begin around 1:00 pm. The event is open to the public and admission is free. There will be a free, live video stream available online at SoConDigitalNetwork.com/wcu.
Season tickets for all five home dates in 2016 are on-sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office and online at CatamountSports.com. Returning season ticket holders must renew their season tickets by mid-June, 2016. Fans can call the ticket office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401.
Upcoming 2016 Catamount Football Spring Practice Schedule:
(schedule subject to date/time changes)
Practice #13: Saturday, April 9 -- Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo (full pads) -- 1:00 pm
Practice #14: Tuesday, April 12 (shells)
Practice #15: Thursday, April 14 (shells)