Kennesaw State’s football team announced on Friday, Jan. 28, that three new assistant coaches were added to the staff, in addition to another coach who was hired three days earlier.
Head coach Brian Bohannon revealed the first of his new hires on Tuesday, Jan. 22, with the confirmation of Blake Harrell as the new defensive coordinator.
Following the departure of Brian Newberry, Harrell is coming to KSU with a breadth of defensive experience from his time at The Citadel.
Harrell spent five seasons with the Bulldogs, helping them earn two Southern Conference championships and FCS playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016. Last season, the Bulldogs held national champions Alabama to 10 points at halftime, their lowest first-half total all year.
After presiding over a defense that forced 83 turnovers in the past four seasons, Harrell will be tasked with continuing and expanding the success of the KSU defense. He will also be responsible for specifically coaching linebackers for the Owls.
“My family and I are thrilled to join this standard of excellence and help bring more championships to Kennesaw State,” Harrell said. “The culture Coach Bohannon has built speaks to his leadership and I look forward to continuing the tremendous success the Owls have had.”
Also joining the KSU staff are three individuals who will replace the remainder of the previously vacant positions. Unlike some other current and previous coaches on staff, all three new hires have exclusively coached in Georgia.
Cornerbacks coach Darius Safford comes to the Owls from Mercer, where he coached the same position. He previously worked as an assistant at West Georgia and Georgia Southern.
Last year, Mercer played several close games against similar opposition to KSU. Their season highlight was an upset victory over Samford, a familiar foe to the Owls.
Defensive ends coach Rico Zackery comes to the Atlanta area from the western side of Georgia, where he has been a successful high school coach. He spent the last two seasons as head coach of Villa Rica High School and prior to that, he coached at Central Carroll High School.
In his first two seasons at Central Carroll, Zackery worked under current KSU offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut. Later on as head coach, Zackery led his school to a regional title and was named the region’s coach of the year.
Safties coach Danny Verpaele will also be joining the football program. Verpaele spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Valdosta State, where he helped lead them to a Division II National Championship in 2018.
The Blazers went undefeated last season on the way to their success, and the Owls hope that Verpaele can bring that energy and mindset to KSU this fall.