New Missouri State head football coach Dave Steckel announced the first members of his initial Bears coaching staff Wednesday with the hiring of offensive coordinator Mario Verduzco and defensive coordinator Marcus Yokeley, as well as assistant coaches Kenji Jackson (safeties) and Chris Morton (defensive line). Additionally, offensive line coach Sean Coughlin, who served nine years on the Bears coaching staff under former coach Terry Allen, will return for the 2015 season in the same capacity, Steckel confirmed.
All four new additions to the Missouri State staff began their respective duties Wednesday and are expected to be formally approved by the Missouri State Board of Governors at its next scheduled meeting on Jan. 21.
Verduzco, who will work with the Bears quarterbacks, comes to Missouri State after spending 14 years on the staff of Missouri Valley Football Conference power UNI, including the last seven as co-offensive coordinator. During his time in Cedar Falls, Verduzco helped the Panthers claim six Valley titles and make eight NCAA Division I FCS postseason appearances, while mentoring seven different UNI signal-callers who earned all-conference recognition on a total of 13 occasions. Five of those honorees were selected as league freshman or newcomer of the year, and Eric Sanders was a 2007 Walter Payton Award finalist and the MVFC’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Before joining the UNI staff, Verduzco served as quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at Rutgers, where he worked with Steckel on head coach Terry Shea’s staff from 1996-2000. During his time with the Scarlet Knights, Verduzco developed what has been called one of the top quarterback clinics in the nation. Two of his pupils – Rutgers’ Mike McMahon and UNI’s Tom Petrie – have gone on to play professionally in the NFL. Previously, Verduzco coached high school football at Soquel (Calif.) High School for 10 years before breaking into the collegiate ranks at Gavilan College and San Jose State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in human performance in 1988 and a master’s degree in biomechanics and exercise physiology two years later. The Pittsburg, Calif., native then moved on to De Anza College, where he spent a total of five years –the final two as head coach – before heading east to Rutgers.
“I’m excited about working with Mario,” Steckel commented. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and a very sharp offensive mind, as well as over a decade of experience developing quarterbacks and guiding championship-caliber offenses in this league.”
Yokeley joins the MSU staff after spending a total of six years over two separate stints at Lindenwood University, including the last three as the Lions defensive line coach. The Marshall, Mo., product led a unit that produced five All-MIAA defensive line honorees since his return to the program in 2012. Prior to that, Yokeley served as defensive coordinator at Avila in 2011, helping the Eagles lower their scoring defense by nearly 10 points per game. Working with the Eagles defensive backs, he tutored the school’s first All-American safety, Tyler Cardwell.
A former all-conference defensive back for Truman State, Yokeley was a two-time team captain for the Bulldogs before earning his undergraduate degree in psychology from the school in 2006. He worked on the Lindenwood staff from 2006 through the 2008 seasons, serving in a variety of capacities, including defensive secondary coach, special teams coordinator and assistant head coach while earning his master’s degree in education with an emphasis in strength and conditioning. In his first two years as a full-time assistant, the Lions went 21-4, captured the HAAC title in 2007 and advanced to the NAIA playoffs each season. Yokeley then joined Gary Pinkel’s Missouri staff as a graduate assistant, working on both sides of the ball and assisting with the coordination of the Tigers’ camps, film evaluation and scouting operations.
“Marcus is one of the brightest up-and-coming coaches out there,” Steckel added. “From our experience working together in Columbia, I know he’s familiar with our system and what we expect out of our players, and I’m looking forward to having him lead our defense.”
Another new Bear with ties to the Missouri program, Jackson will oversee the development of the MSU safeties after completing the 2014 season as a defensive graduate assistant at Northwestern. This past fall, four defenders earned All-Big Ten honors for the Wildcats, who finished 5-7. Over the previous two seasons, Jackson worked as a recruiting and quality control graduate assistant at Mizzou following the completion of his playing career in 2011. He assisted the MU coaching staff with its recruiting operations, video preparation and scouting analysis, helping MU post a program-record 12 wins and claim both the SEC East title and a Cotton Bowl victory en route to a No. 5 final AP ranking in 2013.
As a standout defensive back for the Tigers, Jackson was a two-year starter at safety and team captain as a senior, capping his career with an honorable mention All-Big 12 citation. A contributor on bowl teams in each of his four seasons, he earned Academic All-Big 12 recognition in 2009, as well as the team’s Inspirational Player of the Year honor in 2011. He completed his undergraduate degree in interpersonal communications in just three and a half years before earning a graduate degree from MU in educational and counseling psychology.
“Kenji is another sharp, young coach who knows our system inside and out,” Steckel said. “He’s a former All-Big 12 performer who brings a ton of enthusiasm, which I know will help him relate well with our players and be an effective recruiter.”
Morton will work with the MSU defensive lineman after spending the last two seasons on University of Wisconsin-Stout’s staff following a two-year graduate assistant stint at Missouri. Under Morton’s guidance, a pair of Blue Devils have garnered All-WIAC recognition in each of his two years in Menomonie, including 2014 All-West Region honoree Jamie Rohrig. Before joining the UW-Stout program, the Norfolk, Neb., native spent a total of four years in Columbia, where he worked as a compliance coordinator for two years before his initial coaching experience as a defensive graduate assistant under Steckel. In that role, he worked with the MU defensive line, linebackers and safeties, helping the Tigers go 8-5 in a 2011 season that culminated in an Independence Bowl victory over North Carolina.
Prior to beginning his coaching career, Morton starred at center for South Dakota, earning first-team AFCA All-America honors in 2007 after claiming the 2006 Rimington Award for Division II. He was honored with USD’s Dr. John Van Why Athletic Department outstanding male athlete award and graduated with his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2007. Morton then worked as an auditor for the Missouri Attorney General’s office before heading to Mizzou, where he earned his master’s degree in health education and promotion.
“I worked with Chris during his time at Mizzou, so I know what an exceptional job he’s capable of doing,” said Steckel. “His playing experience as a Division II Rimington Award winner and his track record of success in developing defensive linemen speak volumes about the kind of coach he can be here.”
Coughlin will return for his eighth year working with the MSU offensive linemen after helping develop one of the top units in the Valley over the past few seasons. The Kildeer, Ill., product joined Allen’s initial MSU staff from Iowa State, where he worked as a graduate assistant and offensive line assistant. He worked with the Bears’ tight ends and fullbacks his first two years and took over offensive line coaching duties in 2008. Over the last eight seasons, Coughlin’s group has earned MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors 12 times with 10 all-conference selections, three All-Americans and three players – David Arkin, Jake Duron and Randy Richards — signing NFL contracts.
The 2001 Drake University graduate was a standout offensive lineman during his own playing career, highlighted by three All-Pioneer Conference selections and back-to-back All-America honors in 1999 and 2000. Coughlin spent three seasons at his alma mater, working as an assistant offensive line and tight ends coach before joining Iowa State’s offensive staff in 2004 while pursuing his master’s degree in higher education.
“I am looking forward to having Sean stay on with our staff,” Steckel noted. “His attention to detail and work ethic, in addition to his history with this program and proven results in producing quality linemen, should make him a great addition to our staff.”
Steckel, who was named Missouri State’s 20th head football coach Dec. 14, will begin his duties in January, following Missouri’s Citrus Bowl appearance on New Year’s Day.