Leon Fuller is the executive director of athletics at Odessa Permian High School. He was formerly a coach with the University of Texas football team. (Larry Kolvoord/American-Statesman)


5 Texas defensive coordinators to remember

Posted September 21st, 2016


With rampant speculation that Vance Bedford is on the way out, or being demoted, or being replaced at the end of the year or, hey, he may turn it around, it’s time we take a look at the best coaches to ever hold the title of defensive coordinator at Texas.

Who did the best work as defensive coordinator at Texas? Well, for starters Texas didn’t officially name a defensive coordinator until 1967, so that takes up quite the swath of Texas football history. Other years there were co-defensive coordinators, like when Duane Akina shared the job with a guy who was the defensive coordinator for two Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos teams, Greg Robinson. Akina was the co-defensive coordinator with three different coaches. The only one who didn’t leave for a head coaching job was Larry MacDuff, who coached one season in Texas and last coached for the Las Vegas Locomotives in the UFL.

Who will you not see on this list? Manny Diaz, Gary Darnell, Bobby Jack Wright and Will Muschamp. We’re sure Will is super upset about this.


Here are five Texas defensive coordinators to remember:

5. Carl Reese, 1998-2003

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 11: College Football: Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik during training camp, Austin, TX 8/11/2006 (Photo by Darren Carroll/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (SetNumber: X76485 TK1 R1)
Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik during training camp, Austin, TX 8/11/2006 (Photo by Darren Carroll/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Reese came to Texas with Mack Brown in 1998 after being the LSU defensive coordinator from 1995-1997. He led Texas to five consecutive top 25 defensive ranking finishes. In 2001 Texas led the NCAA by allowing just 236.2 yards per game. He took over a defense that was ranked 104th nationally in run defense and 85th overall. Reese retired in 2003 but returned for two seasons in 2009 and 2010 to help friend Michael Haywood, who was hired to be the head coach at Miami (Oh.), to be the defensive coordinator.

4. David McWilliams, 1982-1985

McWilliams spent several years working under Mike Campbell and Darrell Royal at Texas after playing for the Longhorns in the 1960s. In 1982 he replaced Leon Fuller as the defensive coordinator and kept the unit strong. In his first season, McWilliams’ unit pitched three shutouts and limited two more teams to just seven points. The success continued in 1983 as Texas went 11-1. McWilliams left Texas following the 1985 season to be the head coach for one season at Texas Tech. He returned to Austin to replace his old boss, Fred Akers, as head coach.

3. Gene Chizik, Texas 2005-2006

The co-defensive coordinator for just two seasons, Chizik, with help from Duane Akina, helped lead Texas to the BCS National Championship in 2005 and a strong season in 2006. He coached numerous future NFL players and first-round picks at Texas. Chizik arrived to Austin after helping Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004 as the defensive coordinator. Texas hired him to be the assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. He used the success at Texas to get the Iowa State head coaching job, where he wasn’t successful, then in 2008 became the head coach of Auburn. He won the 2010 BCS National Championship there. He’s now the defensive coordinator at North Carolina.

2. Leon Fuller 1977-1981 and 1989-1993

Arriving in Austin with Fred Akers, Fuller replaced the legendary coach Mike Campbell and quickly became a fan favorite as he coached the likes of Steve McMichael, Kenneth Sims, Doug Shankle and Johnnie Johnson. He left Texas to become the head coach of Colorado State, where he went 25-88 in seven seasons. He returned to Texas to become the defensive coordinator under David McWilliams, who he worked with in his previous stint, and the “Shock the Nation” 1990 season, his defense helped Texas to a 10-2 season. He stayed on as defensive coordinator under John Mackovic in 1993, but Fuller left after one season to become the defensive backs coach for the Denver Broncos.

Fuller then returned to Austin, but not as defensive coordinator. After Denver, he took a job as the head coach of the Llano High School football team. He left Llano to become the athletic director of the Austin Independent School District, where he worked for eight years and retired in 2004.  He later served as the athletic director of Ector County school district in Odessa.

1. Mike Campbell, Texas 1967-1977

Campbell was officially the defensive coordinator for 10 years, but he was with coach Darrell Royal throughout his career, following Royal from Mississippi State to Texas. All told, he was on Royal’s staff from 1955 to 1976. Before 1967 Texas didn’t designate who the coordinators on the team were, so it’s likely his tenure as defensive coordinator started earlier than 1967. As the defensive coordinator at Texas he led the Longhorns to two national championships, multiple bowl wins and  developed multiple NFL draft picks. If Texas has a reputation of being a strong defense, a lot of that stems from Campbell’s years making that happen. When Campbell didn’t get the head coaching job once Royal retired, he did the same. It’s one of the biggest “controversies” in program history.