Murfreesboro, TN (BlueRaiders.com) - MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill did not have to travel far to find his next two coordinators.
In fact, just a few steps down the hallway did the job.
Stockstill has promoted current assistant coaches Willie Simmons and Steve Ellis to offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively.
"Both Steve and Willie have everything I am looking for in the coordinator positions," Stockstill said. "They possess great knowledge of what we want to run at Middle Tennessee, are highly organized, and coach with unmatched passion and enthusiasm. Our players will feed off their energy level."
Simmons replaces Mike Schultz, who took the offensive coordinator job at Texas State after one season at MTSU. Ellis replaces Randall McCray, who was fired after one season with the Blue Raiders.
Simmons, MTSU's running backs coach, and Ellis, cornerbacks coach, will continue to coach their current positions in addition to coordinator duties. MTSU will hire a quarterbacks coach and linebackers coach to complete the staff.
The dual promotions point to a youth movement on the coaching staff, as both coordinators are only 30 years old. Tuesday will be Ellis' 31st birthday.
However, neither promotion comes as a big surprise. During the search for both coordinators, Stockstill said he wanted to retain the philosophy and chemistry of his remaining staff. Promoting two bright up-and-coming coaches did just that.
Simmons has been MTSU's running backs coach for four seasons and was promoted to passing game coordinator last year. Ellis, a former Nicholls State defensive coordinator, is MTSU's two-year cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator.
Simmons, a native of Quincy, Fla., was a quarterback at Clemson and The Citadel. He played under Stockstill at Clemson and later served as a graduate assistant there, and he earned All-Southern Conference honors at The Citadel.
Simmons' running backs helped MTSU rank 27th nationally in rushing offense in 2009 and 31st in 2010.
"Personally, I am excited about the opportunity for me as a young coach in the profession," Simmons said. "It says a lot about Rick Stockstill and his belief in me and I am grateful for the chance."
Like Simmons, Ellis is an energetic, spirited assistant. He had success as a defensive coordinator at Nicholls State, his alma mater, from 2006-08. He has coached three All-Sun Belt cornerbacks in two seasons at MTSU (Alex Suber, Rod Issac, Marcus Udell). As special teams coordinator, Ellis' squads produced all-conference players at kicker, punter and returner this season.
Ellis, a native of Stringer, Miss., was thought to be a candidate for the MTSU defensive coordinator spot a year ago after Manny Diaz left for Mississippi State. But Ellis interviewed for positions at Georgia Tech and Memphis during that search.
"I am very excited about the opportunity (as defensive coordinator) and can't wait to get started," Ellis said. "We will play with a lot of confidence and a sense of urgency. Our mentality will be when the ball is kicked, here we come."