JONESBORO, Ark. (AStateRedWolves.com) — Arkansas State University alumnus, letterman and former assistant coach Steve Caldwell is returning to his alma mater as the Red Wolves' defensive line coach, A-State head football coach Bryan Harsin announced Friday.
Caldwell has been a part of two national championships, roamed the sidelines in 15 bowl games and brings over 30 years of coaching experience with him to Arkansas State, which he helped lead to the NCAA I-AA national championship game in 1986 as an assistant coach. Caldwell will actually begin his third stint as a member of the ASU coaching staff in 2013, also serving as the program's linebackers coach from 1985-89, assistant offensive line coach in 1980 and as a graduate assistant coach from 1978-79.
His previous coaching experience also includes stops at Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Nevada, Pacific and Northwest Mississippi Community College. He helped lead Tennessee to the NCAA Division I-A national championship in 1998 and Northwest Mississippi Community College to the NJCAA national title in 1982. Caldwell has tutored 13 players selected in the NFL draft, including eight taken in the first three rounds.
"We are excited to name Steve Caldwell as our defensive line coach and to welcome him back to his alma mater," said Harsin. "Obviously, it's always a great addition to your staff anytime you can get a coach the caliber of Steve Caldwell with his successful bowl, coaching and recruiting experience. He has a great history at our University and knows the state and region very well, so we look forward to what he'll bring to our program from that perspective as well."
Caldwell most recently spent the last three seasons as Arkansas' defensive ends coach and was promoted to special teams coordinator as well prior to the Razorbacks' appearance in the 2012 Cotton Bowl. Caldwell was a part of Arkansas' coaching staff that led the Razorback's to back-to-back 10 win seasons in 2010 and 2011 and a spot in the 2011 Sugar Bowl for the first BCS appearance in program history.
Arkansas' 2010 squad averaged 2.85 sacks and 7.31 tackles for loss per game to rank second in the Southeastern Conference and ninth in the nation in both categories. In fact, the Razorbacks ranked among the top 36 teams in the nation in sacks every year during Caldwell's tenure, including 25th in 2012.
Prior to Arkansas, Caldwell spent the 1995-2008 seasons as Tennessee's defensive ends coach. During his 14 seasons at Tennessee, the Vols appeared in 13 bowl games and ended the season ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation 10 times. The Volunteers' defense was ranked in the top four among league schools in total defense 10 times while he was at Tennessee, and their defensive unit led the SEC in fewest rushing yards allowed three times.
In 2008, the unit ranked first in the conference and tied for third nationally in total defense after allowing 263.5 yards per game. In 2005, Caldwell helped Spark the Vols' defense to the best rushing average allowed in the SEC (82.5), which ranked second nationally. Caldwell also gained accolades for his work on the recruiting front, helping Tennessee sign what many considered to be some of the nation's top recruiting classes on an annual basis.
Before moving to Tennessee, Caldwell coached briefly at Ole Miss between the 1994 and 1995 seasons following a one-year stop at Nevada. During his lone season at Nevada as co-defensive coordinator, he helped lead the Wolf Pack to a 9-2 record and the 1994 Big West Conference championship. He also served as co-defensive coordinator at Pacific from 1991-93.
Caldwell, who owns both a bachelor's and master's degree from Arkansas State University, began his coaching career in Jonesboro following a four-year playing career as defensive end and linebacker for A-State from 1974-77. During his time as a player, ASU compiled a 30-13 record that included an 11-0 mark in 1975.
The Thayer, Mo. native served as a graduate assistant coach in 1978 under former head coach Bill Davidson and again in 1979 during Larry Lacewell's first season as head coach. He then accepted a position as an assistant coach working with the offensive line in 1980 before moving on to Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he coached the offensive line from 1981-84.
He rejoined Lacewell's staff in 1985 as linebackers coach during an era of tremendous success for A-State. Caldwell was a part of ASU's coaching staff during its final two seasons (1985-86) as a member of the Southland Conference, helping lead it to back-to-back league titles and three consecutive trips to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs from 1985-87. A-State advanced to the quarterfinals each season, including the 1986 campaign when it finished 12-2-1 and played in the national championship game in Tacoma, Wash.
Caldwell's 1985 linebacking unit helped Arkansas State lead Division I-AA in total defense with an average of just 258.8 yards allowed per game. ASU compiled a combined 21-6-1 record during its final two years as a member of the SLC and a 39-22-2 record over the course of Caldwell's five years as linebackers coach. Caldwell worked as a graduate assistant coach at Tennessee in 1990 before he moved on to Pacific.