Friday, December 14, 2018

Once an LSU grad assistant, Mike Ekeler hired to coach KU football special teams

FILE — Former North Carolina linebackers coach Mike Ekeler yells to players during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. Les Miles hired Ekeler on Dec. 14, 2018, to be Kansas football's special teams coordinator. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)

FILE — Former North Carolina linebackers coach Mike Ekeler yells to players during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. Les Miles hired Ekeler on Dec. 14, 2018, to be Kansas football's special teams coordinator. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)


New Kansas football coach Les Miles sought out another old LSU connection with his latest hire.

Miles announced Friday the addition of Mike Ekeler, who will serves as special teams coordinator on the KU football staff.

Once a graduate assistant for Miles at LSU, Ekeler joins KU defensive backs coach Chevis Jackson, once an All-SEC cornerback with the Tigers, as KU staffers who played a part in LSU’s 2007 national championship season with Miles.

“Mike Ekeler is one of the brightest coaches in the country and we couldn't be more excited to add a coach of his caliber to our staff," Miles stated in a release. "The success that Mike has had throughout his career leading the special teams units at Nebraska and Georgia, in addition to his experience as a defensive coordinator at Indiana and North Texas, will serve us well as we build something special here at Kansas. Mike's energy is contagious, and he has proven himself to be a coach who builds relationships with student-athletes and gets the best out of them on and off the field."

A special teams standout and linebacker at Kansas State during his playing days, Ekeler worked the past two seasons at North Carolina, where he coached linebackers on Larry Fedora’s staff before UNC made a regime change and brought in Mack Brown.

According to USA Today’s list of FBS assistant salaries, Ekeler made $325,000 at UNC in 2018.

Per documents obtained by the Lawrence Journal-World, Ekeler signed a three-year term sheet with Kansas Athletics, and KU has an option on the third year. Ekeler is set to make $325,000 between his base salary and “personal services” payments in each of the two guaranteed years of the deal. Should KU exercise its option for the 2021 season, Ekeler will make $350,000 in the final year of the deal.

During David Beaty’s final season as head coach at Kansas, Kenny Perry served as special teams coordinator. Perry’s deal with KU expires in February.

Thus far, Miles has hired Ekeler, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, offensive line coach Luke Meadows, wide receivers coach Emmett Jones, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, defensive line coach Kwahn Drake and defensive backs coach Jackson — filling seven of the 10 allotted slots for full-time assistants.

Though KU has yet to announce anything about the status of any assistants who worked for Beaty and remain under contract, New Orleans native Tony Hull, running backs coach and associate head coach under Beaty, has actively recruited for KU since Miles took over.

Ekeler’s two seasons in Chapel Hill, N.C., were preceded by a stop at North Texas, where he was the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator in 2016.

From 2014-15 Ekeler was the inside linebackers coach at Georgia, where he worked with NFL draft picks Leonard Floyd (first round), Ramik Wilson (fourth round) and Amarlo Herrera (sixth round). Ekeler also worked with the special teams return units at UGA and the Bulldogs returned six touchdowns during his two seasons with the program.

Ekeler coached linebackers at USC in 2013, after two years as the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at Indiana from 2011-12.

A David City, Neb., native, Ekeler also coached linebackers at Nebraska from 2008-10, on Bo Pelini’s staff. With the Cornhuskers, Ekeler coached NFL draft picks Lavonte David (a 2010 and 2011 All-American first-teamer), Phillip Dillard, Cody Glenn, Eric Martin and Will Compton. David became an All-Pro linebacker with Tampa Bay.

Ekeler broke into the coaching profession as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma from 2003-04, and then worked as a grad assistant on Miles’ LSU staff from 2005-07.

As a college football player at KU’s rival, K-State, Ekeler played for Bill Snyder from 1991-94, serving as a team captain as a senior. “George Michael Sports Machine” named Ekeler the Special Teams Player of the Year in 1994.

Ekeler earned a bachelor's degree in social sciences from Kansas State in 1995. He and his wife, Barbie, have a son, J.J., and three daughters: Cameryn, Abigail and Bella.


Kevin Robert Fest 1 year, 3 months ago

Played locally at Kst, cant hurt in recruiting.

Jack Hoff 1 year, 3 months ago

One area KU badly needs improvement is special teams!! Kicking and punting have improved but the return game, especially on punt returns has been atrocious. Liam Jones should be a nice replacement for Rui. But we need to start being able to flip field position occasionally on punts and kickoffs. Hopefully this guy is a good find. Special teams is such a big piece to the puzzle that is often neglected.

Kevin Robert Fest 1 year, 3 months ago

Alot of the preferred walkonns could start out on special teams, so this might be a win-win.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 3 months ago

This sounds like a quality hire.

One of the CBs that I think is making/made a recent campus visit had as many returns in his video as anything else.

This leaves RB, LB, and one more coach?

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 3 months ago

I know as a Kansas Football Fan I should be hesitant to be excited, but these hires make a lot of sense. Lots of recruiters and lots of coaches that have been successful and with major programs. I'm getting very optimistic.

Thanks Jeff Long for investing in our future football program (and all the donors who are making this happen)!

Dane Pratt 1 year, 3 months ago

If Les has any interest in retaining Clint Bowen, this could have been the job.

Brett McCabe 1 year, 3 months ago

Dane: I’m hoping he’s retained as a defensive analyst. Seems like he could help a ton in getting the new staff up to speed on Big 12 offenses. That bit of continuity would be a great bridge from last year to next year.

Doug Longstaff 1 year, 3 months ago

This is one of the things Long identified as a deficiency, all the "non coaching" coaches. Everyone can have 10 official assistants on the field. But the big time programs have at least another "analyst" or "quality control" coach for every one of the official coaching jobs.

Some of our old assistants have contracts that we probably can't afford to just payout with no return. Analyst or quality control jobs might be places they can work. They have incentive to do a good job--they are auditioning for their next positions.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 3 months ago

I had some concerns about defections and thought Clint would be able to stem the tide but I haven't heard of anyone leaving the program since Beatty's departure. And yes he could be helpful in the transition since no one on the new staff is familiar with the Big 12.

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 3 months ago

I am not seeing the great spending everyone refers to in the salaries of these assistants. Now, I do look forward to $$ being spent for analysts to assist these guys as Long indicated. I do believe when all those people are on board the total salaries will be more than before but the salaries of these assistants are in many cases less than we were paying or at least less than our competitors are paying.

Dale Rogers 1 year, 3 months ago

Here is a quote from Mike Ekeler when he was interviewed shortly after leaving Georgia 2 or 3 years ago:

“It’s not about recruiting, it’s about evaluating. That’s one of the things I learned from Ed Orgeron. It doesn’t matter if he’s a 2-star or a 5-star, it’s how you evaluate it and what you think you can do with him. That’s what I learned from him. Again, you recruit them. But there’s only about five players in the country that are totally different than everybody else. Everybody else can fall into a similar category. At that point it’s about developing and teaching. It’s about evaluating and developing your talent. And that’s a fact.”

Brett McCabe 1 year, 3 months ago

Dale coming through again with the great added info......:)

Dirk Medema 1 year, 3 months ago

Jim - The salaries are on par with what they were making before but I think all are more than what we had been paying.

Definitely agree that the real difference needs to be in getting each of them an analyst for support.

ST is where the biggest impact will be in improving the depth of the roster. I think it was the year after the OB that we went from great to bad, later in the year, or maybe just for the bowl game they switched back to using starters and 2deeps. Huge improvement. I'm not so sure that it was as much a matter of coaching problems with Perry as it was a matter of roster limitations.

Matt Gauntt 1 year, 3 months ago

As others have said, this is pretty exciting being down for as long as we have.

I don't follow college football as much as some (60 hour work weeks), but it certainly appears as though the assistant coaches and coordinators that have been brought in would be welcomed at programs that are traditionally in the top 25.

This is fun. I know we aren't going to go from 3-9 to 9-3 in a year. We might not even go 6-6 next year (tough schedule: Boston College in Boston for non-conference), but it's clear that we will improve. Doable games might be Baylor at home, KSU at home, Texas Tech at home and OKST away. Texas at Texas, OK at home, ISU away and WV at home will be tough.

Coach is putting all the pieces in place for us to start climbing the standings. Exciting

Joe Ross 1 year, 3 months ago

Solid hire. HCLM is putting together a great coaching staff. That said, you can cut the suspense around the status of Tony Hull with a knife.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 3 months ago

Started wondering about him being hired as a ST coordinator and not LB coach. Could it be that Miller (or Bowen?) would be retained as a LB coach?

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