TEMPE, Ariz.—Phil Bennett, one of the most experienced defensive coordinators in college football today, joins Head Coach Todd Graham’s coaching staff as defensive coordinator, Graham announced Wednesday.
Bennett brings nearly 40 years of coaching experience to the Tempe campus, including six seasons as the head coach at SMU (2002-2007) and eight stints as defensive coordinator at eight different schools. Throughout his career, Bennett has overseen the growth of 54 different players that have gone on to NFL careers.ASU’s appointment as defensive coordinator is his ninth.
“Phil Bennett is a 39-year coaching veteran who brings a wealth of defensive knowledge to our staff,” says Graham. “He’s been a defensive coordinator at eight schools, including Baylor, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, TCU, Texas A&M, LSU, Purdue and Iowa State. He was the head coach at SMU for six seasons, so he knows first-hand what it takes to run a program. With that amount of experience in conferences such as the SEC, the Big 12, the Big Ten and the Big East he has had to game plan to defend every offense imaginable. He has been associated with successful defenses everywhere he’s been. We are very fortunate to have him bring his level of experience to the Sun Devil program.”
“I’ve known Todd Graham for a long time and I love his passion for the game of football,” says Bennett. “It’s like any situation in that I think I can help get ASU back to championship football. I’ve watched them play and I know ASU is not far away. The program has great support from its administration and fan base. I’m very excited to begin this part of my life.”
From 2011 through 2016 Bennett directed the defense at Baylor that was a catalyst to the Bears 57 wins in that six-year span, including Big 12 titles in 2013 and 2014. Ten defensive players earned All-Big 12 honors for BU’s 2015 squad that finished 10-3 and Russell Athletic Bowl champions, led by first-team All-American Andrew Billings and NFL draftee Xavien Howard (Dolphins). Billings was named Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Baylor’s 2014 defense ranked among the top 10 nationally in turnover margin (seventh, 1.0/game), rushing yards-per-play (seventh, 3.15) and fourth-down conversions (fourth, .250) en route to a second straight Big 12 title. Led by NFL Draftee Bryce Hager (Rams), six Bears earned All-Big 12 honors and two were named Freshmen All-Americans.
The improved 2013 Baylor defense stepped up as a catalyst for the march to BU’s first Big 12 championship. The Bears led the nation in three-and-outs (6.38 per game) and finished ninth in yards allowed per-play (4.75). It also led the Big 12 in two other categories, lowest completion percentage (48.2 percent) and fourth down conversions (.250).
Bennett’s 2013 defense had seven players earn All-Big 12 honors, including All-American safety and NFL Draft pick Ahmad Dixon (Cowboys). Cornerback Demetri Goodson was also an NFL Draft selection (Packers). Bennett was named a finalist for 2013 Defensive Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.
Baylor’s 2012 defense, which featured five All-Big 12 honorees, played a huge role in BU winning five of its final six games. Over the final five regular-season games, Bennett’s defense averaged 2.6 takeaways per contest. In its final game, a dominating 49-26 Holiday Bowl win over No. 17 UCLA, Baylor allowed just 33 yards on 28 rushing attempts and held the Bruins’ offense to 1-of-17 on third-down conversions.
In his first season in Waco, Bennett’s 2011 defense produced seven All-Big 12 performers, including second-team nose tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste. The Bears finished 10-3 and won the 2011 Alamo Bowl en route to a No. 12 final ranking. During a six-game winning streak to end the season, Bennett’s defense accounted for 19 takeaways.
A native of Marshall, Texas, Bennett joined Baylor’s staff in January 2011, following three seasons as defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh. In his final game at Pitt, Bennett led the Panthers as interim head coach to a victory in the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl, a 27-10 win over Kentucky.
Pittsburgh finished 8-5 in 2010 and ranked eighth nationally in total defense under Bennett; 17th against the run and 22nd against the pass. Four members of Bennett’s defense earned 2010 All-Big East honors, including defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who was selected as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. It marked the third consecutive year a Panther was tabbed as the Big East’s top defender.
Pitt played in bowl games all three seasons during Bennett’s tenure (2010 BBVA Compass, 2009 Meineke Car Care and 2008 Brut Sun). The Panthers’ defense ranked 23rd nationally in 2009 (319.31 ypg) and 27th nationally in Bennett’s first season in 2008 (317.2 ypg).
In 2009, Pitt led the nation in sacks (3.62 spg, 47 total) and ranked 17th in rushing defense (106.31 ypg) and 19th in scoring defense (19.77 ppg). Six members of Pitt’s defense were named to the 2009 All-Big East Team, including the Co-Defensive Players of the Year in defensive end Greg Romeus and defensive tackle Mick Williams.
Bennett joined the Panthers after serving as head coach at SMU from 2002-07. While rebuilding the program at SMU, Bennett improved the Mustangs’ win total for three straight seasons, including his 2006 team that reached bowl eligibility and achieved the program’s highest win total in a decade. That squad also received the American Football Coaches Association’s (AFCA) 2006 Academic Achievement Award after SMU earned a 100-percent graduation rate for its freshman class of 2000-01.
Prior to SMU, Bennett was the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Kansas State for three years (1999-2001) under Bill Snyder. During his tenure, the Wildcats finished among the nation’s top five in total defense each season, including second in 1999 (235.0 ypg), fourth in 2000 (270.54) and third in 2001 (262.36).
Bennett’s secondary units were equally impressive, finishing in the top 10 in pass efficiency defense each year. The 1999 Wildcats led the entire country in pass efficiency defense with an impressive 65.7 rating. They also topped the nation in turnover margin (1.55), collecting 21 interceptions and 17 fumbles. Two of his standouts in the secondary, Dyshod Carter and Jerametrius Butler, became just the second pair of KSU teammates to record 10 or more career interceptions. Both went on to play in the NFL.
In 1998, Bennett served as secondary coach and co-recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma as he helped the Sooners finish sixth nationally in total defense. In 1997, he was the defensive coordinator at TCU and helped the Horned Frogs earn their highest defensive rankings in five years.
Bennett was the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M from 1995-96 under R.C. Slocum. American Football Quarterly named him its 1995 “Defensive Coordinator of the Year” after the Aggies ranked in the nation’s top 10 in every major defensive category, including total defense (third), scoring defense (third) and pass efficiency defense (second).
From 1991-94 Bennett coached at LSU, including his final three seasons as assistant head coach. In 1994 he was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. That season, LSU led the Southeastern Conference in every major defensive category and finished eighth nationally in total defense. Bennett’s positional focus was the outside linebackers his first three seasons and the secondary his final year in Baton Rouge.
Prior to LSU, Bennett held defensive coordinator posts at Purdue (1987-90) and Iowa State (1984-86). In 1983 he coached linebackers at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas and in 1982 he coached TCU’s tight ends and tackles. Bennett began his career at Texas A&M as a part-time defensive ends coach from 1979-80 before assuming a full-time position in 1981.
Bennett is a 1978 graduate of Texas A&M with a B.S. in education. He was an All-SWC defensive end for the Aggies, helping them earn invitations to the Sun, Bluebonnet and Liberty bowls during his career.
He and his wife Julie are the parents of four children, Sam (a football graduate assistant at ASU since 2016), Maddie, Katie (Baylor graduate and soccer letterwinner) and Megan.
Former Sun Devil defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Keith Patterson will continue to coach linebackers at ASU.
The hire is pending ASU Human Resources paperwork approval.
Bennett At A Glance
Alma Mater: Texas A&M, 1978
Hometown: Indio, California
Children: Sam, Maddie, Katie and Megan
2017-Present, Arizona State (Defensive Coordinator)
2011-16, Baylor (Defensive Coordinator)
2007-10, Pittsburgh (Defensive Coordinator)
2002-07, SMU (Head Coach)
1999-01, Kansas State (Defensive Coordinator)
1998, Oklahoma (Secondary/Co-Recruiting Coordinator)
1997, TCU (Defensive Coordinator/Secondary)
1995-96, Texas A&M (Defensive Coordinator)
1994, LSU (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator)
1992-93, LSU (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers)
1991, LSU (Outside Linebackers)
1987-90, Purdue (Defensive Coordinator)
1984-86, Iowa State (Defensive Coordinator)
1983, MacArthur High School (Linebackers)
1982, TCU (Tight Ends/Tackles)
1978-81, Texas A&M (Defensive Ends)
1975-78, Texas A&M
NFL Players Under Bennett
Dennis Gibson – Detroit Lions (Round 8, 1987)
Fred Strickland, Los Angeles Rams, (Round 2, 1988)
Cris Dishman, Houston Oilers, (Round 5, 1988)
Bill Hitchcock, Seattle Seahawks, (Round 8, 1990)
Steve Jackson, Houston Oilers, (Round 3, 1991)
Jeff Zgonina, Pittsburgh Steelers, (Round 7, 1993)
Marc Boutte, Los Angeles Rams (Round 3, 1992)
Rodney Young, New York Giants (Round 3, 1995)
Tory James, Denver Broncos (Round 2, 1996)
Gabe Northern, Buffalo Bills (Round 2, 1996)
Denard Walker, Tennessee Oilers (Round 3, 1997)
Chuck Wiley, Carolina Panthers (Round 3, 1998)
Ray Mickens, New York Jets (Round 3, 1996)
Reggie Brown, Detroit Lions (Round 1, 1996)
Brandon Mitchell, New England Patriots (Round 2, 1997)
Eddie Jasper, Philadelphia Eagles (Round 6, 1997)
Rich Coady, St. Louis Rams (Round 3, 1999)
Dat Nguyen, Dallas Cowboys (Round 3, 1999)
Donovan Greer, Atlanta Falcons (Undrafted)
Kieth Mitchell, New Orleans Saints (Undrafted)
Dennis Allen, Buffalo (Undrafted)
Kelly Greg, Cincinnati Bengals, (Round 6, 1999)
Roy Williams, Dallas Cowboys, (Round 1, pick 8, 2002)
Rocky Calmus, Tennessee Titans, (Round 3, 2002)
Cory Ivy, New England Patriots, (Undrafted)
Aaron Shoeble, Buffalo Bills (Round 2, 2001)
Mark Simoneau, Atlanta Falcons (Round 3, 2000)
Lamar Chapman, Browns (Round 5, 2000)
Darren Howard, New Orleans (Round 2, 2000)
Jerametrius Butler, St. Louis Rams (Round 5, 2001)
Dyshod Carter, Browns (Undrafted, 2001)
Mario Fatafehi, Arizona (Round 5, 2001)
Jon Mcgraw, NY Jets (Round 2, 2002)
Petey Faggins, Texans (Round 6, 2002)
Ben Leber, San Diego Chargers (Round 3, 2002)
Terence Newman, Cowboys (Round 1, pick 5, 2003)
Terry Pierce, Denver Broncos (Round 2, 2003)
Kevin Garrett – St. Louis Rams (Round 5, 2003)
Justin Rogers – New England Patriots (Round 6, 2007)
Emmanuel Sanders – Pittsburgh Steelers (Round 3, 2010)
Josh LeRibeus – Washington Redskins (Round 3, 2012)
Kelvin Beachum – Pittsburgh Steelers (Round 7, 2012)
Cole Beasley – Dallas Cowboys (Undrafted)
Bryan McCann – Dallas Cowboys (Undrafted)
Scott McKillop – San Francisco 49ers (Round 5, 2009)
Jabaal Sheard – Cleveland Browns (Round 2, 2011)
Greg Romeus – New Orleans Saints (Round 7, 2011)
Aaron Donald – St. Louis Rams (Round 1, Pick 13, 2014)
Aaron Berry – Detroit Lions (Undrafted)
Chas Alecxih III – Miami Dolphins (undrafted)
Demetri Goodson – Green Bay Packers (Round 6, 2014)
Bryce Hager – Los Angeles Rams (Round 7, 2015)
Xavien Howard – Miami Dolphins (Round 2, 2016)
Andrew Billings – Cincinnati Bengals (Round 4, 2016)
Chance Casey – Oakland Raiders (Undrafted)
2016, Cactus Bowl (Baylor)
2015, Russell Athletic Bowl (Baylor)
2015, Cotton Bowl Classic (Baylor)
2012, Holiday Bowl (Baylor)
2010, BBVA Compass Bowl (Pittsburgh)
2009, Meineke Car Care Bowl (Pittsburgh)
2008, Sun Bowl (Pittsburgh)
2001, Insight.com Bowl (Kansas State)
2001, Cotton Bowl (Kansas State)
1999, Holiday Bowl (Kansas State)
1995, Alamo Bowl (Texas A&M)
1981, Independence Bowl (Texas A&M)
1978, Hall of Fame Bowl (Texas A&M)
1977, Bluebonnet Bowl (player at Texas A&M)
1977, Sun Bowl (player at Texas A&M)
1975, Liberty Bowl (player at Texas A&M)