After their annual meeting, Army and Navy both lost coaches on the defensive side of the ball to Power 5 schools.
North Carolina announced Sunday that it had hired Black Knights’ defensive coordinator Jay Bateman to the same position. Bateman will work alongside Tommy Thigpen as co-defensive coordinator, joining the staff of 67-year-old Mack Brown, who returns to Chapel Hill after last coaching there in 1997.
Navy loses Sione Po’uha, its defensive line coach. Po’uha, who played eight years in the NFL for the New York Jets, will return to his alma mater, Utah, to coach defensive tackles. He replaces Gary Anderson, who left Utah to be the head coach at Utah State.
Po’uha will join Utah’s staff right away and help prepare the Utes for a Dec. 31 match-up in the Holiday Bowl vs. Northwestern.
Bateman will have a full off-season until he makes his debut with the Tar Heels, as UNC finished 2-9 in Larry Fedora’s final season at the helm and widely missed the mark for making a bowl game. It’s unclear if Bateman will join the Black Knights for their final game this season, in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22 against Houston.
“Right now, I don’t anticipate him being a part of it,” Army head coach Jeff Monken told the Times Herald-Record. “We certainly would welcome him coming back and being a part of the last game for this season.”
Monken added that he has selected an interim defensive coordinator for the game, should Bateman decide not to coach against Houston.
Bateman has been Army’s defensive coordinator since 2014 and has twice been nominated for the Broyles Award, given to the top assistant in college football. He has also coached at Ball State, Elon, Lehigh, Richmond, Hampden-Sydney College and Siena, where he was head coach from 2000 to 2003.
His fifth season at Army might have been his best. Bateman’s defense was 12th in FBS against the rush, allowing just 11 touchdowns and 108.2 yards per-game, and was third defending third downs, allowing opponents to convert just 26.7 percent of the time. Bateman’s defense was also 20th in passing yards allowed, and the Black Knights are still the only team to hold Heisman winner Kyler Murray and No. 4 Oklahoma to under 30 points.
Army beat Navy and Air Force, is 10-2 overall and ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll. Bateman’s defense is a big reason why.
But Bateman’s time at Army included a bit of controversy as he was connected to the “Wakey Leaks” scandal in 2016. Wake Forest football radio announcer Tommy Elrod gave confidential game-plan information to some of its opponents. Army was one of those opponents and Bateman was fined $25,000 and suspended for two weeks for accepting non-public information from Elrod.
“(Bateman) is a great teacher of the game, a brilliant defensive play caller, and an excellent recruiter with many ties to North Carolina and this region, including strong relationships with North Carolina high school coaches,” Brown said in a statement released by UNC.
Po’uha leaves Navy after being on the staff for just one year. He joined Navy last off-season to replace Shaun Nua, who left to be the defensive line coach at Arizona. Po’uha’s departure means that Navy’s rising juniors and seniors on the defensive line will have their third coach in three seasons.
“I am so appreciative of (Utah head coach Kyle) Whittingham for giving me the opportunity to come back and coach at my alma mater,” Po’uha said in a statement to the Capital Gazette. “It was a dream of mine and I am excited about working with the players and coaches here.”
Before arriving at Navy, Po’Uha was a student assistant at Utah in 2015 and 2016, and was then the Utes director of football player development in 2017. Po’uha was announced as Utah’s new defensive line coach on Monday, just two days after Navy’s loss to Army. He told the Salt Lake Tribune that he was on his way to Hawaii for a recruiting trip before Whittingham called him and offered him the job.
After a 3-10 season where its defense didn’t rank in the top 50 of FBS in stopping offenses on third downs, passing yards allowed and rushing defense, Navy has improvements to make on that side of the ball.