|Other Position:||Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers|
Joe Cauthen is in his fifth season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for Arkansas State.
Cauthen has 28 years coaching experience, including 22 at the collegiate level. He not only implemented an aggressive and attacking style in his first four seasons at A-State, but also transformed the Red Wolves into one of the most opportunistic defenses in the nation with a focus on creating turnovers.
Under Cauthen’s direction, the Red Wolves have ranked among the top 21 teams in the nation each of the last four seasons in defensive touchdowns with 19 total over that span. The 2015 campaign saw A-State’s defense record an FBS-high eight touchdowns, while also leading the country in interceptions with a school FBS-era-record 26.
Not only did A-State’s defense rank 21st in the country in defensive touchdowns in 2017, the Red Wolves’ also finished among the top teams in the country in tackles for loss (No. 6), 4th down conversion percentage defense (No. 9), sacks (No. 19), 3rd down conversion percentage defense (No. 21), fumbles recovered (No. 27), turnovers gained (No. 29), passes intercepted (No. 32), 1st downs defense (No. 32), rushing defense (No. 33), team passing efficiency defense (No. 40) and red zone defense (No. 42).
Arkansas State’s defense helped the team reach a bowl game, the Camellia Bowl, for a school-record seventh consecutive season and saw eight players named All-Sun Belt Conference, including linebacker Kyle Wilson, who went on to sign a free agent contract with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones finished his career in 2017 as the NCAA’s second all-time leader in career sacks, and he was tabbed the league’s Conference Player of the Year for the second consecutive season before going on to sign a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cauthen’s 2016 unit helped A-State collect a second consecutive Sun Belt Conference title while leading the nation in tackles for loss with 9.6 per game. Not far behind, A-State ranked No. 6 in sacks (3.31 per game).
That kind of production led to A-State placing two defensive ends on the First Team All-Sun Belt Conference squad, including Rolland-Jones. Just the second defensive player to ever earn the league’s highest honor, Rolland-Jones broke the school and Sun Belt Conference records for career sacks during the season. Fellow defensive end Chris Odom finished the year with 12.5 sacks and signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons.
Rolland-Jones and Odom were among nine defensive players named All-Sun Belt in 2016, helping the Red Wolves rank No. 4 in the nation in fourth down conversion percentage defense (.250), No. 8 in defensive touchdowns (4), No. 19 in scoring defense (21.5), No. 23 in pass efficiency defense (117.25), No. 24 in fumbles recovered (11) and No. 29 in total defense (362.8).
Cauthen’s defensive unit finished the 2015 season ranked second in the country in turnovers gained (34), 11th in fourth-down conversion percentage defense (.333), 19th in third-down conversion defense (.335), 41st in sacks (2.38 pg) and 44th in rushing defense (151.5 ypg). The Cauthen-led defense played a vital role in A-State’s undefeated run to a Sun Belt Conference championship and appearance in the New Orleans Bowl.
This was all one year after the Red Wolves ranked No. 14 in the nation in defensive touchdowns (4), No. 15 in passes intercepted (16), No. 17 in team sacks (2.85 per game), No. 21 in turnovers gained (28), No. 27 in third down percentage defense (.359), No. 28 in fumbles recovered (12), No. 36 in fourth down percentage defense (.435) and team tackles for loss (6.6 per game), No. 42 in red zone defense (.795), No. 44 in passing yards allowed (216.0 ypg) and No. 45 in team passing efficiency defense (122.26). Those results helped lead A-State to the GoDaddy Bowl for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year.
Cauthen’s aggressive style has led to a combined 146 sacks that are the program’s most over any four-year span since moving to FBS status in 1992. The Red Wolves also posted at least 86 tackles for loss each of the last four seasons, achieving the feat for the first time in school history.
Cauthen’s defense produced six All-Sun Belt Conference performers in 2014, including first team linebacker Qushaun Lee, and seven more in 2015. The Cauthen-coached Lee posted a team-high 110 tackles and career-best four interceptions during his senior season to conclude his career as the Sun Belt Conference’s second all-time leader in tackles. Among A-State’s 2015 all-league selections were linebackers Xavier Woodson-Luster and Khari Lain, who were the top two leading tacklers on the squad. The Red Wolves’ 2016 all-conference picks included linebackers Woodson-Luster and Wilson, who was named to the All-Newcomer Team.
Prior to A-State, Cauthen most recently spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee. Cauthen served as the Blue Raiders’ defensive line coach in 2012 and 2013 after working as the linebackers coach in 2011. He was also the special teams coordinator all three years he spent at MTSU.
The Blue Raiders put together back-to-back eight win seasons Cauthen’s last two years at the school and played in the Armed Forces Bowl in 2013. He tutored a pair of all-conference players during his time as defensive line coach, including Jimmy Staten in 2013 and Omar McLendon in 2012.
MTSU proved to be an opportunistic defense in 2013 with Cauthen a part of the coaching staff as the Blue Raiders ranked fifth in the nation in turnovers gained with 33, including 15 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries. MTSU also ranked 17th nationally in red zone defense (.755) and 19th nationally in passing defense (203.4 ypg). His defensive line also helped the team rack up 67 tackles for loss and 27 sacks.
In his first year guiding the defensive line, Cauthen molded a young group that showed marked improvement from 2011. McLendon earned all-conference honors while Kendall Dangerfield and Staten enjoyed career years.
Cauthen made his way to Middle Tennessee after spending the previous four seasons at Valdosta State as the Blazers defensive coordinator. In 2010, Cauthen helped lead Valdosta State to a Gulf South Conference Championship after his defense finished ranked 23rd nationally in total defense and 18th in scoring defense. His unit was led by All-American (both coaches and SIDs) and National Defensive Player of the Year Larry Dean. Dean, who had 122 tackles, became the first player in school history to earn the player of the year award.
Cauthen molded a solid group in 2009 despite losing seven starters off the 2008 squad and seeing two more suffer season-ending injuries over the course of the first three games. Under his direction, the Blazers still managed to register 68 TFLs, 18 sacks, and force 19 turnovers while giving up just 112.9 yards per game on the ground.
Cauthen’s defense was dominant during the 2008 season as it finished 31st nationally in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. The Blazers allowed opponents just 304.6 yards per game during his second season with the school while surrendering just 18.6 points per outing. On the rushing side, the Blazers only allowed 108.3 yards per game to rank 31st in the nation while opponents found throwing the ball even tougher as they were held to a 104.91 efficiency rating, a number that ranked VSU 20th nationally. In 2007, Cauthen directed a unit that finished 14th in the nation in scoring defense at 17.6 points per game as VSU won its second national title. Cauthen’s knowledge of the defensive side of the ball was no more evident than in the 2007 NCAA Championship game, where his scheme held Northwest Missouri State running back Xavier Omon, who had averaged 236 yards a game in three previous playoff contests, to just 63 yards on 27 carries, an average of 2.3 yards per carry.
Cauthen’s aggressive, ball-hawking defensive approach helped VSU lead the nation in passes intercepted with 27 in 2007 while finishing second in turnovers gained with 40. Additionally, Valdosta State was 25th in passing efficiency defense (105.9) and 33rd in rushing defense (120.9 yards per game).
Cauthen’s ability to teach the game of football helped several Blazers earn individual honors during his tenure. He had two players earn three All-America honors, five named all-region, and 13 make all-conference. Cauthen’s tutelage also helped Sherard Reynolds earn GSC All-Decade Team honors after the 2009 season, the only VSU defensive player to earn first team honors on that list.
Cauthen joined the Blazers after eight seasons with Texas A&M-Commerce, during which the Lions consistently ranked among the top defenses in the nation. A&M-Commerce led the Lone Star Conference and was ranked 23rd nationally in total defense in 2006 as the Lions compiled a 5-5 mark. Cauthen’s defense surrendered just 258.3 yards per game, including 95.3 on the ground and 163.0 through the air. The Lions allowed just 15.1 points per game, 19th-best nationally, and were 24th in rushing defense.
The Lions were equally as impressive in 2005 as they again led the Lone Star Conference in total defense (318.9 yards a game), rushing defense (127.4 yards per game) and scoring defense (18.3 points an outing). A&M-Commerce was 47th nationally in total defense and 42nd in rushing defense while finishing 22nd in scoring defense. Additionally, under Cauthen’s leadership, Lion linebacker J.D. Hearn led the nation in tackles in 2005 and earned eight national post-season awards.
During his seven seasons with the Lions, Cauthen coached six All-Americans, four Lone Star Conference linebackers of the year, three defensive lineman of the year, a defensive back of the year and 34 defensive players that earned All-Lone Star Conference at least once during their career.
Cauthen spent little time in establishing his mark on the Texas A&M-Commerce defense as in just his third year he directed a defense that ranked second in the league in total defense, first against the run, second against the pass and third in scoring defense. Two years later, his 2003 defense was fourth in the 15-team league and 41st nationally in total defense.
Cauthen joined the Lion staff in 1999 after two seasons at I-AA (now FCS) Stephen F. Austin. He began his tenure with SFA as a restricted earnings coach in 1997 before becoming full-time in 1998. He worked with the defensive line during his two seasons and aided the Lumberjacks to an 11-11 overall record. Cauthen’s line was instrumental in Stephen F. Austin finishing the 1997 season ranked 21st in the nation in the final national poll.
Prior to Stephen F. Austin, Cauthen spent a season as defensive line coach at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas. He also worked with the special teams unit at TVCC and served as the school’s strength and conditioning coach. He began his coaching career at Sherman High School in Sherman, Texas during the 1990 season and worked with the school for five seasons. In addition to teaching biology for the school, Cauthen worked with the freshman team his first year and as an assistant for the varsity squad from 1992 through 1995. Additionally, he served as an assistant for the school’s baseball, power lifting and basketball programs. Cauthen’s coaching was instrumental in leading both Trinity Valley and Sherman to post-season berths during his time with the schools.
Cauthen earned his Bachelor’s in Health and Kinesiology with a minor in Biology from Stephen F. Austin in 1990. He also obtained a Master’s in Sports Administration from the University of Texas-Tyler in 1997. Cauthen is married to the former Annittia Chapman and they share four children -- Brooklyn, Hayden, Dakota and Jackson.