With national signing day rapidly approaching, VSU is set to finish the recruiting process without one of their key weapons, defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
Cauthen has been hired as the linebackers’ coach and Special Teams Coordinator at Middle Tennessee State University, a division I program that competes in the Sun Belt Conference.
Cauthen will join the MTSU staff along with Murray State assistant Buster Faulkner, who served one season under former VSU head coach Chris Hatcher.
“Joe has been a very successful defensive coordinator with some very strong defenses at Valdosta State,” Stockstill said about Cauthen. “Along with being a very good coach, he also brings to our program valuable recruiting connections. We are very excited to have him on our staff.”
Both Cauthen and Faulkner will look to help the Blue Raiders compete for a Sun Belt Conference title, after finishing the 2010 conference season with a 5-3 record, and a 6-7 overall record after falling to Miami (Ohio) in the Godaddy.com Bowl.
Cauthen, 46, spent four seasons at VSU, serving as defensive coordinator all four years.
In his final season with the Blazers, his defense bounced back from a struggling 2009 campaign as they finished 2010 ranked 23rd nationally in total defense and 18th in scoring defense allowing just over 17 points per game.
With an inconsistent offense at times, Cauthen’s 2010 defense stepped up to the challenge and led the famed red and black to a Gulf South Conference championship.
The Blazers defensive unit scored seven touchdowns and led the nation in touchdowns scored by interception returns.
In 2008, the Blazers finished 31st nationally in total defense under Cauthen and in 2007, when VSU won the division II national championship, Cauthen’s defense was 14th in scoring defense at 17.6 points per game.
Cauthen made his presence felt in the development of several All-Americans, including linebacker Larry Dean, who in 2010 became the all-time leading tackler in VSU history when he passed the mark of former Blazer and Atlanta Falcon great Jessie Tuggle.
Now with the departure of Cauthen, the Blazers enter a crucial stretch of the off-season without a defensive coordinator, but could find a quick replacement in secondary coach Seth Wallace or defensive line coach Earl Chambers, who has been on the VSU coaching staff since 2007.
VSU Head coach David Dean was unavailable for comment late Wednesday evening. National signing day is Feb. 2.
Information from the Middle Tennessee State athletic department contributed to this story.