Written by Gabe Burns, Sports Editor
Kerwin Bell continues to remake VSU’s coaching staff, and with that comes an injection of orange and blue.
James Rowe has been added as defensive coordinator. Justin Hinds will be the defensive line coach. Both men spent last season as graduate assistants on Jim McElwain’s staff at the University of Florida.
“I don’t know if Valdosta State is going to rename themselves the Gators or what,” said McElwain at a press conference on Tuesday.
Bell, a former Florida quarterback, has deep ties to the state. The latest additions to his new staff are prime examples of those associations at work.
2016 is a reunion for Bell and Rowe. Rowe was previously Bell’s defensive coordinator at Jacksonville University for four years. Bell recently acknowledged that Rowe’s football expertise has grown because of his time learning under current Gators defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and current Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.
In high school, Rowe was a quarterback for coach Gerald Odom, another former Gator. His young success in Cocoa, Florida brought with it an eventual opportunity to play baseball at the University of Southern Florida. Rowe broke into coaching football after his USF baseball career concluded.
Rowe’s connections in Cocoa (roughly an hour east of Orlando) should prove valuable to the Blazers’ recruiting efforts in the Sunshine State. Just as important is that Bell is assembling a staff that has faced competition in what many consider the toughest conference in America, the SEC.
Hinds worked at Wagner College and Mississippi State before following Collins to UF. While Rowe will handle the play-calling and defensive backs in a dual role, Hinds will focus exclusively on the trenches.
In addition to the UF transplants, VSU has hired Danny Verpeale from Army to head the linebacker core. Another former member of Bell’s JU staff, Jake Grande, will join the Blazers as special teams coach. Grande also crossed paths with Bell when he was in charge of the Arena League’s Jacksonville Sharks’ defense.
Former VSU defensive coordinator Chad Williams is moving on to West Alabama. Rowe will be the fourth fresh face in as many years to lead the Black Swarm. Ex-quarterbacks coach Justin Roper will be the offensive coordinator at Slippery Rock. Defensive line coach Dwight Smith and secondary coach J.R. Dorman are also moving on after two and one seasons, respectively.