Adding five coaches to a college football staff suggests major turnover and a transition period — especially if the head coach is in his first year.
But Southern interim coach Jason Rollins did not need name tags to complete his first staff.
“The continuity is there; it’s not only me knowing them, but guys on the staff know them, too,” Rollins said Thursday after the school announced the hires. “I’m not the only tie.”
Joining Rollins are offensive line coach/run game coordinator Ryan Pugh; defensive line coach Darren Drago; special teams coordinator/defensive ends coach Wilbert Gilmore; wide receivers coach L’Damian Washington; and defensive backs coach Blake Yorloff.
"We have hit the ground running and been working hard as Southern is the standard,” Rollins said in a news release. “I feel we have put together a great staff that can help our players maximize their entire collegiate experience and help develop champions on and off the field.”
The staff was completed in mid-June, and Rollins said the transition into summer workouts has been smooth with everyone on board coming off a disjointed year and an abbreviated spring season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continuity is what Southern athletic director Roman Banks sought when he and the search committee decided on Rollins, and it was extended in the staff additions.
“We have proven coaches, and that’s a testament to coach Rollins,” Banks said. “He’s been a few places and heavily around our state. The places he’s been and relationships he’s built speak to him being well-respected. We are only as good as our relationships, and he has a lot of that.”
Pugh, an All-American offensive lineman and four-year starter at Auburn, crossed paths with Rollins at UT-San Antonio with stops at LSU, Auburn, Cincinnati and BYU. Last year he was offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Troy where he was a Broyles Award nominee. The Trojans were 25th nationally in scoring offense (33.8 ppg) and 18th in total offense (456.3 ypg) per game.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge and knows the region,” Rollins said. “He can be both (tough guy and buddy). He’s a teacher, and played the position at a high level. He’s a guy the kids will gravitate to. They’ll play hard for him.”
Drago is another former UTSA staffer who has coordinator experience and is a Baton Rouge native, having played at Redemptorist. A Northwestern State graduate, he had two coaching stints at his alma mater and spent time as a defensive assistant to then-LSU linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto.
“We go way back,” Rollins said. “We worked together at Northwestern State and UTSA. He’s a really good teacher of the position and was a strong coordinator at Arkansas-Monticello and Henderson State.”
Gilmore steps into Rollins’ former role as special teams coordinator. He is a New Orleans native and Tulane graduate with experience from coast to coast. Last season he coached the defensive line for Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Alabama A&M, but spent several years in California before that, which may open a new recruiting area for the Jaguars.
“He wants to get us out there,” Rollins said. “The state is so big and there are so many Southern ties on the West Coast. He knows all those people because he was out there so long. He’s a high-energy guy. The players are going to love what he brings to the table.”
L’Damian Washington served as as director of player Development at Missouri after a sterling five-year career there as a wide receiver and offensive captain of the 2013 East Division champions. He caught 50 passes for 893 yards and 10 TDs that year and played for seven NFL teams before moving into coaching.
“Oh, man, we’re excited to have him,” Rollins said. “He brings so much to the table. He has a story. He’s 6-feet-4 and athletic, not only teaching how to do it but demonstrating. He’s a great communicator, and he’ll help us recruiting in north Louisiana.”
Yorloff was a graduate assistant who worked closely with Rollins on special teams and defensive backs. He is a Houston native and a 2019 McNeese State graduate, who will give the Jaguars a connection to a fertile recruiting area in southeast Texas.
“He’s extremely smart and a hard worker,” Rollins said. “He showed his worth. He knows this program inside and out.”