Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin announced Wednesday the hiring of Jake Schoonover as special teams coordinator.
Schoonover, who spent last season at Arkansas State as special teams coordinator and safeties coach, has 13 years of experience coaching at the collegiate level.
“We are excited to add Coach Schoonover’s special teams expertise to our staff,” Kiffin said. “He has a great track record of success in both recruiting and special teams, and we look forward to elevating that facet of our program.”
In Schoonover’s one season with the Red Wolves, he helped A-State rank No. 35 nationally in kickoff returns (21.7 yards per return) and No. 34 in kickoff return defense (18.04 yards per return). He also mentored true freshman kicker Dominic Zvada. A Lou Groza Award semifinalist and freshman All-American, Zvada broke the Sun Belt Conference single-season record by a true freshman for points by kicking in a season with 81, going 17-for-18 in field goal attempts in 2022.
Schoonover joined Arkansas State after spending the 2021 season at Kansas as the Jayhawks’ special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach.
Under Schoonover’s direction, Kansas ranked second in the nation in kickoff return defense (12.7 ypr), 11th in punt returns (13.5 ypr) and 38th in kickoff returns (23.0 ypr). He helped the Jayhawks kickoff unit improve their national ranking from 127th in 2020 to second in 2021, while their ranking in punt returns led the Big 12 Conference and jumped from 128th to 11th during Schoonover’s lone season with the program.
Immediately prior to his time at Kansas, Schoonover spent three seasons at Bowling Green. He joined the staff in 2018 as linebackers coach, before adding special teams responsibilities one season later. He also coached safeties during his time with the Falcons.
In 2020, Bowling Green was second in the MAC in kickoff returns and fourth in punt returns. The Falcons also ranked fifth in field goal percent- age and were perfect on extra-point attempts. During the 2019 campaign, Bowling Green’s special teams unit blocked a punt, blocked a field goal and forced two muffed kicks in the same game, topping rival Toledo 20-7.
Also in 2020, linebacker Darren Anders finished fifth in the MAC in tackles per game at 11.0 and was named Academic All-MAC.
Prior to his time at Bowling Green, Schoonover spent seven seasons at Illinois State. He began his career with the Redbirds as the linebackers coach in 2011, before adding the title of special teams coordinator in 2013.
Schoonover mentored some of the top linebackers in the history of the Illinois State program during his time there, including middle linebacker Pat Meehan, who earned back-to-back first-team all-conference honors.
In his role as special teams coordinator, Schoonover worked with kicker Nick Aussieker, who finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 310 points. In 2014, punter CJ Laros earned second-team all-conference honors and averaged 40.6 yards per punt, which went down as the third-best single-season mark in school history.
The Redbirds also had a prolific return game under Schoonover, similar to Bowling Green. In his first year, Illinois State returned both a punt and a kickoff in the same season for the first time in more than five years. Punt re- turner Tevin Allen also earned postseason honors for the Redbirds, averaging a league-best 27.9 yards per return.
Schooonver spent the 2010 season at Illinois Wesleyan, where he coached defensive backs and assisted with special teams duties. In 2009, Schoonover was an assistant at Illinois State, working with the program’s offensive line and wide receivers.
He played collegiately at Missouri Western State, where he started 30 games at linebacker and was a team captain. He played two seasons for the arena league Peoria Pirates as a linebacker and wide receiver.
Schoonover earned a degree in physical education from Missouri Western in 2008 and received a master’s degree in sports management with a concentration in administration in 2010 from American Public University. Schoonover and his wife, Katherine, have one son, Jackson, and one daughter, Kenley.