Chris Thurmond
Chris  Thurmond

Defensive Coordinator/Cornerbacks

Fifth Year:
Tulsa - 1975


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Chris Thurmond enters his fourth season as Rice's Defensive Coordinator and his fifth year overall coaching the Owls' cornerbacks.

In an era of astronomical passing numbers that have sent defensive averages spiraling, Thurmond's defenses have been a major factor in the Owls surge to the 2013 Conference USA Championship, three consecutive bowl berths for the first time in school history as well as the best win totals in school history over the past three seasons.

After a stretch of eight seasons when opponents averaged 465 yards per game, Rice has fashioned back-to-back years in which it has held opponents under 400 yards per game. The Owls allowed 385.5 in 2014 after finishing with 364.1 in 2013 for an average of 375 yards per game. They finished 30th in the country in total defense in 2013, their highest finish since 1994 when they finished 25th. Thurmond They have held 11 opponents to under 20 points over the past two years after holding just 13 teams to that figure in the previous combined nine years. Their average of 24.2 points per game was a drop of nearly nine from 2011 and the best by the Owls since 1991 (23.7). The 2015 Owls were one of the nation's best in 4th down defense, holding opponents to a 25% success rate (5/20) and ranked 21st by holding opposing passers to a quarterback rating of 148.7.

This past spring, Bryce Callahan was signed by the Chicago Bears, joining 2014 draftee Phillip Gaines (3rd round/ Kansas City) as the latest in a long line of corners who have elevated their play under his direction. Thurmond saw Gaines finish second in the country in pass breakups as a junior and enter his senior year as the preseason defensive player of the year in the conference.

Thurmond originally joined the staff on Feb. 22, 2011, after spending the previous three seasons at Kentucky. In his first year with the Owls, Thurmond guided his younger corners through the challenge of early-than-expected playing time due to injuries to the veterans. At the end of the season, Callahan had earned Freshman All-America and Conference USA All Freshman honors after picking off six passes to lead the nation and defending 15 passes.

In his three seasons at Kentucky, the Wildcats advanced to bowl games each season -Liberty Bowl (2008), Music City Bowl (2009) and the BBVA CompassBowl (2010).

Thurmond had student-athletes go on to sign National Football League contracts two straight seasons. Kentucky cornerback Trevard Lindley earned second-team All-America honors in 2008 and established a UK career record for pass breakups. Despite being sidelined for much of his senior season in 2009, Lindley repeated All-SEC honors in 2009 and was drafted by the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

Defensive backs coached or recruited by Thurmond have been a part of three Super Bowl championship teams. Both Anthony Madison (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Roman Harper (New Orleans Saints), who Thurmond recruited to the University of Alabama, were members of Super Bowl XLIII and XLIV championship teams in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Thurmond also coached Green Bay Packer Charlie Peprah, who was part of the Super Bowl XLV championship team in 2011.

Between stints at Alabama (2001-02) and Kentucky (2008-10), Thurmond coached five seasons in the state of Texas. Highlighted by a trip to the Cotton Bowl following the 2004 season, he was the cornerbacks coach at Texas A&M from 2003-05.

He coached cornerbacks and was the recruiting coordinator for two seasons at the University of Houston (2006-07). He helped the Cougars advance to the 2006 Liberty Bowl and in 2007 was the interim head coach for UH when the team played in the Texas Bowl after head coach Art Briles became the coach at Baylor.

While at Houston, he coached cornerback Willie Gaston who was a second-team All-Conference USA selection and went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens.

During his two seasons coaching the cornerbacks at Alabama, the Crimson Tide won the 2001 Independence Bowl. The 2002 Alabama team led the SEC and ranked third nationally in total defense, posting the best record in the SEC Western Division. Eight Alabama players he either coached or recruited signed National Football League contracts.

Thurmond has also worked at Tulsa (1983-91, 1994), East Carolina (1992-93), Texas Christian (1995, 1998-2000) and Oklahoma (1996-97), coaching the cornerbacks or entire secondary unit during each of the stints.

During his second term at TCU, Thurmond helped guide the Horned Frogs to the 2000 Western Athletic Conference co-championship. TCU led the nation in scoring defense and total defense while ranking third in pass efficiency defense.

While at Tulsa in 1991, the Golden Hurricane ranked among the nation's leaders in pass defense efficiency. Tulsa capped the season with a win in the Freedom Bowl.

Thurmond has coached in 15 bowl games during his career and has coached or recruited numerous athletes who have gone on to play in the NFL including Gaines, Madison, Harper, Peprah, Lindley and Mark Anderson (Houston Texans).

A native of Sand Springs, Okla., Thurmond graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1975. He spent seven years as a high school coach in Oklahoma including head coach at his alma mater, Charles Page High School, before entering the college ranks. In 2015 he was inducted into Sand Springs Athletic Hall of Fame.

Thurmond's wife Paula and daughter Paige live in Little Rock, Ark.


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