Action photos from Rice's 33-14 win over Air Force.
Chris Thurmond enters his third season as Rice's Defensive Coordinator and his fourth year overall coaching the Owls' cornerbacks.
Thurmond's defenses have been a major factor in the Owls surge to the 2013 Conference-USA Championship and consecutive bowl berths for only the second time in school history.
In an era of astronomical passing numbers, Thurmond's defense has trimmed nearly 80 yards off its average allowed since 2011 and was ranked 18th in the nation allowing only 202.7 in 2013. The Owls have cut opponents' total offense by nearly 100 yards per game since 2011, from 462.1 in the year before Thurmond took over, to 364.1 in 2013, their lowest mark since 2004 when they held opponents to 338.6 in 1999 as a member of the WAC. They held six opponents to under 20 points and 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 Owls have sharpened their knack for creating turnovers during the last two years and finished 15th in nation with 12 fumble recoveries in 2013.
This past spring, Thurmond saw Phillip Gaines selected in the third round of the NFL Draft by Kansas City, the latest in a long line of corners who have elevated their play under his direction. While at Rice, 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. He enters 2014 with the nation's third ranked active interception leader in Bryce Callahan to lead his cornerback lineup.
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, redshirt freshman Bryce 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).
Prior to joining the Rice staff, 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 across town 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
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. In addition to Gaines, Madison, Harper, Peprah and Lindley, the list of current NFL players who were coached or recruited by Thurmond includes Houston Texans defensive end Mark Anderson.
A native of San 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.
Thurmond's wife Paula and daughter Paige live in Little Rock, Arkansas.