Athletics, Campus Events

CSU names Autry Denson Jr. as head football coach

By CSU Media | January 14, 2019
Autry Denson

Charleston Southern Athletic Director Jeff Barber announced Autry Denson Jr. has been named the new head football coach on Monday afternoon.

Denson becomes the fifth CSU head football coach in program history. He comes to the Buccaneers after coaching stops at Notre Dame, South Florida, Miami (Ohio), and Bethune-Cookman. 

PRESS CONFERENCE: Charleston Southern University will hold a press conference on Wednesday, January 16, at 10 a.m., to introduce new head football coach Autry Denson. The press conference will be held in the Athletic Performance Center Meeting Room and is open to the public. The conference will also be streamed live via the Big South Network.

“This is a great day for Buccaneer football,” Barber said. “Autry Denson is a special person in many ways and stands out as both a recruiter and a coach.  More importantly, he cares about his players as people first and will, therefore, have great influence on their hearts and lives and will develop each of them into outstanding young men.” 

Denson comes to the Buccaneers after spending the last four seasons as the running backs coach at Notre
Dame after taking on the role in 2015. His success in the role helped guide the Fighting Irish to the FBS College Football Playoffs and a berth at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Denson is looking forward to the next step of his coaching career and is thankful for the opportunity to take the after much prayer and reflection with family, former teammates, and mentors.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank God because this is His plan being played out on His timing,” Denson commented. “My family and I have always trusted God for promotion. I want to thank Dr. Costin for his vote of confidence and support, as well as our athletic director Jeff Barber.”

Denson, for his part, was clear on what led him to pursue the position at Charleston Southern.

“I was drawn to Charleston Southern by the vision of this great Christian university of integrating faith in learning, leading, and serving,” he said. “As a result, I knew this could be a place where I could build and lead a program to honor Christ by operating with character, integrity, transparency, accountability, and community.”

The Fighting Irish combined for 2,695 rushing yards paced by senior running back Dexter Williams’ team-high 995 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Overall, the rushing attack averaged 4.4 yards per carry.

Autry Denson at Notre Dame

2017 was another successful rushing year for the Fighting Irish paced by Josh Adams’ 1,430 rushing yards, while Brandon Wimbush led the team with 14 touchdown carries. UND recorded 3,503 rushing yards on the season and was seventh in FBS in rushing offense with 269.3 yards per game.

Denson coached a Notre Dame running back group in 2016 that rushed for 10 TDs and 1,471 yards on 275 carries — good for a 5.35 yards per carry average. Helped Josh Adams lead the Irish in rushing in 2016 with 933 yards on 158 carries and five TDs. Adams is the fastest Notre Dame running back to reach 1,000 career rushing yards (16th career game) since Darius Walker accomplished the feat in his 14th Irish game in 2005. Adams closed the 2016 campaign with his eighth career 100-yard rushing game and a career-best 180 yards at rival Southern California.

In his first season with the Fighting Irish, Denson coached a Notre Dame running back group in 2015 that rushed for 18 TDs and 1,967 yards on 299 carries — good for a 6.58 yards per carry average. He mentored C.J. Prosise in 2015 — who rushed for 1,032 yards (18th 1,000-yard rushing season in school history) in his first season at the position. Prosise eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier faster than any Irish running back in school history with the exception of All-American Reggie Brooks in 1992 and was drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

He also tutored Adams — who rushed for 835 yards in 2015 — best in freshmen school history. Adams ran for 168 yards at Stanford — topping the school’s 40-year-old single-game freshman record. The Irish ran for a season-high 457 yards vs. UMass  — the best rushing total by Notre Dame in 23 years. Notre Dame registered 299 yards on the ground vs. Stanford — the most by an opponent in Cardinal head coach David Shaw’s five seasons (35 carries for an 8.5 per-carry average against nation’s No. 22 rush defense).

The Irish averaged 207.6 rushing yards per game in 2015, including six games with 200+ yards (Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, UMass, USC, and Stanford). Notre Dame had only two 90+-yard rushes in the first 126 seasons of Irish football, yet matched that total in 2015 with a pair of 90+-yard TD runs (Adams 98, Prosise 91).

Denson returned to his alma mater following a brief stint as the running backs coach at the University of South Florida. He also spent one season as the running backs coach at Miami University (2014)

His first collegiate coaching stop came as the running backs coach at Bethune-Cookman University for three years (2011-13). He was a key member of a coaching staff that helped the Wildcats to a 10-3 record and Football Championship Series playoff berth in 2013.

Denson guided a Bethune-Cookman running back group that registered 2,179 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns, and a 5.4 yards-per-carry average. He mentored Isidore Jackson (828 rushing yards, 5.6 yards per carry, eight rushing TDs), Cary White (485, 5.1, eight) and Anthony Jordan (410, 5.0, five) — each of whom rushed for at least 400 yards, averaged over 5.0 yards per carry and recorded at least five rushing TDs in 2013

In 2012, he coached a 1,000-yard rusher as Jackson ran for 1,069 yards, becoming the first Wildcat to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing since 1997 and the first Bethune-Cookman player to finish the season ranked either first or second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in rushing. The back group recorded 2,928 yards, collected 28 of the team’s 43 touchdowns and saw four different players run for more than 400 yards on the year. He was also part of an offensive coaching staff in 2012 that helped Bethune-Cookman lead the MEAC and rank 10th nationally in rushing (244.4 yards per game).

His inaugural season with the Wildcats saw the group post 2,058 rushing yards and finished fifth nationally in rushing (259.3 yards per game)

He also served as the head coach for one season at Pope John Paul II High School in Boca Raton, Florida (2010)

Denson worked with the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship, where he reunited with former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy, who drafted him for the Buccaneers in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft.

He also formed a youth program called POISE (Perseverance, Opportunity, Intelligence, Sacrifice, and Effort) that worked with teenage athletes throughout Broward County, Florida, in education, on the field, and in Bible study.

Denson was also the inaugural commissioner of the Run for Your Goal Youth (RFYG) Flag Football League, which provided a safe place for the youth of South Florida to learn the game of football.

He finished his playing career as the all-time leading rusher in Notre Dame school history with 4,318 yards. Denson currently ranks second in the Notre Dame annals with 43 career rushing touchdowns and 5,327 all-purpose yards. He was a four-year monogram winner, a three-year starter and two-time Most Valuable Player at Notre Dame (1995-98).

He eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing over each of his final three years with the Irish and was named an Associated Press All-America selection as a senior in 1998. Denson wrapped up his collegiate career as the 1999 Gator Bowl Most Valuable Player.

Denson was selected in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spent time on the rosters with the Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes.

What They Had to Say About Autry Denson

“I am so excited for Autry as he embarks on the next step of his coaching career as the new head coach at Charleston Southern. He has done a tremendous job for us during his time at Notre Dame. He not only developed our running backs to produce at a high level on the field, but he was also instrumental in their growth as young men. This is where Autry touched our program the deepest. He’s got a way with young people and truly provides spiritual mentorship that positively affects everyone around him. I am thrilled for him as he is so deserving of this opportunity. CSU is getting a great football coach, and I wish Autry, Elaine, and the rest of the family all the best.”- Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.

“I have known Autry since 1996 when we were together at Notre Dame. He was one of the most disciplined, goal-driven athletes I’ve been around and we’ve continued to stay close over the years. He’s a tireless recruiter and his strength is in his relationship with his players. He genuinely cares for them and he will be a great head coach.” – Former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

“I think Autry will be a great head coach. He was a great player, but an even better person. Autry is a true team leader who was admired and respected by his teammates. He is a person you can trust unequivocally, is totally committed to excellence, and a very caring person. CSU is lucky to get such a talented coach.” – Former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz. 

“I have admired Autry’s work for many, many years. He has a Vision that will build a program for sustained success. His Culture will be one of Accountability, Ownership and Servanthood Leadership. And finally, Coach Denson knows how to implement a Process that will give every student-athlete at Charleston Southern a chance to grow and develop both on and off the field. He is a true leader of men and brings an abundance of character and integrity to your University.” – Former Indianapolis Colts head coach and current Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

“I grew up 30 minutes from Notre Dame so Autry Denson is a name that I know has long been associated with excellence both on and off the field. It’s been a great privilege for me to not only watch Autry’s journey over the years but also, to get to know him up close and personal. Autry Denson is not only an excellent Coach; but more importantly, he is an amazing husband, father and mentor of young men…the type of role model we desperately need in college athletics today! Bottom line, Autry is the kind of Coach, role model and man I would want my son to play for!”  Todd Gongwer, Author of Lead…for God’s Sake! A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership.

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