Prince Adds Three to Coaching Staff

MANHATTAN, Kan. Kansas State head coach Ron Prince announced Monday the hirings of Jeff Rodgers as the Wildcats’ special teams coordinator, Warren Ruggiero as the school’s new quarterbacks coach and Cornell Jackson as the new linebackers coach.

Rodgers, one of the NFL’s bright young coaches, has spent the previous five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, the past three as the assistant special teams coach where he helped the 49ers’ unit rank among the league’s best. Rodgers joined the 49ers’ organization in 2003 and served two seasons as the special teams quality control coach before being named an assistant.


Ruggiero, an accomplished offensive coach with extensive experience with quarterbacks, has spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Elon, where he tutored quarterback Scott Riddle, who was dubbed the 2007 College Sporting News National Freshman of the Year after a monstrous rookie campaign.


Jackson, a 20-year coaching veteran at the collegiate level with Kansas roots, will head to Manhattan with nearly 10 years of experience working with linebackers while spending the 2007 season as an assistant at Baylor.


 “We are extremely pleased with the additions of Jeff, Warren and Cornell to our organization,” Prince said. “Jeff is a tireless worker who comes with extensive NFL experience and will help continue our long-standing tradition of great special teams play at Kansas State, while Warren has a proven track record of working with quarterbacks and is both a tremendous coach and a man of integrity. Cornell is an accomplished coach and recruiter with deep Kansas ties. All three of these men are great fits for Kansas State.”


Last season under Rodgers, San Francisco led the NFC and was second in the NFL in net punting as NFC Pro Bowl honoree Andy Lee averaged 47.3 yards a kick and netted 41.0 for the year. The 49ers became just the second team in NFL history to net 40-plus yards a kick during a season, while Lee and the 49ers also set the NFL record with 42 kicks being downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Lee set career highs for the second straight season in punting average and net punting while also punting for more than 3,500 yards for the fourth time in his career. The 49ers also led the NFL in kickoff coverage, forcing opponents to an average starting field position at their own 24.9 yard line, and ranked 11th in the league and sixth in the NFC in kickoff returns with a 23.3 average.


In 2006, the 49ers special teams unit was led by kicker Joe Nedney, who led the team in points with 116, the second-highest total of his career. In the return game, Maurice Hicks surpassed the franchise record for total kickoff returns (57) and kickoff return yards (1,428) and also led the unit in tackles with 20. In 2005, Nedney connected on 26-of-28 field goals and was NFC Special Teams Player of Week after his five field goal performance against Tampa Bay. The 49ers special teams performed well as a unit, finishing third in the league in kickoff coverage in 2005, while long snapper Brian Jennings was named to the 2004 Pro Bowl. In Rodgers’ first season in San Francisco, the 49ers led the NFL with five special teams take-aways.


Rodgers joined the 49ers staff from the University of Arizona, where he spent two seasons as a graduate assistant on defense, working with the secondary in 2001 and the flex linebackers in 2002. He played four seasons at linebacker for North Texas where he earned his degree in business, specializing in entrepreneurship and strategic management in 2000. Rodgers prepped at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, but was born in St. Paul, Minn.


Ruggiero, a 20-year coaching veteran, helped develop Riddle into one of the top quarterbacks in the country last season at Elon as the freshman led the FCS in passing yards per game (347.0) and completions per game (31.5) and also ranked second nationally in total passing yards (3,817), third in both total offense (339.8 yards per game) and points responsible for (22.2 per game) and 16th in passing efficiency (146.3 rating).


Riddle finished his rookie campaign with a 68.1 completion percentage, connecting on 346 of his 508 passes for 3,817 yards and 31 touchdowns. He also ran for nine scores. Riddle established new Elon and SoCon single-season plateaus for completions, passing attempts, passing yards, touchdown passes, plays of total offense (622), yards of total offense (3,738) and touchdowns responsible for (40). He also ended up with NCAA freshman records for touchdown passes, total offense per game and net yards.

The Phoenix signal caller also notched SoCon single-season records for total offense average, games passing for 300 or more yards (nine), consecutive games passing for 300 or more yards (nine), consecutive games passing for a touchdown (11) and consecutive games passing for 200 or more yards (11).


Under Ruggiero’s guidance in 2006, Elon’s Wes Pope, who played tight end in 2005, established a then-program record by throwing for 2,572 yards, shattering the previous mark of 2,079 set in 1968. 


Prior to his arrival at Elon, Ruggiero spent the previous six years at Hofstra, serving the first two seasons (2000-01) as the recruiting coordinator/quarterbacks coach and the last four (2002-05) as the offensive coordinator. At Hofstra, Ruggiero recruited and coached current New Orleans Saint standout Marques Colston.


While at Hofstra, the Pride led the Atlantic 10 and ranked among the nation’s best in passing offense during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. The Pride also led the A-10 in passing with a 250.5 yards per game average in 2003. In 2001 the Hofstra passing attack, behind current CFL quarterback Rocky Butler, ranked fourth in I-AA, averaging 301 yards per game. In 2000 the Pride passing attack ranked 17th in I-AA, averaging 261.8 yards per game.


Previously, he coached the halfbacks and tight ends at The College of William and Mary during the 1999 campaign.


Prior to coming to William & Mary, Ruggiero was the head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Glenville State College for two seasons (1997-98); the quarterbacks coach, running backs coach and offensive coordinator at Clarion University of Pennsylvania for three seasons (1994-96); the quarterbacks coach, running backs coach, offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at The Defiance College for five seasons (1989-1993) and a graduate assistant at the University of Delaware for the 1988 campaign.


Ruggiero worked with NCAA-IAA playoff teams at Hofstra in 2000 and 2001 as well as an NCAA-II playoff team at Glenville State in 1997. The Pioneers captured the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship that season.  During his time at Clarion, the squad made a national semi-finals appearance in 1996.


An offensive coordinator at five colleges, Ruggiero’s offenses have finished among the country’s top 10 teams and also has coached a quarterback to All-America status at all five stops. His quarterbacks have broken four NCAA all-time records and have placed in the top 10 of 12 NCAA statistical categories.


The Glen Rock, N.J., native earned a bachelor of science degree in physical education and philosophy in 1988 and a master of science degree in physical education and health in 1992 from Delaware. While there, Ruggiero played four years as a quarterback. He and his wife, Jennifer, have one child, Emma.


Jackson, who began his coaching career 21 years ago in the state of Kansas, spent the 2007 season as the running backs coach for the Bears, while previously serving two seasons as the running backs coach at New Mexico.


In 2006, Jackson coached first-team All-Mountain West Conference tailback Rodney Ferguson, who rushed for 1,132 yards in leading the Lobos to a New Mexico Bowl appearance. A year earlier, Jackson pupil DonTrell Moore earned 2005 Mountain West Conference offensive player of the year honors after becoming just the sixth player in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards four times in a career.


Prior to his second coaching stint at New Mexico, Jackson spent three seasons (2002-04) at the University of Washington. Jackson coached the Husky safeties in 2003 after instructing the UW inside linebackers during his first season in Seattle. He helped tutor Marquis Cooper, who led the team in tackles in 2002-03 and was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He coached the Husky running backs in 2004 and had added duties as UW's recruiting coordinator.


Before joining the Husky staff, Jackson worked at the University of Houston for two seasons (2000-01) as the Cougars' linebackers coach. He mentored 2001 Conference USA's co-defensive player of the year in Wayne Rogers.

Prior to his Houston tenure, he tutored running backs at Arizona State from 1996-99, instructing Sun Devil standouts J.R. Redmond, Terry Battle, Jeff Paulk, Terrell Smith, Michael Martin, Delvon Flowers and Bruce Perkins. Five of those players were selected in the NFL Draft while Redmond and Battle earned All-Pac-10 honors.


Jackson began his coaching career as running backs coach at Butler County (Kan.) Community College in 1987 before moving on to Central Missouri State as a graduate assistant coach from 1988-89. From 1990-91, Jackson worked as the linebackers coach at Utah State and then coached the same position at Pacific from 1992-94. He then spent the 1995 campaign as outside linebackers coach at New Mexico before going to Arizona State.


Jackson has taken advantage of NFL internship programs to work for several of the league's teams during their off-season. He was an intern coach for linebackers for the Seattle Seahawks in 1993, worked with the St. Louis Rams' running backs in 1999 and was an intern coach for the Denver Broncos' running backs in 2001. In the summer of 2004, Jackson served as an intern with the San Diego Chargers coaching staff, working with linebackers.


The 1986 Sterling (Kan.) College graduate was a two-time all-conference defensive back (1982 and 1983) at Hinds Junior College in Raymond, Miss. The Jackson, Miss., native is married to the former Lorri Raser.


With the hiring of Rodgers, Ruggiero and Jackson, Prince also announced that defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar will handle the secondary coaching duties while coordinating the defense, and offensive coordinator Dave Brock will continue to work with the Wildcat receivers.


Kansas State opens spring practice on Saturday, March 29.


TRANSACTIONS: Kansas State names Jeff Rodgers special teams coordinator, Warren Ruggiero quarterbacks coach and Cornell Jackson linebackers coach.