Rebels add Keith Burns to defensive staff

By Ole Miss Media Relations


OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt continues to strengthen his football staff, adding Keith Burns, a former Broyles Award finalist and successful defensive coordinator at Southern Cal and Arkansas among other schools, to coach the Rebel secondary, it was announced today.

Burns is reunited with Nutt, having coordinated the defense during the first two years of Nutt’s term with the Razorbacks (1998-99). The appointment is pending approval of the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning.

“Keith brings a wealth of knowledge to our secondary,” Nutt said. “He has coached a lot of great college players to reach the NFL level. He has coordinated defenses at several schools and been successful at every stop. Keith will provide a lot of energy and experience for our defensive staff.”

Burns, a former head coach at Tulsa, just completed his 27th year in the college coaching ranks and comes to Oxford after directing a heralded Kansas State secondary in 2010. Under his watch, safety Ty Zimmerman was named a Freshman All-American, while DBs Stephen Harrison and Terrance Sweeney earned All-Big 12 honors.

Prior to his stint in Manhattan, Burns spent six seasons on the staff at San Jose State, including three as defensive coordinator. In 2009, the Spartans finished 22nd nationally in pass defense, and in 2008, Burns’ unit ranked in the top-20 nationally in tackles for loss (7th), passing defense (10th) and quarterback sacks (11). The Spartans also finished 21st nationally in both points allowed and turnover margin.

The Spartans were 9-4 in 2006, which included wins over Stanford and New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl, and finished with the most victories in a season for the program since 1987.

As the cornerbacks coach, Burns mentored three NFL draft choices in his final three seasons at San Jose State. Dwight Lowery became San Jose State’s first two-time, first-team All-America selection and was a 2008 fourth-round pick of the New York Jets. Christopher Owens, a two-time All-WAC corner, was a 2009 third-round choice by Atlanta, while Coye Francies was taken in the sixth-round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. In all, Burns has coached 14 players who have gone on to have successful careers in the professional ranks.

Burns was the head coach at Tulsa from 2000-02 where his teams were the basis for the Golden Hurricanes’ 2003 Humanitarian Bowl appearance. His first team in 2000 went 5-7 to give Tulsa its most wins in the previous eight seasons.

In Burns’ two seasons at his alma mater Arkansas, the Razorback defense improved from a national ranking of 103rd to within the top 20 in total defense. During his tenure, Arkansas made consecutive bowl appearances, and following the 1998 campaign, Burns was one of five finalists for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Prior to Arkansas, he spent five seasons under John Robinson at USC with the final four as defensive coordinator. There, his defensive units ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense in 1994, first in the Pac-10 in scoring defense in 1995, second in total defense in 1996 and first in rushing defense in 1997.

Burns also coordinated the defense at Pacific (1986-87) and spent time at Rice as defensive pass coordinator and special teams coordinator (1989-92).

A native of Hurst, Texas, Burns was a three-time letterwinner at Arkansas (1980-82). He and his wife, Yvonne, have three sons, K.C., Tanner and Davis.

It was also announced Friday that assistant coach Kim Dameron is leaving the Ole Miss staff.

“I’m very grateful to Kim for his hard work with our program,” said Nutt. “We wish him nothing but the best.”