Embattled Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant Ron Cooper, whose secondary nearly set an NFL record for most passing yards allowed last season, was added to Willie Taggart's staff at University of South Florida as assistant head coach/defensive backs coach on Friday.
Cooper, 50, will go from one difficult situation to another.
Last season, USF's pass defense ranked 88th nationally out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, allowing 251.9 yards per game. The Bulls had an FBS-low two interceptions and allowed an FBS-high 68.4 completion percentage.
Cooper will work with Chuck Bresnahan, a veteran NFL assistant who was named USF's defensive coordinator this week.
Cooper has 30 years of collegiate coaching experience, including stints as head coach at Eastern Michigan (1993-94), Louisville (1995-97) and Alabama A&M (1998-2001).
Additionally, Cooper spent five seasons at South Carolina, working as Steve Spurrier's assistant head coach in 2006-07. He was defensive coordinator at Mississippi State (2003), UNLV (1990) and Murray State (1987-88). He was an assistant under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame (1991-92).
Now he's the first coach to work for the Bucs and USF.
"Ron Cooper is a valuable addition to our staff,'' Taggart said in a statement released by USF. "His experience will be a huge asset in his role as assistant head coach. In addition, he has recently worked with some of the top secondaries and defensive backs in college football, which will serve us greatly both on the field and in recruiting.''
As LSU's secondary coach from 2009-11, Cooper worked with two Thorpe Award winners, Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne, along with 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu. Peterson and Mathieu also won the Bednarik Award, given to the nation's top defensive player.
In 2011, Claiborne and Mathieu became the first cornerback teammates to earn first-team All-America honors from The Associated Press.
Last season, Cooper left LSU to join Greg Schiano's staff with the Bucs, where he inherited a secondary in transition.
Five-time Pro Bowl veteran Ronde Barber moved to safety after 15 years at cornerback. Eric Wright came aboard in free agency as a replacement for Barber and safety Mark Barron joined the team as a first-round draft pick.
Right from the start, though, the unit struggled mightily under Cooper. The first signs of trouble came when Eli Manning passed for 510 yards during the New York Giants' 41-34 victory in Week 2.
Tampa Bay's secondary underwent change when cornerback Aqib Talib was shipped to the New England Patriots at the trade deadline, then Wright was lost to a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Those losses left Cooper with a unit made up largely of undrafted and untested youngsters, such as rookie Leonard Johnson and LeQuan Lewis. With little or no pass rush to aid them, the defense allowed 4,758 passing yards, just 48 fewer than the Green Bay Packers allowed in 2011 when setting the NFL record for most passing yards allowed.
With Cooper gone, the Bucs must replace at least three assistant coaches from last season's staff.
Receivers coach P.J. Fleck left to become head coach at Western Michigan University, while quarterbacks coach Ron Turner departed to become head coach at Florida International University.
Taggart, hired to replace Skip Holtz in December, previously added Walt Wells as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, Nick Sheridan as quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator and Raymond Woodie as a defensive coach. All were on Taggart's staff last year at Western Kentucky. Taggart also retained Larry Scott off Holtz's staff as an offensive coach.
Taggart also has added three staff members from WKU – director of football operations Sharrod Everett, assistant director of football operations Trae Hackett and director of player personnel Stu Holt – plus strength and conditioning coach Hans Straub from Stanford University.