Knowles Joins Ole Miss Football Staff

Ole Miss head football coach David Cutcliffe announced Monday he has selected Western Michigan University defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to become assistant football coach and linebacker coach of the Rebels.

Knowles' appointment is pending approval of the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning. He would fill a defensive position which became available when Mike MacIntyre resigned to become an assistant coach with the National Football League Dallas Cowboys.

In announcing the selection of Knowles, Cutcliffe also announced that defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach, who coached linebackers last season, will take over defensive back responsibilities.

"We welcome Coach Jim Knowles and his family to the Ole Miss football program," Cutcliffe said. "Jim brings a great deal of experience and expertise with him to our defensive staff, having been involved with the 4-2-5 scheme as a position coach and coordinator.

"Since he worked with Chuck Driesbach in the past, it should make for a much easier transition as we begin spring practice on February 21. Jim's main area of responsibility will be with the linebackers, allowing Chuck to move to his natural position of coaching the secondary. I am truly excited about what Jim brings to our program as a coach and a person."

Knowles comes to Ole Miss after six seasons at Western Michigan, having served the last two as defensive coordinator. Knowles coached linebackers in 2002 after working the previous five seasons with the defensive line.

In his second year as defensive coordinator, Knowles helped the 2002 Broncos finish first in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and 28th nationally in total defense (330.7), playing a schedule that included three Top 25 teams. The defensive unit, which included MAC Defensive Player of the Year Jason Babin, ranked second in the MAC in pass sacks (33) and pass defense (179.5). The WMU defense held three teams to less than 100 yards rushing and limited three others to less than 100 yards passing. The Broncos held opponents to 217 first downs, fewest in the MAC, and the defensive line extended its quarterback sack streak to 33 games.

Knowles' first year as defensive coordinator in 2001 saw the Broncos rank first in pass defense (179.8 yards per game) in the MAC and 17th nationally. WMU also paced the MAC with quarterback sacks (33). His defensive line unit was rated as the second-best in the league by one preseason publication as All-MAC performers Anthony Allsbury (first team) and Jason Babin (second team) ranked among the top eight players in sacks.

Prior to being named defensive coordinator at Western Michigan on Jan. 17, 2001, Knowles worked exclusively with the down linemen. During the 2000 season, his defensive line unit was partially responsible for helping the Broncos compile 38 sacks and 15 forced fumbles in 12 games. In addition, the Broncos held opponents to 139 points and posted three shutouts -- the most scoreless games since 1971. By season's end, Western Michigan ranked among NCAA Top 20 units in four categories: scoring defense (4th, 11.5 ppg), total defense (9th, 283.3 ypg), pass defense (13th, 178.0 ypg) and rushing defense (20th, 105.3 ypg).

Two of Knowles' players, Allsbury and Chris Browning, earned All-MAC first and second team honors, respectively, as first-year starters.

In 1999, Knowles worked closely with Jeremy Johnson, who went on to earn All-MAC honorable mention. He also developed a two-time all-league selection in Dan Falcon (1997-98) and the MAC's leading sack rusher in 1997 with all-league pick Ryan Bauer.

During Knowles' six seasons at WMU, the Brown & Gold generated 207 sacks -- including a high of 41 in 1997 -- which averages to 34.5 per season.

Knowles, 37, arrived in Kalamazoo after spending nine seasons at his alma mater, Cornell University, which included Ivy League titles in 1988 and 1990.

With the Big Red, Knowles directed the defensive line in addition to coaching linebackers and running backs. He also oversaw recruiting and special teams.

A three-year letterwinner at defensive end, Knowles earned All-Ivy honors and Honorable Mention All-Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference accolades in 1986. He graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations.

Knowles, a Philadelphia, Pa., native, earned All-Catholic and All-City selection as a linebacker at St. Joseph's Prep. He also competed in crew and wrestling.

Jim and wife, Nancy, have a daughter, Halle (7) and a son, Luke (5).

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