Clay Helton returns as the Georgia Southern Eagles head coach for the 2023 college football season after leading the team to a bowl game in his first season in charge. Who else makes up the Eagles’ staff for the 2023 college campaign?
Georgia Southern Eagles Coaching Staff
Head Coach, Clay Helton
Former USC head coach Clay Helton was named as the head of Georgia Southern’s coaching staff in November 2021, taking over full-time for the 2022 college football season. In his first season with the Eagles, Helton helped lead the team to a Camellia Bowl appearance — an impressive turnaround from a dismal 2021.
Amongst the many successes in his first year as the Eagles’ head coach, Helton led an offense with quarterback Kyle Vantrease that set program and conference passing records while knocking off a Power Five program for just the second time in school history.
While a turnaround for the program, the Eagles’ success last season was something of a redemption story for Helton. While he saw success early in his head coaching stint at USC, Helton was perennially on the hot seat after multiple seasons that fell short of lofty expectations. He left USC just two games into the 2021 season following a home loss to Stanford.
In 1995, Helton got his first coaching gig as a graduate assistant at Duke before being promoted to running backs coach for the Blue Devils a year later. Helton had spells coaching RBs at Houston and Memphis, transitioning to WRs, then QBs, and ultimately offensive coordinator while with the Tigers. He joined USC as the quarterbacks’ coach in 2010, working his way to being the head coach in 2016.
Offensive Coordinator, Bryan Ellis
The architect of the offensive success of 2022, Bryan Ellis joined the Georgia Southern coaching staff as offensive coordinator prior to the season. Ellis is also the quarterbacks coach for the Eagles, working closely with Vantrease during his record-setting campaign. He had previously worked alongside Helton at USC for two years, coaching Sam Darnold in 2017.
Ellis has a history of being involved with record-setting offenses. In 2021, he was the co-offensive coordinator and inside receivers coach for Western Kentucky as Bailey Zappe carved up the college football record book. He worked closely with Jerreth Sterns as the former Hilltopper caught an FBS-high 50 receptions for 1,902 yards and 17 touchdowns.
A former quarterback for UAB, Ellis got his first coaching gig with the Blazers as a graduate assistant before joining Western Kentucky for the first time in 2014. The Georgia Southern offensive coordinator and QBs coach’s full résumé can be found below.
- UAB (graduate assistant, 2012-2013)
- Western Kentucky (offensive quality control, 2014; RBs coach, 2015; WRs coach and passing game coordinator, 2016)
- USC (offensive assistant, 2017; QBs coach, 2018)
- Western Kentucky (OC, QBs coach 2019-2020; co-OC, inside WRs coach, 2021)
- Georgia Southern (OC, QBs coach, 2022-2023)
Defensive Coordinator, Brandon Bailey
An Eagles alum who served on Georgia Southern’s coaching staff as an assistant while a student at the university, Brandon Bailey returns home to Statesboro for the 2023 season. Bailey was named the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in March 2023.
The Georgia Southern alum heads home after leading a successful Buffalo Bulls defense during the 2022 campaign. While finishing in the top 10 for turnovers — their 28 takeaways were more than double the previous season — safety Marcus Fuqua earned All-American honors after his seven interceptions tied the national lead.
Bailey was the youngest DC in the FBS in 2022, a remarkable ascent, having landed his first coaching role as a graduate assistant at Tulane in 2016. His only previous defensive coordinator experience prior to joining Buffalo was at Richmond Hill HS. Bailey’s full college coaching résumé is below.
- Tulane (graduate assistant, 2016)
- Arkansas-Monticello (DBs coach, 2018)
- Texas A&M (defensive analyst, 2019-2021)
- Buffalo (DC, DBs coach, 2022)
- Georgia Southern (DC/LBs coach, 2023)
Special Teams Coordinator, Turner West
Turner West joined Georgia Southern’s staff in 2022 as the special teams’ coordinator after three years coordinating The Citadel’s special teams and recruiting efforts. A former wide receiver at Memphis, West got his first coaching role as an intern at UAB in 2011, with stints at Samford and Middle Tennessee before a jump to the NFL — working with the Dallas Cowboys linebackers.
Cornerbacks Coach, Kevin Whitley
A highly successful cornerback on two Eagles national title-winning teams, Kevin Whitley returned to Statesboro in 2019 to join the Georgia Southern coaching staff as the cornerbacks coach. While continuing to work with that group, Whitley was named the interim coach in 2021 and made the assistant head coach in 2022. Whitley was also a head coach at three Georgia high schools.
Tight Ends Coach, Ryan Aplin
A standout quarterback at Arkansas State who still holds several program passing records, Ryan Aplin joined the Georgia Southern coaching staff in 2022 as TEs coach, pass game coordinator, and inside WRs coach. Aplin began his coaching career as an intern at Ole Miss, before stints with Auburn, North Alabama, Chattanooga, Western Kentucky, and Arkansas State.
Safeties Coach, Darius Eubanks
A four-year starter with 52 appearances for the Eagles from 2009-2012, Darius Eubanks returned to Statesboro in 2023 as the safeties and nickels coach on Georgia Southern’s staff. His college coaching résumé includes stops at Arkansas, Samford, Georgia State, and Liberty, where he coached defensive backs during the 2022 college football season.
Wide Receivers Coach, BJ Johnson
BJ Johnson knows a thing or two about top-tier Eagles wide receiver talent after racking up 1,338 yards and six scores for Georgia Southern between 2013 and 2016. He now joins the Georgia Southern coaching staff as WRs coach for 2023, having previously coached the position at Savannah State and Gardner-Webb. Johnson was also an assistant at Colorado and Texas Tech.
Running Backs Coach, Taylor Reed
Having first coached running backs at Central Arkansas in 2018, Taylor Reed joined the Georgia Southern coaching staff as RBs coach for the 2023 season. Reed lands in Statesboro after serving as an offensive analyst for an Illinois team that included highly rated RB Chase Brown. Reed spent two years in Illinois, with stops at Auburn and Arkansas also on his résumé.
Defensive Line Coach, Rip Rowan
Elwyn Rowan — nicknamed Rip — joined the Georgia Southern coaching staff in 2022 as the defensive line coach, having previously worked with the impressive defensive front at Washington in 2021. A former lineman at Austin Peay, Rowan started his coaching career at Southern Miss in 2015, before spending two years with FAU, heading to the Huskies in 2019.
Offensive Line Coach, TJ Woods
A highly experienced coach with Power Five experience, TJ Woods joins Georgia Southern’s staff as the OL coach and run game coordinator. He held the same title at Oregon State in 2017, having coached the OL in Corvallis since 2015 and at Wisconsin from 2013-2014. Woods joins the Eagles from UNLV, where his unit paved the way for consecutive 1,000-yard running backs.