Cards hire former Sooners coach, ex-Longhorn to football staff

Published 4:04 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lamar football head coach Ray Woodard went for big names to fill his coaching staff, and he got them.

Former Oklahoma head coach John Blake and former Texas standout Willie Mack Garza have been hired as Woodard’s newest assistants, the university confirmed in a news release Tuesday. They are the second and third new hires Woodard has landed this season, weeks after former Texas Tech All-American and defensive assistant Trey Haverty was named defensive coordinator.

Blake, who led the Sooners the final three seasons (1996-98) before Bob Stoops’ arrival, will coach the defensive line, replacing Carey Bailey, who went to Chattanooga. Garza, who spent the past season at Prairie View A&M, will coach the secondary, moving Ben Beasley to linebackers.

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“We are very excited about the addition of John Blake and Willie Mack Garza to the staff,” Woodard said in the release. “John has coached defensive line on the highest levels of the game, and has spent time as a head coach at the Division I level. He is a valuable addition to our team, and I can draw on his experience as well.”

Blake is the higher-profile addition to the Cardinals, given his time coaching OU when the Big 12 began competition in 1996. The Sooners only went 12-22 under his watch, but improved in win total each season with a best of 5-6.

Prior to his time in Norman, Blake — who played nose guard for the Sooners from 1979-82 — was the defensive line coach under Port Arthur native Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, winning Super Bowls 28 (in the 1993 season) and 30 (1995 season). He returned to college coaching in 2003 at Mississippi State and worked with Nebraska and North Carolina until his resignation in September 2010, when he left in the middle of an investigation into players’ relationships with an agent the NCAA determined that Blake worked for. Blake drew a three-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA that expired in 2015.

But he helped 15 players be drafted by NFL teams, five of them in the first round, during 2003-10. His coaching career began at Tulsa in 1987 and continued at OU before joining the Cowboys.

Garza, a Refugio native, was a freshman All-American cornerback/safety and Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year at Texas in 1988. The Texas High School Hall of Famer also spent the 1990-92 seasons with the Longhorns.

His coaching career, most of which he’s spent with secondaries, has taken him from Western Michigan to TCU, where he won a Conference USA title in 2002, to Tarleton State, to a defensive coordinator gig at North Dakota State, to one-year stints under Lane Kiffin at Tennessee and Southern California. He headed the defense at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi for two seasons before helping Prairie View finish 9-2 as a linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. His Pearl River defense ranked fifth nationally in scoring allowed (15 points per game) in 2014, according to Prairie View sports information.

“I’ve known Willie Mack Garza since he was in high school,” said Woodard, who played at Texas in the early 1980s. “He was an outstanding player and has coached at all levels of the game. He brings a great knowledge of the game with him to Beaumont and is an incredible recruiter.”

While missing three assistants from the 2015 season, Lamar, which went 5-6 last season, managed to land the third-best signing class on National Signing Day. Along with Bailey’s departure, Haverty replaced Craig McGallion, who retired with two games remaining. Mark Criner, who had taken over for McGallion in the interim and was linebackers coach, also departed.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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