LUBBOCK, Texas – Clay Jennings, a coaching veteran with 14 years of experience in the state of Texas, has been named defensive backs coach at Texas Tech, head coach Kliff Kingsbury announced Friday afternoon.
One of the top secondary coaches in the country, Jennings arrives in Lubbock after spending the 2017 season as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Houston. He also has previous stops at Big 12 Conference counterparts Baylor, TCU and Texas.
"We're fortunate to add someone with Coach Jennings' experience to our staff," Kingsbury said. "He will be a great resource for our defensive backs and will continue the improvements we've made on that side of the ball. He also has an extensive background in the state of Texas, which will pay dividends in recruiting."
Jennings, a native of Waco, Texas, has coached defensive backs throughout his 21 years in coaching, the majority of which has been spent in the state of Texas. In addition to two stops at Houston (2005-06, 2017), Jennings has been part of staffs at Texas (2016), TCU (2008-13), Baylor (2007) and Sam Houston State (2001-02).
"I can't thank Coach Kingsbury enough for the opportunity to join his staff at Texas Tech," Jennings said. "The defense that is being built there is exciting, and I'm looking forward to continuing the momentum that was started this past year."
In his one season back at Houston, the Cougars ranked among the top defenses in the country in regards to scoring and interceptions. Houston ended the year with 15 interceptions – 14 by the secondary alone – to rank 23rd nationally in the category, while also finishing second in the American Athletic Conference with only 23.8 points allowed per game.
Jennings, who was also on the Cougars' staff during the 2005-06 seasons, returned to Houston after spending the 2016 campaign at the University of Texas and then the two years prior to that at the University of Arkansas (2014-15).
While with the Razorbacks, Jennings helped build one of top defensive units in the country as Arkansas closed the 2015 campaign ranked 11th nationally in both scoring and total defense after allowing just 19.2 points and 323.4 yards per game. The Razorbacks, who had seven of their top-10 tacklers come from Jennings' defensive backs room, also finished 12th nationally and second in the Southeastern Conference for rushing defense (116.5 yards per game).
Arkansas greatly improved its passing defense in Jennings' first season in 2014 as the Razorbacks surrendered just 208.8 yards per game through the air, which ranked 37th nationally and fifth in the SEC. It marked the first time since 2011 that Arkansas had ranked among the top-40 teams nationally in the category.
Prior to his time at Arkansas, Jennings spent six seasons as the cornerbacks coach at TCU, a stretch that coincided with the Horned Frogs' perfect 13-0 record and Rose Bowl victory in 2010 and eventual entre into the Big 12 Conference. TCU advanced to a bowl game in five of his six seasons in Fort Worth as the Horned Frogs regularly boasted one of the nation's top defenses.
In his first three seasons alone, TCU became just the third program in NCAA history to lead the nation in total defense over three-consecutive years. The Horned Frogs were a combined 36-3 during that stretch as TCU also made appearances in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl and the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.
TCU closed the 2010 season as the nation's leader for both passing defense (128.8 yards per game) and passing efficiency (94.9) as the Horned Frogs forced 22 turnovers, 12 of which came from interceptions. A year earlier, TCU ranked fourth nationally in passing efficiency (97.9) and then 11th in passing defense after allowing only 170.7 yards per game through the air.
Jennings has tutored numerous NFL draft picks and free-agent selections during his career, including Tevin Mitchel (Arkansas), Alan Turner (Arkansas), Jason Verrett (TCU), Kevin White (TCU), Greg McCoy (TCU), Malcolm Williams (TCU), Rafael Priest (TCU), C.C. Brown (Louisiana-Lafayette), Michael Adams (Louisiana-Lafayette), Antwain Spann (Louisiana-Lafayette), Keith Davis (Sam Houston State) and Jordan Babineaux (Southern Arkansas).
Verrett was a two-time All-American during his career at TCU before being drafted 25th overall in 2014 by the now Los Angeles Chargers. Verrett earned first team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation in 2013 as well as Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year. He was a first team All-America selection in 2012 as well by Sports Illustrated.
Jennings' other NFL pupils came early in his career at both Louisiana-Lafayette (2003-04) and Sam Houston State (2001-02). The Rajin' Cajuns ranked 11th nationally in passing defense during his final season after surrendering just 174.5 passing yards per game. Both Brown and Adams enjoyed seven-year NFL careers following their time in Lafayette, while Spann played three seasons for the New England Patriots.
Jennings was the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Sam Houston State where he mentored an All-America selection and Buck Buchanan Award finalist in Davis, the father of current Red Raider defensive back Jah'Shawn Johnson. Sam Houston State claimed a share of the 2001 Southland Conference title in Jennings' first season and also advanced to the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs that season.
Before Sam Houston State, Jennings coached the secondary at Southern Arkansas (2000), Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa (1999), and Morehouse College in Atlanta (1998). He began his coaching career as a student assistant (1996) and then graduate assistant (1997) at North Texas shortly after ending his playing career for the Mean Green.
Jennings was a four-year letterwinner during his playing career at North Texas (1992-95) where he was part of the Mean Green's Southland Conference championship team in 1994 and the school's first NCAA FBS squad in 1995.
Jennings earned his bachelor's degree in kinesiology from North Texas in 1997. He and his wife, Belinda, are the parents to two kids, Kirby and Kenzie.
CLAY JENNINGS COACHING EXPERIENCE
2018 – Texas Tech Assistant Coach (Defensive Backs)
2017 – Houston Co-Defensive Coordinator (Secondary)
2016 – Texas Assistant Coach (Defensive Backs)
2014-15 – Arkansas Assistant Coach (Defensive Backs)
2008-13 – TCU Assistant Coach (Cornerbacks)
2007 – Baylor Assistant Coach (Cornerbacks)
2005-06 – Houston Assistant Coach (Safeties)
2003-04 – Louisiana Lafayette Assistant Coach (Secondary)
2001-02 – Sam Houston State Assistant Coach (Secondary/Recruiting Coordinator)
2000 – Southern Arkansas Assistant Coach (Secondary)
1999 – Morningside College Assistant Coach (Secondary)
1998 – Morehouse College Assistant Coach (Secondary)
1997 – North Texas Graduate Assistant