Nevada football is officially hiring Brian Ward as its new defensive coordinator, head coach Jay Norvell announced today.
Ward replaces Jeff Casteel, who was let go along with two other defensive assistant coaches last December.
He will also coach linebackers with the Wolf Pack. Norvell stated that Nevada run multiple defensive fronts under Ward, moving away from the 3-3-5 base defense that was previously used under Casteel.
Ward was previously the defensive coordinator at Syracuse from 2016 to 2019. He was fired after its 58-27 loss to Boston College where the Eagles ran for a season-high 496 yards, gaining 691 total yards of total offense.
Ward’s defense played a large role in Syracuse’s 10-3 campaign in 2018.
In 2018, the Orange defense ranked in the Top-5 nationally in turnovers gained (31), interceptions (18) and fumbles recovered (13). They also placed within the Top-10 in opponents’ third down percentage (28.57 percent) and sacks (3.31 per game). Syracuse accumulated 43 total sacks in 2018, setting a school record and ranked No. 7 nationally.
In 2017, Syracuse surrendered 57.1 fewer yards (501.6 to 444.0), 28.3 fewer rushing yards (225.5 to 196.7) and 6.4 fewer points (38.6 to 32.2) than the program did in 2016. The Orange placed No. 13 in the nation in opponents’ third down percentage (31.1 percent), 69 spots better than they did in 2016.
Ward finished as a nominee for the Broyles Award — the award for the nation’s top assistant coach — in 2017.
Ward was the head coach at McPherson College, his alma mater, from 2007-09. He sported a 17-14 (.548) record and was named the 2009 College Fanz National Coach of the Year after leading the program to the playoffs for the first time in school history.
He was the defensive backs coach at North Dakota State (2010), the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Drake (2011), Western Illinois (2012-14) and Bowling Green (2015). Ward was also one of three finalists for the Linebackers Coach of the Year given by FootballScoop.com in 2015.
Ward was Bowling Green’s interim head coach for its bowl game in 2015, which the team lost 58-27 to Georgia State.
While as the defensive coordinator at Western Illinois, he formed a tremendous defensive unit. In 2013, program ranked No. 7 in the nation in total defense (305.3 ypg) and No. 3 in passing defense (149.0 ypg).
“I talked to a great number of coordinators for several weeks about our position and Brian was the most detailed and competent coach throughout that process,” Norvell said. “He has great knowledge and came very highly recommended. Brian has a history of building championship defenses at multiple institutions and he’s won games at the highest levels of college football.”