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Defensive Coaching Staff

Blake Baker
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers

In January 2015, Blake Baker was promoted to defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for Louisiana Tech after joining the LA Tech family the previous year as the safeties coach.

Baker took over the defensive responsibilities following former coordinator Manny Diaz’s departed for the same position at Mississippi State in January.

In his first season with the Bulldogs, Baker helped lead LA Tech to a 35-18 victory over Illinois in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl and a Conference USA West Division title with a 9-5 overall record in 2014. The Bulldog defense led the nation in 2014 with 26 interceptions and 42 turnovers gained under Baker’s guidance.

Baker came to LA Tech after spending one month at Boise State in a non-coaching role and after helping guide Arkansas State to a Sun Belt Conference co-championship and a GoDaddy Bowl win over Ball State in 2013. He coached a squad that was ranked third in the Sun Belt in scoring defense (26.2 points per game) and third in pass defense (232.9 yards per game). He coached All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team honoree Sterling Young who registered 80 tackles, two interceptions, two pass break-ups and three fumbles recovered on the season.

"I am very excited to have Blake Baker join our staff," Holtz said. "Blake will be a great fit with our staff and University, having worked with [defensive coordinator] Manny Diaz before and having a strong familiarity with the state of Louisiana. He is a tireless worker, whether it is coaching kids on the field to success or recruiting kids to the program. He will be a great asset to our coaching staff and the LA Tech family."

Baker went to A-State after spending 2010 through 2012 as a defensive graduate assistant coach at the University of Texas. He worked closely with the both the Longhorns' linebackers and defensive backs, two position groups that included eight All-Big 12 selections over the last two years. He also helped coach All-American linebacker and Lott Trophy finalist Emmanuel Acho and cornerback Quandre Diggs, the 2011 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.

He was a part of the Texas coaching staff in 2011 that led the Longhorns to a No. 11 national ranking in total defense, yielding just 306.8 yards per game. The 2011 Longhorns' defense also ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation in rush defense (96.2 ypg), pass efficiency defense (111.0) and tackles for loss (7.4 pg).

Texas won 17 games in Baker's two years on the coaching staff, including a 21-10 victory over California in the 2011 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl and a 31-27 win against Oregon State in the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl. Baker not only worked with Harsin the last two years at Texas, but also with current Longhorns head coach Mack Brown and Florida head coach Will Muschamp during his tenure at the school.

Prior to joining the Texas staff, Baker spent the 2009 season as a wide receivers coach at Clear Springs High School in Houston, Texas, before taking over duties as linebackers coach the following spring.

The Houston native was a four-year letterman and three-year starter at Tulane from 2000-04, helping lead the Green Wave to a win in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl.  He earned his bachelor's degree from Tulane in 2008.

Baker is married to the former Roslyn Jones of Mandeville, La., and the couple has one daughter.

 

Rick Petri
Defensive Line

Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz announced in early 2015 that Rick Petri has joined the staff as the team's new defensive line coach. Petri joined the LA Tech family after holding the same position at Duke the last four years.

This marks Petri's second stint at Louisiana Tech after serving on the Bulldogs staff in 1992, the program's fourth season in Division I-A (now FBS). That season LA Tech opened the season with a 10-9 win at Baylor and finished the year with an undefeated record at home.

"It is exciting to come back to Louisiana Tech," Petri said. "My wife and I both have fond memories of our time here - even though a few years have passed - and it is always exciting to come back and see a place where you have been, to see how it has changed for the better and you can easily see the good things that are happening. The staff has been very welcoming and Coach Holtz is obviously one of the best in the business. I am excited to spend some time with him and learn from him because you are always learning and adding to what you do and what you believe in. It is an exciting time for both my wife and me."

Petri joins the Louisiana Tech staff after spending the last four seasons as the defensive line coach at Duke where he helped the Blue Devils to 28 wins over four seasons including the 2013 ACC Coastal Division title and three bowl game appearances.

"Rick brings such a wealth of experience with a number of years coaching in the Southeastern Conference," Holtz said of Petri's arrival in Ruston. "He has turned out numerous players in the NFL and brings a lot of experience that will help many of our upperclassmen continue to elevate their game but, at the same time, help bring along some of our freshmen that we are going to need to contribute as we go forward. I could not be more excited about being able to make this work and have Rick join the LA Tech Family."

A college coaching veteran of over 30 seasons, Petri has made coaching stops at Ole Miss, Miami, South Carolina and Kentucky among others throughout his career. He joins a LA Tech program that is coming off an appearance in the Conference USA Championship Game and a Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl win over Illinois.

"I am fortunate to be coming into a program that is building on accomplished success," said Petri. "This is not an instance where you perceive the success coming in the future, it is already there. Just like the new end zone facility, you see the building coming along and you see the construction taking place. I think it is important that we have a situation where we are already building on that success, not just talking about the type of success we want to have. It is an exciting time to be at Louisiana Tech with being a member of Conference USA, the teams we get to play and the opportunity to recruit quality people. The program is surrounded by quality people, people that enjoy football and want to continue building the program the right way. It is an exciting time to be a Bulldog."

In both 2012 and 2013, Duke's defensive front that was guided by Petri was spearheaded by ends Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx. Anunike, who led the Blue Devils in sacks in each of his final three seasons, was a two-time All-ACC pick while Foxx, who served as a captain of Duke's ACC Coastal Division championship team in 2013, finished his 45-game career with 152 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.

Anunike, one of just two players in Duke history to lead the Blue Devils in sacks three consecutive seasons, went on to sign a free agent contract with the NFL's Denver Broncos in May of 2014.

In 2011, Petri mentored a youthful Blue Devil defensive front that included just one senior in nose guard Charlie Hatcher, who completed his career with a 30-tackle, two-sack campaign. Petri also tutored Anunike, who was leading the ACC in both sacks and tackles for loss through the first three weeks of the season before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Duke's win over Tulane in late September.

Petri served on Cutcliffe's staff at Ole Miss from 1998-04, helping the Rebels to a 44-29 record and four bowl victories. In 2003, Ole Miss went 10-3, captured a share of the SEC Western Division title and defeated Oklahoma State, 31-29, in the Cotton Bowl. While with the Rebels, Petri coached the defensive tackles and tutored a pair of first team All-SEC selections in Kendrick Clancy and Jesse Mitchell. Clancy went on to be a third round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Petri went to Durham after spending the 2010 campaign at ACC member Miami. That year, the Hurricane defensive unit ranked among the league's leaders in pass defense (1st), pass defense efficiency (1st), opponent third down percentage (2nd), opponent first downs (2nd) total defense (3rd), sacks (3rd), and scoring defense (5th). Under Petri's guidance, senior Allen Bailey earned All-ACC honors after leading the Hurricanes in quarterback sacks.

From 2005-09, Petri was on the staff at Kentucky where he helped the Wildcats to four consecutive bowl game appearances that included victories over Clemson (2006 Music City Bowl), Florida State (2007 Music City Bowl) and East Carolina (2009 Liberty Bowl). In Lexington, Petri coached three future draft picks in Myron Pryor (6th round, New England, 2009), Jeremy Jarmon (3rd round, Washington, 2010) and Corey Peters (3rd round, Atlanta, 2010).

A native of St. Louis, Mo., Petri got his start in coaching at Pittsburg State (1977-78). He then spent 10 years on the staff at Arkansas State before a three-year (1989-91) stint at Ole Miss under head coach Billy Brewer (a former Louisiana Tech head coach). During his first stint in Oxford, Petri coached Kelvin Pritchett, who was a first round choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 and spent 14 seasons with the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.

After one season at Louisiana Tech (1992), he enjoyed three seasons at Miami (1993-95) as the Hurricanes went 27-7, won two BIG EAST championships, finished all three seasons ranked in the Associated Press national poll and played in both the Fiesta and Orange Bowls. In addition, Petri coached three future first round NFL draft choices in Warren Sapp (Tampa Bay, 1995), Kenard Lang (Washington, 1997) and Kenny Holmes (Houston, 1997). Sapp went on to earn NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1999. In 1994, the Hurricanes led the nation in both scoring defense and total defense.

From 1996-98, Petri tutored the defensive ends at South Carolina where he helped develop John Abraham, a first round pick of the New York Jets in the 2000 NFL Draft and multi-year Pro Bowl honoree.

Petri is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri-Rolla. He and his wife, Marsha, have two sons, Brad and Kory.

 

Jeff Burris
Cornerbacks

Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz announced the addition of Jeff Burris to the staff as the Bulldogs’ cornerbacks coach, the program officially announced on Feb. 26, 2018.

Prior to joining the Louisiana Tech staff, Jeff Burris spent the 2017 season on the UNI football staff coaching the cornerbacks for the Panthers after he spent a season at his alma mater, Notre Dame, in 2016. Burris played for Notre Dame as a defensive back from 1990-93 when Skip Holtz was an assistant coach for the Fighting Irish.

“Jeff brings a wealth of experience to our staff as both a former player and a coach,” head coach Skip Holtz said. “He is a character guy. I had the opportunity to coach him in college and he understands what it takes to be successful as a player. He is a great person who gets along with others and he has the morals, values and character we want on this team. I have known Jeff a long time and feel really fortunate he is joining our staff. He knows the game and can be a model for his players.”

In total, Burris brings more than 10 years of coaching experience to the Bulldogs’ defensive after the former NFL defensive back has coached players from the high school ranks, college and professionally. He will take over a defense that helped lead the Bulldogs to four straight bowl championships and ranked seventh in the nation last season in interceptions.

Burris was an All-American safety during his playing days at Notre Dame, while he returned to South Bend in 2016 and served as a senior defensive analyst for the Fighting Irish where he assisted the defensive coordinator with valuable information designed to improve the efficiency and success of Notre Dame's defense. Burris joined the Notre Dame coaching staff after a three-year stint as the assistant defensive backs coach with the Miami Dolphins (2013-15).

In 2014, Burris assisted a Dolphins defensive backfield that finished the season ranked sixth in the NFL after allowing an average of just 223.3 passing yards per game. It marked the third straight season the unit had improved its ranking. With the help of Burris’ assistance, Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes recorded a team-leading five interceptions en route to his second Pro Bowl in as many years with the team. Additionally, safety Reshad Jones was one of three players in the NFL to record 70-or-more tackles, one sack and three interceptions in 2014.

In 2013, Burris helped guide a secondary that saw marked improvement, going from being ranked 27th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game in 2012 to being ranked 16th in 2013. The defense also nearly doubled its interception output, from 10 in 2012 to 18 in 2013. Further, the defense allowed only four touchdown passes to receivers all season. The unit was fifth in the NFL in passer rating against, limiting opponents to a 77.3 rating.

During his playing days, Burris was a safety for the Irish (1990-93), while he was also a consensus All-America pick and senior tri-captain. As a senior, Burris helped lead Notre Dame to an 11-1 record in 1993 as the Irish ranked second in the final national polls that season.

After being selected as a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 1994 NFL Draft, Burris played cornerback for 10 seasons with the Bills (1994-97), Indianapolis Colts (1998-2001) and Cincinnati Bengals (2002-03). Burris earned a spot on the NFL’s all-rookie team in 1994.

Burris, who coached at UMass in 2012, also spent one year coaching cornerbacks for the United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions in 2011. He also served a coaching internship with the Bills in 2008. He began his coaching career in 2007 at Fishers (Ind.) High School, where he worked with the defensive backfield and assisted in the implementation of the school’s defensive scheme.

Burris is a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina.

 

Brian Gamble
Linebackers

Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz announced the newest addition to the coaching staff after welcoming Brian Gamble as the Bulldogs’ new linebackers coach, the program officially announced on March 8, 2018.

Gamble comes to Louisiana Tech after spending the last 10 seasons as a member of the coaching staff at Incarnate Word. Gamble joined the UIW staff in August of 2008 as the defensive line coach and was later promoted to defensive coordinator for the Cardinals in 2012.

At Louisiana Tech, Gamble will take over the linebacker coaching duties as part of a defense that helped lead the Bulldogs to four straight bowl championships and ranked seventh in the nation last season in interceptions.

A graduate of Texas A&M, Gamble was a four-year letterwinner as a linebacker for the Aggies from 1999-2002 before serving as the linebackers coach at Kilgore College in 2004. He helped guide Kilgore to a 10-2 record and a No. 5 national ranking. Following his one season at Kilgore, Gamble served as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston from 2005-07. He was part of a Houston team that captured the Conference USA Championship in 2006 finishing 10-4 overall.

In his first year at Incarnate Word, Gamble’s defensive linemen played a big part in the team’s 5-5 record. The Cardinals finished 16th in the nation in tackles for loss per game and were 33rd in sacks per game.

When Gamble took over the defensive coordinator duties at UIW in 2012, his first change was to make the Cardinals a 3-4 defensive front. While there were some growing pains, the defense did not allow any opponent to reach 500 yards of offense in a game, a first for the program in 2012. In games against non-DI opponents, they allowed less than 150 yards rushing per game against some top flight offenses. In addition, they finished fourth in the LSC in passing yards allowed per game (216.0). Senior cornerback Devan Avery earned second team all-region honors and was a legitimate shutdown corner.

In his second season in charge of the defense, Gamble's squad took a major step forward. They recorded back-to-back shutouts against Texas College and Langston, the first two in school history, and they held four opponents to less than 10 points. They allowed 147.5 rushing yards per game and under 400 yards of offense per game for a second straight year. He had four players earn College Sports Madness All-Independent Second or Third Team honors in 2013.

Gamble's UIW defense finished the 2015 season ranked first in yards allowed per game among Division I programs in Texas. He directed a defense that finished fourth in the Southland Conference in points allowed and third in yards allowed. All-America linebacker Myke Tavarres was a superstar for the team recording 110 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. The team recorded 62 tackles for loss and 16 sacks while forcing 23 turnovers. They held four opponents under 300 yards of offense and only allowed 33 points in the final three games.

In 2015, the UIW defense finished 18th in the nation in fourth down conversion percentage, 21st in interceptions, 27th in total first downs allowed, 37th in passing yards allowed per game and 39th in total yards allowed per game.

Gamble finished his playing career with 47 career starts, including 46 consecutive for the Aggies. He was a four-year starter who accumulated 341 total tackles and finished his senior season with 82 total stops, which was second-best on the squad. He began his career in 1999, earning the Big 12 Freshman-of-the-Year and Second Team Freshman All American when he racked up 60 tackles, including 10 for losses and two sacks, while starting 10 games. He followed up his debut with a solid sophomore campaign, leading the team in tackles with 110 while starting all 12 games at inside linebacker. At the conclusion of the season Gamble was named Honorable Mention, All-Big 12.

In 2001, Gamble received Third Team Pre-Season All-America honors going into his junior campaign. In 2002, he was voted defensive team captain by his Aggie teammates and was also a member of the Butkus Award watch list that same year.

A 2002 graduate of Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural development, Gamble was a highly-decorated Aggie standout, who lettered four years for former Aggie coach R.C. Slocum.

A native of Alto, Texas, Gamble and his wife, Stephanie, have one son, Bossley, and a daughter, Madelyn.

 

Kurt Hester
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach

Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz announced the hiring of Kurt Hester as the athletic department's Head Strength and Conditioning Coach beginning in June 2013.

Hester joins the Louisiana Tech Family after serving as a National Director of Training for the D1 Sports Training Center in Nashville, Tenn. since 2008. He worked with training several professional athletes from leagues such as the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Soccer (MLB), National Hockey League (NHL) and the NFL Combine classes. One NFL player notable to Tech fans that Hester has worked with is former Bulldog quarterback Luke McCown.

"Kurt has phenomenal respect across the industry," Holtz said. "We are thrilled to have him join the Louisiana Tech Family. His background, experience and knowledge is a huge asset and brings him instant credibility with the University's student-athletes. He is going to have a huge impact in our athletic department and I am looking forward to him working with all of our student-athletes."

Concurrent to his tenure at D1 Sports Training, Hester also worked as the Director of Training at the Manning Passing Academy as he designed a training program for over 1,300 high school athletes and delivered a specific training seminar for high school and college coaches.

From 1997-2008, Hester was the owner and Director of Performance at HS2 Athletic Performance in Mandeville. He developed and mentored area coaches for college and professional coaching careers with several going on to BCS-level schools and NFL teams. Over 500 athletes he worked with received collegiate scholarships during that time as he oversaw the development of over 400 junior and senior high students per day.

Hester was an assistant strength coach at LSU from 1995-98, working with the speed development program for then-football coach Gerry Dinardo and worked primarily with the LSU baseball team as it won two national championships under legendary coach Skip Bertman. Hester also worked with the men's basketball, women's soccer and women's golf programs as well as with the varsity cheerleaders.

He graduated from Tulane University in 1995 with a Bachelor's of Science degree in exercise physiology. He also served as a graduate strength coach at Tulane for two years.

Hester has certifications as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength & Conditioning Association and also has his Speed Agility & Conditioning certification as well as his Level 1 certification from the United States Weightlifting Association.

Hester is married to the former Seana Durman. The couple have three children: Sydney, Rieleah and Remy.

 

Ed Jackson
Assistant A.D./Character Education

Long-time Louisiana Tech assistant coach Ed Jackson is in his fifth year as the Assistant A.D./Character Education and is beginning his 24th season as a part of the LA Tech staff.

Jackson also works with the character education program for the Louisiana Tech athletics department.

For years, Jackson has been actively involved as the counselor and sponsor for the university's Fellowship of Christian Athletes and his current role enables him to continue to mold the lives of Tech student-athletes.

Jackson played collegiately for Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s, but he never dreamed that more than 35 years later he would still be a part of the Bulldog program.

In addition to his role as the character education coordinator, Jackson will also be working with the team as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.

He instills the same life lessons he learned as a player at Tech that helped him achieve so many years of success as a player, coach, husband, father and man of strong faith.

During his playing days at Tech, Jackson earned All-Southland Conference honors and first team All-Louisiana honors and was a member of the 1977 and 1978 Independence Bowl teams.

Jackson played professionally in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders, in the USFL for the Tampa Bay Bandits and Orlando Renegades and in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts.

After his professional playing career ended in 1985, Jackson began his coaching career at Hinds Community College where he served as the defensive line coach from 1987 to 1991 and the defensive coordinator in 1992. During those six years, Jackson coached eventual NFL stars in Leon Lett, Marvin Washington, John Copeland, Pervis Hunt, Grady Jackson and Gary Walker.

Jackson returned to his alma mater in 1993 when he was hired by Joe Raymond Peace as the defensive ends coach. After four years at that position, Jackson was promoted prior to the 1997 season to assistant head coach by Bulldog head coach Gary Crowton while also moving to the Tech linebackers.

The father of five returned to the Bulldog defensive line in 2000 where he spent seven years.

During his 16 seasons as a coach at Tech, Jackson helped lead the Bulldog football program into the 21st century, including a trip into the Associated Press Top 25 in 1999 and a Western Athletic Conference championship title and subsequent bowl berth in 2001.

Jackson was also a finalist for the 1999 American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year award.

He earned his bachelor's degree in education from Tech in 1983, and his master's in education administration from Mississippi College in 1989.

Jackson and his wife, Sheila, have five daughters: Ashley, Adrianna, Andrea, Aisha and Alexis.