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Helena's Clay Bignell named new defensive coordinator at Southern Miss

EIU Football 2022
Posted at 1:53 PM, Dec 12, 2023

(Editor's note: Southern Miss Athletics release.)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Southern Miss football coach Will Hall announced Tuesday the addition of Clay Bignell to the Golden Eagle staff.

Bignell comes to Southern Miss after serving as an assistant coach for the last two seasons, including this past year as defensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois. His first year in 2022 saw him coach the safeties and serve as pass game coordinator.

"Clay is a proven play caller with a lot of energy and enthusiasm," said Hall. "He has learned under some of the best defensive minds in college football. Throughout this process, it was obvious that he is a great teacher with a deep passion for his players."

In his only year as defensive coordinator at EIU, the Panther defense currently rank No. 1 nationally in turnover margin (1.36), as well as No 6 turnovers gained (25), No. 10 in fumbles recovered (11), No. 12 in pass interceptions (14), No. 18 in scoring defense (19.7), No. 19 in fourth-down defense (.409), No. 26 in team pass defense efficiency (117.59) and No. 30 in rushing defense (124.6) in the Football Championship Subdivision.

In his first season as safeties coach, his position group had three players ranked in the top six in tacklers on the team, including the team leader, while also accounting for five interceptions, 17 pass break-ups and four forced fumbles that season that resulted in a pair of second team All-Ohio Valley Conference selections. The Panthers also ranked No. 16 in passes intercepted and No 29 in turnovers gained in the FCS.

Prior to his time at EIU, Bignell worked as a senior defensive analyst at Vanderbilt in 2021, where he also assisted with the outside linebacker position. He also held the title of senior defensive analyst at East Carolina in 2020, helping with the linebackers.

His coaching experience also includes four years at Notre Dame, working as a defensive graduate before being elevated to a senior defensive analyst for the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, where he also coach outside linebackers, rovers and defensive backs during his time with the Fighting Irish. While in South Bend, he was on staff for three bowl games, including the Camping World Bowl (2019), Cotton Bowl (2018) and Citrus Bowl (2017). The Cotton Bowl served as the College Football Player semifinal as ND finished 12-1 that season.

Bignell also worked as a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2014 and 2015, where he helped coach the defensive linemen. During his time there, the Wildcats reached the Outback Bowl one season. He also served as a defensive graduate assistant at Montana State from 2013-14, helping with the linebackers. His first season in collegiate coaching came as the linebackers coach at Montana Western in 2012.

A two-time All-Big Sky Conference selection at linebacker at Montana State, Bignell helped the Bobcats to league championships and NCAA FCS berths in both 2010 and 2011. The Helena Capital alum earned his undergraduate degree from Montana State in 2011 and a master's degree from Northwestern in 2016.