Jerry Scott, Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations
JONESBORO – New Arkansas State head football coach Butch Jones has announced the first additions to his Red Wolves’ staff, including a pair of defensive coaches in Brandon Joiner and Jon Shalala, wide receivers coach Derrick Lett and Director of Player Personnel Matt Wilson.
Joiner will be the Red Wolves’ defensive line coach, and the actual position fielded by Shalala will be announced at a later date by Jones, who was named A-State’s 31st all-time head coach on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Joiner will remain on the A-State staff after serving the last two seasons overseeing the Red Wolves’ defensive line. A familiar face in Jonesboro and an Arkansas State University alumnus, Joiner was a two-year letterman for the Red Wolves from 2010-11 and helped lead the program to the 2011 Sun Belt Conference championship while being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Joiner’s defensive line unit this season has helped A-State rank 37th in the nation in tackles for loss, averaging 6.9 per game. Anchored by NFL prospect and 2018 All-Sun Belt pick Forrest Merrill, the group helped A-State post at least five tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 10 outings. The Red Wolves allowed just three players to reach 100 yards rushing in a game and five opponents didn’t reach 100 yards as a team as A-State ranked 55th in the nation in rushing defense.
The Joiner-coached defensive line had a pair of all-conference selections in 2019, including first-team choice William Bradley-King and second-team pick Kevin Thurmon. The duo helped A-State post 19 turnovers gained that ranked second in the Sun Belt and 48th in the nation. The defensive unit turned three of those turnovers into touchdowns, which ranked third in the league and 12th in the country.
He spent three seasons at A-State as a graduate assistant coach (2016) and in a defensive line quality control position (2017-18) before being elevated to a full-time coaching role. During that time, Joiner helped lead the program to the 2016 Sun Belt Conference championship, three consecutive winning seasons and a trio of bowl-game appearances.
The Killeen, Texas, native earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Arkansas State University in 2012.
“Brandon has been an individual who has been extremely impactful in the overall development of our student-athletes at Arkansas State, and in particular our defensive line,” said Jones. “I have been extremely impressed with his energy and commitment to this program.”
Shalala comes to A-State after spending this season primarily working with the linebackers unit at Mississippi State as a defensive quality control coach. He joined the Bulldogs’ staff following a three-year stint at Tennessee as a defensive graduate assistant, including the 2016 season when he worked under Jones and the Volunteers won the Music City Bowl.
Shalala joined Tennessee in the summer of 2016 after coaching the offensive line and tight ends at Arizona Western College in 2015. His lone season at the school saw the Matadors post a 7-4 overall record, including a 14-5 victory over the College of DuPage in the El Toro Bowl.
Prior to joining Arizona Western’s staff, Shalala worked one season as the wide receivers coach for the Iowa Barnstormers in Des Moines, Iowa, while finishing his degree as a senior at Grand View University.
The Sugar Land, Texas, native earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and psychology from Grand View University, which he attended from 2011-14 while playing quarterback for the 2013 NAIA National Champions.
“Jon is an individual who is a tireless recruiter, extremely knowledgeable football coach and has vast experiences in many different schemes,” Jones said. “He is a driven and passionate coach, and we’re excited to have him here at Arkansas State.”
Lett will take over the wide receivers unit for the Red Wolves after spending the last eight years (2013-20) coaching at the collegiate level, including stops at Tennessee (2013-14) and Yale (2015-20).
Lett coached running backs at Yale the last six years while also serving as the Bulldogs assistant head coach since 2019. Lett, who was also Yale’s recruiting coordinator, helped lead the program to Ivy League championships in both 2017 and 2019 with identical 9-1 records each of those seasons.
He regularly helped sign FCS recruiting classes that were ranked among the top five nationally while overseeing a running backs unit that excelled under his direction. He coached three running backs who earned All-Ivy League honors at least once, including Alan Lamar, Deshawn Salter and Zane Dudek.
Dudek was also tabbed an FCS All-America selection, while Lamar was named to the Freshman All-America Team in 2016. He also coached former Yale running back Austin Reuland, who played in the CFL.
An offensive quality control assistant at Tennessee under Jones for two seasons prior to Yale, Lett worked with the running backs, wide receivers and punt return group while assisting the recruiting coordinator.
He helped lead the 2014 Volunteers to their first bowl-game victory since 2010. Working mainly with the wide receivers, the unit had four members record at least 30 catches. As a group, they caught 19 touchdown passes in 12 games.
Prior to his time at Tennessee, Lett spent four years as an assistant at Bowling Green (Ohio) High School. He was in charge of the secondary his first two years before becoming the passing game coordinator, primarily in charge of quarterbacks and wide receivers. He implemented a new offense that more than doubled passing production, helping three of his players earn college scholarships. In addition to his coaching duties with football, he also coached the varsity track team.
A four-year letter winner at Bowling Green State University from 2001-05, Lett appeared in 49 consecutive games, helping the Falcons to two bowl-game victories, and at one point, a No. 16 ranking in the country. He was part of a wide receiver corps that ranked third in the country by Athlon Sports, as well as an offense that finished fourth in the nation in scoring.
Lett, who earned the school’s Coaches Award, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2006.
“Derrick is a relentless recruiter and has great passion for coaching wide receivers,” Jones said. “I have been able to witness his coaching style and look forward to seeing that again here with our football program.”
Wilson joins the Arkansas State staff as Director of Player Personnel after most recently spending the last three seasons (2018-20) at Mississippi State as the Bulldogs Director of Football Personnel.
During his time in Starkville, he assisted in a recruiting plan that resulted in back-to-back Top 25 classes for the first time in school history. It resulted in 37 of 59 players who signed competing in their freshman or sophomore seasons, including 14 starters in 2020. The Bulldogs competed in two bowl games during Wilson’s three seasons with the program.
Wilson went to Mississippi State from Indiana University, where he was the Senior Director of Player Personnel/Recruiting during the 2017 season. He helped develop a plan for the third-highest ranked recruiting class in school history, which included three four-star-ranked players. He spent the 2017 season under current head coach Tom Allen, who was an assistant coach at Arkansas State in 2011.
He previously worked with Jones’ staff at Tennessee from 2014-16, assisting in three consecutive top-15 recruiting classes. During Wilson’s time with the Volunteers, they won three consecutive bowl games and put together back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2015 and 2016.
Prior to Tennessee, Wilson served as a Recruiting Aide at UConn from 2012-13 and a Pro Scouting Assistant with the Arizona Cardinals from 2010-11.
The Hopewell, Penn., native earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Arizona State University in December of 2010.
“Matt has played an instrumental role in helping secure many strong recruiting classes at a number of different institutions,” said Jones. “He has a unique skill set for not only the recruiting of student-athletes, but also the organization, management skills and ability to run an overall recruiting department at a high level. I look forward to working with Matt again, and I’m excited that he will be leading our recruiting efforts.”