The longest-tenured coach on the NIU football staff, Jeff Phelps enters his fifth year at Northern Illinois in 2010 and will coach the entire defensive line for the third season after working with the tackles in his first two years with the Huskies.
This past January, Phelps added recruiting coordinator duties to his on-field coaching responsibilities.
Phelps will coach one of the deepest units on the team in 2010, led by senior All-MAC performer Jake Coffman, who excelled at both end and tackle a year ago. The line's performance a year ago was key to the Huskies' finishing the season as the top total defense in the league. Northern Illinois ranked 30th in the country in rushing defense, allowing only 124.77 rushing yards per game.
In 2008, Phelps coached NIU career sacks leader Larry English, the MAC's two-time Vern Smith Leadership Award winner and 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. English was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 16th pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, becoming the highest draft choice in school history.
Phelps was part of the Huskies' defensive staff that engineered one of the largest turnarounds in the country a year ago, as Northern Illinois went from one of the worst defenses in the MAC in 2007 to the number one unit in the league in 2008. The Huskies boasted the second-most improved scoring defense in the nation in 2008. NIU also led the league and ranked 17th nationally in total defense.
The Chicagoland native was one of two assistant coaches retained by new head coach Jerry Kill. In 2006, Phelps' charges helped the NIU defense rank second in the Mid-American Conference against the run, allowing just 121.9 yards per game.
Phelps has climbed the coaching ranks during his career. After initially serving one season as a graduate assistant at Ball State, his alma mater, in 1999, he moved on to Division III DePauw University in Indiana, where he coached the running backs for two seasons before moving over to work with the linebackers in 2002. During his time at DePauw, the Tigers claimed a share of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference crown in 2000.
In 2003, he moved from DePauw to Hillsdale College in Michigan where he spent three campaigns as the defensive line coach.
Phelps was familiar with NIU from his playing days as a four-year letterman and two-time All-MAC selection at Ball State. Phelps started the final 33 games of his career at outside linebacker and produced 277 tackles in 44 games while playing for head coaches Paul Schudel (1994) and Bill Lynch (1995-97). As a junior, he earned honorable mention all-league honors with 91 stops, 11 tackles for loss, seven quarterback sacks and five pass break ups. He also caused three fumbles and recovered four, two of which he ran back for touchdowns. Ball State won the MAC title that season, posted an 8-4 overall record and played in the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl.
Following his senior season, Phelps was a second team All-MAC honoree after serving as a team captain. He was credited with 108 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four sacks, including a career-high 13 stops versus eventual MAC champion Marshall.
Phelps went to Ball State from Crete-Monee High where he was a three-sport and seven-time letterman in football (2), wrestling (2) and track and field (3).
He earned a bachelor's degree in marketing from Ball State in 1998. He is married to the former Tyla Turner of East Chicago, Ind.
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