Chad Staggs, who from 2013-16 headed up some of the nation’s top defensive units at Charleston Southern, is entering his second year as Furman’s defensive coordinator and coach of the squad’s safeties following an encouraging start a year ago.
With only one senior in its two-deep, Staggs led a reinvigorated unit that displayed more aggressiveness, evidenced by the Furman producing a league leading 34 sacks that helped key the Paladins to an 8-5 record, the program’s first FCS playoff berth since 2013, and consensus No. 20 final ranking. His position pupil, safety Aaquil Annoor, earned consensus All-SoCon honors after totaling 64 tackles, two interceptions, and three pass breakups.
During his four-year tenure at Charleston Southern, which included two seasons of work with the program’s linebackers and the last two with the defensive backs, Staggs’ defenses played a major role in the Buccaneers winning 35 games, claiming two Big South Conference Championships, and earning Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoff berths the last two seasons.
In 2016 he mentored a unit that led the Big South and ranked seventh nationally in total defense (294.1 ypg). The Buccaneers also finished among the nation’s best in passing defense (158.8 ypg/3rd) and sacks (2.6/18th), and produced seven all-conference performers led by All-America defensive end Anthony Ellis.
Staggs’ unit closed the campaign with impressive performances in victories over ranked foes Liberty and Kennesaw State, helping Charleston Southern successfully defend its league title. The defense was also superb in the Bucs’ 15-14, FCS first round playoff loss at Wofford, yielding only 185 yards, including just 141 on the ground after the Terriers entered the game ranked fifth nationally in rushing offense (295.8 ypg).
CSU finished the 2016 season ranked 14th in the final FCS poll, extending its streak of Top 25 rankings to a school record 22 weeks.
Charleston Southern’s defense was central to CSU going 4-0 against cross-town rival The Citadel from 2013-15, highlighted by a pair of victories over the Bulldogs in 2015, including a 14-6 triumph in second round playoff action. In both victories that season, part of a 10-3 campaign, the Bucs’ “Blue Swarm” defense put the clamps on The Citadel’s vaunted rushing attack, limiting the Bulldogs to 181 and 162 rushing yards, respectively.
CSU ranked fourth nationally in passing defense (144.9 ypg), ninth in total defense (292.0 ypg), and 16th in third down percentage defense (32.4%) in 2015.
In 2014, Staggs’ defense carried CSU for much of its 5-0 start to the season, and ended the year as the Big South leader in total defense (325.7 ypg), rushing defense (140.6 ypg), and pass defense (185.1 ypg). In addtion the Bucs held opponents to just a 32.2 percent third down success rate, good for 19th in the FCS, and ranked 18th in turnover margin.
The turnaround that paved the way for Charleston Southern’s current success began in 2013, Staggs’ first season as defensive coordinator, when the Bucs posted a 10-3 worksheet and No. 22 final national ranking. Fueled by improved defensive play under his guidance, CSU won its first seven games, highlighted by a 27-24 road triumph over FBS transition Appalachian State.
Staggs served as defensive coordinator at Delta State for the 2012 season after working in the same capacity at North Greenville for three years (2009-11). In his third season on the Crusaders’ staff, he added the title of assistant head coach and was a central figure in North Greenville’s 11-3 campaign and run to the 2011 NCAA Division II playoff quarterfinals.
He had a brief stint at Charleston Southern in 2008, coaching the Buccaneers’ secondary while also assisting with special teams.
He spent five seasons as a graduate assistant at South Carolina (2003-07) under former national championship head coaches Steve Spurrier and Lou Holtz, working with the secondary and linebackers, as well as the scout team. During that span South Carolina played in both the 2005 Independence and 2006 Liberty Bowls.
Staggs began his coaching career as an assistant at Lexington (S.C.) High School (2000-02) under Jimmy Satterfield, who served as Furman’s head coach for nine seasons (1986-93) and directed the Paladins to the 1988 NCAA I-AA (FCS) national championship.
He graduated from USC Upstate in 2000 with a degree in math education and also holds a master’s degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management from the University of South Carolina.
He and his wife Kelli have two children, Gracie and Jack.