Who could have predicted two controversial firings of head coaches over treatment of college football players could result in a huge advancement for former BYU secondary coach and player Brian Mitchell? Mitchell, who also had a short NFL career, was named the new defensive coordinator at East Carolina of Conference USA on Monday.

Mitchell, who coached defensive backs last fall at Texas Tech, takes the job after accepting a job to coach cornerbacks at Memphis.

In a crazy domino effect, Mitchell left the Memphis job after getting hired just a few weeks ago. The defensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Ruffin McNeill, is an alum of East Carolina and accepted the head coaching job after he was released by Texas Tech. McNeill wanted Mitchell to follow him there with a big raise and title of coordinator. The East Carolina job opened up after coach Skip Holtz accepted a job at South Florida. The South Florida job opened up after the school fired coach Jim Leavitt for allegedly grabbing a player by the throat.

Texas Tech fired its head coach Mike Leach in December over his ordering a receiver with a concussion to spend time in a storage shed during practice.

So, two incidents where coaches lost jobs due to situations in handling players, opened the door for Mitchell in Greenville, N.C., his new home.

Mitchell spent 11 seasons as a defensive assistant at BYU. Before reuniting with McNeill, Mitchell was also previously announced as Memphis' new cornerbacks coach Jan. 18.

"Brian's a very knowledgeable and experienced coach who has the ability to relate exceptionally well with his players," McNeill said. "He's been able to draw on his experiences as a player at BYU and in the NFL and bring those leadership qualities into the coaching profession."

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The Red Raiders were solid at the corners each of the last four seasons under Mitchell. Jamar Wall led the group with 62 tackles and two interceptions in 2008. His biggest pick was a game-saving interception in overtime against Nebraska on Tech's homecoming. Wall was named to the All-Big 12 second team in 2009, and ranked second in the league and tied for second nationally with 17 passes defended.

The Texas Tech pass defense ranked best in the Big 12 Conference in 2006 and 2007, limiting opponents to 188.4 yards per game in 2007 — the only Big 12 program to hold opponents below 200 yards per game. The unit didn't skip a beat during his first season in 2006 as Red Raider corners picked four of the team's 11 interceptions. Starters Antonio Huffman and Chris Parker snagged two each as the Texas Tech pass defense ranked first in the Big 12 Conference. Parker, in his first season as a starter in the secondary, blossomed under Mitchell by posting 50 tackles and six pass breakups.

Following a brief career in the NFL, Mitchell returned to his alma mater, BYU, and earned a degree in clinical social work in 1994, before landing a position as defensive backs coach the following year on legendary collegiate coach LaVell Edwards' staff.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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