Chris Simpson is in his fifth season as linebackers coach.
Working with the linebackers, Simpson helped develop Khalil Hodge, arguably the best middle linebacker to ever play at Buffalo. In only three seasons, Hodge recorded 421 tackles, the third-highest total in school history.
In 2018, three of the team’s four leading tacklers were linebackers, including Hodge (144), James Patterson (77) and Jordan Collier (56).
In 2017, Hodge had arguably the finest season by a linebacker in school history. The junior middle linebacker had an FBS-era record 154 tackles on the year to lead the Mid-American Conference and rank second in the nation. Hodge was named All-MAC First Team for his efforts.
In 2016, for the second straight season, Simpson’s linebackers were the top three leading tacklers on the team. Hodge had a huge season for the Bulls, finishing with 123 tackles, the eighth most in school history for a single season and the second most in UB’s FBS era. Hodge was named All-MAC Second Team.
Simpson made an immediate impact with the Bulls as the linebackers were arguably the strongest unit of the Bulls defense in 2015. The top three tacklers on the team were linebackers and for the first time since 2008, the Bulls had two different players with over 100 tackles as Nick Gilbo finished with 113 and Brandon Berry had 104. Berry was named All-MAC Second Team and Okezie Alozie was named third-team All-MAC.
Simpson came to UB after spending 2014 as the outside linebackers coach at MAC-foe Eastern Michigan.
Prior to coaching at EMU, Simpson spent the previous four seasons as linebackers coach at Grand Valley State. During his time in Allendale, Mich., the team posted a 39-11 record and four Division II playoff victories. He also tutored six All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) performers during that span.
Grand Valley closed the 2013 football campaign ranked third in the final American Football Coaches Association poll. The Lakers advanced to the NCAA DII National Semifinals for the eighth time after knocking off undefeated and No. 3 ranked Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Senior linebacker Jordan Kaufman received second team All-GLIAC honors after leading the squad in tackles with 87, while also recording eight tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and returning a blocked field goal 56 yards for a score. Also earning honorable mention league honors for GVSU were senior linebackers Charles Hill and Luther Ware.
His 2011 linebacking unit was a key component in a Laker defense that ended the year among the GLIAC leaders. GVSU led the league in tackles for loss (93) and sacks (36), while ranking second in scoring defense (20.2). GVSU limited opponents to 15.5 points per game in its last five games that season.
Simpson’s linebacking unit helped the Laker defense rank nationally in several categories, including the top 20 in tackles for loss and quarterback sacks in 2010. Ware and Justin Victor earned All-GLIAC accolades during the 2010 campaign.
He arrived at GVSU following a two-year stint at the University of Nebraska-Omaha under current EMU defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin. The Mavericks were 14-9 with one appearance in the NCAA DII playoffs during his time on the staff.
Simpson spent five years at Division III national power Wisconsin-Whitewater where he was an assistant coach in charge of the linebackers. UWW was 42-3 his final three seasons with three-straight NCAA DIII National Championship game appearances and three Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference crowns. The Warhawks claimed the 2007 National Championship and turned in an overall mark of 56-9 during his five years on the staff.
In addition, Simpson coached two years (1999-2000) at Waunakee (Wis.) High School, one year (2001) at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, as a graduate assistant and one year (2002) at Wisconsin-Platteville. In the summer of 2006, Simpson was selected as a participant at the NCAA Men’s Football Coaches Academy.
He also has received an NFL Minority Coaching Internship on six occasions, from the Green Bay Packers for defensive line and special teams in the summer of 2006, in 2007 with the Dallas Cowboys, in 2008 with the Carolina Panthers, in 2009 with the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns and in 2013 with the Detroit Lions.
Simpson graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Wisconsin-Whitewater in physical education in 1998. He earned his master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2004.
Simpson and his wife, Nicole, have three children: Jarryn, Riley and Noah.
Burrow served as Kent State’s safeties coach from 2011-17 and was promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2017. He was part of the Golden Flashes’ 2012 MAC East title run and the program’s first bowl appearance in 40 years. In each of Burrow’s first five seasons, a Kent State safety earned All-MAC honors, including two-time first-team All-MAC pick Nate Holley.
In his time at Kent State, he coached a number of Academic All-MAC players, including Jordan Italiano who became the first football player in Kent State’s history to be a three-time Academic All-American. In 2015, he was the nation’s only position coach to have two Academic All-Americans.
Prior to Kent State, Burrow spent one season as the secondary coach at Indiana State after spending the previous season as the assistant secondary coach at Marshall. From 2007-08, Burrow was the wide receiver’s coach at Jacksonville State.
Burrow was the defensive graduate assistant at Notre Dame in 2005-06. He also served as the defensive graduate assistant at Minnesota in 2003 and 2004.
Burrow was a four-year starter at cornerback at the University of Cincinnati from 1995-99. Following his collegiate career, he signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and played one season with the team.
The Sylvester, GA native earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cincinnati in 1999 and a master’s degree in education from Minnesota in 2004. He and his wife, Janea, have three daughters, Jazmyne, Jaelyn and Jayda.
McCaslin has over 20 years of coaching experience, including serving as defensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan in 2014 and 2015. Leipold and McCaslin worked together at Nebraska-Omaha from 1997-2000 and from 2004-06. A proven winner, McCaslin has been part of seven conference championships during his coaching career along with 15 winning seasons.
Prior to Eastern Michigan, McCaslin spent two years at Drake University where he served as the team's defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach. He helped turn the Bulldogs into one of the top defenses in the Pioneer Football League.
In 2012, the Bulldogs ranked second in the PFL in total defense by surrendering just 329 yards per game and two Bulldogs, including PFL Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Moorehead, ranked in the top 10 in the league in sacks. Additionally, nine Drake defenders were named to all-PFL teams.
McCaslin came to Drake from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he coached for 14 seasons, including the last six as the Mavericks' defensive coordinator (2005-10). He also served as associate head coach his final four seasons before the program was disbanded in 2010.
As defensive coordinator at UNO, McCaslin oversaw a dramatic improvement across the entire unit. The 2007 Mavericks ranked first in the North Central Conference in scoring defense (16.8), turnover margin (+14) and rush defense (97.2). Their red zone defense also improved from worst to first in the NCC from 2006 to 2007. UNO players collected all three NCC defensive MVP awards in 2007.
McCaslin began his tenure at Nebraska-Omaha as a graduate student assistant coach for three seasons (1997-99) before becoming a full-time assistant in 2000, in charge of the defensive line. McCaslin's units were quickly among the strongest in the conference. Among his star pupils was All-American Chris Cooper, a sixth-round draft pick who has spent nine seasons in the National Football League. He also coached Buck Rasmussen, who earned a Super Bowl ring in 2005 with the New England Patriots, and Kenny Onatolu, who played with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League before being signed by the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2009 season.
Most recently, McCaslin served as head coach at Benedictine University, a Division III program in Illinois.
A native of Cheyenne, Wyo., McCaslin was a stand-out wide receiver at Hastings College from 1990-1994. While there he set the school record for most receptions in a game. After graduating he taught and coached at Benson High School in Omaha, Neb., for two years before becoming a graduate assistant at UNO.
Brad and his wife Erin have three children, Gabrielle, Kelton, and Bodey.
DAN ALLEN | Graduate Assistant
JAMES DANIELS | Graduate Assistant