Area Native, Former USC Lineman Wharton Among Panthers Coaching Announcements

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have named Chase Blackburn special teams coordinator, Brady Hoke defensive line coach, Steve Russ linebackers coach, Scott Turner quarterbacks coach, Heath Farwell assistant special teams coach, and Travelle Wharton assistant offensive line coach.

Blackburn served as assistant special teams coach for two seasons (2016-17), before being promoted to special teams coordinator.

In 2017, Blackburn coached a Panthers special teams unit that produced a kickoff return touchdown and a punt return touchdown in the same season for the first time since 2003. Carolina finished 10th in the NFL in kickoff return average.

Kicker Graham Gano earned his first Pro Bowl selection after setting a franchise record with an NFL-leading 96.7 field goal percentage (29-of-30). Gano also led the NFL in touchback percentage at 85.4, sending 70 of his 83 kickoff into the end zone for touchbacks. Punter Michael Palardy, in his first full NFL season, helped the Panthers rank fifth in net punting average with a franchise record 42.4-yard net average, working with a coverage unit that contributed to the Panthers eighth-place finish in the league in opponent’s punt return average (5.9 yards per return).

A former NFL linebacker and special teams standout, Blackburn made his coaching debut in 2016 after serving as a coaching intern with the Panthers during the 2016 offseason.

Blackburn played eight seasons with the New York Giants (2005-12) and led the team in special teams tackles for six consecutive years from 2005-10. He earned two Super Bowl rings with the Giants, contributing to their victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Blackburn played his final two seasons (2013-14) with the Panthers.

Hoke will be making his NFL coaching debut following 34 years coaching at the collegiate level, including 12 seasons as a head coach with Michigan (2011-14), San Diego State (2009-10) and Ball State (2003-08).

He joins the Panthers staff after spending 2017 at the University of Tennessee as associate head coach/defensive line coach. He was the Volunteers’ interim head coach for the final two games of the season following Butch Jones’ departure. In 2016, Hoke was Oregon’s defensive coordinator/defensive ends coach.

 

Hoke brings 20 seasons of experience as a defensive line coach with stops at Grand Valley State (1983), Western Michigan (1984-86), Oregon State (1989-94), Michigan (defensive ends coach 1995-96, defensive line coach 1997-2001, associate head coach/defensive line coach 2002), Oregon (defensive coordinator/defensive ends 2016) and Tennessee (associate head coach/defensive line 2017). He also coached linebackers at Toledo from 1986-89.

Hoke was Michigan’s head coach from 2011-14, guiding the Wolverines to a 31-20 mark. In his first season, Hoke led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory. Hoke was named the Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year.

Hoke earned his first head coaching job at his alma mater, Ball State, where he directed the program for six seasons (2003-08). His tenure culminated with 12-1 campaign in 2008 and an undefeated Mid-American Conference regular season as Ball State earned its first-ever Associated Press top 25 ranking. After Ball State, Hoke spent two seasons (2009-10) as head coach at San Diego State. Hoke guided the Aztecs to their first bowl game in 12 years during his final season as well as their most wins (9) since 1977.

 

Prior to joining the Panthers, Russ spent six seasons (2012-17) at Air Force as the assistant head coach, including four (2014-17) as the defensive coordinator and defensive backfield coach. Russ served as co-defensive coordinator from 2012-13 with responsibilities coaching the secondary (2012) and inside linebackers (2013).

In 2016, Russ’ defensive unit ranked 10th nationally in rushing defense and 33rd in total defense. In 2014, Russ’ first season as the Falcons sole defensive coordinator, Air Force improved in all four major categories, including a 15.8 points per game improvement to 24.2 allowed per game which led the Mountain West and was 72 spots higher in the national rankings (33rd) than the previous season. The Falcons also improved in rushing, passing and total defense, including a more than 100-yard improvement in rushing defense to 135.6 yards per game. Air Force went from ranking 119th nationally in 2013 to 28th in 2014, a 91-spot improvement.

Russ came to Air Force, his alma mater, from Wake Forest where he spent four seasons (2008-11). Russ coached tight ends and fullbacks in his first two seasons before moving to the defensive side of the ball, coaching linebackers in 2010 and the secondary in 2011. Russ also coached at Syracuse (2005-07) and Ohio (2001-04). Russ began his coaching career at Air Force as a graduate assistant strength coach in 1995.

A seventh-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in the 1995 NFL Draft, Russ is one of just seven players in Air Force history to be drafted in the NFL. Following two years of active service in the military, Russ joined the Broncos and spent four seasons (1997-2000) with the team, and was a part of Denver’s 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl Championship teams.

Turner returns to Carolina for his second stint with the Panthers, having previously served as the team’s offensive quality control coach from 2011-12. Turner most recently served as the University of Michigan’s senior offensive analyst in 2017.

Prior to joining Michigan, Turner worked as the Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach from 2014-16. In 2016, Turner helped quarterback Sam Bradford set an NFL record in completion percentage (71.6) and guided him to Vikings records in single-season completions (395), interception percentage (0.9; five in 552 attempts) and single-season completion percentage (71.6). Bradford notched the fourth-highest passer rating in Vikings history with a career-best 99.3.

In 2014 and 2015, Turner worked with first-round draft choice Teddy Bridgewater. In 2014, Turner helped Bridgewater to the best season for a rookie quarterback in Vikings history, setting virtually every franchise rookie passing record and producing the third-best completion percentage (64.6) and the seventh-highest passer rating (85.2) in NFL history for a rookie. In 2015, Bridgewater garnered Pro Bowl honors and helped lead the Vikings to their first NFC North title since 2009.

In 2013, Turner coached wide receivers for the Cleveland Browns, helping Josh Gordon to the best receiving season in Browns history. Despite appearing in just 14 games, he became the first player in Browns history to lead the NFL in receiving yards (1,646). He averaged 117.6 receiving yards per game, becoming the first player since Torry Holt in 2003 to lead the league in both receiving yards and receiving yards per game.

Prior to his first stint in Carolina, Turner spent three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh (2008-10), his first two as an offensive assistant and the last as wide receivers coach. He made his coaching debut in 2005 as a graduate assistant at Oregon State before serving as the offensive coordinator at South County (Va.) Secondary School from 2006-07.

Farwell joins the Panthers after two seasons (2016-17) with the Seattle Seahawks, serving as a coaching assistant in his first season before being promoted to assistant special teams coach in his second season.

In 2017, Farwell coached a unit that included return man Tyler Lockett who averaged 25.6 yards per kickoff return, the second-best mark in the NFL, and returned one kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. The Seahawks also featured a coverage team that helped Seattle rank 10th in the NFL in kickoff coverage.

Farwell spent 10 seasons (2005-14) in the NFL as a player, first with the Minnesota Vikings (2005-10) and then with Seattle (2011-14). Farwell excelled on special teams, garnering Pro Bowl honors in 2009 with Minnesota, and earning a Super Bowl ring with Seattle following the 2013 season. He finished his playing career with 159 special teams tackles, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and a blocked punt.

Wharton, who played nine seasons on the offensive line for the Panthers, will assist run game coordinator John Matsko, his position coach in 2011 and 2013.

Wharton spent time as a coaching assistant for the Panthers prior to the 2017 season in offseason workouts and training camp as part of the NFL Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. He made his coaching debut in 2015 with his alma mater, the University of South Carolina. Wharton was promoted to offensive line coach midway through that season after beginning the year as an offensive quality control coach.

Wharton is a veteran of 10 NFL seasons, nine (2004-11, 2013) with the Panthers and one with the Cincinnati Bengals (2012). With the Panthers, Wharton started 111 of 115 regular season games played, the third-highest totals by an offensive lineman in team history.

A native of Fountain Inn, S.C., Wharton played collegiately at South Carolina before being selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Panthers.