College Sports

Coach known for bolstering running games is Charlotte 49ers’ new offensive coordinator

Will Healy was recently hired as the Charlotte 49ers’ head football coach.
Will Healy was recently hired as the Charlotte 49ers’ head football coach.

Alex Atkins, who helped build strong running games at two schools in recent seasons, was named the Charlotte 49ers’ new offensive coordinator.

Atkins will rejoin new head coach Will Healy, with whom he worked in the 2012 and ’13 seasons when both were assistants at Chattanooga.

Atkins spent the past three seasons at Tulane as assistant head coach and offensive line coach. The Green Wave’s rushing attack ranked 20th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2017 and 26th in 2016.

Alex Atkins-Mug
Alex Atkins will join the Charlotte 49ers as offensive coordinator. Tulane Athletics

Tulane went 7-6 this season and beat Louisiana 41-24 in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.

Between the Chattanooga and Tulane jobs, Atkins was an assistant coach at Georgia Southern in 2014 and ’15, during the school’s transition from Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to FBS. Georgia Southern made its first bowl appearance in 2015, playing in the Bowl.

Atkins joins six other assistants named last week by Healy, including Brandon Cooper, who will be co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach. Cooper was an assistant to Healy at Austin Peay, where Healy coached the past three seasons.

Healy has looked to familiar faces for the first six hires on his coaching staff.

In addition to Cooper, Healy also hired Max Thurmond as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach; Mark Carney as quarterbacks coach; and Eddie Hicks, with cornerbacks. Thurmond and Hicks were on Healy’s staff at Austin Peay, and Carney coached Healy in college at Richmond.

Two other members of Healy’s staff at Austin Peay - Carter Crutchfield and Chris Laskowski - also were named to Charlotte’s staff. Crutchfield will be recruiting coordinator and Laskowski will be strength and conditioning coach.

Thurmond, who has coached for nearly two decades, was linebackers coach and special teams coordinator under Healy during the 2016 and ’17 seasons at Austin Peay. Carney, offensive coordinator at Virginia State the past four years, was Healy’s quarterbacks coach when the new 49ers’ head coach played for the Spiders.

Hicks, most recently the cornerbacks coach at Southern Mississippi, was an assistant under Healy in 2016 and ’17 at Austin Peay.

Healy, hired to head the 49ers’ program earlier this month, said last week that he won’t announce the full staff for a few more weeks.

“Some of the guys are involved with bowl games,” he said.

Healy said Cooper was a key part of the turnaround at Austin Peay, which had gone 1-45 from 2013-16 but improved to 13-10 the past two seasons – including 13-6 against fellow FCS members.

Thurmond spent the past year as defensive coordinator at Central Arkansas and previously coached at his alma mater, Jacksonville State, and then at West Alabama.

Carney helped guide a Virginia State team that went 19-3 over the 2016 and ’17 seasons.

Healy replaced Brad Lambert, who launched the 49ers’ program in 2013 and compiled a 22-48 record before he was fired last month.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle