Defensive Coaching Staff

Tom Howe | Defensive Ends

Tom Howe is in his third season on the SFA coaching staff, taking responsibility for the Lumberjack defensive ends.

Arguably few positions on the field were as effective for the Lumberjacks as were the defensive ends. 2015 was a breakout season for sophomore John Franklin, leading the team in tackles for loss (8.5), sacks (6.0) and quarterback hurries (five), en route to being named a second team All-Southland Conference selection.

Franklin was aided by veterans Kedrick Harrison and Mitchel Zimmerle, combining for 54 tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks, as along with senior Jamal Allen the position looks to be one of the deepest heading into 2016.

SFA’s defensive ends were a key force for the Lumberjack defensive unit in 2014 as the ‘Jacks held opponents to 186.6 rushing yards and 222 passing yards per game. Anchored by senior Ishmiah Miles and junior Kedrick Harrison, the duo combined for 26 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as SFA ranked among the nation’s top-20 in both categories.

Howe spent the previoius two seasons at Central Oklahoma, serving as the Brochos special teams coordinator and linebacking corps. Prior to his time in Edmond, Howe spent one season at MIAA rival Missouri Southern, overseeing the Lions’ defensive line in 2011.

In 2010, Howe served as the outside linebackers and defensive line coach at Minnesota-Duluth, helping guide the Bulldogs to a 15-0 record and the NCAA Division II national championship. UMD led the nation in fewest points allowed while ranking among the national leaders in three other categories.

Howe spent three seasons at Iowa State (2007-09), assisting with the Cyclones’ offensive line. He began his coaching career in 2004 as an assistant coach at his high school alma mater in Clinton, Iowa, before serving as a graduate assistant at Minot State and Drake, his alma mater.

Howe was a three-year letterwinner at Drake, earning second team All-Conference honors. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Drake and his master’s from Iowa State and is married to the former Kara DeShaw.
Ben Beasley | Safeties

Ben Beasley is in his first season at Stephen F. Austin, joining the staff in January of 2017. Beasley will oversee the Lumberjack safeties.

Beasley brings a large amount of familiarity with the Southland Conference to Nacogdoches, working at four conference schools previously. He comes to SFA from Lamar where he spent three seasons with the Cardinals, working with the secondary. Under Beasley’s tutelage, Lamar saw significant improvement in the defensive backfield, leading the Southland Conference in passing defense in 2016.

Prior to his time in Beaumont, Beasley spent five seasons at rival Sam Houston State, coaching the Bearkat defensive backs from 2009-13. During his time at Sam Houston State, Beasley’s secondary emerged as one of the nation’s best, leading the nation in interceptions and takeaways and ranking fourth in passing efficiency in 2011 as the Bearkats claimed national runner-up honors.

Beasley also helped guide Sam Houston State back to the national championship game in 2012, gaining familiarity of the significance of the annual Battle of the Piney Woods showdown in Houston. During his time in Huntsville, Beasley coached three All-Americans and 11 All-Southland Conference selections.

Beasley is also very familiar with the significance of SFA’s other rivalry game, spending seven years at Northwestern State from 2002-08, competing against the Lumberjacks each season in the Battle for Chief Caddo. During his time in Natchitoches, Beasley was instrumental in the development of six All-SLC performers and helped the Demons emerge as one of the conference’s top defensive teams, ranking in the top-two in total defense three-straight seasons while ranking first in 2008.

Beasley began his coaching career at another Southland Conference rival, spending three seasons as a student assistant at McNeese. He was on the Cowboys staff for the 2001 and 2002 SLC championship teams and helped mentor three All-Americans and 17 All-SLC athletes, including 2001 Defensive Player of the Year Joe Judge.

A native of Houston, Beasley graduated from McNeese in 2002. He and his wife, Ellen, have one daughter, Sarah Jane.
Jeff Byrd | Defensive Coordinator

Jeff Byrd is in his first season as the Lumberjacks' defensive coordinators, overseeing SFA's overall defensive scheme with specific responsibilities for the Lumberjack linebackers.

A coaching veteran known for aggressive defensive play, Byrd has spent the last 14 seasons in the defensive coordinator role, coming to Nacogdoches after spending the last five seasons at Tennessee-Martin.

During his five seasons at UT-Martin, Byrd was part of a Skyhawk staff which registered an overall record of 35-23, holding opponents to less than 30 points per game in four of those five seasons. UT-Martin also earned a reputation as one of the top defensive teams in the Ohio Valley Conference, ranking among the league’s leader in total defense in each of his five seasons.

Byrd’s 2016 UT-Martin defense was one of the best not only in the OVC but nationally as well. The Skyhawks allowed just 24 points per game, ranking second in the conference and 17th nationally, limiting opponents to 128.3 rushing yards and 194.1 passing yards, both second in the conference behind top-five team Jacksonville State.

Where UT-Martin really made its mark was on turnovers, ranking seventh nationally with 28 takeaways in 2016. The Skyhawks registered 17 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries, scoring six defensive touchdowns on the season, second only to New Hampshire’s seven on a national level.

During his time in Tennessee, Byrd mentored over a dozen All-OVC performers, including All-Americans Tony Bell and Ben Johnson. Bell earned All-America honors in both 2013 and 2014, setting a school record with 22.5 sacks , while Johnson led the OVC in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss in 2013.

Prior to joining the staff at UT-Martin, Byrd spent three seasons at Arkansas Tech, serving as the Wonder Boys’ defensive coordinator from 2009 to 2011. Byrd’s defense ranked in the top-25 nationally in back-to-back seasons, allowing just 86.4 rushing yards per game in 2009.

Byrd spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator at Southern Arkansas from 2005 to 2008, coaching 13 All-Gulf South Conference performers during that span. Under his leadership, the Muleriders were one of the nation’s best against the rush, finishing 18th nationally in 2008 allowing just 96.8 yards per game.

His first stint as a defensive coordinator came at Northwest Mississippi College, spending two seasons with the Rangers from 2003 to 2004. Byrd’s tough defensive scheme helped Northwest Mississippi rank fourth nationally in 2003, allowing just 71.6 rushing yards per game and just 212 total yards per game in 2004.

Byrd’s collegiate coaching career also includes stops at Mars Hill College in North Carolina (2000-02), serving as the school’s co-offensive coordinator, as well as at Delta State (2000) where he served as a graduate assistant for the Statesmen. Byrd was an assistant football coach at Washington High School in Greenville, Mississippi, from 1994 to 1998, spending one season as the head coach, principal and athletic director at Bayou Academy in Cleveland, Mississippi, in 1999.

A native of Southaven, Mississippi, Byrd was a three-year letterwinner at center for Southern Mississippi and was a member of the Golden Eagles’ 1988 Indepencence Bowl championship team. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Miss in 1989, followed by his master’s degree in education from Delta State in 2005.

Byrd has a son, Scott, and two daughters, Kris and Mary Katelyn.
Josh Lawson | Linebackers Coach

Josh Lawson is in his first season at Stephen F. Austin, handing the responsibility of the Lumberjack linebackers.

Lawson comes to Nacogdoches after spending eight seasons at Southern Arkansas, including the last five as the Muleriders’ defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Under Lawson’s guidance, Southern Arkansas saw a significant improvement defensively, allowing just 24.4 points and 319.9 yards per game in 2016.

In his first season as defensive coordinator in 2012, Lawson helped engineer a significant turnaround in the Muleriders’ defensive efforts. Southern Arkansas ranked at least 50 spots higher in the national rankings in all five major defensive categories from 2011, including ranking sixth nationally in rushing defense per game, an improvement of 120 spots.

During his time at Southern Arkansas, Lawson also worked with the Muleriders’ linebackers before making the transition to defensive backs prior to the 2015 season. In his eight seasons in Magnolia, Lawson saw over a dozen of his players earn All-Great American Conference honors, including All-American defensive back Don Unamba, who spent time with the St. Louis Rams (NFL), Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL). He also oversaw recruiting efforts in both the East Texas and Dallas areas for the Muleriders.

Prior to his time at Southern Arkansas, Lawson spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Alabama-Birmingham, working with the Blazers linebackers. That was preceeded by a one-year stint at Idaho State of the Big Sky Conference, serving as the Bengals’ defensive line coach. Lawson also spent one year at Walker High School in Jasper, Alabama, filling the roles of co-offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach.

Lawson began his coaching career at Alabama in 2001, serving as a student assistant coach for two seasons before stepping into a graduate assistant role in 2003 and 2004. While in Tuscaloosa, Lawson assisted in two top-20 recruiting classes and was a part of the Crimson Tide’s 2001 Independence Bowl and 2005 Music City Bowl teams.

A native of Berry, Alabama, Lawson earned a pair of degrees from Alabama, achieving his bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 2003, followed by his master’s in sport management in 2004. He is married to the former Meredith Jones.
Kail Kaiser | Director of Football Operations

Kail Kaiser is in his fourth year as SFA’s Director of Football Operations. His primary responsibilities include team travel and serving as the Lumberjacks’ recruiting coordinator while overseeing player personnel, video operations and summer football camps.

During Kaiser's first three seasons in Nacogdoches, he has been a key member of SFA's recruiting efforts, a process in which the Lumberjacks have ranked among the nation's top-20 by Hero Sports FCS, ranking 14th in 2016 and 18th in 2017. Kaiser was also a member of the staff that helped lead the Lumberjacks to an 8-5 record in 2014 and an appearance in the FCS playoffs.

Kaiser is the first full-time football director of operations at SFA, coming to Nacogdoches after spending two seasons as recruiting assistant at Florida State where he was a part of the Seminoles’ 2014 national championship team.

He also assisted with recruiting for FSU’s back-to-back ACC championship teams in 2012 and 2013 as the Seminoles had a pair of top-10 recruiting classes. As part of the recruiting effort at FSU, 31 players Kaiser assisted in bringing to Tallahassee have been drafted in the last four NFL Drafts, including a pair of top-five Draft picks in Jameis Winston (1st overall in 2015) and Jalen Ramsey (5th overall in 2016).

Kaiser also worked as a video coordinator for the FSU women’s basketball team in 2008-09 which culminated in an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

He spent one season as a video intern for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2010-11 following a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force. Kaiser served as a military policeman, serving two combat tours in Kuwait and Korea.

Kaiser earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management from Florida State in 2011 before attaining his master’s degree in 2012. A native of Gulfport, Fla., he married the former Elaina Schultheis of Orlando in the summer of 2014. The couple welcomed their first son, Kash, born in January of 2016.