University of Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck today announced the hiring of defensive coordinator / linebackers coach Corey Hetherman and special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky.

“I am excited to welcome Corey and his wife, Julie, and Bob and his wife, Shelley, and their daughter, Sydney, to Minnesota,” said Fleck. “These are two elite men and coaches who are passionate about developing the entire student-athlete, and I know they will make our young people better on the field, in the classroom and in the community.”

Hetherman comes to Minnesota from Rutgers, while Ligshesky joins the Gophers from Syracuse. Hetherman’s hire is pending a successful background check and approval of the Board of Regents.

Corey Hetherman, Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers Coach

Hetherman spent the two previous seasons as the linebackers coach at Rutgers. Prior to that he was the defensive coordinator at James Madison from 2019-21 and was named the AFCA FCS Assistant Coach of the Year in 2021. He has also been the defensive coordinator at Maine (2016-18) and at Pace College (2014).

At Rutgers, Hetherman took over an inexperienced unit that had seven combined career starts prior to his arrival before the 2022 season. That year, the defense improved by allowing 46.7 fewer yards per game compared to 2021, 28.1 fewer passing yards and 18.6 fewer rushing yards. Rutgers posted its best mark in total defense (349.8) in 10 years.

In 2023, Hetherman coached a pair of honorable mention All-Big Ten linebackers in Mohamed Toure and Deion Jennings. Jennings led the team in tackles, while Toure finished second.

Jennings, who was also Honorable Mention in 2022, played in all 13 games and led Rutgers with 95 tackles and added 4.5 tackles for loss and four pass breakups. Toure played in all 13 games in 2023 after missing the entire 2022 season with an injury. He was named a semifinalist for the Comeback Player of the Year award and had 93 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and one interception.

Hetherman spent 2019-21 at James Madison as the defensive coordinator. His defense ranked in the top 10 in both total defense and scoring defense in all three years he was there.

In 2021, Hetherman was promoted to Associate Head Coach and was named the AFCA FCS Assistant Coach of the Year after James Madison finished with the No. 2-ranked defense in the nation. The Dukes allowed only 275.2 yards per game and also ranked first in the nation in turnovers forced (31), fifth in third-down defense (27.2 percent), seventh in scoring defense (15.4) and eighth in rushing defense (89.0). Four defensive players were recognized as 2021 All-Americans and six were named All-CAA. James Madison ended the season with a 12-2 record and advanced to the FCS semifinals.

In 2020, Hetherman was selected to the AFCA’s 35 Under 35 Leadership Institute and James Madison’s defense ranked third in the FCS in rush defense (72.4) and interceptions (12) in the spring of 2021, while ranking fifth in total defense (243.4), sixth in pass efficiency defense (100.74) and eighth in scoring defense (16.5).

In his first season with the Dukes, James Madison led the FCS in total defense (270.2), while ranking third in both scoring defense (15.7) and against the run (74.8). The defense also ranked third nationally in third-down defense (30 percent), fifth in tackles-for-loss (8.5), sixth in pass efficiency defense (111.83), seventh in interceptions (17), 11th in takeaways (26) and 12th in sacks (2.94). Four defenders earned All-America accolades in 2019, with eight on the All-CAA teams, including five on the first team. The Dukes went 14-2 and advanced to the FCS title game.

Hetherman spent the 2015-18 seasons at Maine, where he called the defense from 2016-18. He quickly turned Maine into a defensive power in the FCS, which included leading the league in six categories in 2018, highlighted by the FCS-leading rushing defense (79.2). Maine ranked second nationally in sacks (47) and the Black Bears also led the CAA in yards per carry allowed (2.4), interceptions (18), fumble recoveries (13) and fumbles for a touchdown (3). They ranked second in third-down defense (28.4 percent) and fourth in total defense (313.1). Six Maine defenders earned All-CAA status, with two claiming All-America laurels.

In 2017, Maine led the CAA on third down, allowing the opposition to a 27 percent success rate. During his first year leading Maine’s defense, he helped mentor all-conference lineman Pat Ricard to the NFL after he ranked second in the conference in tackles-for-loss and fifth in sacks. Maine ranked third in the league in pass defense at 217.1 yards per game allowed.

Hetherman coached the defensive line in 2015 and his unit ranked second in the CAA in rushing defense, surrendering just 110.8 yards per game. They also were second in the CAA in sacks with 32. Two linemen earned First Team All-CAA honors. The duo combined for 31.0 tackles-for-loss and 14.5 sacks, as Trevor Bates would go on to be a seventh-round draft pick to the Indianapolis Colts in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Hetherman served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Pace University (2014) for one season, where he developed the team’s defensive game plan and formatted the PAT and field goal block design.

He has also coached at Old Dominion (2010-13) where he was elevated to defensive run-game coordinator and linebackers coach for his final two seasons. He mentored two-time All-CAA linebacker Craig Wilkins and also coached outside linebackers for the Monarchs prior to his promotion.

The Oxford, Mass., native also had stops at Northeastern (2009) and Springfield College (2007-08) and spent time coaching overseas for the Wuerzburg Panthers (Germany) and Carinthian Black Lions (Austria).

He started his coaching career at his alma mater, Fitchburg State, where he worked with the quarterbacks.

Hetherman started three years at quarterback for Fitchburg State and was a team captain in 2005. He went 21-11 as a starter and led the team to a pair of MASCAC titles, two NEFC championship games and a berth in two ECAC bowl games. He graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in secondary education.

Bob Ligashesky, Special Teams Coordinator

Ligashesksy comes to Minnesota with nearly 40 years of coaching experience, most recently serving as Special Teams Coordinator at Syracuse.

He spent 12 years of his career in the NFL, mostly coaching special teams. He has led special teams units for the Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers (2008 Super Bowl champion) and the St. Louis Rams. He has also coached special teams with the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars and coached tight ends with the Denver Broncos.

He also previously worked with Fleck, as they were on the same 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff. Ligashesky was coaching safeties and special teams, while Fleck was coaching receivers.

The veteran coach also has extensive experience at the college level. In addition to Syracuse, he has coached at Bowling Green, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Kent State, Arizona State (graduate assistant) and Wake Forest (graduate assistant).

Ligashesky has mentored some of the best special team players in the game, as he has worked with NFL kickers Jeff Reed (Steelers), Connor Barth (Buccaneers) and Sebastian Janikowski (Raiders) and long snapper Jon Weeks (Texans) and punter Shane Lechler (Texans). In college, he coached standouts in Illinois punter Blake Hayes and Illini kicker Chase McLaughlin, as well as Bowling Green kicker Nate Needham.

At Syracuse, his most recent stop, Ligashesky’s units ranked second in kick return defense in the ACC in 2023 and third in the nation in kickoff return average in 2022.

(info and graphic courtesy of Gopher Sports)

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