Jim Knowles

Jim Knowles - Football - Ohio State Buckeyes

position Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers Coach

Hometown Philadelphia, Pa.

Jim Knowles
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
Ohio State University

Jim Knowles, the architect of one of the nation’s outstanding defenses the past two seasons at Oklahoma State University, took over as defensive coordinator at Ohio State University on Jan. 2. He also coaches the Ohio State linebackers.

The 2022 campaign will be Knowles’ 35th season in collegiate coaching and it will also represent his 15th year as a defensive coordinator and his 11th as a linebackers coach.

Knowles’ defenses at Oklahoma State were on an upward trajectory in each of his four seasons in Stillwater. The Cowboys improved each year under Knowles in total defense, scoring defense, rushing yards per game, passing yards per game, passing efficiency, first downs per game, yards per play, yards per pass, rushing yards per game and yards per rush.

The 2021 Cowboys put up historic numbers for the program, ranking in the top-five in the FBS in sacks (No. 1), tackles for loss (No. 2), third-down defense (No. 2), total defense (No. 5) and rushing defense (No. 5). They led the Big 12 in each of those categories.

The 2021 numbers continued a four-year run of improvement that saw scoring defense improve from 32.5 points per game in 2018 to 26.8 and 23.5 points per game in 2019 and 2020, respectively, to 18.1 (ninth nationally) this past season.

The same improvement occurred in total defense. The Cowboys allowed 297.9 yards per game in 2021, which improved on the 379.0 average in 2020, 412.3 in 2019 and 452.5 yards per game in 2018.

In 2020, Oklahoma State led the nation and set a school record in third down conversion percentage defense (26.5 pct.), it also tied for the FBS lead in defensive touchdowns (four) and led the FBS in fumble return yards (190). The 2020 defense also ranked eighth in fumbles recovered (10), ninth in tackles for loss per game (8.1) and 16th in sacks per game (3.0).

A 2021 finalist for the Broyles Award, which is presented to the nation’s outstanding assistant coach, Knowles’ Cowboy defenses also:

  • Recorded 47 quarterback hurries in 2019, the second-most in school history;
  • Helped the team to four victories over nationally ranked teams in 2018, including over No. 6 Texas and No. 7 West Virginia; and
  • Ranked in the Top 20 nationally in 2018 in sacks per game and tackles-for-loss per game.

Knowles, who first worked with David Cutcliffe at Mississippi in 2003 as his linebacker coach, spent eight seasons with him in Durham N.C., at Duke University. Knowles was the Blue Devils’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach there from 2011-17. He coached safeties in 2010.

The Blue Devils hit numerous milestones during this time, including ranking in the Top 25 in seven defensive categories, including total defense, in Knowles’ last season there. They recorded their first 10-win season and ACC championship game appearance in 2013. They were No. 3 in scoring defense and No. 4 in total defense among all ACC schools in 2017. And they went to six bowl games in seven years.

Knowles was the head coach at his alma mater, Cornell University, from 2004-09 and helped the Big Red compile a 26-34 overall record. Cornell posted three consecutive .500-or-better seasons for the first time in 14 years under Knowles leadership and his initial team was the first in Ivy League history to go from zero conference wins the season before to a winning conference record the next.

A year after graduating from Cornell (1987) with his bachelor’s degree from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Knowles became an assistant coach for the Big Red and stayed with the program for nine seasons, through the 1996 season. Cornell won Ivy League championships in 1988 and again in 1990.

A six-year appointment at Western Michigan, from 1997-2002, ensued after his first Cornell coaching position. In 2002 the Broncos led the MAC and ranked 28th nationally in total defense and featured Jason Babin, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year and the school’s first NFL first round draft pick.

Knowles then moved on to Mississippi in 2003 for one season. The Rebels went 10-3, won a share of the SEC West Division and defeated Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

Knowles is a native of Philadelphia. He has three children: Halle, Luke and Jack.

Jim Knowles Quick Facts
Hometown: Philadelphia
High School: St. Joseph’s Prep
Alma Mater: Cornell
Degree: School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Year in Coaching: 35th (First at Ohio State)
Family: Daughter, Halle, and sons Luke and Jack

Jim Knowles Coaching Assignments

2022Defensive Coordinator / LinebackersOhio State
2018-21Defensive Coordinator / LinebackersOklahoma State
2011-17Defensive Coordinator / LinebackersDuke
2004-09Head CoachCornell
2001-02Defensive CoordinatorWestern Michigan
1997-00Defensive LineWestern Michigan
1989-94Running BacksCornell
1988Defensive LineCornell

Jim Knowles Bowl Games

2020Cheez-It BowlOklahoma State
2019Texas BowlOklahoma State
2018Liberty BowlOklahoma State
2017Quick Lane BowlDuke
2015Pinstripe BowlDuke
2014Sun BowlDuke
2013Chick-Fil-A BowlDuke
2012Belk BowlDuke
2004Cotton BowlMissippi