Former Georgia Southern defensive back and coach Darius Safford, who has nearly a decade of experience coaching the position, returns to Georgia Southern and will serve as the cornerbacks coach for the Eagles. The addition to the staff was announced Monday by head football coach Clay Helton. Safford comes back to Statesboro after five seasons with Kennesaw State and second as the defensive backs coach in 2023. From 2019-2021, Safford oversaw cornerbacks for the Owls.
"We are very excited to welcome Darius Safford back to Statesboro, Georgia," Helton said. "Darius has proven to be a high-level developer at the corners position and understands the championship standard required at Georgia Southern, having played and coached for the Eagles. Darius has deep roots in Georgia and has been very successful recruiting in the Atlanta area. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious with his players, and he is an excellent addition to our defensive coaching staff."
"I'm extremely thankful for Coach Helton for this opportunity," Safford said. "I understand the expectations of Georgia Southern football and I'm looking forward to upholding the standard! #HailSouthern."
Prior to the 2023 season, Safford was selected to join the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship within the National Football League. Safford was added to the Chicago Bears' minicamp and training camp staffs for the summer. Safford's secondary shined in 2022. During the campaign, defensive back Markeith Montgomery set a school record for career interceptions with 10. Safford also mentored cornerback Chance Gamble to the FedEx Ground National Player of the Week after tying the school record with three interceptions in a single game. The accolades continued to roll in for the KSU secondary when defensive back Deontre Morris was named a Sophomore All-American by HERO Sports and an ASUN All-Conference defensive selection. Morris and Montgomery finished within the top 11 in the nation in interceptions per game for the 2022 season.
In the 2021 fall season, Safford helped guide KSU to the top-ranked defense in the Big South Conference. The cornerbacks coach was also instrumental in developing the defense's back end, which led the FCS in red zone defense at 57.6%. Safford helped guide the Owls to the No. 3 total defense in the country in 2019, led by defensive back Le'Vonte Larry, who earned second-team All-Big South honors after finishing with 49 tackles, one interception, and a team-high six pass breakups. Kennesaw State held six opponents to 14 points or less and tallied 13 interceptions in 2019, including three picks from freshman Markeith Montgomery, the only rookie in the Big South Conference to record multiple interceptions. Safford also assisted with the punt return unit in 2019, which finished the year ranked third in blocked punts (4) and eighth in yards per return (15.69).
Safford came to KSU after holding the same position at Mercer University during the 2018 season. Before his time at Mercer, the Douglasville, Georgia, native was an assistant coach at West Georgia and a graduate assistant at Georgia Southern, where he worked with the defensive secondary. Safford started coaching in 2014 as the defensive backs coach at Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, Georgia. While at Chapel Hill, he coached Cameron Gill, who would go on to win Super Bowl LV with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In 2015, Safford moved up to the college ranks and served as a graduate assistant at Georgia Southern. While at GSU, the defense was ranked in multiple statistical categories. This defense ranked 21st in total defense (338.1 yards per game) and 38th in scoring defense (23.5 points per game). That season, Georgia Southern also ranked 34th in fourth down conversion defense. Safford coached multiple defensive backs who received All-Sun Belt honors, including Antonio Glover and Ironhead Gallon. Glover was a 2015 All-Sun Belt First-Team selection and was an undrafted free agent signed by the Denver Broncos. Gallon was a 2015 All-Sun Belt Honorable Mention, a 2016 All-Sun Belt First-Team selection, and an undrafted free agent who signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Safford also coached Caleb Williams and Darius Jones, who were All-Sun Belt Honorable Mentions in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Safford was hired as the cornerbacks coach at West Georgia prior to the 2017 season. Under his direction, the West Georgia defense was ranked in multiple statistical categories. The team ranked 14th in total defense (284.4 yards per game), 12th in pass efficiency (99.51), 13th in passing yards allowed (160.1 yards per game), seventh in scoring defense (15.2 points allowed per game), fifth in fourth down conversion percentage defense and 24th in third down conversion percentage defense. Safford's secondary also finished the year with eight interceptions.
As a player, Safford was a standout at two institutions. He was a tri-captain at Lafayette (Pa.), garnering All-Patriot League honors for the Leopards.
After earning a bachelor's degree in economics and African studies, Safford transferred to Georgia Southern for his senior season, where he earned his master's degree in kinesiology with a concentration in coaching education. On the field, he recorded 21 tackles, including 4.0 for loss and four pass breakups as a cornerback.
The hiring is pending a final successful background check.