FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Head Coach Sam Pittman has named Travis Williams as the Razorbacks’ new defensive coordinator.
Williams brings defensive coordinator experience and a wealth of Southeastern Conference knowledge to The Hill, having played at Auburn and later as the Tigers’ co-defensive coordinator. On the field, he starred as a two-time All-SEC linebacker – including first-team honors in 2004 – leading the Tigers in tackles during their undefeated season in 2004.
He heads to Fayetteville after spending the last two seasons calling the defense for UCF as the Knights’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. The Knights showed progress in each of his two seasons, improving this season to a Top 40 scoring defense in the FBS by allowing 23.2 points per game. The defense helped UCF reach the American Athletic Conference championship game, a 9-4 record and a berth in the Military Bowl by allowing 382.6 yards per game and producing the fifth-best red zone defense in the country.
Senior linebacker Jason Johnson led the way with 119 tackles – second-most in the league and 19th nationally – to earn first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors. Williams molded Johnson in his lone season in Orlando from an FCS All-American at Eastern Illinois to one of the nation’s leading tacklers at the FBS level. The Knights’ defense featured three All-AAC first teamers with Johnson joined by defensive linemen Ricky Barber and Tre’Mon Morris-Brash, who ranked fourth in the league with 13.0 tackles for loss.
Williams’ first defense in Orlando finished the season strong in 2021, helping the Knights win six of their final seven games with the defense giving up just 11.8 points per game in the six victories. The defense ended the season ranked seventh nationally in pass efficiency defense (110.7) and 26th in tackles for loss (6.8/game).
Linebacker Tatum Bethune averaged 9.0 tackles per game to rank second in the conference and 24th in the FBS. His work on the field made him a first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection by Pro Football Network, second-team by Pro Football Focus, and an honorable mention by the league’s coaches. Williams’ defense also featured All-AAC performers defensive lineman Big Kat Bryant (first team) and safety Divaad Wilson (second team). PFF also tabbed safety Quadric Bullard (second team), cornerbacks Davonte Brown and Corey Thornton, and Wilson (all third team).
Williams’ initial UCF defense moved up 97 spots in the NCAA team pass efficiency defense rankings compared to 2020, 86 spots in passing yards allowed (89.1 fewer per game in 2021) and 70 in total defense (122.5 fewer yards allowed per game in 2021).
At Auburn, Williams served as co-defensive coordinator alongside Kevin Steele while also working as the Tigers’ linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator. He helped his alma mater finish in the Top 20 in the nation in scoring defense in four of his last five seasons (2016-20) on The Plains. As the linebackers coach, Auburn allowed just 54 rushing touchdowns combined to rank fifth nationally during those five seasons – including just eight in 2016 and nine in 2018.
Williams also mentored All-Southeastern Conference linebackers in three consecutive seasons – K.J. Britt in 2019, Deshaun Davis in 2018, and Tre Williams in 2017. Linebacker Zakoby McClain led the SEC in tackles with 113 during the pandemic-shortened season of 2020.
Auburn’s 2019 defense ranked eighth nationally in both red zone and third down defense, allowing just 19.5 points per game against a schedule that featured six opponents that went on to win 11 games that season.
The Tigers ranked 14th nationally in scoring defense (19.2/game) in 2018 allowing only nine rushing touchdowns while returning three interceptions for scores. The squad’s 38 sacks ranked 16th nationally and the 96 tackles for loss were the ninth-most in the nation.
Auburn won the SEC West in 2017 led by a defense that ranked 14th nationally in total defense (319.4/game) and 11th in scoring defense (18.5/game). The Tigers yielded just 4.67 yards per play, eighth-best nationally.
In 2016 the Tigers’ red zone defense ranked 11th in the FBS and the team’s total defense (361.9/game) ranked 28th to move up 43 spots over the previous season. The defense held eight consecutive opponents without a rushing TD, the longest season streak at Auburn since 1957.
On the field at Auburn, he led the Tigers in tackles (80) as a junior during the team’s 2004 undefeated season. As a senior, his 68 tackles were second on the team. He won the Pat Dye Leadership Award on defense in each of his last two seasons (2004, 2005). He played two seasons in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons (2006-07) before beginning his coaching career.
Williams began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Auburn before landing his first full-time coaching job as the linebackers coach at Northern Iowa in 2012. He spent one year as the defensive coordinator at Creekside (Ga.) High School before returning to Auburn in 2014 as a defensive analyst.
He was promoted to an on-field role for the Tigers prior to the 2016 season as the team’s linebackers coach. He earned the co-defensive coordinator title in 2019 and then added recruiting coordinator duties in 2020.
Williams earned his bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from Auburn in 2005 and later received a master’s degree in adult education from Auburn in 2011.
A native of Columbia, S.C., Williams and his wife Jeanine, also an Auburn graduate, have three daughters: Tru, Reign, and Brave.
The Travis Williams File
College: Auburn, 2005 B.S. Criminology and Criminal Justice; 2011 M.S. Adult Education
Family: Wife – Jeanine; Daughters – Tru, Reign, Brave
2009-11 Auburn (Graduate Assistant)
2012 Northern Iowa (Linebackers)
2013 Creekside (Ga.) HS (Defensive Coordinator)
2014-15 Auburn (Defensive Analyst)
2016-18 Auburn (Linebackers)
2019-20 Auburn (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)
2021 Miami (Linebackers)
2021-22 UCF (Defensive Coordinator)