Ryan Walters became the 37th head football coach at Purdue on Dec. 13, 2022. At 37 years old, he is the youngest coach in the B1G.
The 2023 season will be Walters’ first as a college football head coach. He arrived in West Lafayette with over a decade of experience as an assistant coach, primarily at Power 5 programs.
A high school quarterback, Walters played defensive back at Colorado from 2005 to 2008. He finished his playing career with 203 tackles, including 2 sacks, and 5 interceptions with 1 pick-6. Walters would stay on the defensive side of the ball as a coach.
After exhausting his college eligibility, Walters got into coaching. He got his start as a student assistant at Colorado in 2009 working with the Buffaloes’ secondary.
After a year on staff at his alma mater, Walters went to Arizona as a graduate assistant for the 2010 season. After a season as a grad assistant, he was promoted to the Wildcats’ defensive backs coach.
In 2012, it was back down to grad assistant for Walters, who landed at Oklahoma on Bob Stoops’ staff. Walters was back as an on-field position coach in 2013, coaching cornerbacks for North Texas.
Following a year at North Texas, Walters joined the Memphis staff, where he would be cornerbacks coach, working with Tigers’ defensive coordinator Barry Odom. Walters and Odom would work closely together for the next 6 seasons.
In 2015, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel hired Barry Odom as the Tigers’ new defensive coordinator. Walters followed Odom from Memphis to Columbia, serving as Mizzou’s safeties coach in 2015.
Pinkel retired after the 2015 season, resulting in promotions for Odom to head coach and Walters to co-defensive coordinator. Walters was Mizzou’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Ahead of the 2018 season, Odom promoted Walters to full-time defensive coordinator. Walters also continued to coach Mizzou safeties.
After the 2019 season, Odom was fired as Mizzou’s head coach. The program hired Eliah Drinkwitz as its next head coach. Walters opted to remain at Mizzou, staying on as MU’s defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the 2020 season.
After 2020, Walters left the SEC for the B1G, departing Mizzou to join Bret Bielema’s Illinois staff. Under Walters, the Illini defense showed drastic improvement.
In 2020, Illinois ranked No. 97 nationally in scoring defense (34.9 points per game) and 114th in yards allowed (466.8 per game). The Illini improved those numbers to 21.9 points per game (No. 21 nationally) and 367 yards per game (No. 49) in the first season with Walters.
The Illini were ranked by the College Football Playoff selection committee for the first time during the 2022 season. At the time of Purdue hiring Walters, Illinois entered its 2022 bowl game ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (12.3) and No. 2 in yards allowed per game (263.8). Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach, for the 2022 season.
Purdue hopes that Walters’ dominating defense will keep things rolling for the Boilermakers. Walters inherits a program that went to the B1G Championship Game in 2022 and had its most NFL Draft selections in 2023 since the 2004 draft.
For his first staff, Walters has turned to Air Raid disciple Graham Harrell as the offensive coordinator and Kevin Kane, who worked under Walters at Illinois, as the defensive coordinator.
Ryan Walters’ Coaching Experience
- 2009: Colorado – Student assistant/secondary
- 2010: Arizona – Graduate assistant
- 2011: Arizona – Defensive backs coach
- 2012: Oklahoma – Graduate assistant/cornerbacks
- 2013: North Texas – Cornerbacks coach
- 2014: Memphis – Cornerbacks coach
- 2015: Missouri – Safeties coach
- 2016: Missouri – Co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach
- 2017: Missouri – Co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach
- 2018: Missouri – Defensive coordinator/secondary coach
- 2019-20: Missouri – Defensive coordinator/safeties coach
- 2021-22: Illinois – Defensive coordinator
- 2023-present: Purdue – Head coach
Head Coaching Record
- Purdue (1st season): 0-0
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