Tony Levine
Tony  Levine

Specials Teams Coordinator/Co-Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends


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A look at the 2017 Purdue football season


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Position Glance: Specialists

All three starters return for 2017


Position Glance: Tight Ends

Position group expected to play big role in 2017

Tony Levine is in his first season as special teams coordinator, co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. He was hired Jan. 2, 2017.

Levine came to West Lafayette after spending the 2016 season as Western Kentucky's special teams coordinator and co-offensive coordinator. Along with helping lead the potent Hilltopper offense, he oversaw top five nationally ranked kickoff and punt return teams, which averaged 28.6 and 17.9 yards per return, respectively. Individual standouts included junior Nacarius Fant, who scored on a pair of punt returns and averaged 15.6 yards per return, which would have ranked among the top five in the Football Bowl Subdivision had he qualified with enough returns, and junior kickoff returner Kylen Towner, who returned 26 kicks for 1,048 yards which averaged a NCAA-record 40.3 yards per return, and a touchdown.

Prior to WKU, Levine was at Houston for seven seasons as head coach (2011-14), assistant head coach (2010-11), special teams coordinator (2008-11) and inside receivers and tight ends coach (2008-11).

Elevated to interim head coach when former Purdue linebacker Kevin Sumlin departed for Texas A&M following the 2011 regular season, Levine was named full-time head coach 11 days prior to 2012 Ticket City Bowl. During his three-year tenure, he guided the Cougars to a 21-17 record and back-to-back bowl berths, the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl and the 2014 Armed Services Bowl. Levine won his first game as a collegiate head coach with a 30-14 victory over No. 22 Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl. That contest included a Cotton Bowl Stadium-record 532 yards passing against the then-No. 4 defense in the country. He guided Houston in its inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference in 2013, finishing with eight wins for the 16th time in school history.

Houston averaged 441 yards of total offense per game, including 285 passing yards, under Levine as head coach and was the only FBS team in the nation to have underclassmen as the team's leading passer, rusher and receiver in 2013. Quarterback John O'Korn, a true freshman, was named the AAC Rookie of the Year and a third team freshman All-American after throwing for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Deontay Greenberry led the AAC with 1,202 yards receiving and was second in the conference and 10th nationally with 11 touchdowns.

Houston's defense also improved under Levine, leading the nation in turnover margin (+25) and turnovers forced (43) in 2013. Sophomore Trevon Stewart led the nation in turnovers with a FBS-best six fumble recoveries and four interceptions, while classmate Adrian McDonald led the AAC with six interceptions. The Cougars improved their scoring defense in three consecutive seasons from 2012 to 2014, including the third-best improvement in the NCAA from 2012 to 2013, from 36.0 to 21.8, a drop of 14.2 points per game. The 2014 Cougars ranked 15th in scoring defense (20.6) and 20th in total defense (343.4 yards per game).

Under Levine's direction, both as head coach and an assistant, his special teams units blocked 20 kicks, returned nine kickoffs for touchdowns, including a NCAA-record-tying five in 2009, and forced seven turnovers. Led by AAC co-Special Teams Player of the Year and first team All-AAC selection Demarcus Ayers, the Cougars finished fifth nationally in kick return average (25.3) in 2013. Individually, Ayers was 12th nationally and the AAC leader with a 27.6-yard average. His 1,021 return yards set a Houston freshman record and were second on the school season list. Punter Richie Leone was a first team All-Conference USA selection in 2012, a second team FWAA All-American in 2013 and a three-time semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. Leone set the Houston career record with 54 punts of more than 50 yards and is the only punter in school history to earn All-America honors. In 2011, Houston returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, including Tyron Carrier's seventh career return for a score (tying an NCAA record), and two punt return scores.

Houston's receivers and tight ends also flourished under Levine. In 2008, tight end Mark Hafner earned second team All-Conference USA honors with 86 receptions for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns. The following season, inside receiver James Cleveland finished with 104 receptions for 1,214 yards, while Tyron Carrier hauled in 91 receptions for 1,029 yards. Carrier finished his career as Conference USA's career leader in both receptions (320) and receiving yards (3,493). Other standouts included Justin Johnson's 87-reception, 1,229-yard season in 2011 and Fendi Onobun, a basketball transfer from Arizona who had never played football, being selected by the St. Louis Rams in the sixth round of the 2010 National Football League Draft. Onobun tied the NCAA record with two blocked PATs against Southern Miss in 2010.

Prior to Houston, Levine spent two seasons with the Carolina Panthers (2006-07) in the NFL as an assistant specials teams and strength and conditioning coach. The Panthers led the NFC in net punting in 2006 (38.8), with punter John Baker's net average of 39.0 establishing a franchise record. Baker placed 31 of his punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, best in the NFC, while his 45.7 yard gross average was second. Kicker John Kasay finished the 2006 season 24 of 27 on field goal attempts, including a perfect 20 for 20 on kicks up to 49 yards long. Kasay was 24 of 28 on field goals in 2007, including a 54-yard make that tied for the third-longest of his career.

Levine also has spent time as a receivers and tight ends coach at Texas State (1997-99), offensive graduate assistant at Auburn (2000-01), special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Louisiana Tech (2002) and director of football operations (2003) and special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Louisville (2004-05).

Highlights from his time as a coach at Louisville include a 20-4 overall record, an 11-3 conference record, back-to-back top 20 national rankings (No. 6 in 2004 and No. 19 in 2005) and the 2004 Conference USA championship. His special teams units blocked seven kicks, returned three punts for touchdowns and kicker Art Carmody made an NCAA-record 77 consecutive extra points in 2004. Carmody would go on to win the 2006 Lou Groza Award, the year after Levine departed for the Panthers.

At Louisiana Tech, kicker Josh Scobee earned second team All-Western Athletic Conference honors under Levine's direction. The Bulldogs averaged 417.9 yards of total offense, 19th in the country, and 302.8 passing yards, 10th nationally.

A walkon wide receiver at Minnesota, Levine earned three letters for the Golden Gophers and was a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. He had nine receptions for 116 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown, in a game against Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium on Oct. 8, 1994.

Levine got his start in coaching at Highland Park Senior High School, his alma mater, in 1996.

A native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Levine earned a bachelor's degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on sports management from Minnesota in 1996, a master's degree in physical education from Texas State in 1999 and an educational specialist degree in adult education from Auburn in 2003.

Levine (born Oct. 28, 1972) and his wife, Erin, have three sons - Ben, Asher and Eli - and a daughter, Willa.


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