WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. – Ryan Walters has started building his Purdue Football coaching staff, making his first hires as the head coach of the Boilermakers. Graham Harrell has been named offensive coordinator after spending the 2022 season at West Virginia, while Kevin Kane joins Walters from Illinois to become defensive coordinator.
Harrell has nearly two decades of experience working with and playing for innovative offensive minds like the late Mike Leach, Dana Holgorsen and Clay Helton.
“I played against Graham and always respected his knowledge and the way he approaches the game of football,” said Walters. “When I got into this profession, I really kept an eye on his career. He is very innovative in the passing game and gets creative with the run game. We are looking forward to him leading our offense here at Purdue.”
Kane joins Walters after the duo put together one of the fiercest defenses in the nation over two seasons at Illinois.
“I was very excited about the ability to attract Coach Kane to Purdue University,” said Walters. “I got to see, first-hand, his football IQ and ability to connect and develop young men. His position group steadily improved throughout the two years we were together at Illinois. He has been a coordinator at two previous stops, and he is ready to lead an entire unit in the Big Ten.”
With his coordinators in place, Walters continues to finalize his coaching staff as the new leader of the boilermakers. Season tickets for the 2023 campaign, Walters’ first season as head coach, are on sale now.
Harrell arrived in West Lafayette after spending the 2022 season as the offensive coordinator at West Virginia. His Mountaineer offense averaged 30.6 points per game behind a balanced attack of 227.5 passing yards and 171.5 rushing yards per game. Harrell worked with transfer quarterback JT Daniels to throw for 2,107 yards and 13 touchdowns in his lone season at West Virginia. Offensive lineman Zach Frazier garnered first team all-big 12 conference honors, while receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton was tabbed second team all-conference.
Harrell joined West Virginia following three seasons at USC. In 2021, USC led the Pac-12 and was No. 17 nationally in passing offense (298.3) and red zone offense (.902), no. 20 in third-down conversion percentage and no. 24 in total offense (443.9). Receiver Drake London was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and earned a spot on several All-America teams.
In 2020, USC’s passing offense ranked No. 11 nationally (first in Pac-12) at 319.3 yards per game. Quarterback Kedon Slovis made All-Pac-12 First Team, while ranking in the top 20 in completions (1st at 29.5), passing yards (6th at 320.2), total offense (No. 13 at 310.7) and completion percentage (No. 18 at .670), all tops in the Pac-12. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown so what an All-Pac-12 first teamer.
In Harrell’s first year at USC in 2019, the Trojan offense averaged 455.4 total yards (335.8 passing) and 32.5 points—significant improvements from 2018, when the figures were 382.6, 249.1 and 26.1, respectively—while ranking in the top 25 in completion percentage , passing offense, passing efficiency, total offense, third down conversions and first downs. The 2019 Trojans also set school season pass marks for total passing yards (4,365), completion percentage (71.0%), completions (365) and attempts (514).
Under Harrell’s tutelage, true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was a Freshman All-American first-teamer and the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, completing a school-record and NCAA freshman record 71.9% of his passes for a USC frog-record 3,502 yards with 30 TDs, including a school-record 515 passing yards against UCLA (one of a USC-record four games with 400-plus passing yards), to rank in the top 20 in completion percentage, passing yards, completions, passing efficiency, passing TD and total offense (his 167.9 passing efficiency rating was a USC record).
Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who won the 2019 Pop Warner College Football Award and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff and Witten Awards, was in the top 20 in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs.
Prior to his three-year stint at USC, Harrell produced back-to-back top 25 offenses as the offensive coordinator at North Texas.
After inheriting an offense that ranked in the nation’s bottom 25 in scoring, passing and total offense in 2015, he helped the Mean Green improve statistically in each category in 2016, including by 9.6 points per game. Then in 2017, North Texas was No. 19 nationally in scoring (35.5), no. 21 in passing (291.9) and no. 24 in total offense (455.1), and quarterback Mason Fine set school season records for passing yards (4,052) and TDs (31).
In 2018, UNT ranked No. 12 in passing (306.8), no. 20 in total offense (460.5) and No. 26 in scoring (34.6), with fine throwing for 3,793 yards and 27 touchdowns with just five interceptions, wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. catching 68 passes for 1,017 yards with 12 TDs and running back DeAndre Torrey scoring 15 TDs on the ground. Fine was the 2017 and 2018 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, while Bussey Jr. was an All-Conference USA first teamer in 2018. Tight end Kelvin Smith, who played as an attached tight end and in the slot, completed 27 and 29 catch seasons in 2017 and 2018 to rank among the top receivers on the team.
North Texas also rushed for more than 150 yards per game in 2017 and 2018. UNT won nine games in each of Harrell’s last two seasons and qualified for bowl games all three years that he was on staff (2016 Heart of Dallas, 2017 New Orleans, 2018 New Mexico) after UNT only played in one bowl the previous 11 seasons.
Harrell came to UNT from Washington State, where he worked for head coach Mike Leach as the outside receivers coach in 2015 after serving as an offensive analyst in 2014. The 2015 Cougars led the nation in passing offense (389.2), won eight games and won the Sun Bowl.
Harrell was a record-setting quarterback for Leach at Texas Tech from 2005-08, finishing his career with an NCAA-record 134 touchdown passes, the second-most career yards in NCAA history (15,793) and the third-highest career passing average ( 351.0). He also set NCAA career marks for pass completions average (31.2), as well as 400-yard passing games (20), games gaining 400-plus total yards (21) and seasons gaining 4,000-plus total yards (3). His career average of 486.3 passing yards against Texas was an NCAA record against one opponent. In each of his three seasons as a starter, his passing yardage figures placed in the top 25 all-time at the FBS level (21st in 2006 with 4,555 yards, second in 2007 with 5,705 and sixth in 2008 with 5,111) and he was the first player with a pair of 5,000-yard passing seasons.
In 2008, Harrell was an All-American first teamer, finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, was a finalist for the Walter Camp and Davey O’Brien Awards and was a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete . His 5,111 passing yards led the nation, and he threw 45 touchdowns with only nine interceptions while completing 70.6 percent of his aerials. Texas Tech went 11-2, including a victory over No. 1Texas, and played in the Cotton Bowl in 2008.
Harrell played for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2009, served as a quality control assistant at Oklahoma State for several months in 2010, before heading back to continue his NFL career. He played three years with the Green Bay Packers (2010-12), including on the 2010 Super Bowl XLV championship team and had a brief stint with the New York Jets in 2013.
He played for his father, Sam, at Ennis High, throwing for Texas career records of 12,532 yards and 167 touchdowns. He led Ennis to the state Class 4A title in 2001 as a sophomore. As a senior in 2003, he set state records for season passing yards (4,825), completions (334) and touchdowns (67).
Inducted into the Texas Tech Hall of Fame in 2020, Harrell earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Texas Tech University in 2007.
Harrell, and his wife, Brittney, have a 6-year-old son, Hawk and a daughter, Mia. Harrell’s brother, Clark, played quarterback at Tulsa (2007) and Abilene Christian (2008-10); Clark and his other brother, Zac, are now high school football coaches in Texas.
Following an All-Big 12 Conference career as a linebacker at Kansas (2002-05), Kane has spent almost two decades on the sidelines building some of the most formidable defenses in the nation at Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Kansas, SMU and Illinois.
Kane led Illinois’ group of outside linebackers to new heights in 2022, as Seth Coleman and Gabe Jacas combined for the most quarterback hits in the nation among edge duos and both were named All-Big Ten Conference Honorable Mention. Jacas was a Freshman All-American after totaling 31 tackles, 5.0 TFLs, and 4.0 sacks, the second-most sacks by an Illini true freshman in program history. Coleman was sixth on the team in tackles with 41 and second in sacks with 4.5, as Illinois produced its best record in 15 years and earned a berth in the ReliaQuest Bowl, the Illini’s best bowl since the 2007 season.
Kane was a part of one of the best defensive turnarounds in the nation in 2021, helping Illinois to a 5-7 record and ranked wins over No. 7 Penn State and No. 20 Minnesota. Illinois’ scoring defense (31st from 97th), third down defense (31st from 89th), and total defense (52nd from 114th) all improved more than 50 spots in the national rankings from 2020. The Illini made massive gains in the Big Ten defensive rankings, as well, jumping nine-or-more spots in scoring defense (4th from 14th), touchdowns allowed (3rd from 14th), yards allowed per game (5th from 14th), and passing yards allowed per game (1st from 10th) .
Prior to his two seasons at Illinois, Kane was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at SMU for three years. Kane joined the SMU staff in 2018 and in his first two seasons led the Mustangs to several national top 25 rankings, including the No. 1 ranking for sacks per game (3.92) and No. 3 ranking in tackles for loss (8.5 avg) in 2019.
He made the move to SMU after spending the 2016 and 2017 seasons as the defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois. That was his second stint at NIU, having served in multiple capacities for the Huskies from 2011-14. During the 2015 season, Kane coached linebackers at Kansas.
Kane helped lead the Huskies to three Mid-American Conference Championships and five bowl appearances during his time in DeKalb, including a win in the 2012 GoDaddy.com Bowl over Arkansas State. The Huskies ranked 26th in the nation in total defense in 2017, leading the nation in tackles for loss (8.8) and ranking second in sacks (3.31) and fourth in defensive TDs (5). NIU ranked seventh nationally in yards per play allowed at just 4.52, trailing only Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin, Washington, Ohio State and Michigan.
NIU also ranked in the top 20 in third down conversion percentage defense (11th), rushing defense (16th) and first downs allowed (19th). In 2016, NIU ranked 17th nationally and led the MAC in red zone defense.
Kane made the move to NIU after three seasons (2008-10) at Wisconsin, serving as a graduate assistant (2008-09) and quality control assistant (2010). While at Wisconsin, the Badgers earned berths to the 2008 and 2009 Champs Sports Bowls and 2011 Rose Bowl.
His coaching career began in 2006 at Kansas, where he spent two seasons as a student assistant for his alma mater. He helped the Jayhawks to the 2008 Orange Bowl under Mark Mangino.
A 2006 graduate of the University of Kansas, Kane played linebacker for the Jayhawks, earning All-Big 12 honorable mention accolades from the Associated Press as a junior and senior. He helped Kansas to a pair of bowl appearances, including a win in the 2005 Fort Worth Bowl. Kane was a three-time Academic All-Big 12 honoree and was named team captain as a senior. He graduated from Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, where he helped lead the Hawklets to a Missouri state championship as a junior. Kane earned his master’s degree in education at the University of Wisconsin in 2010.
He and wife Theresa have two sons, Jack and Colin, and one daughter, Nora.