Valpo Football Announces Coordinators, Adds to Coaching Staff
The Valparaiso University football program and head coach Landon Fox have announced additions to the team’s coaching staff, including offensive and defensive coordinators.
Matthew Symmes has been tabbed the team’s offensive coordinator, while David Marquis will serve as the defensive coordinator. In addition, the team has announced that Nate Van Asperen has joined the staff as tight ends coach and Joe Sengel as running backs coach.
Fox has also elevated RJ Ghilarducci to co-defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator. Ghilarducci will coach the team’s linebackers, Symmes will serve as quarterbacks coach, Marquis will instruct the defensive backs, Jackson Smith will take over defensive line responsibilities and Andrew Prevost will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator in addition to his role as offensive line coach. The staff also includes Damien Ross (wide receivers), Vernell Price (defensive tackles coach), Yoni Offit (nickelbacks coach), Trevor McConnell (offensive quality control) and Owen Chandler (defensive quality control).
In addition, Associate Director of Sports Performance Gabe Miller has announced that Ryan Nocero has joined the Valpo Athletics staff as a sports performance assistant.
Symmes comes to Valpo with an impressive resume featuring Power-5 FBS and NFL coaching experience. Prior to his most recent assignment as senior defensive analyst/assistant linebackers coach at East Carolina University, he was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff from 2018-2020, serving as quarterbacks coach and offensive assistant. Symmes, the NFL’s youngest QB coach in 2019, helped the Steelers to the 2020 AFC North championship. He was also on staff at ECU when the team went to the 2021 Military Bowl and won the 2022 Birmingham Bowl.
“Matt brings a ton of experience including at the NFL level,” Fox said. “He’s a highly-intelligent person and as a Duke grad, he understands the education piece for our student-athletes. He has a wide range of experience from a number of different programs. He has an ability to relate to players and put them in good positions to be successful.”
Symmes previously served as an offensive graduate assistant working with quarterbacks at the University of South Carolina from 2016 to 2017. During that time, the Gamecocks participated in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl and were 2017 Outback Bowl champions. He was on staff at Indiana University in 2015 as assistant quarterbacks coach and offensive graduate assistant, helping the Hoosiers reach the Pinstripe Bowl. In 2014, he contributed to the University of Florida reaching the Birmingham Bowl while serving as offensive graduate assistant for quarterbacks.
Symmes’ impressive resume began at Duke University, where he served as an offensive intern for quarterbacks, special teams quality control and an offensive graduate assistant for quarterbacks during his time on staff, which spanned the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He helped the Blue Devils win the 2013 ACC Coastal Division championship and reach bowl games in both 2012 (Belk Bowl) and 2013 (Chick-Fil-A Bowl). Symmes graduated from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in history in 2013 before completing his master’s in sports and entertainment management from the University of South Carolina in 2018.
“Valparaiso was an exciting opportunity for Anna and me because it combined the things about college football that we have most enjoyed during my coaching career: the opportunity to work with young men who love football and seek a strong degree, and the chance to be a part of restoring a historically successful program to its standard of excellence,” Symmes said. “I am excited to work with Coach Fox in achieving that team success.”
Marquis arrives at Valpo after serving as the defensive coordinator at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio since April 2019. That marked his second stint leading the Wittenberg defense after he also did so from March 2015 to April 2017. Those two tenures were sandwiched around his time as the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Dayton from May 2017 to March 2019, when he worked under Fox, who served as Dayton’s defensive coordinator at that time. Marquis had a previous stint at Dayton as defensive line coach from July 2011 to December 2012.
“Dave comes from a Wittenberg program that has had a lot of success both as a team and defensively,” Fox said. “He’s someone who I’ve had the opportunity to work with in the past. He has an understanding of what we’re trying to do schematically. He understands the combination of academics and football here at Valpo. He’s seen multiple levels of college football and understands what it takes to be successful at this institution.”
Marquis’ prior experience also includes time at Randolph-Macon College (January 2013-May 2015, linebackers coach/special teams coordinator; July 2006-May 2008, tight ends coach) and Kent State University (June 2008-May 2011, defensive graduate assistant). He earned both his bachelor’s in education (May 2006) and his master’s in sports and recreation management (May 2010) from Kent State.
“I chose to come to Valpo for the opportunity to work with Coach Fox and be a part of a quality program with a great staff that is aligned toward the goal of winning a championship and developing our players to be the best they can be,” Marquis said. “Having worked with Coach Fox before, I understand his approach and the culture he has created within this program. I am eager to work with and recruit student-athletes who want to play football at a high level and also seek a quality education.”
Sengel, who has never been part of a losing season in his career, arrives at Valpo after spending the 2022 season at the University of Sioux Falls, where he coached an All-American running back while serving as running backs coach. He was the wide receivers coach and coordinated a top-25 kickoff return team during his time at Waldorf University, which spanned from 2020-2022. He began his career by coaching at Benet Academy in Lisle, Ill. from 2015-2020 after serving as an offensive and defensive student coach at Southern Illinois University in 2011.
“Joe is a neat story; he’s a Chicagoland guy,” Fox said. “He coached high school football at Benet Academy for five years and always wanted the opportunity to be in college coaching. Now, he has the opportunity to coach with us at the FCS level. He’s done a great job at each stop in his career and created opportunities for himself. He understands the type of young men we want to recruit who can be successful academically and athletically.”
Sengel earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science from Southern Illinois in 2011 before completing his master’s in organizational leadership and sports management from Waldorf in 2022.
“I have been a fan of Valpo since the late 1990s when the men’s basketball team made it to the Sweet Sixteen during March Madness,” Sengel said. “Chicago loves Valparaiso University, and that is when I found out. It means the world to me to coach at Valpo because I am extremely proud to be born in Chicago and coach at such a prestigious university. I spent so much of my life nearby, and coaching football at Valpo feels like home. I want to help get as many Valpo flags flying across the city of Chicago as I can. I could not be more excited for this upcoming season and working for Coach Fox.”
Van Asperen previously worked with Valpo offensive line coach Andrew Prevost at the University of South Dakota this past season, serving as the assistant offensive line coach and a graduate assistant. He has also worked at Dakota State University in Madison, S.D. as offensive line coach and run game coordinator (2021) and at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minn. as tight ends coach, running backs coach and assistant offensive line coach (2019-2020).
“When you bring in someone who has a connection to someone who is already on staff, you know what you’re getting,” Fox said. “Nate has had success at the Division-II level and at the FCS level as a graduate assistant, and now he gets an opportunity to be at the FCS level as a position coach. He is detail-oriented and organized and I’m very impressed by his follow through. He does all of the things that you need to do to be a great assistant coach.”
Van Asperen earned his associate’s degree in social studies from Sacramento College in December 2016, his bachelor’s in political science from Southwest Minnesota State in May 2019 and his master’s in education with an emphasis on sports leadership from Southwest Minnesota State in December 2021. As a player, he was a two-year starter at Sacramento City College before going on to serve as a two-year starter and team captain at Southwest Minnesota State.
“I am very fortunate for the opportunity given to me by Coach Fox,” Van Asperen said. “Valparaiso is a great community filled with genuine people who work hard and care. Coach Fox has done a great job of establishing an identity and culture within our team. I am very excited to work alongside great coaches who work hard at their craft and take pride in what they do.”
Ghilarducci joined the Valpo football coaching staff for the Spring 2021 season after spending the previous three years at the University of San Diego. After one season as nickelbacks coach, he was promoted to a full-time role and has served as the defensive line coach for the last two seasons prior to his recent elevation to co-defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator.
“RJ has been a loyal member of our staff since joining the program,” Fox said. “He has provided value in a lot of areas in terms of recruiting, defense and player relationships. The ability to elevate RJ into another role is not only exciting for him, but it’s exciting for our program. This shows that if you do a good job, regardless of whether you’re a player or coach, we want to continue to create opportunities for you. He has made himself incredibly valuable to Valpo football.”
Nocero will serve as the strength & conditioning coach for women’s golf while assisting with football and women’s soccer.
“We are very excited to add Coach Ryan Nocero to our strength and conditioning staff,” Miller said. “It was a no-brainer to surround our student-athletes with someone like Ryan who has a proven work ethic and outstanding passion for helping bring the best out of everyone around him. He really has hit the ground running and has already made a huge impact elevating our student-athlete experience here at Valparaiso University.”
Nocero comes to Valpo after serving as the strength & conditioning intern at the University of Findlay, a position he began in June 2021. He also works as a private consultant for Clyde-Green Springs Schools. He graduated from Findlay with a bachelor’s degree in strength and conditioning and is set to earn his master’s in education from Findlay in May 2023. He was a five-year member of the Findlay football program, playing offensive line.
“I came to Valparaiso because it gave me a great opportunity to work with great athletes and open my mind to a whole new style of athletic development,” Nocero said.
What They’re Saying About Matthew Symmes
Kurt Roper, NC State Quarterbacks Coach: “Matt is the most cutting-edge coach I have been around in my career. He will bring an exciting, wide open offense that will be fun to watch each week.”
Kevin Johns, Duke Offensive Coordinator: “Matt Symmes is one of the hardest-working and most talented young coaches I’ve ever been around. His football knowledge is through the roof. He understands how to expose weaknesses in a defense and keep his offense on the attack for four quarters.”
What They’re Saying About David Marquis
Jim Collins, Wittenberg Head Coach: “Coach Marquis is an outstanding coach and a true professional. He is an expert when it comes to defensive football and his ability to teach the game at a high level. I really enjoyed the short time I had with him and I know he will do a great job at Valpo.”
Pedro Arruza, Randolph-Macon Head Coach: “Dave had two stints on our staff. He was an excellent teacher, related well to our players and always brought great ideas to our staff meetings. Even now, we talk on a regular basis and share ideas about strategy, recruiting, coaching and a number of other things. He will be a tremendous addition to the Valpo football program.”
Rick Chamberlin, Former Dayton Head Coach: “Dave has a high football IQ when it comes to defense. Because of his coaching ability, both Dayton and Wittenberg enjoyed successful seasons and did very well on defense. I believe Valparaiso’s opponents will have a tough time moving the ball against Valpo next year.”
Matt Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders Pass Rush Specialist: “I have great respect for Dave as a football coach, but more importantly as a person. He is an extremely hard worker and excellent teacher. I believe that Dave does an excellent job caring about his players and putting them in position to be successful.”
What They’re Saying About Joe Sengel
Jon Anderson, Old Dominion Defensive Analyst: “I’m excited for Coach Sengel’s opportunity to make an impact at Valpo. He builds lasting relationships with his players and is a good recruiter and evaluator of talent. I wish Coach Sengel all the best in his new position.”
Will Finley, Lindenwood Assistant Head Coach: “Coach Sengel will bring work ethic and a wealth of knowledge to the staff. He connects with players and will be a relentless recruiter.”
Luke Olson, Minnesota Duluth Recruiting Coordinator: “Joe is a hardworking and enthusiastic coach who did a great job when we worked together at the University of Sioux Falls. He has a passion for developing players and recruiting quality individuals that makes any program he is a part of better for it. This is a great hire by Valpo.”
What They’re Saying About Nate Van Asperen
Shay McClure, Southern Utah Linebackers/Special Teams: “Nate is a great young coach who is dedicated to the profession. He always has the players’ best interest in mind.”
Brian Frana, Former Western Illinois Offensive Line Coach: “Nate is an unbelievable relationship builder who will get the most out of his players on and off the field. I’m excited to watch him keep building on Valparaiso University’s success.”
Cody Sauter, Former Southwest Minnesota State Head Coach: “Nate is one of the most genuine and caring people you will meet. After his collegiate playing career at Southwest Minnesota State, he made an immediate impact on our coaching staff. With a blue-collar mindset, relentless recruiting ability and a positive attitude, Coach VA always represented our program with class and professionalism. Valparaiso has definitely added a tremendous person to their staff.”
Andrew Prevost, Valpo Offensive Line Coach: “Nate is a fantastic teacher and cares about his players as people. He will not only develop great athletes, but he will also develop great men. Nate is detail-oriented and one of the hardest workers I’ve come across. We are very fortunate to have him at Valpo.”