Evan Cooper

Matt Rhule To Add Panthers’ Terrance Knighton To Nebraska Staff

The Panthers have seen extensive staff turnover this season. A handful of Matt Rhule‘s assistants are no longer with the team. Former nose tackle Terrance Knighton represents the latest departure.

Hired as Nebraska’s head coach late last week, Rhule is bringing Knighton along to be the Cornhuskers’ defensive line coach, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Added as Carolina’s assistant D-line coach last year, Knighton had been helping Don Johnson helm the unit since interim HC Steve Wilks fired D-line coach Paul Pasqualoni earlier this month.

[RELATED: Wilks Making ‘Strong Push’ For Panthers’ Permanent HC Gig]

Knighton’s Charlotte departure is effective immediately. In addition to firing Rhule, the Panthers axed DC Phil Snow, Pasqualoni and cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper. Rhule has also added Cooper to his Cornhuskers staff, according to ESPN.com’s Pete Thamel (on Twitter). The Panthers are also losing assistant strength and conditioning coach Corey Campbell to Nebraska, per Person. Considering the likely staff turnover for the Panthers in 2023, it is unsurprising to see ex-Rhule staffers opt for more security now.

A 2009 Jaguars third-round pick who was a starter on the Broncos’ Super Bowl XLVIII team, Knighton hung up his cleats in 2017. “Pot Roast” has been in coaching since taking over as Wagner’s D-line coach in 2019. Rhule brought him to Carolina in 2021. Like several of Rhule’s Panthers acquisitions, Knighton is a Temple alum. While Knighton did not play under Rhule at the then-Big East program, Rhule was an Owls assistant at the time.

Part of Rhule’s staffs at Temple and Baylor, Cooper joined the Panthers in 2020. That marked his first NFL job. The DBs coach will head back to the college ranks. Rhule’s Nebraska hiring will take the Panthers off the book for the bulk of the $34MM remaining on his contract.

Panthers Activate QB Sam Darnold

The Panthers have added another name to the mix regarding their fluid quarterback situation. The team announced on Monday that Sam Darnold has been activated from IR. This will be their second activation of the year.

Carolina had until this Wednesday to make the move. If not, Darnold would have been ineligible to return this season. Interim head coach Steve Wilks‘ comments on the matter left the situation somewhat murky, but it comes as little surprise that Darnold will be available moving forward after his return to practice.

The 25-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason, leading to the expectation of a prolonged absence to begin the campaign. That opened the door to offseason trade acquisition Baker Mayfield having an even firmer grip on the starting QB job in the opening weeks of the season, but he struggled mightily before suffering the same injury himself. P.J. Walker took over the No. 1 role for the next three games.

His level of play left Mayfield on the bench despite retuning to health, until halftime of yesterday’s blowout loss to the Bengals. Walker had guided one of the worst offensive performances through two quarters in franchise history, leading Wilks to replace him with Mayfield for the remainder of the game. That move left the starting spot wide open in advance of Carolina’s upcoming Thursday night game against the Falcons. Darnold – who, like Mayfield, is a pending free agent – will now factor into the team’s plans in the coming days.

In other Panthers news, more changes have been made along the team’s coaching staff. Cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper and defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni were fired today, as detailed by ESPN’s David Newton. Cooper had been one of several assistants with ties to Matt Rhule, and his job description included a scouting role. He will be jointly replaced by defensive staffer Bobby Maffei and interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb. Pasqualoni, 73, has five years of DC experience in the NFL; this was his first season in Carolina. Don Johnson and assistant d-line coach Terrance Knighton will occupy his vacated role.

These moves come less than one month after Rhule and DC Phil Snow were fired, of course, as the turnover in the organization continues. With a new configuration on the sidelines, and, potentially, another new face under center, the 2-7 Panthers will host the Falcons to begin Week 10 as they hope to rebound from yesterday’s loss.

Panthers Add Several To Coaching Staff

As could be expected given Matt Rhule‘s hiring, the 2020 Panthers will feature a heavy Baylor feel on their coaching staff. In addition to Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow, several more Baylor assistants will make the jump to the pros.

The Panthers announced additional hires to their staff Friday. Among them are assistant head coach Jeff Nixon, wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson, tight ends coach Brian Angelichio, assistant offensive line coach Marcus Satterfield, assistant D-line coach Frank Okam, cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper and assistant special teams coach Ed Foley.

Nixon and Jackson played key roles under Rhule at Baylor, but both are ex-NFL assistants. Nixon, who will coach Carolina’s running backs, led the Dolphins’ running backs for five years before working on Chip Kelly‘s 49ers staff in 2016. He was Rhule’s co-offensive coordinator at Baylor from 2017-19. Most of Jackson’s work has come at the college level, but he spent 2017 as the Titans’ wideouts coach.

Angelichio has more experience at the NFL level, coaching tight ends previously for the Redskins in 2019. Instead of working for former Panthers coach Ron Rivera, he will trek to Charlotte for a role with Rivera’s old team. Previously, Angelichio was tight ends coach with the Buccaneers, Browns and Packers since 2012.

Rhule’s former Temple OC, Satterfield was Baylor’s tight ends coach last season. He is an NFL first-timer. A former NFL lineman, Okam is as well. He spent the past two seasons as Baylor’s assistant D-line coach. Also set to become an NFL rookie staffer, Cooper will move from Baylor’s assistant cornerbacks coach to running that position in Carolina. On Rhule’s Temple and Baylor staffs, Foley headed up the Owls’ special teams and was their interim HC after Rhule took the Baylor job. He is also set for his first NFL coaching gig.

The Panthers also hired E.J. Barthel, Grant Udinksi and Cedric Whitaker as coaching assistants. Barthel and Whitaker will make major jumps to the NFL after respectively spending 2019 at Houston Baptist and William & Mary, respectively. Udinski will make the Baylor-to-Carolina transition.