Defensive Coaching Staff
Defensive CoordinatorScott Farison
Robert Morris University head football coach John Banaszak announced the promotion of Scott Farison to assistant head coach in September 2014. Farison is entering his 15th season with RMU, and he is currently the longest-tenured active member of the staff.
Farison begins his 10th season as defensive coordinator in 2016. He also had spent 10 consecutive years as the recruiting coordinator before ceding that role to Andrew Richardson with his recent promotion.
The Colonials have consistently produced quality defenses under Farison’s watch. In Farison’s 13 seasons coaching the defensive side of the ball at RMU, the Colonials have finished among the top 25 nationally in total defense on seven occasions, including finishing among the top 11 on four of those occurrences.
Farison’s defense was the strength of the 2015 team as RMU ranked among the top 25 nationally in seven defensive categories, including total defense, and was among the top 15 in five statistical departments. He guided a quartet of Colonials to All-NEC honors on the defensive side of the ball and also saw his student-athletes claim four NEC Defensive Player of the Week accolades. Robert Morris tied the single-season program sack record (34) in 2015 and also allowed more than 330 total yards on only two occasions.
The Colonials ranked near the nation’s elite in a variety of defensive categories again in 2014. During that season, RMU ranked among the top 30 nationally in third down defense (.331), passing defense (189.2/game) and tackles for loss (7.1/game) while Farison guided two student-athletes to their second straight All-NEC accolades.
Robert Morris has led the Northeast Conference in total defense four times in the past 12 years with guidance from Farison.
In 2013, RMU ranked second in total defense within league play, finishing in the top two in that category for the third time in five years. Farison helped the RMU defense finish the regular season among the top 25 nationally in a number of defensive categories including third-down defense, first downs allowed, passing defense, red zone defense, passing efficiency defense, turnovers gained and total defense.
Farison helped four of his student-athletes claim All-NEC honors in 2013. He guided A.J. Holderman, a former fullback, to First Team honors on the defensive line and Mike Cook, who broke the single-season school record for tackles, to First Team accolades at linebacker.
Farison has been directly responsible for helping four different Colonials to NEC Defensive Player of the Year honors since 2004, including two within the past six years. He has also assisted two Colonials to NEC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in his time at RMU, including defensive back Marcelis Branch in 2012.
In Farison’s nine seasons as defensive coordinator, he has seen RMU claim 27 All-NEC awards on the defensive side of the ball.
While Farison’s student-athletes have excelled defensively, a number of them have also performed admirably in the classroom. He has helped his student-athletes earn five Academic All-America awards, five NEC Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors and 14 Academic All-District accolades while at RMU.
One of the most recent to be honored for his combined efforts was Nolan Nearhoof. Nearhoof was not only named an All-American defensive lineman by The Sports Network for his on-field efforts in 2012 but was also selected as a National Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation, which earned him an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.
Farison’s defense was one of the leading forces that helped RMU to a championship run in 2010.
In 2010, the Colonials allowed an average of 312.6 yards per game to top the NEC in total defense en route to a share of the NEC regular-season championship and the league's inaugural bid to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs. The Colonials also led the NEC in scoring defense (20.5 ppg) and rushing defense (113.8 ypg) while forcing 26 turnovers, tops in the conference.
Thanks to the top-ranked defense in the NEC in 2010, the Colonials placed five players from the unit on either the All-NEC First Team or All-NEC Second Team. Highlighting the group was linebacker Alex DiMichele, who was tabbed the 2010 NEC Defensive Player of the Year.
DiMichele was the third linebacker tutored by Farison to earn the top defensive honor in the NEC, joining former Colonials James Noel (2002-05) and Chad Wengert (2004-07). Noel was named the 2004 NEC Defensive Player of the Year, while Wengert garnered the honor in 2007.
RMU's performance in 2010 came on the heels of a 2009 campaign in which the Robert Morris defense that paced the NEC in total defense, allowing an average of just 276.3 yards per game.
In his 14 years with the Colonials, Farison has filled a variety of coaching roles.
From 2004 to 2006, Farison served as the linebackers coach as well as the assistant special teams coach to John Banaszak. During that time he either recruited or coached student-athletes that helped Robert Morris lead I-AA (now FCS) in total defense in 2006, allowing an average of just 228.36 yards per contest. During the same season, RMU also led the nation in pass defense (128.5 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (88.70) while ranking sixth in rushing defense (99.8 ypg) and seventh in sacks (3.09 per game).
Farison's specialty during his tenure at Robert Morris has been coaching the linebackers. DiMichele concluded his career at Robert Morris with 330 stops, the second highest total in the RMU career record book. In 2008 under Farison's watch, DiMichele established a then single-season school record with 116 tackles en route to earning All-NEC Second Team honors (that effort was since topped by another of Farison’s linebackers, Mike Cook, in 2013).
Farison was also instrumental in the development of Noel, who is RMU's all-time leader in career tackles with 437 and is one of just three players in school history to earn All-NEC honors four times. Noel eclipsed the 100-tackle plateau each of his four seasons in an RMU uniform and in addition to being named the 2004 NEC Defensive Player of the Year was tabbed the 2002 NEC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Also excelling under the tutelage of Farison was former linebacker Jeff Rommes (2003-06), who earned All-NEC accolades in 2006, and former linebacker Jonathan LeDonne (2001-04), who earned All-American honors from Don Hansen's National Weekly Football Gazette.
During the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Farison served as a graduate assistant coach with the Colonials, where he was responsible for coaching the quarterbacks in 2003 and assisting the defense in 2002. While serving as a graduate assistant coach, Farison earned a Master of Science degree in sport management.
A 2001 graduate of Mercyhurst College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in marketing, Farison played three years for the Lakers at quarterback after transferring from Arizona State University in 1998.
Entering the 2015 season, Farison still held the career record for total offense gained per play (6.17) at Mercyhurst.
A native of Marion, Ohio, Farison graduated from Pleasant High School in 1996, leading the football team to the Ohio State Championship as a senior, where he threw for 260 yards and a record four touchdowns in the championship game.
Farison and his wife, Celeste, reside in the Pittsburgh, Pa., community of Pleasant Hills with their sons, Nathan and Ben.
Robert Morris University head football coach John Banaszak announced the hiring of Cornelius Coleman as an assistant coach in January 2014. Coleman primarily works with the defensive line. He also serves as an academic advisor for the athletic department as a whole.
Coleman’s defensive linemen were a continuous pest for opposing offenses in 2015 as RMU led the league and ranked seventh nationally in sacks per game (3.09). The Colonials tied their single-season school record with 34 sacks and also topped the NEC in tackles for loss (7.7/game), sitting 14th nationally. His unit helped RMU rank among the top 25 nationally in seven defensive categories, including third-down defense and fourth-down defense, two categories in which the Colonials led the league.
Coleman’s work with Forrest Mason continued to pay dividends in 2015 as the latter was named All-NEC First Team. Under Coleman’s guidance, Mason set career highs in tackles (60), tackles for loss (11.0) and sacks (6.5) as he was second in the league in tackles/game among defensive linemen.
Coleman helped Mason earn All-Northeast Conference honors in the former’s first season with the Colonials. Making the honor more impressive was the fact that the league coaches honored Mason despite his playing in only seven games. Coleman also guided Austin Trgovcich to 53 tackles in his first season competing collegiately, a mark that led the defensive line corps. Ryan Lewis posted 7.5 tackles for loss in 2014 under Coleman in his first season of significant collegiate action.
Before arriving at RMU, Coleman most recently served as the assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator at Averett University. He was a member of the Cougars’ staff for seven seasons and worked with both the defensive line and linebackers in his time there.
Coleman had an impact on the Averett defense almost immediately as his work with the unit helped the Cougars break their single-season school record for sacks in 2008 while leading their league in sacks per game. In both 2009 and 2010, Averett led the USA South Conference in turnover margin with Coleman’s help. The Cougars actually ranked sixth nationally in that category in 2009, an attribute that helped three linebackers earn all-conference honors while playing under Coleman that season.
Coleman guided his group of defensive linemen to a standout season in 2011 as the Cougars ranked 15th nationally in tackles for loss per game, and a trio of Cougars earned all-league honors along the defensive line. Coleman guided both Albert Brown, a postseason All-American honoree, and Corey Scruggs, who broke the school’s single-season sack record, to invitations to the Division III Senior Classic Game in 2011.
While at Averett, Coleman assisted with strength and conditioning and video aspects of the team. He also served as a liaison for the football program to various administrative departments on campus.
Coleman has served for multiple years on the American Football Coaches Association Minority Committee. He has also been selected to participate in the NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy on two occasions (2012, 2015), a unique opportunity that provides former NFL players and college coaches with tools and networking opportunities for careers as football coaches. Coleman also authored an article (“The Five Most Important Drills for Defensive Line Play”) that appeared in an issue of Gridiron Strategies in 2012.
Prior to his position at Averett, Coleman worked in multiple roles at Robert Morris. He worked in the undergraduate enrollment office at RMU from 2003 to 2007, first as a manager and then as an assistant director. He was also an assistant in the athletics compliance office from 2005 to 2007.
Coleman was a four-year letterwinner at defensive end for Waynesburg University. He claimed an All-America honorable mention accolade along with All-Presidents Athletic Conference First Team honors after the 1999 season when he tied for the team lead in sacks and topped the squad in tackles for loss. Coleman was also a member of the first Yellow Jackets squad to claim a PAC Championship in 1998.
Coleman went on to compete professionally in multiple leagues. He led the Dayton Skyhawks in sacks and tackles for loss while starting all 18 games with the squad in 2000. He also started 10 games for the Roanoke Steam in 2002 and played both defensive end and tight end.
A native of Washington, D.C., Coleman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication from Waynesburg in 1999. He proceeded to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from Waynesburg (2003) and a Master of Science degree in sport management from Robert Morris (2006). He completed his Doctorate of Education in educational leadership from Argosy University in the 2014-15 academic year.
Robert Morris University head football coach John Banaszak announced the hiring of Mike Brown as an assistant coach in July 2015. After working primarily with outside linebackers in his first season, Brown will now assist in coaching the defensive backs in 2016 with a focus on the safeties.
Brown’s outside backers saw success in 2015 and helped contribute to a sound defense overall. RMU ranked among the top 25 nationally in seven defensive categories, including total defense, in his first season on staff. Kimani Smith was perhaps on his way to all-league honors before an unfortunate injury brought his campaign to a close. Smith compiled 46 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and an interception in only six games. Smith was named NEC Defensive Player of the Week after a strong effort against nationally ranked South Dakota State in late September. Jimmy Masson also performed well under Brown as he contributed 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown from his outside position.
Prior to his hiring at RMU, Brown was most recently serving as an offensive intern at James Madison where he worked with tight ends during the spring of 2015.
During the 2014 season, Brown was an intern with the RMU program, assisting the defensive coaching staff in areas such as film breakdown and scouting reports. He also helped the program’s recruiting coordinator from an operational perspective.
Brown was a four-year letterwinner as a safety while attending Mercyhurst. He posted 84 tackles, including 7.0 tackles for loss, and two interceptions in his Laker career. He competed in 44 games and helped the squad to a 30-16 record in the four years he played. He played a role in helping Mercyhurst to an impressive 2010 season in which the Lakers won a program-record 10 games and reached the NCAA Quarterfinals.
A native of Irwin, Pennsylvania, Brown earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in sport business from Mercyhurst in 2013.
Robert Morris University head football coach John Banaszak announced the hiring of Alex DiMichele as an assistant coach in August 2016.
After being away from the program in 2015, DiMichele returns to his alma mater for what will be his fourth overall season on the Colonial staff. He will instruct inside linebackers, the position at which he earned NEC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
During the 2015 season, DiMichele was an assistant at Kentucky Christian, where he guided Aaron Cooper to First Team All-America honors at the NAIA level. Cooper became the first player in program history to claim this honor after he posted mammoth numbers with DiMichele’s assistance. Cooper contributed 160 tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss in 11 games and was also named Mid-South Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
DiMichele helped his two starting inside backers to strong seasons with RMU in 2014, as both were among the top five in the league in tackles per game. He guided Jake Tkach, who entered the season with one career tackle, to 84 stops in 2014, including 10 tackles for loss, as the redshirt junior was fourth in the NEC in tackles. DiMichele helped RMU rank among the top 30 at the FCS level in third down defense, passing defense and tackles for loss.
Prior to coaching inside linebackers, DiMichele was the defensive line coach for the Colonials in 2012 and 2013.
After mentoring an All-American in his first year on the job, DiMichele led two of his defensive lineman to All-NEC honors in his second year on staff at RMU, even though the squad lost a preseason All-NEC defensive lineman for the entire season due to injury.
DiMichele helped A.J. Holderman, a former fullback, make the transition into one of the top defensive linemen in the league in 2013. Holderman was a menace to opposing offenses and earned All-NEC First Team accolades as a result.
He had at least a half-tackle for loss in every game but one and finished the year with 14.5 tackles for loss, the third-highest amount in single-season RMU history, and the most since 2006. He finished with 51 tackles on the year along with seven sacks, a mark that ranks among the top 10 in single-season RMU history. Holderman intercepted a pass against NEC champion Sacred Heart and returned it for his first-career touchdown.
DiMichele also guided Forrest Mason to All-NEC honors in his first season as a full-time player. Mason made 46 tackles on the year from his spot at defensive end. He contributed 6.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, finishing in the top 10 in the NEC in the latter category. Mason also recovered a fumble against Monmouth and totaled five pass breakups on the season.
DiMichele’s efforts also helped RMU finish the regular season among the top 25 nationally in a number of defensive categories including third-down defense, first downs allowed, passing defense, red zone defense, passing efficiency defense, turnovers gained and total defense.
In his first year on staff, DiMichele helped defensive end Nolan Nearhoof post one of the top seasons by a defensive lineman in school history. Nearhoof was named an All-American by The Sports Network in addition to claiming NEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He made 76 tackles and tallied a career-high 13 tackles for loss along with 10.5 sacks. In doing so, he became just the third Colonial to post a double-digit sack total in a single season. Nearhoof not only led the NEC in sacks per game, but he ranked sixth nationally in that category.
Nearhoof was also named a First Team Academic All-American and the NEC Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
DiMichele is one of the most decorated defensive players in school history. The Pittsburgh, Pa., native was the lynchpin to the defense that led RMU to the 2010 NEC title, earning him Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in his final season.
DiMichele transferred to RMU from Temple and made an immediate impact at his linebacker spot as he netted a then single-season school record 116 tackles in his first year for RMU, garnering all-league honors in the process. He ranks second in school history in career tackles at RMU (330) despite only playing three seasons for the Colonials. He added 19.5 tackles for loss, five fumble recoveries, three interceptions and 11 pass breakups in his Colonial career. He started 32 games at Robert Morris, including the final 22 contests of his career.
DiMichele finished with double-digit tackles in 19 of his 32 career games at Robert Morris. That production has put him 11th in career tackles per game at the FCS level as of the 2015 season.
DiMichele paced the Colonials with 105 tackles, including a team-high 45 solo stops, in 11 games in the team’s championship run of 2010. He led the Colonials with 13 tackles in a 30-23 upset over No. 15 Liberty and added another 13 in a 42-24 victory over Central Connecticut State that clinched a share of the NEC regular-season championship and the league’s inaugural bid to the NCAA FCS Playoffs.