A coaching veteran with more than 20 years of experience, including 15 years at the FBS level, and 12 years as a defensive coordinator, Mark Criner enters his second season as an assistant at Lamar working with the Cardinals linebackers, a position he coached at Eastern Michigan last season.
In just one season in Beaumont, Criner produced some of the league’s top linebacking talent, led by 2014 all-conference honoree, Ronnie Jones. The 2014 campaign was a career year for Jones who led Lamar, and was among the league’s top five in tackles with 99 total stops, including 43 unassisted and 11.5 for losses. Along with Jones, local product Anthony Beard also ranked among the league leaders in tackles. Between the two, they recorded 23.5 tackles for losses and seven sacks.
Prior to his one-year stop at EMU, Criner spent five seasons in Moscow, Idaho serving as the Vandals' defensive coordinator and working with the secondary. During that time he helped build one of the top defenses in the Western Athletic Conference.
In 2010, the Vandals were one of the most improved defenses in the nation in terms of scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. Idaho improved by more than 40 spots in the national rankings in both categories. The following season the Vandals made a similar jump in the national rankings in rush defense. All of this coming on the heels of a 2009 season that saw Idaho post an 8-5 overall record and a victory in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Prior to his move to Moscow, Criner spent one season in Minneapolis, Minn., working with the Gophers. Criner coached the Minnesota linebackers during an 11-2 campaign that saw them finish 7-1 in Big Ten play and advance to the Insight.com Bowl.
Criner made the jump to the Big 10 following two seasons in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where he was the defensive coordinator, and worked with the Middle Tennessee secondary. He took the job with the Blue Raiders following a two-year stint at Cincinnati where he was a co-defensive coordinator working with the Bearcat linebackers. During his two seasons with the Bearcats, Criner helped build one of the nation's top defenses.
The Bearcats finished 2002 ranked among the nation's top 25 in total defense and pass efficiency defense. Cincinnati ended the year with a 6-2 Big East record, and advanced to the New Orleans Bowl. Cincinnati's defense was just as tough the following season ranking among the nation's top 30 in total and pass efficiency defense.
Criner left the college game for one season to serve as the defensive coordinator for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL. His one season with the team, Las Vegas led the league in scoring, rush and total defense, while finishing second in fumbles recovered and third-down defense.
Criner went to the XFL after spending eight seasons in Portland, Ore., serving as the defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and special teams coordinator for the Portland State Vikings. PSU made a successful jump from the NCAA Division II level, up to NCAA I-AA (now FCS), eventually advancing to the playoffs.
Criner's professional career began at Utah State where he spent two seasons coaching the outside linebackers.
A four-year letterwinner at Boise State, Criner received his bachelor's degree from BSU in 1990. He, and his wife Angie, have four children - daughter Madison, son Calin and twins Jackson and Brooklyn.