John Latina joined the Duke staff in December of 2011 and serves as the program’s Assistant Head Coach and Run Game Coordinator. A member of David Cutcliffe’s staff at Ole Miss from 1999-2004, Latina coaches the offensive line. After serving the 2012 season as an assistant coach, Latina was promoted to his current role in February of 2013.
Latina may have had his most decorated group in 2014 as right guard Laken Tomlinson became Duke’s fifth consensus All-America honoree and was a first round selection (No. 28 overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Tomlinson also received the Courage Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America in conjunction with the Orange Bowl, an award presented annually to a player, coach or support person in college football who displays courage, on or off the field, and was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes community service in addition to academic and athletic achievement. Also, left tackle Takoby Cofield earned third team All-ACC accolades and signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s Washington Redskins in the spring.
The offensive line surrendered just 41.0 tackles for lost yardage in 2014, an average of 3.15 TFL per game — and both totals were the lowest in the nation. The Blue Devils also allowed 13.0 sacks in 2014, tied for the 10th fewest allowed among FBS programs, as Duke led the ACC in fewest sacks allowed per passing attempt for the second straight season.
Latina’s unit also opened holes for a 2014 rushing attack that averaged 181.85 rushing per game, its highest average since gaining 198.64 yards per contest in 1977. Since Latina arrived after the 2011 season, Duke has nearly doubled its average rushing yards per game, from 94.08 yards per game in 2011 to last year’s total.
The 2013 offensive line was spearheaded by a pair of All-ACC selections — first team pick Tomlinson and third team choice Perry Simmons — as the Blue Devils ranked among ACC leaders in sacks allowed per passing attempt (1st; 27.8), scoring (5th; 32.8 ppg), total offense (4th; 426.1 ypg), rushing offense (5th; 178.0 ypg) and passing offense (6th; 248.1 ypg). On its way to the ACC Coastal Division championship, the 2013 Duke squad set a school record for total points (459) while becoming the first team in school history to post 25-plus rushing touchdowns and 25-plus passing touchdowns in the same season.
Duke’s offensive front aided in the protection of quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette, who combined to complete 296-of-467 (.634) passes for 3,472 yards with 26 TDs while opening holes for a ground attack that featured Connette’s school single-season record-tying 14 rushing touchdowns.
Simmons saw his career come to a close after 50 consecutive starts at right tackle, and the two-time Academic All-America choice was named one of 16 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes. In addition, he was the recipient of the 2013 Jack Tatum Award as the ACC’s top senior student-athlete for football.
In 2012, the Duke offensive line, headlined by All-ACC selections Dave Harding and Simmons, ranked second in the conference in sacks allowed per game as quarterback Sean Renfree topped the 3,000-yard barrier for the second time in his career.
Duke’s 2012 passing game also featured All-ACC wide receivers Jamison Crowder (76 receptions, 1,074 yards, 8 touchdowns) and Conner Vernon (85-1,074-8), and the duo established a conference single-season record for most combined catches while becoming just the second pair in league history to each post over 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
In May, 2012, Harding spearheaded a well-digging mission trip to Ethiopia that included teammates Cofield, Conor Irwin, Brian Moore, Simmons, Tomlinson, Joey Finison, Teddy Force, Travis Gibson and Cody Robinson.
Latina joined the Duke staff following two years (2010-11) as the offensive coordinator at the University of Akron. Prior to that, he mentored the offensive line for four seasons (2005-08) at Notre Dame.
During Latina’s stint in South Bend, the Notre Dame offensive front opened holes for a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons for running back Darius Walker, who became just the fourth Irish running back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in consecutive seasons. In 2006, the line helped protect quarterback Brady Quinn as he surpassed 3,000 passing yards for the second consecutive campaign en route to receiving the Maxwell Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Notre Dame participated in the Fiesta, Sugar and Hawai’i bowl games during Latina’s coaching tenure.
Latina’s six-year (1999-04) tenure at Ole Miss was headlined by five winning seasons and four bowl game appearances — Independence Bowl (twice), Music City Bowl and Cotton Bowl. In 2003, the Rebels went 10-3, shared the SEC Western Division championship with LSU and defeated Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl as the offense established school records for points scored (442) and total offensive yards (5,631). That squad was led by quarterback Eli Manning, who earned SEC Player of the Year and first team All-America honors before being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
No stranger to the ACC, Latina spent five years (1994-98) at Clemson, helping the program to three bowl games — once to the Gator Bowl and twice to the Peach Bowl. While with the Tigers, he coached six All-ACC offensive linemen.
Latina also spent five seasons (1989-93) at Kansas State where, in 1993, the Wildcats went 9-2-1, defeated Wyoming in the Copper Bowl and finished the year ranked 20th in the Associated Press poll. The bowl win capped Kansas State’s most successful season in over eight decades.
Before his time at Kansas State, Latina served on the football staffs at both Pittsburgh (1982) and Temple (1983-88).
A 1981 graduate of Virginia Tech, Latina lettered three seasons as an offensive lineman with the Hokies. The New Castle, Pa., native spent the 1981 season as a graduate assistant coach, helping his alma mater to the Peach Bowl.
Latina and his wife, Michele, also from New Castle, have two sons, John and Michael.