A former defensive graduate assistant for Northwestern under Randy Walker, Matt MacPherson is entering his ninth season as the Wildcats' running backs coach and his fourth as the program's recruiting coordinator.
MacPherson oversaw a unit that keyed Northwestern's 10-win season in 2012, as converted wideout Venric Mark found a home at running back and exploded on the scene to become NU's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2006. Mark recorded the sixth-best single-season rushing total in school history (1,366 yards), scored 12 rushing touchdowns and topped 100 yards rushing in a game eight times, en route to being named a consensus second-team All-Big Ten performer and a finalist for the coveted Doak Walker Award.
MacPherson combined Mark's dynamism with the hard-nosed running styles of Mike Trumpy and Tyris Jones to help the Wildcats rank fourth in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (225.5) and come within 70 yards of matching the program's single-season record for team rushing yards.
MacPherson's first season as the running backs coach also notched him his first 1,000-yard rusher in Tyrell Sutton. Sutton followed his record-breaking freshman campaign with a 5.3 yard per carry average in 2006. He finished with 1,000 yards on 189 attempts and also caught 40 passes (261 yards) out of the backfield.
In 2007, Sutton was named an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the coaches despite missing five-plus games with an ankle injury. In Sutton's absence, both Omar Conteh and Brandon Roberson recorded 100-yard rushing games.
MacPherson's running back corps was hit hard by injuries in 2008, but the group stepped up and performed well regardless. Sutton appeared in parts of nine games during the regular season, averaging 98.9 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. He also was NU's fourth-leading receiver to earn honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades from the coaches, the fourth All-Big Ten nod of his career. Sutton finished the regular season with 1,195 all-purpose yards in his nine appearances, averaging 132.8 yards per game. As a team, NU averaged 141.8 yards on the ground per game.
The Wildcats employed a running back-by-committee approach in 2009 due to similarly skilled players and injuries. The quartet combined for 10 touchdowns on the season.
MacPherson again came into the 2010 season without a true starter named from among his unit. All told, six different running backs recorded carries and five started at least one game. NU's regular-season rushing total increased 25 percent over its 2009 total when all was said and done. Jacob Schmidt emerged as a reliable starter midway through the year, scoring four touchdowns while starting four games. After an injury to Schmidt, redshirt freshman Mike Trumpy stepped up in a big way to start the next four games until an injury of his own kept him out of the regular season finale and TicketCity Bowl. In his four starts, Trumpy put together two 100-yard rushing efforts (110 at Indiana and 129 versus Illinois), averaging 4.6 yards per carry on the year while leading NU in rushing for the season.
The running game remained consistent in 2011 despite losing Trumpy to an ACL injury in the Big Ten-opener vs. Illinois. Schmidt started 11 of 12 games and led NU's running backs with 465 yards and six touchdowns, including a career performance of 110 yards and two touchdowns at Indiana. Schmidt also keyed one of NU's most memorable drives of the year, a series of 13 plays covering 66 yards and ending in seven points that sealed the 'Cats' win at Nebraska.
With Venric Mark enduring several injuries that resulted in a medical redshirt season in 2013, MacPherson relied on Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy to carry the rushing load, with Green surpassing 100 yards in three different games. Redshirt freshman Stephen Buckley also emerged as a dynamic runner in the mold of Venric Mark -- posting a career-high 99 yards at Iowa -- before seeing his season end with an injury at Nebraska.
Prior to joining the Wildcat staff, MacPherson spent two seasons working on Jeff Genyk's staff at Eastern Michigan University, coaching the Eagles' safeties. Prior to his two-year stint at Eastern Michigan, MacPherson was the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, MacPherson attended DePauw University, where he played football for four seasons and was named a two-time first-team all-conference linebacker. He also was named a third-team Football Gazette All-American in 1998. He was DePauw's Defensive Player of the Year in 1998, and went on to be selected to the school's All-Century Team.
Following his graduation in 1999, MacPherson remained at DePauw as a graduate assistant/recruiting coordinator and worked as the running backs coach and the junior varsity offensive coordinator. He earned a bachelor's degree in health and physical performance.
MacPherson and his wife, Pamela, have three children: Thomas, Andrew and Emily.
The MacPherson family (photographed at Northwestern's North Beach)