In my previous articles, I addressed the fans, the players, and the media. What have I missed?
You're absolutely right. Coaches
X takes the square!
Without further ado, here is my own fanboy assessment of each coach on the 2008 Nebraska Football Coaching Staff. I will try my best to address both the positives and concerns of each one. Some of the questions in this analysis will be answered very shortly into the season, but others may take just a little bit longer. When will we know? I'm not sure, but I can't wait to find out!
So go ahead and get yourself a refill of your favorite carbonated, brewed, or distilled beverage, push your keyboard back, and enjoy this week's edition of X-Tra Points!
Coach Tim Beck, Running Backs Coach
Coach Beck was the final
cog in the machine as he filled the last vacancy on the Husker coaching
staff. Coach Beck comes to
Strengths: Coach Beck has
strong ties with the Pelini family.
He graduated Cardinal Mooney High in
He is highly regarded
for his recruiting prowess. As a
former high school Head Coach in the recruiting hot bed of
Coach Tim Beck is a
proven coach with results on many different levels of coaching. Now that he is a member of the
Coach Shawn Watson, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Coach Watson is one of the two returning coaches from the previous year's staff. He enters his third season as a Husker coach, and his second as the Offensive Coordinator and QB coach. In his first year as a Husker, he was the Tight Ends coach as well as the recruiting coordinator. Prior to that, he spent five years as the offensive coordinator for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Strengths: This is a classic
example of the popular colloquialism, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Despite the pressure to continually
score to compensate for a very porous defense, the Offensive production last
year was quite good. Last season,
Nebraska finished 8th in the nation in Passing Offense averaging 324
yards per game, and ranked 9th in the nation in total offense at over
470 yards per game. It's difficult to argue against those statistics, as they
reflect the best offensive season totals
The Challenges: Keeping continuity can be a good thing, but developing a working relationship with the new coaching staff is a concern as well. How well Coach Watson gels with Coach Pelini and the other newly appointed offensive coaches remains to be seen. Although Coach Pelini has stated that fixing things on defense is his top priority, he will eventually turn his attention back towards the offense. Will Pelini keep the status quo, or stir things up if he believes changes are necessary?
Of all the coaching changes on the offensive side, the status quo at Offensive Coordinator presents the fewest question marks. Coach Watson is a known commodity. He has remained as the primary cornerstone from last season's offensive successes. Now that Watson has gained full control of the play calling duties, he will now be able to add his own simple flavor to the West Coast offense. By keeping Coach Watson on board, the current players won't have to learn a new offense from scratch. This continuity on the offense will help keep current recruits on board, as well as attract new recruits to a storied football program. There is little doubt that Coach Watson now has the capability as well as the tools he needs to improve on last year's successes.
Coach Ron Brown – Tight Ends Coach
Another former coach has
returned home to
Strengths: Coach Brown
has the most tenure as a Husker coach –17 years of experience at his position
The Challenges: Coach Brown has been away from the game and out of coaching for the past four years. Has this time away hurt his capability or his credibility? A lot can (and does) happen in four years – has Coach Brown kept up with the changes? Will he be able to work well with Coach Watson? Will he be able to increase the production at the TE position?
Coach Brown has a proven
track record at
Coach Barney Cotton – Associate Head Coach/Offensive Line
He's back! Coach Barney Cotton has returned to his
alma mater to coach the offensive line for
Strengths: Once a card
carrying member of ‘The Pipeline', Coach Cotton returns to coach (yet again!)
the OL at
This time around, he's not saddled with the play-calling responsibilities. But, he has a wealth of experience as an Offensive Coordinator to lean on while assisting Coach Watson in fielding a more balanced offensive attack. Coach Cotton has been successful in running offenses before, his knowledge may be crucial in helping to make a good offense even better.
Challenges: Yes, we know can
coach, but can he recruit? During
the last recruiting season, two top OL recruits (Robinson, Givens) escaped the
Coach Cotton's return to
Coach Ted Gilmore – Assistant Head Coach/Wide Receivers/Recruiting Coordinator
One of only two holdovers from the previous coaching staff, Coach Gilmore returns for his fourth season as Receivers Coach on the Nebraska Staff. This will be his second season as the Recruiting Coordinator, but his First as the Assistant Head Coach under Coach Bo Pelini.
Strengths: Under Coach
Gilmore's tenure the passing game for
The Challenges: We know that Gilmore can coach, but due to the staff changes, recruiting is once again on the hot seat. Retaining Coach Gilmore as the recruiting coordinator helps smooth the transition somewhat. But will he be able to help land the ‘big fish' then keep the potential wavering verbal commits in the fold? It's critical to the success of the recruiting coordinator not only to get recruits to visit and commit, but stay committed. It's evident that potential recruits are won or lost by the relationships between coaches and recruits. Will Coach Gilmore be able to establish and maintain those relationships?
Coach Gilmore has
returned to be a key cog in
Coach Carl Pelini – Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line
Yes, I know what you are
thinking, and you're right -- they're related in more ways than one. Head Coach Bo Pelini hired his
older sibling Carl to coach the Defensive Ends as well as assume the title of
Defensive Coordinator for the Blackshirt defense. Coach C. Pelini established his Husker
ties as a Graduate Assistant under Defensive Coordinator Bo for the Husker
Defense back in 2003. In 2004, he took the Defensive Coordinator position at
Strengths: Coach Pelini's
Husker ties are apparent. He has
spent time with the
The Challenges: Coach C. Pelini isn't one of the ‘big-name' position coaches that are on everyone's list. Along with the other new coaching hires on the staff, it remains to be seen if he can ‘coach up' the current talent as well as recruit the new talent needed to bring the Blackshirt defense back to prominence. At first, Coach B. Pelini will be the de facto Defensive Coordinator calling the plays, with Coach C. Pelini eventually taking over. How quickly Coach C. Pelini takes full reigns of the defense is crucial, so that Coach Bo Pelini can concentrate on the entire team, instead on focusing too much time on just one side.
Whether or not Coach
Carl Pelini begins his term as the Defensive Coordinator in name or in spirit,
he has the experience, the supporting staff, and the players to succeed yet
Marvin Sanders – Defensive Secondary Coach
Coach Marvin Sanders
returns to the Cornhusker coaching staff from his brief hiatus away from
coaching last year. As a former varsity athlete playing for the Husker Defense
in the late 1980's, he returned to his alma mater in 2003 to lead the Blackshirt
defense to huge success as the Defensive Backs coach. After the upheaval of the coaching staff
at the end of that season, he quickly landed a coaching job at the
Strengths: Coach Sanders
clearly has the strong ties to the
combination has known success before - in their one season together, the
Blackshirt defense had 47 takeaways, led the nation in pass-efficiency defense,
as well as establishing a school-record 32 interceptions! They were instrumental in guiding the
Blackshirts return to success in 2003, only to be dismissed following the
departure of Solich at the end of the season. Now, both coaches return to
The Challenges: It seems like Bo is turning the clock back to 2003, by rehiring yet another of the former coaches of Solich's defensive staff. Is he the best choice for the job? Was there any consideration for any fast-burning position coach from one of the ‘big name' schools? Coach Sanders was only known as Marvin Sanders last year -- he was out of coaching all of last season.
Back in 2003, the recruiting successes were few and far between. This is one of the reasons (or, excuses) why the former Athletic Director Pederson chose to replace nearly everyone the last time coaching changes were made. Can Coach Sanders recruit the top talent in the nation? We shall see.
Coach Sanders has coached the Blackshirt defensive backs to great success in the past, and the 2003 defensive statistics bear that out. Coach Pelini presented him the opportunity to have the chance to return to his home state to repeat their former success. They are familiar with each other as coaches and friends, both on the field and off. There will certainly be a lot of room for improvement over the previous four years. Coach Sanders is primed for success and he will help lead the Husker defense back to where it belongs.
Coach John Papuchis – Defensive Ends
John Papuchis is a young
29 year old first time coach that Pelini hired away from LSU to coach Defensive
Strengths: If there is one
thing Bo Pelini is known for, it is his hard-nosed defense. Remember, last year's lack of defensive
performance is one of the motivating factors which drove the complete overhaul
on the defensive coaching staff. To
rejuvenate the lackluster defense, Bo needs a position coach that: a) knows his
defensive system and, b) knows how to teach the techniques and playing style to
fit within that same system. Who better than Papuchis, who has already served as
an assistant to Bo during his tenure at LSU. Papuchis may not be a well known ‘name'
position coach to anyone outside of
Now, THAT is a high
standard to meet, for anyone, regardless of their coaching experience. Will Coach Papuchis be able to coach the
current defensive ends on the roster to play at a higher level? Will he also be able to recruit new
players to match the talent this team once had? As it is for any first time coach, there
is very little experience there to measure -- and
Coach Papuchis was hand
selected by Bo Pelini over many other available prospects to coach one of the
most esteemed positions on the Nebraska Blackshirt defense. Papuchis has had great results during
his time with Pelini at LSU. Now he
has the chance to do the same thing at
Mike Ekeler, Linebacker Coach
Another hire on the
newly revamped coaching staff is Mike Ekeler, who takes over as the linebackers
coach for the Blackshirts. He
follows Coach Pelini from LSU, back home to his native state of
Strengths: Ekeler is very
familiar with how the linebacker position is played in the Big XII. Ekeler himself was a linebacker and
special teams player who walked on at
Coach Ekeler knows from experience with Pelini what is expected at the LB position, and he is already familiar with the system that Pelini likes to run on defense. These are two critical areas that help spell success as a position coach. There is no learning curve that one might expect as a newly hired position coach. Ekeler has the experience, and now he has the title of Coach to go with it.
Ekeler's experience as a former player should make it easier for the linebackers to connect with him. He's still young, and it wasn't very long ago when he had on the pads. He can still relate to the day to day struggles of being a player while on and off the field. The players should easily relate to him as a coach who has ‘played the game' and knows what the LB position demands. He didn't learn his skills playing video games….he played the real thing at a Big XII school. He's been there before, and he'll help them understand what he wants to see on the field.
Good coaching was sorely lacking on the defensive side of the ball last year. Coach Ekeler has a great opportunity to prove his worth. He will need to use all these attributes to direct a young LB squad who lost a lot of experience due to graduation this year.
Challenges: For starters, this
is his first full time coaching job.
Coaching the famed Blackshirts at the
Pressure? Yeah, I would think so.
And with that pressure
goes all the responsibilities of game preparation, practice, and
recruiting. Ekeler hasn't hit the
recruiting trail before, but he'll need to hit the ground running. He'll need to assist the other coaches
in identifying talent, and convincing the recruit that
Coach Ekeler is a
heralded former player with tons of experience, who now becomes a new coach with
limited experience. The potential is there. He's been hired by one of the most
dynamic defensive coordinators around in Coach Pelini. He's been associated with the top
programs of the new century at both
I'd like to also take this time to pay respect to one of the greatest sportswriters in my lifetime. You may not remember his name, but he is the one who coined the phrase:
"The opera ain't over ‘til the fat lady sings!"
A sportswriter's icon from
And if you listen very closely, you'll notice that a portly woman has finished singing a requiem.
You'll be deeply missed, Dan.