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  • Husker Program Flatlining Under Pelini

    The jury is clearly still out on whether or not Bo Pelini will become a great college head coach. But I am now starting to get the feeling that the jury will have to continue deliberating while Pelini is at another university. Perhaps we will never know. I have always felt that Bo Pelini's matter-of-fact, business-like demeanor was better suited for the NFL. I believe that Bo Pelini has a great defensive mind, but the past two-plus seasons he seems to be trying to teach calculus to algebra students.

    Sep 14, 2013; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive coordinator John Papuchis and head coach Bo Pelini watch their team during the final minutes of the game against the UCLA Bruins in the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. UCLA won 41-21. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
    Pelini employs a unique matchup zone defense that calls for precise alignments. The system mandates detailed communication requiring all eleven players to be on the same page. Throughout Pelini's six seasons at Nebraska, defensive players have commented on how complicated his system is and their difficulty in learning it. Much like the West Coast Offense, Pelini's defense requires years to fully grasp and might be better off in the hands of NFL players rather than 18-22 year-olds. Pelini's defenses and the quality of his teams have gradually regressed since the 2009 season. Communication breakdowns and missed open-field tackles on defense along with turnovers and spotty offensive line play have plagued Nebraska under Pelini.

    Bo is a first time head coach who continues to learn on the job. Prior to coming to Nebraska, Pelini had never been responsible for managing a 105-man roster or formulating a recruiting strategy. While Pelini's 2011-13 recruiting classes have been quite good, his first three classes were unimpressive and his roster management continues to raise eyebrows. Questionable redshirting decisions and recruiting below his available scholarship numbers are a couple of examples.

    Bo didn't do himself any favors by filling his staff with several inexperienced position coaches and coordinators. Like Pelini, many on his staff are learning on the job as well. It takes a few years for a coach to figure out how to recruit; how to coach and communicate with kids; how to make game-day adjustments; how to run a practice with their position group. It takes several years of on-the-job training to hone your skills as a coach. You are putting yourself behind the eight ball when too many people are learning the ins and outs at the same time. I liken a college football program to a fortune 500 company with the head coach being the CEO. Would a CEO at Boeing or Apple hire executives who were unproven or had to learn on the job? Why should a place like Nebraska?

    Much like NFL general managers, college athletic directors like to hire "their" coaches. After an unceremonious welcome to Shawn Eichorst's hiring last October by Bo Pelini, and the resulting stagnancy of the Nebraska program under Bo, Shawn Eichorst might be sifting through resumes of future coaching candidates. In fact, I think it is time for Eichorst to do just that.

    If Eichorst does indeed look to replace Pelini, he needs to take an aggressive, proactive approach and be willing to pay top dollar for a coach and his ensuing staff. Nebraska is a Top 10 program nationally and should be willing to compete with SEC schools and the fellow Big Ten programs Ohio State and Michigan and pay for proven, respected coaches.

    I am in favor of giving Omaha-native and childhood Husker fan Mark Richt $4 million reasons to consider a change of scenery. Or how about using those same $4 million incentives and seeing if you can entice Louisville's Charlie Strong or UCLA's Jim Mora into relocating to Lincoln. Nebraska should be forthright and aggressive in their search. Gauge the interest of coaches like Gary Patterson (TCU), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), Chris Peterson (Boise State), David Shaw (Stanford), Art Briles (Baylor), Al Golden (Miami) and Dabo Swinney (Clemson) to see if $4 million a year will peak their interest. I also like the idea of finding out if Jim Tressel would like to return to coaching. Leaving no stone unturned, I would even check in on Greg Schiano to see if he would be willing to leave the Buccaneers.

    After hiring an elite coach, Nebraska needs to keep their checkbook open and hire an all-star staff. Eichorst and Nebraska need to bring in proven, reputable coaches with a large Rolodex for recruiting. There is no salary-cap with coaches salaries and I am of the philosophy that you target the best and pay them accordingly. Along with having a $4 million per year coach, Nebraska should be willing to have a $4 million budget for assistant coaches. Nebraska football generates $55 million a year in revenue. Designating $8 million to the people responsible for bringing it in should not be a concern. Shawn Eichorst only needs the vision and fortitude to make it happen.

    Scott Frost is making 368k as Oregon's offensive coordinator. Why not double that and bring him back home to Lincoln to run the Husker offense? Nebraska has been trying to emulate what the Ducks do so why not go right to the source and have the former Husker quarterback take the reins? Former Miami head coach and defensive coordinator Randy Shannon is making 315k as linebackers coach at Arkansas. Again, why not double that salary and make the 2001 Broyles Award winner the defensive coordinator for Nebraska? Shannon is widely regarded as one of college football's best defensive minds.

    You cannot limit the assertiveness and spending on coordinators alone. The bulk of teaching and recruiting is done by position coaches. Identify coaches with track records and a history of success and pursue them aggressively. These are some position coaches who should be seeing a 402 area code on their caller ID, this December, with an offer of a raise from the voice on the other end: Ed Orgeron (DL/USC), Tosh Lupoi (DL/Washington), Mario Cristobal (OL/Alabama), Joker Phillips (WR/Florida), Rodney Garner (DL/Auburn), Larry Porter (RB/Texas), Clint Hurtt (DL/Louisville), Lawrence Dawsey (WR/Florida St.), Frank Wilson (RB/LSU), Larry Johnson (DL/Penn St.), Lance Thompson (LB/Alabama), Tommy Thigpen (LB/Tennessee), Rob Ianello (WR/Kansas), Odell Haggins (DL/Florida St.), Tony Hughes (DB/Miss. St.), Chris Kiffin (DL/Ole Miss), Stan Drayton (RB/Ohio St.), Adrian Klemm (OL/UCLA), Tee Martin (WR/USC), Sal Sunseri (DL/Florida St.), Billy Gonzales (WR/Miss. St.), Sam Pittman (OL/Arkansas), Demetrice Martin (DB/UCLA), Chip West (DB/Virginia).

    Nebraska should be targeting coaches of this ilk and recruiting them as hard as they do the high school players they hope to sign each February.

    Prior to contributing to HuskerMax, Jeremy Pernell co-founded the all football website He served as the editor in chief of the college football portion of the website which focused heavily on recruitment and talent analysis, including the NFL Draft. You can email him at

    Comments 26 Comments
    1. OklahomaHuskerPower's Avatar
      OklahomaHuskerPower -
      It's like you expect Suh to come out of the defensive line. They are talented, but, ,the scheme does not help them at all. Young defensives should blitz alot and be aggressive. Learn to adapt and learn to gracefully depart.
    1. OklahomaHuskerPower's Avatar
      OklahomaHuskerPower -
      Can I give Avery Moss a black shirt? The one from Ankrah? Create havoc - take chances - create turnovers. It's obvios the offense has a deficit disorder from the play calling - to putting in third team WR's..........fake punt - faked who?
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      First you chastise Pelini for hiring inexperienced coordinators, then you want to bring in Scott Frost who has been an OC for a whole 3 games.
    1. goodnterribles's Avatar
      goodnterribles -
      N2FL, I respect your opinion on this board a lot, but I have to disagree with you on a few points. First, Nebraska won't commit 8 mil to a coaching staff, so that is a moot point. Second, your list of candidates is questionable. Dabo Swinney is not a good coach. Jim Tressel? And as much as I like Mark Richt, what has he won at a place with many more built in advantages than Nebraska?
      Finally, putting together a "dream team" staff is a recipe for disaster. You need cohesiveness and a shared vision, and that more than likely wouldn't happen in that scenario.
      I think we should see how this season plays out and make any decisions at that point.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      all iknow is bo's got to go . pro's "RIGHT" this guy would be lucky to win a championship with a junior high team
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      has not started off well.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      All i have to say is i am getting sick of the losses and defense being good one min and horrible the next. They also dont know how to adjust like other coaches or they stop doing things out of the blue that was working. I have lost all faith in bo at this point like most of the husker nation.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Damn good article! Agree with you 100%%
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I agree with the basic premise. Pelinin and his "buddies" have failed to produce a defense of major college football caliber. It is time to put up or shut up for Bo
    1. SigFreudsHuskers's Avatar
      SigFreudsHuskers -
      I said before the season we would go 10-4 and called the UCLA loss (I've got 5 new Benjamins in my pocket to prove it). Now, I think it will be more like 8-5, with losses to Mich, OSU, Northwestern, and maybe even Illinois, and then a loss in a bowl game. That will not be enough to keep Pelini. And good riddance. He's too emotional and flips out too often, which has a trickle down effect to the rest of the team, which plays scared and undisciplined.
    1. CaliHusker's Avatar
      CaliHusker -
      I had to listen all week on the west coast how not only UCLA would win but it would be a blow out. The national perception of Nebraska is that they are a 2nd rate football team and will not be able to win the big one. We looked good in the 1st half but as usual no second half adjustments. Mike Brown who is my neighbor said to me these are not "blackshirts" and the team seem to have no leaders like Winstrom or Peters.

      I think the photo above sums up everything. Bo is discusted and Coach P is srcatching is head. Bo is not the problem, it is those assistant coaches who are flat out not qualified. The AD needs to put an ultimatum in Pelini's lap. Change assistant coaches bring in high IQ guys or a head coaching change will be made.
    1. WA Husker's Avatar
      WA Husker -
      Pat F at Northwestern has already said he's not interested. $4 M not interested?
    1.'s Avatar -
      Look Taylor is injured it happen in the wyoming game he cant run the ucla new that second half so they exactly what fans didnt know Taylor has a bad shoulder if not dislocate shoulder on his non throwing arm. So if the dont make move to replace him s dakota will beat us along with the rest I do blame the coaches not playing reserves to give the rest of the players chance to so spill the and quit hidding the truth that is what get coaches out the door reel quick.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Yes, it's time for change. We know the defense is young, as well as parts of the offense, but we have been listening to excuses too long. You've got to be able to make adjustments, which the current DC can't do. (the very young UCLA defense certainly made adjustments). And will we ever quit making stupid mistakes causing personal fouls or other penalties? Also, one of the biggest things that gripes me, is that coaches have yet to figure out how to keep a team motivated. For the past few years, we play a great quarter or two and then its over. The players, ALL players, have to have instilled in their mindset that there is a full four quarters to a game, 60 minutes, or even an overtime if necessary - it's not over 'til it's over!!! Any single play is not over until the whistle blows!!! This is partly mental and partly physical conditioning. We used to wear out teams, now it looks like we are wearing ourselves out. Attention Perlman, Eichorst, Pelini: The longest running sellout streak is in serious danger!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Are you sure some of those coaches are appropriate for $4 million per year?

      Dabo Swinney has a 6-7 season under his belt and an ugly bowl game loss (70-33 to West Virginia). He's riding Tajh Boyd in a way Husker fans wish T-Mart could have done to Bo.

      Art Briles has a 35-30 record at Baylor with his only season that didn't' include at least 4 losses being one 10-3 season led by RGIII.

      Charlie Strong had one good season in a weak Big East while riding Teddy Bridgewater for that season. They've already struggled to beat a bad Kentucky team this year.

      Al Golden built up his resume by leading Temple to one mediocre bowl and keeping Miami around as a .500 team.

      Kevin Sumlin had one good season at Houston and a great season at A&M. But how much of that was Johnny Manziel (who was already at A&M prior to Sumlin)? If I remember correctly, A&M has had some pretty good recruiting classes but crappy coaching from an NFL guy (sound family).

      David Shaw is doing some good things at Stanford, but how much of that is keeping the ship straight that Jim Harbaugh built?

      Patterson and Petersen are wild cards due to their relative lack of consistent matchups with BCS level talent. We know they can prepare for 1 game, but can they do that for an entire season against better competition?

      I agree 100% that Pelini needs to go (or at least shake things up) and we need to hire a better supporting cast of coaches. I'm more concerned with paying $4 mil on any of the group of coaches that you listed that haven't won in a major conference on a consistent (3-5 years) basis. Would any of these coaches join the Huskers for $4 mil? Probably. Does that guarantee a successful program? Highly unlikely according to some research released by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Really?? GnT...let the season play out? We have seen this season last year and the year before etc. Bo has no answers only excuses! How do you now a dream team staff is a recipe for disaster? I'd take any of those coaches over the BEGINNERS we have now.
    1. ksuhusker's Avatar
      ksuhusker -
      If echinhorst is good he will why not a ten million staff
    1. johnhoie's Avatar
      johnhoie -
      Tressel and Orgeron are crooks. I'd rather Nebraska be a bad program than a dirty one.
      But, yes, if Bo is replaced or leaves, the replacement staff needs to be a home run hire.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Agree partially. I believe Bo should get more time. However, I also believe he needs to take ownership of the defense, and let the OC call from the side. Bo should play to his strengths on game day. At times you can see the disconnect between Bo and Papuchis. It's time to let Papuchis go. He obviously can't adjust when an opposing OC figures out the defensive game plan.
    1.'s Avatar -
      I think Jim Tressel got a bad deal. I've thought he'd be a great catch since he was forced out, really, by his players stupidity ( They kind of acted like Johnny Manziel) Imagine him going up against The OSU and the "god" of football.
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