Official Husker Locker Blog
2011 Dec 09
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Three Names Top New Nebraska Defensive Coordinator List
Carl Pelini is preparing to ride off to the sunny Floridian peninsula to become the head coach of Florida Atlantic and the Huskers now look to fill the vacancy he leaves behind. Bo Pelini is certainly the principal architect behind the defense, and will look for someone who can accent his scheme.
The hire should tell us a lot about what Bo values most importantly heading into next season. Will he look for a defensive guru to complement his scheme, help with game-planning and play-calling?
What position will the defensive coordinator coach? Perhaps the new guy is an ace recruiting coach who can bolster one of the staff’s biggest weaknesses or maybe a “big name” and possibly one from outside the Pelini circle will take over. Will Pelini stick with loyal and trusted lieutenants, even if they may not be the best available choice?
Here are the three main names that stick out as legitimate candidates for the defensive coordinator position at Nebraska:
Mike Stoops - Perhaps the most coveted defensive coordinator on the market right now, Mike Stoops is freshly removed as head coach of the Arizona Wildcats.
Prior to that, he served on his brother Bob Stoops’s staff at Oklahoma as defensive coordinator. This is almost a trifecta for Nebraska, an excellent defensive coach, a good recruiter and someone very familiar with Bo Pelini and his family.
The challenge in making this hire is that he’s a hot commodity. Ohio State and Oklahoma have both been rumored to offer him the position, though in both cases he’d be co-defensive coordinator.
There are also many mid-major head coaching jobs available which might take a chance on a BCS-level head coach despite his efforts with the Wildcats.Stoops is probably undervalued right now due to a brutal stretch of 10 games in Arizona against exceptionally high caliber opposition.
Ron Zook - Bo Pelini’s position coach at Ohio State, Zook brings some immediate name recognition and credibility to any school he joins. The former head coach of Florida and Illinois, Zook is well-known for his unorthodox style.
His Gator recruiting classes helped set up Urban Meyer’s national championship runs, and he’s generally regarded as an excellent recruiter. Some would argue then-recruiting coordinator and now former New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley deserves the credit for Meyer's stacked cupboard, though.
Zook is an interesting possibility for Nebraska. He'd bring in expertise in coaching safeties and defensive backs, and could certainly handle some defensive responsibilities for Pelini. Bo knows him well with their relationship dating back to his own playing days, adding a level of comfort. Zook could very well ignite a spark to help Nebraska bring in a few more top-rated recruits each year, too.
John Papuchis: Nebraska’s current defensive line/special teams coach and recruiting coordinator is widely regarded as a rising star in the coaching world. Will Muschamp tried to lure him to Florida to reportedly become the defensive coordinator, but “JP” stayed in Lincoln. Given that, you might wonder if Pelini feels indebted to offer the defensive coordinator title to Papuchis.
It’s unclear whether he’s is capable of handling the role, especially at a school like Nebraska. He has done a reasonably good job with both special teams and in his recruiting role. The issues with Nebraska’s recruiting appear to come from the top, rather than Papuchis himself.
This would also fit the Bo Pelini model that resulted in Tim Beck’s promotion to offensive coordinator, rather than going outside the program for a candidate like Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
If Bo does go with the loyal an trusted internal candidate, he’ll need to then need to make a second hire, while also reassigning the other coordinator responsibilities. In theory, the new position coach brought in would need to be able to take on a large share of the recruiting duties. That new coach could also take on a special teams role or those responsibilities could be reassigned to an existing coach.
Regardless of if one of these three names is brought on, it’s clear that three roles need to be filled. First, the Huskers need someone who can handle some of the defensive game-planning and organization on behalf of Bo in order to allow him to continue to tackle the CEO role.
Secondly, this staff desperately needs more recruiting expertise and follow-through when locking up prospects during the regular season. Finally, the new staff member needs to be someone who can be trusted by Bo Pelini to a point that they can do their job effectively.
All three (pending the hire to replace Papuchis) could do this. But who will Bo offer to the position to? Furthermore, would a candidate like Mike Stoops accept? Stay tuned.
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