And so, we have our “new” coaches. (At least we think we do.)
In one of the stranger searches for new leadership since (I hate to say it) the Steve Pederson 40-days-and-40-nights odyssey, Bo Pelini has satisfied the teeming – actually, screaming – masses by replacing the so-called “deadwood” with a healthy dose of “huh?!?!”
Careful what you wish for AngryatShawnWatson Husker Nation, because you just got it.
--An offensive coordinator that hasn’t called a play in college football since 1998
--A defensive backs coach that has never coached a game at a BCS school
--A linebackers coach that has been at the same position at Ohio for six seasons
--A former offensive intern in his first full-time coaching gig
--A Massachusetts high school coach who has been involved in golf more than football the last eight years
Granted, nobody expected the abrupt resignation of Marvin Sanders for personal reasons, but the resumes of these four new hires and one promotion are not inspiring much hope in a fan base that was hoping for at least a home run, a double and a couple of singles. Instead, the perception is that Pelini earned a walk, moved the runner over with a bunt and struck out twice. Some might even think the coach has gone mad.
But perhaps there is a method to the madness?
Beck’s promotion is the obvious lynch-pin to this whole setup. After two straight conference title game failures the offense had to change. Beck may not have been an OC when he was at Kansas, but he was involved in the play-calling procedure, signaling plays to QB Todd Reesing during KU’s offensive peak in 2007. Yes, fans were clamoring-pleading-praying for a return home for Scott Frost, but Beck has something that the former national title-winning QB did not have – familiarity. It is really important for Pelini to have someone in charge of (literally) half the game plan whom he can trust. A fellow Youngstown, Ohioan, Beck fits that bill. If the S.S. Pelini is going down with this hire, he’s going to do so with a first mate that will go down with him.
Of course, Pelini expects success with this move. Is there anything in his past that indicates to Nebraskans that he does things to fail?
My biggest concern with Beck will be how he handles what I believe to be a problematic quarterback situation. Can he create an offense that all of his signal callers can run competently? Can he begin to find an indication that there are leadership skills in the starter he inherits?
Of the new-bees, Corey Raymond is seen to have the most pedigree. A former seven-year NFL vet, Raymond also has working experience with Pelini as a strength coach at LSU. While it’s hard to argue the recent success of the NU secondary under Sanders, Raymond is seen by some as being able to shore up some possible weaknesses in recruiting. I’m not terribly concerned with a loss in production from the defensive backs where Pelini can certainly help bring Raymond along if need-be, but if Raymond can bring in a few recruits out of the deep South, he’ll more than be worth the “risk.”
Nebraskans didn’t get their hand-picked homecoming, so Lincoln native Ross Els will have to suffice. Els has been Frank Solich’s assistant head coach-linebackers coach-special teams coordinator at Ohio and his hire is also laced with prior Pelini ties. This time it’s Carl Pelini who helped pull the trigger. The positive, as I see it, is that Els has had good success with special teams units. While at New Mexico State, his Aggies led the conference in kickoff and punt returns, an area in which Nebraska struggled last season. I am assuming that Els will take on a role with special teams and if it happens I would expect some improvement in that area.
Former Husker center John Garrison is the true rookie of the group, having interned last season. It appears that Garrison will assist Barney Cotton with the offensive line; giving NU two full-time assistants with the unit for the first time since the Milt Tenopir-Dan Young days. If you’re going to break in an assistant, I suppose this is one way to do it. There has to be something seen in Garrison’s work as an intern that impressed Pelini and Cotton. I don’t think there is much question that Garrison knows the role of the offensive lineman, it’s whether or not he can communicate that and if he can recruit.
Then there’s Rich Fisher. Yes it’s true, the former member of the 1990 Colorado national championship team left coaching in the early 2000’s to open a golf academy in New England and only got back into football two years ago as the head coach of a Massachusetts high school. This seems to be the hire that has driven some people crazy. But Fisher’s former coach, Bill McCartney, thinks Fisher will be a great hire and told the Omaha World Herald that he “bets (Fisher) will be a great recruiter.”
My only read on Fisher is that there has to be something with his New England ties that is bringing him to Nebraska. While NU isn’t prepared to give up on Texas, Florida, California and the South, they are going to have to keep tabs on other territories scouted by their new conference rivals. Could Fisher be the link to the eastern front of the Big Ten? That, frankly, is the only thing that I can wrap my head around at the moment regarding this hire.
If we haven’t established it by now, Bo Pelini has his own way of running this program and it’s not like he’s trying to intentionally run Nebraska football into the ground. I have learned my lesson – for now – about jumping to conclusions too soon. Thank you, Taylor Martinez for that bit of clarity. And, by the way, none of this is “official” yet. Pelini has said as much publically about these staff changes as he has the situation in Egypt. So if this column is premature, just set it aside like some of my other wild jumps-to-conclusion like this classic and we can all have a good laugh about it later.
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