Nebraska football fans learned this week that defensive backs coach Terry Joseph has left the program to accept the same position at Texas A&M. According to Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald, Joseph is expected to earn more than the $245,000 per year he made at Nebraska, which in part would explain the move. Joseph, a Louisiana native, would also return to SEC country and be able to work in the fertile Texas recruiting bed.
So what does Nebraska losing Joseph and (once again) having to replace a defensive backs coach mean for the NU program?
It’s Certainly A Loss
Under Joseph, Nebraska’s secondary has been a source of strength. According to cfbstats.com, Nebraska was No. 6 nationally in opponent’s third-down conversion percentage in 2013. A large part of that credit must go to players like Ciante Evans and Stanley Jean-Baptiste under Joseph’s tutelage.
But it is on the recruiting trail that Nebraska will most likely feel the sting of Joseph’s departure. According to 247Sports.com, Joseph had a hand in five of the 19 players currently committed to Nebraska’s 2014 class. His ties to the South have been crucial for Nebraska to make inroads to that wealth of talent, and his departure will definitely leave a hole that needs filling.
It’s A Sign of Success
SEC schools with national ambitions and rabid fanbases don’t come and pluck coaches from other programs without good reason. Joseph’s departure to Texas A&M is in some way a validation of Nebraska’s recruiting prowess—or at least of Nebraska’s ability to lure high-quality recruiters to Lincoln.
It's never good for the ego to feel like Nebraska is a feeder program for schools like Texas A&M to provide assistants. But Nebraska will always struggle to compete with a school like Texas A&M for assistants, both in money and in recruiting areas offered. Losing Joseph to College Station certainly is disappointing, but it is also a validation that some things are being done well in Lincoln.
It’s The Way Things Are
Nebraska fans in the Devaney and Osborne eras became used to a coaching staff that never changed. But like many things, those days of college football are long gone. Assistant coaches, while certainly well-rewarded, have little job security. The specter of Bo Pelini being fired during this season had to be on the minds of all Nebraska’s assistant coaches, and a move to Texas A&M for more money for Joseph is hard to criticize.
While continuity in a staff certainly can be valuable, the fact remains that college football in 2014 is much more dynamic, volatile, and in some ways cut-throat than it was in decades past. An entire coaching staff can be let go with little more than a thank you note in the midst of a coaching change, so it should surprise no one when assistants make moves to further themselves and their careers.
So Where Does Nebraska Go Now?
The recruiting "dead period," when coaches are prohibited from interacting with recruits, ends on Jan. 15. National signing day is Feb. 5. That means Nebraska has precious little time to find a replacement for Joseph and complete a 2014 class that 247Sports.com has ranked No. 38 nationally and No. 6 in the Big Ten.
The natural replacement would be a return of Marvin Sanders, who had been a defensive backs coach at Nebraska on two separate occasions and who resigned with a cloud of questions chasing him in 2011. Sanders is now the head coach at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, a local and national powerhouse on the high school level.
But Pelini knows Sanders very well, and Sanders knows Pelini’s system. Sanders had great success under Pelini the last time, both on the field and recruiting, and bringing Sanders on board would be NU’s best shot to seamlessly replace Joseph.
Even if Sanders doesn't return, however, Pelini’s connections within the coaching community should mean he can get a replacement for Joseph quickly. Make no mistake, though, Joseph’s departure is a big challenge for Nebraska, one that Pelini must get right to help maintain the forward progress the Nebraska program feels like it is currently enjoying.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.
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