Top 5 Candidates for Nebraska's New Defensive Coordinator
With the imminent hiring of Carl Pelini as the new head coach of Florida Atlantic University, Nebraska will now begin the search for a new defensive coordinator.
This marks the second straight year that the Nebraska coaching staff will be shuffled. From 2008-2010—Bo Pelini's first three years at Nebraska—the coaching staff remained the same. Beginning in 2011, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore were let go and Tim Beck and Rich Fisher took their jobs, respectively.
Nebraska has a chance to create a splash with a new hire that could lure in big recruits and take the team to the next level.
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Mike Stoops is the former Arizona head coach and former Oklahoma defensive coordinator. Unfortunately for Stoops, he was unable to turn his success at Oklahoma into success at Arizona. The team compiled a 41-50 record, with a lop-sided loss to Nebraska in the 2009 Holiday Bowl.
Stoops is a family friend of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, and they worked together at Oklahoma for a year. He is also known as a talented recruiter and he coaches with the same passion that Bo and Carl have displayed for the past four years at Nebraska.
Nebraska will have to fend off several suitors for Stoops, including Ohio State. However, the family connection must be playing a strong role. He has stated he would listen to Nebraska if the university offered the job.
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Mike Ekeler is a Nebraska native, former linebackers coach for the Huskers, and has pretty much followed Nebraska everywhere he has gone, from Oklahoma to LSU to Nebraska. Ekeler is now the co-defensive coordinator at Indiana. They haven't exactly played great defense this year.
During Ekeler's tenure at Nebraska, he helped mold some great linebackers. His players included Cody Glenn, who became a fifth-round draft pick, and All-American Lavonte David.
Ekeler would be a welcome addition back to the Cornhusker coaching staff. He has shown he has the ability to mold young men into great athletes and he finds great talent on the recruiting trail.
The only problem is that Nebraska still currently has a linebacker coach, Ross Els, so Els would have to leave or find a new position to coach. I am sure Ekeler would like his old job back.
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Nebraska's defensive line coach, special teams and recruiting coordinator, is an integral part of Nebraska's coaching staff. Under Papuchis, Nebraska saw the rise of several famous Huskers, such as kicking legend Alex Henery.
Currently, Papuchis has helped Brett Maher become the All-Big Ten punter and kicker, as well as adding an explosive element to Nebraska's return game in Ameer Abdullah.
Papuchis has defined himself as one of Nebraska's top recruiters. As a recruiter, Papuchis secured the commitments of such players as Jason Ankrah, Rex Burkhead, Chase Rome and Greg McMullen. One big name that stands out is Nebraska's stud running back Rex Burkhead. Clearly this guy can recruit.
The defensive line has been a real strength at Nebraska for the past few years. This year, though, the unit was ravaged by injuries that destroyed the depth chart and ended the college career of Jared Crick.
Based on the promotion of Tim Beck from running backs coach to offensive coordinator, Bo Pelini likes to promote from within his coaching staff. As such, Papuchis should be considered a front-runner for the job.
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Zook, a name that has been floating around, is the former head coach of both Illinois and Florida. But he never truly succeeded as a head coach, going 23-14 at Florida and 57-64 at Illinois. He was fired this season after Illinois completed what no FBS team has done in decades—they started 6-0 and then went 0-6, to finish with a 6-6 record.
While he could not catch a break as a head coach, Zook is a good defensive coach and one of the better recruiters in the country. His recruits helped set up Urban Meyer for his first national title in 2006.
Getting Zook to come to Nebraska would be a great accomplishment for the reasons I just mentioned. He would be able to help Nebraska expand its recruiting and help snare some top recruits—especially on the defensive side of the ball.
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It would make sense for Bo to take over a defense—he has essentially already been running it himself. It was no secret that in 2008 and 2009 Bo was running the defense, as that was Nebraska's weak side.
Since 2009, we have seen a gradual drop off of defensive strength. So maybe Bo wants to take over again.
If Bo were to do this, it would free up a coaching spot on offense. This could open up the offense for the return of two former Husker greats. Tommie Frazier could be brought on to help out QBs, as the team seems to be gravitating towards the option game again. Frazier was one the best option QBs the game has ever seen and it would make sense to bring him on.
The other Husker great that could return would be Scott Frost, WR coach for Oregon. Tim Beck promised Oregon style speed for Nebraska during the offseason. Bringing one of the top offensive coaches from Oregon would help Nebraska get to an Oregon-style offense.
I doubt Frost would come to Nebraska for anything less than co-offensive coordinator, but it would still be a huge gain for Nebraska.