Monday, November 26, 2007

Handicapping the Nebraska Football Candidates

Well, the Husker coaching search is progressing at warp speed (or at least it seems that way compared to the last bungled search). Tom Osborne and Harvey Perlman arrived back in Lincoln this evening after spending the last couple of days interviewing candidates. So far, it appears that Bo Pelini, Turner Gill, and Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe have been interviewed. Tom Dienhart of The Sporting News indicates that Navy's Paul Johnson and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly are not on Nebraska's list. Dienhart indicates that there may be one more candidate that has been interviewed, though it's not clear who it might be. It doesn't appear to be Boise State's Chris Petersen either, with almost no buzz about any other other names suggested by the Lincoln Journal-Star or Omaha World-Herald.

Here are my thoughts on candidates, in order from least to most likely.

Paul Johnson, Navy
Probably the most intriguing name on the list. He's won everywhere from Navy to Hawaii to Georgia Southern. He's smart enough to adapt his offensive style to the players he has, whether it's a spread over on the Islands or the triple option at Navy. Hasn't coached at a "BCS" school though.

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
He inherited a winless Ohio Bobcat team and left with a .500 record going 8-3 in 1997. Then he took over Wake Forest and led them to an ACC championship and an Orange Bowl berth last season. In other words, he's been a winner everywhere and like Johnson, people think he'd be a perfect fit at Nebraska. Me, I'm a little more skeptical. I remember Wake's trip to Nebraska in 2005 when he abandoned a productive ground game at halftime to try an ill-suited passing game. And while 8-3 is great at Ohio, it was surpassed last season by Frank Solich who some felt wasn't good enough for the Husker job.

Turner Gill, Buffalo
Nebraska's adopted favorite son occupies a special place in Husker fans hearts. He's taken over a hapless University of Buffalo team and led them to a second place finish in the MAC east in just his second season. But, that's just his second season as a head coach. I can see him as the Husker head coach someday. I'm just not so sure it's in 2008.

Bo Pelini, LSU
He's the candidate with the biggest upside. A master motivator who finds a way to connect with players, you have to wonder why he's not already a head coach. Simply put, Pelini connects with players...but not necessarily college administrators. He's rough around the edges; remember his post-game comment to Bill Snyder? He's also from the Youngstown, Ohio area that produced Bob Stoops and Mark Mangino, the two top coaches in the Big XII today. Husker fans already know how the defense played for him, and he would have been a popular hire in 2004 if he had been given a serious interview. And with the putrid results from the defense this season, no wonder many fans have gravitated towards him. Some fans have questioned how well he can recruit, but my response is simply to ask, how has the over-emphasis on recruiting gone for Nebraska the last few years? Seriously, just because Pelini hasn't been asked to do much recruiting doesn't mean he can't do it... it just means that Pelini is going to need some good recruiters working for him. Can Pelini close the deal with recruits? Well, judging from how players react to Pelini, I wouldn't dare bet against Bo.

This coaching search is proceeding quickly, and KPTM-TV in Omaha is reporting that players have been invited to a meeting tomorrow to announce the new head coach. Tim Cassidy, the Huskers director of football operations told The Lincoln Journal-Star that this meeting is a post-season meeting to wrap up the season. Which is it? Both might turn out to be correct; this meeting might not currently have a new coach on the agenda, but a lot can happen in a few hours.


George said...

Have they started an AD search? Any chance that Osborne will be there for longer?

The Hosh said...

Good solid post.
I think Bo is our guy. I agree with your assessment that Turner will be someday, but I think it would be a bad situation right now.

Alex said...

If Turner is not ready because of only two years of head coaching experience, why is Bo ready who has none?

Tom will not hire Bo. It's going to be either Gill or Grobe.

Husker Mike said...

Osborne is going to be AD until at least next summer, and likely for a few years.

Turner has more experience than Bo as a head coach, true. But I think Bo has "it"...whatever "it" is. I don't think "it" can be defined. But Tom Osborne alluded to "it" when firing Bill Callahan. There's something wrong in the Nebraska program. Players did not believe in Bill Callahan and especially Kevin Cosgrove. Players believe in Bo Pelini. Just my $0.02.

Daniel said...

What do you think of the chances that we get Pelini and Gill? One as HC and the other as a coordinator?

I think that Pelini is a better pick, but I think that Osborne will go with Gill.

Carl said...

As merely a Husker fan I don't have the clear answer on who should be the next head coach, but I'm pulling for Pelini. For this hire it's not all about x and o's on the field but eye and ears in the stands. I think Bo would be a good hire not only for the players, but for the fans simply because there isn't a clear #1. I don't believe his hire would be too controversial amongst the fans.

I think Nebraska has fallen far enough that it's time to take a chance on an unproven head coach, by that I mean we have little to lose and a lot to gain. I think it makes sense financially and it makes sense from a 'keeping fans interested' aspect.

Either Turner or Bo would fit this criteria, but I'd hate to burn "Nebraska's adopted son", as Husker Mike called him, with a failed attempt. Besides, I'd like to see Turner succeed on his own away from Nebraska to show that it's HIS success, not some residual success of Nebraska.

I think Tom would hire Bo. Didn't he once say Bo reminded him of Bob Devaney? High praise.

I did read somewhere that Groebe is probably a NO. Forget where. DN maybe?

Husker Mike said...

The chance of hiring both Turner Gill AND Bo Pelini?

We have a better chance of reviving Bob Devaney. Turner's already a head coach, and won't be looking to play second fiddle. Bo Pelini wants to be a head coach.

Stan said...

Bo is the guy I'm voting for. He should have been the guy after Solich.

On a wondering note, what's up with the comment about Mangino and Stoops being the best coaches in the Big 12? Shouldn't Pinkel be in that mix? I mean come on, Pinkel just smashed KU into the ground.

BigRedHusker said...

Jim Grobe is the best choice available. He has shown he is a winner at both Ohio and Wake. He can develop talent, and at Nebraska should be able to recruit higher caliber players. Something scares me about Pelini... I'm not sure what. Michigan State, Syracuse, and Pitt all turned him down, which doesn't sit well with me. But, at some point every good coordinator will get his shot - does he deserve it now?

Husker Mike said...

While Missouri is the better team this season, there's no question in my mind that Mangino is a better coach than Pinkel.

Anonymous said...

what about tommy tubberville coach at auburn he is a good fit

Anonymous said...

Pelini I hope will be the next coach soon, but I think North Dakota St.'s Craig Bohl deserved a serious look because he is very interesting.
He has brought that team from DII to a successful winning season in the Championship division and has beaten bowl division team Minnesota.