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.