Monday, December 17, 2007

The Pelini Staff: Good or Bad?

Even though most of the names have been known for over a week, Bo Pelini finally announced most of his staff today. The holdup appears to be with the running backs coach who has been hired, but won't be announced until after he finishes the bowl game for his current team.

Here's the staff:
Shawn Watson, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks
Barney Cotton, Associate Head Coach and Offensive Line
Ted Gilmore, Assistant Head Coach, Recruiting Coordinator, and Wide Receivers
Ron Brown, Tight Ends
Carl Pelini, Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line
John Papuchis, Defensive Ends
Mike Ekeler, Linebackers
Marvin Sanders, Secondary

The biggest surprise is that Carl Pelini is the named defensive coordinator; I expected Marvin Sanders to get that position. Bo Pelini told the Journal-Star that eventually Marvin and Carl will be co-defensive coordinators.

So the verdict? Well, there is a nice blend of people with a long-term connection to the program (Cotton, Brown, Sanders), the previous staff (Watson and Gilmore), and young blood (Ekeler and Papuchis). That being said, it might have been nice to see some experienced assistants come in from outside the program. In my mind, there is no doubt this is going to be a passionate group of coaches.

I sense a lot of nervousness about Barney Cotton, based on the 2003 Nebraska offense and his offenses at Iowa State. I'm not sure I share that same concern. I don't think you want to read too much into Cotton's 2003 offense when the top quarterbacks were senior Jamaal Lord and true freshman Joe Dailey. You simply weren't going to throw the ball a lot with Lord at the helm, and you weren't going to play a true freshman a lot when the entire staff was concerned that the athletic director was just itching to fire everybody.

Also of concern is Papuchis' problems at Kansas in 2003. Papuchis says he was assigned to monitor a study hall situation for some incoming junior college recruits still trying to qualify. Papuchis was not penalized by the NCAA however.

So while I generally like the staff and think they can be solid, I also think Trev Alberts' overreacted when he told the Journal-Star two weeks ago that "We’re going to have one of the best coaching staffs in the country." Aside from the 2003 defense, there isn't a high level of achievement with this group. Potential is probably the better way of putting it.

Some fans are also paranoid about the impact on recruiting, which is getting a little ahead of themselves. Nebraska is undergoing another major change and any players that looked at Nebraska because of the previous coaching staff is going to be rethinking things. Of course, patience in this day where news of commitments and decommitments becomes the focus of hours of sports talk is going to be hard to come by.

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