The Head Coach -- Bo Pelini
On simple numbers alone, Bo Pelini is really nothing short of a success so far as the head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Compiling a 39-16 (.709 winning percentage) record, 3-2 Bowl record, 3 Division Championships, 4 Bowl Appearances (5 counting his interim work), and finishes in both the AP and Coaches Top 25 for 3 years in a row, Bo has turned around a ship that was dead in the water up until the 2008 season where he took over from Billy C. He inherited a defense that was sub-par and made it fierce again and proved he could scheme with the best of them. But as I have noted time and time again, more often than not, this is not a game where numbers alone can save you.
In Nebraska, like pretty much every other school, there are always detractors from the head coach. Even when Osborne was coaching, people would say things like, "He's never going to win a championship. We need a guy who can get us to the next level. Blah. Blah. Blah." For Pelini, not only does he have to deal with these exceedingly unrealistic expectations, he also lives in the shadow of what many Nebraska fans considers the second coming of Christ -- Tom Osborne.
So now Pelini is supposed to be a stoic, gentle, even-tempered coach with a bunch of good ideas and a penchant for saying goodness instead of something as terrible as gosh darn. Basically what I am saying is that many fans pretty much want Bo Pelini to be the antithesis of what he really is, and that is extremely problematic because as he's said many times, "I'm an emotional guy." (via every press conference ever). Bo is not the quiet guy. He is the guy who gets fired up at officials, the media, and even his quarterback. Angry Bo reminds you of a Hulk-esque freakout and if I was on the sideline I'd fear the words, "You won't like BO when he's angry." Still, the flipside to that passion is that he's fiercely loyal, passionate about the game of football, and not all that bad a coach.
Basically what I'm trying to say is that Pelini is kind of at a crossroads. Nebraska is pretty far removed from conference championships, BCS bowls, and National Championships and the peoples are getting restless. The local newspapers are clamoring for some actual progress and consistency, and since he's not exactly Mr. Cuddles on the press podium, he's running out of good will. Me personally? I think that is ridiculous, but I'm not a major booster and I don't make decisions. I just write stuff and hope that people stop losing their collective minds in Nebraska after losses. That does not mean I welcome mediocrity, but it sure as hell means I think it is time we take a breath and give a guy with a 70% win rate a chance to get better. Remember, Nebraska is Bo's first coaching gig, and he had to navigate a conference change -- that's probably a lot harder than anyone can really comprehend.
I look at my job as a football coach as to educate and to prepare the kids that come into the program for the rest of their life. That's what we are; we are a university system. I thought that this game gave us an opportunity to show that the situation going on is bigger than football. It is bigger than the football game that was just played. It is bigger than the young men that played in the game that would have missed it, had they called it off. It's about education and putting things into perspective what the situation is all about. Hopefully, the fact that both teams sat up and prayed together put that in perspective a little bit. It's about what doing what's right in society. It's about doing what's right and wrong.
-Bo Pelini during the Postgame Presser vs. Penn State
Just got the approval from Coach Stoops to talk with Matty McMillen... I'm very optimistic that this could be a program changer!— Bo Pelini (@BoPelini) December 19, 2011
This was actually a rare view of Pelini being funny. During the long 'search' for the new DC position, Pelini dropped this little nugget to really job Stoops a bit and to see how far media members would go to figure out the viability of his rarely used twitter account. McMillen is actually not a coach as much as he's a liaison for the Sooners and this had very little merit, but it was good for a laugh.
Offensive Coordinator -- Tim Beck
Tim Beck enters his second season as the Nebraska Offensive Coordinator and fifth year as a Nebraska Coach. In what was the first real shakeup on the Pelini staff, Beck took over a Shawn Watson led offense that was oft times difficult to put a name on. Was it a spread offense? West Coast? Zone Read? The hope going into this year was that with a younger coach that had newer ideas, Nebraska would be able to finally get an offensive identity.
The result? Well, it really depends on who you ask. In my opinion, the offense was generally a bright spot but was also extremely prone to outsmarting itself. Beck is new to calling all the shots and with new defensive schemes (read: defensive schemes in general) (that was a jab at the Big XII in case you didn't notice), he sometimes tried to do too much with too little. Still, Burkhead looked great and Taylor Martinez seemed more comfortable than he did in Watson's ridiculous multiple read offense. That is not to say that Beck is some simpleton, but this was a much more controlled set of plays.
This year, Husker fans hope to see that success build. The strength of last year's team was its big play ability, and if they can learn to control the ball better, next year will be even better. Still, it's a bit too early to put a grade on Beck and his play calling/offensive scheming abilities. The next two seasons will go a long way in determining his profile.
When I started this series, my hope was to find some really cool twitter accounts and fun facts about our coaches. Now that we are deep into it, most all I have found out is that coaches are generally lame when it comes to online social media tools. Don't they understand this is a marketing tool!!! DON'T THEY UNDERSTAND!!!!!! (loosely translated: Tim Beck does not seem to have a twitter account)
Unresearched O/U on Years it will take to become a Head Coach
I'm going with 5.5 years. He's relatively young and has an opportunity to coach up an entire class himself before he gets judged as good or bad. If those next five or so years go well, he has a bright future. Add to that Bo's ability to work out jobs for his boys, this is the prime making for moving up.
Defensive Coordinator -- John Papuchis
Forget that he cannot smile for the camera during yearbook photo day, John Papuchis provides Nebraska with its biggest question mark coming into the new season. With the departure of Bo's brother Carl to greener (not really) pastures in Florida, Papuchis steps in with the full backing of Bo. After spending the better part of five years together dating back to their days at LSU where Bo was DC, Papuchis is ready to make the calls on gameday. It may not seem like the flashy hire Mark Stoops could have been, but maybe this isn't such a bad deal.
Look, the thing about Papuchis is that Bo trusts him. I think he will also be able to push back on Bo when he thinks there is a need and Bo will also respect that. Something about this coaching staff that is fascinating is Bo's loyalty to his coaches. Even Shawn Watson was helped in finding a job before he was ushered out, and Bo was extremely mum on that whole process. I think this is a guy that Bo sees as a rising star and now he gets to learn alongside the defensive mind of Pelini as well as add his own flair. It is worth noting that he was the DL coach for the Huskers when they were mowing down Big XII opponents as well as the Special Teams Coordinator when Nebraska was pretty much churning out All-American Kickers like a boss. He may not be there yet, but I like the potential here. Similar to Beck, there's no grades yet, but we'll see in the coming few years.
A Nationals win (done) + #caps win is a great Saturday— John Papuchis (@CoachJP_NU) April 21, 2012
Wait! A Nebraska assistant has a twitter account and is not just posting #GBR! This is shocking... Also, he's a Nat's fan. I have no real follow up on this discovery.
Unresearched O/U on Years it will take to become a Head Coach
Let's give him 6.5 with a similar outlook to Beck. If Papuchis can return the Blackshirts to some smashmouth dominance, you better believe that he's going to get some second looks. He's another young guy with his whole future ahead of him and Pelini has his back. If Nebraska gets to a BCS bowl in the next few years, look for his name to be on the top of some lists.