Staff Moves and Portal Talk

While we aren’t done with the staff moves, the news about Tuioti is starting to help paint a clearer picture for us with what is going on.

This will effectively lead the way for Dawson to slide back down to coach DL, and Bill Busch to take over as OLB coach and also help with special teams. While many were hoping for a dedicated special teams coach, I just don’t know if it’s in the cards from a numbers perspective. You would have to let go of another coach essentially, or have one of our guys like Beckton coach TEs AND RBs which I don’t think is a winning idea either. Our offense has been so bad it doesn’t make a ton of sense to spread that side of the ball thin with coaches.

I actually like the idea, you grab Busch who is an unbelievable recruiter, and Chinander has been helping with OLBs his entire time anyway. So when Busch is needed for a primary duty of special teams, Chinander can backfill at practice or in games. Sometimes people forget, Bill Busch was named a top 25 recruiter of the year from Rivals while he coached here. So that alone lets you know that he understands how to get kids here and has the ability to do so.

Take it one step further, on a defense where Coach Ruud is cleaning up locally to bring in very good local talent such as Luke Reimer, Nick Henrich, Garrett Nelson, and then signing 3 more in the 2022 class like Appleget, Stenger, and Hausmann, a guy like Bill Busch can go get that out of state high-caliber talent needed on the edge. The defense continues to just reload from a coaching standpoint with each move seemingly being better than the last. You lose Dewitt and replace with Tuioti, you lose Tuioti and replace with Busch.

But for how well the defense is doing, the offense remains a complete cluster. How far removed are we from this:

We are now on our 3rd offensive coordinator in 5 years. And if continuity was our problem before Frost got here as I proclaimed, it’s not like it has gotten better on the offensive side of the ball. When kids have to learn something new or different ways to do things every two years, it gets difficult.

But let’s keep going, one of the last interviews some of the coaches did after a practice, Sean Beckton who many respect on that staff shed some interesting light on what exactly was going on. He made mention that his TE room knew exactly where they stood, and did the little things right. “We don’t wait until we get to the film room, we correct it immediately.” It was a while ago but he was basically making mention that on the offensive side of the ball, no one was really being a coach to these kids. From what i’ve heard behind the scenes and from listening to interviews like this, there were a few things going on. One, kids just flat out weren’t being coached right away so the mistakes being made were made for an entire practice and hopefully corrected in film or the next day. That’s not how Beckton did it, and his results spoke for themselves. Second, coaches were too buddy-buddy with some kids and maybe didn’t coach them as hard. Lastly, some of the guys just didn’t have the respect from their room. I’ll try to dive into each of these for all 3 of the new hires.

Mickey Joseph – WR coach plucked from LSU

Mickey was the one I made mention of that was pretty much a done deal from the jump. The WR room is going on their 3rd coach in 5 years, but many of the guys were put off by Walters because he wasn’t Keith Williams (not his fault). Then Lubick came in and quite honestly he’s a good example of the third thing I mentioned, while he had some clout, it’s tough to come from your banking job to OC/WR coach and not have some guys say “wtf”. He just didn’t own the room and no one really knew where they stood.

Joseph won’t have those problems. From everything i’ve heard he’s a well respected guy in the room and creates deep relationships. He reminds me a bit of Keith Williams without all of the baggage.

Another positive for Joseph is he is deeply respected up in Omaha… that will go a long ways to repair some of the relationships that guys like Walters, Austin, and Lubick helped tear down the past 4 years.

Not much more to say except I would give this hire an A from the outside looking in. I’m curious what he will think of our room and the talent in it compared to what he had at LSU. Guys like Manning and Betts are safe obviously, but what does it mean for guys like Neville? TBD.

Donovan Raiola – Assistant OL coach from the Chicago Bears

This one is going to be interesting for me. Besides being an assistant coach for one year at a D3 school in Illinois, Raiola has never been a full-time coach in college. With that said, he was an intern and graduate assistant at FBS schools, so he at least knows a little lay of the land. And he has an immense challenge in front of him. OL was arguably our worst performing position group and just lost its best player from that group in Cam Jurgens who declared for the draft. If we want to be anything decent next year, he has to get them going ASAP.

But now that Austin is gone, I feel I can talk freely about some things. Austin either disliked recruiting, or didn’t care based on what I saw in the metro from him. As I talked about, Levar Woods, Brian Ferentz, and Kirk Ferentz had all talked to Deshawn Woods (four star OT from Omaha Central) before Austin really even made contact. What’s even further, the communication was just off from the staff to the kid. For example, one coach still on staff stated “if it were up to me he’d already have an offer, but there’s other people who say we just can’t miss on local kids.” Essentially, he was saying if he was from Florida he’d have an offer already.

But let me take that even further. Once the Iowa State offer is given to Woods, Austin said “that’s great, but we don’t carbon copy our offers. When we offer it means something.” All Woods has to do is go check the Rivals database at this point, and he sees that Iowa State had actually only offered about a dozen linemen for the 2022 class at that time. Nebraska? Well they had offered 27. What was even weirder is that less than 2 months after Iowa State offers, Nebraska comes calling with an offer. It was just odd all the way around.

Fast forward and Woods during his junior year, Woods is interviewed at a camp and is asked for his top schools. While it wasn’t an official top 5, it was just off the top of the head and is a good indicator who is on the front of his mind. Mizzou and Nebraska are not mentioned. So pay attention to this part… The Mizzou staff calls almost instantly when the tweet went out and asks “what’s going on? I thought we were in a good spot? Can we get ahold of him, tell him to look for our message!” Instantly they tried remedying it. Coach Austin and Nebraska actually didn’t even communicate back until another scheduled trip up to Omaha.

So now we are playing catchup after really giving the runaround in the first place. Woods releases an official top 5 and Mizzou is now on it, but Nebraska is still left off. The Central coaches and even some other Omaha area coaches encouraged him to put Nebraska on “just in case” and to avoid the drama of a local kid not having them in their top 5. But things were so bad at that point he wanted no part of it. They even tried telling him to just make a top 6 and throw them in it. Once the top 5 comes out and the Huskers are left off, the most communication Woods had seen happens from Nebraska where he’s told “we just wasted each others time man” and quite honestly went off the rails in my opinion a little bit.

I just circle it back to you needing to be all in recruiting, or have support that is with you. Mizzou was all in recruiting him despite his academic concerns, and so was Nebraska. This one didn’t hurt in the long run since he’s going JUCO, but like I say to some of my sales guys, if this is how you treat a bigger fish opportunity what are we doing with others like them? Or even worse, if it’s a “lesser” opportunity is the communication even worse?

With that said, you don’t always have to be all in on recruiting. A guy like Pendergrast at USC hated it, but he was at USC and it attracted kids just by name and location alone. Plus he was surrounded by unbelievable position recruiters around him. At Nebraska I think it’s imperative to be all in on that stuff. If we weren’t all in with a kid less than an hour away… I just think this change is a real good one. Like the WR move.

Mark Whipple – Stolen OC from Pitt

This is the one i’m really intrigued with. Going back to the top… we are moving from making the B1G adjust to us, to bringing in a seasoned play-caller. What’s his role going to be? Is he taking the reigns full time? Or is he helping Frost and our current head coach is still the main play caller? I am thinking it’s the former, and he is going to help guide Frost in what he did to bring a conference title home and get a first round draft pick at QB.

Frost and this staff went and visited with Nebraska-Kearney and Coastal Carolina in the offseason to help learn their “new age triple option” that everyone loves. But truth be told you can only learn so much from some trips to visit coaches. As we’ve talked about too much, I think our adjustments are what was lacking in game. We did fine with a gameplan during the week, but what happened when things didn’t look the same? Having a guy like Whipple on staff who probably has seen every adjustment imaginable could help immensely at halftime in 2022 and stop some of these one score losses when we are leading at halftime.

But I do have some concern. While Pitt was 5th in the nation in scoring offense this year, they were 78th in 2020 and 106th in 2019. Not exactly lighting it up except when you have a first round NFL draft pick at QB. The years before that he was at UMass and it was a disaster in FBS as a head coach. And we have struck out with our top 3 QB transfer picks, so it’s Smothers or Haarberg, or hoping someone else opens up for us. We will still get someone, I just worry when we work that far down the list. I’ll be curious how good his offense looks without someone like Pickett running it. I just hope we don’t need a first round NFL QB guy to be good, because the two prior years Pitt was .500 in conference.

But i’m not all doom and gloom on this. I think it’s a pretty unreal hire for Frost when you consider the circumstances of the situation. It’s basically win twice as many games this year or you are gone. And he has a former FBS HC/ACC conference champion OC coming his way. That’s pretty impressive. Now it’s just up to if they work well together. And you need a transfer QB in here.

Summary

It’s pretty impressive in my opinion what we did with the “do or die” our HC is in for 2022. Mickey Joseph is an unbelievable get at WR, he will be our best there in a long time. Whipple just won a conference title… pretty impressive. And Raiola is the big wild card to me, so that’s somewhat concerning. Reports are we looked at the Notre Dame OL coach, and that would have been a homerun. And for anyone thinking we hired Raiola so we could get the 2024 QB to commit, I feel like that’s a really bad take.

I’m hoping we see Busch go to OLB/ST, and then you just hire a RB coach for the final piece of the puzzle. I’m really curious who is out there though. Ron Brown isn’t taking it, and I see outlandish things on message boards like Peter for DL coach or Benning for RB coach. The problem is going to be that someone like Pickett said he thought Whipple would be retiring, but here he is going to Nebraska. Are we going to go that route for a RB coach? I hope not. I feel like with Tuioti gone it helps the numbers even though it’s a tremendous loss.

If 3 OCs in 5 years was bad, 4 special teams coaches in 5 years is even worse. Dewitt, Rutledge, Dawson, and now probably Busch. I mean, we just need to get it together at some point.

Here’s to a bowl game in 2022! (can’t believe I just typed that)

18 thoughts on “Staff Moves and Portal Talk

  1. Great write up like always. With Frost situation I think he did the best he probably could have. I’m also curious what will happen with the RB coach. And with Severe leaving 1620, it only fueled the DB rumors.

  2. I have zero hope for this program, and I hate listening to Damon Benning. The guy was a loser as a head HS coach and there were plenty of rumors swirling around him at the time. No chance they hire him on. Merry Christmas SSO and thanks for starting this site where we can finally have normal realistic conversations about the skers. Here’s to 2022 and an old school successful season!

    1. Ya I don’t see Benning moving there, too many hurdles IMO before we get into zero college coaching experience.

      Even Saban had things he needed to work on in his program, which is why I never understood why we couldn’t talk about things we needed to get better at.

  3. Your comments on Austin are scary but I have a feeling he put the same level of effort with the guys in the program. Our OL has looked really tentative, undecisive and slow. I’m super pumped about Raiola though. I was actually wondering if Frost would reach out to Hiestand to get the ship right for a year or 2 and it turns out he did, but Hiestand told him Raiola is your guy. ND had some real good OL play under that duo and the Bears have gotten surprising play for a team featuring a 40 year old they yanked out of retirement in preseason at LT, a 5th rd rookie at RT and an undrafted center with 3 years practice squad history at C.

    With regards to the RB coach – what are your thoughts on the guy at NIU? He was actually with Bo in Youngstown then has coached Ducker the last 2 years there. I also wonder if Jeff Nixon may become an option given the Panthers are struggling there and his kids in Lincoln. 1 last name is Adam Lechtenberg. He was with Fuente at VT the last 5 years and was their recruiting coordinator and RB coach. He also happened to be a walkon under Solich.

    1. I think Austin didn’t like to recruit period, and basically every linemen besides Jurgens seemed to have regressed. I think about how excited people were for Piper, Corcoran, etc. And it just flops.

      I was actually thinking about Nixon, don’t sleep on that. The NIU guy is not a bad idea but I am siding with Dan Jackson if we take anyone from NIU.

  4. Great take as always SSO! I agree that TT’s departure is somewhat of a jagged little pill… hurts to swallow at first, but makes you better over time.
    It will be really interesting to see how tge RB Coach is addressed.

    Merry Christmas and have safe and happy holidays!

    1. Ya, with what Frost had to deal with I actually don’t mind everything so far. Could work out for the better. Defense will be an uphill battle next year to match the results but coaching-wise I like where we are at if Busch slides into that spot.

  5. Thanks for taking the time on the write up. When I hear of some examples of what has been going on (like how they reached out to local players, etc), it is no wonder we are in the predicament we are in. I think losing Tuioti is big, but hopefully Dawson is able to make it work. Regardless of who the QB is (and it seems like we likely struck out on some main targets??), if the O line isnt leaps and bounds better, the results will likely be the same. Raiola has a huge responsibility on his hands.

  6. I love the honest analysis. There are some real questions. We still seem to have so many position issues between line play, special teams, running game and play calling. Now with a glass half full it represents some low hanging fruit that we might be able to capture to get to 6-7 wins quickly. However, the fact that we were this bad in 4 years begs to ask why.

    1. There’s so many little things that in theory can easily change it gives me hope. But those little things have been issues for 4 years so why do I think year 5 would be different? We will see how it goes.

  7. Serious question. No vitriol, cart before the horse, etc. Is Mickey Joseph head coaching material? He seems like a great public speaker, motivator and communicator. Would the Nebraska job be too big for him? Just curious. I hope we win next year and nothing else matters because of that.

    1. That’s a good question, and if he is does he even want that? I actually appreciate some guys that know they aren’t great CEOs and just want to coach their position group and know their worth there. I feel pretty confident that I know Mickey’s worth as a WR coach, which is pretty high. But as a head coach, not sure his value.

      1. I hate the idea of promoting someone into a position they aren’t ready for. He hasn’t even been an offensive coordinator yet having been a wide receivers coach for only 4 years at P-5 level.

    1. I love it! A little surprised we just lumped DL into Dawsons responsibilities but at the end of the day special teams was so bad we had to do something like this.

      I have no idea what’s taking so long with the RB coach. Crazy times.

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