I always hesitated to speculate on who we would get if we fired Frost. It just seemed odd to talk about since I knew multiple people working in Lincoln and wanted them to succeed. Alberts pulled the rip cord yesterday earlier than I thought he would, but losing to Northwestern first game, tied at halftime and deep into the 3rd with an FCS team, then losing at home to a Go5 team you paid 1.4 million to come to town basically forced his hand. Further, if he thought it was time to go, he couldn’t wait until Oct 1 and possibly make a move after a win if against Indiana (massive speculation there on winning).
While money isn’t an issue, it doesn’t mean it needs to be spent needlessly. Nebraska firing Frost now cost us an additional 7.5 million. Again, you will have people tell you “a booster will write that check” or “with the B1G money it’s not as big of a deal”. All of those are true, but what if we could get that 7.5 million towards other things rather than a buyout that we wouldn’t need to do if we waited 20 more days? I think you see where i’m going with that. And let’s not forget that Alberts didn’t only rework Frost’s contract for a buyout date, but he reworked it for the buyout number anyway, so we did save money redoing things. And all of this is moot if we fire him for cause (i’m not going down speculation road there, we’ve all heard it).
Alberts had a ton of great comments in the presser, and i’ll start with this one. Let’s look forward. That’s what this post is going to be about. Alberts also made a comment about how Nebraska is a great opportunity for the right coach, and all places have pluses and minuses. People try saying it’s too much of a fish bowl here and the pressure is immense, Brian Kelly was greeted with this by a media member game 1 in Baton Rouge:
Can you imagine Steve Sipple coming like that to Frost after losing to Colorado in 2018? The point is, we have some challenges, yes. But so does every other school in the country. We have some massive built in advantages as well. But it all is dependent on the right coach, who will bring in the right staff, and the right recruits. The whole “if he can’t do it no one can” makes zero sense to me. All schools go through periods like this, we’ve just prolonged it. Have boosters got in the way. Yes. Has administration made things tougher sometimes? Sure. But none of that is an excuse for what’s happened the last 8 seasons here at Nebraska.
As i’ve always said, would you rather have a rabid fanbase begging for you to win, or one that doesn’t care? Nebraska is one of the best jobs in football if you embrace what it is. If things like a lot of media coverage due to no professional teams, people recognizing you at Walmart and wanting a picture, or other things of that nature bother you… this isn’t the place. And that’s what Alberts was talking about when he said they are going to take their time and clearly define what they want and find someone that has parallel values.
What is Nebraska and Alberts looking for?
One of the things that will be tough for Mickey Joseph, is Alberts knows he has to get this hire right, so someone that has no head coaching experience will be tough to get the nod. I would take that a step further and say they need P5 head coaching experience, with success. So unless he gets us to the CCG he probably isn’t getting the job.
Someone that understands Lincoln and the state of Nebraska. While I think we get too enamored with someone with “Nebraska ties” like Frost or Joseph, I think knowing what you are getting into is important. That to me doesn’t mean playing here. I think they need to know the culture and geography of coaching in Lincoln. I think they need to understand that we have some really good players in state.
Lastly, they need to build their culture within their lockerroom and prove that they have been able to do that in their previous stops. That again is really tough to do for someone who has only been an assistant coach, or head coach for minimal years.
Nebraska is going to have to open the wallet:
Scott Frost when his contract was signed was making 5 million dollars per year, and in 2022 his assistant coach salary pool was just over 5 million. Ohio State is at 7.5 million, Alabama and Florida are both over 7 million. You have to at least get to 7 million in my opinion on that.
Positives about Nebraska:
Let’s get into some of the things that make this job extremely attractive. Perhaps Nebraska’s best selling point is being in the B1G West. They are in one of the 2 premier conferences moving forward, in a very winnable division. I mean no disrespect to Northwestern as I think Fitzgerald is one hell of a coach and what he has accomplished in Evanston is somewhat crazy. But they won 2 of the last 4 division titles with massive academic restrictions, little to no tradition, and 100 people at their home games. The right coach can come in here and be competitive in a hurry just because of our division.
Secondly, recruiting. This sticks with the prior paragraph a bit. Nebraska consistently outrecruits every opponent they go against. While that hasn’t proven to be the recipe for success, you theoretically shouldn’t have a problem getting players in here that can help you beat other teams.
Third, Nebraska is building a state of the art football facility that will be second to none as you come in as a new head coach. So you get to sell your vision, sell the facility, along with everything else.
Those are really big things… i’ve stalled long enough, let’s get into some names and i’ll separate them into tiers. Also remember, some of these guys are coaching right now so a really bad or really good season can change everything in terms of how we look at them (and more importantly how Alberts looks at them).
Tier 1 (I know we’ve talked to them)
Matt Campbell (Head Coach Iowa State) – If I had money on it, this is our guy right now. The Big12 is imploding, he coaches nearby so he’s developing relationships in fertile recruiting grounds in our immediate radius, and he understands it’s more about culture than recruits. The thing about Nebraska is we will outrecruit our western division foes, but we are never going to keep up with Ohio State. And Iowa State wasn’t going to keep up with Texas, but it didn’t matter:
Because I think Campbell understands how to get the right players in his program, he made it work at a place that is very similar to Lincoln, and if he was HC for the Cornhuskers he could be even more selective than he was in Ames. They also were in on many of the recruits in Nebraska before our staff was. Nathan Scheelhaase is on his staff, who went to school in Kansas City to help us with our recruiting there.
Nebraska fans may need to get over their 3 high safety that they run, as we will hear how it won’t work in the B1G just like how we hear that about the 3-4 even though Wisconsin runs it. But that’s the cart a bit before the horse here.
Lastly a selfish plug is Campbell moved them to more of a sprinting strength and conditioning platform as opposed to grind the kids to death like we do in Lincoln now. They lost to Louisiana-Lafayette first game after changing that, and people just were all over Campbell saying “see, it doesn’t work”. They end up playing in the conference title game that year, lose to Oklahoma, but then they roll Oregon in the Fiesta bowl. The following year they went 7-6, but had 5 of those losses as one score (so close I remember us saying). They lost to Clemson by a touchdown, Oklahoma by a touchdown, and Baylor by 2 who won the Big12 that year. They are currently 2-0 this year.
I went pretty in depth on Campbell because i’ve heard enough to know he is pretty seriously considered for this position. Also, not to add fuel to the fire but there were waters tested last year with Campbell. So there is mutual interest, whether that would result in a hire, I’m not sure. The rest of these won’t be as in depth. But with Campbell being in the Big12 that is melting away, we have a chance.
Bill O’Brien (Offensive Coordinator Alabama) – You will all remember him from when we played him as the head coach at Penn State. He did a hell of a job getting them through that probation period, then took off to the NFL and the Houston Texans. I would hate this hire (even though I think he did a hell of a job at Penn State). The good news is I think we vetted and the fit just wasn’t there.
Gary Patterson (defensive analyst Texas) – Patterson was the TCU head coach for 2 decades before being relieved of his position, and he now helps Sarkisian and Texas. He has had 6 conference titles and numerous top 10 finishes. Like Campbell, his defense would frustrate people as he likes the 4-2-5, but he knows what it takes to win.
Jamey Chadwell (Head Coach Coastal Carolina) – It’s weird we’ve talked to him since he doesn’t have P5 experience, but it’s hard to deny his success. Further, our staff went and learned from his offensive staff on some of their triple option stuff. Would we hire him over Campbell, no. But if your 1A and 1B go elsewhere or say no, he’s a very good option.
Tier 2 (I don’t know if we’ve talked to them, but we should)
Sam Pittman (Head Coach Arkansas) – Pittman is an OL coach by nature, and besides defense, that is the part of our team that needs the biggest help. He has a lot of time in the great plains even spending some time at Hutchinson Community College and he is doing a masterful job at Arkansas.
Dave Aranda (Head Coach Baylor) – Aranda is a head coach with defense in mind. If you’ve watched our team the last 2 seasons, you’ve seen that a good defense can keep you in every ball game (2021) and a bad defense can have you lose to a Go5 team (2022). I almost think we may lean defensive when looking for a head coach. Aranda was DC at Wisconsin so he understands the B1G, and was DC at LSU during the national championship. He’s in the dying Big12 now so we have a good pitch, but I feel like an SEC team that is looking will back up the truck for him at the end of the year.
Luke Fickell (Head Coach Cincinnati) – Fickell was at Ohio State and even had the interim title for a year there. He currently is the Cincy head coach and got them to the college football playoff last year. While he doesn’t have a ton of P5 head coaching experience, I think he’s worth a call.
Chris Klieman (Head Coach Kansas State) – Klieman was the head coach at North Dakota State and won 4 national titles. He moved to Kansas State and plays the way Nebraska fans would like to see us go about things. While he hasn’t had the accolades in FBS that the previous coaches have, he would be a good candidate.
Kyle Whittingham (Head Coach Utah) – I love how Utah plays. They are tough and always well coached. They are in the Pac-12 that is much like the Big12, and this could be the time we could lure him away.
Matt Rhule (Head Coach Carolina Panthers) – Zero idea if he even wants back in the college game, but what the dude did at Temple and then what he did at Baylor off their probation is nothing short of amazing. I am seeing how his NFL season goes and gauging if he tries to get back to the college ranks.
Dave Doeren (Head Coach North Carolina State) – He has been in the midwest, spending time as an assistant at Kansas and Wisconsin. His first head coaching job was Northern Illinois, and then taking his first and only Power 5 job at NCState. He hasn’t won a conference title so there’s other guys higher on the list for me, but I definitely make the call.
Tier 3 (I at least consider them so I can say I did, but don’t see it happening)
PJ Fleck (Head coach Minnesota) – I hate this dude. But it’s tough to ignore what he’s done up there. I just don’t know if I could handle it, and let’s be honest it’s all about me.
Lance Leipold (Head Coach Kansas) – Leipold won multiple D3 national titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater, so he knows the region. He went to Buffalo and turned that program into a very good team and ended up getting a Power 5 offer to Kansas. I’m just not sure he will have the success at Kansas in a quick enough time (this year) to make that hire be the splash we would need.
Jeff Lebby (Offensive Coordinator Oklahoma) – UCF, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, this dude puts up points everywhere. He just has no HC experience so I doubt we go there.
Gus Malzahn (Head Coach UCF) – Malzahn got Auburn to the national title game in 2013 and seemingly fell apart from there. I probably wouldn’t touch this for the simple fact it would be another UCF guy anyway, but he has had success in the toughest conference there is.
Jim Leonhard (Defensive Coordinator Wisconsin) – He played for Wisconsin and has no HC experience, but his defenses are nothing to sneeze at.
Tier 4 (Names i’ve heard but it’s not happening)
Urban Meyer (Broadcaster) – Remember when Urb retired from Florida and said he’d only come back if it was Notre Dame or Ohio State calling? We ain’t on that level guys. That was before all of the off the field stuff and train wreck in Jacksonville. I just feel we should be smarter than this.
Craig Bohl (Head Coach Wyoming) – He was at Nebraska then ended up building North Dakota State into the powerhouse they are now. But he’s come up to FBS and has a sub .500 record and is closer to retiring than reviving a football program. This would be Mike Riley 2.0 and while Riley wasn’t awful, he didn’t get us where we wanted and neither would Bohl. We also need to severe some of the “this is what we used to do” talk.
I’m sure i’ve forgot some people, but that’s who I look at for right now. Let’s keep an eye on any hot names for guys that get off to a good start this season.
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