Priorities for the coaching search

There’s been some dialogue on Twitter in regard to what people want in the new head coach and how it could possibly mirror what Trev Alberts is looking for. I dive into a little bit of what I think Nebraska needs to get back to where everyone wants us to be.

1 – Head Coaching Experience at the P5 Level

The first is pretty simple, we need someone that has done it before and not just watched it as an assistant. The examples are pretty few and far between for coaches that have had success without any head coaching experience, and on top of that with where Nebraska is right now being the only team who hasn’t reached a bowl since 2017 we need someone who has been there and done that in my opinion.

2 – Power 5 Head Coaching Success

This one gets a little subjective because it depends on how you reading this defines success. For me, I look at 8/9 wins and/or division/conference titles. Bielema has done this, Deboer at Washington is on his way to doing this, Klieman has two 8 win seasons and is staring at possibly another one this year, can Leipold get there this year? And maybe this is just me being paranoid of what happened with Frost at UCF. I haven’t met really anyone that thought he was the wrong hire. Maybe you had reservations about it, but the dude took a team to 13-0 and was an alum. Which takes me to my next point.

3 – Success at multiple FBS spots

This is probably me having PTSD with Frost, but I would prefer to see someone who has proved it multiple places. We have heard the term “lightning in a bottle” with what happened down in Orlando in 2017, and when you look at the fact that Frost only has one winning season (2017) out of 7 tries, I think we need more of a track record. In my opinion, there takes some form of luck to go undefeated, but can you replicate that “luck” which means creating good fortune for your teams with great habits and coaching. Rhule did it at Temple and Baylor. Bielema has done it so far at Wisconsin and is showing it a bit at Illinois. DeBoer did it at Fresno State and is doing it at Washington.

4 – Talent Development

One of the things that I think every Nebraska fan needs to realize, is that we were getting the right recruits in but we just weren’t developing them. And quite frankly we are actually seeing a bit of development this year just from doing some live practices and trying to get some younger kids in when situations present themselves. But the other things we have to come to grips with is we are never going to recruit like Ohio State, even Michigan/Penn State may be tough to catch up with. We can outrecruit everyone in our division but will that even matter a couple years from now when the B1G probably doesn’t even have divisions the same way?

There was a great article about Matt Rhule when he was at Temple. He basically said he knew he needed to beat Penn State, but also knew he was never going to get the caliber of recruit the Nittany Lions got. “How are we ever going to beat Penn State if they always get their first pick over us?” So how could he bridge the gap? This article goes pretty in depth into it and it may be multiple toilet breaks to read the whole thing:

I think this goes a lot into what we may need to do at Nebraska. Rhule’s time at Temple where he figured out who to look for and how to develop will help him a ton here. Him moving to Baylor and finding out he can get a better caliber athlete but still may be playing second fiddle to Texas in the state could be exactly like Nebraska.

The short summary is we have guys that can help in P5 in our state, we just need to develop them. I think Rhule has a track record of that. Bielema is showing he can do that at multiple spots.

5 – NIL and Transfer Portal Experience

I went into this in my “Nebraska and NIL” blog:

I’ve talked to more than one coach that is a bit older but just was so sick of having to deal with recruiting before NIL/Transfer Portal was even a thing. And to further complicate things, as we discussed in the above article, Nebraska is a bit of a mess right now shutting down their main collective and starting two new ones. We are still trying to find our way. A new head coach coming in with experience on how to navigate those waters and just guiding Matt Davison and Kris Brown on what they want will go a long ways. This is where Rhule may fall a bit short in my eyes.

6 – Taking a P5 Program To Another Level

For me, this one is kind of tough to gauge. What I mean by this is making them that much better than they were when he got there. Alberts referenced this in his press conference as a “program builder”. For example, if Leipold continues his trajectory with Kansas he flipped the perception of them for right now. But is that a “lightning in the bottle” type thing? DeBoer probably goes to what people consider success with Washington based on where they were, and is he a one season thing? Rhule definitely flipped the script at Temple AND Baylor, he’s a great candidate for this doing it two different spots. Bielema is doing it at Illinois, but I probably wouldn’t say he changed Wisconsin.

The example i’d give of not being impressed is Bill O’Brien at Penn State. He took over for Joe Paterno who was 8-1 before being let go. Then went 8-4 then 7-5 with an NFL first round draft pick QB. While I do think it’s impressive what he did at Penn State during recruiting sanctions, he didn’t build anything, and that’s what worries me from where Nebraska is that he would be taking over. We need someone to completely overhaul things.


I don’t think we are going to be able to find someone that is going to be homeruns on everything i’ve stated. But I think we can get pretty close to homeruns on 3 or 4 of them for our next head coach. For example, Rhule hits everything but the NIL bucket. Deboer hits everything but P5 success (as of right now, still could end up great). A guy like Campbell may hit 3 or 4 of them depending on what your idea of success is.

For Alberts, he said that head coaching experience was pivotal, and I think we have interest from some people that we won’t have to google to even see how they’ve done lately. If we have to get a guy like Campbell or promote Mickey, I really worry that we didn’t have much interest in our coaching job.

Let’s Talk Mickey Joseph

I’ve heard a lot of clamoring for him, and I think he’s done a very good job with this team. But let’s be real, if we are going to be paying over 5 million dollars for a football coach, I feel like they should at least have some experience in the capacity we are recruiting him for. Illinois and Kansas who are far inferior programs to us got successful head coaches to come lead their programs.

Mickey has some unbelievable qualities. Hell of a recruiter, players play hard for him, and other things like that. But all of those can be done from an assistant position for us. If we just promote Mickey I get pretty worried on just how far we’ve fallen. While I don’t think he would necessarily fail, we just should have better options than someone who is getting their first head coaching job.

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37 thoughts on “Priorities for the coaching search

  1. Great insight as usual SSO. Appreciate the time and effort you put into these write ups. I agree, if Mickey is offered the job, it makes me wonder how far we have really fallen as I would guess that none of our “top” candidates were interested. I had read that article on Rhule and the advanced metrics and stats he used to develop players that had length and speed in order to compete with other, more prestigious teams and thought immediately that it sounded custom made for what Alberts was looking for (program builder and being the best developmental program in the country). Seems NIL experience would be a shortfall with him, but surely we can hire analysts or someone that is competent in that realm? Rhule gets me the most excited as he is about speed, AND smash mouth, physical play…I guess we are going to see here pretty quickly how things play out….

  2. Ok I’m Captain Obvious here but I believe…
    – Trev has his guy locked and loaded. If he doesn’t by now then he should probably get fired too 🙂
    – Announcement will be no later than Monday, November 28. If whoever it is has to coach a bowl-bound team that’s too bad. This job requires an immediate start…maybe work out another SF deal but that’s the best we can do.
    – It’s not Mickey Joseph
    – the most important person to know the NIL stuff inside and out is the AD rather than the HC. HC acts as a consultant to get the players he wants. AD is the driver to the collectives. Transfer Portal…now that is the HC’s job.
    – I am so with you on PTSD from the Frost hire.

    Glad you’re back posting….love your stuff.

    1. I don’t know if he has his guy locked up. But I think he has decided who his guy is at this point. Not because he wasn’t sure but he was trying to let October play out.

  3. Sure seems everything is pointing to Rhule, is that what you are leaning toward SSO? After watching some interviews/speeches he’s done and reading articles like the one you posted he might be the best “fit” for what Trev is looking for.

    I know he has 3 kids that will be teens soon, I wonder if he’d be on the fence whether to sit out a year or two w/ his buyout and be an involved family man or if he wants to get right back into another high-pressure gig. Can’t fault him for wanting to be an involved dad who is set for life financially, but I also know some guys are so competitive they can’t stay away no matter what (Tom Brady)

    1. I have to think Rhule checks too many of the boxes. Mickey doesn’t. Campbell doesn’t. Is he going to risk Deboer or Leipold having just a “lightning in the bottle” season. I think we have options for more seasoned guys than just promoting our interim that isn’t really knocking it out of the park.

  4. Summary of possible Candidates:
    Aranda (46), 10 Years of P5 Experience, 3 as HC
    Campbell (42), 7 years of P5 Experience as HC, 9 years of G5 Experience, 4 as HC of Toledo
    DeBoer (48), 2 Years of P5 Experience, 1 as HC, 8 years of G5 Experience, 2 as HC of Fresno State
    Doeren (50), 20 Years of P5 Experience, 10 Years as HC
    Kleiman (55), 4 Years of P5 Experience all as HC
    Leipold (58), 5 years of P5 Experience, 2 Years as HC, G5, 6 Years as Buffalo HC
    Mark Stoops (55), 22 years of P5 Experience, 10 as HC
    Monken (55), 2 Years of P5 Experience, Most Experience at G5 Level with 9 years as HC of Army
    O’Brien, (53), 13 Years of P5 Experience, 2 as HC
    Rhule (47), 4 Years of P5 Experience, 3 as HC, 12 Years of G5 Experience, 4 as HC of Temple

    There is no one on this list that has all if the intangibles SSO is looking for. If somebody put a gun to my head and said I had to hire from this list I would go with Rhule. I think Rhule can adapt quickly to the new landscape of CFB and NIL. It’s not like he has been out of college coaching for 10 years.

  5. It seems that Rhule checks the most boxes for you. The more I learn about him the more I think he would be a safe hire that would at least get us back to bowl games and respectability. One downside I would bring up is that since he’s been in the NFL for two years he doesn’t have connections with any recruits at the moment. Often with a coaching change you’ll see guys bring along some of the recruits that they really like which we won’t get with Rhule so salvaging a decent recruiting class would really be on the assistants that he brings in. Not saying that’s a reason not to hire him, just another potential downside.

      1. I hear ya. My counter to that is the article I linked is him trying to figure out how to beat Penn State then beating them. Him losing to top 10 teams by one score at Baylor is way more impressive to me than Frost having one score losses against sub .500 teams.

  6. Great article. Thank you for taking the time to do these write ups. They’re always very informative and well thought out. What are your thoughts on Kyle Whittingham? He isn’t brought up too often and hits on most of the qualities that you listed above.

  7. I don’t necessarily disagree with what you wrote given where we are but I do want to point out 1 and 2 above means we never hire Devaney, Osborne or Solich. Every head coach has a first head coaching job.

    I think where I diverge from what you had above is that I want the top guy to fit Nebraska in the Big 10. You mention O’Brien (negatively). Guy spent 2 years at PSU then returned to the NFL where he preferred to be. That won’t work here and was part of Frost’s appeal – he was a top coaching candidate AND he was our guy. Next guy may not be a local who played here but he should have legit connections to us, the Big 10 or the Midwest and if he doesn’t then he needs to have a staff that fills that gap. A lot of the pain the past 8 years was because we let Riley port a west coast staff here then replaced him with Frost’s UCF staff. When open positions came for Frost he didn’t seem to care about Big 10 experience and it wasn’t until this year he got guys with strong regional recruiting ties.

    To expand on that, the next coach needs to have a specific plan for how he hires a staff here. These are the guys on the road recruiting. They are the ones working closest with the players towards their development. Great head coach with a mediocre staff won’t win much here. Guys like Kleiman and Campbell are popping up as candidates because they can all come to the table with a plan of attack to make it work here. I like Rhule’s background and ability but the missing link is how he makes it work here. Trev had plenty of time to vet these candidates so I have no doubt he did his due diligence on this. He seems to get it.

    1. I expanded on this below and agree with you that we dont HAVE to have all this experience and success in the next hire. SSO rarely misses on anything related to NU football. But in this case, IMHO he is wrong here

      1. Luckily the AD is on my side here. Only guy without HC experience being looked at was Mickey Joseph, and that just left the building, which is a great thing for us.

    2. This is a wayyyyyy different time than hiring someone in the in 1950, 1960, 1970.

      I hate O’Brien, don’t want anything to do with him being our coach here. Just point out guys that would fit that specific point.

      I think regional guys make a ton of sense which is why someone like Leipold is probably getting a lot of run as well as Kleiman. DeBoer being from around here is what really intrigues me about him.

  8. Hopefully in 2 1/2 weeks a new HC is named. Everything has been tight lipped so who knows what is actually going on.

  9. Good list of priorities. A couple of names get me excited including DeBoer/Leipold/Kleiman. I see a lot of folks like Rhule and he checks a lot of boxes but I have major reservations. Does he want to be an NFL guy or a college guy? Does he want to do another rebuild or does he want to go to a better program with a solid foundation? Would he stay more than 3/4 years if successful? I highly doubt he would. He’s parlayed his past successes into moving on to bigger opportunities. He doesn’t resonate with me for Nebraska but if he came and re-built the foundation and left it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

    DeBoer/Leipold are both intriguing. DeBoer is a Sioux Falls guy so he would understand the culture at Lincoln without missing a beat. Leipold obviously has ties to NU. Both seem to have similar backgrounds/paths. Either one would be a great fit and seem like builders and have the qualities Trev is looking for. Could they be successful at this level is the million dollar question.

    On the Mickey front I absolutely love the guy. I don’t see it happening but if he was elevated to head coach I would want to see his coaching staff. I think this would make or break his tenure. If he brought in a highly motivated and experienced staff I think Mickey could be successful. If he brought in a staff that was not ready for Big 10 football and had spotty experience, much like Frost it would be a massive red flag.

    Unfortunate we’ve had to endure another season of pain. I know we will all be drinking the koolaid soon but I really hope there are tangible reasons believe we are about to finally turn the corner.

    1. I agree on Rhule, I think he’s ok with a rebuild but is there a better fit for us? I can’t argue with Rhule rebuilding two places. The one thing i’ll always disagree with someone on is when they say “if he makes us successful does he leave?” I freaking hope so, let’s make us successful then worry about losing a coach because he’s too good. That’s so far off my radar. If he’s a good enough coach that he all of a sudden makes us good and people start coming after him, that’s a great thing for us.

      A lot of people aren’t sold on Leipold which I don’t understand, I do understand his age being an issue I suppose. But DeBoer I really like the more I see.

      I love Mickey as well, if he became our head coach I would worry how many coaches told us no. At best we are ending up 4-8, that doesn’t warrant elevating the dude.

      Very frustrating season and as I told people, was very sad to have my 2022 college football season be over in week 2 since we had a week 0 game. Hopefully we are bowling in 2023.

      1. Agreed but DeBoer scares me. If we hire him then hes 2 years at Fresno, 1 at Washington. Do we really know enough about what he inherited to gage his success? Both those schools have recent track records of success and recruited well relative to their main competition.

        The other regional guys you mentioned all make sense for so many reasons. I get why folks arent sold on some but I think the vision is we cant repeat the Riley/Frost mistake of port your whole staff. Campbell and Leipold need at least 1 new coordinator if not 2 under them. Why not embrace someone who could win at ISU/KU with MJ/BB leading recruiting and 2 high priced coordinators?

      2. I’d agree there…. I think there’s safer options for what they inherited and/or turned around (like Rhule). I think the good thing with Rhule is he would definitely be piecing a new staff together. Probably bring 4-6 guys he’s familiar with, probably keep one or two on staff already around, then grab a few more that “fit”.

      3. Man I hope we are bowling in 2023 but I gotta be honest. Even with the miracles that can occur with the transfer portal I don’t think that is even remotely possible with the shambles this program is in now. I put next year strictly in the rebuild box and look for signs of life in late October and into November but 4 or 5 wins tops. Like Kansas 2021 where they have a program defining win that shows huge progress. If they somehow get 6 and get to a bowl it will be gravy in my book but more realistically I just want to get to the end of November and see signs that spring is just around the corner in 2024.

      4. I can see that. The one thing i’d say is if you don’t lose to Northwestern who is terrible and Georgia Southern who you paid 1.5 million you are already at 5 wins. You just have to find a way to beat Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa, or Wisconsin to go bowling. We are literally one win away if you just don’t crap the bed the first month. But you’re right, we are pretty far away, and lines are the toughest things to rebuild or get right and that’s what we are the worst at right now.

  10. I’ve read your stuff SSO since way back with the other site and very rarely did I disagree with anything you put. But in this case, Im jut not in full agreement. While we all wish to have a coach with tons of experience and tons of proven success, many of the successfull hires over the years have not been that. And some of that failures have been that. For every Arkansas hire (tons of big time experience and success when they hire Bielma who failed), there were also hires like Bob Stoops, Pete Carrol, Dabo Swinney…..where AD could have taken your outlook. What if OU would have said dont hire stoops because Gibbs and John blake didnt work so we cant hire a guy with no HC experience. Or if USC said no we cant hire an NFL guy with no experience. A great coach ready to run a program can come from a lot of areas. This isnt the time to try and check all these perfect boxes. Its the time to get the right guy and he doesnt need all these boxes checked. Heck HCSF checked pretty much all the boxes and did worse than a guy like say Bo pelini that did not.
    Lets not pigeon hole this to some sort of imaginary case of perfection. Get the right guy not the right resume.

    1. I agree that we aren’t getting the perfect guy, as he mentioned in the post we aren’t going to check all the boxes.

      I’ve mentioned before, I’m not against a coordinator or non-head coach hire, but I think for THIS hire that is highly preferable. Don’t have to agree, but I think the program as a whole right now needs something of a proven track record. If we literally can’t find that guy worth theirbsalt, then sure go for an assistant.

      But even then I don’t think there’s some hot assistant that’s going to come here and have a great shot at knocking it out of the park.

      With the comment about Devaney\Osborne, generally I agree, but
      1. Again with to this hire I prefer a HC track record
      2. I have some reservations about referring to what worked for us in the past. While I think there’s some foundational things and history we should embrace, I think living in the past glories has been part of our problem.

      My 2 pennies

    2. When we have plenty of guys with HC experience interested and interviewing. The only guy with no head coaching experience even getting a sniff right now is Mickey, and that door is closed. So not even worth really debating right now. We will get someone with head coaching experience.

      As I said before, much different time than when Stoops Carroll, or Swinney were hired. Hell, Dabo got them to a bowl game as the interim head coach and 7 wins. If Mickey Joseph got us bowling he would have been looked at as I said when people were clamoring for him a month ago. Get us to a bowl he probably gets the job. But he didn’t, and it’s time to move on.

      Right guy is having a head coaching resume. Luckily that’s what Alberts is looking for.

      1. I understand wanting to use P5 HC experience as something to consider and being a preference. What I dont want is it being a requirement which is what I feel you and some others are saying.
        The list of coaches over the years that would have been overlooked if we do it that way is long.
        Barry Alvarez at Wisc, B Stoops at OU, Bret Bielma at WI, P Carrol at USC, Dabo at Clemson, Snyder at KSU, K Smart at Georgia, Belotti at Oregon, mccartney at colorado. I could go on and on. If any of these coaches/situations had SSO as the AD, none would be hired because SSO would have said only coaches with P5 experience. Again, tons of resect for you SSO and not saying it would be a good thing to get, but if you pigeon hole your search to this requirement you are making a mistake. And thats not a plug for mickey its just my point.

  11. I don’t necessarily think our hire should be based on what happens tos season, because that as we saw with Frost, a snapshot in time can be misleading.

    However, it’s hard to ignore the present and that not factor into what’s going on.

    I have no clue if we are looking at Klieman from KSU. I wasn’t necessarily super excited for most of the year about him. Bit man it’s hard for me to ignore what he’s doing up to date. Now i don’t think he would sustain this success there necessarily, but still impressive.

    FWIW my personal preferences ever since frost was fired wete Rhule and Aranda, although Atanda is having somewhat of a down year

    1. I don’t think so either. I think what’s unfortunate is if a guy had a great track record but then just a bad season this year, fans would start jumping off the train and worry about if we hired the right guy. I’m not as short sighted as that, but you know some fans would definitely be.

  12. From 2012 to 2021, the number of Head Coaches hired at the P5 level who won 50% or more of their games their first season as HC, when the team they inherited had a losing record the prior two years. Only 10 coaches out of 42, or 24% achieved this.

    Freeze (Ole Miss) 7/6, Graham (ASU) 8/5, Mora (UCLA) 9/5, Addazio (BC) 7/6, Herman (Texas) 7/6, Brown (North Carolina) 7/6, Brohm (Purdue) 7/6, Kiffin (Ole Miss) 5/5, Heupel (Tenn) 7/6 and Beamer (South Carolina) 7/6.

    Will the fanbase be patient if another losing season occurs next year?

    1. I hope so… shoot, they were saying Frost needed more time after 4 losing seasons and starting 1-2. New coach coming in needs to gut the roster. What intrigues me is that guys like Thompson and Mathis were having to talk about the losing culture and they were trying to dictate positivity. That just can’t be the case with year 1 guys.

  13. So here is a breakdown of winning % for the 1st two seasons when a new P5 coach has taken over a program with two losing seasons in a row prior to their arrival. I have broken this down based on whether they had P5, G5 or no prior HC experience before their arrival. This is from 2012 through 2021.

    ……………………………………………………………………,Prior P5 HC……Prior G5 HC……..No Prior P5 or G5
    …………………………………………………………………….Experience…….Experience…………..HC Experience
    % of Coaches with .500 Record or Above 1st Year…….40%………………27%………………………0%
    % of Coaches with .500 Record or Above 2nd Year……40%………………36%…………………….25%

    As SSO has alluded to, it would be a huge risk to hire an HC with no prior P5 or G5 HC experience. Yes there are a few exceptions like Sweeney at Clemson but Clemson was a competitive team when Sweeney took over. It’s not like he had to completely rebuild them. NU is in a far worse mess than what Sweeney had to inherit imho.

    1. I just think you can take an unknown person and what they would do like elevating an assistant coach with no experience, or take a guy you know how they do it as a HC and feel more confident you know what you are going to get.

      Nothing is a sure thing, but there are certainly metrics to let you know what you should look for.

      1. I went back to when Saban was hired at Alabama. This is based on taking over a P5 team with 2 losing seasons prior to the new HC’s arrival from 2007 to 2021. Paul Rhoads, at Iowa State, has been the only P5 Coach with no prior HC coaching experience (P5 or G5) to take over a losing program and have a winning season the 1st year since 2007. However, that was the only season he had a record of .500 or above out of 7 seasons.

        I think Bob Stoops may have been the only coach since the late 1990’s with no prior P5 or G5 HC experience to turnaround a team so fast at Oklahoma. Of course OU likely had decent talent back in the day for that quick turnaround to occur. I know he brought in Josh Heupel as a JC transfer to be QB.

        Of course with NIL and the Transfer Portal maybe these numbers will be improved upon in the coming years.

        Prior P5 HC Experience:
        % of coaches with a .500 record or above 1st year: 46% (6 out of 13)
        % of coaches with a .500 record or above 2nd year: 46% (6 out of 13)

        Prior G5 HC Experience:
        % of coaches with a .500 record or above 1st year: 33% (6 of of 18)
        % of coaches with a .500 record or above 2nd year: 35% (6 out of 17)

        No Prior P5 or G5 HC Experience:
        % of coaches with a .500 record or above 1st year: 8% (1 out of 13)
        % of coaches with a .500 record or above 2nd year: 27% (3 out of 11)

  14. Well this isn’t the greatest platform to try and post data so I redid it a 2nd time. This is based on taking over a team with 2 losing seasons prior to the new HC’s arrival from 2012 to 2021.

    Prior P5 HC Experience:
    % of coaches with a .500 record or above 1st year: 40%
    % of coaches with a .500 record or above 2nd year: 40%

    Prior G5 HC Experience:
    % of coaches with a .500 record or above 1st year: 27%
    % of coaches with a .500 record or above 2nd year: 36%

    No Prior P5 or G5 HC Experience:
    % of coaches with a .500 record or above 1st year: 0%
    % of coaches with a .500 record or above 2nd year: 25%

  15. Last post on coaching performance. So let’s look at those P5 programs that had 4 or more consecutive losing seasons in a row which then hired a new HC from 1995 to 2021.

    Overall only 7 out of 41 (17%) HC’s had a winning record their 1st year while only 10 out of 41 (24%) had a winning record their 2nd year. What’s more frightening is that there were only 5 out of 41 (12%) HC’s that had winning records their 1st two seasons. They included Jeff Tedford at California, Ralph Friedgen at Maryland, Houston Nutt at Ole Miss, Dennis Erickson at Oregon Sate and Joe Tiller at Purdue.

    Nebraska has now had 6 losing seasons in a row. Based on the above data, this tells me that the next HC will have his hands full turning the program around quickly. With that being said, NIL and the Portal may help speed up the process some. However I’m not expecting miracles based on past history.

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