We made this post back on 11/13 when we had been told by multiple media members and former players that he was our guy. We got lucky it stayed true, as there became numerous people starting to get anxious and thinking we were out of it with our top candidates. So many fans anymore are like that low self-esteem teenager, tweeting/wondering who would ever come play here, or everyone told us no, or that we were going to just hire some assistant coach with no head coaching experience. I had faith in Trev, and I think he got this one right (not saying Klieman or others wouldn’t have been right as well).
What an unbelievably awful 2022 season for us Husker fans. I’d argue that Nebraska media and message boards have us win the offseason National Championship every year. I’d try to temper some expectations with things and be met with “how could you not think Whipple would be better than what we had” or “you just have to believe the guys coming in can be better than what we’ve had.” With a Week 0 game in Ireland we were greeted with another opening game loss, and we were told on social media and message boards that we may be ok because that Northwestern team very well could win the West. Fast forward and they are now 1-10, and again our faith in our team just seemed to fool us again. Since we had a week zero game, we actually ended up firing our head coach after week 2. Week 2 guys and gals… college football season that I can’t wait to start every year was effectively over for us Husker fans before some teams even played 2 games. I know, we had an interim coach, but we all knew that there was going to be a new coach.
Luckily now we can move forward with talking about our future, leave the past behind us, and start building towards some bowl games so I can get out of this frozen tundra during December or January and go somewhere warm. Let’s talk about what we may be seeing with him here in Lincoln.
More that one article i’ve read has called Rhule more of a program builder and leader of men while he’s not really looked at as a schematic genius like someone similar to Frost at UCF, Herman before taking the Texas job, etc. I think that works perfectly with what Nebraska is trying to get in their next hire. Not trying to shit on previous regime, but if even 10% of the stories are true that are coming out, we need someone that demands respect and accountability, and walks it himself everyday. We need an adult that has been there and done that. Further, if Rhule can be our CEO while trying to navigate one of the most mismanaged rosters i’ve seen in Lincoln for awhile and have Trev dip into the bank account for top notch coordinators and assistants, that’s probably what we need. When Carolina hired Rhule, they talked about how he was a master of figuring out what the roster has, what it needs, and how can we help architect the scheme around it even on a season to season or week to week basis.
Rhule has been all over the map with his coaching tenure, and has finally settled on the offensive side of the ball. He started out defensively where he was linebackers and defensive line coach at Albright, Buffalo, and UCLA. When he moved to Western Carolina, he started adding special teams coordinator to his arsenal, and while there is when he shifted to the offensive side of the ball. He then moved on to Temple where he was recruiting coordinator as well as Quarterbacks coach, and he was offensive coordinator from 2008-2010. He had a brief stint for one year at the New York Giants as OL coach, then back to Temple as head coach where I really became impressed with what he did (more later). He then took over a Baylor head coaching job that was a complete mess and in turmoil. If you followed me from the other message board, when people would reference how bad Frost had it when he came in, I would ALWAYS bring up Rhule and say “no way is it any worse that what Rhule inherited at Baylor that had an astronomical amount of NCAA scandals and was in complete turmoil.” That dude saw a massive scandal down at Baylor, didn’t run from it but ran towards it, and completely flipped their trajectory winning Big12 Coach of they Year and sending them to a Sugar Bowl. From there, on to Carolina.
Let’s start a new paragraph, there’s a lot in the previous one. I love the fact that Rhule has been all over the map, learning so many different positions and finally settled on a role he was comfortable with. Further, I love that he has been a special teams coordinator for multiple years. That lets me know he won’t just forget about that part of the game, which was pretty evident we’ve done the last 5 years in Lincoln as we didn’t even have a coordinator many years. In my opinion, when they added the 10th assistant which took place for the 2018 season there’s zero reason to not have someone on the field with special teams coordinator duties. He isn’t going to let something as important as special teams slide. Look at Iowa, their offense is actually worse than ours this year, but with their emphasis on special teams (yes I know and defense) they are in a position to win the west if they can beat us on Black Friday.
The second thing I love is he really started to gravitate towards OL coach. In my opinion the lines are the biggest improvements that need to be made on our football team. A head coach that can spend time there to help his coach is a nice add-on especially when we will have an OL coach already hired.
So how did Rhule construct his assistant coaches at Baylor where he had success? Let’s take a look at his 10 assistants, in parentheses i’ll put where they went after Rhule left:
Glenn Thomas – co-offensive coordinator/QBs (2020-21 UNLV OC/QB, 2022 Arizona State)
Jeff Nixon – co-offensive coordinator/RBs (Carolina Panthers as RB coach)
Frisman Jackson – WRs coach/Passing game coordinator (2020-21 Carolina Panthers WR, 2022 Pittsburgh WR)
Marcus Satterfield – TEs (2020 Carolina Panthers asst OL, 2021-22 South Carolina OC/QB)
Shawn Bell – Offensive Line (2020 Baylor OL, 2021-22 Baylor QB)
Phil Snow – Defensive Coordinator/Safeties (Carolina Panthers Defensive Coordinator)
Frank Okam – Defensive Line (2020-21 Carolina Panthers asst DL, 2022 Las Vegas Raiders DL)
Joey McGuire – Defensive Ends (2020-21 Baylor OLB/AHC, 2022 Texas Tech head coach)
Mike Siravo – Linebackers/Special Teams Coordinator (Carolina Panthers Linebackers Coach)
Evan Cooper – Corners/Recruiting Coordinator (Carolina Panthers Defensive Backs Coach)
So when you take a look at that, it’s pretty standard. The DEs coach turned a bit into OLB coach in 2019, but that would be more than likely what his staff would look like. Forward thinking, Arizona State fired Herm Edwards so he could bring back his Co-OC and QB coach. His RB coach is Jeff Nixon (son was committed and played here before transferring) as he probably won’t be retained by Carolina. I think the TEs and WRs coaches may be tough pulls to bring back. Shawn Bell his OL coach is now a QB coach, would he want to get him back?
Moving to the defensive side of the ball, I think you could get your defensive coordinator back who was with you at Baylor, Phil Snow. DL gets a little tricky, as one of the guys is a full-time NFL DL coach now and the other guy is a head coach at Texas Tech. With that said, Rhule does have ties to the A&M DL coach, something to watch for. I think you probably bring back Siravo who was your Linebackers and special teams coach, and Evan Cooper was just fired this year from Carolina so you could have him back doing corners again.
Who might he keep on our staff?
I think all day everyday you keep Joseph… but remember, Trev is going to want this to be Rhule’s team and the last thing he wants to do is start out meddling in the new coaches assistants. This is the Matt Rhule show. With that said, there is a strategic way Trev can say “Mickey probably needs to stick around for continuity sake, as well as how he is going about recruiting our state and nationally… Trey Palmer is a direct reflection of him.” With that said, i’m going to italicize this, I’M CONFIDENT RHULE WANTS TO RETAIN MICKEY, BUT DOES MJ GET SOME GO5 OFFERS OR WANT TO HEAD BACK SOUTH? I think there’s more to it than just Rhule wanting him, hopefully Mickey enjoyed his experience in Lincoln and wants to work for Rhule and the OC he hires.
After that it gets tricky. My top choice after that would probably be Busch as special teams coorindator/safeties. Busch did a heck of a job with ST at the beginning of this year in my opinion, and I also think we can keep him for continuity sake. He is also knows as an ace recruiter. Lastly, he’s on the opposite side of the ball as Joseph. Keep Joseph and Busch, then let Rhule bring in 80% of his own guys.
I really like Beckton and Fisher as coaches, I just think they may be done with Lincoln and head back south. Pure speculation for me.
Raiola gone obviously. Whipple gone obviously.
My next guy i’d probably want to keep is Applewhite, i’ve been impressed with what little i’ve seen. With that said, I wouldn’t fault Rhule for going another route here.
I’d probably let go of Dawson.
Ruud is an interesting one to me. He has actually recruited a ton of four stars in here, but our ILB room seems so thin. And our top 3 guys are all Nebraska kids. So has he really done that well? Don’t get me wrong, Henrich we had to beat out some really good teams for, and Reimers we had to convince to walk-on for us, but Hausmann was coming here no matter what. I can see Rhule just moving another direction here.
So what did he do schematically?
Again, we are talking about Baylor 2019 since it’s the closest thing we have to what Nebraska could be. Baylor was in 4 WR and 1 RB or 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB 80-90% of the time. Mostly always in shotgun, so i’m sure that will offend some. But with TEs so prevalent in this area, i’m curious if we start getting a bit more 1 TE/1 H-back formations?
I’ll just go over a few things that I loved from what Rhule did when he turned Baylor around. Offensively, there are two things he did that I think should be staples for most every coach. First, he will just do under center QB sneak to get the first down whenever possible. If it’s second and a bit further for a QB sneak, they will just call a direct QB run with the RB as a lead blocker. Here is a great video of North Dakota State doing it:
Second, he tells his OC on third and short or medium “if you get half of it you’re staying on the field, you have two plays.” So many times OCs don’t know what the fourth down option will be (punt or go for it) so they try to get the entire thing right away. Being on the same page as his OC was critical in their success and turn around.
Sorry for this paragraph “run the ball guy” but Baylor was predominantly in shotgun, and had 3 or 4 WRs on the field 90% of the time. They only instance where more TEs or RBs were on the field is if the Bears were just dominating the line of scrimmage and there was no need to pass.
Another positive I read from Rhule, and maybe this is just me being pissed all we had was passes to Trey Palmer for offense, was that he thinks “good offenses have 8-10 guys touching the ball every game.” A welcome change, and one that you can recruit to. And Rhule will keep the RPO game in his arsenal, as it was a heavy part of his time in Waco. Here you see the QB reading the overhang linebacker and when the WR slips behind them, he pulls and throws:
On defense, Baylor adjusted their scheme to their personnel. In 2019 they shifted to a 3-4 defense in part due to their lack of depth on the DL (sound familiar?). And against Oklahoma that year, they even ran a 3-3-5 where they brought in 5 safeties for a majority of the time subbing out one of the LBs. While I will be curious what Rhule decides he wants to do when he looks at the roster whether that be 4-3, 3-4, 4-2-5, etc., it will no doubt evolve from season to season based on recruiting and development.
This is the part that excites me the most… much of Rhule’s success in college came from player development, and not high profile recruits. In his 7 years as Temple and Baylor head coach, he had only one recruiting class inside the 247 top 30. Further, many of his starters on his 2019 11 win Baylor Bears team were starters for him in 2017 when they only won one game. That means he didn’t even need the portal or four stars to get there, he just developed them.
Development is so huge. It’s never been about the caliber of athlete we have had come to Lincoln to put us in this situation. Mike Schaefer from 247 was on the radio and basically said it was absurd that we can’t get to 6 or 7 wins ever year with the caliber of player we bring in. Think about it. Benhart had an offer from Wisconsin, Corcoran was recruited by everyone, Piper had an Iowa offer, Bando had a Georgia offer. The problem isn’t who we brought in, it’s how we coached them and developed them.
I have made mention that we will never be able to keep up with Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan in recruiting here, so the development is so huge. There was an article that talked about how when Rhule was at Temple his biggest frustration was “how are we going to beat Penn State when they get the first round pick over us every single time”. He was referencing that Penn State is getting 4 stars and Temple was getting 3 stars. So how could he make that up? He developed a plan to go after athletic guys with high ceilings that he knew he could develop in 2 or 3 years. Article here:
Could anything resonate more with us? Up until the last couple years we always had the best recruiting class in the west, if we can get back to that and develop like stated, beating Michigan, Ohio State, USC, or Penn State aren’t out of the realm of possibilities. I mean, Rhule beat Penn State 27-10.
For those of you that keep harping on him not beating ranked teams at Baylor
I’m getting pretty sick of this one… for what it’s worth, if he did the same thing here this year we would be 9-3 and heading to Indianapolis. He figured out a way to beat Penn State at freaking Temple. And his “ranked losses” in 2019 were twice to Oklahoma by one score (once in regular season once in CCG) and the bowl game against Georgia. Those are real one score losses, not ‘Nebraska defend Frost’ one score losses when we were losing to 1-10 Northwestern. In the west if you just beat who you are supposed to, you are in it in November… let’s be in it in November for once.
For when someone says “Baylor was winning a ton and then he made them 1-11” and they forget that Rhule took over a team going through a major NCAA scandal
I don’t know if I need to say much about this, except the fact I don’t think we had much of this until maybe the Iowa game. How many one score losses did we have? At least part of that was mentality. For your viewing pleasure, here is Matt Rhule speaking to other coaches about what they need to do for the players:
What about our recruiting class?
The thing that pisses me off the most about Husker fans is when we are going through a new coach situation and they get all worried that the recruiting class will fall apart. I’m shocked I have to say this, but Nebraska football is bigger than one recruiting class. Having the right coach is worth sacrificing one class. Now a good counter to me would be “when you change coaches as much as us you can’t continue to just throw away recruiting classes.” I think that’s true, but the general point remains, when you get a new coach you just have to know we may lose a couple kids. New coaches coming in at positions may think they have someone better, or want a different skillset.
And not all losses are bad. What if the new OC and QB coach think Flores from Gretna is worth offering so they kick our QB commit to get him on board? We will be ok. And with the transfer portal needed at positions like the OL and DL, if i’m the new coach I may not even fill up to 85 and just assess things in the winter and spring on who needs to be given their walking papers and where we need to hit the transfer portal at. As we discussed in a previous article, we need to flip the lockerroom attitude anyway. And our coach getting a proper assessment of what we need is best.
Lastly, as i’ve told anyone that will listen to me, in-state recruiting is so important for this exact reason. All but one of our in-state recruits are guaranteed to stay with us no matter who the coach is. They are loyal, and going to give their all to the in-state school. While rankings may not be as high as trying to grab all the 4 stars from Florida, Texas, or Georgia, they are loyal and going to play their ass off for us. That will keep a majority of the class in place, and if you keep Mickey I think you only lose a couple guys.
In the span of 7 years, Rhule turned 2 sub .200 programs into double-digit win teams and conference championship contenders. For me that’s huge. He didn’t hit lightning in a bottle one season or at one program. He had a Temple team that wasn’t getting anywhere close to top 50 recruiting classes, and he took over a Baylor team that was losing players left and right with the NCAA sanctions that came down.
This is a home run, slam dunk, whatever you want to call it. While nothing is ever a sure thing, there’s a lot to like here. I couldn’t be more excited about our football program in 2023. And remember, if we would have beat Northwestern and Georgia Southern, we would have been sitting at 5 wins this year. Could discipline and direction like Rhule has been known to provide help us close the door on Wisconsin with a double digit lead at home? Could it have had us keep our double digit halftime lead vs Minnesota at home? That would have got us to a bowl game. While i’m not saying that’s my expectation, I think it’s very possible for us.
ShortSideOption Blog (welcome matt rhule)
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