In our 2nd post of our 5 part series, we are going to take a look at how Rhule is assembling his staff and what I see to like about it, and what i’m going to be very interested in watching moving forward with it.
From a 30,000 foot view, one of the first things I notice about what Rhule is doing is the fact he’s hiring mostly new to the profession coaches with little experience. Again, on the surface I got a little concerned because we have this massive 7 million dollar salary pool, but we retain Raiola to coach OL when we were his first D1 assistant coaching job and frankly our OL was mega bad. They grab Terrance Knighton as their DL coach who has 2 years as a DL coach at Wagner before going to Carolina to help Rhule as an assistant defensive line coach. For those of you who aren’t familiar, assistant position coaches in the NFL aren’t the actual coach for that position. So Knighton “assisted” the actual DL coach Frank Okam at Carolina. Think of them as Grad Assistants for that team.
Anyway, we are getting off track, but Rhule isn’t really going and getting experienced position coaches. It worried me at first. Then I looked back at our last couple coaching staffs and who the best coach was on each side of the ball… for Frost arguably it was Fisher on defense who literally was only an assistant coach in college for 3 years at the Go5 level at UCF. Sean Beckton was probably the best coach on offense, who never left UCF. Back further to Riley, the best offensive coach was probably Keith Williams, who had zero FBS coaching experience after spending time at Tulane, Fresno State, etc. The best defensive hire was Trent Bray, who was a full time coach for 2 years at Arizona State before going back to Oregon State as a grad assistant where he eventually got promoted to LB coach. About 4 years experience.
I bring these things up because it almost feels like some of the best coaches we have had here at Nebraska had assistants that learned how the head coach did things and relayed that to the team. It wasn’t the guy like Dawson or Troy Walters who tried inserting what they had learned elsewhere into what we were doing. So that calmed me down a bit. Maybe the best coaches are the ones we don’t know about? Don’t get me wrong… grabbing a Lupoi or Larry Johnson Sr you do everyday of the week, but it at least made me feel better about what was going on with our position coaches.
The second thing i’m going to be interested in is how we pay some of these guys. We have a 7 million dollar salary pool, but Raiola was making 385k, you don’t need to increase that. Hard to know what Knighton was making, but most assistant position coaches are making about 100k, give him 200k. So Rhule in my opinion is getting some names he can get on the cheap and also develop them to coach how he wants. I know what some are thinking after reading that, and I don’t mean that it was Rhule’s only reason for getting them. But I think Rhule is very calculated in how he develops, and needs guys willing to teach the way it works for his scheme.
So we talked about inexperience and inexpensive hires, there are a couple that will be million dollar coordinators for us, and maybe that’s why Rhule can go with less experience at positions to get big money coordinators (big money for Nebraska anyway). Tony White and Marcus Satterfield will come to Nebraska with multiple years of coordinating experience at Power 5 schools. So for the positions that will dictate scheme, gameplan, and calls on the field for the players, Rhule went with experience at those spots.
What were these guys making before coming to Nebraska?
OC Satterfield – 900k (South Carolina OC)
DC White – 750k (Syracuse DC)
SC Foley – 500k (couldn’t find it and didn’t make that with Carolina, just ballparking)
OL Raiola – 385k (under Frost)
DB Cooper – 325k (Baylor salary)
RB Barthel – 200k (UConn)
DL Knighton – 100k (assistant position coach Carolina Panthers)
So there’s 7 of your 10 assistant coaching hires, and you aren’t even to half of your salary pool if you just keep them where they are. Again, Satterfield will get to a million as will White, but all the other ones are pretty much where they need to be. I can see him getting Cooper, Barthel, and Knighton all to the 385k amount just like Raiola. So if you do that, get White and Satterfield to a million, and have Foley at 500k, you still have 3 million left for 3 more assistants. That leads me to believe we have at least one if not two more heavy hitters on their way to us. Rhule filled the immediate needs for his staff with the young up and comers, hired the coordinators right away to recruit, and now he is going to grab 1 or 2 big time position coaches in my opinion.
Where i’m still a bit concerned
Look, I always said that my staff would be littered with guys that had connections in major pipelines of the B1G that we are going to be playing in. Give me Garrison with a KC connection, give me Dan Jackson with the Omaha connection (before he was fired), give me Scheelhaase with the quad cities connection, go get some guys with a St Louis and Chicago connection. Rhule is definitely not doing that. Which is a bit of a flip from what he did when he got to Baylor. Don’t get me wrong, you still need guys from speed states like Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California, but we are lacking some local flavor. I will be very interested how that works.
There was an article that came out about how when Rhule got the Baylor job, most Texas high school coaches were extremely pissed. Some dude from the northeast is taking over for Briles who was a high school coaching legend down there, what did he know about Texas high school football and how would he relate? But Rhule ended up hiring some Texas high school coaches to support staff, and when there were coaching conventions that the FBS head coaches spoke at, he did it a bit differently. What was stated was that typically those coaches from A&M and Texas would speak Saturday or Sunday night. They’d get in a couple hours prior and leave that night. But Rhule took his entire staff down and they spent the 3 days there. They developed relationships, gained intel, and quickly 180’d the original thoughts those coaches had.
I know what you’re thinking… that the juice was worth the squeeze for Texas high school football recruits. I’ll agree there’s more there to recruit, so you grab some top coaches and take the time. But take a look at Nebraska high school football’s top 10 in-state rankings for a second. The top 10 are all going FBS, with #11 being Lloyd who committed to Rhule and Nebraska. You could theoretically get 11 kids in your recruiting class without leaving the state, that is a massive advantage to fill 50% of your class where you for the most part don’t have to get on a plane (I know we got a Scottsbluff kid). But the relationship just wasn’t there for some of them. Flores didn’t even get a chance to say ‘no’ to us and is heading to Oklahoma State, Brahmer is heading to Iowa State after flipping with the staff change, Coleman is undecided at the moment, McIntyre got pissed when our staff gave a token offer after Tennessee did and is heading to Oklahoma. If we had those relationships, we are getting basically all of those kids with the exception of maybe Coleman. That’s 10 dudes coming here that you don’t have to go work for elsewhere and get on a plane to recruit. And the 2024 class is littered with kids in it as well. Have someone live at Bell West and Westside the next 12 months.
Let me circle it back… how is Rhule going to develop those relationships? With getting guys from the Northeast and Texas on staff, even hiring a former high school coach from Florida, it may prove challenging. But one thing i’ve learned is the fact that Rhule seems to know what he’s doing and have a plan at his previous two collegiate stops, so i’m not going to question it until I see us unable to reel some in-state kids in. I mean, after all, Mickey Joseph who’s only connection here really is he played QB in Lincoln was here for a year and did just fine developing those relationships. Here’s hoping it works.
Win or Fail your way
One of the things that absolutely pissed me off about people that said Riley failed (and we can go back to Pelini if you want) is that he didn’t get to do it his way. His S&C coach was told what lifts they could do from administration. Administration told him he couldn’t recruit JUCOs which was a massive part of the success he had at Oregon State. He was told to fire his long time DC by our administration who actually had the best unit on our staff from the last 9 win team Nebraska has seen. My point was, Riley couldn’t do things the way he wanted. It’s why I was excited for Frost. Shit, Frost and his S&C staff put kids in the hospital first week on the job and told us all “that’s how out of shape they were”. Other strength coaches who did that got suspended. Frost had it all set up for him, he could do it exactly his way.
No doubt in my mind Trev is letting Rhule do this the way he wants to. And that’s what excites me about things. It’s really frustrating to hear that a coach wants to do things but the administration says no. He is constructing this staff with how he has built programs and seen success in the past. I’m giving it two years before I get too worked up about any decisions being made.
Satterfield OC – Came over from South Carolina but was with Rhule before at multiple stops. I have to be honest, when I looked him up when I knew Rhule was getting hired, I wasn’t overwhelmed with him. I actually hoped Rhule had found someone along the way to help him. But let’s be honest, we stole a coordinator from an SEC school that went 8-4, and finished his campaign there by upsetting 2 top 10 teams with his offense scoring 94 points. I’m on board here, and if he can get us anywhere close to what Baylor was in Rhule’s third year and what he did at South Carolina this year, i’m all in. I know I know… people say it wasn’t him calling plays those games and they are happy to see him go. I feel like that’s just sour grapes though. I can find you posts about how Purdue is happy to see Brohm leave after just getting them to a conference title game.
White DC – I actually really like this hire, probably the best of the bunch for Rhule in my opinion. He runs a 3-3-5 defense which i’m curious how it will translate to B1G football, but the odd stack defense came about from teams that had a ton of JoJo Domann’s and Luke Gifford’s and couldn’t compete with the depth and quality of linemen at bigger schools. That fits us perfectly in my opinion. We can get linebackers and safeties all day, finding the elite linemen are what makes Nebraska challenging. Now, will he have to modify this a bit, sure. But I like the concept of what he does. It also helps that they were top 30 in total defense his last two seasons at Syracuse. I also appreciate that his 3-3-5 can create pressure from multiple angles and spots, something we have sorely been missing. I will be anxiously looking to see if this defense is attacking and shooting gaps, or if we just try to hold our gap. If we are the former, i’ll be pretty ecstatic.
Foley ST – It’s great to see that Rhule has taken an interest in having good special teams and getting a coordinator here. When you read about what Foley was able to do from his coordinator position, it gets you pretty charged up. Leading the country in blocked kicks and having top 10 special teams units in 2016 and 2018. He also was top 25 at Baylor when he was there. If there is a way he can figure out to make an impact there and not stagnant, I like it a lot.
Barthel RB – I don’t know a lot about this guy quite frankly. What I do know is that finding good RBs is relatively easy. It’s having people that can block for them be the challenging part. The recruiting rankings are littered with RBs every year that can play, now we have a guy that just has to go get them and coach them up. It’s amazing that Held could get the players but we never really were electric there. A guy like Applewhite somehow got the most out of his guys. We need Barthel to be our new Applewhite.
Raiola OL – Not sure I need to go too much into this. Baffled he is our holdover from the previous staff. But he’s exactly what Rhule always goes after. Younger guys that he can help mold into what he preaches. Rhule will also be spending a ton of time with the OL as he knows that’s a huge piece to get us where we need to go.
Knighton DL – Kind of like Barthel, I have no idea about this guy. I’m hoping he can help land some coveted DL as the last four star DL we got from high school was Ty Robinson. And on that note, develop them.
Cooper DB – I really like this hire. He was at Baylor all 3 years with Rhule so he knew exactly how to get them from 1-11 to a double digit win team. I personally think this guy is going to be a lot like Travis Fisher for us. A guy that we don’t know how good of a coach we are getting until we see the results. Baylor’s DBs used to come and just truck people under his guidance, and if we can get him to reel in some big fish like he’s already done, this could end up very good for us. How he meshes with White and the defense is obviously the unknown.
Long post, I know, but overall I like how Rhule is constructing this. He is grabbing guys from all over but that he has some sort of familiarity with. This is a much different situation than Frost just bringing his whole staff with him. Rhule tried to grab guys from different places that he thought could help. He grabbed older coordinators that have been around coaching for awhile, and young assistants to help recruit the talent needed to run the schemes that will be deployed. Now, what I will have a problem with is if we just give these new guys like Barthel, Knighton, Raiola to an extent massive salary raises “because we are Nebraska and have the money.” Pay them what their experience warrants and get really good guys like White and Satterfield in to supplement the lack of time in the profession.
Tomorrow we will go over our recruiting plan and how Rhule will construct his roster.
ShortSideOption Blog (assistant hires)
Nothing is required, just helps with site fees.