Coaching Staff Grades & Hot Seats


The first domino has fallen.

Now that Nebraska’s defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has allegedly been hired as Florida Atlantic’s head coach, the Huskers will need to find his replacement.

If the Huskers promote from within, it could set off a chain reaction of hiring and moving coaches around like last season, which resulted in four new coaches and two new graduate assistants.

Husker Corner grades Nebraska’s coaches after a 2011 season that featured some impressive moments, as well as some depressing losses.

Bo Pelini Head Coach: B

Hot Seat: Medium-Low

Why: This is the first time since Pelini’s arrival in 2008 that his job may be under some observation. Pelini may have taken a small step back this year, the first time since 2008 that his Huskers didn’t have a top 10 defense and didn’t appear in a conference title game. Pelini is far from being fired, but if the Huskers don’t win a conference championship in the next three or four years, things could change.


Tim Beck Offensive Coordinator: B

Hot Seat: Medium

Why: When former Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson was fired last season, much of Husker Nation rejoiced. However, after one year under new OC Tim Beck, Nebraska’s offensive numbers are still mediocre. Some credit needs to be given to Beck for quarterback Taylor Martinez’s progress, but many think he underutilized Nebraska’s trio of freshman running backs. This is a tough position to handle at Nebraska right now, but Beck may have earned the trust of Nebraska’s fans.


Barney Cotton Offensive Line Coach: C

Hot Seat: Hot

Why: Nebraska’s offensive line has been a concern for years. Now that Cotton has been with Nebraska for a few years, many are beginning to hold him accountable for a lack of production by the line. Last season, Pelini hired John Garrison as an assistant offensive line coach, possibly to help Cotton, but also possibly to replace him. Keep an eye on Cotton in the coming week as a coach that may be on his way out. His sons, three of them Nebraska players come 2012, may be the only thing keeping him in Lincoln.


Ron Brown Running Backs Coach: A-

Hot Seat: Low

Why: Ron Brown is a staple of Nebraska football. The prayer led by Brown before the Penn State-Nebraska game solidified his reputation with the Huskers. While the trio of freshman running backs didn’t run wild this season, there were some promising glimpses from the group, and Brown’s reputation as a good guy makes him a lock to remain on staff. He will only leave Nebraska when he decides he wants to leave.

Rich Fisher Wide Receivers Coach: B+

Hot Seat: Medium-Low

Why: New wide receivers coach Rich Fisher helped Nebraska’s young wide receivers make some important strides this season. Still, drops are a concern for the unit. Any damage Fisher may have done with his receivers dropping passes, Fisher may have made up with by getting a commitment from wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, who, despite his three-star rating, went crazy this season, shattering numerous Illinois state receiving records.

John Garrison Assistant Offensive Line/Tight Ends Coach: B

Hot Seat: Medium-Low

Why: John Garrison remained mostly out of the spotlight this season. It’s hard to tell how much of an impact Garrison really had on the offensive line, as Cotton was mostly calling the shots. However, it’s fair to say that Garrison, a new coach in 2011, is safe.

John Papuchis Defensive Line/Special Teams Coach/Recruiting Coordinator: B+

Hot Seat: Low

Why: John Papuchis, whose biggest role is Nebraska’s recruiting coordinator, is very highly revered with Nebraska players and coaches. While the players on his defensive line took a step back this season, Papuchis was able to continue Nebraska’s impressive streak of strong kickers by developing Brett Maher, an All-Big Ten First Team kicker and punter. Papuchis looks like the leading in-house candidate for the defensive coordinator job vacated by Carl Pelini.

Ross Els Linebackers: B+

Hot Seat: Low

Why: Ross Els, a new coach for 2011, did an impressive job bringing linebacker Will Compton along. Compton looks like he will be the anchor Nebraska needs to replace Lavonte David for 2012. However, Els may not have found a second linebacker for 2012. Alonzo Whaley got a number of snaps to close out the year, and Trevor Roach played well to open it, but there hasn’t been a solid guy behind Compton all season. For now, Els looks good, but a lot can change over the next year.

Corey Raymond Secondary: B-

Hot Seat: Medium-Low

Why: Nebraska’s secondary took a big step back in 2011. That may have been due to the loss of big talents Prince Amukamara, DeJon Gomes and Eric Hagg. Still, the Huskers appeared to have a lot of talent at defensive back heading into the season, returning three starters. There were moments, such as games vs. Iowa and Michigan State, where Nebraska’s secondary looked elite, but they weren’t able to string together any game-after-game consistency.

By Chris Peters

Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations