Nebraska officially announced the addition of Bob Elliott to the Huskers’ defensive staff on Monday. Elliott spent the past five seasons at Notre Dame, the first two as the safeties coach, one season as the outside linebackers coach (2014) and the last two seasons as a special assistant to head coach Brian Kelly.
Here are three quick thoughts on the hire:
1. Familiarity First: Former Husker Daniel Bullocks was a rumored candidate for this job, but in the end it made sense for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco to seek out someone he had been in the trenches with before. It’s not just the players who have a learning curve ahead of them, Nebraska’s assistants do too. It should be quite as steep for football lifers, but having another guy in Elliott who already “speaks the language” should help smooth potential bumps in the road. Elliott also has experience at each spot in the back seven, coaching outside and inside linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties at various stops over his 40-year career.
2. It Was a Smart Hire: I mean that literally and in a couple of different ways. Elliott grew up in a football household. His father, Bump Elliott, played at Purdue and Michigan before spending 20 years as a coach (most of them in the Big Ten) and another two decades-plus as Iowa’s athletic director. Bob stacks 40 years of his own experience on top of that, but he’s more than just a football mind. He was a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship in college and it’s easy to see from video clips why Elliott and Diaco mesh so well: Both seem like smart guys, devoted learners and, as a result, committed teachers. You hear that word — teaching — a lot when these two are talking.
3. There’s Sorting to Do in the Secondary: Relatively speaking the secondary is probably the most stable group for Nebraska defensively as it transitions to a 3-4. Three of four starters return — Joshua Kalu, Chris Jones and Kieron Williams, all seniors — but there are a lot of enticing options behind those guys at both safety and corner. Aaron Williams and Antonio Reed have both made starts at safety. Eric Lee Jr. and Avery Anderson were 4-star players in the 2015 class, as was Marquel Dismuke (redshirted last year) in the 2016 class. Dismuke’s classmates Lamar Jackson and JoJo Domann played as true freshmen and Tony Butler was reportedly close to doing the same. Elijah Blades, a 4-star prospect in the 2017 class, could challenge for playing time right away, too. It’s going to be fascinating to watch this unfold over the offseason, but it’s a big job. Nebraska has the potential to get pretty specialized if it wants to in the secondary and having another set of eyes back there to help fellow first-year assistant Donte Williams should ease that burden.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.