Nebraska Football head coach Scott Frost during Wisconsin game
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Coaching Carousel Picks Up Speed, Where Does Nebraska Fit?

November 29, 2021

This season’s college football coaching carousel picked up speed early Sunday afternoon when it was reported that Billy Napier was leaving Louisiana to replace the fired Dan Mullen and become Florida’s next head coach.

But jet fuel was pumped into the carousel later in the afternoon when it was reported that Lincoln Riley was packing his bags and leaving the red dirt of Oklahoma for the sunshine of Los Angeles and USC.

The Florida and USC jobs were the first big dominos to fall. Other jobs that recently found their coach include UConn (Jim Mora), Georgia Southern (Clay Helton), New Mexico State (Jerry Kill), TCU (Sonny Dykes), Texas Tech (Joey McGuire), UMass (Don Brown) and Washington State (Jake Dickert).

The LSU and Oklahoma jobs are both now open, as are other Power 5 gigs like Washington, Duke and Virginia Tech. A handful of Group of 5 head coaching jobs are available, too, including Akron, Florida International, Louisiana, Louisiana Tech, SMU, Temple and Troy.

What’s it all mean for Nebraska and head coach Scott Frost? Let’s dive in.

First, some context. The Huskers are coming off a 3-9 season where eight of the nine pull-your-hair-out losses came by one score. On Monday, Nov. 8, NU announced the firings of four assistant coaches on the offensive side of the ball, including offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Matt Lubick, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Greg Austin, running backs coach Ryan Held and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco. Along with the staff changes, Frost had his contract restructured.

With the season over and no bowl game to prepare for, Frost is fully focused on forming a staff. The first order of business is to find an offensive coordinator. Frost said he wants someone he can “trust” and “who’s done it before.”

With Ed Orgeron agreeing to part ways with the program and not coach LSU’s bowl game, there could be more coaching shakeups in Baton Rouge, which would make coaches available.

There are two former Huskers on the Tigers’ staff in offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and receivers coach Mickey Joseph. Before trying to replicate the magic that Joe Brady and Joe Burrow made this season, Peetz, a native of O’Neill, Nebraska, was with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers as a running backs coach in 2019 and the quarterbacks coach in 2020. Joseph, a former Husker quarterback (1988-91), is in his fourth season coaching receivers at LSU, and in 2020 he was also tabbed the assistant head coach. FootballScoop.com reported Monday that Nebraska was in pursuit of Joseph.

There’s also been rumors that a couple high-profile offensive coordinators are set to take over programs of their own, like Miami’s Rhett Lashlee and Oregon’s Joe Moorhead—so those two should likely be crossed off the list. Lashlee is rumored to be the next head coach at SMU, taking over for Dykes, who took the 42-minute drive west from Dallas to Fort Worth. Moorhead is thought to be the leading candidate for the head coaching job at Akron, where he was an assistant for five years from 2004–08.

Riley taking the USC job means the current Trojan coaching staff could see change as well. Former Husker assistant Donte Williams has been the interim head coach since the school parted ways with Helton earlier this season. Graham Harrell, the former record-breaking quarterback at Texas Tech, is USC’s offensive coordinator while Sean Snyder, the son of legendary Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, is the special teams coordinator. Sean Snyder spent 26 years at Kansas State before heading to LA and was named the national Special Teams Coordinator of the Year in 2015 by FootballScoop and Phil Steele and again in 2017 by Steele.

It’s worth noting the other offensive coaches at USC whose futures are unclear, which include o-line coach Clay McGuire, running backs coach Mike Jinks, and receivers coach Mike Jinks.

Along with finding an offensive coordinator that fits in well with what Frost wants to do, the topic of a full-time special teams coordinator looms over the program. Earlier this season when asked if having a full-time coach solely dedicated to special teams would benefit his team, Frost said “potentially,” adding that outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson has made the special teams better.

I’ll tell you what, Mike Dawson has done a great job running the special teams,” Frost said. “He has people in the building who are helping him in the office with that. But our special teams have vastly improved. Our specialists, we need to continue to get better in those roles. But our coverage units, when you watch the tape and compare to where we’ve been, I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made there. So, I think that’s just a, when we put the puzzle together, figure out if that’s a possibility or not. If it is, I would love to.”

Frost said that well before the Iowa game, where a blocked punt and return for a touchdown shifted momentum and ultimately led to another loss in a game that the Huskers led 21-6 late in the third quarter.

If Frost does want to go with a full-time special teams coordinator, Virginia’s Ricky Brumfield could be an option. Brumfield is the father of Kyan Brumfield, a transfer from Texas Tech who joined Nebraska’s program this past offseason. Kyan went through the Huskers’ Senior Day event before the game with Iowa.

The elder Brumfield joined Bronco Mendenhall’s staff in 2018 as the team’s special teams coordinator, then added coaching tight ends to his list of duties in 2020 and corners this season. In 2019, Virginia broke the single-season record for both kick return yards (1,204) and kick return average (28.7).

If Frost wants a full-time special teams coach, there could be an option in-house, too. Bill Busch joined the Huskers’ staff last February as a defensive analyst. The Pender, Nebraska, native was an assistant coach with Nebraska from 2004-07, working with the secondary and special teams. He has an impressive list of past coaching stops, which includes spending the past three seasons as LSU’s safeties coach. Busch was part of the Tigers’ undefeated national championship coaching staff in 2019.

There could be an opportunity for another in-house hire in Ron Brown, a longtime Husker assistant who was elevated to running backs coach after Held was let go.

As for the o-line coach, could Frost look to another former Husker in John Garrison? Garrison is the current o-line coach at NC State and has been in Raleigh since 2019. The Wolfpack are having a great season at 9-3 overall, but rank 13th in the ACC in rushing yards per game at 126.17. Garrison was at Nebraska from 2008-14, serving as an intern, assistant o-line and tight ends coach and full-time o-line coach from 2013-14.

Could Frost look to the NFL ranks to fix his o-line issues? If so, Donovan Raiola could be an option. The brother of legendary Husker center Dominic Raiola is currently the assistant o-line coach with the Chicago Bears, an organization that could see coaching staff movement with a record of 4-7.

Donovan Raiola was an o-lineman who started 39 games at Wisconsin and was a captain his senior year. He’s also the uncle of Dylan Raiola, a fast-rising quarterback prospect in the 2024 class who Nebraska is heavily courting.

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