Former Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis will get a chance to call the shots defensively at North Carolina. Papuchis, who coached the Tar Heels’ linebackers the past two seasons, was promoted after Gene Chizek announced his retirement from coaching on Thursday.
In a letter, Chizek cited the desire to spend more time with his family as the reason for his retirement:
After Auburn fired him following the 2012 season, Chizik remained in Alabama while he worked in broadcasting. His family never joined him in Chapel Hill. In an open letter Chizik released on Thursday, he wrote of missing his twin daughters’ entire senior year of high school. He wrote of seeing only two of his son’s football and baseball games the past two years.
Chizik wrote that he “poured my heart into UNC football,” but that “after a lot of prayer and discussions” with his family, he decided to resign. In a statement that UNC released, Chizik described it as a “difficult decision.”
“I have always told my players family should come before football, and it’s time for me to follow my own advice,” Chizik said in that statement. “I look forward to watching my own son play the game I’ve dedicated my life and career to for the next two years, and I look forward to the simple joys of being a father and husband I’ve missed out on.”
Papuchis coordinated Nebraska’s defense from 2012 to 2014, though the question during those seasons always seemed to be how much control he actually had given that defense was sort of Bo Pelini’s thing. That’s part of the reason I’m particularly intrigued by this hire. I’m excited to see what Papuchis can do given total freedom to craft his own defense.
The other reason? Papuchis was a great guy to talk football with. If you had questions about how defense works at this level, he was always willing to hang around a little extra after practice to answer them.
Papuchis will have some questions to answer in year one. Per the returning production rankings at Football Study Hall, the Tar Heels return 64 percent of their defensive production from 2016, which ranks 69th nationally. By way of comparison, Nebraska returns 65 percent on defense (65th), so just picture how much the Huskers bring back.
(On that note: Nebraska returns just 26 percent of its offensive production — receiving, rushing and passing yards plus offensive line starts — which ranks 127th nationally. Based on that number, the offense is projected to score 6.3 fewer points per game. Given that the Huskers only averaged 23.9 points per game a year ago, that would be disastrous if true.)
Nebraska nearly pulled off the upset against No. 7 Wisconsin last night thanks to a buzzer-beating 3 from Michael Jacobson, but the Badgers answered with a big 3 of their own in overtime to grab a one-point win.
The Grab Bag
- Three Michigan State athletes and one football staffer have been suspended while the university investigates an allegation of sexual assault.
- Dan Murphy of ESPN writes that Tyjon Lindsey could make an instant impact at Nebraska.
- Tom Herman says the Texas facilities need a “multimillion-dollar face lift.”
- Nebraska’s 2017 football roster ranks 26th according to this CBSSports.com ranking.
Today’s Song of Today
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.