Nebraska will be in the market for a new defensive coordinator as Mike Riley announced Wednesday that current defensive coordinator Mark Banker did not have his contract renewed.
“I want to thank Mark for his hard work and contributions to our football program the past two years and for all of his service and dedication as a member of my other coaching staffs,” Riley said. “We will conduct a national search to find a great coach, teacher and recruiter as we continue our pursuit of championships.”
Banker spent more than a decade coaching alongside Riley, including stints together at Oregon State and Nebraska as well as with the San Diego Chargers. His defenses over two seasons in Lincoln produced uneven results. The Huskers ranked ninth against the run in 2015 but 122nd against the pass. In 2016, the equation flipped as Nebraska made improvements against the pass (49th nationally) but the run defense dropped to 43rd nationally. Overall the Huskers’ defense improved from 64th in 2015 to 30th in 2016, but blowout losses to Ohio State and Iowa in November seemed to diminish many of the gains Nebraska made during the season.
Riley announced two other staff changes Wednesday night. Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart, who worked exclusively with the cornerbacks in 2016 while Banker coached the safeties, is leaving Nebraska to take a defensive coordinator position with another school according to Riley. Stewart was previously the defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys (2007-08) and, on the college side, Houston (2010-11) and Maryland (2012-14). (UPDATE: According to reports, Stewart is in line to become the defensive coordinator at Rice.
“Brian feels this is a great opportunity for him and his family and I respect his decision,” Riley said. “We appreciate Brian’s contributions to our program the past two years and wish him the best of luck. We will work diligently to replace him with an outstanding coach, teacher and recruiter.”
Director of Player Personnel Ryan Gunderson is also leaving to pursue other opportunities. Gunderson played quarterback for Riley from 2003 to 2007 at Oregon State.
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.