There was excitement and even a few butterflies for Mickey Joseph as he returned to Lincoln and Memorial Stadium, where he once donned the scarlet and cream as a quarterback from 1988-91.
Joseph, who spent the past five seasons at LSU before being hired as Nebraska’s receivers coach, associate head coach and passing game coordinator, made an appearance on ‘Sports Nightly’ on Monday. He started off his discussion by mentioning how different Lincoln looks to him.
“Seeing the city and how it’s grown, you’re really like, ‘OK, this is not the Lincoln I left,'” Joseph said with a smile.
The city hasn’t just changed since the early 90s. Memorial Stadium has, too. Joseph joked about how it didn’t take long for him to get lost before getting into how facilities are so important.
“This is what you have to do in today’s college football—you have to have facilities,” he said. “This is what they’re (recruits) impressed about. They’re impressed about the locker room, the game room, the media room. Everything. They’re very impressionable kids, they want to be impressed by something, and facilities is one of them.”
Why did Joseph choose Nebraska when he likely had other coaching offers? He believes head coach Scott Frost has the program trending in the right direction.
“We’re here to help him. We’re here to help him get over the hump,” Joseph said. “He’s given us full reign. Full reign to do things the way we see it, and I think that’s hard for some coaches sometimes, especially because Scott’s a great offensive mind. But he knows right now he needs to be the CEO and run the entire ship. He’s going to do it, but we’re still going to need him because he’s such a good play-caller and such a good offensive mind. But I’m sure he feels like the kids need him more right now, and that’s what he’s doing.”
Nebraska’s receivers met with Joseph the Monday night when he arrived in Lincoln. Zavier Betts and Omar Manning are two of the players who the coach sat down with and got to know more on a personal level. That’s something Joseph said he wanted to do with all the receivers once things cool down on the recruiting trail.
“Meeting them for the first time, they’re really good kids,” Joseph said of his receivers. “My big thing is we’re going to do things the right way. And there’s only one way to do things the right-right way, it’s how we do everything. Nothing is a small problem, everything’s a big problem and that’s how we’re going to treat it. We want to be the engine that makes the move, that makes the car move. We want to be the guys who make plays out there.”
It was apparent that Joseph is excited to work with the 64-year-old Mark Whipple, who was hired away from Pittsburgh to be the Huskers’ new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Even just by being around Whipple for a few days, Joseph is impressed by how quickly Whipple sees and reacts to something on the field.
“He’s a bright guy. He sees things really fast. I’m like, ‘Hey, can you run that back,'” Joseph said. “He has a foundation in this profession. His son works with my brother (Vance Joseph, the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator) at the Cardinals. So he’s (Whipple) in it and he’s been in it for 40-plus years. So there’s nothing that he hasn’t seen that’s going to make him panic.”
Joseph told a story about how he was watching a film clip with Whipple from his time at Pitt. The Panthers were playing Virginia and faced a fourth-and-1.
“As a receivers coach, I’m saying run it and get the first down,” Joseph said. “But no, he (Whipple) throws it over their head for a touchdown. So now to myself, I’m saying, ‘Now I know what I’m dealing with.’ So my guys have to be ready. He’s not going to panic as a play-caller. He’s going to be confident as a play-caller.”
With a new staff on the offensive side of the ball, including Joseph, Whipple and offensive line coach Donovan Raiola, who came over from the Chicago Bears, it can be a good thing for the Husker players.
“Sometimes, you know, new faces and new coaches mean new life for some kids. A breath of fresh air. Everyone’s on a clean slate,” Joseph said. “You could probably see some kids step up who hadn’t been stepping up, because they feel, ‘OK, it’s a new life, the depth chart is written in sand and we can erase it.'”
More news and notes:
>> Joseph’s recruitment when he was in high school came down to two schools—Nebraska and Oklahoma. The Huskers obviously won that battle for Joseph’s talents, but he said he was leaning more toward Oklahoma initially because Tom Osborne was more laid back and Barry Switzer was more outgoing, like Joseph was. But then mom got involved.
“She made it clear where I was going,” Joseph said of that discussion. “She said, ‘You’re going with coach Osborne, you’re not going to Oklahoma.’ She never said the coach’s name (Switzer), but she said coach Osborne’s name. She made me see the light of it, and it’s something you wouldn’t trade, something that’s very dear to me right now. And I was happy for the return that I can be able to come back and contribute to my alma mater and my school.”
>> People down south, like in Louisiana where Joseph coached, are curious about the Nebraska brand, he said. The coach thinks the brand can still resonate in that region.
“At the end of the day, you flip to a winning season and you get on the plus side, it starts building back up,” he said.