It’s official. After finding a replacement for the “outside linebacker” part of former NU assistant Jovan Dewitt’s job in Lincoln, Nebraska has now found someone to manage its special teams.
Jonathan Rutledge, who has previously worked with Auburn (2018-19) and Missouri’s (2016-17) special teams, is heading to Lincoln to serve as a special teams analyst.
Rutledge announced the news on Twitter Tuesday.
#GBR 🌽 pic.twitter.com/0Y4IctClfi
— Jonathan Rutledge (@CoachJRut) February 18, 2020
An Ole Miss graduate in 2011, Rutledge began his foray into coaching as a quality control coach for the Rebels, where he spent the next four years working with the team’s quarterbacks.
Rutledge was a graduate assistant at Memphis for two seasons and then North Carolina for two seasons before joining Barry Odom’s staff in Missouri as a special teams analyst. He filled the same role at Auburn while working with Gus Malzahn.
Bill Connelly’s SP+ model measures special teams efficiency as well as offensive and defensive numbers. Rutledge’s groups have somewhat remarkably shown followed less-than-ideal first seasons with a
UCF-like drastic leap in Year 2 at virtually every stop.
- 2011 Memphis (pre-Rutledge): 115th
- 2012 Memphis: 60th
- 2013 Memphis: t-1st
- 2013 North Carolina (pre-Rutledge): t-31st
- 2014 North Carolina: 91st
- 2015 North Carolina: 8th
- 2015 Missouri (pre-Rutledge): t-93rd
- 2016 Missouri: 96th
- 2017 Missouri: t-5th
- 2017 Auburn (pre-Rutledge): t-59th
- 2018 Auburn: 41st
- 2019 Auburn: t-7th
Nebraska will need whatever his magic touch may be.
Over the course of the 2019 season, Nebraska had six different kickers try a field goal; as a team, Nebraska was 12-for-20 on field goal attempts, good for the 20th-worst conversion percentage in college football. It struggled to produce touchbacks on kickoffs (21.2% of the time, 111th) and gave up an average of 20 yards (middle of the pack) on those returns.
Nebraska allowed two kickoffs to be returned for touchdowns. Only Wake Forest gave up more than two.
Punting was the issue kicking was, but the man holding down that spot, Isaac Armstrong, and the guy snapping the ball back to him, Chase Urbach, both just graduated. The Huskers will have open competition at just about every position possible on special teams this offseason.
Special teams was a minus for Nebraska in 2019. Per Connelly’s SP+ model, the unit ranked 124th out of 130 FBS programs. Dewitt, the coordinator of that phase of the game, left to take a similar job at North Carolina in January. Nebraska replaced him with Mike Dawson, then after parting ways with offensive coordinator Troy Walters, hired Matt Lubick to fill out the 10-man assistant coaching staff.
Kansas State’s Sean Snyder, according to multiple reports, was a candidate for the job, but he accepted a position at USC with coach Clay Helton.
Zach Crespo, the man who helped Dewitt run the unit over the past two seasons, is no longer listed on the Huskers.com roster of coaches.
As an analyst, Rutledge will be able to go over film with players and hold meetings, as well as set up drills to be run during practice, but because he isn’t one of the team’s 10 full-time assistant coaches, he cannot actively direct them during practices or be on the sidelines during gameday.
Nebraska begins spring ball in a few weeks.