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Photo Credit: John Peterson

Tight Ends Coach Transition Shows Rhule Staff Philosophy: ‘A Bunch of Guys Waiting in the Wings’

August 01, 2023

A decision in the wee hours of Wednesday morning led to a Friday afternoon resignation. Former Nebraska tight ends coach Bob Wager tendered his resignation after he was cited for, among other things, open container and driving under the influence. He arrived on staff in December as someone Matt Rhule admired. An adult who wanted to lead young men. On Monday morning, Rhule spoke to Wager’s character when addressing the resignation.

“Unfortunate situation, I know he took responsibility for it and I appreciate him for doing that,” Rhule said after Nebraska’s first preseason camp day. “Not a lot of men would have handled it the way he did. I don’t judge people by their tough moments or worst moments, I always look at how they respond. And I appreciate him and thankful for him.”

Rhule thanked Wager for leading players, including recruits—like freshman walk-on Gage Wager—to Nebraska. The head coach acknowledge Wager’s input in seven months on the job. Rhule wished him and his family the best of luck moving forward, saying Wager is “a great coach and I know he’ll do great things.”

As a result, Josh Martin is now Nebraska’s tight ends coach. Martin joined Rhule’s staff as a special teams analyst following a season coaching Texas high school ball. Martin is a native Texan with deep coaching roots. He coached tight ends at SMU when the Mustangs were led by head coach Sonny Dykes (now TCU) and offensive coordinator Garret Riley (former TCU, now Clemson). He directly coached multiple NFL Draft picks during that time. Martin also coached tight ends at Arizona State before Dallas. He’s a former player and coach at FCS Tarleton State in Texas and is the son of Texas Hall of Fame Coach Joe Martin.

A college football analytics company messaged Rhule when he brought Martin onto his staff. They called the move a “great hire.” Rhule’s been nothing but impressed with the new tight ends coach ever since.

“Josh has done it. He’s done it at two places,” Rhule said. “He’s had guys go onto the NFL and I watched him in with the young guys and you can tell he’s been coaching a long time.”

Martin sat with the tight end group during Sunday’s Fan Day event and intently coached them during Monday’s practice. During the open portion of Monday’s practice where media was allowed in, Martin showed enthusiasm, confidence and attention to detail in his interactions with players. He’s still serving as an assistant special teams coach, which Rhule called a minor blessing. Martin was limited in his interactions and direct coaching as an analyst. Now, Martin can call out direction and coach during special teams drills alongside special teams coordinator Ed Foley.

While complimenting Martin, Rhule also laid out his vision for the coaching staff. He mentioned Christian Ellsworth, an offensive analyst who worked three years previously under offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield. Ellsworth, a graduate of Grand Island Northwest High School, works primarily with quarterbacks and tight ends at Nebraska. Rhule shared his methodology on compiling a staff with reporters on Monday.

“Our whole plan to build within the staff, maybe a little differently than it’s been done before, is to have a bunch of guys waiting in the wings so when guys have opportunities to move on, or unfortunately in a situation like this, we have guys here, we don’t have to go out and hire someone new,” Rhule said. “We can hire guys within the organization who know our systems and understand our way of life.”

Coaches discussed hiring a new special teams analyst since Martin’s promotion. Rhule doesn’t want to move erratically but, at some point he said, they’ll hire someone, potentially internally.

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