Lincoln -- Bill Callahan, hired as Nebraska's head football coach on Friday, Jan. 9, made his first announcement regarding his 2004 football staff.
Callahan has hired Turner Gill to coach the receivers, and Scott Downing will serve as recruiting coordinator. In addition, Dan McLaughlin has been asked to continue in his role as a graduate assistant. All three coaches were on Nebraska's staff last season.
"I'm pleased to have Turner aboard to coach the receivers," Callahan said. "Turner has an excellent reputation, is an outstanding recruiter and will be an asset in coaching the wide receivers. Coach Downing will continue to operate as recruiting coordinator. From everything I see and hear, Scott is very organized and will be vital to our success in these closing weeks of recruiting. And I have asked Dan McLaughlin to return as a graduate assistant. Coming from the Nebraska high school ranks, I have heard many positive comments on his coaching ability and relationships with the players. We hope to move forward quickly as we turn our immediate attention to filling the coordinator positions."
Gill. 41, has served as Nebraska's quarterbacks coach for the past 12 seasons, coaching two All-Americans in Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch. Frazier was runner-up in the Heisman balloting in 1995 while Crouch became the third player and first Husker quarterback to win the Heisman in 2001. Scott Frost, who played under Gill in 1996 and 1997, led the Huskers to the school's fifth national title in 1997. Also a quarterback, Gill placed fourth in the Heisman balloting in 1983 after leading the Huskers to the national championship game and several NCAA offensive team records. Gill has experience coaching the receivers as a graduate assistant coach at Southern Methodist in 1991. He was also a volunteer assistant coach at North Texas in 1989 as he finished his degree in behavior analysis (1990). Gill was elevated to assistant head coach at Nebraska before the 2003 season, and previously has Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas as his main recruiting areas.
Gill was offered the position by Coach Callahan on Monday, and announced his decision on Tuesday afternoon. "I would first like to thank all the people of the state of Nebraska for their prayers, letters, emails and phone calls," Gill said in a prepared statement to the media. "Each and every one of them was appreciated."
"Next I want to tell you a little bit about my decision," Gill continued. "This past year, I knew that it was time for me to make some type of coaching change. I also knew that God was placing a vision in my heart and I was asking God to guide my decision. Among the many different things I was contemplating were becoming a head coach or leaving Nebraska to learn a new offense or new system. I received several calls of interest, with a few more being at the pro level. I have been considering the pro level for years, but I love the whole college football coaching experience. I knew that my coaching vision had to do with college football and I was searching for the best way to pursue my vision. It is amazing to me how God works. He stayed faithful through my trials and I felt His presence at every turn. In the end, He has provided me with a new challenge. I am able to learn a new offense and a new system, right here at the place that I love.
"I am honored to be asked to stay and coach for Bill Callahan. I'm excited about the excellent offer and have accepted the opportunity to be a part of a great coaching staff."
Coach Downing, 47, has Division I experience at three different schools, including Wyoming (1991-96), Purdue (1997-2002) and Nebraska (2003). He was the head coach at Sterling College from 1982 to 1983 and was a graduate assistant at Nebraska under Coach Tom Osborne in 1984 and 1985 and was Nebraska's head freshman coach in 1986. He coached the tight ends and kickers at Nebraska last season and served as recruiting coordinator. Under Downing, senior Kyle Larson was the school's first Ray Guy Award finalist and earned first-team All-America honors with a school-record average 45.1 yards per punt. A native of Kansas City, Downing's recruiting emphasis has been Kansas, Missouri, Northern California, Canada, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. He earned his bachelor's degree in history from Sterling College in 1979.
"I am pleased to accept the opportunity to continue to serve as Nebraska's recruiting coordinator," Downing said. "I feel we have a great product to sell and I know initial reaction to Coach Callahan has been fantastic."
Dan McLaughlin completed his first season as a graduate assistant in 2003, assisting with the offensive line. Previously, McLaughlin was the head coach at Millard West High School in Omaha since 1995, leading the Wildcats to seven straight playoff appearances and a 12-1 record and a Class A state title in 2001. A native of Sheridan, Mont., he graduated from Bellevue College in 1982 and received his master's degree at Wayne State in 1992.
Coach Callahan, Coach Gill and Coach Downing will immediately go on the road recruiting and will return to Lincoln for on-campus visits this weekend. Coach Callahan will announce additional staff hires at the appropriate time.