Pelini Announces Husker Coaching Staff

By NU Athletic Communications
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska Head Football Coach Bo Pelini announced Monday that he has completed the process of hiring his first Husker coaching staff. Eight of the assistant coaches have been announced, with all of those having previous coaching experience in the Big 12 Conference, including six coaches who have spent time at Nebraska.


Pelini finalized his staff over the weekend with the addition of a running backs coach. However, Pelini said the announcement of that individual will come in early January, after that coach has finished his work in a bowl game with his current school.


The offensive staff includes Barney Cotton as associate head coach/offensive line coach; Shawn Watson as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks; Ted Gilmore as assistant head coach/receivers coach/recruiting coordinator; and Ron Brown as tight ends coach. Watson and Gilmore were retained from the previous Nebraska coaching staff.


On the defensive side, the Husker staff will include Carl Pelini as defensive coordinator/defensive line coach, Mike Ekeler as linebackers coach, John Papuchis as defensive ends coach and Marvin Sanders as secondary coach.


Pelini also announced that former Husker player and assistant coach Jeff Jamrog will serve as Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations for the Nebraska football program.


Pelini said the coaching staff he has hired brings the overall characteristics he was looking for in Nebraska assistants.


“I was asked about the qualities I look for in assistant coaches, and I mentioned teachers, communicators and high-energy people,” Pelini said. “I think this group of coaches will be great teachers for the young men in our program, and they are a good fit for Nebraska football.”


Pelini said Cotton and Gilmore will assist him in a variety of roles in their positions as associate and assistant head coach, respectively.


“In addition to coaching the offensive line, Barney will assist me in a number of key administrative duties within our program,” Pelini said. “Ted will continue as our receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, and he will also play a key role in the overall direction of our program.”


The offensive staff will be led by Watson, who directed the Nebraska offense this season. The Huskers ranked eighth nationally in passing offense and 11th in total offense, and Pelini is excited to build on that success.


“Offensively, there has been good success here recently,” Pelini said. “I think we can add some wrinkles to what has worked well the past few years. Coach Watson is a proven offensive coordinator in the Big 12 Conference, and our offensive assistants have extensive collegiate experience, specifically in the Big 12 North.”


Defensively, Pelini said he will be involved in all aspects of the preparation and expects his defensive staff to operate as one cohesive unit.


“Our defensive coaches will all have equal input on what we are doing, regardless of titles or positions,” Pelini said. “Our defensive coaches are outstanding teachers who will bring great energy to the practice field. I have worked with each of them during my career and have great confidence in this group. This staff plans to build on the tradition of hard-nosed Blackshirt defenses at Nebraska.”


Here is a brief capsule on the members of the 2008 Husker staff.


Offensive Staff

Shawn Watson—Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

Watson will be entering his third season at Nebraska in 2008 and his second as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. In 2007, Nebraska threw for a school-record 3,886 yards, including the top three passing days in school history. Watson’s offense averaged 468.2 yards per game, 11th in the country and the best season average at Nebraska since 1997.


Watson coached the Nebraska tight ends and was the recruiting coordinator in 2006, before being promoted to his current post last January. 


Watson has a total of seven seasons of experience as an offensive coordinator in the Big 12, serving in the same role at Colorado from 2000 to 2005. Watson was on the staff of four Colorado teams that won the Big 12 North Division, including a conference championship in 2001. He also has head coaching experience, leading the Southern Illinois program from 1994 to 1996.


Ron Brown—Tight Ends

Brown rejoins the Nebraska coaching staff for the 2008 season, after serving as the Huskers’ receivers coach for 17 seasons from 1987 to 2003. During the first 16 of those years, Brown also coached the tight ends, and he was the most veteran member of Frank Solich’s final Nebraska coaching staff in 2003.


Brown has spent the past four years serving as the Nebraska State Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He also has served as the national spokesman for the FCA and is a regular columnist for the FCA magazine “Sharing the Victory”. Brown and former Husker Stan Parker are co-founders and co-directors of a statewide Christian ministry called Mission Nebraska.


Under Brown, Husker receivers were known for their tenacity and downfield blocking in Nebraska’s run-oriented attack. His receivers helped Nebraska lead the nation in rushing nine times in his 17 seasons. At Nebraska, Brown coached two academic All-Americans, had 12 players picked in the NFL Draft and 14 others who signed professional contracts.


Brown also served as an assistant coach for three seasons (1984-86) at Brown, his alma mater, and was the head freshman coach at the school in 1983.


Barney Cotton—Associate Head Coach/Offensive Line

Cotton will be in his second stint on the Nebraska coaching staff. He served as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach on Frank Solich’s staff in 2003, helping Nebraska to a 10-3 record and a victory in the Alamo Bowl. Most recently, Cotton spent three seasons at Iowa State as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. With the Cyclones, Cotton directed a potent ISU offensive attack led by quarterback Bret Meyer and record-setting receiver Todd Blythe. He helped guide the Cyclones to an appearance in the 2004 Independence Bowl and the 2005 Houston Bowl.


Before arriving at Nebraska in 2003, Cotton was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for six seasons at New Mexico State (1997-2002). He also served as an assistant at St. Cloud State for six seasons and was the head coach at Hastings College in 1995 and 1996.


Cotton played for Nebraska from 1975-78, starting on both the offensive and defensive lines during his Husker career. He played four seasons in the National Football League with St. Louis and Cincinnati.


Ted Gilmore—Assistant Head Coach/Wide Receivers/Recruiting Coordinator

Gilmore has served on the Husker staff each of the past three years as the Huskers’ receivers coach and in 2007, he also handled the role of recruiting coordinator. Gilmore’s receivers have posted record-setting numbers under his direction.


Seniors Terrence Nunn and Maurice Purify finished their eligibility as the No. 2 and No. 5 career receivers at Nebraska. Nate Swift will enter his senior season in 2008 as Nebraska’s No. 4 all-time receiver. Gilmore’s receiving corps played a key role in the Huskers ranking eighth nationally in passing offense and 11th in total offense in 2007.


Gilmore has been a collegiate assistant for 11 seasons, also serving in stints at Wyoming, Kansas, Houston, Purdue and Colorado.


Defensive Staff

Carl Pelini—Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line

Carl Pelini, the older brother of Head Coach Bo Pelini, comes to Nebraska after three seasons as the defensive line coach for Frank Solich at Ohio University. Pelini also has experience at Nebraska, serving as the defensive graduate assistant for the Huskers in 2003, when NU set a school record for takeaways and ranked 11th nationally in total defense.


At Ohio, Pelini played a key role in the resurgence of the Bobcat program. Ohio’s recent success was highlighted by the 2006 season, when the Bobcats won the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division and played in the GMAC Bowl against Southern Miss. The bowl appearance was the first by the Bobcats since 1968. The 2006 defense ranked in the top 30 nationally in scoring and total defense. This season, Ohio finished with a 6-6 record and senior defensive tackle Landon Cohen earned second-team All-MAC honors for the second straight season.


Pelini spent the 2004 season as the defensive coordinator at Minnesota State on the staff of former Husker player and assistant Jeff Jamrog. Pelini was an accomplished high school coach prior to his first stint at Nebraska. He was the head coach at Fitch High School in Ohio for three seasons, after serving as the head coach and athletic director at Winnetonka High School in Kansas City for five years. He also served as a graduate assistant at Kansas State in 1989 and 1990, and as a restricted earnings coach for the Wildcats in 1991. He played two seasons at Columbia University.


Mike Ekeler—Linebackers

A native Nebraskan, Mike Ekeler joins the Husker defensive staff after spending the past three seasons on the LSU football staff. Ekeler spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons as a graduate assistant coach working for Pelini and the Tiger defense. In 2007, Ekeler worked as an intern for the LSU program.


Ekeler brings an extensive knowledge of the state of Nebraska and the Big 12 Conference to the Husker staff. Before his recent time with Pelini at LSU, Ekeler was a defensive graduate assistant on Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma staff in 2003 and 2004. He helped the Sooners play in back-to-back BCS national championship games and earn a Big 12 title in 2004.


Before his time with the Sooners, Ekeler spent five seasons as a high school coach in Nebraska and Kansas. He spent time coaching at Omaha Skutt High School and Manhattan (Kan.) High School, before getting back into the college game at Oklahoma in 2003.


After graduating from Blair High School, Ekeler played four seasons under Bill Snyder at Kansas State, lettering from 1991 to 1994. He was a special teams standout and was part of two Wildcat teams that played in bowl games.


John Papuchis—Defensive Ends Coach

John Papuchis comes to Nebraska after spending the past four seasons on the football staff at LSU. While with the Tigers, Papuchis worked as a defensive intern, assisting in every aspect of the defensive game plan for the Tigers.


Papuchis first joined the LSU staff under Nick Saban and over the past three seasons has helped the Tigers rank third nationally in total defense each season. In 2007, the Tiger defense featured a pair of consensus All-Americans in defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and safety Craig Steltz.


Papuchis joined the Tigers prior to the 2004 season after a three-year stint with Kansas. In 2001, he worked with the Jayhawk secondary and then assisted with the linebackers in Kansas' 2003 Tangerine Bowl season.


Papuchis graduated from Virginia Tech in 2001 and earned his master’s degree from Kansas in 2003


Marvin Sanders—Secondary Coach

Marvin Sanders returns to the Husker staff after serving as the defensive backs coach in 2003. In Sanders’ lone season on the defensive staff with Pelini, Nebraska recorded 47 takeaways, including a school-record 32 interceptions and led the nation in pass efficiency defense. In 2003, safety Josh Bullocks recorded a school-record 10 interceptions and became just the second NU sophomore in school history to earn All-America honors.


After his year at Nebraska, Sanders served for three seasons as the defensive coordinator at North Carolina. He helped the Tar Heels reach the Continental Tire Bowl in 2004. Prior to joining the Nebraska staff in 2003, Sanders had assistant coaching stops at Nebraska Wesleyan, Minnesota-Morris, Nebraska-Omaha, New Mexico State and Colorado State. While on coach Sonny Lubick’s CSU staff, he helped the Rams to appearances in the New Orleans Bowl in 2001 and the Liberty Bowl in 2002.


Sanders earned three letters as a defensive back at Nebraska from 1987 to 1989, playing for Tom Osborne and secondary coach George Darlington. He was a starter as a senior in 1989 and earned honorable-mention All-Big Eight honors for a Nebraska team that reached the Fiesta Bowl.


Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations

Jeff Jamrog

Jeff Jamrog joins Pelini’s staff as Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations, following four seasons as the head coach at Minnesota State in Mankato, Minn. Jamrog is one of three former Nebraska players on Pelini’s staff and one of five members of the staff who return to Nebraska after having previous Husker coaching experience.


Jamrog led Minnesota State to a 17-27 record in four years, including a 6-5 mark in 2004, the program’s first winning season since 1994. Several Mavericks earned honors under Jamrog’s direction, including two-time Academic All-American Spencer Dickinson.


Before leaving for Minnesota State, Jamrog was an assistant coach at Nebraska for four seasons from 2000 to 2003, when he coached the NU defensive line. The Huskers finished in the top 12 nationally in rush defense twice in that stretch.  Jamrog was a three-year letterman at Nebraska where he was a starting outside linebacker in 1987. He was a first-team Academic All-American in 1987 and an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient.


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