Carl Pelini enters his fourth season on his brother’s Nebraska coaching staff in 2011, serving as defensive coordinator. Under Pelini’s guidance, Nebraska ranked among the nation’s top defenses in both 2009 and 2010.
In his first three seasons, Pelini has played a leading role in a dramatic resurgence for the Husker defense. After being one of the nation’s most improved defenses in 2008, Nebraska has featured a dominant defensive unit under Pelini’s direction the past two seasons. Pelini’s role has been recognized, as he has been a nominee for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach Award each of the past two years. When combining stats from the past two seasons, NU’s defense ranks in the top seven nationally in total defense, scoring defense and passing yards allowed and tops in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
The 2010 Blackshirts finished 11th nationally in total defense and ranked in the top 10 in pass efficiency defense (3rd), passing yards allowed (5th) and scoring (9th). After leading the nation in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense in 2009, the 2010 unit achieved its lofty rankings despite losing three starters who were selected in the first four rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Pelini produced a first-round draft pick for the second straight year when Prince Amukamara was the 19th overall player selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. Amukamara was also the 2010 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, marking the second straight season a Husker took home the honor. Linebacker Lavonte David was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, while a league-high five Huskers were first-team All-Big 12 selections. Two more earned second-team accolades and two others were honorable-mention picks. Nationally, four Blackshirts were named first- or second-team All-Americans by at least one organization.
The 2009 Huskers led the nation in scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and red zone defense, while also ranking in the top 10 nationally in sacks, rushing defense and total defense. The Huskers surrendered just 10.4 points per game, posted two shutouts and allowed only two opponents to reach 20 points. Pelini's defense led the nation by holding eight opponents to 10 or fewer points, including seven in single digits.
Nebraska allowed only 14 offensive touchdowns during the 2009 season, as six opponents failed to score an offensive touchdown. The Blackshirts also forced 28 turnovers, scored two defensive touchdowns and produced 80 points off turnovers. The Huskers allowed just 272.0 yards per game to rank seventh nationally and second in the Big 12. Its total defensive average was the best for NU in a decade. Each of the Huskers' 14 opponents failed to reach their season average in points and only one foe reached its average in total offense.
Several individuals set school records in 2009. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the second overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft after being named a Heisman Trophy finalist and the winner of the Associated Press National Player of the Year, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award. Suh moved up to second place on the NU career chart in tackles for loss, including a school-record tying seven TFL in the Big 12 Championship Game. Defensive tackle Jared Crick set the school record with 5.0 sacks at Baylor, while safety Matt O'Hanlon intercepted a school-record tying three passes against Oklahoma.
In Pelini's first season in 2008, the Nebraska defense finished second in the Big 12 in total defense and ranked among the top 25 nationally in rushing defense. In the process, NU allowed 127 fewer yards per game than in 2007.
Pelini joined the NU staff after three seasons on Frank Solich's coaching staff at Ohio University. Pelini previously served as the Huskers' defensive graduate assistant in 2003, when Bo Pelini was the defensive coordinator. Carl Pelini worked with the defensive line, helping NU rank second nationally in scoring defense and takeaways and 11th in total defense.
Following his one season with the Huskers, Pelini spent 2004 as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Minnesota State Mankato, under head coach Jeff Jamrog, a former Husker player and assistant coach. Pelini helped the Mavericks to a 6-5 record after a winless season the previous year.
After one season in Mankato, Pelini was hired to coach the defensive line at Ohio University. He played a vital role in helping the Bobcats turn around their football program, including a nine-win season and bowl game in 2006. Those marks were firsts for the school since the 1968 campaign. The Bobcat defense then continued the turnaround the following season, ranking in the top 30 nationally in scoring and total defense in 2007.
Pelini was the head coach at Fitch High School in Austintown, Ohio, from 2000 to 2002. Pelini rebuilt a program that had not had a winning season for eight years before his arrival, culminating with a 6-4 record in 2002. Pelini previously was the head coach and athletic director at Winnetonka High School in Kansas City, Mo., from 1996 to 2000, and also served as the defensive coordinator at Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, Kan.
Pelini played two seasons at Columbia University, before transferring to Youngstown State, where he completed his undergraduate degree work in 1989. He was a defensive graduate assistant on Bill Snyder's staff at Kansas State over the 1989 and 1990 seasons, then served as a restricted earnings coach in 1991.
Pelini earned his bachelor's degree in English literature from Youngstown State in 1989. He added a master's degree in journalism from Kansas State in 1991 and a master's in education from Ohio State University in 1993.
Carl and his wife, Kelley, are the parents of three children, Nicole, Danielle and Dominic.
The Pelini File
Date and Place of Birth: July 15, 1965
Family: Wife, Kelley, Daughters, Nicole, Danielle; son, Dominic
Education: Bachelor’s, English literature, Youngstown State, 1989; Master’s in journalism, Kansas State, 1991; Master’s in education, Ohio State, 1993.
Playing Experience: 1983-84, Columbia
Coaching Experience: 1987-88, Cardinal Mooney High School, Youngstown Ohio (assistant coach); 1989-90, Kansas State (graduate assistant); 1991, Kansas State (restricted earnings coach); 1993-94, Blue Valley High School, Overland Park, Kan. (assistant coach/defensive coordinator); 1995-99, Winnetonka High School, Kansas City, Mo. (head coach, athletic director); 2000-02, Fitch High School, Austintown, Ohio (head coach); 2003, Nebraska (graduate assistant/defense); 2004, Minnesota State (assistant coach/defensive coordinator, secondary); 2005-07, Ohio (assistant coach/defensive line); 2008-present, Nebraska (assistant coach/defensive coordinator).