Ross Els is in his fourth season at Nebraska on Coach Bo Pelini's staff and his and his 26th season in the college coaching ranks. Els begins his fourth season coaching NU's linebackers and his third year with the added duties of special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator.
Els helped a young Husker linebacking corps develop throughout the 2013 season. With a two-deep featuring three freshmen, two sophomores and a junior transfer in his first full year of action in the program, Els’ linebackers combined for 285 tackles.
Sophomore David Santos was second on the team with 87 tackles and added seven tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. Redshirt freshman Michael Rose tied for third on the team with 66 stops, including 17 tackles in Nebraska’s regular-season finale against Iowa. Junior Zaire Anderson, a junior college transfer who was awarded a medical hardship during his first season at NU in 2012, made 52 stops, including 3.0 sacks. True freshmen Nathan Gerry and Josh Banderas combined for 60 tackles, while making an immediate impact under Els’ tutelage.
The play of Els' linebackers in 2012 helped Nebraska to 10 wins and a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. Senior Will Compton earned second-team All-Big Ten honors with a team-leading 110 tackles, including six tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. Compton also recovered three fumbles and had an interception.
Els also helped Alonzo Whaley enjoy a breakout senior season. Whaley ranked fourth on the team with 65 tackles, and he forced a team-leading four fumbles while recording four TFLs, 1.0 sack and one interception, a game-clinching pick in Nebraska's 13-7 win at Iowa that clinched the Big Ten Legends Division Championship. Entering the year, Whaley had made only 20 career tackles, including three for losses.
Freshman David Santos also contributed 24 tackles and three TFLs, earning Big Ten All-Freshman honors, in addition to a Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week accolade after he recorded a team-high 10 tackles in his only start against Michigan. Another Els pupil, Sean Fisher earned academic All-America honors for the second straight year in 2012.
Els came to Nebraska in 2011 after six seasons at Ohio University. In 2011, Lavonte David was named the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year and an All-American, while Compton was an honorable-mention all-conference selection.
David and Compton were Nebraska’s top two tacklers in 2011, combining for 215 tackles and 20 tackles for loss. David led the team with 133 tackles, 13 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. David posted six games with at least 10 tackles and was only the fourth Husker to record 100 tackles in consecutive seasons. David ranked third in the Big Ten in tackles per game and 18th nationally.
Under Els’ instruction, David was recognized as one of the nation’s best linebackers. He was one of six finalists for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker. David was Nebraska’s first finalist for the award since 1994 and only the fourth Husker to be a Butkus finalist. David was also a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Lott Trophy, in addition to being named the Lott Trophy national player of the week twice in 2011. Following his outstanding senior season - which saw him post the most tackles for a two-year player in school history - David was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 58th overall pick.
Compton enjoyed a breakout year in Els’ first season on staff. The junior linebacker entered the season with 55 career tackles and two career TFLs through 23 games. In 13 games in 2011, Compton easily eclipsed his career totals, posting 82 tackles and seven TFLs. He excelled during Big Ten play, as 55 of his 82 tackles came in NU’s eight conference games, an average of nearly seven tackles per game.
At Ohio, Els served as assistant head coach for one season and tutored the Bobcat linebackers for all six seasons. In his final four seasons, he also served as Ohio’s special teams coordinator.
In 2010, the Ohio defense ranked 20th nationally and second in the Mid-American Conference in rushing defense. Els’ special teams were also a key part of Ohio’s 8-5 season that culminated with a trip to the New Orleans Bowl. The Bobcats ranked first in the MAC in net punting, third in punt returns and fifth in kickoff returns.
In 2009, he tutored linebacker Noah Keller, who led the MAC with 155 tackles en route to earning an honorable-mention All-America award. He also coached punt returner LaVon Brazil to second-team All-America honors that season, while freshman place-kicker Matt Weller earned freshman All-America accolades after kicking a school-record 21 field goals.
Els helped Ohio to three bowl appearances and two MAC East division championships during his stay in Athens, Ohio. He also coached four All-MAC linebackers. During his first three seasons at Ohio he worked on the defensive staff.
Els joined the Ohio staff following four seasons on Tony Samuel’s coaching staff at New Mexico State. In his final two seasons he was the defensive coordinator for the Aggies. While in Las Cruces, Els worked with current NU offensive line coach Barney Cotton. Els had succeeded Cotton as the head coach at Hastings College, where he compiled a 32-9 record from 1997 to 2000, including NAIA playoff appearances in 1998 and 1999. His 1999 team reached the national quarterfinals, and both his 1998 and 1999 teams posted perfect 10-0 regular seasons.
Els had spent two seasons as an assistant under Cotton in 1995 and 1996, and also served in assistant roles at Northern Iowa (1989 and 1994) and UNO (1990-93). He is a 1988 graduate of Nebraska-Omaha, where he played safety. Els is a Lincoln Northeast High School graduate.
Els and his wife, Jane, have two daughters, Julie and Taylor, and a son, Bo.
The Els File
Date of Birth: Aug. 14, 1965
Family: Wife, Jane; Daughters, Julie and Taylor; Son, Bo
Education: Nebraska-Omaha, 1988
Playing Experience: Nebraska-Omaha, 1984-87
Coaching Experience: 1989, Northern Iowa (graduate assistant coach); 1990-93, Nebraska-Omaha (assistant coach/secondary); 1994, Northern Iowa (assistant coach/secondary); 1995, Hastings College (assistant coach/quarterbacks); 1996, Hastings College, assistant coach/defensive coordinator, secondary); 1997-2000, Hastings College (head coach); 2001-02, New Mexico State (assistant coach/special teams and safeties); 2003-04, New Mexico State (assistant coach/defensive coordinator, linebackers); 2005-06, Ohio University (assistant coach/linebackers); 2007-2009, Ohio University (assistant coach/linebackers and special teams coordinator); 2010, Ohio University (assistant head coach/linebackers and special teams coordinator); 2011, Nebraska (assistant coach/linebackers); 2012-present, Nebraska (assistant coach/linebackers, special teams coordinator, recruiting coordinator).