Former Husker standout John Garrison is in his fourth season as a Nebraska assistant coach, serving as the offensive line coach. Garrison has been a member of the Husker coaching staff since Bo Pelini took over as head coach, working as an intern with the Nebraska offense from 2008 to 2010.
Garrison’s offensive line paved the way for another big rushing season for the Huskers in 2013. Nebraska ranked 19th nationally with an average of 215.7 rushing yards per game. Junior I-back Ameer Abdullah has been the beneficiary of the line play, as he has rushed for 1,690 yards this season, the highest total by a Husker since All-American Ahman Green ran for 1,877 yards in 1997. A first-team All-Big Ten selection and one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, Abdullah rushed for at least 85 yards in every game this season behind Garrison’s line, including a school-record 11 100-yard efforts.
Nebraska’s line has also protected the passer well, allowing an average of only 1.3 sacks per game, a total that ranked 23rd nationally. The line was led by three all-conference performers. Senior Jeremiah Sirles battled through injuries to earn all-conference honors for the second straight season, garnering honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades. Senior Cole Pensick earned second-team all-conference honors while playing both center and guard due to injuries. Senior Andrew Rodriguez enjoyed his finest season in 2013, culminating with honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades.
The trio of Sirles, Pensick and Rodriguez helped anchor an offensive line that had six of the top eight players injured at one point in the season, including 2012 second-team All-American Spencer Long. The line overcame the injuries in admirable fashion, with several younger linemen stepping up in place of the injured starters.
Garrison was also recently honored for his exceptional work on the recruiting trail, as Rivals.com tabbed Garrison as one the nation's top 25 recruiters in 2014.
The offensive line helped Nebraska rank eighth nationally with 253.4 rushing yards per game in 2012. It paved the way for Abdullah to become the first Husker sophomore to rush for 1,000 yards since 1994, helping Abdullah earn second-team All-Big Ten honors. The unit also helped Nebraska top 200 yards rushing 12 times in 2012, the highest total by a Husker team since 1997.
Garrison's line also helped All-Big Ten quarterback Taylor Martinez set Nebraska's junior class total offense record, throwing for 2,871 yards and rushing for another 1,019 yards while accounting for a school-record 3,890 total yards.
Individually, Garrison helped guard Long complete a journey from walk-on to All-American. A consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection, Long was named a second-team All-American by both the Associated Press and the Walter Camp Foundation. Long became Nebraska's first All-America offensive lineman since Toniu Fonoti in 2001 and only the second first-team all-conference offensive lineman since Fonoti in 2001.
In addition to Long, former walk-on center Justin Jackson, a converted defensive lineman, earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades from the league's coaches in his only full season as an offensive lineman. Offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles was a second-team all-conference selection, giving Nebraska three all-conference offensive linemen in 2012.
Garrison has played a key role in quickly developing players in his first two seasons. In his first full-time season in 2011, Garrison and veteran offensive line coach Barney Cotton developed an offensive line that paved the way for a Husker rushing attack that ranked 15th nationally, averaging 217.2 yards per game. In addition to his overall work with the line, Garrison has played a key role in the development of several underclassmen and walk-ons.
First- or second-year players combined for 38 starts on the offensive line in 2011. In addition to the youth, Garrison helped three current or former walk-ons combine for 32 starts in 2011. Two of those former walk-ons were senior Mike Caputo and junior Spencer Long, both of whom earned second-team All-Big Ten honors under Garrison’s direction. Senior Marcel Jones was also an honorable-mention All-Big Ten pick in 2011.
The line helped All-Big Ten back Rex Burkhead post the 32nd 1,000-yard rushing season in school history. Burkhead also produced the highest rushing total by a Husker I-back since 1997.
Before being elevated to a full-time role in 2011, Garrison spent the previous three seasons as a football intern with the offensive line in conjunction with the strength and conditioning staff.
In five total seasons working with the Husker offensive line, 12 linemen have earned all-conference honors. In 2010, Ricky Henry became the first Husker to take home first-team all-conference accolades since 2001, as Nebraska led the Big 12 and ranked ninth nationally with nearly 250 rushing yards per game.
The offensive line has helped pave the way for an all-conference back in each of Garrison’s four seasons working with the unit. In 2010, senior Roy Helu Jr., became the first running back to surpass 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons since 1992 and 1993, while Burkhead topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2011.
Garrison joined the Nebraska staff in March of 2008 after spending four years at Blue Springs (Mo.) High School as an assistant coach and special education teacher. Garrison served as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator. Garrison also conducted and managed the weight room activities for multiple sports at Blue Springs.
The 33-year-old Garrison was a four-year letterman for Frank Solich at Nebraska from 1999 to 2002, and earned honorable-mention All-Big 12 accolades as a junior and senior. Garrison was Nebraska’s starting long snapper as a true freshman in 1999, helping the Huskers to a 12-1 record and Big 12 title. He was a backup center and guard, and handled long snapping duties in 2000.
In 2001, Garrison moved into the lineup as the starting center and helped Nebraska to an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game, while quarterback Eric Crouch won the Heisman Trophy. In his senior season, Garrison was elected by his teammates as one of three co-captains.
A native of Blue Springs, Mo., Garrison graduated from Nebraska with a degree in secondary education in 2003. He and his wife, Jamie, have two daughters, Lily and Valerie, and a son, Jack.
The Garrison File
Date of Birth: July 7, 1980
Family: Wife, Jamie; Daughters, Lily and Valerie; Son, Jack
Education: Bachelor's, secondary education, Nebraska, 2003
Playing Experience: 1999-2002, Nebraska
Coaching Experience: 2005-07, Blue Springs (Mo.) High School (assistant coach/offensive line and run game coordinator); 2008-10, Nebraska (football intern); 2011-12, Nebraska (assistant coach/assistant offensive line and tight ends); 2013-present, Nebraska (assistant coach/offensive line).