Steven M. Sipple: Pelini says Nebraska's priorities unlike 'Bama's

2013-07-28T23:50:00Z 2013-07-29T20:49:07Z Steven M. Sipple: Pelini says Nebraska's priorities unlike 'Bama'sBy STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Let's be real: Good recruiting often involves pushing the envelope, including how to approach NCAA rules.

Good recruiting generally involves a commitment to aggression. For some coaches, that might mean bending a few rules.

Alabama is perhaps as aggressive as it gets, hence its three consecutive top-ranked recruiting classes by Rivals.com (2011, '12 and '13). The Crimson Tide's class of 2014 is currently ranked fifth, with 10 four-star players in the mix.

Aggression? Commitment? Well, according to the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News, Alabama last year employed 24 noncoaching individuals devoted solely to football (not including graduate assistants) and paid them a combined $1.6 million.

Much of the energy obviously is devoted to recruiting.

The Crimson Tide's support roster includes six workers who operate under a "player personnel" designation, including former Nebraska assistant Kevin Steele. The roster also has seven "football analysts," whatever that means.

Don't expect Nebraska to follow suit.

"More so than a head-coaching decision, that's a philosophical decision by your athletic department," Husker head coach Bo Pelini said last week. "Honestly, I don't think I ever foresee Nebraska going down that road.

"There's a different perspective and different priorities at our place."

Pelini took over at Nebraska in December 2007. Since then, he said, he hasn't increased to any great degree the number of support staff devoted solely to football, although doing so is a trend nationally.

Although NCAA rules strictly define the number of coaches who can instruct on the field (head coach, nine full-time assistants, four graduate assistants), there are no limits -- at least for now -- on how many employees can help "behind the scenes."

It can be difficult to accurately identify and categorize such employees. Suffice it to say Nebraska employs not a single "football analyst" or "player personnel" staffer, at least according to the team's 2013 media guide.

Because many employees have multiple duties, it can be tricky determining exactly which people in any program contribute significantly to recruiting. At Alabama, for instance, former "football analyst" Russ Callaway spent most of his time breaking down opponents' video as a means of game preparation. But he also was a researcher on recruits.

According to Sports Illustrated, Callaway's duties would include seeking out video of a prospect, writing a report on the player and forwarding it to the "player personnel" department (which employs student assistants to cut up the highlights, according to the article).

"It was so machinelike, how we had it set up," Callaway told SI.

Based on Callaway's description, SI pointed out that it's possible Alabama is bending an NCAA rule that states noncoaches may not partake in "activities involving athletics evaluations." Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban countered by saying analysts and administrative assistants have no input into which players 'Bama ultimately decides to recruit, that their work simply allows the program to cast a wider net.

That's what I mean by pushing the envelope.

Meanwhile, the American Football Coaches Association board of trustees in April drafted a proposal placing "limitations on coaching staffs and noncoaching staff personnel" for the NCAA to consider.

"If you don't have some parameters in place," Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne told SI, "you could eventually have a football staff member for every two or three (players), and I don't think that's healthy for the industry."

In some regards, the industry must regulate itself. In the SEC, that seems unlikely.

* Player discipline, or lack thereof, was a hot topic last week during Big Ten Media Days, what with Ohio State's spate of off-field issues. How can coaches keep players on the straight and narrow?

It begins with recruiting, said Northwestern eighth-year head coach Pat Fitzgerald, whose comments were germane to a recurring Husker recruiting discussion.

"If you look at our history in recruiting, we're typically a day late, a week late, a month late in potentially offering a young person, and I know it sometimes frustrates our fans," Fitzgerald said. "But we're going to make sure when we offer a young man, that's someone we truly want to become part of our football family.

"And that character evaluation takes a little bit longer."

Pelini couldn't have said it better himself.

* As if Michigan's class of 2014 weren't strong enough -- ESPN ranks it No. 3 nationally -- the Wolverines also are off to an impressive start for the class of 2015.

Michigan on Saturday landed its third commitment for 2015, as wide receiver George Campbell of Tarpon Springs, Fla., the top athlete and No. 3-ranked prospect overall in the ESPN Junior 300, pulled the trigger.

Campbell is the sixth wide receiver Michigan has landed since 2012 that is at least 6-foot-4.

The knock on third-year Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke early in his tenure was that he couldn't land high-profile skill players. So much for that. Since 2012, Hoke has landed 10 four-star offensive skill players, including Campbell.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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About the writer

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.


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