Erik Chinander perhaps deserved congratulations for even knowing what state he was in last week.
On the phone with a reporter six days before National Signing Day, the new Nebraska defensive coordinator found himself in Alabama. He was there to see three-star athlete Cam Taylor — discussing signing day details, it turns out — but he didn’t stay long.
Two days before, he was in Texas. Between those stops: New Jersey, Georgia, Missouri and Florida. He thinks.
“I have a suitcase in a hotel in Lincoln, I’ve got one in my office and one with me,” Chinander said that day. “That’s as settled as we get right now.”
He ought to keep one of them packed and head for a beach.
Actually, that’s in the works.
Now that National Signing Day has come and gone, the Husker staff is going to set about getting familiar with the team in Lincoln by watching winter workouts, holding voluntary office hours and using the allotted time they have to be in contact with players.
They will also, at long last, get a break.
“My staff needs time off,” head coach Scott Frost told reporters Wednesday. “We haven’t had a second to breathe since July, so next week the offensive staff is going to take a week and defense is going to stay in the office, and then the week after, defense is going out and offense will be in the office.”
Indeed, the double-duty through December of coaching Central Florida to a Peach Bowl win and recruiting for Nebraska took a toll. Every coaching staff is on the road during January, but not every one has to identify and land as many players as NU did given the job change.
“We’re all kind of running on fumes,” inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said Wednesday night after assistants addressed a packed-house crowd at the Rococo Theatre.
Said Chinander, “There were some days when I thought, ‘What are we doing, this is crazy,’ but obviously Scott handled things as well as anybody in the country and probably set a precedent on that. I’m really glad he made that decision and I’m glad we got tired and fought through a little bit because it was the right thing to do. The way it finished out, we’ll never forget that as coaches.”
But even with a little off time, there’s plenty to do. Chinander said his wife has been house hunting in Lincoln and the couple is hoping to wrap up the process soon. For now, it’s a downtown hotel.
Forget houses, some football staffers don’t even have cars here.
Not only that, but while there’s a strong contingent of the staff that has deep ties — lifelong in some cases — to Lincoln, there are others who have spent virtually no time here besides hosting recruits for weekend official visits.
So while the Husker players are now three-plus weeks into winter conditioning with head strength coach Zach Duval and his staff and also headlong into spring semester classes, the coaching staff has some catching up to do. First, on finding their low-key days since before camp began in Orlando and then on settling into football rhythm here.
There’s certainly no lack of excitement among the group — that much became even more clear in only brief conversations with several coaches and staffers Wednesday — only a lack of sleep.
But there are more serious implications, too. Lives don’t stop just because it’s recruiting season.
Sudden change — not like a defense taking the field after a turnover, but like going from coaching in the American Athletic Conference title game to being introduced at Nebraska in a span of less than 24 hours — leaves families in temporary limbo. Factor in the travel-heavy time of the year, and it can feel like a long haul.
“It has been hard for me because my wife and my newborn son are still in Orlando,” Frost acknowledged. “Thank goodness for FaceTime, otherwise I would be missing the first few months of his life. This (job) was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down and our staff felt the same way. But, transitions are always hard and I am going to get back down to Orlando for part of next week to see my family.”