Red-White Spring Game 2017

Safeties coach Bob Elliott speaks with a player during the Red-White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium in April.

While not an ideal time for members of a football coaching staff to switch chairs, it's required for the Huskers, with veteran coach Bob Elliott stepping aside "due to personal reasons that recently arose," leaving his role coaching safeties and taking an off-field position as a defensive analyst.

Coupled with that, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley announced in a Tuesday statement that Scott Booker will be promoted to a full-time assistant's role, coaching the safeties and special teams. Booker worked alongside defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and Elliott at Notre Dame.

Booker had been added to the Husker staff as a special teams consultant in March, which was an off-field role. But he is an assistant with plenty of experience on the field at a big-time program.

While the Irish struggled last year through a 4-8 season that led to staff changes that left Booker looking for his next spot, he was a full-time coach at Notre Dame the past five years after serving as an intern for two years there prior.

He coached special teams and tight ends in South Bend. He was on the staff of the 2012 team that made it to the national championship game.

A native of Pittsburgh, Booker was regarded as a skilled recruiter for the Irish, with strong connections in Georgia, among other spots.

"The opportunity to be a part of a prestigious program at the University of Nebraska is something that few coaches have the chance to do in their career," Booker said in a statement. "This is a special place with tremendous people and a great leader in Coach Riley. I couldn’t be more excited for the 2017 season and the chance to work with the young men in this program."

The 63-year-old Elliott had been hired just this past February by Nebraska, taking over for Brian Stewart, who became the defensive coordinator at Rice.

He brought not only a wealth of experience, but also detailed knowledge of Diaco's 3-4 scheme, having been a safeties coach at Notre Dame while Diaco-led defenses flourished there. (Elliott also coached outside linebackers for Brian Kelly's staff at Notre Dame for one year.)

While seeming to fit in quickly with staff and players in Lincoln, Elliott wasn't on the recruiting trail of late, and was not one of the coaches on the satellite camp tour a couple of weeks ago. The coach of 38 years has dealt with some serious health concerns in the past, having battled through cancer while coaching, serving as an inspiration to others along the way.

He spent 2015 and 2016 as a special assistant to the head coach at Notre Dame due to some of those health issues, but told reporters here upon his arrival he was eager to get back to on-field coaching.

"He is a definite father figure, I would say," former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace recently told the Journal Star, having played for Elliott. "He is somebody that the players could have extreme trust in."

Certainly he is a coach Diaco had much trust in when it came time for Nebraska to hire a safeties coach prior to the spring. Elliott's background — which included being a defensive coordinator at Iowa, Kansas State and Ball State — seemed a good contrast to a relatively young Husker staff.

NU cornerbacks coach Donte Williams said in the spring he scribbles notes down whenever Elliott talks. Riley noted multiple times that the hire of Elliott was checking the boxes he hoped it might.

But transition is necessary again.

"We are sorry to see Bob Elliott leave our full-time on-field staff," Riley said. "Bob is a wonderful man and a great football coach and he has built a great rapport with our staff and the players in our program. We respect Bob’s decision and we are confident that he will continue to have a positive impact on our program."

NU had a strong candidate already in town to step in. While Booker didn't coach on the defensive side of the ball at Notre Dame, he is well familiar with Diaco and was lauded by Elliott himself when the Huskers brought him aboard a few months back.

"Great guy, great person, great father and family man," Elliott said of Booker this spring. "Very, very good with the X's and O's of special teams. And he's good with drill work and he understands how it goes from fundamentals to drill work, then to team. He knows how the progression goes. I mean, he's really good. We're lucky to have him ..."

Booker has coached in the secondary before, too. A 2003 graduate of Kent State, he coached the secondary at his alma mater from 2005-08, and coached defensive backs the next year at Western Kentucky before heading to Notre Dame.

Riley acknowledged that "it’s an unusual time to make a coaching hire" here in June.

"But we are fortunate that Scott worked with our staff this past spring and brings great experience and energy to our program. We are confident that he will add to our program as a coach, teacher and recruiter."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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