In his first days as Nebraska’s head football coach, Matt Rhule will have plenty of phone calls to make.
Reaching out to prospective assistant coaches who he worked with previously — and gauging interest from others — will be important as Rhule builds his Nebraska coaching staff. As a head coach at both Temple and Baylor, Rhule entrusted coordinators with play-calling.
One coordinator stands out at the top of the list.
Longtime defensive guru Phil Snow has worked with Rhule for an entire decade, following Rhule from Temple to Baylor and to the Carolina Panthers. Snow was fired alongside Rhule in October, so the only complication may be Snow’s desire to coach any further. Snow will turn 67 in December and has worked as a coach since 1976. Former Temple and Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins would be another obvious fit for the defensive coordinator position.
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On the other side of the ball, Jeff Nixon is another longtime Rhule assistant who could take over as offensive coordinator. Nixon joined Rhule at Baylor in 2017 as his co-offensive coordinator, adding spread concepts to the offense that Nixon learned from his time as an NFL assistant with the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers.
Nixon coached the Panthers’ running backs for two seasons before becoming the team’s assistant head coach this year. Given that the majority of his coaching career has been spent in the NFL, Nixon’s status would depend on whether he wants to return to the college game. Moreover, Nixon is tied up in Carolina until the Panthers’ season ends on Jan. 8.
If not Nixon, then Rhule’s other co-offensive coordinator at Baylor, Glenn Thomas, could be an option. Thomas was also a part of Rhule’s Temple staff, and has spent the last three seasons as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at UNLV and Arizona State, where he currently works. Since Arizona State fired head coach Herm Edwards mid-season, Thomas could be open to a move as well.
Marcus Satterfield, who previously worked as Rhule’s offensive coordinator at Temple, is a third option. As South Carolina’s offensive coordinator, he led a late-season offensive surge this year.
When it comes to Nebraska’s positional coaches, Rhule will have a decision to make with Mickey Joseph. As one of the nation’s top wide receivers coaches and the primary architect of Nebraska’s 2023 recruiting class, there’s a strong argument for keeping Joseph on staff.
Joseph previously expressed interest in remaining at Nebraska, acknowledging on Friday that the decision is now out of his hands. After making $600,000 last year, could Joseph command a raise?
“I'm good because I understand that the next guy comes in, he deserves to pick his staff and I'm good with it,” Joseph said. “I've been in this thing for over 25-plus years and I've got a pretty good resume. So somebody's going to hire me."
If not Joseph, then Frisman Jackson is another candidate for the role. Jackson spent two years as a wide receivers coach under Rhule at all three of his most recent stops, although the former NFL wide receiver has also coached the position for the Tennessee Titans and now, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nebraska’s other offensive assistants will depend on who the offensive coordinator is. If it’s Thomas or Satterfield, their experience coaching quarterbacks makes that an obvious choice; if Nixon, then the running back position would be taken care of.
Another potential quarterbacks coach is Shawn Bell, who currently works in that role at Baylor. Bell was the Bears’ offensive line coach under Rhule from 2018-19 and coached tight ends last season before taking charge of the quarterbacks in 2022.
Along with Joseph, Nebraska’s other assistant coaches have contracts running through Dec. 31, 2023. Rhule will have the option of keeping any on staff, and might that include Bryan Applewhite? He also played a key role in recruiting NU’s 2023 class.
On defense, Mike Siravo is another longtime Rhule assistant whose name is certainly on the top of the list. Siravo was Rhule’s linebackers coach at Temple, Baylor and Carolina, where he’s still working at the moment.
Texas A&M defensive line coach Elijah Robinson, who also worked for Rhule at Temple and Baylor, could command a large salary to take over the same role at Nebraska. According to FootballScoop, Robinson is the third highest-paid defensive line coach in the nation with a salary of $867,000 this season.
If salary demands get in the way, Frank Okam is another option for the role. Okam took over for Robinson at Baylor in 2018 and also joined Rhule’s Carolina staff before becoming the Oakland Raiders’ defensive line coach this year.
Evan Cooper is another assistant who started with Rhule at Temple and followed to Baylor and the NFL. Initially the director of player personnel at Temple, Cooper took over as Baylor’s cornerbacks coach from 2018-19 before serving in that same role on Rhule’s Carolina Panthers staff. Cooper was fired earlier this month.
Rhule’s first defensive backs coach at Temple and Baylor, Fran Brown, has Big Ten experience coaching the position at Rutgers from 2020-21. However, it would be difficult to pry Brown away from his current job at Georgia, where he made $750,000 this season.
Rhule will also have decisions to make about Nebraska’s special teams coordinator and strength coach. Will Rhule keep Bill Busch around, or would he prefer to reunite with Ed Foley, who coordinated Rhule’s special teams at each of his last three coaching stops? Foley also has experience coaching tight ends.
And how about Zach Duval, the strength and conditioning coach who arrived with Scott Frost in 2017? Jeremey Scott would be the obvious candidate to fill that role after serving as Rhule’s strength coach for the last 10 years.
Not all of Rhule’s longtime assistants will find their way to Lincoln, but many are likely to. The next few weeks will reveal just who the new arrivals will be.
Matt Rhule to Nebraska: Here's what people are saying
Nebraska P Brian Buschini
I love Nebraska and all we stand for! The mentorship I’ve gotten from Coach Ron Brown has changed my life! Thank you fans for continued support, let’s turn this thing around @CoachMattRhule… Absolutely I’m coming back, GBR‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/oLNPfxfqQo— BRIAN BUSCHINI (@brian_buschini) November 26, 2022
UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green
Very pleased & excited to welcome Matt Rhule to Nebraska as our head coach & leader of Husker football. Trev conducted a razor-focused, strategic & deliberative search keyed on long term success for our Husker student scholar athletes & the best fans in intercollegiate athletics. https://t.co/s1va1winIo— Ronnie D. Green (@RonnieDGreen) November 26, 2022
Ex-Husker Will Compton
UNL President Ted Carter
AD @TrevAlberts has run a thoughtful, thorough search for our next @HuskerFBNation football coach. I fully support his selection of Matt Rhule -- someone who knows what it takes to rebuild, because he's done it before. My full statement: https://t.co/GE33xbI3uE pic.twitter.com/byh9FSwc2f— Ted Carter (@UofNE_President) November 26, 2022
Matt Schick, ESPN
Love the hire of Matt Rhule. A program builder & rebuilder.— Matt Schick (@ESPN_Schick) November 26, 2022
Temple had one 10-win season in its history. Rhule did it twice.
After Briles scandal, he went 1-11, 7-6, 11-3. Pre-portal.
Husker fans want progress. Based on his track record, they won’t have to wait long to see it.
Nebraska hires a guy in @CoachMattRhule that has a great reputation as a college builder. And Nebraska definitely needs building.— Kevin Kugler (@kevinkugler) November 26, 2022
Enjoyed chatting with him covering several Panthers games. I think he'll be happy to be back in college. https://t.co/B4xlWIOdoZ
Rodger Sherman, The Ringer
If the Carolina Panthers agreed to pay me $40 million to not do any work I would choose not to do any work but I guess Matt Rhule is built different— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) November 26, 2022
Matt Rhule is great hire for @HuskerFBNation. Built double-digit win teams at Temple & Baylor. Prior to him getting there, those were two of hardest schools in CFB to win at. Scouted at both schools during my time in NFL and getting 10 wins at either place is an incredible feat.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) November 26, 2022