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NU football practice, 12.10.14

Former Nebraska linebackers coach Ross Els now is the defensive coordinator at Purdue.

Former Nebraska assistant Ross Els is back in the college game as the new defensive coordinator at Purdue.

A Lincoln Northeast graduate, Els told the Journal Star on Friday he had a couple of other possibilities to join programs as a coordinator "that didn't get quite this far."

"When this opportunity at Purdue turned up, this is the one I wanted," the 50-year-old said. "Part of it is I'm familiar with the teams in the Big Ten, especially the Big Ten West. I think that's a huge advantage.

"And it was a people thing. That was No. 1. The people at Purdue really sold me that this is going to be a really good spot to be. These are people I respect and really want to work with. From what I know about Darrell (Hazell) and his staff, I think they're fantastic. I can't wait to get after it."

Hazell, 6-30 in three seasons as Purdue's head coach, announced the hiring of Els in a news release. The Boilermakers finished 2-10 this season and ranked 111th nationally in both total defense and points allowed.

Els said he originally got to know Hazell when Hazell was coaching wide receivers at Ohio State and Els was an assistant under Frank Solich at Ohio from 2005-10.

"(Els) is incredibly detailed, yet very simplistic in philosophy," Hazell said. "Our players will be fundamentally sound and play with great enthusiasm. He has been an excellent recruiter at every place he has coached and I can't wait to see our defense flourish with his addition to our team."

Els returns to college coaching after spending the 2015 season as an assistant at Lincoln Southwest, where his son Bo played quarterback and daughter Taylor played volleyball. A veteran of 26 seasons of coaching on the college level, Els most recently spent four seasons (2011-14) as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Nebraska. Els helped the Huskers to a 37-16 record and four bowl appearances.

"When we got let go as a staff (following the 2014 season), it was not the right time for me to take another job and quite frankly, I really wasn't looking," Els said. "It was not the time to move my twins out of their high school. There was no doubt my wife and I were going to stay in Lincoln, and fortunately Mark King and his Southwest staff were good enough to take me in and let me help out a little bit.

"But this was the plan, to get back into coaching full-force this year. It worked out well."

Els served as linebackers coach at Ohio from 2005 to 2010, including 2010 as assistant head coach under Frank Solich. Els helped the Bobcats to three bowl appearances, two Mid-American Conference East Division championships and coached four All-MAC linebackers.

Els' experience also includes four seasons at New Mexico State as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (2003-04) and special teams and safeties coach (2001-02); six seasons at Hastings College as head coach (1997-2000), defensive coordinator and secondary coach (1996) and quarterbacks coach (1995); two seasons at Northern Iowa as secondary coach (1994) and a graduate assistant (1989); and four seasons at Nebraska-Omaha as secondary coach (1990-93).

As Hastings' head coach, Els was 32-9, including NAIA playoff appearances in 1998 and 1999.

Although it's been awhile since he's coordinated a defense, he doesn't envision a difficult adjustment.

"I think one of the reasons Bo Pelini was nice enough to give me special teams and recruiting coordinator duties at Nebraska is I don't shut my mouth very often," Els said. "The good thing about working for a guy like Bo and also Carl Pelini and John Papuchis and Frank Solich and Jimmy Burrow, is those guys make it a team decision.

"Now, there is obviously a guy who will make the ultimate decision. But I was very much involved with game plans and the big picture since I've been in Division I football."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or


Husker columnist

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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