Today, Nebraska officially hired former Air Force defensive coordinator Charlton Warren to coach the Husker secondary. On the surface, this was a ho-hum hire for Nebraska, going through the motions to fill a vacancy after Terry Joseph left for Texas A&M earlier in the week.
If you look closer, however, Warren’s hire could be the beginning of an overall philosophical change in both the way Bo Pelini operates and the direction the Huskers go in recruiting.
First and foremost, Warren will be the only staff member with no current or prior ties to Bo Pelini whatsoever. In the past, Pelini has been one who likes to keep things close to the vest — surrounding himself with what sometimes appears to be a staff full of “yes men” who look to him for guidance.
Charlton Warren is nothing of that sort.
Warren played at Air Force, served in the Air Force and has spent the better part of his coaching career at Air Force. The only guidance he’ll seek from Pelini will be knowledge of the defensive scheme. As a former Air Force officer, Warren knows how to accept a task from a superior, execute it and own the results — good or bad. Getting screamed at by Pelini for football mistakes? Please. Warren has likely faced tongue lashings from Colonels and Generals. He can handle a Pelini ass-chewing session with a smile on his face — but I don’t think he’ll have to very often.
Warren’s defenses at Air Force were routinely successful, especially against the pass in a pass happy conference. What’s more, they were successful with essentially Ivy League-caliber talent. You don’t recruit guys to go to the Air Force Academy because of their athletic prowess first. Priority No. 1 is making sure you are recruiting high-quality students who are also high-quality people. His on-field success tells me the guy has mastered what I believe is slowly becoming a lost art at the college level — coaching.
Too many college coaches nowadays beat the recruiting paths looking for four and five star recruits who they can simply plug into the “system” and execute the scheme without much actual coaching. It’s much more difficult to take a one or two star kid, coach him up while he balances football with the academic rigors of one of the nation’s most prestigious academic institutions, and then have that guy performing at an All-American level.
Charlton Warren and his ability to coach kids up will be a luxury to a Nebraska program that often finds itself in recruiting wars with the likes of Oklahoma, Missouri and the blue bloods of the Big Ten. Often times, these wars are centered around four and five star kids, exhausting resources and energy in the process and seeing Nebraska frequently coming out on the losing end of those battles. Warren can use his experience at Air Force to spot the guys not getting the same sort of attention as some blue-chippers, swoop in and bring them back to Lincoln knowing he can coach them up to a four and five star level.
If my memory serves me right, Nebraska used to have a head coach who was pretty good at that.
Another positive he brings to Lincoln is his experience as a defensive coordinator in a legitimate conference. If John Papuchis is smart, he’ll use Warren as a sounding board and confidant, keeping him close by and mining him for knowledge and ideas. The Huskers will essentially have three coaches on their staff with big time college football experience as defensive coordinators.
As I said before, Charlton Warren may not have been a sexy hire, but it was a telling one. For the first time since his arrival in Lincoln, it appears Bo Pelini understands that something needs to change and that perhaps that change needs to start with his own process.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JANUARY 17, 2014
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