Welcome to the Hot Topic, a weekly look at the state of Nebraska football. Each week on the "Life in the Red Podcast," Parker Gabriel, Steven M. Sipple and Chris Basnett will discuss an important topic heading into that week's game, and that discussion will appear in the Journal Star's Huskers section on the day before gameday.
Will Scott Frost hire a full-time special teams coordinator?
Chris: I think he should. Now, will he? I don't know. I don't really need to make a whole lot of an argument for it because Nebraska's made that argument for me. All you have to do is look at the results the past three years, four years. And Scott Frost has made some good points that Nebraska's coverage has improved dramatically this year, and it has, there's no question about that.
But they're not a threat to return kicks, they're not a threat to return punts, they make half their field goals, they miss a few extra points. Punting game has had really good moments, but has also had some really bad moments.
It's easy to say, "Yeah, we've made improvements." Well, yeah, you've made improvements in one area out of several you need to improve in special teams.
So if it's me, yeah. I think you need to hire a special teams coordinator. And that's why I think it's important to hire an offensive coordinator who also has another responsibility — whether that's quarterbacks or receivers or whatever that may be, so that you can keep a spot open.
Parker: I don't really believe that he will. Especially not in the first order of things. If I'm being honest, I think if that were to happen, it would be more likely if the defensive side of the staff is affected at some point. Like if a guy leaves on the defensive side, which is always a possibility. There's coaching turnover almost every offseason, even when you don't initiate it by firing four guys. To me, that seems like the most likely potential shakeup. And that's logical, because that's where the majority of the special teams duties lie right now, Mike Dawson's the outside linebackers coach, and he's also the special teams coordinator.
The second part of the conversation is, what do we actually mean by that? Is it somebody that only coaches special teams? Because I think if you look around the country, I think a lot of special teams coordinators have a position (to coach). So if you do that, if you hire a guy that's overseeing a better special teams unit than Nebraska, and you also want him to coach running backs, or you want him to coach corners or whatever, all you're doing is replacing Mike Dawson as the person who coaches special teams and also has positional responsibility.
Steve: It's somewhat of a complicated conversation, as this tends to be, it seems. The current setup, I don't think is that bad, with Dawson and Bill Busch, and Busch handling a lot behind the scenes — structure, scheme.
Now there's a feeling within the program that the structure and scheme is OK. And what Frost has said, I would say three times now, is that most of the problem lies in the people who touch the ball: the punter, the place-kicker, the return men. You don't see long snapper problems; the coverage has been pretty good across the board. It's not like they're having kicks blocked, punts blocked.
But there's a lot of strong evidence that you've got to get much better. I just wonder if this is more about recruiting specialists. There's a conversation that never comes up in this market. And that is, why doesn't Nebraska devote scholarships to punters, place-kickers, long snappers.
I'm not sold on the idea that you have to (hire a special teams coordinator). Somebody would have to sell me a little harder.