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Nebraska eyes Matt Rhule as coach: Cornhuskers closing in on deal with ex-Carolina Panthers boss, report says

Nebraska eyes Matt Rhule as coach: Cornhuskers closing in on deal with ex-Carolina Panthers boss, report says

Nebraska appears to be in the final stages of hiring Matt Rhule as its next coach, according to ESPN. Rhule, who led the reversals of Temple and Baylor before trying his hand at NFLwas fired as coach of the Carolina Panthers earlier this year in his third season with the franchise.

Best known for leading Baylor from 1-11 to an 11-3 campaign and a 2020 Sugar Bowl berth, Rhule led one of the fastest turnarounds in Power Five history. He also led Temple from 2-10 to back-to-back 10-win seasons and the 2016 AAC Championship before leaving the Owls for the Bears. Temple hasn’t won more than eight games since leaving after the 2016 season, going 7-23.

If Rhule lands the job at Nebraska, he would be tasked with reviving the Cornhuskers program in hopes of rediscovering its form after a brutal start to his tenure in the Big Ten. The historically dominant program faced tough times during conference realignment, failing to win 10 games in a season since 2012, its first year in the league. Nebraska hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2016.

Rhule would follow Scott Frost as coach. Frost, a former championship-winning quarterback with the ‘Huskers, was seen as the program’s savior when he returned to Lincoln, Nebraska. Instead, Frost accumulated a 16-31 record during one of the worst coaching tenures in program history. He was fired three games into the 2022 season after a 1-2 start and a loss to Georgia Southern.

Turnaround artist

When Rhule landed his previous two jobs — Baylor and Temple — both programs had to overcome deep depths. Baylor was coming off a major Title IX scandal and had only one player when Rhule took over the program. Temple had a couple of successful seasons, but fell to 4-7 before Steve Addazio left to take the job at Boston College.

In both cases, Rhule knocked the program down and rebuilt it on his own image — development, toughness and high-IQ football. Rhule won the AAC with Temple, bringing home just the second conference championship in program history. While Rhule didn’t win a Big 12 Championship Game at Baylor himself, his players were a big part of Dave Aranda’s 2021 Big 12 championship.

After nearly a decade of atrophy, Nebraska needs a refresh. Rhule will have a chance to rebuild the Cornhuskers and potentially bring back some of the physicality that fans have missed since the height of the blackshirt era in Nebraska football.

Contractual provisions

Rhule was in a comfortable situation at Baylor, but NFL interest reached an all-time high during the 2019 coaching cycle. Most expected Rhule to focus on the New York Giants — the hometown team he previously worked for — but Carolina owner David Tepper offered Rhule a massive seven-year, $62 million contract before he interviewed anywhere else.

However, the Panthers still owe Rhule more than $34 million from his original contract offset language in his contract could reduce the burden. However, guaranteed money could also play a role in potential contract negotiations with Nebraska.

Nebraska has enough money to pay the Panthers’ $8.85 million in guaranteed salary, but the head coach’s salary could be a secondary consideration because Rhule will be paid by the Panthers for four more years. Complications with salary versus other aspects of coaching could prolong negotiations.

Organizational capacity

Rhule spent just one year of his long career west of the Mississippi River — a one-year stint as UCLA’s defensive line coach under Bob Toledo in 2001. However, Rhule’s greatest asset is his ability to smartly evaluate and hire coaching talent to develop his weaknesses.

When Rhule took over at Baylor, he had never coached in the state of Texas. However, Rhule reached out to the Texas High School Coaches Association and ended up hiring three high school coaches to his staff — off-field assistant David Wetzel, running backs coach Shawn Bell and current Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire. The trio helped him become an instant favorite of notoriously fickle high school coaches.

Rhule already has a big advantage on staff — Mickey Joseph. The interim coach and former Nebraska quarterback has a clause in his contract that allows him to stay on as receivers coach and associate head coach if he doesn’t get the full-time job. With his experience at Nebraska and recruiting in the Southeast, Joseph is not easy to keep on board. While Rhule comes from outside, he will quickly become enamored.





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