clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Nebraska Football: How Can New DL Coach John Parrella Succeed In Lincoln?

Even though he's alumni and has gone to the NFL, the former Grand Island CC walk-on will need some help becoming both a Power 5 coach & recruiter.

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are in an interesting situation with the hiring of John Parrella as their defensive line coach, as some folks have reported.

The hiring has been lauded by most folks, but the question remains on how Parrella will be able to recruit at a higher level than his predecessor, Hank Hughes, who was dismissed by head coach Mike Riley almost three weeks ago.

Looking at the resume of Parrella, there is a fair wonder of if he can make the transition of both a coach and recruiter going from a high school head coach, to one year at a JUCO, to two years at an FCS school, to a Power 5 conference school that is trying to make the leap from good to great. Alumnus or not, Parrella has to be able to mix a decent bit of both coaching and recruiting to help him in this job.

Let's look at the things Parrella can bring to the table that will help him in this regards:

Walk-on to the NFL: It's no secret that Parrella, the kid born in Topeka and graduated from Grand Island Central Catholic, is the main poster child for a hard-working Nebraska kid earning a scholarship and moving on to the NFL. Parrella can easily show kids inside the 500-mile radius about coming to Lincoln, earning your stripes, and moving on to the next level.

Making a position switch: Not many people know this, but Parrella started at Nebraska as a tight end, who make the jump across the line in his redshirt year. That's an important piece when you're looking at guys like Freedom Akinmoladun or Jerald Foster, who have made that jump across the line like Parrella did.

A little Peter, a little McBride: Several folks have wanted some FIRE on the defensive side of the ball. Some have even wished it would be akin to what the Peter brothers used to do to hype up the team before the game.

While I don't expect John to be the demonstrative type that will be bashing heads, he will bring some fire that former Nebraska DC Charlie McBride used to bring to the group when he was roaming the east sidelines.

Leaving every place better: One thing that helps me is that, for every stop that Parrella has made along his coaching career, he's made that place better. It goes back to starting a high school team that went to the top quickly, as well as winning a JUCO conference title for Chabot Junior College in California. Speaking of that high school stop...

Knowing how to create a relationship at high schools: Spending four years as a HS head coach, Parrella had some interaction with recruiters from every level of college, from P5 to JUCO to FCS. Trust me, HC's remember how recruiters treated both them, their players and their programs. He also knows how his former coaches at Nebraska (Tom Osborne, McBride) recruited kids and such. He'll have guys like Trent Bray, Mike Riley and others here helping him along the way.

Selling Nebraska's history and vision: If you're John Parrella, selling the vision of what Nebraska can become and the history of the program is easy. That is because you yourself were in the same position as a player, and made the decision to come to Lincoln over a school like Colorado because of those reasons. It won't win every battle, but it could win you enough of them to make over the fact that you're pretty new at this.


Now, in all of this, we really don't know about how his ability to recruit and such will help him at Nebraska any more than it helped Hank Hughes. Hughes was only responsible for DaiShon Neal and Collin Miller to sign with Nebraska. He wasn't even on the lead with Nebraska's only DL player this cycle, as Trent Bray had to go into Jersey and win that one for the Huskers.

Granted, signing one player a year for your DL as the position coach would be a bad call here. Mike Riley realized that when he let Hughes walk, and should be showing that to Parrella as he arrives, signs the cafeteria deduction plan on paychecks, and explains that there's no more Rock n' Roll Runza downtown anymore.

If you trust Mike Riley to make the correct hire and develop Parrella in that regards, then you have no worry about the hire. I think there's a fair amount of wonder how long Parrella will take to catch on in that regards, especially since Nebraska is firing out offers left and right to kids right now.

However, if you're willing to let a guy who went from walking on to second-team All-American to a 13-year NFL career learn, then it's a good hire and you're going to be all right being patient while he learns on the job.