LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini sees assistant Barney Cotton as a “big picture guy.”
And that’s why Pelini said Saturday that he’s shifting some of Cotton’s offensive line duties to John Garrison and putting Cotton in charge of coaching tight ends and coordinating NU’s run game.
“I was looking to give him the most flexibility possible,” Pelini said. “This will free up part of his time. He’s an invaluable guy to (offensive coordinator) Tim Beck.”
Cotton previously served as offensive coordinator at Nebraska and Iowa State from 2003 to 2006 and has sat next to Beck in the press box on game day since 2011. In December, Cotton ran a week of practice for the Huskers while Pelini and other coaches hit the road to recruit.
The notion that Cotton, who is paid $254,800, was getting demoted or having his overall duties reduced is “absurd,” Pelini said.
“I hear the rumors, and it just goes to show you how misinformed people are,” Pelini said.
Garrison — who got a big salary bump from $160,000 to $245,000 in the offseason — is an “excellent” offensive line coach, Pelini said, who likes the role of teaching technique and development.
Three of five starters on the line return. It could be Nebraska’s best line since Pelini arrived, as four seniors — including second-team All-American Spencer Long — could start. Additionally, NU brought in two junior college linemen — Matt Finnin and Chongo Kondolo — for competition.
Coupled with the returning experience at quarterback, wide receiver and running back, Pelini said the Huskers’ offense “could be more explosive than we’ve ever been.”
The offense is still without I-back Braylon Heard, who has chosen to transfer and is unlikely to return, Pelini said. In the wake of Heard’s departure, sophomore Imani Cross may benefit the most.
“He’ll be a weapon,” Pelini said. He said Cross has lost weight during winter conditioning.
“I was taken aback by how trim he looks,” Pelini said.
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