Chinander

Erik Chinander, front, walks toward Spectrum Stadium with Scott Frost on Saturday before the AAC championship game. Chinander will be Frost's defensive coordinator at Nebraska.

LINCOLN — Newly hired coach Scott Frost is bringing some friends to Lincoln.

Frost and Nebraska officially announced the hiring of seven assistants Monday, all of whom were with Frost at Central Florida.

Those hired were defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, offensive line coach Greg Austin, special teams and outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher, running backs coach Ryan Held, quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and defensive line coach Mike Dawson.

“This is an outstanding group of coaches and men of tremendous character who have played a key role in our success at UCF the past two seasons,” Frost said in a statement. “They are excellent teachers, mentors and recruiters and have earned great respect from the young men who play for them. I am proud they have chosen to join our staff as we get started at Nebraska.”

The new assistants will all have two-year contracts through Dec. 31, 2019.

Frost has not yet hired an offensive coordinator or wide receivers coach. It is expected that former Husker linebacker Barrett Ruud will be hired as the 10th assistant when schools are allowed to add a 10th assistant come January when NCAA rules change. Ruud is currently on the recruiting trail for Nebraska.

Athletic Director Bill Moos said on Sunday the pool of money to pay the 10 assistants and strength coach will be $5 million. Last season’s assistants were the highest paid in school history, around $3.8 million in total salary.

Chinander will be the second-highest paid assistant in school history with an $800,000 a year base salary. Former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s salary for 2017 was $825,000.

The 2017 staff will be paid similarly to Mike Riley’s assistants. Linebackers coach Trent Bray was paid $400,000 a season ago, and now Dewitt will be paid $475,000 at a similar position. Former offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh had a $450,000 a year salary, which will be replaced with Austin’s $475,000 salary. Running backs coach Reggie Davis’ $350,000 salary is dropped slightly for Held, who will be paid $300,000. Fisher will be paid $100,000 less than former defensive backs coach Donte Williams, who made $400,000.

Nebraska did not have a quarterbacks coach in 2017. At that position, Verduzco will be paid $350,000.

Nebraska has $1.8 million left to hire an offensive coordinator, receivers coach and strength coach.

In the past two coaching hires, both Riley and Bo Pelini kept assistants from the previous staff. Should Frost follow the same pattern, the most plausible position for Frost to retain would be wide receivers coach Keith Williams, since that spot is still open.

But even so, a majority of the Nebraska coaching staff will now be fresh blood, which Frost is excited for.

“A lot of coaches when they get a bigger job or change from one school to another think they need to go out and hire some different people,” Frost said. “The guys that helped us win there can help us win here.”

Chinander served as a defensive graduate assistant at Oregon before following Chip Kelly to the NFL as an assistant defensive line coach in 2013. He returned to Oregon as the outside linebackers coach (2014-15) and followed Frost to UCF, becoming the defensive coordinator. Chinander was a walk-on offensive lineman for Iowa from 1998-2002 and helped lead Northern Iowa to the FCS national championship game in 2005 and the semifinals in 2008 as the tight ends coach. He coached with Frost at UNI during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

In 2017, Chinander’s defenses allowed 25.2 points, 165.8 rushing yards and 262.8 passing yards per game. UCF ranked 95th in the country in total defense. Nebraska was 103rd in total defense.

Chinander will be joined by Fisher, Dewitt and Dawson from his previous defensive staff.

Fisher, a UCF cornerback himself, had all four starters from the 2016 UCF team sign with NFL teams following the season. Fisher was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft and registered 299 tackles and nine interceptions in his career. He was hired in 2013 as UCF’s defensive quality assistant under coach George O’Leary. In 2017, UCF ranked fifth nationally with 18 interceptions. Nebraska’s corners did not have any interceptions in 2017.

Dawson is a member of the Chip Kelly coaching tree. He coached with Kelly at New Hampshire and with the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive quality control coach in 2013. Frost hired Dawson in 2016 as the defensive line coach. In 2017, UCF was fourth in the conference in rush defense, allowing 4.4 yards a carry and 165.7 yards a game.

Under Chinander’s 3-4 defense, there will be separate coaches for outside and inside linebackers. Dewitt will handle the outside linebackers, which he did at UCF in 2016 and 2017. Dewitt will also be the special teams coordinator. In 2017, UCF was second in the AAC in kickoff return yardage and first in punt return average. They were 11th out of 12 teams in punting.

UCF’s No. 1 national scoring offense will have most of its staff in Lincoln next season. Even though Frost doesn’t have an offensive coordinator yet, he expects the offense to run as it did at UCF.

Instead of modifying his system to the Big Ten, Frost said on Sunday: “I’m hoping the Big Ten has to modify their system to us.”

It will start up front with Austin, who played offensive guard at Nebraska from 2003 to 2006. He made 18 starts in his career and was named honorable mention All-Big 12 in 2006. Austin coached with Frost at Oregon, then followed Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles from 2013 to 2015. The past two seasons, he’s been at UCF.

Running backs coach Ryan Held was a walk-on receiver at Nebraska from 1993 to 1996. He began his coaching career as an undergraduate assistant on the Huskers’ 1997 national title team. He climbed his way up through the coaching ranks at smaller schools and was head coach at Peru State, Southwestern Oklahoma State, Highland (Kan.) Community College and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. In 2016, he joined Frost. In 2017, UCF was sixth in the AAC in rushing offense, averaging 201.2 yards per game. Nebraska averaged 107.5 rushing yards per game.

Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco will join Frost for the third time. They two also coached together at Northern Iowa and UCF. Verduzco has coached since 1977. Under Verduzco, UCF was the No. 1 passing offense in the AAC, averaging 339.2 yards per game.

As a sophomore in 2017, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for 3,795 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also ran for 497 yards and seven touchdowns.

Frost spoke with conviction at his opening press conference about bringing Nebraska back to the top. And part of that comes from his confidence in the staff he’s bringing with him.

“I will tell you that the staff I hired at UCF is a group of men that are unbelievable coaches that have unbelievable character,” Frost said. “If it wasn’t that way then we wouldn’t have been able to make the turnaround (at UCF) that we made.”

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