LINCOLN — New coach Scott Frost appears prepared to complete his assistant coaching staff with two more of his men from Central Florida.
If UCF offensive coordinator Troy Walters and tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Sean Beckton join Frost’s staff, as multiple news reports out of Orlando indicated Thursday afternoon, Frost’s entire UCF staff would join him at Nebraska.
The staff that helped produce a 12-0 season at UCF would try to do the same at Nebraska.
Frost had already announced Monday seven of his UCF guys as NU assistants, and former Husker All-American linebacker Barrett Ruud will be announced when the NCAA allows a 10th assistant coach in January.
That left two spots — wide receivers/tight ends and offensive coordinator. Beckton coached tight ends at UCF, while Walters coached receivers and served as offensive coordinator. Since Frost called his own plays at UCF — and may do the same at NU — Walters had more of a planning role.
But he was still Broyles Award finalist — given to the nation’s top assistant coach — and considered one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks. A first-team All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner at Stanford in 1999, Walters spent eight seasons in the NFL — four playing with Peyton Manning and the Colts — before starting his coaching career at Indiana State. He coached receivers at Texas A&M, North Carolina State and Colorado before Frost hired him to be UCF’s offensive coordinator and receivers coach in 2016.
Walters was reportedly considered for the UCF head coaching job, but longtime offensive coordinator Josh Heupel nabbed the job instead. Walters, according to reports, will have a similar role at Nebraska.
The bigger surprise may be Beckton, UCF’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. The Orlando Sentinel cited an anonymous source that said Beckton preferred the clarity of Frost’s staff to the uncertainty under Heupel.
Beckton had been a UCF stalwart. He played there and served 19 years — as a graduate assistant or regular assistant — under five head coaches, including Frost.
A member of UCF’s Hall of Fame with nearly 2,500 yards receiving as a collegian, Beckton was one of the few assistants Frost chose to retain from former coach George O’Leary’s staff.
As a receivers coach, Beckton sent several players to the NFL, including All-Pro Brandon Marshall. He’s considered one of UCF’s best recruiters, in part because he knows the high schools in the area so well and even coached at Mainland High School in Florida for four seasons.
Walters made $350,000 and Beckton made $240,000 at UCF. Both are likely in line for major raises. Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos gave Frost a pool of $5 million for his assistants and head strength coach; roughly $1.8 million of that remains for three assistant coaches and a head strength coach.
Frost and his assistants scoured the country recruiting this week. One prospect, St. Louis (Mo.) Hazelwood Central safety Dallas Craddieth, got a visit Thursday from Frost and came away impressed.
“He plans to win early,” Craddieth said.
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Erik Chinander, defensive coordinator
Chinander has spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator at UCF. A 2016 Broyles Award nominee as the nation’s top assistant, Chinander comes to Lincoln after leading a dramatic defensive turnaround. His UCF defense allowed 12.5 fewer points in 2017 than it did in the season before his arrival. Chinander’s defense also ranked fourth nationally in takeaways in 2017. Chinander spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as the outside linebackers coach at Oregon, after serving on the Philadelphia Eagles defensive staff in 2013. Chinander has been on the staff of one FCS and two FBS teams that have played in a national championship game.
Troy Walters, offensive coordinator / wide receivers coach
Troy Walters served as Scott Frost’s offensive coordinator at Central Florida the past two seasons. One of the nation’s top assistant coaches, the 2017 Broyles Award Finalist has six years of Power Five experience in his nine years as a collegiate assistant.
Greg Austin, offensive line coach
A former Nebraska offensive lineman, Austin brings eight years of coaching experience to the Husker staff. Austin has spent a total of five seasons working on offensive staffs with Frost, including the past two seasons as UCF’s offensive line coach. Austin helped the UCF offensive line rank among the national leaders in fewest sacks allowed in 2017, while heading into the bowl season ranked first in the nation in scoring and fifth in total offense. Austin also has three seasons of NFL coaching experience, working on Chip Kelly’s Eagles staff from 2013 to 2015. Austin made 18 career starts as an offensive guard at Nebraska and was an honorable-mention All-Big 12 pick in 2006.
Jovan Dewitt, outside linebackers/special teams coach
Dewitt brings a wealth of experience to the Nebraska staff, with 18 overall years of coaching experience, including nine seasons as a defensive coordinator and four years as a special teams coordinator. Dewitt spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach at Central Florida, where he worked with the linebackers and served as special teams coordinator. In 2017, Dewitt’s linebackers helped UCF rank third in the AAC in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. Dewitt has previous college FBS experience at Army and Florida Atlantic and worked on the staff at Northern Iowa from 2009 to 2011.
Mario Verduzco, quarterbacks coach
Verduzco brings 41 years of coaching experience to the Nebraska staff, including serving as both a junior college and high school head coach. Verduzco served as the UCF quarterbacks coach the past two seasons and directed the development of McKenzie Milton, who was one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in 2017. Milton completed better than 69 percent of his passes this season, while throwing for 3,795 yards and a school-record 35 touchdowns. Verduzco was Missouri State’s offensive coordinator in 2015, after a 14-year stint with Northern Iowa, working on the same staff as Frost for two seasons. Verduzco spent five seasons at Rutgers from 1996 to 2000, and prior to that coached for 19 seasons at various levels in his home state of California.
Mike Dawson, defensive line coach
Dawson brings 19 years of coaching experience to Nebraska, including the past two seasons on the UCF staff and three years of experience in the National Football League. At UCF, Dawson’s defensive line ranked fourth in the AAC in rushing defense in 2017 and two of his three starting defensive linemen earned all-conference honors. Dawson spent three seasons on Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles staff from 2013 to 2015, working with the defensive line. Dawson also has college coaching stops at several schools, including Boston College, Akron, New Hampshire, Pittsburgh and Maine.
Ryan Held, running backs coach
Held returns to his alma mater with 17 years of college coaching experience, including 12 seasons as a head coach. On Frost’s staff at UCF the past two seasons, Held has coached the running backs as the Knights led the nation in scoring offense in 2017, while ranking fifth in total offense. Held previously made a name in the coaching community as a successful junior college, Division II and NAIA head coach. Held served as a head coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Highland (Kan.) CC, Southwestern Oklahoma State, Oklahoma Panhandle State and Peru State. Held was a part of two national championship teams in 1994 and 1995 as a walk-on receiver for the Huskers, and began his college coaching career as a graduate assistant on Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team.
Travis Fisher, defensive backs coach
A former NFL cornerback, Fisher joins Frost’s staff after working on the UCF defensive staff for the past two seasons. Fisher’s defensive backs were a big reason why the Knights recorded 55 takeaways and scored eight defensive touchdowns over the past two seasons. In 2017, UCF ranked fifth nationally with 18 interceptions. Fisher had two defensive backs earn first-team All-AAC honors and UCF ranked in the top 20 nationally in interceptions. A former Knight cornerback, Fisher was selected in the second round of the 2002 Draft by the St. Louis Rams and played eight seasons in the NFL. He began his coaching career at UCF in 2013, spent one season at Southeast Missouri State and has been in Orlando the past three seasons.
Sean Beckton, tight ends coach
Sean Beckton will be a first-year Husker assistant in 2018 after previously spending his entire coaching career in Florida. A 22-year coaching veteran, Beckton spent 19 seasons coaching at Central Florida, his alma mater, including serving as the Knights’ tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator under Scott Frost the past two seasons.
Zach Duval, strength and conditioning coach
Zach Duval previously worked as a Husker student assistant (1994), graduate assistant (1995-96) and assistant football strength coach (1997-2002 and 2008). Duval spent the past two seasons as the director of sports performance for football at Central Florida, where he also oversaw the school’s entire sports performance department.