After spending the past couple weeks on the road recruiting, John Papuchis returned to Lincoln this week to coach his first ever Nebraska practice without former defensive coordinator Carl Pelini.
Ever since Pelini left NU to take the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic, Papuchis has been regarded as the leading in-house candidate to replace Carl as the Huskers' new defensive coordinator.
As of now, Papuchis said he has yet to officially interview for the position with head coach Bo Pelini or any other member of Nebraska's athletic department. However, he said he was obviously interested in the opportunity, and has expressed those feelings to Bo.
"I've been with Bo for a long time, so he obviously knows where I stand," Papuchis said. "He's going to make whatever decision that best fits the program and best gives us an opportunity to be successful. For a long time I've had total faith in the decisions that he makes, and this situation's no different. I know he'll find the person that fits best for what he's looking for."
Papuchis seems like a natural fit for the job considering the variety of hats he's worn during his four years on Nebraska's coaching staff. He's coached the defensive line and special teams since he joined the staff in 2008, and he added the title of recruiting coordinator when Ted Gilmore left for USC after last season.
That work ethic and willingness to take on multiple responsibilities quickly earned the utmost respect from his fellow coaches and players.
"I think he's a tremendous coach, probably the best coach we've got," offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. "He does it all. He's a tireless worker, a great motivator. He's hard working. He's smart. He's a real sharp guy. He's got a really bright future in coaching, there's no question about it."
Should Papuchis end up replacing Carl, his players say it would likely be a seamless transition.
"He' capable," redshirt freshman defensive tackle Chase Rome said. "I think (he'd be a good coordinator), but I don't pick them. I'd trust him if he's the guy."
On Tuesday, athletic director Tom Osborne said during his monthly interview on the Husker Sports Network that he's tried to stay out of the search for Nebraska's next defensive coordinator as much as possible. However, he added that he has spoken with Bo about the process and said a plan is likely already in place.
Based on Osborne's comments, it would seem he wouldn't be opposed if the spot were filled internally.
"The worst thing an athletic director can do is to mettle and start saying 'you need to hire this guy' or 'do this' or 'do that,'" Osborne said. "We've obviously had some talks. We visited about down in Orlando. I think I know what he wants to do. I think his plan is sound. There's all kinds of people saying you've got to go out and spend $800,000 on a coordinator, but believe me, spending a lot of money and trying to get some 'name' does not guarantee wins. You can see that all over the place.
"Bo knows defense. Bo will know exactly what he wants to do there and he'll make a good decision."
Papuchis has essentially ran the defense the past two practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, and both he and Rome said the Blackshirts have already begun adjusting to life without Carl.
For now, Papuchis is content with letting the search play out for as long as it needs to take. Whether he ends up getting the promotion or the job is given to someone else, Papuchis said he has total faith in Bo to make the right decision for the Huskers.
"Ultimately that's going to be determined here one way or another in the next couple weeks," Papuchis said. "All I try to do is the best I can at whatever I'm asked to do, whether that's recruiting or special teams or coaching the defensive front.
"We'll see how everything else plays out, but like I said, Coach Pelini in my opinion has always made the best decisions that fit what the program needed at the time, and there's no question in my mind he'll do what he needs to do again in this situation."
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