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Solich Names Assistant Head Coach; Offensive Coordinator; Hires Four Assistants

By NU Athletic Communications
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Lincoln, Neb. -- Nebraska Football Head Coach Frank Solich announced the promotion of assistant coach Turner Gill and the hiring of four new assistant coaches Monday. Solich named Barney Cotton as offensive coordinator, Tim Albin as passing game coordinator and running backs coach, Scott Downing as recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach and Marvin Sanders as secondary coach. In addition, Gill has been named assistant head coach and running backs coach Dave Gillespie has been named Assistant Athletic Director for Football. Jeff Jamrog has also assumed duties of special teams coordinator.

Solich Hires Three Assistants to Complete Offensive Staff
Coach Solich conducted interviews for several of the Huskers? vacant positions recently at the American Football Coaches Convention in New Orleans and said he was pleased to assemble all the components of a top-notch offensive staff.

"We are pleased to announce the hiring of Barney Cotton as our offensive coordinator, Tim Albin as our running backs coach and passing game coordinator and Scott Downing as our tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator," Solich said. "Combined with our current staff, I feel we may have one of the best offensive staffs in the country. We have hired three outstanding offensive coaches, all of which have coordinator and head coaching experience at other successful programs. They will contribute new ideas, and yet all recognize the tradition and success of Nebraska teams. All three are from the Midwest and I believe they will fit in well with the hard-working people of Nebraska."

Solich stepped down as offensive coordinator and dismissed three defensive coaches on Dec. 2. Cotton, Downing and Albin replace Gillespie (who is taking over as Assistant Athletic Director for Football), and offensive line coaches Milt Tenopir and Dan Young (who retired from coaching on Sunday, Jan. 12 after 29 and 20 years with the Huskers), respectively. Despite bowl preparation and amidst recruiting, Solich has successfully filled all but one coaching position, nearly a month before national signing day.

"While the process has taken some time, we feel like we have been very successful in completing a thorough search for the best candidates. All of the coaches we hired had obligations to other teams and duties they wanted to fulfill before we could move forward with interviews and announcements and I respect and admire that quality in a coach. We were able to utilize the coaches convention for most of the final interviews and were able to secure talented coaches who I know will be a good fit at Nebraska. We made each decision carefully, keeping the long-term interests of Nebraska football in mind. We did not want to rush such significant decisions."

Turner Gill Promoted to Assistant Head Coach
Former Husker quarterback and 11-year assistant coach Turner Gill has been named assistant head coach, a position Solich held under Tom Osborne for seven years (from 1991 to 1997). Osborne was also an assistant head coach for Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney in 1973, before Osborne was named as Devaney's successor.

Gill will continue to coach the quarterbacks at NU, a position he has gained national recognition for in the past decade, coaching All-American Tommie Frazier, who led NU to national titles in 1994 and 1995; Eric Crouch, who won the Heisman in 2001; and Scott Frost, who led the Huskers to the 1997 national championship. Gill will stand in for the head coach in Solich?s absence and will work directly with Coach Solich on other duties as assigned.

A former Husker quarterback, Gill posted a 28-2 mark, including a 20-0 Big Eight record, finished fourth in the Heisman voting and earned second-team All-America honors as a senior, when Nebraska averaged 546.7 yards of total offense and 52.0 points per game in 1983.

"Turner will play a key role in our program," Solich said. "He has established himself as a great recruiter and is a stable role model and confidant for our players. I'm excited about being able to utilize the qualities Turner possesses. His attention to detail will allow me the opportunity to focus on the overall direction of our program."

Gill said he looks forward to working hand-in-hand with Solich, "I am anxious to take on the new challenges that lie ahead as assistant head coach. I?m happy that I am remaining as quarterbacks coach and I believe this is a significant step forward as I continue to develop my coaching skills."

Cotton Becomes Solich's First Offensive Coordinator
After serving as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for former Husker Assistant and New Mexico State Head Coach Tony Samuel, Cotton returns to his alma mater. Cotton will be Solich?s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

"I?ve never let myself even think about coming back to Nebraska. I didn?t want that to be a distraction in my career, yet at the same time, it is great that it has happened. This is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family," Cotton said. "I look forward to working with Coach Solich and I'm excited to take this next step in my career. There truly is no place like Nebraska."

Cotton completed his sixth season at NMSU, and has led the Aggies to top 25 rankings in total offense three times in the last six seasons. In addition, the Aggies have ranked in the top 25 in rushing in each of the past six seasons, including 14th in 2002 (214.5). Sporting a balanced attack, NMSU passed for 678 yards in the last two games.

Cotton also has head coaching experience in Nebraska as he was the head coach at Hastings College (NAIA) in 1995 and 1996. Cotton also spent six seasons as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at St. Cloud (Minn.) State from 1989 to 1994. In 1989, St. Cloud won the conference championship and averaged more than 400 yards of total offense.

A native of Omaha, Neb., Cotton attended Burke High School before lettering for the Huskers in 1976-77-78, when he started on both the offensive and defensive side of the line. He had 33 tackles as a DT in 1977 with three TFL and earned second-team All-Big Eight honors in 1978 at offensive guard.

"Barney comes with college and NFL playing experience, and has head coach and coordinator experience as well," Solich said. "He has implemented a balanced offensive attack at New Mexico State and has shown great success everywhere he has coached."

Following his college career, Cotton was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. After one season in Cincinnati, Cotton joined the St. Louis Cardinals and played three seasons from 1980-82. A knee injury forced his retirement after the 1982 season.

Cotton earned a bachelor of science degree from Nebraska in 1983 and a master?s degree in athletic administration from St. Cloud State in 1994. Cotton and his wife, the former Christine Doll (of Omaha), have three sons Ben (13), Jake (11) and Sam (8).

Albin Hired as Passing Game Coordinator and Running Backs Coach
After completing his third year with the Huskers as a graduate assistant, Albin will join the Husker coaching staff on a full-time basis, serving as passing game coordinator and coaching the running backs.

Albin had a highly successful run as head coach at Northwestern Oklahoma State in Alva, Okla., leading the Rangers to the NAIA national championship in 1999. For his efforts in leading his team to a perfect 13-0 season Albin was named the NAIA Coach of the Year. Albin posted a 25-8 record with NWOSU from 1997 to 1999. He also coached receivers at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. (from 1989 to 1991), before being promoted to offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 1992. The past three years he has helped coach the Husker offense, working directly with Receivers Coach Ron Brown and the tight ends.

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to work with Coach Solich. Nebraska has an incredible football program in place and I look forward to working with this staff to help Nebraska resume its role among the nation's best."

Solich said Albin is a proven commodity. "Tim Albin is a excellent coach with experience as a head coach, coordinator and as a graduate assistant in our program. He is thorough, hard working and enthusiastic. We are fortunate to have him join our staff full-time."

Purdue Assistant Head Coach Scott Downing Named Recruiting Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach
After serving six years at Purdue as Joe Tiller?s assistant head coach, Scott Downing returns to the Husker program, where he was the Nebraska freshman coach in 1986 and a graduate assistant in 1984 and 1985. In his new role, Downing will serve as Solich?s recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach. He will also assist Jeff Jamrog with the special teams.

Since 1997, Downing has served as the assistant head coach and also coached the running backs and the special teams units at Purdue. In 2001, Travis Dorsch became an All-American as both a kicker and punter and won the Ray Guy Award as the nation?s top punter. This past season, Downing mentored running back Joey Harris who became the fourth player in Purdue history to record a 1,000-yard rushing season. Downing had two other Boilermaker running backs just miss the 1,000-yard plateau.

Downing spent 10 years at Wyoming, before coming to Purdue. He was the Cowboys linebacker coach from 1987 to 1994, the defensive coordinator from 1991 to 1994 and assistant head coach, running backs coach and special teams coach in 1995 and 1996, helping Wyoming to four bowl berths during his tenure.

The 46-year-old Downing posted a 4-1 record as the Nebraska freshman coach in 1986, and was a graduate assistant at NU in 1984 and 1985. He was the head coach at Sterling (Kan.) College, earning his bachelor?s degree in history in 1979 from Sterling. Downing played offensive guard for the Warriors, then served as an assistant coach in 1980 and 1981 before becoming the head coach for two seasons. His 1982 and 1983 teams ranked among the NAIA Division II top 20.

"We are pleased to have Scott join our staff. He will serve a valuable role for us as recruiting coordinator and also has experience working with special teams. Scott not only has coordinator experience, but has also served as a head coach and has a passion for Nebraska football."

"My family and I are very excited and we believe joining Coach Solich?s staff is a great opportunity," Downing said. "We spent some time in Lincoln in the mid-1980s and everything was just first-class and the people we met in Nebraska were great. Nebraska is the type of place you strive to get to as a coach."

A native of Kansas City, Mo., Downing and his wife, Karen (Allan of Vevay, Ind.), have three sons: Matthew (15), Andrew (12) and Zachary (9).

Gillespie Named Assistant A.D. for Football
Former running backs coach Dave Gillespie will immediately begin a new role as Assistant Athletic Director for Football. He will continue to recruit for the Huskers until the last coaching staff position has been filled. Gillespie said he is excited to return to a role he has come to love.

"I have enjoyed my time coaching, but I am eager to return to the core duties of helping run the Nebraska football program," Gillespie said. "Coach Solich and I both feel that my strengths lie in administration. I will miss the day-to-day contact on the field with the coaches and athletes, but in terms of doing what is best for the program-this is the right role for me."

In his new role, Gillespie will coordinate all football administrative operations and will be an Assistant Athletic Director for Steve Pederson, who took over as Athletic Director on Jan. 1. Gillespie will oversee the organization of all recruiting functions, including coaches' schedules, maintenance of compliance files and all logistical requirements for visiting student-athletes. He will represent the football program within the athletic department and at the Big 12 and national level. He will coordinate conference and NCAA rules compliance activities and supervise all football support staffs.

Gillespie was key in his first role as administrative assistant and recruiting coordinator at Nebraska from 1986 to 1993, recruiting 15 All-Americans. His last recruiting class posted a 60-3 five-year record, winning three national titles.

Gillespie played running back for the Huskers from 1974 to 1976 for Coach Tom Osborne, began his coaching career in the high school ranks, then joined the Nebraska staff as a graduate assistant in the 1985 season. Gillespie then served as Osborne?s? administrative assistant and recruiting coordinator from 1986 to 1993. He was promoted to Assistant Athletic Director during the 1993 season.

Gillespie moved to the sideline, spending three seasons on the University of Kansas staff, working with the tight ends in 1994 and the defensive line in 1995 and 1996. He served as the Jayhawks? administrative assistant in 1997. He came back to Nebraska as Solich?s running backs coach in 1998. During the last five years, Nebraska has led the Big 12 in rushing every season, winning national rushing titles in 2000 and 2001. Gillespie tutored two 1,000-yard rushers and three Huskers who finished among the top 12 in career rushing, including Dahrran Diedrick (eighth, 2,745, 1999-02), Correll Buckhalter (10th, 2,522, 1997-00) and Dan Alexander (12th, 2,456, 1997-00). Diedrick (2001) and Alexander (2000) earned All-Big 12 honors.

"We are pleased to have Dave take over as Assistant Athletic Director of Football," Solich said. " He can do so much for this program in that role. Dave will leave no stone unturned to make sure that everything is in place and organized for recruiting, travel and operational procedures."

Sanders to Join Defensive Staff
Solich hired Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini from the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 23. Solich and Pelini interviewed candidates for the two defensive openings in New Orleans last week. Solich said they were unanimous in their decision to bring former Husker Marvin Sanders aboard.

Sanders has spent the last two years as secondary coach at Colorado State under Sonny Lubick, the position he will coach for the Huskers.

"I'm thrilled to come back to Nebraska and I look forward to working with Bo Pelini and the rest of the defensive staff," Sanders said. "The Nebraska Blackshirts have an outstanding national reputation and there is no better football program than Nebraska. If it had been any other school than Nebraska, I would be with the St. Louis Rams right now, but it is a dream come true to come back to Lincoln. I consider Nebraska my second home."

Sanders tutored the defensive ends and strongside linebackers at New Mexico State in 2000. He was also an assistant at Nebraska-Omaha, where he was the team's secondary coach from 1997 to 1999. The last three years at UNO, he also served as defensive coordinator. Formerly the secondary coach and sports information director at Minnesota-Morris in 1994, he coached at Nebraska Wesleyan in 1992 and 1993.

"Marvin has established himself one of the bright young minds in college football," Solich said. "He is an excellent recruiter and a tireless worker."

Sanders played defensive back for the Huskers from 1985 to 1989, lettering the last three seasons and earned his bachelor of science degree at Nebraska in 1990. He is married to the former Susan M. Hyland of Omaha, Neb. Together they have a daughter, Chandler Marie (10) and a son, Payton (6).

Pelini Hits the Lincoln Campus Running
Pelini began working out of Lincoln on Saturday, after wrapping up the season as the Packers' linebacker coach. Green Bay won the NFC North Division and posted a 12-4 regular-season record. Pelini will hit the recruiting trail hard in the next few weeks and assist Coach Solich in the hiring of the final defensive position.

"Bo Pelini has an excellent reputation as someone who players and coaches love to work with and he has an outstanding defensive mind," Solich said. "We will have an outstanding defensive staff. Together, Bo and I hope to wrap up the final defensive assistant coaching position in the near future and look forward to reestablishing the Blackshirts as a dominant unit."

Jamrog Named Special Teams Coordinator
Third-year Husker assistant coach Jeff Jamrog has been named Special Teams Coordinator. After serving as the coordinator of the defensive special teams the past two years, working with punt returns, kickoff coverage and extra point/field goal block units, Jamrog will now oversee all aspects of the special teams. Previously, Dan Young worked with the punt team, kickoff return, and extra point and field goal units. Jamrog also served as Special Teams Coordinator for two years at the University of South Dakota.

The last two years Nebraska led the Big 12 in kickoff coverage and this season ranked fifth nationally and first in the league in punt returns, averaging 16.27 yards per return. Nebraska All-American DeJuan Groce tied the NCAA record and established a new school record with four punt return touchdowns in 2002. The punt return unit also blocked five punts, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The six punt returns for touchdowns in 2002 doubled the school team record.

Jamrog is looking forward to serving as special teams coordinator. "There is a reason they call it ?Special Teams? and this year we had great success. Coach Solich has put an emphasis on special teams and I look forward to being the special teams coordinator. Creating this position shows his strong commitment to special teams. Every time the punt return team took the field, we knew we had a chance to score, either by block or return, and I am excited to expand my role."

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