LINCOLN — Bill Busch, Nebraska’s new but familiar special teams coordinator, earned his first Division I coaching job in Lincoln. He met his wife, a former Husker cheerleader, in Lincoln. And this week, Busch was introduced (again) as the newest member of Nebraska’s staff.
During his first interview since accepting the job, Busch said his enthusiasm for the Huskers hasn’t wavered.
“It’s such an honor to have a chance to coach here ever,” Busch said on the radio Wednesday night. “To have a chance to be here three times, that’s pretty cool. I worked my whole life to get back here.”
Busch takes over a unit that ranked 129 out of 130 teams in Football Outsiders’ special teams rating last year. The Huskers lost games due to missed field goals, bad punts, return foibles and more in 2021. And while Busch insisted that Mike Dawson, who coordinated the special teams while coaching outside linebackers last season, worked diligently to improve the unit, Busch knows change is necessary.
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Busch vowed that next year’s Huskers will be “situational masters.” They’ll be detail-oriented. And they’ll play with high effort.
In Busch’s eyes, you can learn a lot about a football team from the motor they play with on special teams.
“When you turn on someone’s film, watch their kickoff team and their field-goal block team,” Busch said. “That’s when you know what kind of day you’re in for. You feel a field-goal block team and you feel a kickoff team.
“When you see teams that are sloppy — don’t try to block a field goal, take one step and jog off the field — or their kickoff team, they don’t buzz all the way through the end zone, you know you have an advantage.”
Busch started at Nebraska as a volunteer coach under Tom Osborne. He called the former Husker coach to inquire about a graduate assistant position while Busch was at UNK, but Osborne said NU had no openings.
Undeterred, Busch helped Osborne’s staff for free. He’d work the early shift at Racquet Club before going to practice. Former secondary coach George Darlington snuck him his press box pass so Busch could sit with other coaches.
What did Busch learn from working under Osborne?
“How he managed a staff,” Busch said. “It was very clear who the boss was in his own way that he never told you he was the boss. It was the most impressive staff I had ever been around with those guys because no one had their own agenda.”
Other notable items from Busch’s radio appearance:
» Either you can recruit or you can’t, Busch says. And those who can are adaptable, likable and well researched.
Busch remembered when his recruiting database was a manila folder loaded with phone numbers, but he’s adjusted to the social media era.
He knows that every recruit will answer the phone, but it’s up to him to make them answer twice. And he won’t propose a recruit to his fellow coaches without properly vetting them first.
“I can’t take someone to Mike Dawson, (say) ‘I really like this kid,’ he likes him, we get the whole process going then — oh, my bad, he has no chance of qualifying or he’s got some off-the-field stuff I didn’t know about,’” Busch said. “Don’t waste their time. You have to be diligent in your background work before it gets to the next phase.”
» Like many special teams coaches, Busch has never kicked or punted. So how does he coach kickers and punters?
First, he keeps them on regimented schedules. Everything Busch’s specialists do at practice is documented for future reference.
Second, he utilizes his connections. Busch said he talks “all the time” to Ravens punter Sam Koch, who punted for Busch during his first stint as NU’s special teams coordinator. He plans to talk with Brett Maher, the former Husker and current Saints kicker, too.
“We’re always using our best resources that (are) legal, that we can use and that are available for these guys to be around,” Busch said.
» Busch already knows Nebraska’s personnel from his time as special teams analyst last season. The players know him, too, and Busch sees that familiarity as a “huge advantage” in his new role.
“I know where (players) can be pushed a little bit more,” Busch said. “I know those that are completely bought in and how they can help bring someone else along. That’s a huge advantage to have that knowledge.”