Nebraska coach Matt Rhule has reportedly made his first staff hires.
ESPN first reported — and The World-Herald confirmed — that the Huskers are bringing in Evan Cooper, most recently the cornerbacks coach with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and someone who has worked with Rhule for all 10 seasons he’s been a head coach. Cooper was fired by interim coach Steve Wilks earlier this month.
Meanwhile, two remaining members of the Panthers staff are leaving their posts effective immediately to join Rhule in Lincoln, according to a report from the Athletic. Those are assistant defensive line coach Terrance Knighton and assistant strength coach Corey Campbell.
Cooper and Rhule met at Temple in the late 2000s, when Cooper was a defensive back and Rhule the offensive coordinator. They reunited when Rhule returned to Temple as head coach, with the Miami native first serving as a graduate assistant in 2013. He moved to director of external operations the next season, then director of player personnel in 2015 and 2016 following a short few-month stint at Miami.
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Cooper followed Rhule to Baylor and kept the same role their first year in Waco before shifting to an on-field role as cornerbacks coach along with serving as the recruiting coordinator. He coached the same position and was director of player evaluation with the Panthers from 2020 to this season, when he was fired Nov. 7 a month after Rhule was let go.
Knighton, 36, is perhaps still best known for a seven-year career as an NFL defensive tackle from 2009-15 during which time he earned the nickname “Pot Roast” while filling up the trenches. The native of Hartford, Connecticut, played at Temple from 2005-08 when Rhule coached the defensive line there. Knighton began his coaching career working with the defensive line at FCS Wagner from 2018-20 before jumping to the Panthers last season.
Campbell was also with the Panthers the last two campaigns. The former Georgia fullback from 2010-13 began his career as Cincinnati’s strength and conditioning assistant in 2016 and signed on with Rhule at Baylor the following season as assistant director of athletic performance through 2019. He was elevated to director of athletic performance for the 2020 season.
The three men are the first reported hires by Rhule, who must fill out a staff of 10 on-field assistants plus a potential strength coach.