By Brian Rosenthal / Huskers.com
Scott Booker’s sudden promotion to safeties coach hasn’t been as crazy as you might think for the newest member of Nebraska’s football coaching staff.
“As a coach, you know whenever you switch jobs, you’ve got to learn a new area, right?” Booker told me last week before embarking on a much-deserved vacation.
“You’ve got to find a school for your daughter, you’ve got to find a home for your family. Plus, obviously, learn the players’ names, learn the coaches you’re going to be coaching with, all of that type of stuff.”
Well, Booker did all of that in March, when Nebraska coach Mike Riley brought Booker on board as a special teams consultant.
So when veteran coach Bob Elliott announced in June he wouldn’t be able to work on field as the Huskers’ safeties coach because of personal reasons, and Riley tabbed Booker to replace him, the role switch wasn’t so hectic.
Plus, it’s not like Booker hasn’t been here before. Well, maybe not here. But he does have 14 years of FBS coaching experience, including the last five at Notre Dame, where he worked on the same staff with Elliott and first-year Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
Still, some players will begin fall camp with a position coach they didn’t have in spring practices, meaning that despite the smooth transition, Booker will face some challenges. First and foremost will be building trust with a position group that’s welcoming its eighth coach since 2010.
“Trust is earned,” Booker said. “That’s something that’s done every day. What’s good about it for me is I was already here two months prior to being named safeties coach, so at least they knew me.
“The other thing is Coach Diaco, in his short time as defensive coordinator, has really created a culture here that allows for coach-to-player trust and player-to-coach trust and coach-to-coach trust. That’s the culture we have, and I’m coming into that. I don’t have to build that. That’s something that’s already in place.”
Booker coached tight ends and special teams at Notre Dame, so this will be his first time coaching on the same side of the ball with Diaco, who helped the Irish to a 12-0 regular season in 2012 as defensive coordinator.
Booker’s goal is to share the same vision and principles as his defensive coordinator, no matter the coach, no matter the school.
“Coach Diaco’s philosophy is to build a culture and every day reinforce those points of his culture,” Booker said emphatically, “so there’s no ambiguity, there’s no miscommunication as far as what our culture is, what our goals are and who we want to be as the defensive unit at the University of Nebraska.”
Like Diaco, Booker aims to be a mentor for players, helping them grow every day on and off the field, “and off that blossoms everything else.”
Booker initially accepted the special teams consultant job with the certainty he’d be an on-field assistant coach – whether at Nebraska, or somewhere else — no later than 2018. That’s the year staffs can add a 10th full-time, on-field assistant coach under a recent NCAA rule change.
Now, Booker doesn’t have to wait. He’s coaching the position he played in high school and college.
“As a coach, you always go back home to the position that you played … so that’s home base for me,” Booker said. “What does make me unique is I’m going into my 14th year of coaching, and I have seven years on the offensive side of the ball, seven years on the defensive side of the ball, and five years coordinating special teams.”
Booker will also help oversee special teams at Nebraska, which struggled in that aspect of the game last season. Booker politely declined to discuss his thoughts for areas of improvement in special teams, out of respect for former assistant coach Bruce Read.
“But we have it broken up that multiple coaches are going to be coaching different positions on every special team,” Booker said, noting the only exceptions will be Diaco and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.
“So it’s not going to be just one voice. There are going to be multiple voices. Everybody will coach smaller groups and be able to be more specific with those groups we’re going to be using.”
Booker will serve as an on-the-road recruiter, something he hadn’t anticipated doing when he arrived in March. He’s not yet been on the road, what with the change in positions having just taken place.
But again, Booker has plenty of recruiting experience.
“Recruiting is a competitive environment,” Booker said. “We want to get the right guys that fit Nebraska, but the best right guys that fit Nebraska and our philosophy. That means we have to go head-to-head versus conference opponents and head-to-head against national opponents.
“It doesn’t matter what conference we’re recruiting against, it doesn’t matter what teams we’re recruiting against. We have a great brand, a great University to show, and then it’s our job as coaches to communicate the vision of coach Riley. And then it’s about showing (the student-athlete) Nebraska is going to be a benefit to him not just these next four years, but for the next 50 years.”