Redskins

New Nebraska AD Eichorst: Pelini on right track

201301171053392079470-p2.jpeg

New Nebraska AD Eichorst: Pelini on right track

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska coach Bo Pelini needn't worry about having the support of his new boss.

Shawn Eichorst, who took over as athletic director Jan. 1, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he admires how Pelini runs the Cornhuskers' program and he believes Pelini is on track to win a championship.

The Huskers were 10-4 this past season, finishing with a 39-point loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and a 14-point loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. Pelini is 49-20 in five seasons, never having won fewer than nine games but never losing fewer than four.

Nebraska hasn't won a conference title since 1999 or played in a BCS game since the end of the 2001 season.

``Nobody is going to have higher expectations for this place than me, nor coach Pelini, so that's a given,'' Eichorst said. ``I've yet to be at a place at this level that doesn't want to win championships. So I get that. So we'll just keep pounding the rock and trying to close the gap. We're not far away, and I think there are a lot of folks out there that feel the same way.''

Eichorst, hired away from Miami in October, succeeded the retired Tom Osborne after spending two-plus months as special assistant to chancellor Harvey Perlman. Eichorst signed a five-year contract that pays him $973,000 to start.

He takes over after a spate of major building projects. Football stadium expansion will raise capacity to more than 90,000 this fall, the new downtown basketball arena opens next season, and an academic center and basketball practice facility opened in 2011.

Eichorst said he plans to ``look and listen and learn'' the next few months.

``I'm really not coming in with any sort of preconceived agenda,'' he said. ``I just don't think that's something that would be successful.''

In an email, Perlman said he was impressed with the way Eichorst interacted with university leaders during his first few weeks on campus.

``There have been no surprises on my part,'' Perlman wrote. ``He understands the role of athletics within the broader university and I suspect he will be a good partner that will produce benefits for both athletics and academics.''

One of the main questions upon Eichorst's arrival was how he would view Pelini and the football program, which generates about 85 percent of the revenue in a department with a $95 million budget.

Osborne, who hired Pelini in 2008, set a high standard during his 25 years as coach. The program has not come close to recapturing the aura of Osborne's mid-1990s teams, which won national championships in three of his last four years. The team hasn't finished a season in the top 10 since 2001.

Eichorst said Pelini has the Huskers on the right track.

``I think that our head football coach is an excellent coach, character-based, fundamentally sound,'' Eichorst said. ``I'm impressed with his staff. I'm impressed with our players, their attitude, how they go about their business, their academics.''

Eichorst said many programs would love to play in conference championship games three of the last four years and in New Year's Day bowl games, as the Huskers have done.

``I know the expectations and the tradition and history here,'' he said. ``Everybody's got room to grow unless you're winning that (national) championship game.''

The new AD, who played defensive back at Wisconsin-Whitewater, said the 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game didn't raise any red flags with him.

``That happens in football,'' he said. ``I've been around it long enough. Just one of those days. But again, we're there. We'll break through.''

Osborne, who turns 76 next month, keeps an office one floor above Eichorst's, and serves as a sounding board and consultant.

``He parks in the same spot and all that stuff,'' Eichorst said. ``He's around, he's visible, and I'm glad because there are things I have to bounce off him on occasion. And folks - student-athletes, staff members - really like to see him and are energized to see him.''

Osborne wears the title of athletic director emeritus and is scheduled to stay on through July 31 to ease the transition to Eichorst.

The best advice Osborne gave him?

``Be yourself,'' Eichorst said. ``Do what you think is right and continue to ... lead with values and treat people with respect and understand what it is we're trying to get done. Provide a situation where student-athletes can be successful and have a better life and can make our communities better and all those sorts of things.''

Eichorst said he considers it a privilege to succeed a man of Osborne's stature, and he hopes Osborne maintains a presence in the department and around campus.

``I hope he's here for as long as he wants to be here,'' Eichorst said. ``He and I have talked about that, because it's important to me and important to all the folks in this building and the state.''

Quick Links

10 Questions in 10 days: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart

foster_hamilton_spaight.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

10 Questions in 10 days: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart

The Redskins top two linebackers rank among the most productive units in the NFL. When healthy, Mason Foster and Zach Brown are highly efficient tacklers. In fact, Brown led the league in tackles for most of 2017 before his season ended with a foot injury. 

The healthy part is the trick. 

Last year, Foster separated his shoulder against the Rams in Week 2 and was shut down for the season by October. Brown played through nagging injuries all year before shutting things down in December. 

When both players were on the field, the Redskins defense excelled. In just four starts, Foster made 30 tackles to go with an interception, a fumble recovery and half a sack. Brown logged double-digit tackles in nine games last season, and probably would have more without the foot trouble. 

Foster and Brown are very good in the Redskins scheme, and both players are expected to be fully healthy for the start of training camp. Their injuries from last season are not the type that suggest durability concerns, and both players posted full 16-game seasons in 2016.

Foster and Brown aren't the question. The depth chart after Foster and Brown are the question. 

Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight, Josh Harvey-Clemons and rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton are competing for two or possibly three roster spots. 

Spaight is the most recognizable name in the group. He's been a good special teams player for Washington, and is well liked in the locker room. By last December, however, Vigil was playing better football. 

More telling for both Vigil and Spaight was that Harvey-Clemons took the starter reps alongside Foster when Brown was absent during OTAs. The second-year man out of Louisville has more physical gifts than either Vigil or Spaight, and now given a full year to learn to play linebacker, Harvey-Clemons could make inroads.

A safety in college, Harvey-Clemons can run. He was a bit of a surprise last season making the 53-man roster out of camp, so expect him to definitely have a shot this year. 

Hamilton will be the wild card. An ultra-talented player out of Alabama, he dealt with a number of injuries in college. Redskins VP Doug Williams talked gushingly about Hamilton after the draft, and if the former 5-Star recruit can stay healthy, he could certainly push for a spot as well. 

Prior to 2017, the Redskins kept four inside linebackers on their final 53 roster. In 2017, the team kept five: Brown, Foster, Spaight, Will Compton and Harvey-Clemons. Compton left via free agency and is now playing in Nashville. 

Foster and Brown are roster locks, and it seems like Harvey-Clemons gets the third nod. 

Spaight, Vigil and Hamilton better be ready for serious competition in Richmond. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

#REDSKINSTALK PODCAST

Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.

Quick Links

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What does the future hold?

caps-faceoff-101.png
USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What does the future hold?

In this week's mailbag podcast, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir answer several questions about the Caps' prospects and Hershey.

How does the future look on the farm? Plus, they talk about potential weaknesses, their biggest surprises and more!

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

MORE CAPS NEWS: