Brian Polian’s task of assembling his first coaching staff as Nevada Wolf Pack head football coach is almost complete.
The rookie head coach announced Friday that new assistants Jim Hofher, Scottie Hazelton, Jeff Genyk, Ron Hudson and Bill Teerlinck will join holdovers Nick Rolovich, Mike Bradeson and James Spady from Chris Ault’s staff. The only open spot remaining on the staff is cornerbacks coach, which Polian said will be filled after the National Letter of Intent Signing Day on Feb. 6.
“We’ve assembled a staff of really special men, family men, great teachers, great recruiters,” Polian said at Legacy Hall. “They have a great mix of backgrounds and experience. I cannot express how much interest these jobs drew from great coaches all around the country. Putting a staff together was difficult but it was an enjoyable process.”
Polian’s staff, he said, reflects his own personality and values as a coach.
“It was important for me to find guys who mirror my make-up,” Polian said. “I wanted high-energy, passionate, vocal guys. And we’ve achieved that.”
Polian assembled his staff (minus a cornerbacks coach) in just two weeks. He was announced as the Pack head coach on Jan. 11.
“It was very important to me that I had a history with some of these guys,” Polian said. “I want to go to battle with guys I know I can trust. Chemistry among a staff is very important. It goes a long way. And I think we have that.”
The 55-year-old Hofher, who will be the Pack’s assistant head coach and wide receivers coach, has the longest history with Polian of all the Pack assistants. Hofher was the head coach at the University of Buffalo who gave Polian his first full-time coaching position in 2001. Polian was Hofher’s special teams coordinator and running backs coach for three seasons (2001-03).
“I always knew that if I ever had a chance to put together my own staff that I wanted to bring him on with me,” Polian said. “He’ll will be a great resource for me. He’ll help me avoid some landmines.”
Hofher has coached the past four seasons as offensive coordinator at Delaware. He’s also coached at Bowling Green (2008), Syracuse (1987-88, 2000), Cornell (1990-97), Wake Forest (1983-86) and Miami of Ohio (1981-82). He was 8-49 in five seasons as Buffalo’s head coach and 45-35 in eight seasons as Cornell’s head coach.
“When it became more of a reality the last few years that Brian could become a head coach, we started talking about my joining him,” Hofher said. “It won’t be awkward at all for me to work for him after he worked for me. The way I looked at it when I was the head coach at Buffalo, all of our coaches worked together. This will be the same. I don’t look at it any differently. I respect his position and his title. But we’ll all just be working together.”
The 39-year-old Hazelton will become the Pack’s third defensive coordinator in the last three years after Andy Buh (2010-11) and Bradeson (2012). Hazelton comes to the Wolf Pack from USC where he served as the Trojans linebackers coach in 2012. He also coached at Fort Lewis College, North Dakota State, St. Olaf College, Missouri Southern State, Michigan Tech and North Dakota State from 1996-2011 before heading to USC.
“We didn’t know each other before we started this process,” Polian said. “But (long-time NFL defensive coordinator) Monte Kiffin called me and said ‘Hey, Brian. I got a guy you have to take a look at.’”
Kiffin, now the defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys, coached with Hazelton last year at USC.
“We talked about Scottie at length,” Polian said. “We are real blessed to have Scottie join us. He’s coached at the highest level. He’s recruited at the highest level.”
Hazelton was the defensive coordinator when North Dakota State won the FCS (Division I-AA) national title in 2011.
“The first time I was in Reno was last summer when Chris (Ault) was coach,” Hazelton said. “I was at USC and we wanted to take a good look at the pistol offense in case we might have to face it during the season. I loved Reno when I came here. I’m from Denver so I know there’s not many places where you can go skiing in the winter and go play golf in the spring and summer.”
Polian brought Hazelton to the Pack because of his philosophy, more than his base 4-3 scheme.
“It was a chemistry fit,” Polian said. “I didn’t have to marry with a certain system. It was about finding the right person, someone who believes in the same core principles as I do. And after talking with Scottie, I knew in the first hour that he was our guy.”
Teerlinck, who did not coach in 2012, will coach the Wolf Pack defensive line. He assisted his father, legendary defensive line coach John Teerlinck, with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts from 2007-11. Both Teerlincks, though, were fired after the Colts’ 2-14 season in 2011. Polian’s father, Bill Polian, was the president of the Colts from 1998 until he was also fired after the 2011 season.
“When I called my dad and asked him about Billy, he just said, ‘Hire him,’” Polian said. “I got to watch Bill Teerlinck coach a lot in person because of my dad. I always loved his energy and his passion. Billy is also a guy I always knew that if I had a chance to hire a staff, he was a guy I wanted.”
Teerlinck was also a graduate assistant coach at Indiana for two years (2003-04) and was a full-time assistant with Illinois State in 2005 and 2006.
Hudson, who comes to Nevada after one season (2012) at Massachusetts, will coach the Wolf Pack offensive line. A veteran of 24 seasons of college coaching, this will be Hudson’s fourth job in four years. He also recently coached at New Mexico (2011) and Louisiana-Lafayette (2005-10).
Hudson comes to Nevada on the recommendation of Rolovich, the Pack’s offensive coordinator. Rolovich was at UMass with Hudson for a month in January 2012 before Rolovich took the Nevada job.
“Nick and Ron have some history together,” Polian said. “I was so impressed with Ron during his interview that I didn’t want him to leave campus without agreeing to join us. His energy is contagious. He has a big outgoing personality as most offensive line coaches do.”
Genyk will coach the Pack’s special teams and running backs. He is also a former head coach, having coached Eastern Michigan from 2004-08 with a record of 16-42. Genyk spent the past three years as the special teams coach at California under head coach Jeff Tedford. He also coached various positions (running backs, defensive backs, special teams) while at Northwestern from 1994-2003.
“I competed against Jeff when I was at Stanford (in 2010 and 2011) and he was at Cal and his (special teams) were always well prepared and played hard,” Polian said. “I have the utmost respect for him as a coach.”
Spady, Bradeson and Rolovich will coach the same positions they did a year ago. Spady will coach tight ends, Bradeson will coach safeties and Rolovich will handle the offense and coach the quarterbacks.
Ken Wilson and Andy Vaughn will also remain with the program.
Wilson was a defensive assistant at Nevada from 1989-1998 and again from 2004 through last year. Wilson, starting Feb. 8, will become the Director of Football Operations and has also added the title of assistant athletic director. Until Feb. 8, though, he is considered an on-field coach and is currently recruiting for the Pack.
Vaughn, who joined the Nevada staff last year as the Director of Player Personnel, will continue in that role for Polian.
“His work throughout this transition has been outstanding,” Polian said. “He has been the motor that has kept the recruiting engine running.”
Gone from last year’s staff are Scott Baumgartner (wide receivers), Darren Hiller (offensive line), Larry Lewis (special teams, running backs), Barry Sacks (defensive line), James Ward (cornerbacks), and Dave Brown (Director of Operations).
Baumgartner spent the past nine seasons at Nevada. Hiller and Lewis were with the Pack for just the 2012 season. Sacks left the Pack in December after 11 seasons to accept a job as California’s defensive line coach. Ward was with the Pack for five years and Brown for two.
“I am every excited about the guys we’ve had a chance to put together here,” Polian said.