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What are college football 'analysts' and what are they allowed to do?

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Jonathan Rutledge

Former special teams analyst Jonathan Rutledge celebrates with Cam Taylor-Britt after a punt return against Penn State. Analysts are limited in how much hands-on coaching they can do, but offering "words of encouragement" on the sideline is allowed.

The title is nebulous and wide ranging. The people who fill the roles rarely speak publicly.

Analysts — on offense, defense and in general — dot support staffs of college football programs around the country. But what are they?

The NCAA rulebook doesn’t give a firm definition. Analysts fall under a category beyond the “countable” 10 assistants each program is allotted. They’re lumped in with other sport-related “noncoaching staff members” like directors of operations, administrative assistants, quality control personnel and video coordinators.

The NCAA is investigating Nebraska in part for improper use of special teams analyst Jonathan Rutledge, who was let go in January.

During practices and games, analysts by rule may observe the proceedings and interact with coaches. What they can’t do at those times is engage in any “coaching activities” with players. That includes skill instruction, strategy planning and participating in drills.

Analysts may be in game huddles as long as no coaching occurs. They are allowed to offer “words of encouragement” in such a setting.

Ted Monachino — a former defensive analyst at Missouri who is now the Atlanta Falcons’ linebackers coach — told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2018 his role during workouts was to assist, support and simplify whenever possible.

“I can’t give any instruction to a player on the field,” Monachino said then. “Now I can stand back and point out big things effortwise, but I can’t really coach on the field. Now in the building, when I walk by guys I can talk football with them. They can come watch tape. They can do a lot of things.

“But out there on the grass I can’t (coach). The majority of my time has been in film study. It’s been a great lab for me.”

The analyst position barely existed in college football a decade ago, but has become an edge for big-budget programs.

There is no limit to how many a team can have — Alabama, for example, lists 11. Nebraska carries seven. Much of their responsibility often focuses on creating detailed game plans that traditional coaches don’t have time to do.

Nebraska offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said Wednesday that the Huskers’ analysts have a range of jobs including scouting opponents, keeping the team organized and providing ideas — especially in the offseason. Traditional staff give them projects to research and study.

“You can’t have enough wisdom in the room,” Lubick said. “We’re lucky here where we’ve got some experienced analysts that bring a lot of credibility, a lot of knowledge, a lot of expertise. We need all the help we can get like everybody else does, and it made us better.”

Analyst backgrounds can vary greatly.

Nebraska employed Bill McGovern in 2020 as a defensive analyst after the coach was not retained by the New York Giants as an assistant. The Chicago Bears hired him as their linebackers coach in January.

Perhaps the most notable example of a coach “rehabbing” as an analyst is Michael Locksley, who was Maryland’s interim head coach in 2015 before joining Alabama in a behind-the-scenes role in 2016. He was the Tide’s offensive coordinator two years later before returning to Maryland as coach in 2019.

Nebraska has four offensive analysts in Ron Brown, Frank Verducci, Mike Cassano and Keanon Lowe, and two defensive analysts in Bill Busch and Bobby Maffei. Each has some on-field coaching experience, with Busch the most notable offseason hire as a special-teams mind following three seasons at LSU.

The team also carries recruiting analyst Dan Dillon, who is the son of Nebraska’s director of player personnel, Sean Dillon.

NU defensive back Isaac Gifford said Monday that Busch has made an impact on the team’s retooled special teams, which is coordinated by outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson.

“He’s made a big impact, too,” Gifford said of Busch. “He’s behind the scenes with Dawson, but he’s giving you advice, showing you what to do, he’s studying that film and bringing everything to the table.”


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