ATLANTA — Erik Chinander is in his last weekend of Peach Bowl preparation with UCF. Come Tuesday, he’ll tackle his next challenge as Nebraska’s new defensive coordinator. And his next challenge will begin in similar fashion to the one he took on with the Knights.
Nebraska finished the 2017 season at 4-8. When Chinander joined coach Scott Frost at UCF in 2016, the Knights were coming off an 0-12 season. However, Chinander didn’t see an 0-12 team in terms of talent. In fact, as the coaching staff got to work with UCF in 2016, they found a group of players that were more than talented.
The issues were centered elsewhere.
“The culture felt like an 0-12 team,” Chinander said. “The talent wasn’t an 0-12 team. It was two very different sides to the story. That’s in particular why I’m on the field. That first spring I went up in the box like I had been for 12 or 15 years or whatever, but there were a lot of arguments going on on the field and a lot of position stuff going on. The seniors came to me and said, ‘Coach, you need to be down there with us.’ That kind of told the story of why good players were losing a lot of football games. That wasn’t the solution to the problem, but it was just one of the symptoms.
“I think the culture that Scott Frost created was the ultimate in turning the football team around because the talent wasn’t the issue.”
Two years later, Frost and Chinander hope to bring what they have learned with UCF to Nebraska. And over the course of the Huskers’ 2017 season, many questioned the culture and work ethic. If that’s the issue, Chinander feels ready to tackle it once again.
It also doesn’t hurt that he and Frost are fully on the same page with their end goals for any team they coach. While winning is great, there’s more to it for Chinander than the record.
“One of the reasons I want to work for Coach Frost — whether I coach for him at UCF, Nebraska or the moon — is that we believe the same thing,” Chinander said. “We believe that if you have 105 guys in fall camp — and you might end up with 150 on the team in the end — but if you take 105 guys and make them into really good fathers, really good sons, really good brothers, really good husbands and really good people in the community, you don’t have to talk about winning and losing much because it takes care of itself.
“Taking 18-year-old kids and turning them into grown men is the key to success. As long as we’re doing this, we’ll have good defense, we’ll have good offense, we’ll have good X’s and O’s, you can say whatever you want about that but culture beats scheme 100 out of 100 times. That’s what we believe.”