ATLANTA — Nebraska’s new defensive coordinator Erik Chinander wasn’t familiar with Barrett Ruud when he first met him. Coach Scott Frost and offensive line coach Greg Austin knew Ruud from Nebraska, so the two recommended Ruud to Chinander at UCF.
It didn’t take long, though, for Chinander to see how special Ruud was.
“I didn’t really know Coach Ruud,” Chinander said. “Coach Frost obviously knew him from being at Nebraska and all those types of things. And Coach Austin had played with him in college, so they were very positive in recommending him to me and saying I need to take a look at this guy and that I probably need to get with him. It took me all of about a week to sit in meetings with him. He was out there drilling with me. We’re watching him do what he does, and I’m like, ‘This guy is going to be a phenomenal football coach.’ He didn’t know the scheme. There’s obviously things you don’t know when you haven’t coached. He knew the game really well, but he hadn’t coached.
“But in the last two years, he’s become a really, really good football coach. I think he’s going to become one of the great ones.”
Ruud, 34, served as quality control associate on Frost’s staff at UCF. At Nebraska, he will step into the role of linebackers coach. Considering he holds the Nebraska school record of 432 career tackles, he seems to be a good fit for the role.
However, it was never a guarantee that Ruud would be the right guy for Chinander’s staff.
“A lot of times, former players in the NFL don’t make the best [college football] coaches. He’s the exception to that rule. He’s an unbelievable coach. He’s very prepared. He might be one of the most prepared coaches I’ve ever been around. He spends a lot of time. He believes in the same thing I do, which is technique, technique, technique and rules for every situation. He’s going to be a really great football coach.”
Ruud was a second-round draft pick in 2005 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and had an eight-year career. From Chinander’s perspective, a lot of great former NFL players who become great football coaches tend to stay in the NFL.
The NFL is more focused around the X’s and O’s, placing players in the right positions and teaching the players what to do. In college football, there’s also recruiting and the development of the athletes from kids to young men. That tends to keep former NFL players from returning to college football.
It’s also about being humble, according to Chinander. For many former professional athletes, it’s difficult to return to the college ranks after making a lot of money in the NFL and then being asked to be an intern. That tends to keep those athletes as coaches in the league, but it’s also what makes someone such as Ruud so unique.
“It takes a special guy to jump from the top of the top when you’re a pro linebacker like Barrett was to be an intern or G.A. in college football and to make the copies and draw the playbook and break down the film,” Chinander said. “It takes a special guy to do it. He’s one of those guys.”