As now former UCLA head coach Chip Kelly makes the move to Big 10 Rival Ohio State and takes a demotion to become their next offensive coordinator, Huskers Defensive Coordinator Tony White is once again being courted for a Head Coaching Job. Tony White is a UCLA graduate and one of the hottest names in college football coaching. White, a multi-year starter for the Bruins at linebacker in the late 90s and early 2000s is currently leading the Huskers on defense in an effort to make the Blackshirts feared once again. In 2023 White’s defense performed outstandingly. Finishing ranked 11th in total defense, 9th in rushing defense (best since 1999) and 12th in passing defense only allowing 18.3 points per game the Blackshirts were in great form in 2023. A defense Nebraska looks to build off of in 2024. But will this squad still have its coordinator?
If this was any other school I would say that White would stay put where he is. He has already proven his loyalty to head coach Matt Rhule by turning down job opportunities this year and signing a restructured contract, making him the highest paid assistant coach in Nebraska football history. With 2 years left on that deal Husker faithful are hoping he fulfills the entirety of the contract. But, his Alma Mater could come calling. Tony White knows Westwood well. Not only playing for UCLA, but also coaching for local Las Angeles based Genevieve High School. After coaching in the highschool ranks White returned to UCLA as a graduate assistant for football operations. His next job continued his connections with UCLA as he joined the New Mexico coaching staff in 2008 where he served as linebackers coach under his former UCLA defensive coordinator Rocky Long.
Serving under Rhule at Temple as the defensive line coach White developed a relationship with Huskers HC Matt Rhule. When Rhule took the Nebraska job he chose to go with White and his unique 3-3-5. Aligning perfectly with Matt Rhule’s philosophy of positionless players. White’s aggressive play calling and constant player rotation lead to a fast defense that is hard for opposing coaches to pinpoint. Rhule does seem to give Tony White plenty of freedom as a defensive coordinator and let’s hope that’s something he values enough to keep him here for another couple years.
White has the talent and undoubtedly UCLA will be at least doubling his salary but the question remains, will he leave Nebraska for seemingly a perfect fit or does he have unfinished business with the Huskers. Selfishly I want White to stay, while at the same time I am proud of what he accomplished as a Cornhusker and would support his move. That being said, I do believe that Rhule is a fantastic leader of men, and no matter if he has to replace White or gets to keep him we will be just fine on defense in 2024.