Bo Pelini, who helped LSU to the 2007 BCS National Championship, returns to the Tiger coaching staff in 2020 and will serve as the defensive coordinator. Pelini brings back a high-energy, attacking defense that will feature a 4-3 scheme. It’s the same defense that he used during his first stint at LSU that helped produce some of the top units in school history from 2005-07.
Pelini rejoins the LSU staff after serving as the head coach at Youngstown State for the past five seasons where he guided the Penguins to a 33-28 overall mark and an appearance in the FCS National Championship Game in 2016. Pelini has a head coaching record of 100-55, which includes seven years as head coach at Nebraska.
In his three years as defensive coordinator with the Tigers from 2005-07, LSU went a combined 34-6, claimed the 2007 national title and beat Notre Dame to win the Sugar Bowl during the 2006 season. LSU also appeared in the SEC Championship Game twice, winning the league title in 2007.
In his first stint as defensive coordinator with the Tigers, LSU’s defense ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense all three years. LSU finished No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference in total defense in both 2006 and 2007 and ranked No. 2 in the league in 2005.
With Pelini as defensive coordinator, LSU led the SEC in scoring defense twice in 2006 and 2007. LSU allowed only 12.6 points per game in 2006, which ranked No. 4 nationally, while the 14.2 points per game the Tigers gave up in 2005 rated No. 2 in the league and No. 3 in the nation.
Under Pelini, LSU averaged 38 sacks a season over that three-year span and the Tiger defense was credited with a combined 71 turnovers, which included 36 in 2007, a figure that led the SEC and ranked No. 3 nationally.
In Pelini’s three years with the Tigers, LSU had defensive players earn seven first team All-America honors and had eight defenders selected in the NFL Draft, which included first round picks in Glenn Dorsey and LaRon Landry. Dorsey also became the most decorated defensive player in LSU history claiming four national awards – Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Lott.
During LSU’s national championship season in 2007, the Tigers forced 36 turnovers and ranked No. 3 in the nation in total defense, allowing only 288.8 yards per game. LSU also ranked in the top 20 nationally in pass efficiency defense (3rd), passing yards allowed per game (9th), rush defense (14th) and scoring defense (17th) on its way to a 12-2 mark capped with a win over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.
In 2006, LSU’s defense thrived in its second year under Pelini, leading the SEC in six categories and ranking among the top five in the nation in total defense (No. 3 at 242.8 yards per game), scoring defense (No. 4 at 12.6 points per game), pass defense (No. 3 at 145.7 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (No. 3 with a 92.2 rating). The 2006 Tigers had had streaks of 16 and 10 quarters without allowing a touchdown and they also limited opponents to only 27 first quarter points and just 87 first half points the entire season.
Furthermore, the 242.8 yards LSU allowed per game in 2006 were the fewest surrendered by a Tiger team since the 1976 squad allowed 233.1 yards per game. Also, the LSU secondary gave up only 145.7 yards passing a contest a year ago, the fewest since the 1990 Tigers allowed 126.8 yards per game.
Pelini made an immediate impact in his first year at LSU in 2005, taking over a Tiger defense that ranked among the best in the nation the two previous years and making them even better. With an attacking style, Pelini’s 2005 defense ranked among the top 10 in the nation in four categories, including No. 3 nationally in total defense (266.8 yards per game), scoring defense (14.2 points per game) and pass defense efficiency (96.3 rating). LSU also ranked No. 6 in the nation in total defense (91.5 yards per game).
Pelini’s defense allowed seven points or less six times, including holding Miami to only three points in the Peach Bowl. The Tiger defense also held opponents out of the endzone in the first quarter 11 times in 13 games in 2005. LSU’s most dominating defensive performance came in the season finale against Miami as the Tigers limited the Hurricanes to 153 yards of offense and only six first downs in the 40-3 victory. In the second half, the Hurricanes mustered only three yards of offense as they were held without a first down for the final two quarters.
Pelini served as the head coach at Youngstown State from 2015-19 with his best season coming in 2016 when the Penguins posted a 12-4 mark and reached the FCS National Championship Game. It was Youngstown State’s first appearance in the FCS title game since 1999.
One of the most respected and innovative defensive minds in the game, Pelini spent seven years at head coach at Nebraska from 2008-2014 where he led the Cornhuskers to a mark of 66-27. Pelini’s Nebraska teams won at least nine games all seven years he was in Lincoln, which included three 10-win seasons from 2009-11. Pelini also became only the fifth coach in FBS history at the Power Five level to win nine games in each of his first seven seasons as a head coach. Others in the elite group include Tom Osborne (Nebraska), Barry Switzer (Oklahoma), Earle Bruce (Ohio State), and Steve Spurrier (Florida).
Pelini guided Nebraska to appearances in the Big 12 Championship Game in 2009 and 2010 and then followed that with a Big Ten Legends Division Crown in 2012 and the school’s lone appearance in the Big Ten title game. Nebraska appeared in a bowl game in all seven of Pelini’s seasons with the school. Pelini’s Nebraska teams also produced 22 NFL Draft picks during his seven years with the Cornhuskers.
Under his guidance, Nebraska was one of three schools to win at least nine games during a 7-year span from 2008-14, joining only Alabama and Oregon. In his seven full years on the Husker sidelines, Pelini won 66 games, which was one more than legendary Nebraska coach Tom Osborne did in his first seven campaigns at NU. Pelini remains the third-winningest coach in Nebraska history, trailing on Osborne and Bob Devaney. Since his departure in 2014, the Huskers have only had one winning season that coming in 2016.
One of his most high-profile players was defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who finished his career as one of the most decorated defensive players in college football history. The first defensive lineman to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 15 seasons, Suh finished fourth in the voting in 2009. He was also the first defensive player to be named the Associated Press Player of the Year, and he was a unanimous All-American. Suh’s hardware included the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik awards.
Not to be overshadowed with the on-field success were the academic accolades that were a key part of his Nebraska programs. In seven years, NU had 11 Academic All-America honorees (five first teamers), 20 CoSIDA Academic All-District selections and an impressive 145 student-athletes who earned academic all-conference honors.
Prior to arriving at LSU for the first time in 2005, Pelini served as Oklahoma’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2004, helping the Sooners to the national championship game against USC. In his only season in Norman, Oklahoma ranked sixth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 94 yards per game. The Sooners were 11th nationally in scoring, limiting opponents to just 16 points per contest.
Pelini spent the 2003 season as the defensive coordinator for 10-3 Nebraska. In Lincoln, Pelini led a Cornhusker defense that tied the school record with 47 turnovers. In addition, Nebraska was No. 2 in the nation in takeaways and led the nation in turnover margin at +1.77 per game. Pelini’s defense also led the nation in pass efficiency defense (88.66 rating), ranked No. 2 in scoring defense (14.5 points per game), No. 11 in passing yards per game (177.8 yards per game), and No. 11 in total defense (297.2 yards per game).
At the conclusion of the 2003 regular season, Pelini was promoted to interim head coach at Nebraska where he guided the Cornhuskers to a 17-3 win over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl. Pelini’s defense held the Spartans to only 174 total yards, nearly 210 yards below their season average, while also sacking MSU quarterback Jeff Smoker five times and intercepting three passes.
Pelini’s coaching background includes nine years in the NFL coaching for the San Francisco 49ers, the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers. Pelini broke into the NFL in 1994 as assistant secondary coach for head coach George Seifert and the 49ers. Originally hired as a scouting assistant, Pelini was quickly promoted to defensive backs coach in the spring of 1994. Less than a year after his promotion to defensive backs coach, Pelini was coaching in the Super Bowl, helping the 49ers to a 49-26 win over San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX. Pelini held that position for three years before moving to the Patriots for the 1997 season.
As a member of the Patriots staff, Pelini coached the linebackers under head coach Pete Carroll. Pelini helped the Patriots go 27-21 over a three-year period with the club making the playoffs twice. Pelini’s efforts were highlighted with a Pro Bowl appearance by Chris Slade in 1997, the first Patriot linebacker to be named All-Pro since 1989.
After three years with the Patriots, Pelini moved to the Packers, coaching linebackers for three seasons. In three years in Green Bay with head coach Mike Sherman, the Packers posted a 33-15 record and advanced twice. In 2002, the Packer defense ranked fourth in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 188.4 yards per game.
Pelini got his start in coaching in 1991, serving as a graduate assistant coach at Iowa. From there he moved into the high school ranks, serving as quarterbacks coach at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio in 1993 before taking the leap to the 49ers.
As a player, Pelini was a standout free safety at Ohio State, earning four letters from 1987-90. He helped the Buckeyes to a 15-8 record over his final two seasons. He was a three-time selection to the Academic All-Big Ten team as well as serving as team captain for the Buckeyes as a senior in 1990. He played in two bowl games during his collegiate career, appearing in the Hall of Fame Bowl in January of 1990 and the Liberty Bowl in December of 1990.
Pelini is a 1990 graduate of Ohio State. He and his wife, Mary Pat, have one son, Patrick, and two daughters, Kate, and Caralyn. Patrick is a member of the Notre Dame football team.
The Bo Pelini File
Year at LSU: Fourth
Birthdate: December 13, 1967 in Youngstown, Ohio
Wife: Mary Pat
Children: Patrick, Kate, and Caralyn
High School: Cardinal Mooney, ’86
College: Ohio State, ’90
1987-90 Ohio State (free safety)
1991 Iowa (graduate assistant)
1993 Cardinal Mooney High School (quarterbacks)
1994-96 San Francisco 49ers (defensive backs)
1997-99 New England Patriots (linebackers)
2000-02 Green Bay Packers (linebackers)
2003 Nebraska (defensive coordinator, interim head coach for Alamo Bowl)
2004 Oklahoma (co-defensive coordinator, defensive backs)
2005-07 LSU (defensive coordinator)
2008-14 Nebraska (head coach)
2015-19 Youngstown State (head coach)
2020 LSU (defensive coordinator)
Bowl and Playoff Experience
As a player
1990 Hall of Fame Bowl (lost to Auburn, 31-14)
1990 Liberty Bowl (lost to Air Force, 23-11)
As Assistant Coach
1991 Holiday Bowl (Iowa tied BYU, 13-13)
1995 AFC Divisional Playoffs (49ers def. Bears, 44-15
1995 AFC Conference Finals (49ers def. Cowboys, 38-28)
1995 Super Bowl XXIX (49ers def. Chargers, 49-26)
1996 AFC Divisional Playoffs (49ers lost to Packers, 27-17)
1997 AFC Wild Card Game (49ers def. Eagles, 14-0)
1997 AFC Divisional Playoffs (49ers lost to Packers, 35-14)
1998 AFC Divisional Playoffs (Patriots lost to Steelers, 7-6)
1999 AFC Wild Card Game (Patriots lost to Jaguars, 25-10)
2002 NFC Wild Card Game (Packers def. 49ers, 25-15)
2002 NFC Divisional Playoffs (Packers lost to Rams, 45-17)
2003 NFC Divisional Playoffs (Packers lost to Falcons, 27-7)
2004 Orange Bowl (Oklahoma lost to USC, 55-19)
2005 Peach Bowl (LSU def. Miami, 40-3)
2007 Sugar Bowl (LSU def. Notre Dame, 41-14)
2008 BCS National Championship Game (LSU def. Ohio State, 38-24)