Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Tom Keegan: Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe shares blueprint for flipping losing program

Nicholls head coach Tim Rebowe looks on in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 26-24. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)

Nicholls head coach Tim Rebowe looks on in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 26-24. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)


Both Nicholls State from the FCS and Kansas had fallen on hard times and decided to make coaching changes shortly after the end of their 2014 seasons. Both schools hired position coaches who had worked at the school earlier in their careers and had built reputations as hotshot recruiters. Both men last had been head coaches in high school.

Nicholls — which is listed by the school as the preferred reference, rather than Nicholls State — hired Tim Rebowe, and, of course, Kansas hired David Beaty.

Rebowe inherited not only a team that had gone 0-12 the previous season, but one that was in the midst of an 18-game losing streak.

Rebowe’s records in three seasons at the school in Thibodaux, La.: 3-8, 5-6, 8-4 for a total of 16-18. Two of the losses came to Georgia, 26-24 in 2016, and Texas A&M;, 24-14, in 2017.

You already know KU’s record in the past three seasons, so no point in repeating it, especially since doing so might trigger Recurring Nightmare No. 333.

Rather than rehash what has gone wrong at Kansas, I thought I would get ahold of Rebowe to find out what has gone right at Nicholls.

For one thing, Rebowe said by phone from his office, his young coaching staff “does an outstanding job of evaluating talent. We find the ones who might be 2 inches too short, might be a step slow, but can play football. Our guys do a good job of finding good football players. Sometimes, with all these evaluations, height, weight, time, something that’s overlooked is, ‘Can he play football?’”

Rebowe said he and his assistants trust their evaluation skills not just on unsung players.

“Some guys who are bigger recruits, sometimes I say, ‘Man, I don’t see that.’ So we don’t recruit him,” Rebowe said.

That’s not why he didn’t recruit Kansas freshman running back Pooka Williams.

Rebowe said he has known Williams “for a long time. He’s from St. Charles Parish. But the key to our recruiting, we have to know who we can get. We have to know we have a legitimate shot at getting a recruit. Otherwise, we’ll be chasing ghosts.”

The staff did recruit Ryan Malbrough, another KU freshman running back from Louisiana, “for a little while,” Rebowe said.

Most of Nicholls’ 63 scholarships, which can be spread out to a limit of 85 players per FCS rules, go to high school players within a two-hour radius of Thibodaux.

The roster lists 115 players and 106 are from Louisiana, six from Mississippi, two from California and one from Texas.

“People will sometimes ask me why I don’t go into Houston to recruit,” Rebowe said. “I’m like, ‘Do you know how many programs go into Houston to recruit?’ If you’re getting the fifth-best guy (from a high school), I think I can find a better one closer.”

Rebowe, 52, does limited recruiting at junior colleges and takes “bounce-back” recruits, players dropping down from the FBS level, but not as many as several other FCS programs.

This year’s team includes former Texas A&M; running back Kendall Bussey, listed with Kyran Irvin on the depth chart as a backup to Dontrell Taylor.

Will we see Bussey on the field at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Saturday?

“If he’s on the flight you’ll see him on the field,” Rebowe said.

Second-team left guard Alex Anderson is a transfer from Texas.

“We have a lot of good offensive linemen,” Rebowe said. “He’s been working with the ones and the twos.”

Nicholls has eight returning starters on offense, including four offensive linemen, its two leading rushers, its leading receiver, its dual-threat quarterback and eight starters on defense. The Colonels are ranked No. 17 in the FCS Coaches poll.

“Not just teams that I’ve coached, but teams I’ve coached against, I’ve found, having the starting quarterback back is big,” Rebowe said of sophomore Chase Fourcade. “Not just for us, but for Kansas, too (Peyton Bender).”

Rebowe’s Colonels lost their first five games in 2015 as the losing streak swelled to 23. He had them in the 24-team FCS playoffs by his third season, which ended with a 38-31 loss to South Dakota in the first round of the playoffs.

“For things to fall into place the way they did last year, you have to get so many breaks,” Rebowe said. “The ball has to bounce right. We had eight wins, but so many of those were close games that went down to the wire.”

The experience of winning contests decided late should help the Colonels in the fourth quarter this season.

“I hope so, but I tell the guys, every team is different,” he said. “Every year is different. You’ve got to be careful, still have to build that foundation. Yes, you want to have experience and confidence, but we have to make sure they stay grounded, levelheaded and not cocky and arrogant and think we’ve arrived, because we haven’t arrived. We have not done anything yet.”


Rebowe shared his general impressions of the Jayhawks: “I think they’re pretty athletic. They have a lot of production back at the skilled positions, at quarterback, running back (Khalil Herbert), a big-time receiver (Steve Sims). They spread the ball around and play at a fast tempo.”

Kansas has far better access to athletes because players enjoy playing against the highest level of competition and find more prestige in the three-letter combination of FBS than FCS.

We’ll find out Saturday, in what shapes up as a potentially exciting season opener, which squad has better football players.


Humpy Helsel 3 years, 8 months ago

Hard to understand why respectability is so hard for Kansas on the football field. Why can a Nicholls State do it and we can't seem to get it? Not talking about the top of the Big 12. Just respectability. I think the chances of losing Saturday are high given what I just read in this article. The word in the FCS is whatever you do, "try to schedule Kansas. Great payday and wonderful flight home."

Andy Godwin 3 years, 8 months ago

Clearly KU has underperformed under Beaty; however, playing in the Southland conference is a step down from trying to beat, week in and week out, Big XII opponents. I have no idea how well KU would compete if a member of the Southland conference, but they will have their chance against likely the best team in their league.

Edward Daub 3 years, 8 months ago

Tim Rebowe is being Very Modest! Louisiana Sports Writers Association recently named Him Louisiana Coach of the Year for 2017.

Rebowe seems to be Echoing the Old John Madden Question , "Is He a Football Player"?

My Ouija Board predicts the Colonels will be Competitive on Saturday! Rock Chalk!

Andy Godwin 3 years, 8 months ago

Clearly KU has underperformed under Beaty; however, playing in the Southland conference is a step down from trying to beat, week in and week out, Big XII opponents. I have no idea how well this KU team would compete if a member of the Southland conference, but they will have their chance against likely the best team in their league. Obviously a must win for KU on Saturday.

Joe Black 3 years, 8 months ago

Apples to Oranges!

No comparison to reviving a FCS team vs a Division 1 school. Huge difference in the Southland Conference and Big 12.

Bryson Stricker 3 years, 8 months ago

reviving a G5 team is still different than a P5 team lol

[''] 3 years, 8 months ago

Bill Snyder, Matt Campbell, Gary Patterson, Art Briles all say hi...

Benny Armstrong 3 years, 8 months ago

I think really only Matt Campbell is applicable to our situation...

Snyder's initial reboot at K-State was during a time when there wasn't anywhere near the money or attention invested in football, especially at a place like K-State that was debating cutting the program and considered a strong basketball school. He was afforded the time to build a program the way he wanted to and was extremely successful. If he walked into that same situation now, there would be calls like at KU to fire him after a few rough seasons because the stakes are so much greater with tv revenue and realignment dominating the thoughts of athletic departments.

Patterson took over at TCU when they were in the WAC, moved to CUSA, and then onto the Mountain West before joining the Big 12. That grants you the ability to again build a program against weaker conference opponents typically and build a system that makes you successful.

Briles built Baylor up, but should we really aspire to emulate a program like them? Yes they won, and won a lot, but at what cost to the university. There was a lot of pearl clutching when we were linked to the adidas mess, I can't imagine the outrage if something like the sexual assault cover-up was discovered here.

Back to Campbell... he took a middle of the road program and worked hard to build a team, but make no mistake inherited a veteran bunch that plays smart and tough. If our best case scenario occurred this year, it would look like ISU last year with an experienced team that won games they previously hadn't by being smarter and tougher than the other team. If they can sustain it without the seniors they had last year, then we'll know if Campbell can coach or was merely in the right spot at the right time. My hope is that our upperclassmen, both those who have toughed it out the last several years and those who have transferred in can get over the hump and experience some success this year for us to build on and continue in the following year. Either way, I look forward to being in the stands on Saturday. RCJH!

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 8 months ago

We don't know if Campbell actually has made ISU better yet or not or if last year was a one hit wonder season for ISU. His track suggests he should keep ISU good again this year, but it's not a guarantee so I wouldn't even use Campbell yet.

The best analogy to me is David Cutcliffe at Duke.

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 8 months ago

Boise St. has been good since before they moved to the FBS level and UCF's 0-12 season was an anomaly, not a trend like KU.

3 years, 8 months ago

nice! it Can be done. ugh. #rcjh !

Barry Weiss 3 years, 8 months ago

wow, I like his recruiting thoughts, they do appear quite different from ours.

David Robinett 3 years, 8 months ago

Did anybody else do a double-take when they saw a big red 'N' on the schedule?

I'm going to pretend we are beating Nebraska Saturday. (the year we creamed them, not the other 50 years of 55-6 average scores).

[''] 3 years, 8 months ago

You are pre-supposing KU will be winning...which ain't a lock by any stretch....

Marcia Parsons 3 years, 8 months ago

Are you saying you'd be surprised if KU wins? Or disappointed?

[''] 3 years, 8 months ago

I would be amazed and elated if KU wins. Don't see it happening....not with these coaches.

Joe Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

If DE Darrius doesn't pan out this year, we might nickname him Lemon Moragne.

Tom Keegan 3 years, 8 months ago

Nice. Hopefully, he'll succeed and we'll call him Anything But Lemon Moragne.

Lawrence McGlinn 3 years, 8 months ago

The excuses about KU's more challenging Big 12 schedule just don't cut it for me. We may not have the facilities of the top of the Big 12, but we have way more than a place like Nicholls, and there is the opportunity to play big-time competition. At the moment we are not even competitive for the better players in the KC-Kansas area. Could we have lost by only 10 to Georgia at any time in the last 3 years? I think we lose a close one on Saturday.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.