Pelini will return to a job he held from 2005-07, when he served as Les Miles‘ first defensive coordinator in Baton Rouge and helped LSU win the 2007 national championship. From there, he became the head coach at Nebraska, where he went 66-27 in seven seasons. Though he never brought a Big 12 or Big Ten title to Lincoln, Pelini’s Huskers teams joined only Alabama and Oregon in winning at least nine games each year from 2008-14. After being pushed out following the 2014 campaign, Pelini has spent the past five seasons as the head coach at Youngstown State, where he is 33-28.
The volcanic Pelini represents a stark departure from the stoic Dave Aranda, who left earlier this month to become the head coach at Baylor.
According to Sports Illustrated‘s Ross Dellenger, Pelini will make around $2 million a year, which represents a massive raise from his salary as an FCS head coach but a major savings for LSU, who paid Aranda a best-in-the-nation salary of $2.5 million. (Update: CFT has learned Pelini’s salary is likely to be closer to Aranda’s deal than previously reported.)
Though he’s spent the past 30 seasons in coaching, Pelini does not have a ton of experience as a coordinator. Aside from the three seasons in his first stint at LSU, Pelini spent just one season as the defensive coordinator at Nebraska (2003) and one as a co-coordinator at Oklahoma (2004).
Nevertheless, he takes over a defense that’s fresh off a national championship that both loses and returns a ton of talent. The Tigers will look to replace all four starting linebackers plus defensive ends Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko, safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Kristian Fulton, but the 2020 defense will be led by perhaps college football’s best defender in sophomore corner Derek Stingley plus safeties JaCoby Stevens and Kary Vincent, Jr.