Bo Pelini, one of the most respected and innovative defensive minds in football, will coach his final game with the Tigers against Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game after being named the head coach at Nebraska on Dec. 2.
Pelini spent three years with the Tigers, establishing LSU as one of the nation’s top defenses during that time. In each of his three years with the Tigers, Pelini’s defenses ranked No. 3 in the nation in yards allowed. LSU also ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring in 2005 and No. 4 in 2006.
In three years with the Tigers, Pelini’s defenses have produced four NFL Draft picks along with six first-team All-America selections, which includes defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and safety Craig Steltz in 2007.
Featuring an aggressive style that puts his players in position to make plays, LSU’s defense ranked among the top 10 in the nation in three categories in 2007 – No. 3 in total defense (283.8 yards per game), No. 3 in pass efficiency defense (96.16 rating) and No. 9 in pass defense (180.8 yards per game). LSU also ranked among the top two in the SEC in five categories.
Last year, 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).
In 2006, the Tigers 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.
In addition, the 242.8 yards LSU allowed per game last year on defense was 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.
LSU’s 2006 defense also produced a pair of first-team All-Americans in free safety LaRon Landry and Dorsey. Landry went on to become the sixth overall pick by the Washington Redskins in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Pelini made an immediate impact in his first year at LSU, 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 2005 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.
Following the 2005 season, defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten were both selected as first-team All-Americans. Williams (fifth round Bills) and Wroten (third round Rams) were joined in the 2006 NFL Draft by defensive end Melvin Oliver, who was a sixth round pick by the 49ers.
In 2004, Pelini served as Oklahoma's co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, 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.
Prior to his stint with Oklahoma, 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 his alma mater, 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.
The Bo Pelini File
Year at LSU: Third
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)
Head Coaching Experience
2003 Nebraska 1-0 def. Michigan State, 17-3 in Alamo Bowl
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 a 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)
2003 Alamo Bowl (Nebraska def. Michigan State, 17-3 – interim head coach)
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)