Carl Pelini returns to Youngstown State to serve as the Penguins' Associate Head Coach alongside his brother, Head Coach Bo Pelini.
After being the Penguins' defensive coordinator from 2015-17, he spent one season as the Defensive Coordinator and Interim Head Coach at Bowling Green. He returns to YSU in 2019 to serve in a variety or roles and has the title of Assistant Head Coach.
Last year at Bowling Green, Pelini helped spur a change on defense before being elevated to interim Head Coach on October 15. The Falcons, who had won one of their previous seven games, picked up a pair of wins in their final five contests under Pelini. BGSU picked up wins at Central Michigan and at Akron in November. He remained on the BGSU staff following the season before returning to YSU in February 2019.
In the three years where Pelini served as YSU's Defensive Coordinator, the improvements made by the defense were key reasons for the Penguins' success. His tenure has been highlighted by an appearance in the 2017 National Championship Game and two NFL Draft picks in defensive ends Derek Rivers and Avery Moss. Overall, the unit has registered numbers that haven't been seen by the program in years.
YSU's 2017 defense allowed just 19.1 points per contest, the fewest by the program since 2007. YSU led the FCS allowing just 143.7 passing yards per game in the regular season, a 46.7 completion percentage and only eight touchdowns. It was the second time in three years the Penguins ranked No. 1 in the country in fewest passing yards allowed. YSU allowed a remarkable four pass plays of more than 37 yards for the entire season. Only twice did YSU allow more than 160 yards through the air and held the opposition to under 115 on five occasions. The Penguins surrendered just one touchdown pass in final five games of the year.
Under Pelini, linebacker Armand Dellovade was a second-team All-MVFC selection while Lee Wright earned honorable-mention all-league accolades.
The 2016 unit ranked 12th in scoring defense in the FCS in 2016 allowing just 19.9 points per game. In 16 games, YSU allowed more than 27 points on just three occasions and six times surrendered 14 or less. The Penguins finished the season 12-4 overall playing a school-record 16 games. YSU picked up four wins in the postseason to reach the FCS National Championship Game. Facing a daunting postseason slate, the Guins' opposition featured the SoCon Offensive Player of the Year, the OVC Offensive Player of the Year, the co-Big Sky Offensive Players of the Year and the CAA Offensive Player of the Year during their run.
YSU allowed 320.0 yards on average which ranked 14th on the FCS level. Nine times during the year the Penguins held opponents below 300 yards of total offense, including just 253 to James Madison in the title game.
As a unit the defense set the school record for most sacks in a season with 49. Leading the way was Rivers, a second-team All-American, who had 15 sacks while Moss finished with 11. Rivers, a three-time first-team All-MVFC performer was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. Moss, a first-team all-league honoree in 2016, was drafted in the first round by the New York Giants.
Among the linebackers, Dellovade led the way with 105 total tackles, including 70 solo stops. He had 11.5 TFLs, including three sacks. Jaylin Kelly finished with 60 tackles, 44 of which were solos and Jamar Pinnock had a strong campaign with 36 tackles, 26 solos. In the playoffs, Wright returned and made a huge impact with 29 tackles, including 21 solos, in just five games.
In his first season at YSU in 2015, the Guins showed staggering improvement on the defensive side of the ball from previous campaigns.
YSU allowed just 288.7 yards of total offense per game the lowest total by the program since 2002. The Penguin defense allowed just 116.7 yards passing per contest, the lowest total since 1976 (116.1). The 41.1 completion percentage by the opposition was the lowest by an opponent since 1980 (40.6). The 83 pass completions allowed were the fewest since 1976 (79). The 145 first downs allowed were the fewest since 1975 (129).
In the FCS, the Penguins finished first in fewest passing yards allowed, tied for first in fewest first downs allowed, were fifth in pass-efficiency defense, seventh in total defense and ninth in third-down conversion defense.
The defensive line was key reason for the success. Led by Rivers, the unit combined for 14 of YSU's 27 sacks. During the season, Rivers became the school's all-time sacks leader.
A 1989 Youngstown State graduate, Pelini has coached at the high-school and collegiate level during a coaching career that spans almost 25 years. He has coached in Ohio at Cardinal Mooney High School, Austintown Fitch High School and Ohio University. His collegiate stops as an assistant coach include Kansas State, Minnesota State, Ohio and Nebraska. He was the head coach at Florida Atlantic in 2012 and 2013.
At Florida Atlantic, Pelini made strides with the Owls, both on and off the field. The defense, special teams and offense showed vast improvement in his first season and the excitement about the program was growing with a new on-campus facility.
Pelini went to FAU after serving four seasons as Nebraska’s defensive coordinator. During his tenure in Lincoln, the Huskers defense consistently ranked among the nation’s best. In combined totals from 2009-11, Nebraska ranked second nationally in pass efficiency defense, fifth in passing yards allowed per game, seventh in scoring defense and No. 10 in total defense. Pelini’s role in the Huskers’ defensive dominance was recognized, as he was a top-five finisher in the voting for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach Award in both 2009 and 2010.
During his last two years as defensive coordinator at Nebraska, Pelini’s defense produced six All-Americans, two first-round NFL Draft picks and two conference defensive players of the year. In four seasons as Nebraska’s defensive coordinator, four defensive players earned two-time first team all-conference honors - defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh (2008-09) and Jared Crick (2009-10); cornerback Prince Amukamara (2009-10); and linebacker Lavonte David (2010-11). Nebraska also had five first-team all-conference defensive backs in the past three seasons.
Pelini joined the Nebraska staff after three seasons on Frank Solich’s coaching staff at Ohio. He played a vital role in helping the Bobcats turn around their football program, including a nine-win season and bowl game in 2006. Those marks were firsts for the university since the 1968 campaign. The OU defense continued the turnaround the following season, ranking in the top 30 nationally in scoring and total defense in 2007.
Pelini spent 2004 as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Minnesota State Mankato for head coach Jeff Jamrog. Pelini helped the Mavericks to a 6-5 record after a winless season the previous year. Prior to this, Pelini spent the 2003 season as Nebraska’s defensive graduate assistant, where he worked with the defensive line and helped Nebraska to rank No. 2 nationally in scoring defense and takeaways and 11th in total defense.
As the head coach at Austintown Fitch High School from 2000 to 2002, Pelini rebuilt a program that had not had a winning season for eight years before his arrival. His coaching efforts culminated with a 6-4 record in 2002.
Pelini previously was the head coach and athletic director at Winnetonka High School in Kansas City, Mo., from 1996 to 2000, and also served as the defensive coordinator at Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, Kan.
Pelini played two seasons at Columbia University in New York, before transferring to Youngstown State where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English Literature in 1989.
He was a defensive graduate assistant on Bill Snyder’s staff at Kansas State University throughout the 1989 and 1990 seasons, and then served as a restricted earnings coach in 1991. He also received a master’s degree in journalism from KSU in 1991 and a master’s degree in education from Ohio State University in 1993.