John Papuchis (pronounced puh-POO-chis) joined the Carolina defensive staff in 2015 as the linebackers coach and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017.
Papuchis had an immediate impact in his first season in Chapel Hill as the Tar Heels had the nation’s most improved Power 5 defense, averaging 14.5 points fewer than the previous year. UNC also had the most improved pass defense in the country in 2015 in both efficiency and yards per pass attempt, and was the fifth-most improved team in passing yards per game.
Carolina led the ACC in interceptions, turnovers gained, turnover margin and passes defended en route to a record-setting 11-3 season, a berth in the ACC Championship Game and a No. 15 final ranking in both national polls. The Tar Heels finished No. 12 in pass defense efficiency.
A pair of Papuchis’ pupils - outside linebacker Shakeel Rashad and middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer - garnered All-ACC honors and finished second and third, respectively, in tackles on the team. UNC linebackers picked off five passes and forced seven of the team’s 12 fumbles.
Before coming to Carolina, Papuchis served on Nebraska’s staff from 2008-14, including the last three as the Huskers’ defensive coordinator.
Papuchis has made a quick rise through the coaching ranks. The 37-year-old was the fourth-youngest defensive coordinator in the country and the youngest solo defensive coordinator when he was promoted to the position at Nebraska in 2012. Prior to joining Bo Pelini’s Nebraska staff in 2008, he worked at LSU under Nick Saban from 2004-07, and was a graduate assistant at Kansas from 2001-03.
Papuchis has plenty of big-game experience having coached at three other Power Five programs Nebraska, LSU and Kansas. In the past 11 seasons, he has coached in one national championship game (2007) and five conference title games.
Nebraska’s defense ranked highly in Papuchis’ seven seasons in Lincoln. The Blackshirts held opponents to 10 or fewer points in nearly one-quarter of the games he coached. In addition to holding 22 opponents to 10 or fewer points, NU also held 34 opponents to 14 points or fewer. In three seasons with Papuchis coordinating the defense, Nebraska held its opponent to 14 or fewer points 11 times.
Nebraska was especially strong defending the pass under Papuchis, holding opponents to a 48.5 completion percentage in 2014, which ranked second in the country. NU also was fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense and fifth in third down defense.
Before being promoted to NU’s defensive coordinator, Papuchis worked with a Husker defense that led the nation in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense in 2009. Nebraska ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense twice in Papuchis’ seven seasons and once in total defense.
In his last 10 seasons as a defensive assistant, Papuchis has coached four units that have ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense and total defense.
A pair of Huskers - Ndamukong Suh and Prince Amukamara - are among six Papuchis players who have been drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2007. Working with the Husker defensive line, Papuchis helped Suh become a Heisman Trophy Finalist, in addition to winning the Outland Trophy, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Lombardi Award and the Bednarik Award.
In addition to working with the Husker defense, Papuchis also coordinated Nebraska’s special teams for four seasons from 2008 to 2011. In 2010, Papuchis was one of four finalists for the FootballScoop Special Teams Coordinator-of-the-Year Award.
Papuchis joined the Nebraska coaching staff after spending the previous four seasons on the football staff at LSU. Papuchis served as a defensive intern for the Tigers, assisting in every aspect of the defensive game plan and scouting reports.
The efforts of Papuchis helped the Tigers rank among the nation’s top defenses throughout his time with LSU. The Tigers ranked third nationally in total defense each season from 2005 to 2007. In 2007, the Tiger defense helped LSU to SEC and national titles, capped by a 38-24 victory over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.
In 2006, the LSU defense surrendered just 242.8 yards per game, the fewest by a Tiger defense since 1976. LSU led the SEC in six defensive categories and ranked in the top five nationally in four major categories. LSU finished in the top 10 nationally in all four major defensive categories in 2005, and allowed less than 270 total yards per contest. Papuchis also coached the Tiger punters. In 2007, punter Patrick Fisher led the SEC in punting with a 44.5-yard average and earned first-team All-SEC honors.
Papuchis first joined Nick Saban’s LSU staff prior to the 2004 season, helping the team earn a berth in the Capital One Bowl.
Papuchis had a three-year stint as a graduate assistant at Kansas from 2001 to 2003. In 2001, he worked with the Jayhawk secondary and then assisted with the linebackers. In his final season at KU, Papuchis helped the Jayhawks earn a berth in the Tangerine Bowl.
Papuchis graduated from Virginia Tech in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. He earned his master’s degree in sports administration from Kansas in 2003.
Papuchis is a native of Gaithersburg, Md. He and his wife, Billie, have a 7-year-old daughter, Addyson, a 6-year-old son, John, a 4-year-old daughter, Sophia, and an 1-year-old daughter, Rylee.
John Papuchis Coaching Year-By-Year
Year School Position
2015-present: North Carolina Linebackers Coach
2012-14: Nebraska Defensive Coordinator
2011: Nebraska Defensive Line/Special Teams Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator
2008-10: Nebraska Defensive Line/Special Teams Coordinator
2004-07: LSU Defensive Intern/Graduate Assistant
2001-03: Kansas Graduate Assistant