E.J. Barthel is in his second season as Nebraska’s running backs coach in 2024. Barthel is in his fifth season on Matt Rhule’s staff, having previously coached under Rhule with the Carolina Panthers and at Temple.
Barthel is in his 11th season of coaching in 2024, and he has put together a diverse resume having served in recruiting and player development roles in addition to being a running backs coach. Barthel has Big Ten experience at Nebraska, Rutgers and Penn State, and he coached for two seasons in the National Football League.
A New Jersey native, Barthel has a reputation as one of the top recruiters in the Northeast and specifically the New Jersey area. In his lone season at Penn State, he helped the Nittany Lions secure the No. 6 recruiting class in 2018, according to 247 Sports. As a running backs coach, he has helped both Nebraska and UConn rank in the top 35 nationally in rushing each of the past two seasons.
Nebraska's running back room was hit hard by injuries during Barthel's first season in 2023. Despite the injuries, the Huskers averaged 176.8 rushing yards per game, ranking second in the Big Ten in rushing.
Gabe Ervin Jr. and Rahmir Johnson - the top two running backs on Nebraska's depth chart - were both lost to season-ending injuries in the third game of the year. Ervin and Johnson each averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry in their three games, which included two road games against Power Five opponents. Following the injuries to Ervin and Johnson, Barthel helped Anthony Grant and Emmett Johnson each rush for more than 400 yards. Johnson rushed for 411 yards on 90 carries after entering the year with zero career carries. Barthel also helped Joshua Fleeks make a mid-season transition from wide receiver to running back, and Fleek produced a 77-yard touchdown run against Michigan, the first run of 70 yards allowed by the Wolverines in four seasons.
UCONN: The UConn Huskies went 6-6 in the regular season in Barthel’s lone year as the running backs coach on Jim Mora’s staff in 2022. The six wins were a marked improvement, as UConn had not won more than three games in a season since 2015.
Barthel’s running backs helped UConn rush for 2,339 yards with 18 rushing touchdowns in 12 games. The Huskies ranked 33rd nationally in rushing offense. Individually, Victor Roza and Devontae Houston each rushed for more than 500 yards. Roza ranked 33rd nationally with 11 rushing touchdowns, while Houston was 14th nationally with an average of 6.88 yards per carry.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: Barthel coached with Rhule for two seasons with the Carolina Panthers in 2020 and 2021. Barthel assisted the coaching staff, focusing on the running backs and offensive line, while also spending time in the personnel department.
WILLIAM & MARY: Barthel spent one season at William & Mary as the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator in 2019. He made an immediate impact on the running game during his time with The Tribe, as William & Mary was the most improved rushing team in the FCS in Barthel’s lone season.
Led by Barthel’s running backs, the Tribe rushed for 2,232 yards in 2019 after rushing for only 553 yards in 2018. William & Mary posted an increase of 130.7 rushing yards per game from the 2018 to the 2019 season, a total that led the FCS by a wide margin. The Tribe ranked 30th nationally in rushing offense in 2019, an increase of 93 spots from the previous season, when the team ranked next-to-last (123rd) in the FCS in rushing.
William & Mary’s yards-per-carry average improved from 1.8 in 2018 to 4.2 in 2019, and The Tribe rushed for 26 touchdowns in 2019 after running for only five scores in 2018. William & Mary also set a school record with 462 rushing yards against Rhode Island during the 2019 season.
ALBANY/HOWARD: After a short stint at Albany during the offseason, Barthel transitioned into a coaching role as the running backs coach at Howard in 2018. Under his direction, the Bison led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in rushing with 192.8 yards per game. Additionally, he helped standout freshman Dedrick Parson garner MEAC Rookie of the Year and second-team All-MEAC accolades. Parson led the league in yards per carry (5.65), and he ranked second in rushing touchdowns (9) and third in rushing yards per game (70.6).
PENN STATE: Prior to his season at Howard, Barthel served as recruiting coordinator for one season at Penn State in 2017. He helped the Nittany Lions secure the nation’s No. 6 recruiting class, according to 247 Sports.
TEMPLE: Barthel spent one season on Rhule’s staff at Temple in 2016, serving as the Owls’ coordinator of on-campus recruiting. He was promoted to director of player personnel following the 2016 season before he left for Penn State.
RUTGERS: Barthel began his career at the collegiate level working in football operations and recruiting at Rutgers, where he spent three seasons as a player.
PRIVATE BUSINESS: Before getting into coaching, Barthel ran Explosive Training Systems from 2009 to 2014, a gym in New Jersey that trained many of the state’s top high school football players.
PLAYING CAREER (RUTGERS/UMASS)
Barthel was a running back at Rutgers for three seasons from 2003 to 2005, before transferring to UMass for two seasons in 2006 and 2007. After graduation, he was offered a tryout with the New York Giants in 2009 and later became a running back for the United Football League’s Las Vegas Locomotives.
A native of East Rutherford, N.J., Barthel earned his degree from UMass in 2008.
2023-present: Nebraska (Running Backs)
2022: UConn (Running Backs)
2020-21: Carolina Panthers (Coaching Assistant)
2019: William & Mary (Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator)
2018: Howard (Running Backs)
2017: Penn State (Recruiting Coordinator)
2016: Temple (Director of Player Personnel)
2014-15: Rutgers (Football Operations & Recruiting)