Josh Kotelnicki, a starting linebacker on UND’s 2001 Division II national championship team, returned to his alma mater in 2008 as the team’s special teams coordinator and linebackers coach and will take over as the team's defensive coordinator in 2013. He was elevated to his new post during this past spring and also serves as the team's assistant head coach.
It is the second stint as a member of UND’s coaching staff for Kotelnicki, who served as a defensive assistant in 2004 and 2005, working with the outside linebackers.
In 2012, Kotelnicki, who will still guide the linebackers, saw his unit combine for half of the team's 20 sacks. Outside linebacker Dominique Bennett led the team with 4.5 sacks. Middle linebacker Ben Peters was second on the team with 55 tackles.
The special teams' unit led the Big Sky in blocked kicks with seven - a year after leading the FCS with 10 in 2011. Junior Greg Hardin also returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and was the College Football Performance Awards National Special Teams Performer of the Week following the team's win over Southern Utah. He led the Big Sky with a 31.6 yards per return average.
In 2011, Kotelnicki's linebackers were part of a UND defense that topped the Great West Conference charts in total defense and rush defense. Senior Dan Hendrickson was a first team All-GWC performer after registering a team-high 75 tackles. Hendrickson and his fellow linebackers also accounted for 14 sacks and 30 tackles for a loss.
UND also boasted the best field-goal blocking unit in the country at the FCS level in 2011. In all, the special teamers blocked a FCS-high 10 kicks during the season.
While that unit was busy making it tough on opposing field goal kickers, UND placekicker Zeb Miller was having a stellar season en route to All-GWC second team honors. Miller went 15-for-19 on field goals for the season, including two game-winners. His first came from a career-long 54 yards out to beat Northern Colorado on the road. He also drilled a 29-yarder as time expired to trump Sioux Falls.
The UND return game also excelled as junior Erik Mersereau helped the punt return unit lead the GWC with an average of 17.5 ypr. He had a 79-yard return for a score at Idaho.
In 2010, junior Dan Hendrickson topped the Sioux with 78 total tackles, including 54 solo stops, which were the third most in a single season by a UND player in program history.
Kotelnicki’s special teams units also enjoyed another successful campaign as Dominique Hawkins was one of the top kick returners in the GWC with a 28.4 average. Hawkins nearly housed a kick return at Montana (Nov. 12) before stepping out of bounds at the one-yard line following a 99-yard scamper.
Classmate Josh Murray also had the lone punt return for a score among GWC players, racing a return back 60 yards against Lamar (Oct. 30).
In 2009, UND led the Great West in both field goals and extra points with senior Brandon Hellevang leading that charge. He topped both categories, finishing 15-for-18 (.833) in field goals and 27-for-28 (.964) in PATs. He recorded two of the GWC’s longest field goals (52 yards) and kicked the season’s longest punt (72 yards).
Inside linebacker Andrew Miller was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District first team and was a member of the FCS ADA Academic All-Star team. He was also awarded the NCAA postgraduate scholarship and the FCS ADA postgraduate scholarship.
In his first year back with the Sioux in 2008, Kotelnicki guided the GWC’s top kick return team, which totalled 1,090 yards on 46 returns for an average of 23.7 yards per return. UND’s leading kick returner, Hawkins, led the league with an average of 24.7 return yards per game.
Kotelnicki spent the 2007 season as a defensive graduate assistant at Kansas State where he coached the outside linebackers and assisted with special teams. Ian Campbell was a unanimous first team All-Big 12 selection as an outside linebacker.
Prior to his stint in Manhattan, Kotelnicki served as the defensive coordinator at Truman State (Mo.) in 2006 where he helped the Bulldogs to a four-win improvement from the previous season. The Bulldogs’ scoring defense improved from ninth in the MIAA in 2005 to tied for fourth in 2006.
While at UND from 2004-05, the Sioux went 21-6 and boasted one of the top defensive units in Division II in each of those two seasons. During that time, Tony Hermes (2004) and Tyler Dahlen (2005) received first team All-NCC honors, while Brook Maier (2005) and Tyler Dahlen (2004) received second team honors.
Kotelnicki began his coaching career at Murray State (Ky.) University, where he served as the Racers’ linebackers coach and assistant offensive line coach for two seasons. While at Murray State, Kotelnicki helped the Racers improve their pass defense from 64th nationally to fourth in just one season. He also helped the offense set a school record with 2,849 rushing yards in a single season.
A 2002 graduate of UND, Kotelnicki served as a team captain for the 2001 national championship game against Grand Valley State. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and later earned a master’s degree in business administration from Murray State in 2003.
He and his wife, Sarah, reside in Grand Forks. The couple has one son, Thomas, and one daughter, Nora.