Category Archives: Bo Pelini

Real Question, is Wisconsin Ready for Nebraska?

BY TODD NEELEY

I’m not totally buying into the hype.

Pundits have given Nebraska hardly a chance against Wisconsin in Madison Saturday, but in all the excited fog surrounding the game is a dose of reality.

There are plenty of reasons to believe the Huskers have a shot to beat Wisconsin.

Sorry to upset the Russell Wilson apple cart here, but tell me one time early in this 2011 season that the Badger quarterback has had so much as a hand in his face.

Yeah I didn’t think so.

Wilson will face a much more athletic, physical defense than he’s faced all season. Wisconsin has barely broken a sweat in going 4-0, but things will change with Nebraska coming to town.

The Badgers may not face a better, more physical, faster team this season unless they play in the national championship game.

The Blackshirts will need to come to play this week, but defending Wisconsin is not impossible.

Week in and week out the Nebraska defense was challenged by the likes of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Tech.

Let’s face it, Nebraska hasn’t lived up to its standards in 2011 – they rank an embarrassing 52nd in the country in total defense. These are the kinds of numbers that once got Craig Bohl fired as defensive coordinator, and proof that Husker coaches are pounding on their
defenders in practice.

Bo Pelini has a history of making adjustments on defense, and usually has that unit peaking by midseason. The fact that Nebraska hasn’t played very well on that side of the ball yet means its best game is yet to come.

It would be a great week to put it all together.

Setting all the hype and history aside, Nebraska has a clear path to its first Big Ten win.

First, the Nebraska defensive line must get a push against a mammoth Wisconsin offensive line – one of the biggest at any level of football. This means Husker all-American Jared Crick has to somehow find a way to re-establish the line of scrimmage two to three yards in the Badger backfield, forcing Russell Wilson to run. The guy is a better passer than he is a runner.

If Nebraska can force Wisconsin into third and long, then the Huskers can bring the heat and get hits on Wilson.

Nebraska has to make the Wisconsin defense make decisions on the perimeter. The Badgers have to be made to choose between containing Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead – making the option the perfect play to run against what appears to be a good, but fairly slow defense.

Nebraska has a lot of speed at receiver and will need to take shots downfield and exploit holes in a Wisconsin zone defense.

NU has been outstanding on special teams with kicker/punter Brett Maher and kick returner Ameer Abdullah. Nebraska will need to win the field position battle to put pressure on the Wisconsin defense and these guys can make a huge difference.

The Huskers have to force at least two turnovers in this game. Simply put, Wisconsin hasn’t made mistakes and that will have to change. Conversely, Nebraska has to hold onto the ball – they laid the ball on the ground four times at Wyoming last week. What’s more, Nebraska has to not beat itself with dumb penalties.

If you watch Russell Wilson during his days at North Carolina State, he had plenty of games when he made knuckleheaded mistakes with the ball – proving defenses can get to him.

Finally, Nebraska can’t allow the Wisconsin offense to just pound away in the running game and control time of possession.

Though Husker fans are up in arms about Nebraska’s slow defensive start that may be the silver lining heading to Madison – this is a Nebraska team that hasn’t come close to reaching its potential on defense.

The Nebraska offense has improved significantly from game one – finally finding an identity that includes a power running game and a big-play quarterback. NU holds a speed advantage on both sides of the ball and Nebraska’s special teams have been special, Wisconsin’s not so much.

With all the talk about how NU is facing a balanced and disciplined team in a hostile environment, you’d swear Nebraska has yet to play in the kind of atmosphere it will see at Camp Randall Stadium.

Nebraska fans remember well playing at Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Washington, Oklahoma, you name it. Kids come to Nebraska to play in the big games on a big stage with a lot on the line.

Wisconsin has been good, really good, but championships aren’t won by playing softies. So far the Badgers have been playing weekly scrimmages, but this week they face an opponent that will punch them in the mouth – win or lose.

Is Wisconsin ready for Nebraska?

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Pelini Meets Big Ten Media in Chicago

Head Coach Bo Pelini spoke with members of the media for 15 minutes on Thursday during the first session of the Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago. Pelini will field more questions in a less formal session on Friday, while Husker players Rex Burkhead, Jared Crick and Lavonte David will also meet with the media.

On Thursday, Pelini touched on a variety of topics, including the progression of quarterback Taylor Martinez, his teams transition into the Big Ten and the outlook for this year’s team.

Huskers.com will have additional content from the first day of Big Ten Football Media Days later this evening, including additional video coverage of the event.

Bo Pelini Press Conference
Big Ten Media Days
Chicago, Ill.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Transcript courtesy of the Big Ten Conference (BigTen.org)

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Coach Bo Pelini from Nebraska. We’ll have coach make an opening statement and then open the floor to questions.

COACH PELINI: We’re looking forward to the upcoming season. It’s great to be here today. I brought with me Rex Burkhead, our running back, Lavonte David, and Jared Crick, the players representing us today.

We’re excited. We’re excited about the season. We’re opening up here practicing in a little over a week. We’ve had a great off-season. We’ve needed it. We required a lot of work because of obviously our first year coming into the Big Ten. We basically had 11 new opponents on our schedule which creates a little bit of a challenge for our football team and our kids.

But our kids are excited. It’s going to be an honor to be a part of this conference, to be a part of the tradition, all the things that the Big Ten represents, the tremendous institutions we’re going to be joining in the conference and playing against this year and into the future. We’re looking forward to that.

It’s great to be here at our first Big Ten Media Day.

THE MODERATOR: Time for questions.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the progress of Taylor Martinez over the summer and early fall, and the depth at quarterback?

COACH PELINI: We feel really good about where Taylor is. He’s had a great off-season. He had a tremendous spring. He’s had a phenomenal summer. I think he’s engaged as a leader. I think he’s really taken it upon himself to grow in that area. I think he’s becoming a tremendous leader on our football team, holding his teammates accountable, holding himself accountable. I think he’s poised to have a great year.

We feel great where we are at the quarterback position. We have a young man who stepped out in the spring as a backup in Brion Carnes. Cody Green choosing to leave, he made a decision that he thought was best for him and his future. We decided to back him on that. We wish him the best of luck.

With Brion, we have Ron Kellogg, Bubba Starling. You all know he’s a baseball kid, somebody who has a tough decision that he’s going to be facing here in the coming weeks. We’ll see how that all plays out. We brought another walk-on in.

We feel good about where the depth is. You can never have too many, we all know that. But we feel real good about the quality of our players and the type of kids we have playing the quarterback position for us. We’re real excited about it.

I mentioned the walk-on that we have, we have Joe Broekemeier, we now have his younger brother (Tyson) coming in and we think he’s going to be a nice addition so we’re excited about it.

Q. As you said, you have nothing but new teams on the schedule this year. Basically zero familiarity with the teams you play. How do you prepare for them? Do you watch tape?

COACH PELINI: Yeah, we prepare like we do any other time. We always find the new teams on our schedule. We put a little bit more time into those. Obviously we have 11 of them this year. That required a lot more time. It creates a greater challenge for us.

But at the end of the day, I feel great about the preparation we’ve had. That started for me way back in February, our staff. We put a lot of work in. we feel good about where we are in that process. I think it will continue right up until we kick it off next week.

But we’ve got a lot accomplished in this off-season and I think we’re ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Q. Given your program’s style of play, how do you feel the Big Ten is a better fit for Nebraska than the Big 12?

COACH PELINI: I don’t know if it’s about style of play or anything else. We feel like we can line up and play against anybody in the country. We’re going to do our thing. We’re going to play our way. Obviously you have to make some adjustments according to who you’re playing in a particular week. But we feel like our style, the type of kids we recruit, the type of football team we put on the field can fit into any conference.

Is the style of play a little bit different? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Football is football. You’re going to win by the basics, the fundamentals. If you’re good at those things, you’re going to win football games, no matter who you’re playing, no matter what conference you’re in.

I do understand that in this conference there are going to be quality athletes, quality coaching. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us.

Q. You have two players on the defensive side of the ball. With your defense, do you feel this unit could be potentially as good a defensive unit as you’ve had the opportunity to coach?

COACH PELINI: Well, we’ll see. We have a good group coming back. Lavonte and Jared Crick. Alfonzo Dennard, I think is as good a corner as there is in the country. I think we have depth that we haven’t quite had up until now.

There’s a lot of things that play into that. I’ve been really fortunate to be around some defenses that have been pretty stout, accomplished some great things. Do we have the opportunity to do that? Yeah. But it’s going to come through a lot of hard work and a level of commitment that allows our football team to get better on a daily basis.

There’s a lot of things that make you become good. It’s not just talent. It’s about character, it’s about leadership, it’s about chemistry, all those things. Ultimately coming with your lunch pail every day and going to work. I think if we do that, we have the opportunity to be pretty formidable on that side of the football.

Q. You said in some ways your style of play will be a little different. Can you elaborate?

COACH PELINI: I’m not quite sure that’s what I meant. I mean, we’re going to play against some teams where the style might be a little bit different than we’ve seen in the Big 12. The style of play might be a little bit different.

We’re going to do what we do and we’re going to do it well. We’re not really going to adapt what we do to the conference. We’re going to hopefully make the conference adapt to what we do.

Certain things have allowed us to have success on the defensive side of the football. We’re going to do that. We’re changing some things offensively. There are going to be some things that are obviously the same, but there are going to be some things that are new wrinkles. You’ll see that as the season wears on.

But at the end of the day to be successful in this game, yeah, you have to adapt to your opponents. But you have to line up and do what you do well. You have to execute your football. If we continue to do that, we’ll be fine no matter who we’re lined up against.

Q. Whether it’s on the field or off, what would you say are the biggest differences you’ve noticed between the Big Ten and the Big 12?

COACH PELINI: Well, ask me that a year from now, I’ll have a better idea. Having not gone through the conference schedule yet, it’s hard to say.

I think the leadership in this conference is tremendous. I obviously played in this conference. I grew up in Big Ten country. I have a tremendous amount of respect for everything that the Big Ten represents.

So to me it’s an honor to be a part of this, to be a part of this conference. I think if you look at the tradition, the academic integrity, all the things that I believe our program at the University of Nebraska stands for, I think we fit right in with this conference. Tremendous football, tremendous athletics, a tremendous commitment to academics, and doing things the right way. That’s what this conference is all about. That’s what it represents.

So obviously I believe Nebraska is a tremendous fit.

Q. You’re getting quite an initiation in the Big Ten going up to Camp Randall, if not the most hostile environment in college football, then Ohio State at home. How do you prepare for something like that?

COACH PELINI: You just take care of yourselves. Obviously the schedule makers didn’t do us any favors in our first year, did they? We have a tough schedule ahead of us.

But you go week by week. We always talk about in our program the process. The process is going to lead us to have an opportunity to have success. If we continue to do that, we get better as a football team week in and week out, day to day, we’ll be just fine.

I played in Camp Randall before, I understand what Ohio State brings to the table, the rest of the teams that are going to be on our schedule. It’s not going to be easy. But we knew that going in.

Our football team understands the challenges that are going to be presented to them. I think they’re ready to meet those challenges. It’s going to be great.

You want to play against the best. You come to play college football to be challenged, trying to be the best you can be. You do that by playing against tremendous opponents, great coaching, a great environment. We’re going to have all that in year one. I think our football team is looking forward to it and our fan base is looking forward to it.

Q. You mentioned your commitment to doing things the right way. Are you bothered at all by some of the things that have occurred across the landscape the last few years?

COACH PELINI: Yeah, obviously. You don’t like things to happen. A couple things happen here and there, next thing you know the media, you all pick it up, you run with it. Sometimes I think you tend to exaggerate the difficulties that come up where that’s the minority. The majority is, you know, things don’t happen.

Let’s talk about the tremendous academic accomplishments that are happening across the country, the kids that are all doing things the right way. That’s what we should be focused on.

But, you know, let’s face it, we live in a day and age where something happens, it’s going to be on the airwaves for sometimes weeks, not just days, but weeks. So, you know, that becomes glorified instead of glorifying all the tremendously positive things going on in college athletics.

Let’s face it, I don’t live with my head in the sand. In this day and age, we all understand that’s the way it works. We’re under the microscope all the time. You have to be on guard all the time. You have to make sure you do things the right way so your institution doesn’t fall into that category.

Q. For the Big Ten fans that aren’t as familiar with the play of Taylor Martinez, tell us what makes him such a special player and what types of things you’d like to see him improve upon this fall?

COACH PELINI: I think Taylor has all the tools you look for. He’s very fast. He’s quick. He gets to top speed in a hurry. He can make all the throws. He can do really everything you ask a quarterback to do. He has good arm talent. He can throw the ball outside.

He has a long way to go in his decision making, just his knowledge of the game overall. With more experience, he’s going to continue to get better.
It was interesting because last year he had such tremendous success early on that everybody wanted to jump ahead. The pressure went up in a hurry. People were talking Heisman candidate, all those things. He was two, three games into his career, which was crazy. Then he got hurt later on in the year.

But the young man is committed. He’s tremendously talented. He has an opportunity to finish up his career. He has obviously three years left to play. He’s going to be a tremendous player not only this year, but I think he’ll continue to get better as the year goes on and throughout his career.
Just got to let him develop. That’s where we are right now. He is a much more prepared quarterback right now than he was a year from now. A year earlier he was just getting started. We had no idea what we even had going into camp. Now he has a year under his belt and I think he has the opportunity to take his game to another level.

But you got to earn it on a daily basis. He has a lot of talent around him, a lot of talent pushing him. So he’s going to have to be on his Ps and Qs to withstand all that competition.

Q. There’s always a culture to every conference. It might be geography, ethnicity, a variety of things. What do you see as being the Big Ten’s culture in that respect?

COACH PELINI: When I think of the Big Ten, I think of class, I think of tremendous tradition. Like I said, I think of integrity. I think that’s what the Big Ten has represented for a very long time.

You look at the academic accomplishments throughout the conference. To me it serves as a model, and it’s why I feel so great about us being a part of the conference. I think it serves as a model for the rest of college football. That’s why it’s such an honor for us as an institution for us to become a part of it.

I think maybe I’m a little bit biased because I said I played in this conference, grew up in the area. But I think you see the other conferences strive to be what the Big Ten is. That’s why it’s so great to be going into our first year.

What to Make of Nebraska’s 2011 Offense?

By Todd Neeley

Husker fans have been burned so many times when it comes to spring football.

As we learned during the Bill Callahan era, the Nebraska west coast offense was proven to be deceptively explosive in the spring. Sam Keller looked like Joe Montana under center, heck, even Joe Dailey played like Joe Ganz in the spring. And remember in the Frank Solich era when Bobby Newcombe had Husker fans salivating?

Name two people who were not convinced Newcombe would start ahead of Eric Crouch. The rest is history.

In other words, spring football rarely provides a window into what NU will look like come fall. Spring football 2011 really isn’t all that different, but for a few exceptions.

We’ve learned in a short time is that Bo Pelini can recruit. The fruits of those labors were obvious at this year’s glorified scrimmage. Pelini’s defense likely will go at least three deep at every position, while the offense is pretty much a mystery stacked with good, young talent at this point.

Chalk up at least one journalist who believes the Husker offense will be vastly improved, more explosive at wide receiver, deeper and more talented at quarterback with the emergence of redshirt freshman Brion Carnes, somewhat inexperienced and young in the offensive line and seriously lacking proven depth at I back.

The good news is Pelini said at the end of spring ball that he’s not the kind of guy to automatically hand redshirts to young players. He proved that with Taylor Martinez in 2010. Pelini is willing and eager to get the best talent on the field.

Nebraska will likely rely on many young guns to make this offense better in 2011.

Probably sitting atop the list is redshirt freshman receiver Kenny Bell. For such a young guy, Bell has a multitude of moves in the open field and breakaway speed similar to Martinez. Coaches raved about Bell’s play on the scout team in 2010, and in particular his 10.5 speed in the 100-meter dash. To put that speed in perspective, when Eric Crouch was a senior in high school he won the Class A state championship in the 100 with a 10.7 – and we all remember what was Crouch’s breath-taking speed.

In addition, true freshman Jamal Turner is likely to see the field a lot in 2011. In the spring game Turner had 94 yards in receiving yards including a 49-yard touchdown catch and he was a special teams star in the return game. Since Turner moved to the receiver spot around spring break, he has a long way to go to learn the offense.

What really stands out, however, is that new offensive coordinator Tim Beck appears to be willing to put his best players on the field and then have them do what they do best.

If the season was to start today, Rex Burkhead would probably see 80 percent of the carries from the I-back spot. Right now Austin Jones and Ty Kildow are the best options behind Burkhead.

Though Nebraska is banking a lot on young guns Braylon Heard, Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah, it’s hard to put too much stock into any freshmen let alone relying on such a group for depth at a virtually bare
position.

Considering how much pounding Nebraska I backs take, this could be a real problem spot come fall.

And how about the quarterback spot?

Even though Nebraska ran very basic offense in the spring game, Martinez was less than impressive. The same old habits are still alive and well – throwing off the back foot in to double coverage, and still playing extremely tentatively from the pocket.

I’m going to wage a guess that this year’s spring game will be a sign of things to come for Nebraska, especially when it comes to the future of quarterback Brion Carnes. Again, the guy ran basic offense but was poised in the pocket, has a smooth passing delivery and impressive feet.

More than anything, Carnes brings intensity to a position where Nebraska could use a leadership spark. Is he going to challenge for the starting job in 2011? Not unless Martinez and Green completely meltdown – only if the Martinez-led offense continues the disappointing struggles that marred the 2010 season. It’s not yet a full-blown quarterback controversy, but it get a violent shove into controversy if Carnes continues to develop.

It’s a lot harder to get a feel for the Nebraska defense in a spring game. Coaches played a myriad combination of players on that side of the ball and a handful of starters didn’t play. Having said that, converted linebacker, defensive end Eric Martin was all over the field. In addition, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jay Guy has come a long way in a short time. He was a chore to block in the red/white game and has a great future at Nebraska.

Keep in mind, so much can change when fall rolls around. The Nebraska offense has a long way to go. After all, coaches had just 15 practices to install an offense that Nebraska really didn’t run at all in the spring game.

So when the lights come on in the fall there will be growing pains. But there’s little doubt that Nebraska will have a great defense and will be capable of giving the offense plenty of time to develop by shutting down the opposition – at least until the first Big Ten game at Wisconsin.

My guess is we’ll find out how good that defense will be in a nationally televised night game against a powerhouse Badger team.

Nebraska needs to rebuild its offense, but doing it with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State on the schedule will be a tall task.

Pelini Talks About Off-Season Changes at Nebraska

Head Coach Bo Pelini
Pre-Spring Press Conference
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On the new editions to the staff:
“Well, we want to win championships around here. And at the end of the day I like the way the staff came together. I think it’s been, we’ve had a very productive winter. We’ve had a really good few weeks, meetings have gone well, and I like the way things are coming together. And like I said its come together very much the way I like it, the way I expected it to. I’m excited about it; I’m excited about where we are and where we are heading forward.”

On selecting Tim Beck as Offensive Coordinator:
“You’ve got to go with what you feel is going to be the best thing for your football team. And it just kept coming back to the same guy. I have a great level of trust, a great level of confidence in Tim. We are very much on the same page philosophically, and what we are going to do going forward and it was a pretty easy choice for me.”

On the relationship with Tim over the last three years:
“Absolutely, you have experience with somebody, and you see I went that way with all my choices with how I filled out the staff. You know, I believe that you have to be on the same page philosophically, on the same page of the types of people you bring in.  People who are going to represent me, the program, everything in a certain way. It goes beyond just X’s and O’s. In the game of football it’s not just what you do it’s how you do it, and how you are going to get to a certain point. I believe, I want to surround myself with No. 1, people that I trust. No. 2, people that I have a lot of confidence in, people of high character, people who are going to communicate well with players, people who believe in the same things I do value wise, discipline, accountability, all those things that we have built this program on and are the foundation of how we go about things. And I know I’ve got that, and I’m excited about it, and I’m looking forward to the future with how we’ve set it up.”

On what he would like to see differently from the offense:
“Efficiency. There’s a number of things, I don’t want to get into the whole what we’re doing offensively, that will play out in time. And like I said I am extremely excited about where we are, and let me tell you, we have done some very good things offensively. Like I said it’s not what you do it’s how you do it, how you get to things. And it’s very much the same philosophy we have on defense, multiple but simple. And let the players develop a true understanding of what we’re doing. And not just what you’re doing and memorizing what you’re doing but why are you doing it. So then you can react, you can play fast, you can play confident. I wanted to mirror the philosophy of what we’ve done on the defensive side of the ball and that’s what we’ve done.”

On the challenge of moving to a new offensive system:
“No challenge, it’s just like anything else, you know, teach, work hard, make sure you stress certain principles, you know you have an identity and you live it every day. And like I said, I like where we are as far as that’s concerned. And it’s very clear to me what I wanted when I hired the staff, when I put this thing together and what we have to do going forward. I have a very clear picture in my head of what I want going forward and that’s what I’m working toward, that’s what we are working toward.”

On if he considered any other offensive coordinators:
“Somewhat yeah, oh yeah, you consider all your options but like I said it all kept coming back to the same thing for me.”

On Tim Beck being on staff last year and having a voice in the offense:
“Oh yeah, like I said it’s not so much what you do, it’s how you do it. And I think (Shawn) Watson is a tremendous football coach, smart, intelligent, good teacher, all of those things. But what I felt needed changed was the system.  You just get to a certain point where I felt like a change was needed. What is just in the best interest of the program, of changing out the system, bringing in some fresh ideas, a whole new system and do it going forward. And I thought this was the right time to do it. I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t in the best interest of the program.”

On when he came to the conclusion to make a change:
“I’m not going to talk about that. I believe I analyze things, you go back every single year as you go on, this just doesn’t happen at the end of the year, you know week by week you say ok well what do you have to do, what do you have to do to get better? And you’ve always got to be searching for ways to improve, ways to make your program better, your football team better, in every phase of the game, and you’ve got to make the decisions that you feel are in the best interest of your program as you move forward and that’s what I’ve done.”

On how the team and new recruits have reacted to the changes:
“Well, kids are resilient; I think they are excited about it. I think anytime you have change you know, no one in this world, very few people like change but you know it’s all part of the deal, you have to teach them, you have to develop some confidence in them but they are resilient, and I think that is what we have seen. I think they are excited and I think they are going to be more excited and I think they are going to really like it as they develop a better knowledge of what we are doing in every area. Offensively, defensively, special teams, you know we’ve made some changes, and I think it will make us a better football team going forward, and I think it will be real obvious to our football team.”

On the offense’s identity:
“You know I could sit here and talk about it for a long time, but you’ll see that when we roll that ball out there in September. Like I said it’s multiple but simple, you’ve got to be aggressive. We’re going to be an aggressive style offense period, end of story. There’s a lot of different ways to do that, and I’m not going to sit here and get into it and say we’re going to do this or we’re going to do that. We’re going to attack people, we’re going to get after them, and we’re going to attack them in a lot of different ways.”

On how the offense will be different from what they were doing:
“We’re going to do it better.”

On the offense being physical out of the spread:
“We will be physical. You know it’s interesting you say that, everyone wants to talk about the spread; you know there are a lot of different ways to run a spread offense. There’s a lot of different aspects, you have to be precise, you have to execute, and you have to have efficiency in what you do. There’s a lot of different ways to be physical. Just because you line up in a spread offense or you line up in a two-back offense doesn’t mean one’s physical and one’s not. You have to be multiple in what you do but at the same time you have to have a lot of the same for your players so they can be aggressive, come off the ball, play with technique, play with fundamentals, and understand the scheme so you can make adjustments as you move along and that’s what we do defensively. It’s nothing magical, and that’s where we are heading offensively.”

On anything carrying over from last year’s offense:
“There’s some carry over but there are a lot of things that are different.”

On how long it will take for the new offense to click:
“There is enough carry over, I think the understanding is going to get better as you move forward. There’s no question there. But you hope you progress and get better every week. The more opportunities you have to hone your trade the better off you’re going to be. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes work. We’re not where we want to be defensively yet you know, we’re moving forward and making progress and that’s what I see envisioned for our offense. But there is a lot of carry over, whats changed is how we’re going to get to it. I mean the terminology is different; we simplified a lot of things. Like I said I could sit here and talk X’s and O’s and talk about the system all day and it wouldn’t mean a whole heck of a lot to the people listening. I said I am really, really excited about what we are doing and how we are doing it and that’s all I care about right now and as we move forward we are going to keep getting better and we’ll be ready once the football is kicked off in September.”

On the quarterback position going into the spring:
“Like every other position, we’ve got talent, we’ve got guys that need to get better and work. I guess that’s what spring practice is for; it’s just the next step in the process for me. We have a lot to accomplish and we’ve got 15 practices and we have to come out each day where we are becoming a better football team. And position by position we have got to have guys buy in to what we are doing, work hard, make an investment, and we need to get better across the board. And that’s the challenge you have going into spring practice.”

On position changes and injuries going into spring:
“We have a couple guys that, I can’t think of all of them off the top of my head but Cameron Meredith will be out for the spring, and Jeremiah Sirles will be out for the spring. And they won’t participate but they should be pretty close to being ready right after spring ball and they will be in good shape going into the summer. Kenny Anderson just had surgery; he won’t be out there in spring practice. We moved Jake Cotton from the defensive line to the offensive line and we’re excited about that, that’s going to provide us with depth, and that’s another guy who we think is going to be outstanding on the offensive line and adds to a pretty deep group. That’s probably the most significant changes you’ll hear. And back during the season we moved Eric Martin to defensive end and we’re keeping him there right now.”

On Sean Fisher’s status going into spring:
“Fish is ready to roll.”

On what Jeremiah Sirles and Cameron Meredith’s injuries are:
“Sirles’ was a shoulder and I think Cameron’s was a shoulder too; they were both shoulders. They are both in pretty good shape, they both could go through probably the end of spring but we’re kind of at that point where you want to get them 100 percent.”

On Mike Caputo’s status:
“Caputo’s fine.”

On using two full-time assistants on the offensive line and more on John Garrison:
“John will also be working with the tight ends. You need more eyes up there. What I did was when I put together the offensive staff, almost to a man each guy on the staff can coach multiple positions. It gives you a lot of flexibility in practice, how you work with guys; get extra sets of eyes, different sets of eyes on different position groups. There’s a lot of flexibility on our offensive staff, guys that you know, Ron Brown has coached different positions, Tim Beck, Rich Fisher you know he’s coached a few different positions. He’s been on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive side of the ball which I like. I mean you look at my philosophy on the defensive side of the ball where we have Carl (Pelini) and JP (John Papuchis) with the defensive line and that’s only four guys, now we have five so that’s almost half your group so it just helps. Plus Coach (Barney) Cotton is someone who has been an offensive coordinator, can help with the running game, passing game, a lot of different things, has a pretty extensive background. I just like the flexibility it gave us. And I talked to a lot of people about it and thought at the end of the day it was the best way to make our football team better.”

On what impressed him about Coach Rich Fisher:
“I’ve known Fish for a long time. Talked a lot of football with him. And I don’t know if you remember back in 2003 I almost hired him on the defensive side of the ball. He’s an outstanding football coach, great guy, has the right principles, great communicator. The same thing’s I saw in the rest of the guys. I’m real excited about them.”

On which offensive line position Jake Cotton will play:
“Tackle.”

On if the zone read would be part of the offense:
“Oh yeah.”

On what he was looking at in 2003 with Rich Fisher:
“At that time it was a linebacker job. He was just a guy that we had talked to. Like I said I’ve known him since I was with the New England Patriots.”

On how the hiring process turned out:
“It came out exactly the way I wanted it to turn out.”

On the difference in competing in the Big Ten vs. the Big 12:
“You know I spent a lot of time over the last couple months familiarizing myself with the Big Ten, and some of the opponents, especially the early opponents we’ll play in the league. There’s some similarities and there’s some things that are different. It’s probably not as multiple offensively; you know it’s a physical brand of football a little bit more of this is what we’re going to do and we’re going to do it well. The one thing about the Big 12 week to week you can kind of chuck out your game plans defensively because you are playing a whole different type of offense. Always there is going to be some of that but I don’t think it’s going to be quite as dramatic in the Big Ten compared to what we’ve faced as far as a scheme standpoint in the Big 12.”

On this offense being able to run out the clock at the end of a game:
“Oh yeah, this offense, I’m very excited about what we are doing, and how we are doing it. It’s going to be multiple and is going to involve a lot of different position groups but at the same time there is going to be simplicity in it that’s going to give our football team, our players an ear of confidence to where they have to learn the offense and they have to know not just what to do but why. And what’s going on, understanding the concepts of what we are doing. And it’s very logical. It’s going to allow a lot of different guys to play a lot of different position groups. There’s going to be some spread to it, there’s going to be some big sets to it, there’s a lot of different things involved with it and it’s going to create a lot of different problems for defenses and that’s how I look at it. I look at it as what can you do to give defenses problems and trust me we are putting together a scheme that is going to be able to take advantage of what other people are trying to do to us. We’re going to be able to attack them.”

On if simplicity was lacking last year:
“I don’t know if you just call it simplicity, like I said it was how we got to some things, it didn’t quite merry up over time to allowing us to have the best offense we could have, and that in a nut shell is why I made the change.”

On having three key players returning on defense:
“It’s very good, we have a lot of guys back on defense, and we lost a lot of good football players. Obviously we lost Prince (Amukamara) and (Eric) Hagg and (DeJon) Gomes and Pierre Allen. Those are some good football players; I hope I didn’t leave anybody out. We feel really good about our depth coming back, the quality of our depth coming back on defense. We get (Sean Fisher) back who we feel is a tremendous linebacker, you know I feel real good about where we are. I think Fonzo (Alfonzo Dennard) is going to be as good of a corner as there is in the country, same with (defensive tackle Jared) Crick and same with (linebacker) Lavonte (David) and you surround them with the type of talent and the type of depth that we have and we have a chance to be pretty formidable on that side of the ball.”

On sticking with the Peso as the base defense:
“That will be part of our package but just like always we will have the ability to play three linebackers, two, one, whatever we want to do. We were probably about 90 percent peso last year and we’re not going to be that high.”

On another versatile player stepping up to replace Eric Hagg and DeJon Gomes:
“We have some guys; we have a lot of versatility in our group. A lot of guys that can do multiple things. We’re to the point defensively that our coaches have done a good job and have a good understanding of our scheme so you have a lot of moving parts and a lot of guys that can do multiple things. We’re looking at some other things, we’re real excited about moving along with some new schemes and doing some different things and we’re excited about it. We’re going to pose some problems for some people. We’re excited about where we’re headed.”

On installing the offense in the spring:
“You establish your foundation, it’s the same thing we do defensively. Because once you have your base principles and your base foundation then everything stems off of that. That’s kind of how that works. It really merrys up to how we teach, how we implement and what we do on the defensive side of the ball with what we do offensively.”

On coming off a loss vs. the last few years riding the momentum of a win in the bowl game:
“We’ve had a tremendous winter and the guys have worked hard, they’ve committed, they’ve done a lot of good things, and I’m excited about where we are. And trust me no one on our football team me included, are happy about the way we finished off the year in that bowl game. Sometimes you get hit in the mouth and it’s how you respond to that. We’ll see. Looking forward to the challenges.”

On what he is looking for out of Taylor Martinez:
“He’s had a good winter as have a lot of guys, and I think we’re heading in the right direction in a lot of different ways. The guys understand, we’re now going into my fourth year and we’ve got a lot of guys on our football team who have been hearing the same message over and over and over going into the fourth year now. Its running pretty smoothly right now. The leadership is there, the commitment is there and I like where we are.”

On where he is as far as analyzing the Big Ten opponents:
“It takes time, I usually don’t start that process until a little bit later but I started earlier this year as we all did. And you know there are a lot of different things you’re trying to do this time of year. You all wonder why I haven’t been available to talk to the media a lot, we actually do some work, getting the coaches on the same page, philosophically, X’s and O’s wise, all of those things. Plus on top of that, getting a jump on a different type of offseason this year where there are a lot of different opponents so there is a lot of work to be done and that will continue on not only to spring ball but through spring ball. And I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a heck of an offseason, and I expect that to continue as we move forward.”

On the excitement of moving to a new conference:
“It’s a whole different set of challenges, but football is football.  I’ve been coaching a long time and you look at the staff we have and there’s not a lot you can do that we haven’t seen before. So at the end of the day you have to do what you do and do it well. And that’s what we’re focusing on us right now. And the opponent part that’s for the coaches now to get us prepared and be ready for next September.”

On losing Marvin Sanders:
“I love Marvin, he had to do what he felt was the right thing to do for his personal and family situation at the time. Like I said we’ve done a lot together, we’ve shared a lot together, we’re good friends, we’ll always be good friends. And I support him and the decision he made, but fortunately I was able to go out and hire a football coach that I have a full and utmost confidence in and tremendous respect for. Football wise, you know personally it’s sad to see him go but football wise we got the best guy we thought for our football team.”

Officiating Debacle? No, Pelini’s Nebraska Needs Discipline

BY TODD NEELEY

Was it really a conspiracy?

Well, if you believe officials had it out for Nebraska Saturday night at Texas A&M, there is plenty of evidence to support that.

NU was penalized 16 times for 145 yards. A&M, just two penalties for 10 yards, propelling the Aggies to a 9-6 win.

Is A&M really this disciplined? Is Nebraska really THIS self-destructive? I’d say no and yes.

The first thing that jumps out about this game is that it clearly wasn’t evenly called by officials. In fact, there were times when the zebras were blatantly targeting the Huskers.

Heck, for that matter officials haven’t been even-handed with Nebraska all season long. NU has been penalized 86 times for 797 yards, while the opponents have been flagged far less — 48 times for 420 yards.

Cases in point: Late in the game Nebraska safety Courtney Osborne was called for a personal foul for a hit on A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, on what was a crucial third down play that saw the Nebraska defense hold. Osborne clearly made a clean hit that wasn’t even late — shoulders squared, head up, square in the chest as Tannehill released the ball.

Second, earlier in the game Nebraska linebacker Eric Martin was called for two personal-foul penalties on special teams.

OK, may be just a coincidence here, but Martin was suspended earlier this season for a supposed helmet-to-helmet hit against Oklahoma State. And if you remember, Osborne drilled Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert on what was a perfectly legal hit. Following that game Tiger Head Coach Gary Pinkel said that maybe conference officials should review the Osborne hit — which it never did.

Were officials in College Station specially targeting Osborne and Martin? We’ll never know.

The 2010 season has been a dramatic sway against Nebraska from officials, no doubt.

Yet it would seem to be over-simplistic to say officials are out to get NU because of the move to the Big Ten, or for any other reason.

I think it’s more likely that Nebraska really is its own worst enemy, especially since Bo Pelini has taken over the reigns. Let’s be honest, Pelini has brought the return of physical play by Nebraska on both sides of the ball — balls to the wall, every play for four quarters.

Unfortunately, this team has taken on the personality of its coach in a bad way.

Pelini was all over the officials, in fact looking downright out of control at times. There were more F-bombs dropped by Pelini in one game than maybe his entire career at Nebraska, combined. Pelini spent most of the game jawing at officials, in fact drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the game.

Did officials at A&M focus squarely on Nebraska? Sure looks that way, and in fact there are games like this all the time when one side gets called for more than its share of penalties. Conspiracy? Probably not.

While Pelini has brought a lot back to this program, his players are undisciplined and commit their share of stupid mistakes.

This has been the case since day one.

Football has to be played with focused anger, but Pelini’s Nebraska has been borderline dumb.

Statistics don’t lie.

Before Pelini’s arrival in 2008 there was little penalty disparity between Nebraska and its opponents.

From 2000 to 2007, Nebraska opponents averaged 83 penalties for 647 yards per season, compared to 79 penalties for 656 yards for NU.

Since 2000 Nebraska has been flagged for more penalties than its opponents on what will be six seasons including 2010 — three of those by Pelini-coached teams. In 2008 and 2009 Nebraska piled up more than 800 yards in penalties, the two highest totals since 2000. Unless NU doesn’t commit a single penalty the rest of the way in 2010, the Huskers will again eclipse 800 yards.

That reflects a serious lack of discipline more than bad officials.

Following the loss Saturday Pelini again indicated that officials were horrible, without actually saying it. He was ticked and actually tracked down one of the officials for a little chat following the game.

The Omaha World Herald declared this morning that the 12th man at Texas A&M in this game was the officials, http://dld.bz/72vD. Don’t just cater to the readers here, let’s be honest.

Enough already.

Pelini has to let off the officials. It’s no wonder Nebraska couldn’t buy a break all night — the coach was in a fit of rage all game long. If the coach is poised and cool under pressure his team will respond that way. Unfortunately Pelini wasted a great defensive performance by the Blackshirts with his sideline antics.

You gotta love the football intelligence Pelini brings to the game, but now it’s time to look in the mirror.

Nebraska’s Trip to the Twilight Zone at Memorial Stadium

BY TODD NEELEY

I know I run a risk of nit-picking with Nebraska standing at 9-1 and just one win away from the Big 12 championship game, but what the heck is going on with this team? This coaching staff?

The Nebraska offense was flat against Kansas Saturday in Lincoln, against what was the 108th-ranked rush defense in the country. NU failed to break off long runs against the Jayhawks or establish any consistency at all. Blocking was horrible and, again, this offense played uninspired.

Like it did against South Dakota State, the Nebraska offense took another game off. Maybe coaches really don’t have answers, but it gets old hearing Bo Pelini say ‘we didn’t execute.’

Well, why the heck not?

It happened the week before at Iowa State, although there was an obviously huge problem at quarterback with Taylor Martinez on the shelf. That was more understandable, somewhat excusable.

What happened against the Jayhawks defies logic. Or should I say, what didn’t happen.

How does Nebraska’s offensive line not knock KU off the ball on every play? This happens when NU isn’t interested, and that falls squarely on the coaches.

The whole game atmosphere itself was like watching a bad episode of the Twilight Zone.

I know I’m not the first to say this, but the pregame featured a message from Tom Osborne on how great it is to have Turner Gill back at Memorial Stadium.

That’s all well and good, but it reminded me of the Wizard of Oz when the Wizard stops Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scare Crow in the middle of their panic — “Silence!!”

It was almost as if Nebraska’s Oz was telling fans to ‘go easy on Gill, he’s trying his best at KU and we want to honor his return with the utmost respect.’

Why did Osborne have to state the obvious?

Even the tunnel walk was strange. At the part where the opponent’s logo appears outside the Husker locker room and explodes, the Jayhawk logo explosion was soft, even drawing a few giggles in the press box.

What, we don’t want to hurt Gill’s feelings with the usual tunnel walk stuff?

It was all very bizarre. How about coming out and honoring the former Husker all-American with an all-star performance on offense? How about that?

All of this is otherwise trivial, but things became even more strange when Pelini called out the Nebraska crowd on his weekly football show, saying the crowd was flat as if it was a scrimmage and not a game.

When asked about it at the Tuesday press conference, Pelini tried to blow it off as if it was nothing — putting up his dukes as he usually does with the media.

Bo, you can get all huffy with the media all you want, but calling out Nebraska fans at all is shear stupidity.

Fans arrived relatively late Saturday because it was windy and 34 degrees at kickoff. Unfortunately Nebraska’s offense was even colder and gave the faithful little to cheer about.

The cold weather is absolutely no excuse for anyone, but this loyal fan base was asked to stand outside for three hours for this? Bo should be apologizing to fans for this offense.

Nebraska should have opened a can of whoop-ass on KU with a wide-open offense that actually resembled a gameplan designed to actually score. Shouldn’t Nebraska at least try to look like a team challenging for the BCS title? Darn straight.

NU should have had its way with that defense, but instead walked off the field Saturday night after not leaving it all on the field.

I thought Nebraska moved beyond lack of effort with Pelini’s arrival. I didn’t see that on offense, not even close.

This lack of focus from week to week is a mystery.

What’s more, the coaching staff’s apparent inability to get these players to move beyond the usual mistakes is an even bigger mystery.

At this point the Nebraska offense is nearly as big of a question mark as it was this time last season. OK, Martinez is still hurt and was hesitant to make cuts in running the ball against KU. But where were the deep balls? Why didn’t Nebraska get Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead into the Kansas secondary consistently? Why the heck is Nebraska still fumbling (they lead the nation in this category)?

And why does Nebraska insist on distracting the Memorial Stadium crowd with a weekly video production that includes fan games and waving guests during timeouts? I’m sure plenty of fans enjoy some of that, but it is a huge distraction to the flow of the game and distracts focus away from the game itself.

Here’s how we solve the video problem: Stop the games, wait until halftime to introduce guests. Sounds simple enough, but Nebraska football has become way too much of a production.

Second, if coaches want the Nebraska crowd to show up every game just quit already with the same, old lines about why the offense didn’t do its job.

It just sounds like Pelini and company are making excuses for a unit that should perform at a much higher level every game.

Just play football already.

Nebraska Lacks Focus Required of a Championship Team

BY TODD NEELEY

It was a amusing to watch a local reporter tell readers Sunday to not make too much out of Nebraska’s lack of performance against South Dakota State in Lincoln Saturday.

Excuse me?

Well, maybe he’s right. Maybe this 17-3 win against a I-AA opponent doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. But it should.

SDSU showed the college football world how to beat Nebraska.

It doesn’t take great analysis to figure out that championship teams don’t play the way NU did on Saturday. From the opening kickoff Nebraska should have delivered a knockout blow against an opponent that should have been outmanned.

Still waiting for that one.

If Nebraska played like it did at Washington it would have been 70-3.

Every game matters when it comes to playing championship football. That’s why anyone with the reaction that Nebraska’s performance was shocking or “embarrassing” as Bo Pelini said afterwards, knows instinctively that there’s a bigger issue at play here.

To win championships you can’t have letdowns and you have to play at a consistently high level. So far in 2010 Nebraska hasn’t done that. NU should have hung 60 points on the Jackrabbits, but for whatever reason Nebraska didn’t come to play.

It would be hard to make the case that Nebraska was looking past SDSU to that first conference game at Kansas State because of a bye week before the trip to Manhattan. Sure, even great teams have close calls. But you expect that to come from opponents that match up with Nebraska athletically, not from an 0-2, I-AA team.

Texas’ 34-12 loss to UCLA in Austin Saturday is a prime example of a team looking ahead. UT plays Oklahoma Saturday.

Nebraska proved it can easily get off course and lose focus if it chooses to.

SDSU was flying around on defense and they stuffed the Nebraska running game for the most part. On offense SDSU was able to run the ball with way too much success, finishing with 141 yards including 112 from Kyle Minett.

Who? Did you say Walter Payton? Unfortunately not.

If ever there was a reason for Pelini to take back the Blackshirts he issued just before this week’s game, this performance is screaming for it.

Nebraska defensive back coach Marvin Sanders offered the only positive comment following the game. He said that if you look across college football there have been several big upsets. His point was that Nebraska found a way to grind it out and pull out a win. With all due respect to coach Sanders, Nebraska put itself in a position to lose that game.

In fact, if SDSU had even a couple more playmakers on offense it could have been a much different final score.

No one has been able to figure out Nebraska’s zone read all season — until Saturday. There should be reason for concern here.

Of all teams, SDSU showed the college football world how to defend the new Nebraska offense. It takes complete team defense and discipline. All 11 guys on that Jackrabbit defense knew their assignments and stuck with it for four quarters.

For the rest of the season Nebraska will have to find much better success in the passing game. That’s because SDSU showed that if you play eight or nine guys up at the line of scrimmage and every player stays in his lane and lets the Nebraska offense come to them, then you eliminate the overpursuit that has led to big running plays by Taylor Martinez, Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead.

SDSU held Nebraska at bay with a group of average athletes who gave great effort — that’s why there’s reason for concern.

Pelini obviously misread his team in practice last week. In the postgame he had no answers as to why his team played so poorly, especially since he said it was a good week of practice.

So, has this team reached a point where it is believing all the hype about being a top 10 team?

Pelini has been good at pushing all the right buttons to get his teams to play hard. Did players just not listen this week?

Unfortunately this lack of focus could come back to haunt in the big games down the road.

Nebraska will either take this game as a loss and step up the intensity, or this is the beginning of a bad habit.

Does anyone know where to find a good sports psychologist?

Is Nebraska Back in National Championship Hunt?

BY TODD NEELEY

Any doubts about how good Nebraska is pretty much vanished on a sunny day in Seattle Saturday. OK, not to mistake this Jake Locker-led Washington team for the same one that came back on Nebraska in Lincoln during a national title run in the ’90s, but playing in Seattle is a tough chore no matter what.

What we saw yesterday was a poised redshirt freshman quarterback, a powerful Husker running game and a stingy defense that made the expected top pick in the NFL draft look like an amateur in Nebraska’s 56-21 win. This isn’t to say it was the perfect game, but it just had the feel of Husker dominance of old.

There was a time in mid ’90s when you had no doubt about the outcome everytime Nebraska stepped on the field. You just expected NU to step on the field and call the score.

The biggest question mark heading into Saturday’s contest was whether Nebraska’s offense was really as good as it seemed in the first two games. Well, against the Huskies it was even better. The penalties virtually disappeared, NU took much better care of the ball, and Bo Pelini’s defense continues to show why it is the best unit in college football.

Redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez was the best player on the field Saturday, and if he’s not already raising eyebrows on a national scale he should be. Should he be a Heisman Trophy candidate? Not yet, but Martinez’ speed continues to garner attention. And most importantly, Martinez didn’t flinch once although the noise in Seattle was deafening.

Martinez made big, big plays on national television, on the road in a loud and hostile environment, and he put to rest anymore discussion about who is Nebraska’s quarterback for the next four years.

Although Bo played close to the vest about the quarterback spot all through fall camp, there’s no way he can make the case that it is a close race between Martinez, Cody Green and Zac Lee.

Pelini wanted to protect his young quarterback — it’s the only reason he told the media where to go during fall camp.

Barring injury, Martinez should make a serious run at the Heisman starting in his sophomore season. What’s more, the guy is nowhere near being polished as a quarterback. That’s what makes the kid so dangerous.

The sky is the limit.

The same goes for the Nebraska football program as a whole.

As history has shown, Pelini’s defenses only get better as the season goes on, and this unit already is pretty dang good. The only thing that kept Nebraska from making a run at a national title last season was its offense.

It makes you wonder if coaches could have somehow gotten Martinez ready to play as a true freshman?

Let’s not get too carried away here. Washington clearly has one of the worst defenses in the Pac 10 and I thought Locker was a huge letdown in one of the biggest games he’s played in awhile. I definitely thought this game would go well into the fourth quarter, but Locker and the Huskies just didn’t stack up.

Nebraska’s defense is good, but it’s time to stop buying into the Locker hype. He’s not ready for the NFL.

NU proved it can be a great road team and maybe a national title contender.

That Thursday night game against Kansas State in Manhattan will be a better test for Nebraska. The Wildcats have a formidable running game and are well-coached. Still, you’ll be hard pressed to find a tougher road game for Nebraska the rest of the way.

Suddenly the trips to College Station and Stillwater don’t seem as daunting. When you combine the running prowess of Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu Jr., along with Martinez and his ability to beat teams throwing as well, it’s a no-brainer that this team is built for the road.

Where can Nebraska improve?

Probably the one area is in the deep passing game. Right now Nebraska hasn’t had to throw deep because of a staggering running game. To compete for a national title NU will have to show it can hurt teams with the pass.

Defensively, though the defensive line has played well, this unit hasn’t dominated every down like it wants. Not to nitpick — it’s difficult to find anything wrong with this team.

Then you throw in the play of the special teams led by Alex Henery, and Nebraska has the potential to dominate every game.

Now, if Nebraska can dismantle KSU, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State on the road, and handle Texas in Lincoln, NU will be sitting pretty in the national picture.

Nebraska may Reconsider ‘Peso’ Defense When Big Ten Play Begins

BY TODD NEELEY

With Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten starting in the 2011 season, it makes you wonder if NU’s recent move to what coaches call the “Peso” defense will hold up.

The Peso essentially includes four down linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs. Defensive back Eric Hagg has been playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive back position. This has allowed Nebraska to get a ton of speed and athleticism on the field at one time.

The one true linebacker spot in the Peso is usually occupied by Lavonte David, Alonzo Whaley or Eric Martin. Most of the time in the first two games David has been the one linebacker playing in the Peso. The one downside is that David is just 6-0, 200 — pretty much the same size as any of the defensive backs in the lineup.

This defense makes  a lot of sense in the Big 12 because we’ve seen wide-open, pass-happy offenses carry the day in the past several years. Nebraska’s Peso has been effective because NU can put seven great athletes on the field at one time to cover some great receivers in this conference.

But who knows what happens starting in 2011.

During Nebraska’s weekly Tuesday press conference Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini said the smash mouth style of play in the Big Ten may have some bearing on whether the Huskers play the Peso after the 2010 season.

That’s because to defend what are run-oriented teams in the Big Ten could put a bigger premium on recruiting linebackers more suited for defending the run.

No offense against Lavonte David, but who knows what Nebraska will do on defense when it takes on Kansas State and bruising running back Daniel Thomas in a couple of weeks down in Manhattan. Last year in Lincoln Nebraska was able to keep Thomas pinned down, mostly because linebacker Phillip Dillard was all over the field. Yet Thomas was hard to tackle and put up some decent numbers.

If you look at the Big Ten there is a drastic difference in the way teams play offense. Nebraska will face a much more physical brand of football than what it sees in the Big 12, and much like the way Pelini has NU playing right now.

Pelini told reporters Tuesday that NU continues to recruit players like Hagg who can play multiple positions. It makes you wonder how well this works on defense considering that size may be a premium to defend the run.

Really, though, it isn’t always size that matters.

If you look back on Nebraska’s history, some of the best Husker defenders of all time were not exactly big. Mike Brown, the former Nebraska all-American and all-pro safety was the most fundamentally sound tackler NU has had — and the guy was only 5-11, 200. Barron Miles played corner for Nebraska during the ’94 championship season, and was a very good run defender at 5-8, 165.

I think we’ll continue to see Pelini and company recruit the best athletes regardless of position on defense.

As we’ve seen in Pelini’s first few years at Nebraska, guys aren’t necessarily recruited to play any one position. A good example is safety DeJon Gomes. Pelini said Gomes came to Nebraska as a corner back but hasn’t played that position since he came to Lincoln.

In a short time, however, Gomes has proven that he’s a playmaker. It started last season at the beginning of conference play when Gomes was inserted as a nickel back. He made a big interception at Missouri and had a big forced fumble at Kansas, both changing the face of the game.

Pelini said Lavonte David also has the ability to play more than one position. More importantly, I think we can refer to the back seven on the Nebraska defense as just the back seven. Position really doesn’t matter like it once did. It’s not as clear-cut.

Chances are Nebraska will continue to rely heavily on the play of its defensive line when it begins Big Ten Conference play next season at Wisconsin. Pelini and his staff have shown a tremendous ability to develop defensive linemen.

Ndamukong Suh was a good player when Pelini arrived, but quickly became the best defender in Nebraska history.

One thing’s for sure, we know Pelini will make the right adjustments ahead of the 2011 season.

Will Nebraska Ever be Perfect in Pelini’s Eyes?

BY TODD NEELEY

So far we’ve seen plenty of flash from Nebraska football early in 2010.

NU has found a playmaker at quarterback, its defense is as good as advertised, and Head Coach Bo Pelini has entirely changed the mood of the program in a short time.

Two games, two wins, and Pelini still is not happy with his team. In a way it’s refreshing. In a way it has become cliche’ to see a ticked off coach even after a win.

In three seasons Nebraska has evolved from the attitude that ‘well, a win’s a win, we made mistakes but it’s a long season,’ to ‘we stunk it up because we didn’t play a perfect game.’

Bo was visibly upset in front of reporters after the 38-17 win against Idaho.

He showed up to the podium red-faced and his intensity picked up the more he talked about how bad his offense played — I get the feeling the Husker locker room was a very bad place to be Saturday.

He even cracked out his usual snide, ‘well, what do you think? It was pretty clear out there,’ when asked about the performance.

Makes you wonder if it’s really perfection Pelini is expecting, or is just it something better than eight fumbles, 10 penalties for 123 yards (mostly on the offensive side), and missing wide open receivers in the passing game.

It was an interesting contrast between the tailgate parties outside Memorial Stadium, and a postgame mood that seemed as if Nebraska had just had its tail kicked around.

In fact, NU left reporters waiting for a good half hour between Pelini’s appearance and bringing star players to the mike. At one point reporters were desperate to interview anyone, even the ball boy.

Pelini has to be happy about something. There’s plenty to be excited about with this Nebraska team. Sure, there are going to be mistakes made when you’ve got a young team.

First, how in the world so many teams missed out on recruiting Taylor Martinez is difficult to explain. NU now has its best offensive playmaker since Eric Crouch. If you watch film comparing the two players Martinez is the better all-around athlete.

While Martinez clearly has speed to burn, I don’t think we’ve seen him hit high gear yet.

On the long touchdown runs against Western Kentucy and Idaho he was two steps faster than anyone on either defense. In the 67-yarder against the Vandals Martinez practically jogged to the end zone on the last 10 yards.

Nice.

Against Idaho we finally saw what we hoped the offense would feature — Roy Helu running hard and making big plays, and Rex Burkhead making big plays both running and receiving.

On defense Nebraska put it all together against Idaho and is clearly at mid-season form heading to Washington Saturday. NU forced five turnovers including two interceptions for touchdowns, seven sacks and the communication problems against Western Kentucky were non-existent.

So, if Nebraska played the perfect game at Washington what would that look like?

How about this for starters. Commit no more than three penalties, commit no turnovers, rush for 300 yards or better and pass for 150. On defense, keep Jake Locker from making big plays with his feet. We hear a lot about how Locker is the prototypical NFL quarterback with a big arm, but he runs a 4.5, 40-yard dash — scary for a guy who’s 6-5, 240.

I’m guessing Pelini might be happy on special teams if we don’t allow a single return on kickoffs, find a way to score on defense and special teams, and don’t give up any big plays.

What’s more, a perfect game would include getting an early lead on the road to take the bite out of the home crowd.

Even then, I wouldn’t expect Bo to crack a smile anytime soon.