Practice has barely begun and everyone wants to know just what Bo Pelini is doing. Better yet, they want to know how he is doing it. You need only look to the amazement people have about his much-publicized intensity to realize just how much intensity NU has lost in recent years. It's a shock, even for the players, but one that will probably be a welcome sight in the end. And right now, he's just getting warmed up. "We've still got a long ways to go." Pelini stated regarding the early progression of his defense. "They've done a lot of good things, but they are hearing new things for the first time and it's a process."
It's a process that would have been the same no matter who Pelini was replacing, because only Bo Pelini does things the way he does them. His style is as much of a value as the fury in which he brings that style to the field. But, of course, since nobody knows what that style really is or what system he is using, the fury makes for good copy.
What matters now is his daily assessment of the players, how they are progressing and how his goals are shaping up and to that end, Pelini reiterated his ideology of this all just beginning, but had an idea of where it might end. "I have a vision in my mind about how we will go with things." Pelini stated. "But, we are at the beginning stages right now."
The beginning stages are invariably different with every coach in just how they approach the game. One thing you usually do notice though is that most coaches preach about learning the game first, becoming intimate with the task at hand and only then, do you turn up that intensity to bring it all together. Once again, Pelini dances to a different drummer than most. "I go the other way." Pelini stated. "We got to take care of the intensity and effort, that's the first thing that needs to be addressed."
"They'll learn the schemes and responsibilities. That stuff will come with time. You have to play this game a certain way and if you don't take care of the effort part of it and the intensity part of it, the other stuff will never come. We'll get them coached up, but the effort and the intensity, that's the first thing that has to be talked about."
Aside from the mentality that Pelini teaches being a headline most of the time, almost equally as much has been made from the origins of where Pelini's reputation came from. Almost a decade of coaching in the NFL has given him invaluable experience, but while Pelini acknowledges it's usefulness, he discounts it right now, at least for it's initial value. "I've got 9 years of experience at the top level." Pelini stated. "I've seen every bit of offense I am going to see and I have a lot of experience in how to deal with those offenses. But, that's the furthest thing from my mind at this point."
"The thing I am trying to do right now is teach principles and teach technique. We are trying to establish what we are trying to do here, but we are at stage 1 right now."
Stage 1 could actually be a team theme, at least during this Spring, because literally and figuratively, that's where everyone is at. Coaches feeling out players, players feeling out coaches, it's new for everyone involved. Pelini expected this and once again, draws on some experience from the next level to assist with being patient during this time. "I've dealt with rookies every year during training camp." Pelini stated. "It's like I have a group of rookies. It's what we have here, guys at the bottom level of understanding."
"It's going to take some patience on our part and it's going to take work and understanding on their part."
In all actuality, at least from early reports, the only real lack of understanding is coming from those that all these changes don't directly affect, that being the fans. Pelini's style has been considered harsh, but to qualify that, considering who he was replacing, going from Bohl to Pelini might be considered analogous to going from Ketchup to Tobasco. It's not that the latter is bad, it's just so different nowadays, it takes a little getting used to.
For Pelini, this time is crucial in being able to see what he wants to see and do what he feels needs to be done during this pre-season of sorts. And up to this point, he likes what he has seen. "I'm seeing them make strides and improving." Pelini said. "These guys have been working hard and trying and very willing and eager to learn. Everything up to this point has been positive in their approach."
Ok, that could be a nice segue into just how positive is positive. I mean, you remember ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit going off about how this defense didn't have any talent, it didn't have any speed and it was for the most part, simply outclassed by it's opponents. And, this is actually a more depleted defense right now than when the Blackshirts played last year. You have to wonder based on last year if even the most positive gains in attitude can help them be any better than they were less than a year ago. Bo Pelini thinks so. "There's some talent here." Pelini stated. "There are a lot of good players. There's enough talent here to get it done. We just have to coach them up and get them heading in the right direction."
The direction? Well, forward of course and with only four days in the books, you might say neither the coaches or players have even gotten out of the driveway. But, it's a trip that everyone appears to be taking on each day with eagerness and anticipation. Bo Pelini doesn't seem like the type that will ever be truly satisfied, but from what he expected coming in to what he expects now, the Huskers aren't off to a bad start. "It's nothing I didn't expect at this point and it's going to take awhile." Pelini stated. "But at the same time, I feel good about it."
"I feel good about our first four days and how much we have gotten done."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619