After a week-long holiday break, the Nebraska football team arrived in Orlando, Fla. on Monday evening to begin their quest for a Capital One Bowl victory.
As the Huskers prepare for No. 10 South Carolina, Tuesday morning provided many firsts for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
First Team Practice…
This morning, the Huskers worked out for nearly two hours in helmets and shoulder pads at Freedom High School, marking the team's first official practice since arriving in Florida.
"I thought the tempo was good. I thought the focus was good, and I thought there was a lot of retention from our earlier practices from before the holidays," Pelini said. "I thought it was a good start to the week."
Papuchis takes over…
"It was a pretty obvious choice to me," Pelini said about promoting Papuchis to defensive coordinator. "He's been a guy who's been around me for a long time now. He knows how I like to work. He's a bright young guy."
New D-Line coach…
The newest addition to Nebraska's staff also saw his first action as a Husker. Rich Kaczenski—the former Iowa assistant—participated in his first Husker practice after being announced last week as Papuchis' replacement as Nebraska's defensive line coach.
"The chance to get Rich Kaczenski as our defensive line coach, I think he's an outstanding football coach. He has a lot of energy, and I think it's a really good fit for us," Pelini said. "I've been watching his guys play for a long time now. I have a lot of respect for how his guys play and how he coaches."
Pelini hinted that this is a big week for Kaczenski, and not just on the football field. "I think it's a great opportunity for him, for us (coaches), and for the players to be around him and to get to know him."
Filling in the holes…
Linebackers coach Ross Ells will take over Papuchis' role as special teams coordinator beginning after the bowl game. Pelini said he will also replace Papuchis as recruiting coordinator with another member of the staff, but that announcement will come at a later date.
Picking up the pace…
Although the Huskers didn't go full-pads this morning, Pelini does intend to pick up the pace as the Jan. 2 matchup draws nearer. "We'll definitely go full pads tomorrow," he said. "Obviously we'll be a little more physical here early in the week, but as the week goes on we'll kind of tone it down a little bit."
While the Big Ten gauntlet proved to be as physical as advertised, a few players were given some much needed recovery time since the Nov. 25 Iowa game.
Junior tight end Ben Cotton injured his shoulder in the Nov. 12 matchup with Penn St. and missed Nebraska's last two regular season games. Coach Pelini assured everyone that the coaching staff has been "easing him into it" and that he did, indeed, practice on Tuesday. "I think he's going to be ready to go come Monday," he said. "I thought he had a good day today. He felt good out there today; no setbacks—which is always a key when trying to comeback."
While the Huskers spent the rest of Tuesday at Disney World, one unfortunate Husker was left at home rehabbing his foot. Pelini said that left guard Andrew Rodriguez didn't make the trip with the team, but could be at the bowl site late in the week. Rodriguez has missed the last three games due to a sprain in his foot. Seung Hoon Choi started in his place against Penn State and Michigan, and Jeremiah Sirles started against Iowa. "We just don't want to take any chances," Pelini said.
Notable Pelini quotes…
"It's a first class bowl game and we're excited to be here in Orlando for the next week or so."
"The quarterback is a big part of what they do. They're committed to the ground game. They do a lot of things in rhythm for plays that are called to the quarterback."
"On called quarterback runs, he (QB Connor Shaw) is dangerous when he scrambles. It will be a good test for us."
"Everybody has their own nuances and their own way of doing things, but we've seen the majority of them before."
"They execute well. They're a good football team, they've won 10 games."
*** Edited by Josh Harvey ***