Lincoln, NE - In the team's fourth official spring practice, the Huskers picked up right where they left off before they commenced for spring break, which was comforting for head coach Bo Pelini.
"You worry about having a bit of a layoff, but we had a good practice; good tempo. I thought the recall of the things we installed up to this point was pretty good, and I thought it was a good practice for being off for eight, nine, 10 days.
Much of the focus of Monday's post-practice interview was on the defense; however, the offense did, naturally, make its way into the conversation.
"For only being four days in, I feel like we've been pretty sharp," Pelini said. "I think Tim (Beck) has a real good handle. After a year in the system and knowing what we do well and don't do well, I think he has a pretty good plan in his head in what he wants to do with the offense."
But enough with the offense, let's get back to the defensive side of the ball.
"We have a lot of talent in the back-end, a lot of guys in the defensive backfield who can play. We have a lot of options there," Pelini said. "The hard part is going to be finding a way to get them all on the field. There's a lot of competition going on there, so I feel really good about that group right now."
Which should come as a surprise to many Husker fans. With the departure of Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard, and of course the hot-and-cold play of the secondary, many have questioned who, if any, of Nebraska's players will step into that role.
When asked about who has looked good in Spring thus far, Pelini pointed to his 6-2, 200 pound senior from Daytona Beach, Florida. "Antonio Bell has done well," he said. "He's kind of carried over from what he did at the end of the year."
Seissay shines early
Another defensive player who is turning some heads is a cornerback who just recently arrived to campus. JUCO transfer Mohammed Seissay, who also stands at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, received a lot of praise from his new head coach.
"Mo is a very talented young man. He's very mature. Football comes easy to him from what I'm seeing. I think he has a very good understanding of what we're trying to do. He picks up things really quickly. You tell him something once and he's pretty much got it."
And he already has Division I experience. At Memphis, Seissay was a Conference USA All-Freshman selection and was a top 15 JUCO recruit. When he signed with NU, it seemed as if Pelini had struck gold, and judging by the head coach's statement, he is beginning to believe that, too.
Said Pelini: "He's a big, long, talented guy who I think is going to be a force for us."
Braylon Heard's progression
Braylon Heard's switch to cornerback came as somewhat of a surprise to many, but Coach Pelini doesn't seem to be worried about his decision.
So how exactly is Heard doing in his new position?
"Really well," said Pelini. "In fact, we just had a good session with him today. He's obviously playing some corner but also playing some nickel. Braylon did some good things, his understanding is growing every day. He's another guy the game comes pretty easy to, and he's a guy who is really easy to coach and someone who takes to coaching and understands what's going on. As that understanding grows he's going to keep getting better.
"He has talent, he has a lot of skills to help us in a number of ways."
Damion Stafford thrives in second year
If you ask Husker fans about safety Damion Stafford, you'll probably get mixed responses. Coach Pelini understands exactly why this may be.
"I think he didn't know much when the season started (last year), and at the end of the year he grew a lot. I thought he played pretty good football towards the end of the year.
"What I see right now—in fact I just said to him before break—is that he looks light-years ahead of where he was a year ago. His confidence, his understanding of what we're trying to do; it's going to be fun to watch because Damion's a talented guy. Everybody knows he'll hit you and he can do multiple things to help you."
So what should the Husker faithful expect to see from an experienced Stafford next year?
"I think now that he has a lot better understanding and is a lot more comfortable, you're going to see that talent to an even greater extent than a year ago," said Pelini. "I'm looking forward to big things out of him come next year."
A desire to get better
Coach Pelini didn't hesitate when he was asked about his team's desire to get better.
"I really do (believe the team has the desire). I've sensed that from January on. We've done some things differently in the off-season; we've communicated about where we are and where we see things going."
But don't think that this desire has just recently surfaced due to the start of spring practices. "I saw it through the offseason, I saw it through the winter conditioning program, and I think that's continued on through spring practice. It's an everyday thing, and you've got to bring it every day."
-Josh Harvey -