Osborne/Pelini Tour: Millard North

It goes without saying that the tour around Nebraska has hit a fever pitch for new Husker Head Coach Bo Pelini and the man who hired him, Athletic Director Tom Osborne. It's a way to rekindle relationships and make sure some kids who haven't gotten noticed much, get a second look. One of the latest stops is Millard North.

Millard North has put out its share of stud players.

Paul Homer is a fullback at Washington
Jeff Tarpinian is a DB at Iowa
Jake Behrens is a fullback at Colorado
Seth Olsen is an offensive lineman at Iowa
Jake Galusha is a two-way player at Colorado State
Adam Shada is another two-way player, but at Iowa  

And that's not counting all the players Millard North has sent to Nebraska  

It's easy to see why the Nebraska coaches would pay attention to that school, even if they aren't completely familiar with the state. 

So, when Mustangs Head Coach Fred Petito saw Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini visit the school yesterday, it was welcome, but not a big surprise. "Well, I can't speak to what's happened over the last few years, but I know that I liked Bill Callahan and his staff," Petito said. "I always got along with them, but it was nice seeing Tom and Bo here at the school." 

Pelini making a huge impression with
coaches across Nebraska.

Obviously Petito knows all about Osborne and has met him numerous times. But dating back to when Pelini was in Nebraska during the 2003 season, he got to know him as well. 

"He's a good man. He's exactly what he is. A lot of coaches come in and schmooze  a kid and kind of change when they get on the grass, but he's not like that," Petito said of Pelini. "He's exactly who he is and I think our guys will like him a lot." 

The Pelini factor only reinforces in many minds the factor Osborne himself had. When coaches think of either, there's a bottom line which seems to identify them both. "It's like Tom Osborne, they are kind of a unique pair," he said. "They where here yesterday and they are just both high character guys. They coach for the kids. There's no question about that." 

Petito's familiarity with Bo extends perhaps a little farther than some, the coach having had players play for him when he was at Nebraska in 2003. That relationship, however brief, gave Petito a real feel for Pelini, but not from what Bo showed him directly. It came instead from a source he feels is much more important. 

"The biggest tell tale sign is guys who played for him and what do they say," Petitio said. "Pat Ricketts is an old Millard North kid and played for him and couldn't say enough good things about Bo. The number one thing is that he's honest. That just jumps at you right away." 

While Petito had a very good relationship with the recent staff, he feels there's a little different air about Nebraska right now. From the recruiting to just the image itself, with Osborne and Pelini now scouring the state, he feels like it's back to the future at NU. 

"It's back to the old ways where an oral commitment meant something. Now, it seems all that commitment does is raise a red flag for everyone else to go and talk to the kid," he said. "It's real difficult, but these guys (Osborne and Pelini) come in, they have an agenda and they know exactly what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. 

"It is refreshing, but I knew how it would be, because I knew those guys from before." 

The moment a kid pledges to a school is a key moment for Petito when he talks about his players making decisions about their future. He doesn't make any bones about it with his players when he feels that if you give your commitment, you are sticking to it. 

The recent situation at Nebraska does complicate things, though, especially when it comes to offensive lineman Brian Thorson. Currently a commit to Buffalo and Head Coach Turner Gill, Nebraska 's interest in him yesterday makes this a somewhat clouded situation. 

"They talked to him yesterday, and of course, he's orally committed to Buffalo , but the hard part about now versus then, Nebraska didn't recruit him at all," Petito said. "So, the last staff didn't think Brian was their type of player, but that's their business and that's great. But this staff may. Brian was just in a little while ago and said "Coach, I am a Nebraska kid.' 

"It makes for a difficult situation, but when Brian committed, the whole situation was different than it is now. I don't know how this will transpire. I really don't. He is a player they really like and the kind of player Nebraska used to make a living on. 

"Our kids, we want them to be steadfast when they say something, we want them to stick with it. And with coach Gill involved, that makes it even harder" 

One thing that Petito knows, though, is that if Thorson says he's committed to Buffalo and that's the way it's going to stay, Pelini, Osborne and anyone else from that staff will honor it and respect his wishes. But just talking to Thorson and the interest they are obviously showing, speaks well to Petito about the future of in-state recruiting.

"They are going to recruit this state hard. And I think they think there are more players out of this state than people think and I don't disagree with them," Petito said. "I know that we've got nine kids playing Division 1 ball at places other than Nebraska and playing well. And I am sure they would like to tap back in here and that's great for us." 

Homer was named the freshman
of the year (offense) for
Washington last season.
That could mean players like Paul Homer, currently a fullback with the University of Washington , might end up in Scarlet and Cream versus those of other schools. Homer was a standout two-way player for Millard North, helping to lead the Mustangs to a 12-1 record in 2006 and a state title. On defense Homer had 112 tackles (85 solo), including eight for loss, one sack and an interception. And on offense, Homer had 1,194 yards rushing on 157 carries with 14 touchdowns.  

"Paul is doing great. I have gotten a chance to watch him play. Their games are on late, but he's going to be playing on Sunday," Petito said. "A coach from Stanford came in here and said about Paul ‘Gosh, he's from this place.' 

"Last week they played Hawaii and he ran a play/pass. Usually, Paul is on the end of the block and he caught the pass, ran through a couple of guys and into the end zone. The refs spotted it at like the half inch line. Well, the next play they ran Paul in there, and you could see the Washington guys, they were so happy for him and they all went running up to him to congratulate him. 

"I was just so happy for him, because if you know the guy, you know what a solid guy he is." 

Petito is obviously glad for the success his players have at the next level, no matter where they might go. But he's happy knowing that he'll have no hesitation in suggesting players to this staff and knowing for certain that those players are going to get a fair shake in return. 

"Those guys are really good evaluators. You aren't going to sell them something that can't be sold," he said. "You have to make sure that the guys you do recommend are high character guys. They are going to see the physical ability, so it has to be the intangibles. We feel pretty good about what we are trying to pass onto them, and we've got a pretty good relationship with the people who come into our school." 

One thing the head coach likes as well, is just the buzz created when a certain someone is in the school for the first time in a long while. He sees the presence of an icon not just as a positive for the team, but a positive for the program as well. 

"When those two guys came into the school, they came during passing period and heads were snapping all over the place," Petito said. "Coach Osborne, even though he's been out of the game for awhile, he still has that aura about him. Everyone knows who is. Just his name, what he's done and the integrity he has. 

"That helps out the program tremendously." 

Big Red Report will keep you up-to-date on the Huskers as they traverse the state and as they are scouting players, it would seem like they are, as expected, bringing back a lot of identity to the state once again.

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