It's always good to have an icon in the school.
As Tom Osborne moved through the halls of Omaha Westside, it was probably to the surprise of some, but obviously to the gratification of others.
It was Osborne along with new Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini, and it was a chance to reaffirm old ties for Osborne, but to strengthen new ties for Pelini. For Westside Head Coach Marty Kauffman, though, this wasn't a completely fresh introduction. "I knew Bo from when he was here four years ago, and he's just a guy who never changes," Coach Kauffman said. "He's a real high integrity guy and he's going to bring a lot to the Nebraska program."
The sentiment toward Pelini seems unanimous from those who knew him and have had a chance to meet him in recent times. Many talk about the aura he has and how he and Osborne seem to have that in common. It's about a sense of who they are as people as much as coaches, some think, and Kauffman said he'd agree. "I think Coach Pelini, in just that one year, developed a great understanding of the kids here," Kauffman talked about Pelini's familiarity with the in-state prospects. "He understood the connection that everyone around here has with the program.
"That's really important to have, because it's not a big state with a lot of people and the more you understand what you are dealing with, the better off you will be."
One of the obvious interests both coaches had in going to Westside was to visit current Husker commit, running back Collins Okafor. But there were a few other kids who obviously caught their eye.
Biere remains firm to the Jayhawks
In today's world, a kid committing to a place usually doesn't mean much, because that commit to a Division 1-A school will often prompt even more schools to pay attention to him. For Osborne and Pelini, though, Tim being happy with where he was heading was good enough for them. "They were happy for him and just wanted to visit with him, but Tim was happy with his commit and they were OK with that," Kauffman said. "They just wished him well and that was that. They weren't going to try and get him to change his mind."
That speaks to what Osborne and Pelini have apparently done in a very short time as they hit the road recruiting, both inside the state and around the country. It's a matter of rekindling old realationships, creating new ones and spreading the Nebraska word, so to speak.
For one particular Westside standout, he's happy about what this dynamic duo bring to Nebraska , but also the state. "I think that it gives the program an identity again, which I think we lost some of over the last few years," senior Damon Bechtold said. "You know that they know what they are doing and they know how important the kids in this state are."
While there is certainly no indictment of the previous regime acknowledging the kids inside the Husker state, there seems to be a common belief that all the kids weren't really appreciated or even considered as much as perhaps four to five years ago. But with Osborne at the helm of the program, there's a relationship rekindled which might be as strong as those happy days during what most consider simply a different era in Husker football.
For Damon himself, he doesn't know what that will mean for his future, as he holds one offer from Colorado State right now. But he's absolutely certain that if this
|Bechtold doesn't know what the|
future holds, but is confident
new Nebraska coaches will give
him a good look
"They have a pretty full class, though, and they just got that (Ben) Cotton kid at tight end. So, I don't know where I might fit in, but I know they will go over my film and be fair about what they see."
Westside went into this last season with high expectations, especially having made it all the way to the finals last year before falling to Kearney High, 41-21. Inexperience at key positions on offense led to a struggling Westside team this year however, the Warriors going out in the first round of the playoffs.
It meant that Bechtold didn't see a lot of touches on offense, but he tried to make up for it on the other side of the ball. "We just ran the ball more than anything on offense, but I really got to work on my blocking and I thought I good job in that area," he said. "On defense I think I ended up with about 10 sacks. So, it was good, but obviously we wanted to do better as a team."
It's impossible to say who out of this year's group of seniors at Westside will get interest as far as a written offer from Nebraska and those who might be asked to walk on. Okafor, Biere and Bechtold are standouts, but two-way standout Trent Goodman has been getting some interest, too.
Goodman proved that while he's not the tallest player in the world, (He's listed at 5-11), he plays huge. On the season Goodman had 293 yards rushing from the fullback position, scoring five times. And on defense Goodman was a machine, totaling an eye-popping 172 tackles playing middle linebacker, including two sacks along with a fumble recovery.
It's these kinds of players who will keep Nebraska coming back, but as Coach Kauffman put it, he has a feeling that they would be back anyway. "They understand what the kids mean to the state and the kids will get to see what kind of people they are," he said. "It's about really high integrity and I think that's just going to be great for the future, both for them and us."