Pelini: "I am at a better place now"

Oklahoma Secondary Coach and Co-Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini talks about his time departure from Nebraska, his time in the NFL and his future with the Sooners in an exclusive interview with OUInsider.com. (AP Photo/Amy Conn-Gutierrez)

There hasn't been an assistant coach arrive at the University of Oklahoma with as much fanfare as Bo Pelini since Bob Stoops was named the head coach. A year ago, Pelini was one of the hottest young coaches in college football as the defensive coordinator of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Pelini turned the Nebraska defense into one of the best units in college football in just one year, and his reputation took a big leap after Frank Solich was fired. Pelini was thought to be the leading candidate for the job and was named interim Head Coach for the Cornhuskers' bowl game against Michigan State.

Pelini proved that he could organize through adversity by leading the Cornhuskers past Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl. The Cornhuskers had played their best game of the year under Pelini's leadership, yet he was never really considered for the head coaching position at Nebraska by Nebraska AD Steve Pederson, despite the support of the football team and the general public.

Once Pelini was out of the running for the head coaching position at Nebraska he moved quickly to interview with his old friend Bob Stoops, and it didn't take long for Pelini to be named Co-Defensive Coordinator and secondary coach at OU.

OUInsider.com recently had a chance to talk to OU's newest coach for the latest segment of the Two Minute Drill.

JH: Despite the tough circumstances at Nebraska, you have to be proud of what you and your fellow coaches accomplished against Michigan State in the bowl game?

BP: "Yeah, it was a very rewarding experience. It was a tough time for everybody. There was a lot of uncertainty going on and the players were going through a lot of emotions as were the coaches. Everybody was able to put that aside, focus and play a good football game against a pretty good football team. Without question, that experience was very rewarding for all of us."

JH: Did you realize how much support you had from your team, fans and media to take over as head coach at Nebraska?

BP: "Yeah, they were good to us. They were good to me, my family and our staff really. However, it wasn't meant to be. Looking back, I pretty much knew all along that I didn't really have a good shot at it just because of who the AD (Steve Pederson) was. He went through a different type of process and I had a feeling early on that I didn't have a chance, but I was hired to do a job and I did it. I did the job with the best of my abilities and I am at a better place now. I am looking forward to being an Oklahoma Sooner. That time at Nebraska is now behind me."

JH: You have known Bob Stoops for a long time, and this seems like a natural fit for you. But didn't you have other opportunities as well in the NFL? Was it a clear cut decision that you were coming to Oklahoma?

BP: "Oklahoma was at the forefront of what I was looking at the whole time. Obviously, I have a pro background and there were a couple of things that I wanted to take a look at just to make sure I was making the decision that was right for me. However, Oklahoma was No. 1 on my list the whole time, and when I went to the Sugar Bowl I was able to sit down with Bob and Brent and the rest of the staff and I felt real comfortable. I am looking forward to working with those guys and I think we have a chance to do great things. They have already done great things there and I just hope that I can give them a small contribution."

JH: You played for Bob and Mike's father - Ron Stoops - at Cardinal Mooney High School, in Youngstown, Ohio. Do you have the same philosophy as the Stoops family on defense?

BP: "I think there are a lot of things that are similar in our backgrounds. However, we are not exactly the same just because I had a different up-bringing. I have been around some different programs, but obviously there is a lot I can learn from them and there are some things they can take from me. We will marry it up and it is about winning. That is what we all have in common. We all want to win and want to win badly, and we will look forward to doing that. I think that is what is going to happen."

JH: You join a great defensive staff that has been together for a long time. Mike leaving for Arizona is the first break in the staff since Bob has been at OU. You join a great group of defensive coaches, don't you?

BP: "They are not only great coaches, but they are very excellent people. It is a good professional situation and a good family situation, and I am excited to be coming there. I couldn't be happier. I am really looking forward to it. It is going to be a fresh start for me, and one that I am really looking forward to. I couldn't be happier."

JH: You lose two out of four starters next year in the secondary, but don't you feel that you still return a great deal of talent in that area?

BP: "Oh yeah, and that has been obvious to me for a long time. I knew that coming in before I took the job, because I have been watching them on film all year. OU played a lot of the same teams we did at Nebraska. I also got to the see them in the National Title game. I also know how they recruit down there as they only recruit the best. I is a real good situation there."

JH: What is your defensive philosophy?

BP: "I think multiple, but simple is the easiest way to describe what I have been doing. It is very similar to what they do at Oklahoma. We give people multiple or a lot of different looks, but it is simple for our players. One thing you will find out is that the teams that play the hardest are the teams that play the best on the defensive side of the ball. If you play with passion, with great effort, get to the football and get a number of hats around the ball, then good things are going to happen for your defensive football team."

JH: So, you are looking for more than just talent or skill out of your players?

BP: "Effort or passion is No. 1, and where we get started working to get on the same page. Play with great passion is what we believe in. I have always coached since day one. That is how you create turnovers and that is how good things happen for you in games when you have a lot of people around the football."

JH: You coached in the NFL for nine years before you went to Nebraska. How did you get started in the NFL?

BP: "I got started at a young age. I got started in scouting for about a week or two and then moved on over when I got a good opportunity when I was with the (San Francisco) 49ers. It really worked out for me, as I was around a lot of great people, which really gave me a good jump start to my coaching career."

JH: Didn't you coach a secondary in San Francisco with a couple of all-pros on that unit?

BP: "I was around some great players there. I was there with Deion Sanders, Eric Davis, Tim McDonald and Merton Hanks. I was around a lot of good football players and one of my biggest jobs was not to screw them up."

JH: What was it like to coach such great players?

BP: "It was pleasure to coach them and I still remain close them to this day. It was a great experience. A lot of people think that it is hard to coach guys with big egos, but these guys just wanted to win and that is how they went about things with their approach."

JH: How would you describe your upbringing in Youngstown, Ohio?

BP: "I think it was very rewarding. I would look at it the same way that Bob and Mike do, in that it was tough, but a great experience for us. I think our life in Youngstown has a lot to do with what we have been able to accomplish. I look back on it and I was very lucky to be around the people I was, not only family wise, but with the friends and the guys who coached me all the way through high school. It was very rewarding for me and I am lucky and thank God everyday for that opportunity."

JH: You played for Bob and Mike's father Ron, what can you say about that experience?

BP: "He was a great man. I was around him and not only experienced him as coach, but as a friend and somebody who in a lot of ways was a second father to me at the time. He was a great man and we all miss him, but we all feel very fortunate for all of us that played for him or knew him. We all feel very lucky to have known him. Not only him, but the whole Stoops family, because they are all great people."

JH: I am going to guess being from Youngstown that you are a big Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini fan?

BP: "There you go. We have a lot of pride in everybody that comes out of Youngstown and 'Boom Boom' was able to accomplish some great things. We are proud of him and lucky to know him. It is a pretty close-knit community, and we take a lot of pride in everybody that came out of there."

JH: Nobody messed with 'Boom Boom' did they?

BP: "Well, he was smaller than most of the guys, but so tough that he could stand up to anybody. Plus, he always had a bunch of big guys around him. I know I never wanted him mad at me."

JH: You will work with a great coach in Brent Venables. How much do you know about Brent and do you feel you two can be a good team together?

BP: "I wouldn't have come if I didn't feel that way. He is an excellent football coach and a heck of a person. I think it is going to be great. We are about winning No. 1, and let's go out and win. I think we will work well together as we will with the rest of the staff. I think it is going to be a great marriage. I am looking forward to doing some great things."

JH: I am sure you will look forward to all the games, but will you really look forward to the Nebraska game?

BP: "Oh yeah, but every game will be exciting because I love college football Saturday's. I love the game, but I think that one will be a little bit special for me. I already know that November 13th date. There are also a lot of other dates that are important, but that one will be a little bit special to me."

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories