Pelini inherits one of the nation's best offenses. The huskers were in the top ten in the country in both passing and total offense in 2007 and return trigger man Joe Ganz. Ganz stepped in for an injured Sam Keller for the last three games last season and averaged 466 yards and 5 touchdowns per game. He contented to improve in the offseason and shined in the spring game, throwing for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's a good football player, a tremendous leader. He's playing with a swagger and a confidence right now, and that's very important. Our guys rally around him, they believe in him, and I think he's going to have a heck of a year. I think he's an outstanding football player and somebody who is prepared to lead this team and do some very good things," Coach Pelini said of the 6-1 210 pound senior.
Marlon Lucky was a 1,000 yard rusher last year and also led the team in receiving yards, but will be challenged for carries by Roy Helu, who rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the spring game. Returning seniors Nate Swift, Todd Peterson, and speedy freshman Curenski Gilleyen, who wowed the spring game audience with a 77 yard touchdown reception, are expected to be NU's top receiving threats. To say the Huskers struggled defensively in 2007 would be an understatement. They gave up 37.9 points per game including 76 to Kansas and 65 to Colorado, and ranked 116th in the nation in rushing defense. Enter Pelini, who Sooner fans remember as the co-architect of the 2004 defense that ranked 11th in the country and helped OU to an undefeated regular season and Big 12 championship. Pelini brings his brother Carl from Ohio University to help install his defensive system. Despite the awful numbers last year, the cupboard is not bare in Lincoln. NU returns four senior starters up front, defensive end Barry Turner showed promise in the spring game, recording four takles and a sack. Converted running back turned linebacker Cody Glenn adjusted well to his new position in the spring, "we've thrown a lot at him in a short time, but I think he's going to be a heck of a player for us," Pelini told reporters.
Returning starters Armando Murlillo and Larry Asante lead a secondary looking to improve on the meager 8 picks they recorded a year ago. Overall Pelini's impact can be seen in swagger as much as scheme, "We're not going to be satisfied until we're up there at the top. We're going to keep raising our standard. We have a very high standard; we want perfection. That's what we're going to strive for, and the players understand that. They have the correct attitude," Pelini said of his defense. For the Sooners to come out ahead in this one, the secondary must figure out a way to slow down the NU passing attack that ran roughshod over the Big 12 late last season, they must also use their superior size to control the line of scrimmage. This rivalry game has always been about emotion, and an important step to avoiding an upset will be taking care of the ball and controlling momentum.