Bo Pelini enters his sixth season as Nebraska's head coach.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Coach Bo Pelini

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Memorial Stadium
Monday, Aug. 26, 2013

Head Coach Bo Pelini
Opening Statement

“I know you guys missed me. Heading into the first game I think we’ve had a good preseason camp, and we started getting on Wyoming toward the end of last week and just introduced them a little bit. The bulk of our preparation will be coming up this week. We’re looking forward to the season. We, obviously like everyone else at this point in the season, are a work in progress. But I feel good about where we are right now and where this football team is headed and we’ll start this week.”

On what will distinguish this season from his first five
“I think you become a little more comfortable. From my standpoint as far as what I want to accomplish, what we want to get done. We’ve made adjustments along the way. I guess this is year six. I like our schedule, I like the way things set up. I thought we got really good work in, but other than Kevin (Williams’) getting hurt we came out of it really healthy. I think we are ready to go and feel good about where we are. I feel bad for Kevin. He was playing some good football and it’s a tough setback for him, but his surgery went well and he’ll recover in short order.”

On what he remembers about Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith from playing the Cowboys two years ago
“He was a true freshman when we first played him I believe. I went into that game and came out of that game thinking he’s really far along for a true freshman, and I think he’s a really good player. He’s very poised. He has excellent feet. I don’t know what he runs, but he’s very elusive in the pocket and he buys time. I think he’s a really good player. I thought that going into that game and I remember coming out of that game I was very impressed. Obviously he’s a lot further along now as a player than he was then. He’s a good quarterback.”

On how much Wyoming has changed since 2011
“There are some similarities. They were a little more multiple personnel-wise and now they are a little more exclusively spread, but you’ll see some of the elements of putting a tight end or multiple tight ends into the game. That creeps up every now and then but it’s very similar to what it was when (Wyoming Head Coach Dave Christensen) was at Missouri.”

On how tough it is to prepare for an opponent the first time around
“You know that you are going to get a lot of things from them offensively and they’ll do some things you haven’t seen. They’ve had a whole offseason as have we. You’re going to see some things that you will have to adjust to. They are going to have to make their adjustments. Defensively you don’t really know what to expect. They were more exclusively a four-man front last year. Now it sounds like they’ve mixed in more of a three-man front. There’s going to be some adjustments that need to be made along the way on both sides.”

On if he has any idea how many rotations there will be on Saturday
“We are in a situation where I think we have a lot of different options. I think you are going to see a lot of different guys play and guys who have earned playing time. I think we have good depth. I feel comfortable about where we are. Obviously we are going to see, but not exclusively, a lot of four-wide sets so that dictates what we put out there personnel-wise. Honestly I don’t know what to expect. They could come out and throw us a curveball and we’ll be ready to adjust. The thing that’s nice for us defensively is that we’ve played against our offense, which is so multiple that our guys have seen a lot of looks and a lot of different football. That helps prepare you for a game like this when going in you know you are going to see some things you didn’t quite expect.”

On who will be in as the fourth cornerback
“We have a couple different guys that can be in that spot. Like I said, it depends on what personnel groupings they throw out there but you’ll see a number of different guys at that slot. We could put a corner in there, we could put a safety in there, we could put a linebacker in there and that’s kind of how we’re built right now.”

On his thoughts about this year’s roster
“You are going to see some old faces, you are going to see some new faces. It’s going to be a good mix and like I said, I think a lot of guys have come a long way and have earned some playing time. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

On who will play Saturday that people haven’t seen yet in a game
“When you include the redshirts and the new true freshmen, you are going to see a number of them. To go right down the list, there are probably too many to name in this setting. You’ll probably see (Terrell) Newby, you’ll probably see (Maliek) Collins, you’ll see (Randy) Gregory, who’s a JC guy. Kevin Maurice, probably Nate Gerry will play some football for us. Who else? Cethan Carter. Those are just some names off the top of my head. You’ll probably see more than that.”

On what he thinks when people say the defense won’t be as good as last year
“I don’t pay attention. I’m just worried about making our football team better. We’re going to find out. I like out group. I like our potential and our job is to get them coached and bring them along. That’s all our mindset is.”

On how he’ll deal with handing out Blackshirts considering 20 to 25 different guys could play on defense
“That’s a good question. I haven’t given it much thought up to this point. We don’t normally hand them out this early. You’ll definitely see them. I don’t know how many you’ll see. I’m probably not as giving when it comes to giving out Blackshirts to anybody who goes out there on the field. With the more guys you see, you think you’d see more but you’ll probably see less. I haven’t given it a lot of thought yet.

On if the tradition of using 11 to 13 different guys on defense is difficult given how many are needed to win a game
“I think it’s different now. It’s much different. I think that we’re set up right now and capable of playing a lot of different guys. How that’s going to work week-to-week, some of that depends on how fast an offense is going and the tempo of when you have opportunities to sub, too. Sometimes when a team is going fast enough, (you can’t sub). You’ll probably see more guys subbing than you’ve seen in the past. I think that’s just a product of college football now. It’s so fast. The more guys you have available, the better off you are going to be.”

On how he envisions making substitutions at defensive tackle
“We have a lot of flexibility with how we are playing our guys right now. You are going to see a good mix. Like I said, I think there are a lot of guys capable of going in there for a lot of snaps and quality snaps. Like I said, week-to-week, we’ll be a little bit different, especially early on we’ll try to play a lot of guys and see how they react when the lights come on.”

On how much of an advantage the expansion on East Stadium will provide the team during the game
“You would think it would hold the sound in a little more and make it even louder. I don’t know. Obviously I’ll be experiencing it for the first time, too. You would think it would keep it in there with the two high sides the way it is.”

On if he expects the newcomers to be wide-eyed for their first game
“The key is getting them to understand to just take the things we are doing in practice. Their approach should be the same approach as when they scrimmage. The one time we scrimmaged this year, I didn’t even tell them we were going to scrimmage. We just went out and did it. I want each guy to think about executing his position. Don’t make it bigger than it is. Football is football. These young guys, offensively and defensively, are playing against good football players every single day. Obviously the adrenaline’s gonna be going, the emotions will be going. But at the same time, you have to keep it under control. That’s part of the process for these kids to understand. Don’t make more of it than it is. Just go out there and execute your football. Every kid responds a little bit differently and for myself or my staff to ignore that, you’re crazy. You address it, you talk to them about it. You just try to keep them in the moment. And understand you just have to execute.”

On if he has to lower his defensive expectations when playing so many younger guys
“You’re going to have your mistakes. No matter how young or how old, I have never seen a guy play a perfect game. Our expectation is for them to go out and do their job and execute the way they’ve been taught to execute. As far as me lowering our standards, I’m not a big stats guy. What I look for is execution. Do what you’re supposed to do and play hard. Play with passion. If there is a mistake, I want them to understand it better be done at 100 miles per hour. That’s what our expectation is. As you gain experience, you grow and hopefully you keep minimizing those mistakes. Going on, the message is pretty clear of what our expectations are and what our standards are going to remain.”

On what the team has worked on to improve takeaways
“We always emphasize it. You talk about it. We’ve actually done a fairly good job at times during camp of getting the ball out. I think the emphasis is there. Working against our offense, it’s been a challenge. Knock on wood but I think our offense is doing a really good job of protecting the football right now and that obviously starts with Taylor (Martinez) at the quarterback position. They’ve really bought into it, and I like it when you hear about some of the leadership on the offensive side and guys that have been around holding guys accountable to it. Even if they don’t put the ball on the ground. When you start hearing linemen say “Hey, lock the football up,” you understand that the emphasis you are looking to get is pretty apparent.”

On if he emphasizes punching the ball out or prefers a more conservative route
“I don’t think of it as conservative. I like to think we do it the right way. If you are the first guy there for the tackle, your thought process is to make the tackle. It’s when you’re the second, third or fourth guy in there that you are working the football. I just saw an example on film last year; I won’t say what team it was. Against this same Wyoming team, a kid caught a hitch and the corner was coming in and his mindset was to go and strip the football and he missed the tackle and the guy went 80 yards. That’s bad football. You can’t go down that road. That’s taught to our guys from day one.”

On what is different about Taylor Martinez from last year that will make him even better this year
“I think he’s had a good camp. I think he’s continuing to grow. I think he’s more efficient than he’s been. I think every year his understanding of what teams are going to do (has gotten better). It will be a challenge for Taylor this week because not having a great idea of what they are going to do defensively, he’s going to have to react well. We’re going to have to be able to make some adjustments and he’s going to have to manage some things for us. We don’t really have a great idea of what they are going to do defensively. It’s about executing our offense. That obviously falls on the quarterback and not being really sure of what you are going to see coverage-wise and that type of thing.”

On how they will handle the kicker situation on Saturday
“That remains to be seen. That competition is ongoing. I think we have two very capable kickers and in some way we will probably share the duties. It’s close. It’s a close competition right now.”

On if he will use the first couple games as a tryout situation for the kickers
“We’ll see. We’ll see how this week of practice goes. Like I said, we’ve been putting them out there in as stressful of situations as we can put them in and see how they react. Toward the end of the week, we’ll look at the statistics and our feel as a coaching staff and make our decision of how we are going to go into the first game. Just because we go into the first game like that, the evaluation continues.”

On if long snapper decision is still in the air
“I feel we have two very capable long snappers.”

On how far Martinez has come in four years as a starter
“I’ve talked about it at length. I think Taylor has come so far and he continues to grow. That’s the nature of that position. If he’s able to move on to the next level, he’ll still have a long way to go. It’s a humbling position. It’s a difficult position to play and he’s been doing it since his freshman year and obviously, like any quarterback, has had his ups and his downs. You are going to have to face adversity. One thing I have a lot of respect for with Taylor is the way he has grown as a person and not only as a quarterback, but as a person through this whole thing. Forget about just the things you deal with on the field. As the quarterback at Nebraska as a four-year starter, you deal with a lot of things off the field; a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, a lot of criticism. That’s not easy. I think he’s persevered through it and stayed focused on making himself a better football player and taking the approach, 'I’m going to control what I can control,' and just keeps working. He has a tremendous work ethic and a great focus to him, which has allowed him to grow. That’s what you want to see.”

On what being more efficient entails
“When I say efficiency, it’s understanding that you have to let the offense work for you. I think that early on in his growth process, (Taylor) was a kind who had tremendous ability and tremendous confidence and sometimes he thought that he could try and score or throw a scoring pass on every play. As you grow into it, you’ve got to understand to let the offense work for you. Let the guys around you make plays. It comes with decision-making and at times taking his checkdowns and reading the coverage and taking what’s there. Even if you stick a ball in there that shouldn’t be thrown, you might get away with it once but you probably won’t get away with it again, so understanding how the coverage works and letting the offense work for him. And he’s done that.”

On how he would compare this year’s offensive line to last year
“I think we are better. I think we are deeper. I think that will definitely help us. I like the group up front but they’re not the finished product, but I think we have really good depth and a lot of guys that I have complete confidence in. I feel good about our two-deep. I feel good about even some guys that might still be on the come that down the road are going to help us too. Every day, not just with the starters, but with the backups, those guys have to keep working every single day and the way we practice and they will continue to get better. That depth will only continue.”

On how many different guys he expects to rotate in at the linebacker spot this weekend
“It depends on what we see. Like I said, I’m not sure what we are going to see from them offensively and a lot of that will dictated kind of by what they put out there. For the most part we match up. I like our linebacker group. I think we’ve really gotten better. I was a little concerned about 10 days to two weeks in. I think over the last 10 days to week or so I saw some guys make a big jump in their understanding and their development. Every day is important for that group.”

On where defensive communication is and where he wants it to be
“I don’t think you are ever where you want to be communication-wise. I don’t think you can talk enough when you are out there on the field defensively. Especially in this day in age with the kids texting and all the things that go on, sometimes getting them to communicate and be loud, you feel like you need a broomstick to get them to talk. It’s interesting but I think they’ve gotten better. I think their understanding of what we’re doing right now is pretty good. I think it’s always a work in progress. Especially on the defensive side of the football, it’s like playing defense in basketball. The really good teams are out there communicating and talking and anticipating things. That’s the level you want to get to. I tell them all the time as long as we are on the same page, if you are going to make a call, make a call. But don’t be halfway between us because the way our defense works is as long as we communicate and are on the same page, that’s all I’m concerned with. If we don’t want them to make that call, we’ll tell them that. We’ll live through the down as long as we are doing the same things. It all comes back to communication.”

On if any others areas of the team concern him heading into this week
“Right down the line. If you sit in this spot, it all concerns you. Like I said, I have confidence in this group. I think our leadership has been really good. Every day we walk out there on the practice field, it’s important. And that’s always the case. It’s not just about the ones, it’s about the twos, it’s about the backups, it’s about the depth, it’s about developing your guys and you’ve got to take that challenge every day and that’s a challenge our guys have to accept.”

On if anyone is ruled out for Game One
“Sam Cotton is doubtful right now. Other than that, I think we are in pretty good shape.”

On Jake Long’s status
“Jake Long is good to go.”

On his assessment of the Big Ten Conference from top to bottom
“I don’t know. I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but it’s a good conference. I think top to bottom, it’s going to be a good league.”

On anyone who has stepped up in the last few days and week
“I saw Michael Rose. I think Josh Banderas continues to get better every day. Courtney Love just started to get out there because he had that hamstring issue. Obviously he has a little bit longer to go because he missed so much time. I think Zaire Anderson has made a big jump. Jared Afalava continues to do some things, but he has to just keep working on his consistency. And (David) Santos – he’s a guy who has played some football, but David is getting more comfortable in the role he’s in. At that spot, there’s a lot to do. At that linebacker position, there’s a lot to learn at that spot. I think Coach (Ross) Els has done a good job with those guys. I’m happy with their progress.”

On if Courtney Love is a redshirt guy
“We’ll see how it plays out, but I would’ve said no. I think Courtney is going to be a heck of a player for us down the line. He’s just missed so much time. And also we’re probably going to play against a number of spread teams here early. We’re going to do the right thing by him, but that’s probably where it’s heading right now.”

On Marcus Newby’s status
“Marcus will just be coming out to practice.”

On the advantages of starting the season with five home games when he has a young team
“I’m hoping we can get to 12 home games. I’m wanting to always sleep at home on Friday night. That’s the goal. If you guys can see if Shawn (Eichorst) can get the rules changed, we can play them all at home. I think the fans would like that, too.”

On the key to avoiding a loss in the first game of the season
“Score more points than the other team in the first game. I don’t know. We’re going to have to play well. We have respect for this football team. I think they do a really good job of coaching. I think they have some playmakers, and it’s just about us coming out and executing our football. That’s the only thing we are concerned with right now.”

On if he will have to tell himself to calm down for the first game
“I never get excited. Come on. You ever seen me get excited? That’s an ongoing problem in my life. I have to check my emotion at the door. I love this part of the job. There’s the coaching and the practice but you get out there and I like the competition. It’s fun and I enjoy that part of the job. It’s going to be important in how we help some of the young guys manage it. It’s important in how you deal with your players. It’s something we’ll talk about more at length as a staff as the week goes on.”

On if he has used the ending of last season with the bowl game loss and Big Ten Championship loss as motivation for unfinished business
“No. It’s a different time and a different place. I like to think that when you are in this profession and you do what we do, you’re always motivated. It’s different challenges, it’s a different football team and we’re motivated. I’ll put it that way.”


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