Coach Bo Pelini leads Nebraska against Illinois Saturday.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 (Memorial Stadium)

Head Coach Bo Pelini

Opening Statement
“I thought we had a good, productive bye week. We did some good-on-good last week. We did a little bit of preparation for Illinois. We mixed a little bit of recruiting in there toward the end of the week. Obviously we came back yesterday and kind of started our preparation for game week. I thought it was productive. I thought we got a lot of work done. Like I said, I think every time we go out there, it’s important for this football team right now. It’s important to continue the process and continue to progress. I thought we did that last week as a football team. We also used that to heal up. Obviously after four weeks, we had some bumps and bruises going in. I think we’re fairly healthy going into this week. We’re getting ready to start Big Ten play.”

On senior quarterback Taylor Martinez
“It is still to be determined a little bit. Like I said, I think he’s getting closer to being 100 percent. As of yesterday, he wasn’t quite 100 percent. I think he’s getting better, and we’ll have to see as the week progresses.”

On what Martinez did yesterday
“He did some things. He didn’t practice. He’s progressing and he’s getting closer.”

On if Martinez practiced last week
“No. He did some individual things. (He did) some throwing. We said going in that we want to get him healed up.”

On using a two-quarterback system
“We’ll see how the week of practice goes. I feel confident about both of those quarterbacks.”

On his confidence in Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong Jr.
“I felt confident going into the last one and I feel no different now. I feel even better now than I did before and that was pretty good. I have a lot of confidence in those guys. I think they are both good players. I know we’ll play well around them, too. (We’ll do) whatever gives us the best chance to win the football game. We’ll have somebody who is physically and mentally ready to roll at that position.”

On his message to the team going into conference play
“Stay with the process. Stay with where we are. Like I said, every time we go out there, it’s important for this group. That’s always the case. We have a lot of progress still to be made in all phases of the game. I still like the potential of this football team. But it’s potential right now. We still have a lot of things to clean up and a lot of areas where we need to grow. That’s why it’s exciting with this group every time we walk on the practice field. (It’s important) to challenge ourselves, to have the right discipline, the right focus and the right mental outlook every single time we walk out there to get better.”

On where Nebraska fits in the Big Ten race
“I’m not worried about that. I’m not worried about the rest of the Big Ten. I’m worried about us. I’m worried about us moving forward and getting better each and every day. I feel good about our football team. I do. I don’t watch a lot of football when I’m at home. But you look across the country and I think it’s pretty close. There’s a lot of parity out there. I think we can compete with anybody. I think we can beat any football team that we line up against. I also understand that there are a lot of football teams out there that can beat up on us if we don’t take care of us. That means we have to keep working to get better. I think our guys are hungry. I think our guys understand the need to grow and to get better. As long as we approach every day with the right attitude, that gives us the best chance to play well.”

On where he wants to see defensive improvement
“Execution. I know you guys get sick of hearing that word but that’s what it comes down to. It comes down to us fixing us. At times we’ve been our own worst enemy with our assignments and our communication. Our execution, our fundamentals and technique have gone out the window at times. Being able to carry our things defensively, and I think this is the case with football in general whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. Being able to take the things you do in practice and transferring them over to the game. Understanding the concepts that you are doing. Understanding the big picture. Being able to apply your roles and have an understanding so you can play fast and play confidently. That’s the challenge. That’s always the challenge. I thought we got a lot done last week as far as helping our guys to grow and continuing the process of where we are. When you approach it as a coach, you look at where you are and where you want to go. You don’t look at it with rose-colored glasses or look at it in a negative way, positive way or any way. It’s black and white. This is where we are. This is where we need to get to. Taking that approach in fixing the things that we need to fix. To continue to progress fundamentally and technique-wise and keep working every day. That’s all you can do. Obviously along the way continue to develop an understanding of your opponents that are coming up.”

On the linebacker battle
“I feel good about both guys. I think (David) Santos had a really good week. I think he’s had a good couple weeks of practice. I would probably say that he’s the leader there right now. You will probably see both guys. (Josh Banderas) is getting better. He is maybe hitting a little bit of that freshman lull. He and Nathan Gerry to the extent of everything coming at them really fast. Being able to apply things opponent after opponent as well as other different things and different challenges. They are working hard at it every single day. Like I said, we have some depth and every single day for those guys is always important.”

On if he expected Gerry and Banderas to have a difficult week
“For a lot of different reasons. It’s growth. It’s experience. There are a lot of things involved. There are a lot of things coming at them very fast. It’s not done in a day. You don’t build it in a day. It’s a process. We just continue it and keep working. There’s not a guy on our football team that’s got it all figured out. There’s not a guy who has reached his potential. Every single day the approach has to be to get better.”

On South Dakota State’s rushing game
“I don’t worry about that.”

“I think at times we’ve been very good. I just look at the whole of it. Where we are. Where we started. Where we are. What we have to do to grow. I have a pretty good handle on where we are. It’s a long haul. It’s what’s going to happen over the course of the year as you grow. Defensively, we could’ve called things and simplified things and call here, call there. Very simple and just get through the game. Against some of our opponents, we could have played a little cleaner. I’m going to have to look at what we are going to do later in the year, too. And what we are going to have to do once we get in Big Ten play. At times we challenged our guys. To help that process along and help our guys have a better understanding and develop a better understanding rather than one thing. We’re not going to be able to do that later in the year. I look at it maybe a little bit different than a lot of people from the outside would. It’s about progressing our guys. It’s about the process. It’s about developing them holistically as the year goes on. Part of it is you have to challenge your guys. You have to challenge them. You have to put them in different situations and different calls. (You have to put them in situations) where they have to think and have to be able to live with mistakes at times. We’ve made a bunch of those but hopefully we’re learning and continuing that growth curve as the season progresses.”

On the offensive line
“I think there’s a lot more out there for our offensive line. Our ability to finish at times. Our technique. The details are what is going to allow us to play at a level we haven’t reached yet. There is more out there for that group. It’s an experienced group. It’s a talented group. I do believe there is more out there for that group. If you look back at the UCLA game and to the naked eye, not that big of a deal. Putting a hat on the wrong side. Once again, it’s about taking the fine details of what you are being asked to do and being able to apply it during the game. At times those things have hurt us. The fine details and the finishing. That’s what makes the difference as the year goes on and the competition raises.”

On playing against pass rush
“I thought it was better going into the year. I think it has been better. We’ll see as the year goes on. That’s got to continue. I do believe your pass proficiency is going to be better when you’re proficient on early downs. I thought our inefficiency or lack of detail on early downs has hurt our drives and hurt our efficiency. Obviously you are a lot better when you are efficient and you are making yards and putting the defense on guard because of your efficiency on early downs. We have to continue to get better in that area.”

On Armstrong Jr. and Kellogg III
“It depends on how the week of practice goes. Last time it was what we saw in practice that led us to Tommy being the guy to start the game. That’s probably where we would lean right now going into it if Taylor didn’t play. A lot of it depends on the next three days of practice, too.”

On Martinez’s desire to play
“I would assume Taylor wants to play. At the same time, I deal with the doctors and the trainers. Taylor knows. I’ve talked to them. We’re not putting him out there until I know he’s going to feel 100 percent. He’s going to execute our offense at 100 percent.”

On Martinez running the ball
“That’s what I’m talking about. I know you can throw when your foot is bothering you but you have to be able to put your foot in the ground and go. That’s a big part of our offense. Until he shows that he is ready, willing and able to do that, that’s when you’ll see him.”

On veteran leadership
“I think our guys are a prideful group. I don’t think they played up to their standards in the second half of the UCLA game and really the first half, too. We didn’t play up to our potential. It bothered our guys. You’ve seen an extra focus, an extra level of intensity and an extra effort in practice. Our guys have a lot of confidence in those other quarterbacks. There’s a lot of confidence there. I think everyone has the attitude of going out there and doing their job.”

On defending Illinois
“They are balanced. They can run it, they can throw it. They mix up their personnel a little bit. I think it’s a well-coached offense. They do what they do and they do it well. I think their quarterback has a good handle on what (Offensive Coordinator Bill) Cubit is trying to do offensively. I think they have a good level of execution.”

On Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase
“I think he’s a good player. I think he plays within their offense. I think he understands where to go with the football and throwing game. Obviously he’s capable of hurting you with his feet. He’s a good football player. He can do a lot of different things well.”

On how similar Illinois is to Western Michigan
“There are some concepts that are really similar. They are a different offense and different personnel.”

On recruiting Scheelhaase
“We thought he was a really good player. When we recruited him, we thought he was a really good football player who could do a lot of things to help that would fit the style of offense we were moving toward. I think that’s the way it’s played out. He’s a really good player.”

On Aaron Bailey
“If he does (play), we’ll be ready for him. He’s a good player. He’s physical and he’s a good runner. You just look across the board. I think we’ve done a good job of defending the zone read but let’s face it, everyone is going to struggle against it a little bit. That’s why people do it. That’s part of the deal.”

On if he anticipated the defensive struggles through four games
“I think I said going in that I like the potential of our group defensively and that hasn’t changed. You don’t build it in a day. You don’t get guys experience. You don’t put them through the things they’ve been through in the first four weeks. It just doesn’t happen. You can’t simulate those things. All the things you have to go through as far as your defense and how things change according to the game plan. Also, the adjustments you need to make, and the communication. There’s a lot to it. I’ve been around this game long enough to know that I absolutely want perfection in week one. I want a high level of execution. I’m a realist and I knew what we were going to be facing going in and what we are going to continue to face as the season goes on. I expect us to get better. I expect us to improve upon the things that have hurt us. I see our understanding getting better. At times we’ve been on point. We’ve had a high level of execution. Probably the most disappointing thing to me was from the South Dakota State game. I thought we took a couple steps back at times in terms of communication. More importantly wasn’t what we were doing but how we did it. We slipped fundamentally at times. We slipped technique-wise. At times we didn’t play with the level of effort that you need to play with. It wasn’t because I don’t think our guys wanted to play hard or anything else. I think they were out there thinking too much. They just didn’t have their focus and didn’t carry over the things we stressed in practice over to Saturday. It think our guys learned a lot from that. Every time they are out there, they are learning. Every single day is important for this group.”

On the stumbling block
“It’s sometimes thinking too much. At times we talk a lot about our eyes. You look across football. You look at tape. You look on TV. You see not having the discipline to have your eyes in the right place getting you in trouble. That’s always been the case defensively and that’s the case today. If you don’t have your eyes on your right keys and you don’t have the focus to play your technique and see what you are taught to see, then you are going to have problems. You can just see it over and over and over. It’s hard to have technique and hard to have fundamentals if you don’t have the discipline to read your keys and see what you need to see. I’ve said it before. It’s not something magical. It’s sometimes your want to make a play. You want to see where the ball is takes away from your ability to execute. And it happens time and time again. You watch it on Sunday. You watch some of the highlights. A lot of the big plays happen because of guys being undisciplined with where their eyes are. It’s not exclusive to our level or our football team. It’s the way it is. The more you are spread out, the more offense you see and the more important that becomes. I know you guys get frustrated by hearing the word ‘execution’ but that’s really what it comes down to. It comes to being able to play after play after play to do your job and see what you need to see. Get your eyes on your keys and believe what you’re seeing. That’s what it comes down to. That’s going to allow you to play faster.”

On how he teaches that
“You just continue to show them. We had some coaches out on the road at the end of last week. I met with the defensive backs and the linebackers and talked them through the practice from the day before when the coaches were gone. Coach (John Papuchis) had the front. It’s amazing when you come back to practice yesterday and some of the exact same plays and situations and things that we covered in the film session prior are happening to them on (the following day). (It’s) the exact same things we talked about. It came back to eye discipline. It came back to reading your keys. It came back to your focus. It’s why you have to keep putting them through it. That’s just where you are. That’s why every single day and every single rep is important.”

On Randy Gregory
“Lavonte (David) is a special player and did some special things when he was here. I think in his development and where Lavonte was after four games and where Randy (Gregory) was after four games is probably ahead of where Lavonte was at that time. It didn’t happen for Lavonte right away. It took him a little bit of time. Obviously they play some different positions but I feel really good about Randy Gregory. I think he is going to be outstanding. There’s a ton more out there for this kid. He’s a talented guy who can do some pretty special things. I like him.”

On Gregory’s intelligence
“He’s a very bright kid. He understands football. He’s an instinctive guy. He’s just got some natural football instincts to him. When I was out on the road recruiting, I was talking to some high school kids about it. High school football is so much different now. It’s kind of really spread out. One thing I saw was where one team was empty the whole game and the other team was running a veer scheme the whole game. There’s a lot of spread out there. You wonder why it’s easier to have freshmen come in offensively because everyone is doing the spread. Defensively you see the spread but you don’t see as much variety. It kind of hit me when I was sitting there watching the game. Defensive guys kind of have a lot more development that needs to happen. On offense, you can have a guy and put him in a scheme to run plays and do all those types of things. You run out 10 yards, you run an out route. It’s kind of more assignment football on offense. On defense, you have to be able to react to things. You have to be able to understand concepts and make quick decisions fast. Guys are a little more prepared to play offense at a young age and prepared to have success than you are defensively. It’s more reactionary. It’s more finding your keys and reacting to what the other team is doing than just playing assignment football. Don’t get me wrong. It takes some instincts to be able to play offense too and even special teams. The growth curve is a little bit higher on the defensive side of the football. Even though you are seeing spread in college, you are going to see some variety defensively. That’s just the way it is. The growth curve is a little bit higher. I think that’s one of the reasons you are seeing a lot more offense out there.”

On the defense’s instincts
“I have seen our sense of urgency starting to go up in how we practice, and how we execute in practice. In how we respond to details and how we compete play to play. Having that sense of pride and doing your job every single play and how you do it.  Sometimes you have to get hit in the mouth to take notice, in a number of different ways. I am not talking about the score, or yards I am just talking about being able to have success and that understanding. Also that level of commitment you have to have when you walk on the practice field to give yourself the best opportunity to play well on Saturday.”

On having fun
“You have fun with success. Also by competing and having that success. I had this conversation with a couple of the young defensive guys the other day, I told them, being able to put your eyes and having the confidence to believe what your keys are, and of what is being asked of you. That comes from preparation from understanding, from a focus and discipline of doing what you need to do. If you haven’t prepared enough, and you don’t have that understanding or compete then what happens is you go out onto that practice field and it can be miserable. It is not fun because then you are kind of guessing. You are going to experience a lot more failure than you are success. Success comes with preparation because with preparation comes great confidence and that is when you have fun. That is when the game slows down for you and that is when you enjoy what you are doing. But when you go out there and you are not sure and because you are looking at the wrong things and you are not trusting your preparation then it is not fun. It would be like anything, even your job, the more success you have the more fun you are going to have doing it. But it is the same as a football player.”

On the keys
“If it was simple then everybody would be doing it. This goes back years and years, and that is why you practice. It takes time, discipline, focus. It takes failure. It takes a lot of different things. Every single guy is probably a little bit different level of development, too. That isn’t just defensively that is offensively, special teams and that is football and in my opinion that is sports.”

On the level of development
“Absolutely, it is a lot different. The things you can do to have success in high school, is a lot different than college. I see Jeremiah (Sirles) in the back shaking his head because it is different. The more the competition level goes up the higher level you go to. Detail becomes important. The key is every guy learns a little bit differently. That is the reality, some guys can learn through pictures and some guys just have to go through it. Every guy is a little bit different and what it takes for them to get it. There is always a sense of ‘I got it’ but, do you really got it? Do you really understand what is being asked of you because let’s face it, the pictures change. Teams just don’t line up and run two or three plays. You are going to see different things week to week. If you don’t understand the line and the concept then it is pretty hard to understand. This isn’t a game you can just memorize. There are some things that are a little bit more easy than others but the technique and the discipline. I believe our system defensively is very logical but it requires discipline. It requires everybody doing their job, everybody fitting in a certain place and that is the same thing offensively, too. That is why it is a great team sport because you need 11 guys doing their job on every down and that is where we are heading and that is where we want to progress towards. ”

On recent coach firings
“It’s a great business, I think you are challenged every day. I think if you ask coaches across the country, that is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m glad there weren’t three, and I’m glad I wasn’t one of them. You go out every day and you coach your butt off and you do the best you can for your kids. If you are worried about getting fired then you are worried about the wrong thing. You have to do whatever you can and enjoy what you are doing and try to do the best you can for the kids on your football team. That is how I approach it. You can control what you can control. That is making your football team the best you possibly can and what is going to happen. You do things the right way. For me that entails doing what you can for the kids in your program and doing the best you can for them to make their experience not only as a football player but as a student-athlete. And if you are doing that the right way then I think things usually work out the best for you.”


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