Pelini spoke with the media on Wednesday about Nebraska's 2012 recruiting class.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Pelini Discusses 2012 Recruiting Class

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini spoke with the media on Wednesday about Nebraska's 2012 recruiting class:

Opening Statement

"We finished our recruiting class today. We feel real good about the class we brought in. Seventeen players from a total of 13 states. We have 18 walk-ons that we can release today. There will be one more coming, all the paperwork and all the things necessary to be able to announce the 19th young man isn't in place yet, but we'll have a 19th coming. I feel real good about the class. I appreciate my staff, the players and everybody in the athletic department and on staff that puts a lot of hard work into recruiting. It's not an easy thing. It takes a lot of time and effort. It's a group effort; a team effort. I appreciate the effort everybody put in. I feel real good about the results. I like our class. Potentially, it's a good group. Like I said before, and I really believe, recruiting starts today because right now is when you get the chance to develop them. It's not what they are coming in; it's what they are going out. We feel real good about the potential in this group. We feel great about the type of kids they are, the character they have, the type of people we're bring into our program. That's the first and foremost the most important thing to me and everyone else associated with this university and football program."

Press Conference from 1-10

By Randy York

Bo Pelini was forthright and fully engaged Wednesday at his 2012 Signing Day Press Conference, answering not only every question thoughtfully and substantively, but also going above and beyond in terms of overall perspective. For those who didn't watch Pelini's media session, here are 10 quick highlights:

1) In addition to being Nebraska's linebacker coach, Ross Els is also now, officially, both Nebraska's recruiting coordinator and special teams coach, inheriting those duties from John Papuchis, who was promoted to defensive coordinator in December.

2) In response to a question, Pelini acknowledged that the coaching staff and Braylon Heard are considering the possibility of the talented sophomore from Youngstown, Ohio, moving from I-back to defensive back this spring.



On the biggest challenges with working with smaller numbers this year

"The numbers were ever-changing. From our standpoint, we like to keep a couple scholarships back for walk-ons and guys in our program currently who can potentially earn scholarships. There are certain needs you want to fit and certain numbers you want to have as far as your roster is concerned. At the end of the day, we feel really good about the numbers that we have. Going in, at one point we had 12 outgoing seniors and then when you talk about guys who leave the program for one reason or another, we're able to comfortably sign 17 guys and feel real good about it. That's one of the reasons why you have to prepare that way when you're in recruiting. This time right now, I look at next year's class and we start preparing and putting together our numbers for next year's class it'll be one thing, but then as the season goes on and your needs change, you have to make sure you have enough depth on your board that you're ready to adjust as things go along. I think we did a pretty good job of that."


On if defensive playmakers were an emphasis in this class

"Yeah, it was an emphasis. We felt like the linebacker position was one where we needed to get more depth and get more numbers. Bottom line because of the new conference and kind of how we were recruiting there for a few years when we were playing in the Big 12 against all the spread-out teams. So we feel really good about what we were able to accomplish at the linebacker position. We got some really quality d-linemen in here and really good potential in the secondary. I feel really good about the guys we brought in defensively, and offensively, not as many numbers as we have on defense, but I like the quality. We hit the positions we wanted to hit. Ask me a couple years from now how I feel about it, but I really feel like we made our football team better."

On if when they got into Big Ten Conference play, if needs were re-evaluated

"No, I thought we addressed it kind of in our time as how we wanted to do it and move forward with the guys and the positions we needed to change our numbers in a couple spots. With enough time to prepare to do that the right way. I feel really good about it. Beyond the scholarship guys, I think this is probably one of the most talented walk-on classes that we've brought in. There are a lot of quality football players; guys I feel that will be able to help us down the line. I feel really good with what we were able to do with the walk-on class. The whole staff puts effort into that area, but Coach Cotton and Jeff Jamrog- there's a lot of things that go into being able to get that done. Once again, the team effort that happened there made our football team better."

On when he learned when today would play out with all the decisions

"When you guys did."

On what he knew about Peat

"From what I understand, it went down to a few seconds before."

On summing up the finish to the day

"We thought we were going to get those three guys. The only thing up in the air is what Peat was going to do. There was a lot of conversation going on there. It didn't go our way. Like I said, I feel good about the guys that came."

On what he likes about Tommy Armstrong

"I think Tommy's a real talented guy. Obviously, he's physically talented and he can do a lot of different things with the ball. What we're really excited about is the type of leader he is, the type of command he has in the huddle and the type of person that we're getting. I think he's everything we thought we were going to get. We thought he was good, obviously, when we offered him, but we grew to like him even more. The more we were around him, the more got to know him, the more we watched him, the more we watched him play through his senior year, the more excited I got. I know I share the thoughts with everyone else on our staff."

On how long it takes to figure out if this was a successful class or not

"Two to three years down the road. How many guys are going to help us in the next year? I don't know. We'll see. You take the time to get to know them and a big part of this is going to be how we develop these guys. I know everybody, ESPN and the rest of the media outlets, are making these guys having these signing day press conferences like they are ready to walk in and be All-Pro. That's not the case. That's very rarely the case. Guys need to be developed. They need to get bigger and stronger. There is so much they need to learn mentally. That takes time. Some guys are more mature and more ready to step in than others because there's not a lot of them that are able to do that. Over time is where you really see what a guy's able to do and see how deep a class is. It's going to be how they progress in the offseason in the mental aspect of learning the game and just in their overall development as a student-athlete."

On Michael Rose

"Whether it's a Big Ten team, or Big 12 team, we don't recruit to our conference. We recruit football players and guys that have the potential to be- obviously we know in the back of our minds what conference were playing in, but at the end of the day, we want to be able to win a national championship. We want to be able to beat anybody. Michael Rose, he can play for anybody or we wouldn't have recruited him. He has a lot of the same qualities that I mentioned with Tommy Armstrong. Really qualities across the class: character, maturity about him, kind of what they can do physically, but the type of people that they are. Trust me when I tell you, Michael Rose, Tommy Armstrong, you go right down the list, they're the type of people that I believe are going to fit in well here at the University of Nebraska."

On how he feels about the young offensive linemen in the program

"I feel really good about it. I feel we're pretty deep on the line. If we can just stay healthy; there's great potential in the offensive line."

On Big Ten teams going to the four-year scholarship and if Nebraska is doing it

"It's all I the language. Very rarely, I don't know how other schools do it, but we don't let guys go because they weren't what we thought they were as a football player. Somebody finds their way out of our program it's because they weren't doing what they needed to be doing off the field. Meaning academically, socially and how they're representing our football team, our university. I don't care whether it's one year, two year, three year or four year, that's nonnegotiable. That's going to be the same case across the country. Some people might say, 'hey, I'm going to a four year scholarship.' And that's going to look great on the surface, but believe me, there will be language in there and there will be ways for a young man to if he doesn't hold up his end of the bargain, he'll be on the outside looking in. That's just the way it is. If you recruit somebody and they aren't quite as good as you thought they were going in, that's our fault as coaches. But there's still that level of responsibility that student-athletes have to have in how they're representing themselves, their program and their responsibilities as a student-athlete. It's a two-way street there."

On if they're doing a one year scholarship

"No, we're doing a multi-year. Like I said, there's language and things you put in there. It's still a little bit up in the air exactly with how we're going to do it."

On if mutli-years is for everybody or certain guys

"Everyone is in the same deal there."

On the linebacker depth and if Zaire Anderson can play right away

"We think he has the potential too. We'll see how it plays out. One thing we don't do is promise playing time. We recruit the best athletes we can. We are bringing in four linebackers. We didn't really want to bring in four linebackers in the same class. Zaire is a good player and somebody we think can help us. How quickly that is, we'll find out. Obviously on the surface, we like what he brings to the table."

On the players listed as "athletes" and if he knows where he wants to play them

"Both Moore and Alexander will start in the defensive backfield."

On if he's disappointed that he didn't get another corner back

"We got two others in there that are listed as athletes. Moore could probably play safety too if he wanted to. And for that matter Seisay could, but we recruited those guys as corners. At the end of the day we're a little bit different than people in the defensive backfield. We recruit defensive backs and then figure out where they fit. To me, if you can play corner and have certain size and body type, you can easily move back and play safety and vice versa. I like the group. Three of those guys, Mo, Alonzo Moore and Leroy all have the opportunity to play corner and all can play corner."

On if he's happy the recruiting process is over

"Yeah, I'd say so."

On how he feels the new assistants melted together recruiting wise and if Coach Kaczenski and his connection with Curry helped

"Absolutely. Coach Kaz, he did a great job in recruiting and stepping into it late and kind of seeing how we go about things. He did a heck of a job for us. Obviously it helped in the Curry situation. But he went and met with all the D-line, Valentine, McMullen and Avery Moss. Obviously he's a guy I respect and he has a good way with the kids. He's a good recruiter."

On if he's decided who will take over as recruiting coordinator

"It's going to be Ross Els. It'll kind of be the way we did it with JP. He'll be the special teams coordinator and the recruiting coordinator."

On what made Els stand out

"Experience. I thought it was the right choice."

On what today means for Coach Cotton having his third son join the program

"It's pretty ridiculous. The worst part about it was having to spend time with him and talk with him like (you would another) father. When Sam came on to visit, I was like we've already been through this, can't you tell him. It's good. Obviously, Sammy is a talented young guy. I think he's very similar to what Ben was at this time. He's maybe a little ahead of where Ben was when we recruited him a few years ago. Hopefully he develops in the same way and brings the same things to the table that Ben did. I'd take another Ben Cotton in a second. So we see a lot of similar things in Sam that we see in Ben."

On if he's considering moving Braylon Heard to corner back in the spring


On what Heard would bring to that position

"Talent. He's a real sudden guy. One thing we don't do, is we don't move somebody without them feeling real comfortable with it. Braylon's a guy that can play multiple positions. He played defensive back and running back in high school. He could be a heck of a wide receiver if he put his mind to it. He's such a good athlete that at the end of the day we want to do right by him and make sure we give him the opportunity to get on the field for the most snaps he possibly can, so that conversation's been on going."

On if he leaves a scholarship open incase Charles Jackson academically qualifies

"We'll have some scholarships open. We'll cross that road when it comes."

On if there are any other position moves that he's considering

"No, not really. Maybe on the offensive line with some guys as to whether they'll be on the inside or the outside. Justin Jackson is going to work back at center again. Hopefully we'll get our full contingent of guys back on the defensive line. I think that Justin has a chance to be pretty good over there. He was doing well for us the whole spring. Who knows what that'll bring, but other than that, it's pretty much as is."

On if Josh Williams is still on the team

"Josh Williams is not on the football team."

On why Williams isn't on the team

"There was a violation of team rules."

On if anyone else isn't on the team

"Lester Ward is going to graduate. That's all right now. I don't think I missed anybody."

On if anyone was held out injury wise during winter conditioning

"We had guys with nicks and bruises but nothing significant. As we get closer to spring practice, I'll give you guys an update we were are heading into spring practice injury wise and that type of thing and anything else that changes leading up to spring ball. That's pretty much around the corner now. It seems like it's right there."

On if he feels he has to work some of these signees in so they can have depth for 2013

"We feel like Trevor Roach is a really good player. (David) Santos, (Max) Pirman is playing linebacker. I think he's going to be a really good linebacker for us on the outside. He had a good year and a good offseason. We think he's pretty talented. Then you add these guys coming in and we feel pretty good about our group. The starters that are coming back, the veterans that are coming in and the young guys coming up that are developing. We've showed that kind of the way we play, with some the safeties we have and the bigger DBs, it gives you flexibility with the way you play. We can put those guys in there and play them on the outside if need be. We feel pretty good with where we are at linebacker."

On the strength of the walk-on class that stands out

"I think there's good talent in that group. Not only is it guys who can fill some specific needs for us, but it's a good group of football players and guys that have a lot of potential to grow. I get a little more comfortable with it as you move forward now that we're going into year five developing an understanding of who these guys are and what they can become. They kind of remind you of some of the guys that are in your program now and you can kind of compare them to guys who were at a similar point a couple years ago. I like this group of guys, I do. I think there's a lot of talent there."

On if they put more of an emphasis on developing recruiting ties in Big Ten region

"We tried to. We tried to get a little more in depth in Ohio. I thought we did a good job over on the East Coast, in the Northeast. Probably better than we have in the past. We developed some relationships there. I think that'll be a good spot for us moving forward. Every year we sit down as a staff and talk about how the areas might move. I think are some areas, and I don't want to get into specifics, but I thought we moved out of them last year because we got into a new conference that we will go back a little heavier into next year. You kind of learn as you go. The Big Ten and our membership there is new. Over time you start to learn how it's going to change and how it's going to affect your program. I think we have a little bit better of a handle on that after year one and I think one more year, we'll have a pretty good understand of what it'll mean for us going forward."

On if it would be nice to have a secondary home base on where they could be strong in recruiting

"I think we have a few of those. There is some carry over in a couple areas that we've been in. I think it'll continue to be that way. In the best case scenario, if we get 90 percent of our players from in-state and 500 miles from this campus, that would be the best case scenario. Every year's going to be a little bit different. This year we were out there to a lot of different places; obviously, 13 different states. I don't know if it's always going to be like that. Every year it's going to be different to how we evaluate and who we offer in close proximity to this campus."

On what areas he wants to get back

"If we had a do over again... I thought we got a little big away from the Dallas area this year. We were still in there. We got Curry from out of there. You live and learn. It doesn't mean the areas we were in weren't any good for us. Like I said, I really like our class. Specifically, reworking who is where and how much time were going to spend there, and the challenges that come up with being able to get parents onto campus. That's another area that's difficult and makes the recruiting hard. If it takes two flights for someone to get onto campus and there's not a lot of flights that come in, the airlines are going to play a part in how long were in certain areas. You can recruit a kid all day and if you can't get him here or it's real difficult to get him here, it's going to be hard to get that kid. It plays a lot bigger piece of the puzzle than you would think. There's a lot of factors, is what I'm saying that goes into recruiting into what areas you're in and how much time you're spending in certain areas. There's a lot of factors that come into play and that's every changing. That's one of the most difficult things. There are  very few airlines that come into Lincoln and most of the direct flights come into Omaha and even that's gone down a little bit than from the past. That's another thing we have to keep our eye on."

More on getting players/parents to campus

"I wish we would get a lot more. I wish there were a lot more direct flights. It would sure help some things. It's not as big of deal as getting a player. Probably the best thing that we have to sell- we bat a really good percentage when we get kid here on campus and they get to see the type of atmosphere here, the type of people that are here, the type of program that we have and they're able to see it firsthand. It's real important to get their parents on campus rather than them going home and trying to translate to their parents. The easier it is and less expensive it is to get their parents here makes it a lot easier to recruit those kids."

On how he'd rate the access he has to get to those kids all over the country

"I have everything that you could ask for as a head coach. As a head coach now, the way it is, they give me all the resources necessary for us to have success. With this athletic department, and the administration and everything, I'm not one for anything and I feel really fortunate in that regards."

On if he was on the road more

"It was just different because they split up around the BCS championship game. You had three or four days and then you had a dead period and then a signing and then dead. The first two weekends there wasn't much you could do. I did probably 90 percent of my travel in the last two weeks. That's a lot of different places to hit and a lot of air miles to put in a couple weeks time. It was kind of a weird recruiting calendar this year."


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