It was an early wakeup for Coach Pelini, Abdullah and Bell, as they left Lincoln early Monday morning before spending the day meeting with local, regional and national media at the Hilton Chicago. The players and coaches met with several of the Big Ten’s television partners, including ESPN, BTN, Fox and CBS, met with local and national writers in breakout sessions and with all of the 14 radio stations in attendance, with nearly half coming from the state of Nebraska.
Pelini, who begins his seventh season at Nebraska with a 58-24 record following a 9-4 season in 2013, including a win over Georgia in the Gator Bowl. The Huskers battled numerous injuries in 2013, and the experience those players gained last year should pay off in 2014, as Nebraska welcomes back 14 starters and 45 letterwinners.
“I think it's going to be an exciting year in the Big Ten. An exciting year for us at Nebraska. I think it's going to be a great challenge for us, but one where we're looking forward to the opportunity to be the best football team we can be,” Pelini said. “We have some key returners coming back. I think we have depth in areas that is really going to help us be a good football team, and also we saw a lot of young guys last year kind of come of age as the season went on, and I'm looking forward to seeing those young men continue to develop into the type of players we feel can win championships at our school.
“That's what we're after. We're looking for a championship. I think we have the pieces. We have a lot of potential on our football team, but there's going to be a lot of hard work that needs to be done for that to make that become a reality.”
The three players Nebraska brought to Chicago will play key roles in the 2014 campaign. Abdullah rushed for 1,690 yards last year en route to first-team All-Big Ten honors. He has rushed for 2,977 yards in his Nebraska career which is third among all active runners in the country. He anchors a deep running back corps, NU’s returning runners combined froe 2,459 yards in 2013.
Bell has been NU’s top receiving threat the last three years and has totaled 1,901 career receiving yards to rank third all-time at Nebraska. As a junior, he caught a team-high 52 passes, marking the second straight year he has caught at least 50 passes, and he will look to become the first Husker to ever lead Nebraska in receptions in four consecutive seasons.
Cooper is the Huskers’ most experienced defensive starter, as he has made 17 starts in the Husker secondary. An honorable-mention All-Big Ten pick in 2013, Cooper had a team-high 91 tackles, including 10 solo stops in the Gator Bowl win. It is also a homecoming for the senior, as he is from nearby Maywood, Illinois.
Big Ten Media Days wrap up Tuesday, as the players will meet with the media for two hours prior to the 43rd Annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon tomorrow. Beginning at 10 a.m. CT on Tuesday, fans in attendance will take part in an autograph session with all 14 head coaches and one former player from each school, while current players will take part in brief, live interviews highlighted by questions from fans on-site and through social media channels. The luncheon itself begins at 11:30 a.m. CT.
Abdullah will be a featured speaker and will represent the players at the event. Fans can watch Abdullah’s speech and Kickoff Luncheon highlights Wednesday night at 6 p.m. (central) on BTN.