Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 (Memorial Stadium)
Pre-Michigan State

Head Coach Bo Pelini

Opening Statement
“We put last Saturday’s game behind us quickly. We understand the type of preparation we are going to need this week. We’ve got a heckuva football team coming in here. (Michigan State is) a team we have a lot of respect for. They are an extremely well-coached football team. They are a group that plays hard, plays physical. We need to have the type of preparation that we did a week ago and get ready to play our best football.”

On the safeties
“I think Corey (Cooper) is a good player. He’s a leader. He’s gotten better. He works really hard at it. He’s a guy who played DIME a year ago. I think that experience up front has helped him. It has translated to how it works on the back end. I just think he puts the time in and the effort in. You see him getting better because of it. He’s a physical guy and has really come a long way. I think Andrew Green is playing well at the safety spot. He plays a number of different roles for us, which isn’t easy to do. That’s a young man that has done a lot for us over his career between playing corner, DIME, NICKEL and safety. He puts the time in and it has paid off for him. He’s a good player. LeRoy Alexander is coming. We have confidence in Harvey (Jackson). So we feel good about our safety position.”

On Michigan State’s defense
“I think they’ve just got a veteran group. A lot of these guys seem like the same group that played against us two years ago. Not last year; I’m talking about two years ago. They have a lot of experience. (Michigan State Defensive Coordinator) Pat Narduzzi does a really good job. They are well-coached on defense. You can see their guys out there. You see (Max) Bullough. They communicate well. They’ve been in the system for a long time, so they are pretty advanced. They understand their system and not only what people are trying to do to them. It allows you to do a little bit more the more veteran you are like that. I think that they’ve progressed. They continue to change and upgrade and keep getting better. They do a nice job.”

On similarities between Michigan State and Nebraska defense
“I think they are committed obviously to playing great defense. Like I said, they’ve had a group that has kind of grown up together. A lot of these kids are three- and four-year starters. That bodes well for you. I think they play to their strengths on defense. They are committed to running the football. They are committed to stopping the run. And they execute well. They are just a well-coached, sound football team. That leads to good things for your football team. They play the right way. That means they are coached the right way. I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff over there. Coach (Mark) Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi – those guys know how to coach. It has translated in how they play.”

On offensive adjustments
“It’s not going to necessarily change what we do. We are going to be doing it against some pretty good folks. We need to execute well. We need to play well. We need to be efficient. We’ve taken a good, hard look at them and we are trying to think of some different things that we might be able to take advantage of and exploit. But we are going to be challenged big time. They’re a good group.”

On Taylor Martinez’ status
“I want to clarify something. He has some nagging injuries but at the end of the day it comes down to his foot. His foot hasn’t enabled him to play. I know one thing. There is no one that is more frustrated than Taylor. It’s a foot injury that we knew could linger. It really hasn’t gotten much better. Obviously I can’t look into a crystal ball but it’s been tough on the kid. I don’t know if the chances are really good. It’s not a good injury to have. You just don’t know. It’s one of those injuries where it’s difficult to say when it’s going to heal. I feel for the kid. It’s a tough thing to happen to you during your senior year.”

On not taking Martinez to Michigan
“At the end of the day, with our injuries we need to take a bunch of people. At the end of the day we weren’t sure if anybody was going to go. Drake (Martinez) had surgery the other day. We weren’t sure if we were going to take anybody that wasn’t going to suit up other than obviously Spencer Long, who has a waiver. Really Wil Richards had a waiver but he didn’t go. I wouldn’t read anything into that.”

On Jake Cotton
“There was a chance he wouldn’t go either. It just so happened that we had a spot open at the end. At the end of the day, especially being as beat up as we have been, we’re not going to have the luxury of bringing a bunch of guys that can’t suit up.”

On Cotton’s status this week
“Anything is possible. Nothing is changed right now. We’ll just see how the week progresses. It’s really early in the week to be talking about that. It’s Monday. We don’t play until Saturday. Like last week, I’ll give you guys an update toward the end of the week to see how the week goes. If we were to play today, he wouldn’t play.”

On Jeremiah Sirles
“(Jeremiah) Sirles is almost exactly like Jake Cotton’s (injury). (There is) not as much swelling as Jake probably had initially. That’s a good sign. The MRI is almost identical to what Jake dealt with.”

On Andrew Rodriguez
“I think you’ll see (Andrew Rodriguez) at guard. I think you’ll see (him) at tackle. You could see a lot of different combinations up there.”

On Rodriguez’ performance on Saturday
“I thought he did some good things. There are some technique issues. There are some things that are obviously different at the tackle position as opposed to guard. I thought that showed up a couple times footwork-wise and that type of thing. I thought he did a pretty good job considering he hasn’t played guard in…I don’t know actually the last time we used (Rodriguez) at guard. It helps obviously that he has some experience up there.”

On Zach Sterup
“Zach did well. I mean it wasn’t perfect by any means but he did a good job. I thought he came in, he responded well. I’ve said and I think that he’s going to be a really good player down the line. He’s a young player and he’s learning. He did some good things but he did some things that he’ll need to learn from.”

On recruiting athletes instead of football players
“I think there’s a little bit of both. It depends what your situation is. Like Avery Moss. When I first saw Avery, I didn’t even know if he played football at that point. I was walking around the gym when we were recruiting Todd Peat and asked, ‘Does this kid play football?’ I found out he hadn’t played much but you could see the things that I would look for in a defensive end. Obviously he’s raw. For most of the kids you get, it depends on obviously what program they come out of. You are going to get a lot of raw kids and you’ve got to develop them. Every situation is a little bit different. I remember when I first saw (Zach) Sterup. Part of it is you’ve got to look at them and see what kind of frame. Some of it is guesswork but trying to figure out where they are now and what is their ability and what is their frame and how much weight they are going to be able to put on. Are they going to be able to put on the size? I think the first time I saw Zach he was around probably 250. I don’t remember. Maybe even less than that. So there’s some projection there.”

On Ameer Abdullah
“Obviously the guy is just a warrior. He plays hard. He’s a leader. He’s a winner. He wants the ball in his hands. He’s everything you want. I can say that he’s everything you want on the field and he’s everything you want off the field. He’s a joy to have on your football team and a joy to coach. He brings it every day. He has a burning desire inside of him to compete. And he’s about the right things. You are not going to be around a guy that is as unselfish as he is. He is just totally about the football team. He isn’t out there worried about statistics or anything else. All he’s worried about is doing what he needs to do to make himself better and make this football team better. That’s a joy to have on your football team.”

On if Abdullah is an All-American
“I know I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. How all those votes happen and everything, I don’t know. He’s an All-American in my book because he’s a special guy. Obviously I’m privy to the way he is. He’s an All-American on the field. He’s an All-American off the field in his personal life and how he helps the younger guys. And everything he does, he does it the right way. There’s a lot to be said for that.”

On if the team would have seven wins without Abdullah
“I don’t know. Probably not. I think he’s special. I think we have other good, young backs that are going to benefit down the line from being around him. Let’s face it. Let’s give Coach (Ron) Brown a lot of credit too. Coach Brown does a heckuva job nurturing these guys, mentoring them and doing his thing. When I was first recruiting Ameer and I was sitting down in his home, you want to talk about a family that is about the right things. His brother came in for the home visit and his parents. They are about the right things and about doing everything that they could do to give their son every opportunity in life. And he was smart enough to be able to take that guidance and that great home life and the sacrifices his family was making for him to use and listened. Because that’s the hardest thing for kids to do is actually listen to what they are being told. But I can tell you this. From a young age, it was really apparent to Ameer to me that he was being told the right things at home. There’s a lot to be said for that.”

On if Abdullah could go to the NFL after this season
“I would be shocked if that were even a thought in his mind right now. If it is, we’ll deal with that when the time comes. In my experience, you only go to college once. The NFL is going to be there for Ameer Abdullah. I always believe you are better off staying and playing it out unless you are going to be a top five pick and that doesn’t happen to many running backs these days.”

On why he’d be shocked about Abdullah leaving
“Just from knowing the young man. Knowing his family. I’ve been shocked before. Like I said, I’m glad he’s on our football team. Let me tell you, if he ever decided that was the way to go, then I’d support him on it. I want the best for Ameer, not only short term but long term. My job in that type of situation would be to educate him and help him make the choice that is best for him and his family.”

On how far Randy Gregory has to go
“A long way. (He can be) a lot better. I’ve seen him get a lot better as this year has gone on. And I’m talking about the little things. To be a great player, you have to be a complete player. He’s not that yet. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s still raw in a lot of respects. Obviously he’s very talented. He’s a very instinctive football player and he plays his butt off. To be great, there’s a lot of details that are a part of that. Let’s face it. At his stage in development, there are a lot of things he hasn’t even begin to understand yet. I bet he’d be the first to tell you that he has a lot to work on to develop into being a complete player. I’m not throwing him into (Ndamukong) Suh’s category yet, but I think he can have that type of impact on our program down the line. That’s when Suh became a better player. It wasn’t about the statistics or the stats or anything else. When he really bought into the details and the little things that allowed him to become the player that he was here when he finished up his career here. He hadn’t bought into that for a while. I think he’s told you guys that he’d be the first one to admit that.”

On blitzing
“(We will) when the situation calls for it.”

On what changed since the Minnesota game
“We’ve executed better. There were some things that we didn’t execute very well in the game that we got away with. It’s a constant progression. We’ve got to keep working at it. Sometimes to the naked eye you don’t realize there are some things that we got away with because we didn’t execute well. We just have to keep growing. We are getting better, but we are not where we need to be. The level of execution is increasing but really not to the level that I’m comfortable with yet. Our guys are getting better and they are playing harder and they are gaining confidence. I think that’s a big part of it as you go. Our communication is getting better. Our confidence is getting better, which is allowing us to play faster. I think you can see with the type of athletes that we have is that if we can play fast, we can be pretty good.”

On the players making pre-snap decisions
“A few but that’s rare. Some of those you have to adjust almost all those by formation.”

On the importance of field position
“I think it’s big. I think field position will be big. Winning on first down on both sides of the ball will be big. We were pointing it out last week. Every play, every yard counted. We hurt ourselves in some instances special teams-wise the other day. A block in the back, obviously the dropped punt, turnovers and field position are going to be big. We need to execute well in that area of the game.”

On special teams
“We actually haven’t been bad in the punt return game. Last week you drop one and that’s like worst-case scenario. I thought I was in a bad dream when I saw it happen. We need to execute this Saturday. Obviously that mortar shot that that one kid hit from Michigan. That was the damndest punt I have seen in a while. I don’t know whether the wind changed or what happened. And we need to do a better job of communicating. I put that on me and we as coaches on what happened to Terrell (Newby) right there. The wind was swirling and we kind of told him, ‘don’t catch it. If it’s low and a difficult catch for you, don’t mess with it’ I think we needed to explain better what we wanted him to do right there. He’s a young guy. And I don’t put that on him. I put that on us. That was unfortunate. When that ball came off that guy’s foot, it was the same thing. That was my first bad dream of the day. And the second one came on the next punt return. But that’s something you can always learn as a coach. Don’t assume anything. Make sure you explain things the right way. And I put that on me.”

On if looking back he wanted Newby to catch it
“Yeah. Like I said, we were really worried about the wind going that way and the way the ball was kind of getting knocked down. I didn’t want to put Terrell in a difficult situation if it was a certain type of punt. I didn’t quite explain that to him the right way. He wouldn’t have caught that ball in the air anyways with the way it hit. He probably could’ve gotten back and fielded it to keep it from going to the one (yard line). Who is to know that thing is going to stop on the one-yard line? It was unfortunate but I put that one on me, not on Terrell Newby.”

On the team’s resiliency
“I don’t know if it’s reflective on me or anything else. Hopefully it’s a reflection on our culture in our program. We have a pretty consistent approach. Just keep playing. The things we have to do week-to-week and play-to-play and give yourself an opportunity to win. We are a very process-oriented team. The more we are together, the more we talk about team, team, team, team. And picking each other up and doing what we have to do and fighting to the end no matter what happens. Believe me, that’s what all of our kids are all about. At the end of the day, that’s all that you can do is give yourself an opportunity to win.”

On his message to the players in the wake of the Miami Dolphins situation
“We try to have our thumb on every little thing in this program, first and foremost as far as what our expectations are. Much more importantly off the field in the classroom and how they represent thing program and represent each other. How they treat the people they come across. There’s a lot bigger picture out here than football. Trust me, we don’t ignore that in this program. Yeah we want to win obviously but first and foremost we want to do things the right way. Our kids have a pretty good understanding in our program that we don’t pay a lip service. We talk a lot about accountability. We hold our kids accountable. If they step out of line or do things not the right way, and not just as far as football-wise or going to class, but it means how they are treating people. How they act on a daily basis and represent every part of this program. The fans, the administration, their families, my family, myself, everybody. You won’t be around here long (if you don’t act correctly on a daily basis). We haven’t had any instances of that really happening. If it does, I hope if anybody is ever having a really difficult time or someone was getting paid a hard time, I would anticipate that that young man would walk into my office and that would end that day. That’s why you have to have great communication. The only way you prevent things like that from happening is somebody communicating it. But like I tell our players a lot is if there’s an issue and you don’t make me aware of it, I can’t take care of it. You’ve got to have great communication throughout your program and you have to feel comfortable being able to do that.”

On Richie Incognito
“I didn’t have a lot of interaction with Richie. He was obviously on the offensive side. Honestly as much as it has been talked about, I’ve got other things on my mind. I’m not really aware of what the situation is. I know it’s unfortunate. I don’t think anyone out there that is talking about it really knows everything that has gone on. I think all you can do is wait and sit back and let the people who are doing the investigation do their work and figure out the way to come to the right conclusions. Other than that, him being a former player, you wish him well. If he was in the wrong, you hope he learns his lesson from it. If he wasn’t, you hope he gets vindicated.”

On this week feels like the biggest game of the year
“Every week is the biggest game for me. That’s about it. Our approach won’t change.”

On the offense being intimidated
“I don’t think our players will be intimidated. It’s not about being intimidated or anything else. It’s about executing your football. If we are good enough, we will execute well enough. First and foremost what we have to do is figure out some things as the week goes on. We have to figure out what we are going to do up front obviously with our different combinations and figure out what is best and what’s going to give us the best opportunity to win this football game. That’s all that we are concerned with right now. As far as intimidation or anything else, at the end of the day our guys have a lot of respect for this defense. I would anticipate that our approach would make our guys play that much harder and take the challenge. It’s going to be a heckuva challenge playing against that group.”

On Tommy Armstrong’s poise
“Tommy Armstrong is not going to be intimidated. That much I know. He’s going to be challenged, I can tell you that. He’s going to be challenged because (Michigan State is) good. They execute well. They know what they want to do and they do it very well. Like I said, it’s going to be about our level of execution, not anything else. They’re not going to back down.”

On if Armstrong will split time with Ron Kellogg
“We haven’t really talked about it, so I don’t know much about that. If we were to play today, we’d do exactly what we’ve been doing.”

On Kenny Bell
“I wasn’t sure where he was going to be. He felt good. Right now he’s ahead of where he was at this time a week ago. That bodes well for us.”


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