August 28, 2010

Saturday notebook: NU wraps up physical camp

The day Nebraska's players, coaches and fans like have been waiting for finally came on Saturday, as the Huskers wrapped up their final practice of fall camp and will now get ready for the first game week of the season.

Head coach Bo Pelini backed off a bit on the last day of one of the most intense fall camps since he took over three years ago, as the team went through a helmets-only situational walk-thru to go over some of the final base installation work.

Looking back, Pelini said the overall physical tone throughout the past three weeks was as good as he could remember.

"It was real physical," Pelini said. "Our guys practiced hard. I felt like we got a lot of work done. It was very physical. The guys played hard. I thought overall it's been a pretty consistent effort. I thought it was good competition."

However, the intensity of camp didn't come without more than its share of casualties, as three players were lost for the season and numerous others missed significant practice time due to injuries.

The good news for NU, though, was the fact that its roster is arguably deeper than it's been in years, allowing for younger guys to step up when injuries took their toll.

"I think it helps that we're a deeper football team right now," Pelini said. "I feel pretty good about where we are injury wise. Obviously losing a couple guys (for the season), that's never fun. That's never good. But that's part of the game. I think we have more than capable depth and replacements for those guys."

With his third fall camp now in the books, Pelini said both the coaching staff and his players were more than ready to go up against a team I different colored jerseys. While he said he felt about the way his team progressed during the past three weeks, Pelini said you never quite know how good a team is until game day.

"There's always concerns," Pelini said. "Probably my biggest concern is that we haven't played a game yet. You've got to go out there and you've got to get out there for the first time in front of 80,000 or 85,000, whatever it is, and do it when the lights come on."

- Robin Washut

Saturday fall camp takes
Huskers back off intensity: After one of the more physical fall camps in recent memory, Nebraska backed things off on the final day of camp on Saturday by holding a helmets-only walk-thru session that focused solely on situational work. Head coach Bo Pelini said he wanted to make sure his team was where it needed to be on certain things mentally while also giving the players some much needed rest heading into the first game week of the season. "I thought we had some situations we had to cover, and it gives our guys' legs a break," Pelini said. "It was a good weekend to get their legs back so we can hit the ground running on Monday for Western Kentucky."

Corso picks NU as champs: ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso has taken his share of criticism from Nebraska fans over the years, but he just might have made up for all of it with his most recent prediction. The animated voice of ESPN's College GameDay, Corso picked Nebraska to take on Florida in the national championship game this season. Wait, it gets ever better. Corso then went to say that the Huskers would knock off the Gators and win their sixth national title.

Injury update: Freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell and sophomore offensive lineman Brandon Thompson all did not practice on Saturday. However, Nebraska backed off with a helmets-only practice in order to give the players, many of whom are dealing with some sort soreness or other injury of some sort, a chance to heal up in preparation of the start of game week on Monday.

What's on tap next: The The Nebraska football team capped off its third and final week off fall practice with a 75-minute situational walk-thru session on the fields north of Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning. The Huskers will be off on Sunday before returning for the start of their first game week of the season on Monday.

Pelini still not budging on QBs

Now that the Huskers are finally getting ready to enter preparations for their season opener against Western Kentucky, reporters tried one last time to get some kind of clue as to which quarterback would lead the offense on the field next week.

Just like he has all camp, Pelini put a quick end to those questions.

"It's like any other position," Pelini said. "We'll play who we need to to win the football game. I told you, we could play 10 guys. I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball. We have our plan, but you'll have to wait and see what it is."

Pelini was then asked if there was a chance all three quarterbacks - senior Zac Lee, sophomore Cody Green and redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez - could see some snaps depending on how Saturday's game plays out.

Once again, he refused to offer up any insight on the situation. One thing Pelini did say for sure was that he likely would not release any sort of depth chart next week.

"That's kind of a flowing thing," Pelini said about the depth chart. "We'll see. I haven't really thought much about that. I don't really see any need to do that right now."

- Robin Washut

WKU presents unique challenges

Just because Western Kentucky finished a dismal 0-12 in its first season of Division-I football last year doesn't mean next week's game doesn't still worry Nebraska's coaches just a bit.

More than anything, it's what NU's staff doesn't know about the Hilltoppers that presents the biggest concern. With just one season of film under their belt, WKU's coaches are still somewhat of a mystery as to what their schemes and tendencies are as a staff.

"(The biggest concern) is probably playing a team that we don't have much of an idea of what they're going to do and how they're going to do it," Pelini said. "It's just kind of an unusual opener. It's hard to really nail down how to prepare for this football team. But we've been there before. It's not that big of an issue. I think we're just ready to play. We're ready to get started."

Pelini said he and his staff can still take quite a bit from what Western Kentucky showed last season, but they would also have to go back and watch film of what WKU's coaches did at their previous schools to really get a good grasp of what they bring to the table in their play calling.

Hilltopper head coach Willie Taggert spent two seasons as running backs coach at Stanford before returning to take over his alma mater last season. Though he helped guide the Cardinal to one of the nation's best rushing attacks last season, he also set multiple school records as a quarterback at WKU.

On defense, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will return to Lincoln after serving the same role at Kansas the past four seasons.

"You want to look at their personnel, you want to look and kind of see what those guys look like from last year," Pelini said. "From a coaching standpoint, you've got to kind of jump around a little bit (and watch what the coaching staff did at their old schools). It's not the most ideal situation, but that doesn't affect our players very much.

"We have players look at schemes that we think we might see, but the bottom line is we try and put them through the right things offensively and defensively, and then can spend the rest of their time looking at the personnel that they're going to be seeing on Saturday."

- Robin Washut

Pelini still striving for perfection after third fall camp

After finishing his third fall camp as Nebraska's head coach, Pelini was asked if he was finally starting to feel comfortable in his program's routine both in and out of season. To put his answer simply, "comfortable" is a word he'll never use to describe his situation.

"I don't think you can ever let yourself become comfortable," Pelini said. "I feel like you've got to be on edge. There are certain ways you've got to prepare and do things to put a quality product out on the field. That's where my focus is. Hopefully I'm more prepared and I'm a better football coach that I was a year ago or even two years ago.

"I've learned along the way. I've made a lot of mistakes, and hopefully I've learned from those mistakes and hopefully I'll be a better coach and we'll be a better football team because of it."

While things have definitely come a long way at Nebraska since Pelini took over three years ago, so have the expectations for success on both the local and national level. Even so, Pelini said he hasn't been affected by the increased pressure once bit.

In his mind, no one can put more pressure on him to succeed than what he already places upon himself.

"I could care less about the expectations, because my expectations are a lot higher than anybody outside," he said. "I don't worry about that. I'm going to go about my business and we're going to do our thing as a staff and a football team based on our standards, and those are really high."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***Once again, freshman wide receiver Quincy Enunwa's name was brought up during a post-practice interview. Like offensive coordinator Shawn Watson[/d] and receivers coach [db]Ted Gilmore, Pelini said he would have little concerns about playing Enunwa right away this season.

"I think he's played pretty well," Pelini said. "I think he definitely has shown us some ability. He's a mature kid, and he's shown he's a very capable player. So we're not afraid to use him."

***Pelini dished out some pretty hefty praise for senior defensive end Pierre Allen, saying he had one of the best camps of any player on the team this fall.

"I think he's had a big time camp," Pelini said. "He's splayed really well. He's playing at a really high level right now. I think his confidence has just grown. He's healthier, bigger, faster stronger than he has been. He played at a pretty high level last year, but he looks like a guy focused on taking it to another level this year."

***When asked about balancing the number of carries each game between running backs Roy Helu, Rex Burkhead and Dontrayevous Robinson, Pelini said all three would be a big part of NU's offensive game plan.

"Our guys are all capable and pretty interchangeable. I think it's a good problem to have. They're all going to get their touches. They're all going to get playing time. You just kind of let it flow and let it happen."

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