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March 6, 2012

Husker Buzz: Finding ways to be 'great'

Nebraska's body of work under Bo Pelini over the last four years has been solid. The Huskers have won 38 games and have appeared in two conference championship games.

However, Pelini and his team will be the first people to tell you those results aren't good enough.

As Pelini and the Huskers get ready to open up spring practice on Saturday, you get the sense this has been a different off-season. Pelini has tried new things with his team both on and off the field. You almost get the sense that Pelini feels like it's time to make a few changes to the routine to find ways to get better.

Something Pelini implemented over the off-season is a Wednesday afternoon team meeting. Each Wednesday the entire team gets together for a voluntary meeting where they discuss a number of different things. The entire team is present, along with Pelini and his coaching staff.

"They're meetings for anything," senior defensive end Cameron Meredith said. "Whether it's you're having problems in life, the whole team is there and you can say whatever you want and Coach Bo (Pelini) is going to listen and the team is going to listen. I think it's really helped us out as far as understanding our teammates and coaches.

"I think the connection between coaches and teammates has been kind of a problem in the past. There's not enough connection there as far as voicing your opinion. I think it's really helped out with all of us closing that gap between the coaches and players. We are really connected as a team as a whole."

Senior running back Rex Burkhead feels like the meeting has helped the team bond over the off-season and brought forth some new elements to their daily routine.

"They're awesome," Burkhead said of the Wednesday meetings. "Just to get together to lay out whatever is on the table as players may have concerns or coaches may have concerns. This really opens it up. I think you get to know what's going on with your coaches or teammates and kind of get a feel of what's going on with your team.

"If there's something that needs to be fixed or something that we need to improve upon, it's addressed in those meetings. I think it's helped us grow as a team and I think it's helped us hold each other accountable even to a higher standard."

Another thing done at the meeting each week is a different player gets the opportunity to go up front and teach a concept about the offense or defense to the entire team.

At the end of the session everybody takes a test on what was taught at the meeting. Every player has to get a 100 percent for their score to count.

"If you don't get a 100 (percent) on the test, then it's not good enough," Burkhead said.

"The big thing is we are sick of being a good team. Coach Bo (Pelini) is always trying to make innovative things to become a great team. I think it's really helped our team. If you just always rely on what you've always done, you are never going to make improvements."


New touchback rule changes the game

Lost in the off-season news cycle is the rule that will move kickoffs from 30 yard line back to the 35 in 2012.

The NCAA moved kickoffs to the 30 yard line to try and get more returns and exciting plays, but they have decided to move it back because of the amount of head injuries that have occurred on kick returns.

Defensive coordinator John Papuchis has mixed emotions on the rule. The biggest difference now is that a touchback will move the ball to the 25 instead of the 20 yard line.

"I don't know if you should be punished for kicking touchbacks," Papuchis said. "I think you should be rewarded as a defense, but it's an offensive world."

A decision for NU now is what to do with Brett Maher? Do you kick it through the end zone every time and have opposing offenses start at the 25, or do you try to place kickoffs more strategically.

"If you look at the averages that would mean Brett (Maher) would put the ball through the end zone a majority of the time," Papuchis said. "(Maher's) average was about the 2 yard line in terms of where the opponents caught the ball. For us I think it will have an impact."

Spring game on TV?

It's been a debate for years with Husker fans if the Red-White spring game should be televised. Only once has it been on TV, and that was in 2007 when Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan set up an agreement with the NFL Network to air the game on tape delay in prime time.

I personally thought that was a brilliant idea and was always kind of surprised NU didn't want their Red-White game on TV. I know with my close affiliation to NET they have approached Nebraska multiple times over the years to air the spring game.

Last year Nebraska declined the Big Ten Network's request to air the Red-White game. However, that was before NU was a full member of the Big Ten. Now they don't really have that power over the BTN and it sounds like we will see the spring game on TV in one way or another. My guess is we could see a tape delayed broadcast, but I'm sure that depends on the other spring games they decide to air on BTN.

This will be a good thing for Husker fans around the country that can't travel to the Red-White game in person. It wouldn't surprise me if some Husker support clubs have watch parties for the Red-White game. When I travel to speak with different groups of Nebraska fans, it never surprises me to hear the stories of hundreds of Husker fans cramming into sports bars across the country to watch games on Saturday.



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