Confidence seems to be at an all-time high during the Bo Pelini era in Nebraska. Are the Nebraska Cornhusker players really as confident in the program, coaches, system and each other as they appear during preseason interviews? It isn't like their roster has had a complete overhaul from the 2011 team that went 9-4, including blowout losses to the Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan Wolverines and South Carolina Gamecocks. We won't even talk about the home loss to the Northwestern Wildcats that dropped the Huskers well out of the top 10. So what does have the Nebraska players feeling so optimistic about the upcoming season?
One sense of optimism is coming from a revamped coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball. It is no secret that Bo Pelini is a defensive mastermind, but last season he turned the reigns over to Carl Pelini a little more and focused more on a being a head coach than previous seasons. I'm not sure that turned out quite as well as Pelini had hoped. Now that his brother, Carl Pelini, has moved on to become a head coach it is time for Bo to have a little more input on the defensive side of the ball again. The Blackshirts new coordinator will be John Papuchis. There is little doubt that Bo Pelini will have a big hand in coaching the defense again and will likely not give up any control until he feels 100% confident with Papuchis. The Huskers will most likely have the type of team that can control the ball on the ground and make a few big plays in the air when needed. I'm not against seeing scores of 10-3 and 17-3 like back in 2009 when the defense was the strong point of the team. Other changes on the defensive side are defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski, who came over from the Iowa Hawkeyes. The defensive back coach is new as well. Terry Jospeh left the Tennessee Volunteers to learn under Pelini. Pelini has given high praise to the new guys.
Another sense of optimism evolves around the improvement of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The much scrutinized quarterback has spent the summer improving his mechanics. He has been working with a personal coach as well as attended the Manning Passing Academy. Just hopefully he can use bits and pieces from what he has learned to improve. No one is expecting Martinez to be the next Manning, but if he can figure out a way to complete 60 to 65 percent of his passes he could be a true dual threat. If teams have to respect his passing ability, it will open up so many more running lanes for him and the good ground of running backs that the Huskers have. The sky would be the limit for this offense if Martinez has made a huge improvement between his sophomore and junior season.
Last but not least, the familiarity of the conference has to help tremendously. They finally have went through their first season in the Big 10 so they are no longer the biggest story in the conference. With everything that has happened at Penn St. and with Urban Meyer now at Oho St., they have taken the spot light off the Cornhuskers and this is a good thing. Last season the Nebraska players and coaches had to prepare for all new teams, with the exception of the Washington Huskies. This would be hard for a dominant team to deal with and it proved to be very tough for an above average team to deal with last season.
Born in Lincoln, NE Kevin has been a Cornhusker fan since birth.