This post originally ran on July 14 at LBU. We're republishing it here as part of our two-day Nebraska summertime extravaganza! Enjoy...
In case you missed it, the Big Ten officially welcomed Nebraska into the fold on July 1, ushering in a new era of football with fancy triple-options and play-action passing. Having just gotten the hang of the 31 Dive, I'm not sure if we're ready for all that, so we might as well hand them eleven consecutive conference crowns, right?
Just before their induction into our super secret club, the good fellas at Big Red Network asked some of the Big Ten bloggers to share a few words with them, welcoming them as we're so prone to do: with snark and veiled insults about corn and meth. Well, now it's their turn to return the favor.
Today we're joined by Steve and Darren from Big Red Network. Their solid writing and great analysis means that we don't have to do either of those things. I'm beginning to like these guys...
Jeff: Big Ten fans aren't as familiar with Nebraska as they should be, given your recent addition to the conference. Give us a quick update as to how things are going in Lincoln - How are the Pelini Boys working out? What's the general atmosphere/feeling towards Nebraska football?
Big Red Network: There’s a lot of excitement both with the new conference and the progress made under Bo Pelini. His defensive acumen is undeniable. Ultimately, he’ll be judged on how well he can get the offense to play. Husker fans went nearly 3 decades without experiencing four losses in a season. Now it’s happened in seven straight years. Pelini’s got to take things to the next level soon (11 wins or a Big Ten title) or people may begin to turn on him. The tirades and penalties are getting old.
Jeff: How has recruiting been going for the Cornhuskers? In case you hadn't noticed, we play a different style of football up in the north, where a three-yard, I-formation led rush is the standard call for three downs before a puntkick. Have you guys been recruiting these kinds of players?
BRN: Nebraska has been recruiting dual-threat quarterbacks, so the rushing game will be a point of emphasis. Probably not as much as in the triple option days, but certainly more than you see in a West Coast offense (as run under Bill Callahan). The linemen continue to be taller than we saw in the option days, as pass protection continues to be valued even in the post-West Coast era. Defensively, Pelini continues to place a premium on speed and versatility over size. This was also the blueprint for some of the great defenses of the 1990’s for Nebraska. You definitely wonder whether a team like Wisconsin might exploit that, but Pelini gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to building defenses.
Jeff: Who are you targeting and at what positions in the Class of 2012? I don't believe that Penn State and Nebraska are competing for any targets, so who should we watch until February?
BRN: It’s probably good news for Nebraska that they will bring in a smallish class. There are not many departing scholarship seniors so there might be room for only fifteen or so recruits (and five have already committed). The Huskers need linebackers. In addition to the commit they have, they probably need two more. Like Penn State, NU’s offered New Jersey’s Quanzell Lambert but his dance card appears awfully full. They continue to seek linemen on both sides of the ball. Offensive tackle Kyle Kalis of Ohio is on the wish list (and has been offered by PSU), likewise with d-tackles Tommy Schutt and Vincent Valentine of Illinois (also Nittany Lion targets). The Huskers are after a number of wide receivers and defensive backs as well. Running back DJ Foster of Arizona is worth mentioning too, only because he had offers from both Penn State and the Big Red.
Jeff: What are the normal recruiting grounds for Nebraska? Since you're the only game in town, I imagine you have the state to yourself, but then as the only major Division 1 team in Pennsylvania, Penn State hasn't done the greatest in recent past. Also, will the Big Ten be able to infiltrate your recruiting grounds?
BRN: There are usually just a few in-state players worthy of scholarships and Nebraska usually gets their pick of them plus ten to twenty walk-ons. Sometimes they let a good player get away and in particular Iowa and Iowa State have sought Nebraska’s leftovers. The larger footprint has been the Big 12 North. The Huskers have had a lot of success in Colorado and Missouri and that appears likely to continue. Beyond that, Nebraska’s always mined California and despite all the talk about things cooling in Texas, there will continue to be players coming from the Lone Star State. Arizona’s become a good place to recruit as well. Lately, there’s been an uptick in Illinois and Ohio. I’d expect that to continue.
Jeff: Finally, what about the hardcourt? We've got a new coach, but our outlook isn't necessarily Final Four or Bust...yet. What can you tell us about the basketball program at Nebraska, including any recruiting success you might be seeing.
BRN: Nebraska has had real trouble establishing their basketball program. It might be that it’s more than a five year project and so few coaches have gotten six or more years. Tom Osborne has appeared to lean toward a more patient approach and is sticking with Doc Sadler. That may be just what the doctor ordered. New investment in facilities could improve recruiting and being able to recruit in the Big Ten footprint could really help as well. Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan produce a lot of good players and it only takes one or two good finds to make a team competitive. Still, expectations are fairly modest.