August 28, 2009

Friday notebook: Huskers wrapping up fall camp

With just one more practice remaining in fall camp, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said the Huskers have been far from perfect the past three weeks, but overall he's been pleased with what he's seen thus far.

Pelini said he could tell that his players were ready to start hitting guys in different colored uniforms after going at each other all offseason.

Though they still have another week of practice before their season opener against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 5, Pelini said the Huskers would finally start devoting the bulk of their practice time towards preparing for the Owls.

"We got a lot done through camp," Pelini said following Friday's practice. "We start entering into game week, and we'll hone in obviously from here on out pretty much on Florida Atlantic and some of the details. I think that will help some of our guys.

"Our guys are seeing a lot of different things every day, although you get used to playing against each other. It's not a true game plan situation, which lends to it being a little more difficult on your players."

Pelini said Nebraska ended Friday's practice with some scrimmaging, and he was generally happy with the team's play. However, he said the Huskers are still making far too many mental errors and penalties for his liking at this point in camp.

Still, compared to how NU played in Wednesday's practice - after which Pelini was as visibly angry as he's ever been - he said the overall performance has picked up over the past two days.

"We got some work done," Pelini said. "We've had a decent last two days. Not too bad… We've still got a lot to get fixed. I think the effort's there. Our attention to detail still needs to get better. We're sloppy still at times. I'm seeing some penalties here and there. Just not as crisp and as sharp as I'd like to see it.

"But I'm seeing some good things too. The effort was good, and we've just got to keep working on the mental aspect of it."

Friday fall camp takes
No depth chart yet: Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said Friday that he wasn't in any rush to figure out a depth chart for his team, despite the season opener only being a little more than a week away. Pelini said he didn't expect to have a final depth chart until later on next week at the earliest.
"Breakout year" for Helu?: Pelini didn't hold back in letting the media know his expectations for junior running back Roy Helu this season. "I think he showed at the end of last year what he's capable of doing," Pelini said. "He came in in great shape, and he's had a great camp. I think Roy is looking to have a breakout year, and I expect that to happen."
Injury update: Pelini did not address any injuries during his short post practice media gathering on Friday. Overall, the Huskers appear to have made through fall camp relatively unscathed on the injury front, all things considered.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two hour full-padded practice on the outdoor practice fields North of Memorial Stadium on Friday. The Huskers will take the field again on Saturday for their final practice of fall camp before the start of game week.

Pelini: Youth must step up

Looking over the roster, it's impossible not to notice just how young Nebraska is across the board this season.

All together, Nebraska has a total of 77 true and redshirt freshmen on their 142-man roster, making up more than half of the entire team. With several redshirts and some true freshmen straight of high school expected to step up and play or even start this year, it's obvious the Huskers will have to grow up in a hurry.

In particular, players true freshman Rex Burkhead and redshirt freshman Will Compton will be entrusted with some pretty important roles. Burkhead is the No. 2 running back behind junior Roy Helu, and Compton is the starting MIKE linebacker in the Huskers' base defense.

Even with one of the younger teams he's ever coached, Pelini said he's confident his team's youth will step up to the challenge.

"We're fairly young," Pelini said. "Part of that is just because a lot of the - obviously the numbers weren't as high when I first got here, and that lends to, you know when you start bringing in some more numbers, those guys are going to be young. I think we have a good combination of youth and experience.

"It's not a huge senior class, and we all understand that. It'll be interesting. We have a number of guys who are going to be playing football for us that haven't been out there, and that's part of the deal. You've got to see how they react once the bullets start flying. I think that they're preparing themselves well. That's why you play the games, to see who's going to step up and who's not."

Pelini said he and his staff were well aware of their young roster this offseason, and they made it a point to put their youth in as many pressure situations as possible in practice to try and get them used to what they would see come game day.

"We put pressure on them every day," he said. "We ask them to perform at a high level. We stress the little things, and you've just got to get them taught. I know you guy get sick of me talking about the process, but it is a process."

Quick hits

***With the first game week of the season just a couple days away, Pelini gave his initial impressions on Florida Atlantic on Friday.

"Pretty good football team," he said. "They have a lot of talent, a lot of speed. They have some good skill guys, obviously the quarterback (Rusty Smith) is a really good player. They have some good running backs. They have some speed on the outside on offense. Defensively, they're very athletic.

"With Coach (Howard Schnellenberger), they're a well-coached football team. We'll have our work cut out for us."

***Pelini gave some praise to senior center Jacob Hickman for stepping into more of a leadership role this offseason.

"He's just a smart, good football player who really understands the game and is on top of everything," Pelini said. "He's not really a rah-rah guy, but at the same time the other guys respect him and he knows what he's doing. He kind of leads by example."

***Lastly, Pelini was asked if he offered any words of recommendation for former running back Quentin Castille that may have led to his decision to transfer to Northwestern (La.) State after being dismissed from NU last week. Pelini said he did, and that he has a good relationship with NSU head coach Bradley Dale Peveto, as Peveto was a former linebackers coach at LSU while Pelini served as defensive coordinator.

"I know that coach well, and he called me about Q and I told him they'd be well served to have him in their football team," Pelini said.

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