The crowd around Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was significantly smaller this year than it was in 2011, when out-of-town reporters huddled for Bo’s thoughts and memories on the Big Ten, Woody Hayes, football philosophy and quarterback Taylor Martinez’s dramatic 2010 season.
Friday, Pelini had the NU beat reporters — four or five from recruiting Web sites — and the topics often turned, shall we say, deeply toward the rote mechanics of recruiting. And Pelini can talk recruiting when he’s prompted to discuss challenges and overall philosophy.
My colleague, Tom Shatel, made a good point Friday when he said that the old-school scribes want personality and good stories, while the new-school idea is to delve into commit lists and scouting techniques. I enjoy a flavor of both, but Friday there was more of the latter and less of the former.
Pelini reiterated it’s hard to recruit to Nebraska because of its population base, but he likes his staff of recruiters, especially coordinator Ross Els, whom Pelini calls “Rain Man” for his organization and attention to detail.
The No. 1 key to recruiting? Pelini said it’s evaluation, and he said he’s seen more bad evaluators than good. The bad ones regard a high schooler for his NFL potential rather than his college potential.
While “no one is 100 percent” accurate, Pelini said his top job is to project what players can be in three or four years. Defensive tackle Thad Randle — now 300 pounds – played 243 in high school, Pelini said. Tight end Ben Cotton was 210 pounds in high school. And quarterback Taylor Martinez was seen as a safety by most programs.
“Let’s face it — we’re not going to get as many guys that are ‘ready-made.’ It’s hard to get some D-lineman who’s 6-2½, 320 and can run like the wind. Let’s face it: There are a lot of times that guy isn’t going to get on a plane and fly across the country to play. He’s going to stay home.
“We have to turn over every rock. In this class, we’re going to sign 25 guys, and you got to go to a lot of places to get that done. So you’ve got to turn over every rock. You have your initial board. You just look at what’s happened over the summer. You come back from vacation and your board starts dwindling, dwindling, dwindling. The evaluation is constant. You constantly have to add guys to your board. Take guys off your board.”
Pelini said he allows his position coaches to cross players off the list that Pelini may like, and Pelini sometimes crosses players off the list that position coaches may like.
“If I turn down a guy and (an assistant) says ‘you need to know this, this and this,’” Pelini said. “If he wants to stand on the table for a guy, I’ll say ‘OK — you gotta coach them.’ Sometimes I’ll say ‘No, I’m not going that way,’ and sometimes I’ll bend.”