Published Friday, July 27, 2012 AT 1:39 PM / Updated at 4:06 PM
B1G Media Days: Bo talks recruiting challenges, philosophy
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

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.”

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.


  1. Marv says:

    I’m picturing Barney jumping up and down on the board room table telling Bo he won’t come down until he offers his son Sam a scholarship.

  2. Melvin says:

    Excuses….Nu has had guys from LA, fl ca nj tx for years and now its hard to recruit….Bs!!,!

    1. BigRedneck says:


    2. Florida Husker says:

      Your comment is BS. He isn’t saying anything different than what TO said 20 years ago, he is talking about reality not making excuses.

      1. Matt Svoboda says:

        Anyone who doesnt think it is more difficult for Nebraska to recruit than schools in the Southeast, West coast, and states like Ohio, Michigan, PA, Texas etc. is a fool.

        It is and always has been a disadvantage at Nebraska. That is indeed a reality.

      2. joey says:

        TO, never made excuses..true. BO not making escuses..BS!!! Bo has yet to tell us why he keeps a OL coach, that has NOT proved himself in coaching, recruiting, giving the OL a winning and aggressive attitude, etc., etc.. But yet this BUM takes home $240,000, for his failures??? If Beck leaves? Bo will make Barney a OC. Why would I say something so silly right??? Because he did the same thing with our NEW DC. So yes, I do see BO’s history repeating itself.

        1. An Actual Cornhusker Fan says:

          Joey, I would highly recommend T.O.’s whiny books about how he was offered the HC job at Colorado and how it was easier to recruit a kid there because of the mountains. Or how about how Oklahoma had 50 private recruiting planes at their disposal while Nebraska only had a measely 2. Or about how it was easier to attract kids to the west coast. Or be in states that actually have populations that are bigger than being only 19% of the Chicago metro population.

          Maybe T.O. personally hired Bo Pelini because they both are huge collective excuse makers that squander the vast “Texas sized” resources that the great Cornhusker “flyover” state of abundance has.

          1. A Fan says:

            What does Osborne possibly leaving have to do with excuses about recruiting here? Osborne thought about leaving not because he couldn’t recruit… he almost left because some fans were angry about losing to OU all the time.

    3. Trav9s says:

      Honestly, you must not have read the aticle. Not only is he saying the same thing TO was saying 20 years ago, he’s saying it’s changed with earlier recruiting. Since most recruits are commiting before they can take officals, it make it harder to get guys from the states you mentioned to come visit. If you doubt that more players are committing before officalis check the EPSN150, something like 70% have already committed.

      Also, he never said we’re not able to get those players(which if you look at how many players we took from in state since he’s been here, that is evident), just that its harder than it used to be.

      Metro has a nice reading comp class, you might try it out.

  3. fin-tastic says:

    The “fans” ripping on Bo are crazy. They accuse him of being coy and hostile with the media. Now he loosens up and talks openly about the challenges of recruiting, and they accuse him of “making excuses.” Give him a break. If he secretly loathes the fans, I don’t blame him.

    1. Matt Svoboda says:

      I dont blame him either.

      Either our beloved fan base has gotten worse (i dont believe) or social media has simply given the morons a louder voice (I do believe).

    2. joey says:

      I DO blame him for keeping Barney, beings since he’s been here. Barney hasn’t done BO diddley squat. That’s 1 heck of a deal. FAIL at your position… And get $240,000, or a promotion like our DC did. Wow, what a coach. Can’t say BO isn’t a

      1. An Actual Fan of Nebraska says:

        Do you wax nostalgically of the pre-Cotton golden days of 90 yards rushing per game that the 2005 offensive line averaged for the season?

        Do you miss the tenacity of that offensive line’s domination of grinding out a whopping 1001 rushing yards? For the ENTIRE season. Again, 1001 total rushing yards for the whole TEAM?

        1. TexasHusker says:




  4. Tom says:

    It is crazy when many players in good programs are not going to start until they are juniors, Najee Jackson is a good example. 19 TD throws, 2 INTs, NE Class A State Championship, really good all-round athlete, no stars, not ranked in any service yet, helloooooo?

  5. Ron says:

    Bill Callahan may not have been a great college coach, but he could recruit. He had highly rated recruiting classes and he provide Pelini with the players that were the basis of his first two years at Nebraska. His recruits came from all over the country so he did not have any trouble recruiting to Nebraska.

    1. An Actual Cornhusker Fan says:

      “Callahan was widely acclaimed for his recruiting, and each of his classes was ranked high by analysts. But many of those players never delivered, and Callahan’s ability to develop talent was questioned.”
      -Joe Schad, ESPN

      Bad company
      Callahan nearly on five-worst list? Fans want answers
      Sports Illustrated – Stewart Mandell

      “The above e-mailers mentioned the impressive strides he’s made in recruiting. There’s a reason for that. Because of the drastic personnel makeover Callahan had to undergo to run his desired style of offense, he was able to go into the living rooms of blue-chip athletes around the country with the promise of instant playing time. Over a longer period of time, however, it’s unrealistic to think Nebraska will be able to remain a true, national recruiting force like USC. This is nothing against Nebraska; it’s just reality. Given the choice between spending four years in L.A., Florida or Lincoln, Neb., which do you think a five-star receiver from Virginia is going to choose? And the fact is, Callahan is going to be almost entirely dependent on these types of recruits because 6-foot-5 pro-style quarterbacks and 4.4 receivers aren’t exactly growing on trees in Nebraska’s backyard.
      Furthermore, it’s asking a lot of college quarterbacks to run a full-fledged, NFL-style version of the West Coast offense. It’s just too complicated. At other programs that have attempted it, the typical QB has taken three years to fully grasp it. (UCLA’s Drew Olson being a perfect example.) Callahan has been fortunate thus far to be able to land a juco transfer (Zac Taylor) who’d already been in the system and now a fifth-year senior transfer in Sam Keller. It won’t always be that way. When the inevitable day comes that he needs to start a freshman or sophomore, it’s going to be 2004-05 all over again.”

    2. An Actual Cornhusker Fan says:

      Bill Callahan’s secret recruiting weapon was former NU ASSISTANT coach (& DL coach) John Blake who is responsible for recruiting Ndamakong Suh.

      Here are some Blake fun facts from his wikipedia entry (seems like a great guy). Not sure why they did not mention his involvement in coaching at OU when Switzer got pushed out in 1985 due to violations.


      In 2010, Blake resigned from North Carolina in the midst of an investigation into players’ relationships with agent Gary Wichard,[1] who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.[2] At the time, Blake was suspected of being an employee and receiving cash benefits from Wichard.[1] On March 12, 2012, the NCAA announced that Blake had received a three-year show-cause penalty, which effectively bars him from college coaching during that period. The NCAA determined that Blake had received personal loans from Wichard and failed to disclose them to UNC, and also misled NCAA investigators.[2]

      In 1995, as an assistant for the Dallas Cowboys, Blake made accusations that quarterback Troy Aikman was homosexual and a racist. However Aikman’s minority teammates came to his defense and refuted those accusations, further Aikman later married and had two children.[1][1]

      Blake destroyed recruiting records after he was fired as Oklahoma’s coach in 1998.[1]

  6. NUoverALL says:

    Bill Callahan was a great recruiter and he was our first “Million Dollar” coach! As such, he should have had a clue how to hire a defensive coordinator who knew what he was doing! Those gargantuan losses to Texas Tech and Kansas happened because the “Million Dollar” man was more concerned about forcing his offensive style of football on Husker Nation… and didn’t know how to hire defensive talent!

    When Frank Solich lost big to Colorado, he got rid of his defensive coordinator, and hired Bo Pellini.
    Bo turned the defense around…and recruiting picked up. But Pederson (who was just as clueless as Callahan… and far more classless) forced Pellini out after ONE year as interim head coach and proceeded to run the program into the ground!

    In a way, I’m glad Callahan was so stubborn. That’s what brought about a change in the Athletic Director’s office. NU is much better off now!

  7. NUoverALL says:

    Clarification: Bo Pelini was forced out after ONE year as defensive coordinator and ONE game as interim head coach!
    Had he been allowed to remain as head coach, I wonder if we’d still have some of the streaks that we lost under the Pederson/Callahan regime!