Coach Bo Pelini said he’s not changing the fundamental principles that make up his defensive system. No surprise there. But are subtle alterations coming?
Pelini, speaking on “Sports Nightly” on the Husker Sports Network Wednesday night, made a point to say that his scheme is “multiple” yet “simple,” indicating that no plans for a complete overhaul are needed.
But last season, he thought that too often his players “were trying to be so perfect” that it hindered their playmaking ability. Pelini characterized that approach as “one of the worst things we did” on the defensive side of the ball.
So, it’s teaching the system without overwhelming the young players or compromising their instinctual nature — that seems to be the NU coaching staff’s primary defensive objective this spring (we just don’t know any specifics regarding those schematic tweaks yet).
Pelini wants his players to think less, react more. That kind of thing, apparently.
Here’s Pelini, in his own words:
“We’re not dialing back at all. We’re going to put them through the ringer. We’ll do some things differently to make it a little bit more user-friendly, for young guys especially to start (the spring). See what they can handle. … We’re going to make some adjustments to things that we’ve done defensively and ways we’ve done it, and let these guys — so their athleticism can come out. Let them play football.”
Spring ball begins Saturday. We’ll have plenty of coverage previewing those much-anticipated offseason workouts between now and then. Check out Omaha.com/bigred for all of it.
More from Pelini:
>> On the days that the Huskers work out in full pads this spring, they will conduct scrimmages, Pelini said. Every day. That isn’t normal for NU under Pelini. But… “We have a young group defensively, guys that we need to find some things out about,” Pelini said. “The only way is to roll it out there and play some live football.”
>> Pelini said there will be some experimenting on the defensive line regarding third-down packages. Just don’t plan on seeing too many guys who play multiple spots (it’s assumed that defensive end Jason Ankrah, not mentioned by Pelini Wednesday, could play some defensive tackle). More from Pelini on the topic: “We’re going to do a couple different things front-wise, where guys, just by sheer structure of the defense, are going to move at little bit — so sometimes our ends are going to be playing inside.”
>> At safety, Pelini mentioned junior Corey Cooper (dime back last year), junior Harvey Jackson (reserve safety), sophomore Charles Jackson (backup nickel) and freshman D.J. Singleton (joined the program this semester) as guys who will take reps. There are other potential candidates as well — like senior Wil Richards or redshirt freshman LeRoy Alexander. But if none of those players earn the coaches’ confidence, well, then “there’s a couple other corners who I think potentially could be safeties,” Pelini said. Pelini didn’t identify those versatile cornerbacks.
>> He talked about the tight end spot, too. Said Pelini: “After (senior) Jake Long, we need some guys that are going to have to step up. I think we have the potential there.”