CHICAGO — Good two-hour media session here at the Hilton, where the roundtables were shoved into two different foyers to make for a hothouse-type experience. Leaders Division on one level, Legends on another. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini had 7-10 reporters around him at all times, and talked expansively about both sides of the ball. Here’s quick hits:
>> The Huskers have more than captains. They have assistant captains for each position group. Pelini couldn’t remember many of them, but nickel (and captain) Ciante Evans did. They are:
Tommy Armstrong (QBs)
Ameer Abdullah (RBs)
Kenny Bell (WRs)
Jeremiah Sirles (OL)
Jason Ankrah (DL)
Trevor Roach (LBs)
Josh Mitchell (CBs)
Corey Cooper (S)
Imani Cross (incoming recruits)
Why the new leadership structure? Pelini stuck to his “right thing, right guys, right time” mantra. Evans delved a bit deeper.
“I think it has to do with in-game things that were going on,” he said. “Like how we did in the Big Ten Championship. A lot of people come to the sideline, have a lot of things to say. Coaches come up to you asking what’s going on out there, and they don’t need a lot of different guys telling them what’s going on and a lot of clutter. So these are some guys they can come to and ask “What’s going on? What should we do different?”
>> If you think Nebraska’s offense looks like Oregon’s, that’s not really by accident. Quarterback Taylor Martinez said the Huskers and Ducks have shared information over the years. The link? New Oregon OC/former NU quarterback Scott Frost.
“We’ve got some plays from Oregon, Oregon’s got some plays from us, just because Scott Frost is up there,” Martinez said. “I know our coaches and him talk. It’s a lot of fun. I know we can speed up our offense as fast as them.”
Martinez talked to Frost last week, in fact. What do the two Nebraska quarterbacks share?
“He tells me to go out there, enjoy it and have fun,” Martinez said. “Play around with it. You know you’re going to get criticized sometimes — they’ll find something to pick on — so just go out there and have fun.”
>> Pelini talked at length about his defense — both its structure and potential personnel. There are some changes coming. Expect perhaps more three-man front. Expect NU to use junior college defensive end Randy Gregory at a “7″ or “9″ technique; that is, outside the offensive tackle as a stand-up hybrid type. Pelini said that freshman end A.J. Natter, redshirt freshman Jared Afalava and perhaps even freshman linebacker Josh Banderas could find themselves in that spot eventually. In the case of Banderas, Pelini said, it’ll depend on how much weight the Lincoln Southwest product puts on.
“There were times I wanted to play a little more three-man front, but our defensive ends weren’t as (big),” Pelini said.
>> Nebraska must improve its defensive line play, Pelini said. He made little bones about it. He said the 2012 defensive line class — which included signees Vincent Valentine, Avery Moss, Aaron Curry and Greg McMullen — was the best he’d signed at Nebraska to that date and he expects all to make a good impact this year.
Pelini also took the opportunity to put the 6-foot-3, 325-pound Valentine — for whose services Nebraska beat Florida in a recruiting battle — on notice:
“Vincent’s got to learn how to work and push through,” Pelini said. “You’re that big, that physical and that talented — it was easy for him in high school. To step up to this next level, he’s got to understand the type of mentality, the type of work ethic, and being able to fight through when you’re tired. The self-imposed hurdles he has to overcome. Some of it’s mental with Vincent. He’s a young guy. There’s nothing new there. The faster he understands that, the more he’ll be able to help us.”
On the flip side, Pelini said incoming freshman defensive tackle Maliek Collins “walked in a grown man.”
>> At safety, juniors Corey Cooper and Harvey Jackson, plus sophomore Charles Jackson, seem to be that top three. All three had big springs.
>> Martinez said new I-back Adam Taylor is one of the strongest players on the team, performing a bench press a few weeks ago that was apparently so significant “I don’t even want to say — because the coaches wouldn’t let him go higher.”