Yesterday, Bo Pelini raised eyebrows in the way he talked about linebacker Phillip Dillard:
He is healthy and I expect him to come out there and compete for a job.
“We’ll see how things shake out,” Ekeler said. “But right now, he’s down a ways.”
Get your attention? It sure did mine. Here's more:
“I really don’t want to get into all of that,” Ekeler said. “But there are certain things that we ask. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Dillard's injury last year looked season-ending when it occurred, though Pelini made it sound like Dillard would be available later in the season. But he didn't play. Not even in the Gator Bowl. At the time, I attributed it to Pelini taking the lead of Bill Snyder in trying to mislead the opposition as far as injury status goes.
Now I'm not so sure. It's obvious that the coaching staff isn't happy with Dillard at this time. I don't know when this changed; Dillard was named a captain for last year's spring game, so it's something recent. Perhaps it was an offseason thing, perhaps it was how he worked with the training staff to recover from the injury.
Suffice it to say that a message is being sent to Dillard; we'll see how he responds to it. It looks like Nebraska is ready to move on with or without Dillard in the lineup. Pelini sent a strong message last year when he started freshman walk-onMatt Holt at Texas Tech; Pelini puts a greater emphasis on being ready to play over raw physical ability and potential. Some fans will undoubtedly obsess about Dillard and wonder how Nebraska's defense could handle the absence of their most experienced linebacker.
My response? If Pelini doesn't think Dillard is ready to play, then he'll only hurt the team by playing. It may be a preparation thing, it may be a discipline thing, it may be an attitude thing. It doesn't matter. It's Pelini's call, and Dillard's responsibility to rectify whatever he's done wrong.