Pelini's Comments About Offensive Line Ought to Have Husker Fans Smiling

I didn't watch the entire Big 12 media day press conference online, but I did watch part of it. The funniest part came early on. As Bo Pelini was off being interviewed by Fox Sports (or some high falootin' media outfit), the OWH's Lee Barfknecht and Big 12 media dude Wendell Barnhouse tried to keep Husker fans entertained by discussing the upcoming Nebraska football season. 

The best part of the conversation was what they didn't say. Being the professionals that they are, both managed to talk for around 10-15 minutes without once saying the words "Big 10", despite talking about it at length and Barfknecht's comment that it was one of the biggest stories of his career. 

Clearly they were informed ahead of time - no Big 10 talk - a theme that continued when Pelini's first comment was that he would take no questions about the conference change, but would focus instead on the Big 12 conference. Reporters played along, perfectly happy not to rock the boat too much. They handed Pelini a couple of softball questions about what Pelini was doing to prepare the team for their last year in the Big 12, and what problems, if any, Nebraska might face while on the road. 

It makes sense, though, avoiding the Big 10 talk. Nebraska has a year left in the Big 12, and it's shaping up to be an exciting year. There's plenty of time to talk about the future (a future we'll know a lot more about when the Big 10 meets in a couple weeks), so why worry about it now? 

Consider also that anything Pelini might have said about joining the Big 10 would be used against him throughout the season. Something as simple as "We're excited about the change" could easily be manipulated into "Nebraska is eager to leave and hates the Big 12" by both coaches and fans. The right thing was to avoid it, and he did. 

Instead, he (mostly) stuck to the football team. There was a question about the "Red Out" video, and we discovered that Pelini didn't know anything about it until after it's release. It's understandable he didn't like it - too much focus on a single opponent when there is a full season to play. (Funny that it's considered controversial. The SEC media days dealt with unscrupulous agents as pimps and the players who may or may not be involved with them. The Big 12 gets itself into a tizzy over an online video. Did I mention it's a boring conference?) 

Out of all Pelini's comments about the football team, one stands out that ought to have Husker fans even more excited about the 2010 season. With regards to Nebraska's offensive line, Pelini said: 

You saw it at linebacker a couple years ago, and I think it's going to play out the same way on the offensive line this year. We really like our young talent on the offensive line, and we added a couple of young men in the incoming class, and it's nice to have depth at that position because, you know, they pound. They get beat up. I mean, it's a long season, and I think you look across the board, this is the first time that we've had that.

A couple of years ago, Nebraska started the 2008 season with just one returning starter at linebacker, Phillip Dillard. The cupboard was so bare that Cody Glenn switched to linebacker, started, and played well most of the season (until being unfortunately dismissed from the team).  Colton Koehler started six games, while Mathew May, Matt Holt, and Blake Lawrence got plenty of playing time. 

By the time 2009 rolled around, that set of linebackers had been pretty much replaced. Dillard continued to start and play well, Lawrence's career ended due to concussions, and Holt missed the season due to injury. Koehler and May saw limited action, having been replaced by Will Compton and Sean Fisher who had redshirted the previous season. Now here's Pelini, saying the same should work for the offensive line, namely, that there's plenty of quality and depth so that the offensive line will be a strong unit instead of being blamed for the team's offensive woes. 

If that doesn't make you smile a little more, consider that the schedule sets up nicely to get the young guys going early. Games against Western Kentucky and Idaho should allow redshirt freshmen linemen like Jeremiah Sirles, Nick Ash, Cole Pensick, and Brent Qvale to get into games and get some on field experience. A couple may hold the key to a very successful 2010 season. 

Nebraska is set at the guard position, with quality and experience in Keith Williams and Ricky Henry. If Qvale can get up to speed quickly, he'll fit well into the rotation and give those two a breather and possibly a chance to heal. 

At tackle, someone needs to push Marcel Jones and D.J. Jones to get better or face being replaced. Consider Sirles and newcomer Jemarcus Hardrick as prime candidates to take over starting positions. Nebraska was very weak at tackle last season, and it seriously affected our ability to execute the offense. If there's one area in which an improvement would immensely help the team - there it is. 

Bottom line - more quality, more depth, and with an easy early schedule, more experience on the offensive line. If that don't bring a great big smile to your face, I don't know how else to help you. 

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