Rex Burkhead? He's all that and something more. Bo Pelini says so - THE HEAD MAN HAS SPOKEN!
Courtesy of the Big Ten Conference, after the jump is the full transcript of Bo Pelini's session at the 2012 Big Ten Media Days.
I'll admit to being a bit lazy and doing this just for the web hits.... oh, no, wait, no I won't. I'm doing this because I believe you need to see it in it's raw, unedited form. THAT'S THE TICKET!
An Interview With:
COACH BO PELINI
COACH PELINI: Since our bowl game last year, we've kind of -- you know, our theme and our program, we've done a lot of, tried to do a lot of things out of the box. You're talking about from all the little things, all the way from the leadership things that we've done, the -- you know, from jumping jacks to burpies. Everything that we've done, everything that we incorporate in our training, we try to up the level of accountability, up the attention to detail.
And that's been our theme from beginning to end. And I think it's been good. And I like what it's done to kind of set us up for the fall. Now we know there's a lot of hard work ahead of us.
And I think we've done what we've needed to do up to this point. The players have been great. The leadership's been great. But now it's time to take it to another level.
So we're excited. With me here today, I have three tremendous leaders on our football team. Rex Burkhead, who obviously had a tremendous year last year, and he's, to me, a model student-athlete, not only in our program, but somebody that can be modeled throughout the country.
Will Compton, who is probably our undisputed leader on the defensive side of the football, and just a tremendous player, a great leader. And you see he has a lot of personality. I hear a lot of people commenting on Will's personality. He's a fun guy, but he's a guy that really, I thought, last year started taking his game to another level.
And then Kyler Reed, one of our tight ends, who is a tremendous play-maker for us, has been playing a lot of football since his freshman year.
It's hard to pick three guys because we have a lot of leadership on our football team. But I think you'll see that these three guys represent not only Nebraska but the Big Ten and college football as far as what student-athletes are all about.
But I'm proud of those guys. I'm proud of our football team, and we're looking forward to the season ahead.
Q. This is a question that's been asked of every coach actually. Where do you stand on pursuing Penn State players? Have you looked over the roster? Where do you stand in terms of contacting players, things like that?
COACH PELINI: We're not actively pursuing any Penn State players. We're concentrating on our football team, the guys on our program. And, now, that isn't to say that if there is a young man from Penn State who definitely wanted to transfer and was for sure going to leave and Nebraska was someplace that he was considering, that we wouldn't take a look at him to see if it made sense for our program.
But there's a lot that goes into decisions like that, something like that. And you never say never, but that's not something that's really on our radar right now.
Q. In your first year with the Big Ten, was there anything about that, in that year that surprised you, and is going to help you going forward through that first year into a long-term relationship with the conference?
COACH PELINI: I don't think there's anything that really surprises us. But I think a year under our belt, having some familiarity with the conference, with the teams, with the style of offenses and defenses, you know, there's one thing seeing it on film; there's another thing living it and seeing it in person, firsthand.
And I think it will help us going into year two. It's not going to win any football games for us, but I think it will be a little bit easier. And obviously, once we've gone through this year and we've kind of been to every venue or most of the venues, the other stadiums we're going to play in and play on the road and gone on road trips, that will even help us even more.
But at the end of the day you come out of the year, I was very impressed with the depth of the league. And I think it's very deep. There's a lot of good -- obviously very, very good coaching in the league and a lot of talent running around there on the field.
And you know that I think our players came out of it knowing that we're going to be challenged week in and week out. You've got to be ready to go each and every Saturday, or things aren't going to go your way.
Q. On a personal level, are you looking forward to going to Ohio State this year to play a game there?
COACH PELINI: I don't look forward to that game any more than any other game. It doesn't make much of a difference to me. And we got a lot of work to do before we play Ohio State.
But I think our players will enjoy playing there. It's a great -- it's obviously a lot of tradition, a great football environment, and it'll be fun for our players to be a part of.
And they haven't experienced that yet.
And that's one of the things that's been a pretty cool thing for our team, especially for our seniors, the guys that have played in the Big 12 and now playing in the Big Ten. Talking about kids who have been able to experience a lot of the tradition
of college football through playing all the schools, the Oklahomas, Texases of the world, where they've gone to Michigan and they'll go to Ohio State and Wisconsin and Iowa.
There's not a lot of kids who play college football who have been able to experience all these things that our football team has.
Q. Prevailing opinion seems to be that everybody in your division is fighting to play Wisconsin in the title game. Do you see any problems with the competitive balance between these divisions, either short term or long term?
COACH PELINI: No. I think they set them up well. Who could have envisioned what's going on, having two teams in the same division who are not eligible to play in the championship game.
The situation that I thought the competitive balance was good and Commissioner Delany and the president and everybody who helped set up the new alignment, couldn't have foreseen what's going on. And whether they do anything to adjust that for a year, I don't know. That's way above my head.
And I'm concentrating on winning as many football games as we can to put ourselves in position to be in that championship game. And whoever that would be against, you know, there's a lot of football that needs to be played.
Q. How do you think Taylor Martinez has progressed through the years going into his third season, what are your expectations for him this year?
COACH PELINI: Well, my expectations for Taylor are high. I think he's progressed. You look at where he was from my standpoint from when he started as a freshman to now, he's only going into his junior year. And it seems like he's been around forever.
But he's still -- he's just now becoming an upper classman. So I think his best football's ahead of him. And I think he's had a tremendous offseason.
I'm glad he's our quarterback. I'm looking forward to the year. I'm excited for Taylor and our football team.
Q. Rex Burkhead was just named to the Big Ten players to watch list. Can you talk a little bit about what he brings to the team?
COACH PELINI: Rex is a pretty special football player and a special kid. I think everybody can see what he can do as a football player.
He's tough. He can do it all on the field.
He's multi-talented. He has all the intangibles. But beyond that, what he does for your football team and your program is tremendous.
I mean, he's, to me, the definition of what a role model is and what a student-athlete should be. And the things he does in our community, the type of leader he is, the type of example he sets on a daily basis, what he's accomplished in the classroom, I wouldn't trade him for another player in the country. That's how much I think of Rex and what he is to our program and the University of Nebraska.
And you always say when you recruit kids, you say: This kid can do this for your program. He can be that. And he's lived up to everything that we envisioned when we recruited Rex.
It's not real often you can say that because, believe me, when you're recruiting, you're putting high expectations on guys. Rex has lived up to each and every one of them.
Q. Your defense took a little bit of a hit. You lose Jared Crick on the defensive line, Lavonte David at linebacker, and Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback. How are you going to replace those key players and how tough is it to replace leaders on your defense like that?
COACH PELINI: I've been fortunate since I've been in college football. I've coached a lot of great defensive players. You don't necessarily just replace those guys.
If you're running a good program, you're going to lose good players year after year. But it gives other guys the opportunity to step up.
We've lost good players in the past. (Ndamukong) Suh. We've lost defensive backs and that gives other guys an opportunity to step up and make their day. And I think that's going to be the case this year.
I feel good about our defensive unit as a whole, front to back. I think we're a lot more experienced in the secondary than we were a year ago, which is going to help us.
I think we have a solid front seven coming back, and we've got some youth coming up behind those guys that have played that I think are - have the potential to be really good football players, and it's our job to continue to develop them. And I'm excited about our prospects on defense.
Q. You and Neal Obermayer are both coming from the SEC. Have you had success recruiting in the areas that you did when you were at LSU?
COACH PELINI: Well, here at Nebraska, we recruit nationally. And we've had some success down in some of the areas that I recruited when I was at LSU. But it's kind of a different place, different time.
And we recruit the same types of players.
It's just sometimes we're all over the place. And we've had success in a number of different places from Texas to California, Ohio, and obviously through the Midwest.
If you look at our roster and you see a lot of states represented, that will always be the case when you're at Nebraska, when you've got - you know, just by sheer population, you've got to get on the road and get on some airplanes to go recruit your players.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.