In his post-game press conference after the Capital One Bowl, Pelini opened up by thanking his seniors, and turning the page to 2013.
"One thing I can say is — and I told our team this — there's no question that we can play with any football team in the country," Pelini said. "We want to make that next jump. We want to win them all. We want to compete for a national championship. I don't think we're very far away.
"I'm really, really excited about what we have coming back and the prospects for next year."
Is Pelini telling us the truth or blowing sunshine towards his critics? Your viewpoint depends on your viewpoint of Pelini. But set those preconceived notions aside for the moment, and let's discuss why Pelini could be right.
Nebraska signed a full front defensive seven last February, and redshirted the entire bunch. On the line, you've got 6'3" 320 pound defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, who's been earning rave reviews throughout the fall. 6'3" 298 pound tackle Aaron Curry, who played briefly before suffering an injury, is looking at a medical redshirt. At defensive end, Greg McMullen was a four star recruit who's added some nice size since signing day. Don't forget about Avery Moss who also played briefly before also suffering an injury, putting him in line for a medical redshirt.
One of my 2013 resolution...... restore the order of the blackshirts— Michael D. Rose III (@MRIII_Braska15) January 1, 2013
At linebacker, Michael Rose got the most rave reviews of anybody on the scout team this fall, according to Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald. Thomas Brown took on the role of emulating Georgia's Jarvis Jones in bowl preparations, and some thought he looked a little too close to the real thing. Let's not forget Jared Afalava and Zaire Anderson either. Anderson will get a medical redshirt for this season; he looked really good in his start against Arkansas State.
In the secondary, four star safety Jonathan Rose sat out this season after transferring from Auburn. It's still unclear why he left Auburn, but Terry Joseph said earlier this fall he could have played anywhere in the secondary if he didn't have to sit out this season.
Now, it's all fine and good to have prospective players on the roster. But not all of them are going to pan out, and the ones that do will be inexperienced. But Nebraska won't have to start seven redshirt freshmen; heck, most could start off as backups. In the front seven, Nebraska still has Chase Rome, Thad Randle, Jason Ankrah, Zaire Anderson, and David Santos available to play.
But what if these guys are ready to contribute next season? The only people who can authoritatively say that are Bo Pelini and his staff. He could be telling us the truth.
"Last year's recruiting class — that whole defensive side — is pretty good," said offensive line coach Barney Cotton, who sees the redshirts daily on the scout team. "Those guys have a good future ahead of them. Especially the front seven."
He also could be snowing us to fend off his critics. Truth is, there's no way to know for sure in January. Everybody has their biases. But it's not unprecedented that some of these guys could actually be better than the seniors who are leaving the program this season.
Even if they are not, it looks like Nebraska is going to need to lean on these youngsters next season. That's the position Pelini and the Huskers are in. But are you buying the prospect that the scout team could be better than the current defense? Steve Sipple isn't dismissing the idea outright. Tom Shatel warmed to the idea.
Are you willing to consider the possibility?