The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ spring practices are not off to the start the state was hoping for.
Building toward a 2013 season that will feature eight new starters on the defensive side, the Big Red needs to make serious progress to create a firm foundation for next fall.
Unfortunately,since the Huskers’ pre-spring break practices have fallen well below expectations, Bo Pelini has since refer to his team’s performance as “horrendous” as he cited a lack of enthusiasm and perseverance in his players.
With the substantial number of new faces on the Husker defense, Nebraska cannot afford a lackluster spring season. In order to compete in the Big Ten in 2013, young players must mature quickly because some of them will be receiving their first taste of consistent playing time.
If Pelini wants to right the ship and provide the uninspired Huskers some energy, he should take a play out of Creighton basketball head coach Greg McDermott’s playbook.
For just up I-8, only a few months ago, McDermott wanted to send a clear message to his Bluejays during their preseason practices.
And he found the perfect way to communicate it.
By the end of the 2011-12 college basketball season, Creighton ranked 222nd in the nation in opponents’ field goal percentage. Heading into this season, McDermott knew that the Bluejays were returning with a potent offense, but would need serious improvement on defense in order to achieve their goals.
McDermott then issued each player a practice jersey with the number 222 on the back. And a few months later, Creighton is ranked 70th in opponents' field goal percentage heading into the tournament.
And that is just what Pelini should do.
A season ago, the Huskers scored at least 30 points against UCLA, Ohio State, Wisconsin (in the Big Ten Championship Game) and Georgia, but lost every game. So there is no denying that Nebraska’s shortcomings rest solely on the shoulders of the defense.
And yet, it is the defense this spring that is drawing the most outrage from the coaching staff. The very group that cost the Big Red their season goals a few months ago is now the one struggling to find motivation in spring practice.
So why not remind them why they are there? Why not remind them who was the reason they did not go to the Rose Bowl or finish the non-conference schedule unbeaten?
And there would be no better way to do that than slap a big No. 70 on their chests to memorialize that regrettable trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Or No. 653, the number of yards UCLA hung on the Blackshirts.
Or maybe just No. 3, the number of times Nebraska conceded at least 580 total yards to their opponent a season ago.
It really does not matter which one he chooses, but Pelini would do well to help them remember their performance last season. Because if anyone is lacking inspiration to compete and improve this offseason, it definitely should not be the defense.