Nebraska football fans are following spring practice closely, looking for any signs of hope. While Nebraska’s season ended with another four-loss performance in 2013, the Gator Bowl victory over Georgia gave NU fans hope that some momentum could be gained and a corner could be turned in year seven of Bo Pelini’s reign in Lincoln.
So where are the positive signs that Nebraska fans can hang their collective hats on going forward? Here are three candidates.
Who Is This Guy Masquerading As Bo Pelini?
Perhaps the biggest development in spring practice this year is the head man himself. While most people who know Pelini personally laud him as a good man, the image he presents to the public has always been a prickly, private and difficult person.
But this year has been different. Spring practice has been open to the media, something unheard of in previous years. And Pelini has been having some fun in public, embracing the “Pelini with cats” meme fostered by the best thing on Twitter, FauxPelini. He even took to Twitter himself during Nebraska’s defeat to Baylor in the first (sorry, second, those aren’t “play-in games”) round of the NCAA tournament.
Can I get fined if I comment about basketball officiating?— Bo Pelini (@BoPelini) March 21, 2014
This is a far cry from the “Coach Chickenbleep” Pelini we saw after the Iowa game, a man who looked to all the world like he was about to lose his job. And it is a fair observation that it’s only spring, with no real pressure or bad results to deal with.
But there’s little doubt that we are seeing a different Pelini—a looser, more relaxed and more confident Pelini—than we have in years past. If that holds, and translates to the team, then perhaps Nebraska will avoid some of the mental collapses we have seen in years past.
A Lack Of Injuries
Now, to be certain, a “lack of injuries” doesn’t mean “no injuries.” The neck injury to offensive lineman Ryne Reeves, requiring him to be hospitalized, was certainly a scary moment. But according to WOWT-TV, Reeves is expected to be back at practice after spring break.
That is certainly good news for Reeves and for a unit that can ill-afford a long-term injury. But other than Reeves’ neck injury, Nebraska has been relatively injury-free. Unlike in seasons past, if this form holds then Nebraska will not be taking a hit on the depth chart even before the season starts.
A Lack of “Chemistry” Talk
Sometimes what you don’t hear from spring practice is as encouraging as what you do. In seasons past, there were lots of feel-good stories about how everyone on the team loved each other, and the tight camaraderie should make for a banner season.
That’s not to say those reports weren’t accurate in terms of how teammates felt about each other at the time. But reports like that always felt a little bit like coaches and players trying to convince themselves about team unity, and how it would be a springboard to success.
This year, we haven’t seen those feel-good stories about how great everyone is getting along. Instead, we’ve seen a loose Pelini and a team that, by all accounts, is practicing well.
It’s all speculation of course—but then again, what is coverage of spring football besides speculation—but perhaps the absence of talking up camaraderie in an attempt to build confidence is being replaced by some actual confidence based on performance.
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