When it comes to the 2014 season, Bo Pelini is ready for the challenges it presents. As the coach's seventh season at the helm of Nebraska football, it truly is make-or-break.
During Pelini's time at the Big Ten Media Days podium, the coach didn't shy away from his expectations for the season. He also didn't sugar-coat the challenges his team will face to meet those expectations, either.
"We're looking for a championship," Pelini told the media, via the Omaha World-Herald. "I think we have the pieces. We have a lot of potential on our football team, but there's going to be a lot of hard work that needs to be done for that to make that become a reality."
What exactly does that mean for the team? As Pelini noted, a lot of changes are in store:
We've tried to turn over every stone in the offseason, look at everything we can do to make ourselves a better football team. I guess you could say a little bit -- what do they say? -- loco as far as not getting too far outside of the box but trying to turn over every stone and trying to look at everything we can do as a football team to make ourselves the type of program we want to have.
And I think we've done that. We're going to make -- institute some changes, some things, different things about how we practice, when we practice. It's a long season. Do everything we can to make sure that we give our players the best opportunity to have success on the field.
As for the exact changes, Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald noted a few Pelini mentioned. Those include keeping the Sunday practice with Monday off, as well as potentially flipping Thursday and Friday practices. Pelini is also considering shortening the amount of time players are on the practice field, too.
Additionally, in a very surprising move, Pelini announced that he will open fall camp to the media.
In side session with media, Bo Pelini told reporters practice would be open to press this fall. #Huskers— Samuel McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) July 28, 2014
The willingness to make changes and be more open shows a different side of Pelini. It shows a coach that is aware of the challenges ahead of him. And the challenges are nothing to ignore.
Will Bo Pelini lead Nebraska back to the Big Ten Championship game?
For instance, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer poll, 29 sportswriters selected Nebraska to finish third in the Big Ten's West division. Of those that voted, only one picked the Huskers to win the conference title.
While it likely isn't something Pelini thinks about too much, he has to be feeling the pressure to win. His first six seasons with Nebraska all brought four losses. He has won three bowl games, but has also lost three. The highest the Huskers have peaked in an end-of-season poll under his leadership was No. 14 in both the Coaches and AP in 2009.
Fans, and Pelini, want more. To accomplish this, the head coach talked about improving the Huskers' efficiency. “By the time we walk onto the practice field to the time we step off, we want to be as efficient as we possibly can. We want to get our players on and off the field," Pelini said, as noted by the Omaha World-Herald's Sam McKewon.
That efficiency should carry over from the offense to everything else Nebraska does. That will also include correcting the turnover issue. Pelini made sure to say that, as Hail Varsity noted:
Turning the ball over, that’s No. 1. (We’re) doing everything we possibly can to simplify in every area. The terminology, as far as what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, make sure that our players can play a hundred miles an hour.
Pelini's hopeful that the focus on efficiency will give his team the tools needed to be successful on and off the field. If all goes according to plan, it should get Nebraska back to the Big Ten Championship.
The 2014 season is make-or-break for Pelini and his staff. After a rocky 2013 season, the coach used the offseason (and a cat) to improve his public persona.
Now it's time for the coach to do the same on the field. With the amount of changes Pelini has made in the offseason, he's ready for the challenge.