Bo Pelini Needs to Show He Knows Both Sides of the Ball

Wil Stillwell-EdlerCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2008

When Tom Osborne introduced Bo Pelini as the new head coach at the University of Nebraska, he made it clear that the reason behind his choice was first and foremost Pelini's defensive expertise.

And who can blame him?  The 2007 Blackshirts gave up more than 40 points in six games for the first time ever.  The last team to give up more than 40 points more than once in a season played in 1948.

It was also the first time in Nebraska's 117-year history that a Husker Squad had scored 50-plus points in a game—and lost.

Pelini's hire has been viewed by many Husker followers as long overdue, after he was rejected in 2003 by then-Athletic Director Steve Pederson in favor of Bill Callahan.

Callahan proceeded to go 27-22 in four years and posted the first two losing seasons at Nebraska since 1961.  He also ended Nebraska's record streak of consecutive bowl games at 35.

Pelini, meanwhile, went to Oklahoma, where he served as defensive coordinator under Bob Stoops for two years.  He then spent the last three years in the same position at LSU under Les Miles, in which his defensive units were ranked in the top three in total defense each year.

While no one will doubt the defensive genius of a man that can take a basic 4-3 Cover 2 scheme and make it one of the most feared in the game, or how his fire and competitiveness can make even an average player excel on the football field, Pelini has never had to worry about the other side of the ball—except how best to stop it.

Now that he has acquired his first head coaching position, he will have to show that he can not only inspire his defensive units and recruit top notch defensive players, but that he can do the same for his offensive players.

This is not to say that he needs to become an offensive coordinator.  Shawn Watson will be handling those duties, and he does an excellent job of it.  The Huskers ranked 11th Nationally in total offense, even while going 5-7.

But Pelini will need to show us crazy Nebraska fans, with all of our expectations, that he is not limited to just one side of the ball.

He needs to show that while he may not be calling the plays on offense, he knows what's going on, and can tell when someone makes a mistake enough to slap him on the butt when he comes off the field and tell him, "You'll get 'em next time, tiger."

He'll need to show that he can recruit top notch offensive players as well as defensive ones, and that he can develop them as well as he can his defensive players.

While he won't get run out of office if he doesn't become the next Tom Osborne, the critics will get louder and louder if he doesn't show improvement.

I don't doubt that he will become a great head coach.  The best case scenario is that he would become the next Tom Osborne.  It would certainly give stability and continuity to a school which hasn't had that in five years.

Good luck Bo.  Nebraska is rooting for you.