Bill Callahan came to Nebraska in 2004 and wanted nothing to do with the history, the tradition, and the excellence that had been Nebraska football for 40+ years. Nearly everything important to the image and tradition that had been Nebraska football was cast aside.
The in-state walk-on program was virtually eliminated. Paintings and pictures of All-Americans and Academic All-Americans were taken off the walls and put in storage closets. No longer were ex-players allowed the free access to the football facilities and to practice that they once enjoyed.
Whether Bill Callahan or his boss AD Steve Pederson was responsible for all of this doesn't matter. Bill Callahan's name is still firmly attached to much of it.
Last year, when the cloak and dagger stuff was removed and prying eyes were finally allowed an inside look at practices under Callahan, it became very clear why Nebraska was having the difficulties that they were. Practices were no longer the intense physical battles between the first team offense and defense that had been the norm for so long.
It became especially clear why the Blackshirts were having the extreme difficulties that they were having. They spent much of their week studying film and preparing game plans. They never worked on fundamentals in practice and were very rarely in full pads against the first team offense.
The first team offense spent much of the practice week in half pads working against the scout team!
Is it any wonder why when things went bad in a game for Nebraska in 2007, especially on defense, they had no answer or just didn't have the gumption to respond to adversity? They didn't practice being physical during the week, and when a team got physical with them, they didn't know how to respond.
Well, Bo Pelini has now come in and began to rectify some of the problems left behind by the previous coaching staff.
One of the first things Bo did was reinvigorate the in-state walk-on program. His first recruiting class included approximately 30 walk-ons from in state. Most of these kids turned down full rides to smaller schools for the chance to walk on at Nebraska.
The attitude, passion, and pride that these kids bring to the program are the lifeblood of the program. These kids will push the scholarship athletes to always give maximum effort in practice and on Saturdays.
Bo also welcomed back any ex-player that wanted to come and visit, watch practice, or talk to him about the team. It is now an open family-type atmosphere as it always had been.
Most importantly, the team is back to practicing being physical during the week leading up to the Saturday game. The first team offense and defense are back in full pads during the week and are often scrimmaging against each other—as they should be.
They are making small strides, but they are moving forward, and that is all that can be expected.