October 2, 2008

Thursday notebook: Pelini talks early recruiting

With the biggest game of his young head coaching career less than 48 hours away, Bo Pelini gave a little insight on his recruiting philosophies going into Nebraska's showdown with No. 4 Missouri on Saturday.

With seven visitors confirmed by HukersIllustrated.com for this weekend, the Huskers will once again host a relatively substantial number of their recruits during their five-game home stand to open the season.

The visitors scheduled for this weekend are defensive tackle Latu Heimuli, defensive back Dijon Washington, linebacker Chris Williams, defensive back Anthony Carpenter, running back Dalton Hilliard and offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles.

While some teams opt to hold off on scheduling their visits until later in the season, Pelini said he wants to capitalize on Lincoln's early-season game day atmosphere and weather to give his recruits the best possible experience on their visits.

"I think that this is a great selling point," Pelini said. "This is the game day atmosphere: The people, the weather this time of year. The atmosphere is a big selling point for us. It's important that they see the environment that they're coming to."

Pelini also commented on the number of visitors Nebraska has had already through the first five weeks of the season. After Saturday, the Huskers will have already had 22 recruits make official visits.

"For early in the year, we've got a pretty good amount of visits," Pelini said. "We've had a good response. It's early in the year, and a lot of them still have scheduled visits. Usually the one's you're getting to visit now are the ones that are going to go for a while and take their visits. But I think it's gone well, and I think recruiting's headed in the right direction."

Pelini then shared some of his strategies of handling recruits once they get on campus. Rather than aggressively push to get players to commit, Pelini said he opts for more of a laidback approach and gauges the recruit's initial interest level before pressing for a commitment.

"It goes on the kid," he said. "I ask them kind of what they're thinking and what their approach is. I don't really believe in trying to force a commitment and getting them in there and as people say 'squeeze them.' Because they're young kids an you don't want to put too much pressure on them, because if you do pressure them and you get a commitment, what happens? They go back, and they say, 'He talked me into doing it. It wasn't what I really wanted to do.'

"I kind of sell what I have. We sell what we have. Every situation is a little bit different. You have to take into account how the kids are looking at it, how their parents are looking at it and how their coach is looking at it. You try and give them all the information so they can make a decision that's best for them and their family."

-Robin Washut

Thursday practice takes
22 visitors: After not having a single visitor in for the season opener against Western Michigan, Nebraska has done a great job of utilizing this five game home stand to bring in official visitors. In all, NU has brought in 22 official visitors in the last four games, assuming everybody shows up that has been confirmed for Saturday. You won't find another team in the country that has had that type of success with bringing in early season official visitors.
Latest start ever: Saturday's 8 p.m. Missouri game is set for an 8:10 p.m. kickoff, which is the latest start time ever in Memorial Stadium history. Last year's Mizzou game actually didn't kickoff until 8:20 p.m. in Columbia because the game on TV before it ran over. There's a chance that could happen again on Saturday depending on how long the Auburn vs. Vanderbilt game runs.
Injury update: Pelini said the team is in relatively good health and nobody should be out for Saturday's Missouri game due to injury. Junior safety Larry Asante practiced on both Wednesday and Thursday. Senior offensive lineman Andy Christensen is still out with an undisclosed "medical issue", and Pelini said he is currently listed as day-to-day.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a 90 minute helmets only workout inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday. The Huskers are scheduled to come back on Friday for a short walk-thru practice.

More Thenarse on the horizon

After seeing his first significant playing time since injuring his collarbone in the season opener, junior safety Rickey Thenarse should only continue to the see the field more and more as the season progresses.

Pelini said Thursday that Thenarse will play a big role for the Huskers' defense on Saturday against Missouri, and NU will be relying on nearly every defensive back on its roster to help combat the Tigers' explosive passing game.

Junior safety Major Culbert also saw his share of snaps last week against Virginia Tech, as he filled in for and injured Larry Asante/ Though Asante is slated to start on Saturday, Pelini said Culbert should see the field just as often as he did last week.

"You'll definitely see more of Rickey," Pelini said. "You'll see Major some. It depends how the game plays out."

Because of his injury, Thenarse had missed two weeks of practice and two games before returning the week of the Virginia Tech game. Despite missing so much time, Thenarse has done nothing but impress since his return.

Defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders said earlier in the week that Thenarse had two of the best weeks of practice he's had all year, and there's a chance he could see the majority of playing time or even start against the Tigers.

"Anytime you miss practice days, you miss opportunities to get better and improve," Pelini said. "Some of that's out of their control, but we got (Culbert and Thenarse) back, and it looks like they've stayed in it mentally. Rickey had a really good week of practice. I think he's ready to play a good football game."

-Robin Washut

Quick hits

***During his post-practice interview Thursday, Pelini was asked is having the majority of people outside labeling the Huskers as the underdogs has inspired his team to prove people wrong. His answer put a quick end to that notion.

"I don't care what other people think," he said.

***On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson jokingly said Nebraska's game plan for was "top secret". When asked if he thought that was the case, Pelini wasn't quite intent on keeping undercover.

"Nothing's really that top secret in this game," he said. "They're good football coaches. There's always something different in every game. It's not about secrets. It's about blocking, tackling and execution. It's not about secrets."

***Though it was revealed that sophomore Keith Williams would be getting the start at left guard over senior Mike Huff against Missouri, Pelini said to not make too much of the depth chart change.

"They're not going to rotate that much different, it's just that Keith is going to start the game," he said. "He's earned it. It kind of goes back and forth, but you're going to see Huff too."

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