As Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini met with his football team Sunday night to kick off fall camp, the message he laid down was pretty clear.
Pelini told his team what his overall expectation level is for 2008, and let's just say the team took to it fairly well.
"He said the sky is the limit," junior safety Larry Asante said. "A championship is out there for us to go grab. Winning a championship is not easy, but if we put in the hard work, I think it can be accomplished."
As for what kind of championship, Asante wouldn't elaborate on what the team's goal is for 2008, but everybody is excited to work with Pelini.
Asante said he's very familiar with the defensive success Nebraska had in 2003 under Pelini, and that's something he's hoping NU can duplicate in 2008.
"I've seen the stats and it's intriguing," Asante said of the 2003 Pelini defense. "That motivates me to go out to practice every day and to work hard.
One of the biggest tasks for Pelini this season will be to repair the mental state of the defense. It's been well documented that the 2007 Blackshirts were the worst defense in the school's modern day history.
Repairing the mental physique of the defense is a question Pelini said he's asked quite often, but he said it's really not something he worries about, because he looks at himself as just a football coach.
"I know I'm that I'm not a psychologist," Pelini said. "I'm not a guy who can just get them into a room and wipe out any bad feeling or bad memories that they had. As they're taught and they get comfortable in our system and develop confidence, then those things go away."
When Pelini looks at the situation the defense is faced with this year, he sees some similarities to the 2003 season when he came to NU for the first time. Pelini replaced Craig Bohl as Nebraska's defensive coordinator after a 7-7 season in 2002 that was blamed large in part to defensive struggles.
"You could say there was a damaged psyche in 2003 when I got here," Pelini said. "It's just not something I address. It's how we approach things, how we build what we are doing and how we move forward. You look ahead and you never look back. Whether it's good or bad, you don't look at what happened, you look at where you're going.
"As long as you focus on the process to get there and you have a vision of where you are going, then what happened in the past is just something for the fans and media to talk about. The players will forget about it. It's not something we concern ourselves with and it's why I never watch the tape (of last season)."
As this football team comes together under Pelini over the next month, one thing they will try to do is develop a theme or a slogan. In 2003, NU's team slogan was "hit or miss."
Junior Rickey Thenarse said it's too early to have a slogan right now, but talk to him in about three or four weeks.
"We are all just trying to find what we are as this fall camp gets started," Thenarse said. "We should know by the end of fall camp, but we don't know yet."