Up to this point Nebraska's class of 2008 has remained firmly affixed in the background. Of the 25 incoming recruits from last year's class two have officially lost their redshirt (freshman CB, Alfonzo Dennard and freshman safety Mason Wald), two will probably get medical redshirts this year (Freshman linebacker Sean Fisher and freshman defensive end Cameron Meredith) and the rest have yet to see the field.
That's a lot of redshirts still in tact, and you can bet that during the course of the year when injuries to certain positions like linebacker seemed to hit the Huskers hard, there might have been a temptation to yank them so that the Huskers could try and keep themselves in the games.
But as the head coach said after practice today, where many of the redshirts got to participate in another scrimmage against the more experienced players, you have to think about a lot more than that particular moment when it comes to yanking a kid out of his redshirt. “You have to do the right thing for them and their future. It's not about the here and now all the time,” Pelini said. “You tell them (recruits) certain things while you recruit them and you have to stick by your word, and I think we made the right decisions in all those cases.”
Doc Sadler could tell you a little bit about getting some flack for not playing kids as he eyed the future of the program rather than trying to cure some scoring woes which plagued the Husker basketball team last year. True freshmen at the time, forward Alonzo Edwards along with guards Toney McCray and Brandon Richardson, were all seen as players who could have given a spark to the struggling Husker offense. But as Sadler said some time ago and maintains to this day, sometimes you have to give a little now to get a lot more down the road. “You are never going to know what you could have gotten out of them, but you don't worry about that, because you have to think about the success of the team,” Sadler said last year. “You also just don't think one game down the road, but what you are going to have beyond that.
“You just can't make knee jerk decisions like that, just yanking a guy's shirt, because you didn't score enough points that one night or even two. You have to look at the big picture.”
For Pelini he looks at it similarly. “I'm not saying we are going to redshirt 23 out of 25 ever year, but at the same time you want to build a foundation, and that class is really a foundation for the future,” he said.
“We like the group. It's a good group of guys and there's some talent that group, and having them play against the older guys day in and day out. It makes them battle tested. It develops them and that's what we want to do with our program.”
That developmental process, at least within the scope of these young players learning what you do and how you do it, can only get addressed just so much throughout the course of a season. For much of the time during the year these players spend most of their time replicating what next week's opponent will do rather than them being able to execute the offense and defense of their own team.
The redshirt scrimmage the team held today, the second like this they have had this year, gives this group a chance to work on things they will be doing down the road. Also, with Nebraska making a bowl, that's a whole other set of practices a coach can get where the inexperienced players really get a chance to immerse themselves into the roles they will play in the future. “It will be like another Spring ball for them, and that will be huge. That's an important time for them (the redshirts) and an important time for all of us to continue to develop,” Pelini said.
Nebraska continues that development, now into the last third of the schedule, a road trip to Kansas State looming as the second to last regular season game of the year. Throughout this last stretch, dating back to the Baylor game, the Huskers have had to practice and play a little shorthanded.
Junior wide receiver Menelik Holt got into the Kansas game for approx. 10 snaps, Holt still nursing an injured knee which came against the Bears two weeks ago. For junior linebacker Phillip Dillard and senior offensive tackle Lydon Murtha, Pelini said their status is still day-to-day. Sophomore offensive guard Keith Williams was held out today's practice with an ankle, but Pelini said that he could have practiced if needed, and they expect him back tomorrow. The same goes for senior running back Marlon Lucky, who also got dinged up a bit early in the game against Kansas, Pelini saying that Lucky is battling a turf-toe right now.
Senior quarterback Joe Ganz also got injured against the Jayhawks, a Kansas defensive player rolling up the back of his right ankle. But Ganz, with a support brace firmly affixed to that ankle, went full speed today and the head coach doesn't expect him to miss a rep, saying “Joe was fine today – no issues.”
Check out the full post practice audio where Bo talks about all that above, plus more on the advantage of a bowl, the advantages of the offense being so familiar to players going into this year and throughout the season. Plus the Head Coach touches on wide receiver Antonio Bell, one of those who was scheduled to enroll this last year, but couldn't due to academics, but their situation could become very clear very soon.
Listen to Audio