Steven M. Sipple: Pelini laid groundwork for touted QB's commitment

2013-06-18T23:45:00Z 2013-09-19T10:39:15Z Steven M. Sipple: Pelini laid groundwork for touted QB's commitment

Things I know and think I know:

Tim Beck will receive a lot of the credit for Nebraska's successful recruitment of Zack Darlington. And rightfully so.

Don't underestimate Bo Pelini's involvement.

"Sometimes I read on those Husker message boards that Bo Pelini doesn't recruit well and this and that," said Richard Darlington, Zack's father and also his head coach at Apopka (Fla.) High School.

"Let me tell you about Bo: He tells the truth," the elder Darlington said. "He's straight-up with people. I respect that. Most schools are a bunch of B.S. I don't want a bunch of bells and whistles and promises. That's not what it's about; it's about being real."

Zack Darlington, who on Friday verbally committed to become part of Nebraska's class of 2014, is a three-star quarterback who turned down scholarship offers from Arizona, West Virginia, Ohio State and Virginia Tech, among others. He appears to be a fine fit for NU's fast-paced spread offense.

During the recruiting process, he formed a strong bond with Beck, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Pelini, however, laid the groundwork for the quarterback's commitment with a surprise visit to Apopka High early in December, according to Richard Darlington. 

Pelini was in nearby Orlando, apparently for a Capital One Bowl publicity event. He never had met Richard Darlington but called him anyway to arrange a visit. Apopka was in the state semifinals and Pelini wanted to wish Darlington luck -- a nice goodwill gesture.

Darlington also figured Pelini perhaps had designs on Martez Ivey, Apopka's 6-foot-5, 275-pound offensive guard, a certain top-100 player in the class of 2015.

With Pelini on campus, coach Darlington seized an opportunity to show the Husker coach video of Zack.

"That's kind of what got it all going," Richard Darlington said.

Not a bad piece of recruiting by Pelini.

You could say he merely was doing his job. But there were plenty of coaches in Orlando that week, and only one dialed up the Apopka head coach.

"Coach Pelini got a quarterback out of it," Darlington said, "and he may end up getting one of the best linemen in the nation."

Pelini has had his share of recruiting missteps at Nebraska, especially early on as head coach. The staff's "misses" in the 2010 class plague the defense to this day.

However, Nebraska's class of 2013 is arguably Pelini's finest at NU. And the 2014 class suddenly looks solid, led by a fiery blond quarterback who seems to see eye-to-eye with Pelini philosophically. That's important in part because the younger Darlington now becomes a key recruiter for the 2014 class.

"When the process started to get serious with a few schools, I just prayed for Zack to be able to discern who was telling him the truth and where God wanted him to be," Richard Darlington said.

"Now he's more certain than ever he wants to go to Nebraska. I think a lot of it is because of coach Pelini and the way he's been about things. He's been very upfront. Zack likes that."

Dad also feels very comfortable.

"Zack may someday become the starting quarterback at Nebraska. Or maybe he won't," Richard Darlington said. "But it's bigger than that. No matter what happens, I believe they still care about him."

* Johnny Manziel is Exhibit A for why it's completely in-bounds if a coach decides to ban his players from Twitter.

Spare me the free-speech argument. You don't have a constitutional right to play football for Texas A&M.

Manziel wrote, "(Expletive) like tonight is a reason why I can't wait to leave College Station … whenever it may be."

The Heisman-winning quarterback later deleted the tweet and responded with, "Don't ever forget that I love A&M with all of my heart, but please please walk a day in my shoes."

Manziel is a fabulous player. But he's 20. He obviously lacks some emotional maturity, as do many young adults. His tweets have become a distraction to the team -- one that is completely unnecessary.

* Nebraska's "Johnny Heisman" walked in Johnny Manziel's shoes, sort of. Johnny Rodgers won the Heisman in 1972, his senior season.

"I had so many good things happening in college, and so many bad things, that I had attention all over the place," Rodgers said Tuesday. "I was just trying to get some good attention."

He had gotten picked up for driving on a suspended license. And there also was the infamous gas-station incident.

Thing is, "I get more attention now than I did then," he said. "Winning the Heisman was a big deal back then, but it wasn't like it is now. Now, it's a big, big deal."

Manziel would back that notion.

* The fact that folks keep asking me if Lincoln sports fans care much about the College World Series tells me a lot of Lincoln folks perhaps don't care all that much. I care. But the event's personality changed dramatically when it moved downtown to TD Ameritrade Park. The CWS feels awfully corporate nowadays.

* My favorite John Melton quip occurred when Tom Osborne asked him why he always sits in the back of jetliners. "Have you ever seen one back into a mountain?" Melton answered. John was one of a kind.

* Citing safety concerns for defenders, Bret Bielema, according to, is proposing a rule change that would mandate a 15-second substitution period after every first down. Somewhere Tim Beck just choked on his chewing tobacco.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or

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About the writer

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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