Bo Pelini had his share of things to learn about Nebraska’s walk-on program when he took over the job.
“I didn’t quite understand how it all worked over time and how to make the best use of it,” Pelini said. “(But) I've come to really understand how important it is to the people of this state and to the fans. I think it gives you a big-time edge, and an edge we need to use.”
The subject came up this week as Pelini talked about the Husker senior walk-ons who will play their last home game this Saturday.
Among the 29 seniors who will be honored before the Minnesota game, 14 are native Nebraskans, and 11 of those arrived to the program as walk-ons. Among those are starting center Justin Jackson, kicker/punter Brett Maher and offensive guard Seung Hoon Choi.
“I don't know if someone else in a different state could copy the formula and make it work in another state,” Pelini said of the walk-on program. “It's different here, and it's hard to explain but it just is. You have kids more willing to bypass maybe money someplace else for an opportunity to be on scholarship.
“Every situation is a little bit different but the families, which to me it comes back first and foremost (to) the families, moms and dads that are willing to flip the bill for their kids to attack their dream and play for Nebraska. And that's unique. Trust me when I tell you that doesn't happen everywhere.”
* Turning a page: He'd gone 21 games without a touchdown.
But look at Jamal Turner now. He's visited the end zone the past two weeks.
And both of those touchdowns proved to be game-winners.
"I would just say my hard work is paying off," Turner said. "I'm getting the right looks and I'm scoring touchdowns."
The sophomore wide receiver said he senses that coaches have a growing confidence in him.
"When you're scoring touchdowns, that's going to happen," Turner said. "Last year, it turned around for Kenny (Bell) in the Minnesota game. I feel like he just went up (after that). I'm hoping that's kind of what happens with me."
* Looking for better returns: The highs were really high -- like when Brett Maher made three field goals and punted a 69-yarder that pinned Penn State at its 2.
And the lows were really low -- like when Maher had a 16-yard punt against the fierce wind and Tim Marlowe fumbled a punt that led to a Nittany Lion touchdown.
"We do really well sometimes and really poor sometimes," said special teams coordinator Ross Els. "We just need to develop consistency."
The punt return game is of particular concern right now.
“We have issues there,” Els said. "We've had three different players drop punts. It's not the same guy. It's not the same issue."
The Huskers have also been hurt at times this year by not getting to punts and allowing them to bounce for extra yardage, hurting Nebraska's field position.
Pelini said coaches have considered using two returnmen to help in fielding punts, but noted the cons to doing that.
"Sometimes it's when to and when not to," Pelini said. "Obviously you leave yourself a lot more open to fakes when you leave two guys back there, so there are pluses and minuses there."
Judging by Els' comments, expect Nebraska to stick with one punt returner for now.
"Right now we don't have one guy we feel comfortable catching it," Els said. "We're not going to put two guys back there."
* Razorbacks looking at Bo?: Footballscoop.com, a website that closely monitors coaching job information, reported Tuesday that Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long is “very interested” in speaking with Pelini.
The Razorback football program is currently led by interim coach John L. Smith, who took over this year for Bobby Petrino, who was ousted in April for personal misdeeds.
Many are figuring Smith won’t keep the job, however, with Arkansas struggling to a 4-6 record.
Pelini said he didn’t know anything about the Football Scoop report when asked about it Tuesday by the Journal Star.
"I don't respond to rumors,” he said. “All I concentrate on is the job I'm doing now."
Long has approached Pelini before.
In December of 2004, Pelini interviewed with Long, then the Pittsburgh AD, for the Panthers' vacant head coaching job.
-- Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple