The eyes have it.
In this case, “it” could be a key to Nebraska resolving some of its defensive issues from its first four football games.
The lack of playing with proper technique and not using proper fundamentals you so often hear Nebraska coaches mention when discussing defensive breakdowns?
Much of the time, coach Bo Pelini said, it’s the result of players not having their eyes in the right spot.
“You look across football. You look at tape. You look on TV,” Pelini said Monday at his weekly news conference. “You see not having the discipline to have your eyes in the right place getting you in trouble.”
While not a new problem, it’s something coaches talked to players about during Nebraska’s bye week.
“If you don’t have your eyes on your right keys and you don’t have the focus to play your technique and see what you are taught to see, then you are going to have problems,” Pelini said. “You can just see it over and over and over.”
It’s a problem not exclusive to Nebraska, or to college football, Pelini said.
“You watch it on Sunday. You watch some of the highlights. A lot of the big plays happen because of guys being undisciplined with where their eyes are,” he said. “It’s the way it is. The more you are spread out, the more offense you see and the more important that becomes.”
* SPECIAL GREGORY: Pelini offered praise for sophomore defensive end Randy Gregory, a junior-college transfer, by merely mentioning his name along with that of one of the best defenders in school history.
Pelini said Gregory, after four games, is probably ahead of where linebacker Lavonte David, also a junior-college transfer, was at the same point in his career. David, in only two seasons, had 285 tackles to rank fourth on Nebraska’s all-time chart.
“Lavonte is a special player and did some special things when he was here,” Pelini said. “It didn’t happen for Lavonte right away. It took him a little bit of time.”
Gregory, meanwhile, is off to a strong start, with a team-best five tackles for loss and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown.
“Obviously, they play some different positions, but I feel really good about Randy Gregory,” Pelini said. “I think he is going to be outstanding. There’s a ton more out there for this kid. He’s a talented guy who can do some pretty special things. I like him.”
* SANTOS A LEADER: The MIKE linebacker position has been fluid through four games. Sophomore David Santos started the season, dipped to No. 3 on the depth chart when true freshman Josh Banderas rose to No. 1, and is now again the leader at the spot, Pelini said.
“I think Santos had a really good week,” Pelini said. “I think he’s had a good couple weeks of practice.”
Pelini said Banderas will also play Saturday against Illinois, and that the Lincoln Southwest graduate is getting better after “maybe hitting a little bit of that freshman lull.” He said true freshman WILL linebacker Nathan Gerry is experiencing the same lull.
“They are working hard at it every single day,” Pelini said. “Like I said, we have some depth and every single day for those guys is always important.”
* A FRESH SLATE: Husker players are viewing the start of Big Ten play this week as a second season of sorts.
“Our sense of urgency has to go up,” senior offensive guard Spencer Long said. “It’s Big Ten play now. Stuff gets real. We’re ready to go. We want to win out.”
Senior captain Quincy Enunwa said Pelini told the players in a meeting after the South Dakota State game that everyone needed to pick up their play in order for the team to meet its goals.
With that known, the wide receiver said there should be no searching for motivation.
“These are the games that are going to determine whether or not you make it to the Big Ten Championship,” Enunwa said. “If you’re not motivated enough by that, then I don’t know what to tell you.”
* SOME LEVITY: Pelini talked for almost 36 minutes at his news conference.
The last question was in regards to what he thought about this coaching business, which has seen head coaches from two schools (USC and UConn) get fired since the weekend.
“It’s a great business," Pelini said. "I think you’re challenged every day. ... It’s one where, I think if you ask coaches across the country, at least the way I look at it, that’s the furthest thing from my mind.”
Pelini then added a little levity.
“I’m glad there weren't three,” he joked. “I’m glad I wasn’t one of them. But you go out every day and you coach your butt off. You try to do the best you can for your kids. If you’re worried about getting fired, you’re worrying about the wrong things.”