While Taylor Martinez remained sidelined Wednesday, his head coach sounded as optimistic as he has since the senior suffered a turf toe injury that the quarterback would be ready in time for Nebraska's next game.

"I think he's really close," Bo Pelini said after the mid-week practice.

Optimistic Martinez will play against Minnesota? "Yeah, I am."

Pelini said Martinez was planning to run Wednesday but was held back waiting for some custom-made orthotics to better help him with his toe problems.

The coach isn't worried about Martinez, who hasn't played since the UCLA game Sept. 14, being out of shape.

"His conditioning is good. He's been doing what he has to do. Conditioning has never been an issue for him. He'll be ready to roll."

Pelini said Martinez has been on a stationary bike and doing various workouts to keep himself ready.

"Taylor's a hard worker, so, like I said, I don't think that will be an issue for him."

* LATEST ON LONG: Pelini added some specifics to the season-ending knee injury suffered by Spencer Long.

It's an MCL tear.

The bad news is the injury is severe enough that Long, who will have surgery Thursday, won't recover in time for a bowl game.

The good news is that it's better than initially feared. Coaches at first worried the senior guard might have torn both his MCL and PCL.

"We'll just get him back healthy, and hopefully, God willing, it won't affect his shot at the NFL," Pelini said.

* SAME OPINION: Pelini hasn't received any updates from the Big Ten office regarding the "targeting" penalty against Stanley Jean-Baptiste, which led to the cornerback's ejection from last Saturday's game against Purdue.

But the coach's opinion of the call obviously hasn't changed.

"I slow-framed it, I spent a lot of time looking at it," Pelini said.

What's his instructions to players after such a call?

"It's an awareness thing. You try not to make it close. I thought he made a good football play. You have to talk about it. You've got to show it to them, and keep educating them, and hopefully not put yourself in that situation. Try not to make it close," Pelini said.

"Like I said, I didn't feel any different about the play after I watched it on film than when I saw it live and when I saw it on the big screen. But, obviously, they (game officials) saw it different than I did."

* IMPROVED TACKLING: It's no coincidence Nebraska's best defensive game of the season was, in the opinion of defensive coordinator John Papuchis, also the team's best tackling day.

What were players doing that they weren't in earlier games?

"No. 1, I thought fundamentally we weren't where we needed to be. We were crossing our feet and not having a good base when it came to tackling people," Papuchis said of the early games. "And No. 2, I think sometimes we were going for the big hits as opposed to just getting guys on the ground.

"One thing I think our guys have done a better job of is just chesting guys up and wrapping up and getting them down. They don't all have to be highlight hits."

* PRODUCTIVE DAYS: Pelini said the Huskers did a lot of "good on good" during Tuesday's practice, and also spent about half of Wednesday's workout pitting the top units against each other.

Players also got their introduction to game planning for Minnesota on Wednesday.

"So it was productive," Pelini said. "Very productive."

With it being a bye week, these are also important days for recruiting. Pelini is not going out this weekend, but eight Husker coaches will hit the road.

"We'll get a lot done in the next couple of days," Pelini said. "We've got a good plan and we're going to get a lot of areas covered."

Recruiting coordinator Ross Els has said the plan for this week is to target various Big Ten states, and also parts of the East Coast, including New Jersey and Florida.

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.