Bacon, eggs and Els

2012-09-21T08:10:00Z 2012-09-21T14:20:51Z Bacon, eggs and ElsBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON JournalStar.com
September 21, 2012 8:10 am  • 

Recruiting was the dominating subject matter Friday morning here at the Big Red Breakfast in Omaha.

First-year recruiting coordinator Ross Els was even asked by one fan to give himself a grade.

Too early for a report card, the coach responded.

"Until they sign on that dotted line, there will be no grades out," Els said.

Els said there is reason for optimism with Nebraska's building recruiting class, but also noted he is the type of person that doesn't count anything until it's in the bank for sure.

Els joked that because of that Bo Pelini calls him "G.E." As in, "Glass Empty."

Some quick hitters:

* In talking about the sped-up recruiting process, Els pointed out that a year ago there were 40 recruits committed to Big Ten schools by May. This year? That number was 80.

* The character of a kid is an enormous factor in whether Nebraska goes after a player, Els said.

"We ain't taking a bad kid. There's no way. It's just too much of a headache," he said. "To be honest with you, the food that my family eats is depending on those kids acting right and playing well. So I'll be darned if I'm going to let some goofball come in and take that away."

"You don't want to walk into a meeting room going, 'I can't trust you. You're just a knucklehead,'" Els added.

* To that point, the coach brought up senior linebacker Alonzo Whaley, who he said has gone from basically being off the team a year ago to one of its leaders this year.

Els said he told Whaley a year ago that he loved him as a person but couldn't stand what he was doing as a football player.

"I can't stand walking into the meeting room and looking at you and knowing that the rest of the day you haven't done crap to be better," Els said he told Whaley.

Now?

"You should see this 180-degree turn this kid has made. He is now (among) the select few on a Unity Council that we have. He is an incredible leader. He has been through that goofiness stage. He is teaching those kids. I can think of two times specifically. One was an academic deal and one was a football deal (with a teammate), where I've gone up to talk to the guy and (Whaley) said, 'Coach, I've got it.'

"After that UCLA game, he came to me and said, 'Coach, that's not my style of game. Is one of the younger guys ready to go?' He understood that. When you can get that type of character and that turnaround, that's why we're in this business."

* Els said true freshman linebacker Thomas Brown very likely might have played this season if not for a high-ankle sprain that has set him back similar to how cornerback Mohammed Seisay was slowed during fall camp.

"He can flat out run," Els said of Brown.

* About the East Stadium expansion: "Teams are going to walk in and look up and go, 'I'm surrounded,' which is great."

* Els said he asks every recruit who comes to campus what surprised him at the end of the visit.

Most common response: The recruit thought they'd land in a farm town or cornfield.

* The secondary has made big strides from a year ago, Els thinks. As for the front seven? Still work to do.

"We need to be more dynamic on the defensive line and we need to be more dynamic at the linebacker positions, and we're working on that."

* Someone asked about Blackshirts, which means that someone became the first someone to ask a coach about Blackshirts this year.

"When they earn them," Els said.

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