Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
LINCOLN, Neb. -- New Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has lit a fire under his team.
The Cornhuskers were demoralized last season after a disappointing 5-7 season. Their defense particularly struggled, allowing opponents to score 172 points in the final three games.
Nebraska's beleagured defense ranked among the nation's worst teams in rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense, turnover margin and sacks. It got so bad at one point that the tradition of awarding "Blackshirt" jerseys to first-team Nebraska defenders was halted.
But Pelini made moving forward his prime emphasis during an introductory session with his team before it began its first fall practice. As such, he said he hasn't watched much game tape of his defense's struggles from last season.
"I know that I'm not a psychologist," Pelini said. "I'm not a guy who can just get them into a room and wipe out any bad feelings or bad memories they've had. As they're taught and they get more comfortable in our system and they develop confidence those things go away."
After the first meeting of the fall camp, it appears that Pelini's magic is working.
"Everybody is pretty excited," junior free safety Ricky Thenarse said. "Last night I couldn't even sleep. That pretty much says it all."
Pelini worked as the Cornhuskers' defensive coordinator in 2003, helping that unit become No. 1 nationally in pass efficiency defense and turnover margin and second in scoring defense.
Secondary coach Marvin Sanders told his group Sunday night that he believes his current group has got as much talent as that storied group.
"Coach Pelini was saying the sky is the limit and the championship is out there for us to go and grab," junior safety Larry Asante said. "He's saying it's not going to be easy and we'll have to put in some hard work. But if we do that, I believe we can get it accomplished."
Asante didn't specify what kind of championship his team could win. But he did say that Pelini's inspiration has helped point them that way.