Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Nebraska linebackers coach Mike Ekeler has the reputation as one of the best quotes among the Big 12 coaches.
It may be early August, but Ekeler already is in mid-season form if some of his comments to the Lincoln Journal-Star are any indication.
Ekeler thinks the Cornhuskers' linebackers need to be more physical this season. And he gave them a lot of verbiage to fire them up.
"We have to know our system inside and out," Ekeler said. "We have to communicate like crazy, and we HAVE to become a physical group.
"Last year we weren't a physical group."
Ekeler's disappointment last season came despite the Cornhuskers winning six of their final seven games, capped by a dramatic victory over Clemson in the Gator Bowl.
So much for resting on laurels. Ekeler just wants to hear pads pop every day in practice from his group during the rest of training camp.
"We have to get to the point where there are no free passes," Ekeler said. "If a receiver's going to drag across the middle, we're going to take his damn head off.
"We're going to be physical in the run game. We're not going to take a side on a fullback. We're going to hit him right under the chin -- split his chin -- and get off and make the play."
I'm looking for some noticeable improvement from the Cornhuskers' defense in the second season under coach Bo Pelini's staff. Ekeler's words obviously will keep the Blackshirts excited -- and reporters' notebooks filled -- as they get ready for the start of the season.