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Monday, April 4, 2011
Huskers' D could create prep headache

By Adam Rittenberg

Nebraska's defense must prepare for eight (possibly nine) new offenses and personnel groups in the Big Ten this coming season.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, must only get ready for one new defensive scheme and personnel group.

Basic mathematics suggests the bigger preparation challenge rests with Nebraska's defensive coaches and players. But Huskers defensive coordinator Carl Pelini isn't so sure.

Carl Pelini
Carl Pelini has worked this spring on evolving Nebraska's base defense.
"We're preparing for a new offense every week," Pelini said, "and yet we're different enough defensively that we're going to be that one unique team on their schedule. If we play our cards right, it could be advantage us."

The Big 12 had a tough time deciphering Nebraska's defense the past two seasons. The Blackshirts led the nation in fewest points allowed in 2009 and finished ninth nationally in 2010.

Since the start of the 2009 season, only 12 of Nebraska's 28 opponents have scored 17 points or more against the Huskers.

"Especially after our second year, in talking to the coaches from Oklahoma and Texas, they said, 'It looked really different on film from what it was when we actually faced it,'" Carl Pelini said.

Pelini added that Big 12 teams seemed to have a greater read on the Huskers in 2010 than they did in 2009. But the Huskers' two gap defense sets them apart from a lot of college teams.

This spring, Pelini has tried to evolve Nebraska's scheme and execution. He felt his players were so tied to their base defensive set last season and didn't seem completely comfortable with pressures and movement.

"Our guys were extremely confident in our base and they always wanted to be in it," Pelini said. "There's times as a coach, you want to have your change-up. It was hard to make those calls because you knew your guys weren't really comfortable with some of it. We've spent more time this spring than we ever have working on pressures, working on movements. And not that we're going to do a ton of it, but enough to keep the offense guessing as to where we are."

Jared Crick said he and Nebraska's other defensive tackles played "head-up on the guard 95 percent of the game" in 2010. Although the Huskers' base scheme led to good results, Crick understands the need to mix things up, especially heading into a new league.

"This year, we're calling a lot more blitzes, a lot more movements and definitely trying some different techniques," Crick said. "We're not always in run stances on short down-and-distances. We're in pass stances to give the offense a different look that they haven't seen from us before.

"I love it. It's a little different, but it's definitely a lot better than being in a run stance the entire game."