Hey, I'm as pleased as many fans that Bo Pelini is returning to Nebraska, this time as head coach. But I'm also a realist who also knows that his players are NOT coming along with him. Nebraska's defense is not likely to jump from the third worst in division 1-A to the third best.
But there's no reason to not expect the defense to be improved. Heck, it would be nearly impossible to get any worse. Bo Pelini isn't a miracle worker, and there are serious questions with depth at linebacker not to mention the defensive line. But I'm not convinced that Nebraska's problems on defense last season were primarily a talent issue. Let's look at last season again, shall we?
September: 5 games, 133 points allowed (26.6 points per game)
October: 4 games, 150 points allowed (37.5 points per game)
November: 3 games, 172 points allowed (57.3 points per game)
Each month, Nebraska faced a team that ended up in the top 10 (USC, Missouri, and Kansas), so it's not like the schedule got dramatically more difficult as the season went on. But the defense got progressively worse as the season went on. Yes, there were some injuries here and there, but other than Lance Brandenburgh, none were season ending. So what was it? Corey McKeon blamed it on conditioning and scheme. Steve Octavien blamed it on lack of belief in the scheme. Lack of confidence built on itself, and as the season unraveled, the lack of belief in the old staff simply became a large, festering wound.
Well guess what. Strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy is gone. And one thing that seems to be universal with Bo Pelini is belief in the scheme, whether it was at LSU or 2003 Nebraska. Players play hard for Bo Pelini, and playing hard is something we really haven't seen much of.
Does this make Nebraska a top defense all of a sudden? Hardly. But perhaps if Nebraska's defense upgrades to merely mediocre, Nebraska likely wins a couple extra games in 2008. Heck, the three games before they played the Huskers, Colorado scored 69 points combined. They scored 65 against the Huskers.
Hey, I don't expect miracles. But it would be difficult for the Nebraska defense to be any worse than in 2007.