July 27, 2009

Media Day: Huskers not buying into hype

IRVING, Texas - It seemed that every reporter at the Big 12 Conference's Media Days on Monday wanted to know if after Nebraska's finish last season, did the Huskers think they were finally "back" to where they once were as a program.

The answer was a resounding "No."

While many have already pegged Nebraska to represent the North Division in the Big 12 Championship, the Huskers are doing their best to stay grounded and not buy into their newfound hype.

Head coach Bo Pelini probably described it best when he said he's made it a point to personally keep his team's ego in check this offseason and make sure NU's goals don't go any further than winning its next game on the schedule.

"I know one thing: Our players don't feel like Nebraska's back," Pelini said. "I tell them all the time it's my job to keep them grounded. I think they're starting to feel the momentum that we had at the end of last year. That's a good thing. I think they're starting to understand what they can become as a football team and where this program needs to be headed."

As he's said since the end of Nebraska's win over Clemson in the Gator Bowl, Pelini stuck with his mantra of focusing on the day-to-day process and competing harder each day.

After talking with some of the players he brought along with him to Media Days, that theory seems to be starting to sink in.

"I'd say we haven't arrived, and that's kind of the feeling of the team," junior running back Roy Helu said. "We know we haven't arrived. Yeah, we're happy how the season ended with the last six or seven games, but they don't mean too much except for building towards next year. We'll see what happens, but there is excitement, I'll say that much."

Though they may come off level headed about the prospects for the upcoming season, that doesn't mean the Huskers aren't excited about their chances.

There are still plenty of questions left to be answered by the season opener, but the momentum gained from their finish last season has carried NU through what the players described as one of the best offseasons they've had in years thus far.

It's clear the Huskers have bought into Pelini's philosophies, and judging from what Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Alabama's Nick Saban were able to do with their respective programs in their second seasons, they know a significant jump in success isn't out of the question in Year Two under Pelini.

"We've seen programs like Alabama and Oklahoma in their second year just take it to a whole new national level," Helu said. "Building off the confidence of what happened in the Gator Bowl and how we've carried it on, there's just been this momentum wave that we've had. We're really excited to go into the season."

Not since 2006 have the Huskers been tabbed as the early favorites to win the North, and there is obviously the worry about how some of the players - especially the underclassmen - would handle the pressure that comes with presumed success.

If Pelini or any of his seniors for that matter have anything to say about it, though, it likely won't be much of an issue.

"For me personally, since I can't speak for anybody else, but for me, I don't see any added pressure," senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "For me, that should be the expectation for Nebraska every year, year in and year out. Regardless. That should be the expectation for us. That's something I feel this team should have to live up to every year. That's just the way it is. That's the reason I came to Nebraska."

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