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August 8, 2009With Saturday's temperatures soaring toward the century mark, the Nebraska football team opened fall camp at Memorial Stadium on what could turn out to be the hottest day of the entire year.
Despite the heat, Husker players say they're excited and looking forward to a grueling month of workouts in preparation for the Sept. 5 season opener against Florida Atlantic.
"The attitude's great. A lot of people are happy to be here," junior defensive end Pierre Allen told reporters Saturday. "Myself and a couple of other players, we were talking, and this is the most excited we've been heading into camp since we've been here."
Much of the excitement and enthusiasm the players are feeling stems from a 9-4 season in 2008 that saw the Huskers win their final four games, including a New Year's Day matchup with Clemson in the Gator Bowl.
Allen and his teammates believe the bounce-back season the Huskers enjoyed in 2008, one year after the team struggled to a 5-7 mark, is only the first step in the process of bringing the Nebraska football program back to where players, coaches and fans expect it to be. Allen and his teammates have even higher expectations for 2009.
"Heading into fall camp, basically we're just trying to build off of last year," Allen said. "We want to do better than we did last year. We kind of set the bar last year, so we want to exceed expectations this year."
Senior wide receiver Menelik Holt echoed the thoughts of Allen, noting that he and his teammates turned their thoughts to the 2009 season immediately after the Gator Bowl win over Clemson.
"Ever since the Gator Bowl, we've been looking forward to this. Everything we've done has been in preparation for the season coming up," Holt said. "It's definitely an exciting moment for all of us today."
Holt said the Huskers progressed as a team during spring drills and summer conditioning. Positive developments took place that fans and media outside the program aren't aware of, Holt said.
Junior quarterback Zac Lee, who has big shoes to fill as he takes over the signal-calling and leadership duties from Joe Ganz, said he already senses strong chemistry on the team.
"I really grew a lot with the receivers. We developed a lot of chemistry. All of the receivers had great summers," Lee said. "I definitely think we're even farther than we were at the end of spring ball, which is the goal going into summer - to keep progressing, keep developing chemistry and to get better."
Lee stressed the importance of team chemistry in college football, especially at the Division I level.
"Everyone is talented," he said. "People wouldn't be Division I football players if they weren't talented. I think the place where you have to get that advantage - get that edge - is with chemistry."
Lee expects that team chemistry to grow even stronger in the days and weeks ahead as the Huskers prepare for the start of the 2009 season.