September 16, 2010

Thursday notebook: Pelini recommended Sarkisian

Nebraska's Bo Pelini doesn't know Steve Sarkisian very well personally, as the only thing Pelini has to base his opinions on the Washington head coach is what he's seen from his teams on game film over the years.

That in itself, however, was more than enough for Pelini to develop a sincere respect for Sarkisian.

As the two coaches prepare their teams for Saturday's showdown in Seattle, Pelini talked about his thoughts on Sarkisian and what he's been able to do with the Huskies' program since taking over last season.

It turns out Pelini played a role in bringing the former USC offensive coordinator to Washington.

Because of his friendship with former LSU athletic director and current Husky A.D. Scott Woodward, Pelini actually gave a strong recommendation for Sarkisian when Woodward called him for advice during UW's coaching search.

"(Sarkisian is) a good football coach," Pelini said. "Their AD (Woodward) is a guy I knew from my LSU days, and he called and he asked for my opinion, and I said 'he's a good football coach.' I've watched his work. I don't know him personally, but I do know that I've watched his work.

"We have some mutual friends, and I've seen what he does. He's a pretty outstanding coach."

Woodward had left LSU to take the job at Washington before Pelini arrived to be the Tigers' defensive coordinator, but he told the Seattle Times earlier this week that had Pelini not accepted the job at Nebraska the year before, Woodward would have seriously pursued him to replace Tyrone Willingham following the 2008 season.

"I would have considered Bo certainly at the time," Woodward told the Times.

Pelini and Sarkisian also have connections through former USC head coach Pete Carroll, who's now with the Seattle Seahawks. Pelini was Carroll's linebackers coach with the New England Patriots, while Sarkisian obviously ran the offense under Carroll at USC.

As for what impressed him the most about Sarkisian's coaching style, Pelini said it was the way he gets his players to execute his scheme to near perfection seemingly everywhere he coaches.

That trait alone is one of the biggest reasons why Pelini said Washington is well on its way to rejoining the ranks of college football's elite.

"It's obvious," Pelini said. "You watch his football team and they're well coached. They play hard, and it's obvious that he has that program heading in the right direction. I think everybody would agree that's associated with Washington football that he was a good hire."

- Robin Washut

Thursday practice takes
Spying Martinez: Washington's defense obviously plans on keeping a close eye on Nebraska's electric redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez. In fact, the Huskies will be using arguably their most talented linebacker as a spy on Martinez for the entire game. Senior Mason Foster will be responsible for following Martinez on every play, as the Huskies will try to make sure the QB doesn't break off yet another big touchdown run on Saturday. Foster seems like the best man for the job, as he's already racked up 24 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the first two games this season.

Cosgrove's son diagnosed with leukemia: Whatever your feelings are towards former Nebraska defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, Husker Nation's collective heart should go out Cosgrove and his family, as his son, Connor, was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia on Tuesday. Kevin, now the defensive coordinator at Minnesota, was not at Tuesday's practice after learning the news, but said he still plans to coach in Saturday's game against USC. Connor, a wide receiver for the Gophers, has already begun chemotherapy treatment.

Injury report: Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jesse Coffey suffered "a significant foot injury" during Thursday's practice, and head coach Bo Pelini estimated that the injury would keep Coffey out for roughly 6-8 months. Junior offensive tackle Marcel Jones (back) is still listed as questionable for Saturday's game.

What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team practiced in helmets only inside the Hawks Championship Center and on the fields north of Memorial Stadium on Thursday. The Huskers will hold a brief walk-thru session in Lincoln on Friday before flying to Seattle for Saturday's game against Washington at 2:30 p.m. CT.

Coffey lost for the season

Nebraska almost made it the entire week without suffering another major injury, but the Huskers ended up losing another player on Thursday.

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jesse Coffey suffered what Pelini described as "a pretty significant foot injury" during practice, and he was seen walking off the field in crutches after practice.

The injury is expected to keep him out roughly 6-8 months, Pelini estimated.

While Coffey wasn't expected to contribute much this season, the injury is still a definite setback to the development of a player who was a three-star recruit and was listed as one of the top-100 players in Texas coming out of high school two years ago.

"I don't know how it's going to turn out, but I feel for him," Pelini said.

- Robin Washut

Huskers addressing turnover issues

Nebraska's four total turnovers last week against Idaho left many fans concerned about the ball security issues that might arise as the season progresses, especially against far more competitive opponents.

The Huskers' coaches were just alarmed, and they wasted little time confronting the issue head on this week in practice.

After fumbling the ball eight times, losing three, and adding an interception against the Vandals, Pelini and his staff made sure that ball security was a point of emphasis.

"We do it every week," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "We always address that. We take care of that as a unit and we take care of it individually as coaches. It's not tolerated, and we always work on it. Now we just need to work on it harder."

As Watson said, Nebraska does work on preventing turnovers every day in practice, both as an offensive unit as a whole and in individual position drills.

However, the Huskers incorporated a new twist this week. Using a tether-like harness wrapped around some footballs, the coaches had the players carry the balls while assistants and coaches tried to yank the ball out by pulling on the attached harness.

Outside of that, the team hasn't done much else differently in their approach to ball security outside of simply emphasizing its importance even more. The idea, Watson said, is to keep the players from thinking about it too much and thus allowing it to become a distraction.

"That's why we do it every day, every week, so it's habit," Watson said. "There's no panic buttons getting pressed."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***Junior offensive tackle Marcel Jones practiced all week after missing the past two games with soreness in his back, but Pelini said he's still questionable for Saturday.

"We'll see how it goes," Pelini said. "He has good days and bad days. Right now he's doing good, and we'll see how it goes."

***Like always, Pelini said the Huskers' wouldn't do anything differently with their pre-game preparation for their first road contest of the year.

"We treat it the same way we would a home game," Pelini said. "We'll do our walk-thru and have our normal Friday routine here, and when we get out there we'll give them a chance to get off their feet and on into our normal Friday routine."

***Pelini said he was happy with the effort and execution from his team on Thursday, as the Huskers wrapped up their final full practice of the week.

"I thought it was a good practice," Pelini said. "We got a lot done today. The tempo was good. I thought the attention to detail was good. I thought it was a good Thursday practice. There are still some corrections that need to be made, but that's what tomorrow is for. We've got to finish our preparation and then go play our best football."

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