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July 21, 2008

Pelini and the Huskers set to take center stage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Big 12 Media Days officially kick off today in Kansas City at the downtown Marriott hotel.

First-year Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini and quarterback Joe Ganz, offensive lineman Matt Slauson and defensive end Barry Turner will represent the Huskers at this year's event.

NU will be the first team to take the floor on Monday, and there will no doubt be plenty of questions for Pelini and his players to answer. Here are five Nebraska related storylines going into today's Big 12 Media Days in KC.

Making a good first impression

For Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, Monday's three hours of interview sessions in Kansas City will be the first time the Big 12 media pool will get the opportunity to meet and talk with him at length.

Pelini will get the chance to make a solid first impression to the different people present in Kansas City ranging from ESPN College Football Insider Joe Schad, to sportswriters and media members from places like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, St. Louis, Des Moines and Denver. It will be interesting to see what kind of approach Pelini takes today. Will Pelini go with a more guarded approach on Monday or will he slip a few things out at the podium that you probably wouldn't see a veteran head coach say?

Pelini will be the first coach that speaks today, so in a way he'll set the early tone for this year's Media Day event in Kansas City.

How do you fix this defense?

Here's how bad things were for the Nebraska defense in 2007. The Huskers were last in the Big 12 in total yards per game (476.8), points allowed per game (37.9), rushing yardage allowed per game (232.2), interceptions (8), sacks (13), recovered fumbles (3), forced turnovers (11), rushing touchdowns allowed (38), red zone defense and they also gave the highest percentage of third down conversions of any defense in the league.

When you read that paragraph there's no other word to describe the play of the Husker defense in 2007 than embarrassing. One of the biggest reasons Pelini was hired at Nebraska was restore proud tradition of the Blackshirt defense again. Can Pelini get the job done? There's no question that will be one of the biggest Nebraska related storylines today in Kansas City.

Flipping the culture back

Former NU head coach Bill Callahan and Athletic Director Steve Pederson in a lot of ways tried to change the culture of the Nebraska football program over the last four years.

We've all read the different stories how former players felt alienated from the program and things just didn't feel like Nebraska anymore. With Pelini and former Husker head coach Tom Osborne together running the show, you get the idea they are doing their best to flip the culture back to what it once was.

Osborne and Pelini are both very simple blue collar type people, and in a lot of ways that reflects the values and the overall character of the state.

It's Ganz's offense in 2008

The summer of 2008 is the first time in senior Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz's career where he's been in a leadership role knowing that he'll be the starting quarterback heading into fall camp. In three games as a starter in 2008, Ganz completed 86 of 148 passes for 1,399 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Ganz gave Husker fans a taste of what he can do on the football field over that period, and now people are excited to see what he can do knowing he now is the man. Pelini has already openly said Ganz has assumed a leadership role of this football team and it's hard to see him not being named a captain when they are selected before the season opener against Western Michigan.

Questions on the recruiting class

There are still quite a few questions that need to be answered about Nebraska's incoming class of freshmen. One of the obvious questions is will wide receiver Khiry Cooper sign with the Los Angeles Angels or decide to stay in Lincoln to play football.

There are also still some academic qualification issues surrounding 2008 recruits David Whitmore, David Grant, Justin Rogers and Antonio Bell. Often times Big 12 Media Days will lay down some pretty good clues as to if players will qualify or not, because the media guides are issued for the very first time at the event. If the players aren't listed in the media guide, there's a good chance they won't be making their way to Lincoln.

Another interesting question about the class of 2008 is where will five-star recruit Baker Steinkuhler start out his Husker career. Steinkuhler was ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the nation, but he also has the ability to play defensive tackle as well. There have been some reports out of summer conditioning that Steinkuhler has been going through workouts with the defensive linemen, so it will be interesting to see if Pelini tips his hand where he'll start his Husker career at.


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