TIME OUT by Joe Flanagan

Big Red Is Back … Really

I don’t know much about that Chinese stuff … Year of the Dragon, Year of the Rat, etc., etc.
And, I don’t care what the traditional calendar says.
In Nebraska, for Husker fans, the New Year has begun. That’s right, a new Big Red football season kicked off last week with the opening of fall camp – finally.
The local baseball season is behind us, the county fair is in the books, school is just around the corner and, although there’s no hint of fall in the air just yet, pigskin fever has returned.
Maybe it was just me, but didn’t this seem like a long off season in Huskerland?
With the firing and hiring drama in Lincoln at the end of last season, a new staff in place and old traditions brought back to the fore, it’s been a winter, spring and summer of anticipation.
Only those living in a cave don’t know venerable Tom Osborne has returned to restore the order of Husker football and that there’s a new sheriff in town, name of Bo.
Make no mistake about it, this sheriff, uh, football coach, means business. Fiery Bo Pelini, who became a Husker cult hero as defensive coordinator before the ill-fated program purge in 2003, quickly got everyone’s attention after being hired late last year. Especially, the eyes and ears of his athletes.
First came some suspensions and disciplinary measures. Also, the banning of players from Lincoln’s downtown watering holes. That followed by Pelini himself making random checks of taverns and classrooms to monitor his charges.
Then, in case the message had worn off through the summer, Bo opened fall camp by booting key DT Kevin Dixon from the squad for team rules infractions.
Discipline. Passion. Accountability. Yes, Husker football has returned to Lincoln, NE.
There has also been a full-scale assault on the program’s conditioning focus. Excess mass is out. Lean, mean speed is in.
No one knows at this point how things will play out in terms of wins and losses during the 2008 season. But, one thing is assured – the spirit in Memorial Stadium will be alive and well come August 30 and the season kickoff.
Coaches will coach hard. Players will play hard. Fans will cheer long and loud. That may sound elemental, but sadly, those traits were not always evident in Husker Nation the past four years.
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what went wrong in the brief Callahan era, but it really doesn’t matter now. That’s water under the bridge, best left undisturbed.
Pelini has said numerous times since taking the reins of the program, it’s all about moving forward from here.
Realistically, we know all can’t be righted overnight, but Bo doesn’t seem to be the patient sort either. I loved his quote Monday when asked why he was disgusted with Saturday’s practice effort –
“We expect perfection here. If we, as coaches, don’t, then the players won’t.”
We all know what Nebraska fans expect. Not perfection, necessarily, but competing for conference and national championships, certainly.
Methinks Bo and Husker Nation are on the same page here – united we shall stand.
Look out Big 12. Look out college football. Big Red Is Back – For Real!