Pelini’s Peso Worth Every Dollar

October 9, 2010

Carl Pelini is a defensive wizard taking Nebraska to new heights.

Without a doubt, Nebraska boasts the best defense in college football and the man responsible is Carl Pelini. Not to take anything away from QB Taylor Martinez and the Cornhuskers’ explosive ground game, but it’s Carl Pelini’s ingenious defensive schemes that is responsible for a 5-0 start. On Thursday, Nebraska opened Big XII play in dominating fashion, limiting Kansas State’s Heisman hopeful RB Daniel Thomas to just 63 yards on 22 carries, well below his 157 yards/game average. Currently, the defense ranks 12th overall nationally and is limiting opposing QBs to 128.1 yards passing/game. This productivity is coming from a squad that had to replace five starters from a stellar 2009 defense.

Prior to Pelini, Nebraska’s defense was among the nation’s weakest. But with his much anticipated arrival in 2008, Pelini brought the Peso defense to Lincoln, Nebraska, which vaulted the Cornhuskers’ defense to statistical prominence. In 2008, the team was second in the Big XII in total defense. In 2009, with the likes of Heisman finalist Ndamukong Suh, the Cornhuskers led the nation in scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, and red zone defense, and ranked in the top 10 statistically in sacks, rushing defense and total defense. In fact, the defense only surrendered a miniscule 10.4 points per game and held eight opponents to under 10 or fewer points. This monumental success landed Pelini an 80% pay raise from 2009 to 2010 (2009 base salary: 208,360.00; 2010 base salary: $375,000.00).

Entering 2010, there was concern about stopping the run, but if you follow Pelini’s history, he will gladly trade short yardage runs to prevent a game changing 40 yard pass completion. Thus, this season Nebraska is giving up over 147 yard/game on the ground. Pelini does not play 3 linebackers on the field, but typically runs a 4-2-5 or 4-1-6 defense to stop the deep threat. When he does play 3 linebackers, the third is usually a hybrid defensive back to retain speed and athleticism. On occasion, you will even see Pelini start 7 DBs on the field when a high octane offense such as Washington comes to town. Nebraska held Washington’s QB Jake Locker and company to only 13 first downs and a miniscule 71 passing yards. Though Nebraska gave up 175 yards on the ground they still won easily 56-21. The defensive schemes opened up holes for the ground game, but virtually stopped any aerial attack. The Peso defense has been proven effective since Pelini’s arrival.

Though Pelini openly states he is not seeking a head coaching position, his success with the Huskers’ defense makes him a formidable candidate to take the reins of a top tier program. If Nebraska wins the Big XII and possibly a national championship, there is no doubt Pelini’s phone will be ringing off the hook presumably from Minnesota all the way to Georgia.

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