Wednesday, Apr. 9, 2003
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Pelini shakes up 'D'

Nebraska's defense will take on a significantly different look in 2003 under new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini.

So it makes sense that some players will change positions.

Pelini disclosed three significant personnel moves Thursday as he discussed spring practice, which begins Monday with team meetings. The first practice is set for Wednesday.

Chad Sievers, who made 37 tackles as a middle linebacker in 2002 before suffering a season-ending knee injury, will likely start out the spring at defensive end, Pelini said. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Sievers, a junior from Valley, may also be tried at BUCK linebacker, which replaced the SAM linebacker in Nebraska's new system.

It's "very unlikely" Sievers will return to middle linebacker, Pelini said. Junior Barrett Ruud is the returning starter at the position.

"Chad didn't want to play in the middle," Pelini said. "I think moving him is just logical. (Defensive end) is where we need help. I told him, `Let's experiment and see where you fit.' He was all for it."

In addition, sophomore Titus Adams of Omaha, a backup nose tackle last season, will begin spring practice at defensive end, where he played sparingly at the end of last season as injuries mounted at the position.

The 6-3, 285-pound Adams, regarded as one of the team's strongest pass-rushers, made 21 tackles, including two sacks, last season. It's possible he could return to the interior line.

"We just want to find his best spot,"Pelini said. "But we could use him out there (at defensive end)right now."

Senior Trevor Johnson of Lincoln, listed No. 1 on the right side, is the only returning starter at the two defensive end spots. Junior Benard Thomas, who redshirted last season, is listed No. 1 on the left side.

A pair of redshirt freshmen -- Adam Carriker and Jay Moore -- also are "part of the mix" at defensive end,Pelini said.

Nebraska was hit hard by graduation at the position, losing Chris Kelsay, Demoine Adams and Justin Smith, who combined for 121/2 of the 16 sacks recorded by Husker defensive ends last season. Johnson had the other 31/2 sacks.

In another major personnel switch, senior T.J. Hollowell will move from WILLlinebacker to BUCK. The change will enable Hollowell and classmate Demorrio Williams to be on the field simultaneously, Pelini said.

Last season, Hollowell and Williams split time at weakside linebacker, with both expressing reservations about the setup. Williams led the team with 92 tackles, and Hollowell ranked eighth with 60.

In the new defense, the BUCKand WILL could play either the strong side or weak side, depending on which defense Nebraska's in, Pelini said.

It was announced last week that junior Lannie Hopkins -- who came to Nebraska as a linebacker, then moved to rover -- will return to linebacker, at the WILL spot.

Nebraska ranked 55th nationally in total defense last season, allowing 361.9 yards per game, as the Huskers finished 7-7 -- their worst record in four decades. NUhadn't allowed that many yards a game since 1983, when it gave up 368.3.

While Pelini is willing to discuss personnel moves,he's guarded when it comes to alignment changes, because Nebraska could benefit from the element of surprise early in the 2003 season, he said.

"There'll be a lot of differences in the defense," he said.

As for the 2002 unit, "That's unimportant to me,"he said. "I wasn't here. This staff wasn't here. It'll be a different system."

Pelini emphasized that it matters little which players start the spring atop the depth chart at their respective positions.

"Guys are going to have to earn their jobs by how they compete in the spring," he said.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


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Press Box Perspective
New Nebraska defensive coordinator Bo Pelini says the Huskers will employ a vastly different alignment in 2003 compared to what the Huskers used in recent seasons under former defensive coordinator Craig Bohl.

But don't look for Pelini to diagram his plans for all to see this spring, or even in August when preseason camp begins.

Nebraska, you see, could benefit from the element of surprise Aug. 30, when the Huskers open the season at home against Oklahoma State.

This is Pelini's first go-round as a defensive coordinator. So it's not as if opponents can go back to films of previous defenses for clues.

"It could be helpful," Pelini said. "I would sure like to know what my opponents are doing."

Nebraska, which also features a new offensive coordinator, faces a formidable task this spring in implementing all the changes. Indeed, one wonders if the magnitude of change could possibly overwhelm players and ultimately become a disadvantage.

"It depends on how guys respond and take coaching," Pelini said. "If they want it badly enough, there's plenty of time to get done what we need to get done."

-- Steven M. Sipple