Nebraska hires Pelini

LINCOLN, NE -- Looking to improve its beleaguered defense, Nebraska officially named Bo Pelini as Bill Callahan's successor on Sunday.

Known as a defensive guru, the 39-year-old Pelini returns to Nebraska after spending the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Louisiana State.

The announcement came one day after Pelini's Tigers defeated Tennessee, 21-14, in the Southeastern Conference championship.

"We need a head coach with strong defensive credentials and great leadership," Nebraska interim athletic director Tom Osborne said.

For decades, strong defense was a staple at Nebraska. But this season, the Cornhuskers surrendered 40 or points six times. The defensive woes led to Callahan's firing last month after the Cornhuskers finished 5-7.

"There are no shortcuts to success," Pelini said. "You have to build a trust and put the right group together."

In 2003, Pelini took over the Nebraska program on an interim basis after Frank Solich was fired and guided the Cornhuskers to a 17-3 victory over Michigan in the Alamo Bowl.

"As interim head coach, Bo motivated the team on both sides of the ball, and we played with a great deal of passion and intensity in that game," Osborne said.

Pelini's familiarity with the Nebraska program was another factor in landing the job, according to Osborne.

"We also wanted our new head coach to understand our traditions, including the importance of our walk-on program, and the importance of football in this state," Osborne said.

Osborne is not the only one excited to see Pelini coming to Lincoln. Players on both sides of the ball are anxious to begin working with their new coach.

"I came up to a summer camp when he was still around and I got to watch him a lot, and he is just a real exciting guy," junior wide receiver Todd Peterson said.

"I cannot wait to get to working with him," junior defensive lineman Zach Potter said. "I had a chance get recruited by him and stuff when I was in high school. I did not really get to be hands-on coached by him, so I am real looking forward to that."

It appears that Pelini will not be coaching LSU in the national championship game. With Missouri and West Virginia losing Saturday, the Tigers' win in the conference title game has propelled them into a meeting with Ohio State in New Orleans.

"We need to get on the road and get recruiting," Pelini said of his decision to start his coaching duties immediately. "We need to get a lot done in (a short) amount of time. Really it was the right thing and the right way to go. I'm ready to get started and get on the road to sell the University of Nebraska."

"We wanted to get this done as quickly as possible, so Bo can put together his new staff and concentrate on recruiting," Osborne added. "These next two weeks are really critical to the recruiting process."

Pelini's coaching resume includes stints in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers.

"I expect to be good," he said. "I expect to put a product on the field that I and this state can be proud of."

Pelini served as Nebraska's defensive coordinator in 2003 before spending one season at Oklahoma as the co-defensive coordinator.

Osborne began reshaping the Nebraska football program on November 24 when he fired Callahan and all of his assistants. Callahan's dismissal came one day after Nebraska concluded its season with a 65-51 loss at Colorado.

A once-proud program, Nebraska lost six of its final seven games. It marked just the second time since 1962 that Nebraska finished with a losing record - the first time coming in Callahan's first year in 2004.

Pelini interviewed for the position in 2003, but the school elected to go with Callahan, who was coming off a two-year coaching stint with the NFL's Oakland Raiders.

"There's no animosity," Pelini said. "If I had animosity, I wouldn't be here today. Things happen for a reason in life, and I understand that. I'm more prepared today than I was four years ago to be a head football coach."