Pelini likes effort as spring opens

The fans might be more worried than Bo Pelini about the holes Nebraska has to fill on defense this spring.

The Cornhuskers must replace eight starters from a defense that ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten in every major category except pass defense. Pelini said after the first spring practice Saturday that he’s not overly concerned about what on paper appears to be a lack of experience.

”I have been in this situation before,” Pelini said. ”Our guys have a base, they were in meetings all last year and they went through a fall camp. So it is not like they are starting from day one.”

Nebraska practiced in shorts and helmets for two hours, splitting time between the indoor Hawks Championship Center and the outside practice field.

Pelini said it was a good first day and that he liked the attitude the team brought out of a challenging winter strength and conditioning program.

”I just told the team I thought we did a lot of good things and we have a lot of things to learn from,” Pelini said. ”I thought the attitude was good, the tempo was good, a lot of things to coach and get better from.”

The Huskers return 17 of their top 22 players on offense, including quarterback Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah and four of five starting offensive linemen.

Martinez and Abdullah probably will see limited live action this spring, Pelini said.

Pelini said he wants to get more work for rising sophomore running back Imani Cross, who was used mostly in short-yardage situations last season. Cross ran 55 times for 324 yards and seven touchdowns.

”He played around 230 (pounds) last year and I think he is weighing around 220 now,” Pelini said. ”I want to evaluate how he is going to feel playing at the weight. He’s a big guy without a lot of body fat.”

The Huskers will practice four times next week. The annual Red-White scrimmage is April 6.