Communication key for Nebraska's Pelini

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm •  Published: July 25, 2013
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Scheelhaase threw for 1,361 yards and four touchdowns last season with eight interceptions. He also rushed for 303 yards and four more TDs. He ranks fifth on the school's career list with 7.091 yards of total offense and is sixth with 5,296 yards passing.

Illinois hired former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit in January to serve as offensive coordinator, and Scheelhaase is excited for the possibilities for his senior season.

"It's been great working with coach Cubit," he said. "He's a guy that, you know his resume speaks for itself. He's been around the game for a long time. I think that's something that's very important for us as players, just to understand that he knows what he's talking about."

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BOUNCING BACK: Year three has typically been the charm in previous stops for Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, and Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood hopes that's the case this season.

"Everybody's saying the third year is when he goes nuts," said Kirkwood, who ran for 926 yards on 218 carries with six rushing touchdowns in 2012. "I can see where he's going because this team has become physically tougher, it's become mentally tougher. We're eliminating some of the mental mistakes that hurt us in a lot of big games. And it's all because of Kill, he's an excellent coach."

The 51-year-old Kill was 10-2 in 2003, his third year at Southern Illinois, and went 10-3 at Northern Illinois in 2010 before accepting the Golden Gophers job. He was 3-9 in his inaugural Minnesota season and 6-7 last year.

Kirkwood enters his third season after starting 13 games as a sophomore and winning outstanding offensive player honors.

"I like where I'm at," he said. "I'm still learning every day. There are things I've worked on in the off season especially to make defenders miss in open spaces ... As long as I become a productive back, that's all I can ask for."

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HAZELL & PURDUE: Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston said Darrell Hazell barely missed a beat as he settled in as the program's 35th head coach after his hiring late last year.

"The adjustment really hasn't been rough at all," said Gaston, a 6-foot 2 senior from Chicago. "He got everybody to buy into his system because he came in confident and knew he had a foundation and knew it would work to take us to the next level."

Hazell, who succeeded the fired Danny Hope, moved over from Kent State where he went 11-3 last year, reached the GoDaddy.com Bowl and was Mid-American coach of the year.

Gaston had 19 solo tackles and nine assists along with two fumble recoveries for a Purdue team that went 6-7 overall. He's pleased with how the defensive line has developed through spring and the approaching fall practices.

"I think we're in pretty good shape," he said. "We have a great group of guys. We have young guys and have other guys who have played. The main thing we're focusing on is being dominant."

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AP freelance writer Jack McCarthy contributed to this report.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap