Husker Monday Takes: When Dual Is Difficult

By at February 28, 2010 | 11:17 PM | Print

Six strong takes as, at long last, the snow begins to melt.

*Only in a ripple in the college football pond, but the trend of the “dual-threat” quarterback took a hit last week when two of the studs from the 2009 recruiting class – Russell Shepard and Tyrik Rollison – basically ended their careers as Division I quarterbacks.

Shepard, who signed with LSU, played Wildcat quarterback for the Tigers last year, never throwing a pass. Now he’s shifted to wide receiver where scouts insist he’ll evoke memories of Percy Harvin. Rollison signed with Auburn, got suspended in December for a violation of team rules, and is now transferring to Sam Houston State. Both played high school football in Texas, compiling incredible statistics in their career.

Rollison threw for more than 4,000 yards and 51 touchdowns, in fact, in his senior campaign. At Auburn, he was no better than third string as a freshman, and the Tigers recruited another “dual-threat QB” – Cameron Newton – for the 2010 class. Newton started at Florida, headed to junior college, and now expected to become, on-spec, the league’s best QB.

The lesson here for programs: Build an offense around the talents of the dual-threat guy, or buyer beware. While Auburn runs a pure spread, it puts a high premium on accuracy and downfield passing. LSU never trusted Shepard once with a pass. While he could turn out to be a terrific wide receiver, it’s exceedingly hard to switch these kids to different positions with great success.

That lesson needs to be heard by Nebraska, who’s suffering through some growing pains with its own dual-threat guy, Cody Green, while signing Brion Carnes for 2010 and Jamal Turner for 2011. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has spent most of his career with sturdy, accurate throwers who could run as an escape option. Green, Taylor Martinez and both of NU’s prospective recruits approach the tunnel from the opposite direction. The most polished of them, out of high school, is arguably Carnes, who possesses better footwork and pocket presence than I expected to see.

*After two strong starts that, over the radio, sound like performances of precision instead of power, I think Nebraska baseball fans are ready to get a live glimpse of freshman pitcher Tom Lemke. Two wins, a .084 earned run average and just three walks through the first ten innings of his college career? You’ll take it.

Had Mike Nesseth been able to protect a couple of two-run leads out in Fresno, Nebraska would be 5-2 and smelling like a rose. But 3-4 isn’t bad. NU appears to have some pluck – and newly-rediscovered offense from leadoff hitter D.J. Belfonte.

*I’m sorry I’m prophetic about the Ndamukong Suh backlash. Really, I am.

Now the St. Louis Rams, if you listen to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (who’s good, but who’s also reporting precisely what NFL scouts want him to report) intend to draft Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the first pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. Heh. An accurate-yet-fragile quarterback coming off major shoulder surgery, who’s at least a year away from meaningful snaps, behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines? That’s the Rams being the Rams, right there.

Suh can stomp out all of those rumors with a knockout testing performance at the NFL Combine Monday.

NFL personnel guys, remember, love groupthink. Hate outside the box. A player like Suh worries them. They see a guy who’s too versatile, which is to say he doesn’t fit snug into a role like most defensive linemen do. He’s an elite athlete, with hard-nosed agents (Eugene Parker and Roosevelt Barnes) who want to make Suh a pile of cash before the owners institute a formal rookie salary cap.

*Doc Sadler picked a good time to win a Big 12 basketball game – right after he voiced support for a new $344 million Haymarket Arena project. Sadler wisely sat on the fence for a long time, refusing to let opposing coaches use any requests for a new arena against him until it appeared to be a reality.

And I think it’s close to reality. The vote occurs May 11, and the Lincoln city leaders have all but thrown themselves on the railroad track pleading for voters to approve it. The Lincoln Journal-Star has done such an exhaustive-bordering-on-obsessive job covering the project that I won’t bother rehashing what’s already been written. Begin the dissertation here and prepare for an onslaught of information, that, in my mind, is designed to overwhelm detractors – and succeeds.

I’m a Lincolnite, and I’ll be voting for the arena – though not because of the Nebraska basketball teams. They have a home, and boosters can help upgrade the Bob Devaney Sports Center anytime they please. Always could. Even did a few times almost a decade ago, although you may not have noticed it.

Rather, Lincoln can grab its share of concerts and mid-level sporting events that the Devaney (or Pershing Auditorium) can’t accommodate. I also think the state wrestling tournament belongs in Lincoln – it’s the best high school event, period, in the state – and the Nebraska Scholastic Activities Association would hightail it back from Omaha with new digs in place. The tax burden seems manageable and the city needs an arena that’s not under the vice grip of the university.

In strict basketball terms, a new arena will be swank, I’m sure – and probably a little septic. It may help recruiting. It’s not likely to help Nebraska win games, though – that’s still for the team on the court to accomplish.

For sheer family atmosphere, it’s good NU won’t sell booze; it’ll keep the games from turning into a I’m-single-let’s-mingle night that habitually occurs in the Qwest Center concourses during Creighton games. Of course, that’s a lot of revenue the Huskers won’t capture, too. You wonder how long Nebraska can turn down the extra cash.

NU has to be very careful not to price regular Husker fans out of season tickets, or stick them in the second balcony.

*It’s nigh impossible to quibble with 27-0, but let me repeat a question emailed to me by a friend watching the Nebraska women’s basketball team beat Oklahoma: “Do they always run down the court and take wild shots like that?”

No, not always. But head coach Connie Yori’s style is frenetic-bordering-on-chaotic. The NCAA Tournament often boils down into a halfcourt game for most teams not named Connecticut, which, like the Huskers, runs and jumps and harasses teams into Bolivian. Uconn throws these knockout haymakers at teams, and Nebraska does, too. A Final Four game between them would resemble a ballroom blitz.

I’m curious to see what happens when NU faces another structured-yet-talented team like Iowa State, whose defense often seems to gum up the Husker engine. Tempo is so crucial to Nebraska’s success. The style may produce some unforced errors and an ugly shooting night or two, but it plays right into Yori’s hands, too. She wants to get opponents on the other side of tired – where they give up.

*The Winter Olympics are now over, and the single extraordinary performance of the Vancouver Games – truly excellent, a showstopper of athleticism – was men’s figure skater Evan Lysacek’s short and free skates nearly two weeks ago.

You’ve forgotten about it, most likely, because NBC must slavishly follow the storylines of Lindsey Vonn and Apolo Ohno, and because Canada-USA in hockey was trumped up as a rivalry between two nations that get along just fine, really, but here it is again, for memory.

If you prefer the gold medal hockey game, hey, I’ll give you that, but compare Lysacek’s speed and artistry to Ohno’s playing grab-ass around a tiny track and tell me: Who really should have been on “Dancing With the Stars?”

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