Unit Confidence, Nebrasketball’s Future, and the Truth in Terry Joseph’s words

By at March 10, 2012 | 12:23 PM | Print

Unit Confidence, Nebrasketball’s Future, and the Truth in Terry Joseph’s words

Every week, the Husker Locker staff sits down after being presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of Nebraska Cornhuskers sports. With no prior knowledge of the other panelists’ answers, here are their thoughts:

This week:

Which unit do you have the most and least confidence in as the Huskers begin spring ball?

Brian: Most: Running backs. With the continuation of Rex, Ameer, and Aaron Green into a second season with Ron Brown and Tim Beck, there is no ceiling high enough for this group.

These three guys along with Mike Marrow and Imani Cross (if he doesn’t redshirt) will be a stable to lean on next year.

Least: Defensive backfield. So many questions to answer with a new coach, obvious holes to plug from graduation (Dennard, Cassidy) and a third position coach in three years.

Bo is going to put his focus on this group with the hoping that once Mohammed Seisay arrives, there will be others that will step up and be players. The sooner these players are refined, the better off Nebraska’s defense will be in 2012.

Chris: The running backs, primarily based on the return of Rex Burkhead, who has shown to be Nebraska’s most consistent and perhaps best player since Suh.

Burkhead should cement himself as an all-time great this year, but ideally the coaches will find a way to get Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah more involved so that the senior workhorse has his legs during the important stretch to end conference play.

Pelini has shown that when a play has to be made, No. 22 will be called on, and Burkhead has almost always answered the call. However, Pelini needs to be able to have trust in Green and Abdullah in big games, and this trust must be earned through spring practice and when Burkhead’s not needed in blowouts.

Luckily for Nebraska (and Rex’s legs), Green and Abdullah possess elite athletic ability and with another offseason behind them, both should be ready to show the coach they deserve more carries.

On the other side of the coin, I have the least confidence in the linebacker corps heading into spring ball. With Lavonte David gone, I look at the Husker roster and don’t see anybody who can fill that void.

Granted, No. 4 is not someone you can replace with one player, but I am doubtful that the Huskers’ current linebackers can improve to a level sufficient to make the Blackshirts an overall better defense in 2012 despite the absence of David.

Brandon: I can’t believe I’m saying this after watching Nebraska football for so long, but the wide receivers have my vote of confidence. There’s so much young athleticism for Rich Fisher to work with. Plus the kid he essentially brought with him to Nebraska (or is it the other way around?), Taariq Allen will likely get an opportunity to shine.

I have the least confidence in the defensive line, primarily due to severely thin depth at the interior spot. Too many players of an already-depleted depth chart are going to be standing on the sidelines.

The Huskers are at a point where one player’s absence in the middle goes from potentially helping depth to having so many out that they may end up killing morale of the guys who do get snaps. It’s early, but I look for the running game to have a great day come mid-April.

With the men’s basketball season over, do you believe that whoever the next coach is can make Nebraska men’s basketball a competitive sport?

Brian: That’s a question that only people like Tom Osborne and Mark Boehm can answer right now. Doc made mistakes but he also couldn’t get momentum going with how much of lack of support (true or perceived) he had from North Stadium.

The new HMOC will have that still shiny Hendricks Complex and Pinnacle Bank Arena to use when wooing recruits, but it doesn’t make a difference if you have the Staples Center to play in if the atmosphere sucks.

Whoever comes in has to want to grow the program every day whether it’s on a mountain or deep in a valley like it is now.

The next guy will have no pity to worry about. Instead, he’s the next in line to rid the program of a 12-year black cloud ever since Danny Nee was escorted out with pitch forks and bonfires.

Chris: I have always believed that Nebraska should have a top 25 basketball program. With the Huskers’ rabid fan base, which will spend significant income to support a winning team, there is no reason the men’s basketball program can’t sell out home games, consistently compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament, and be competitive in every contest.

The new arena and practice facilities have removed any built-in excuses regarding lack of support by the athletic department. The question now becomes, “Who’s next”?

If the athletic department is serious in its commitment to the program, not only by conducting a full scale search for the best possible hire, but also by being willing to spend the necessary money to attract the coach discovered, then I’m confident that men’s hoops will be taken more seriously by both fans and recruits.

Should Tom Osborne compile a list that reads: “1. Dana Altman, 2. TBD,” then I can safely advise all fans that the price of season tickets is better spent on an NCAA Basketball television package.

Then their dollars will go towards watching entertaining games from the comfort of home, instead of another round of 50-point slugfests by Nebraska, complete with an extra 70 bucks in concessions and parking.

Brandon: Absolutely. Tom Osborne said last Friday that he doesn’t subscribe to the theory of a “football school” or “basketball school.”

While one may be dominant, Nebraska can still have a solid Big Three (football, basketball and baseball). With competent recruiting and a coach that knows how to win rather than is experimenting to find the formula, Nebraska could see a rapid turnaround.

How important is Nebraska’s baseball series with Cal?

Brian: Somewhat important in that Nebraska has to show that the Gonzaga series was a fluke. The Zags are not a bad team this year, but Cal went to the College World Series last year.

The RPI stroke that a three-win set goes a long way. Also, being at home with massive crowds expected, Erstad and Little Van Horn (Bolt) can get back some of that fan passion back that disappeared with the end of Mike Anderson’s tenure.

People do still care about Nebraska baseball. a 4100-plus person crowd for a Tuesday game against K-State proves that.

Chris: I don’t think this series should act as a barometer for Nebraska’s future on the diamond. Fans often think too short-term about the baseball team, concluding that a big series win means a sure trip to Omaha or being swept means that the ballclub just can’t cut it this year.

Fans should not treat the series with Cal as anything more than a fun way to get out to Haymarket Park and see how the sluggers compete against good talent. Coach Erstad is only just beginning to get the players to buy-in to his system, and Coach Silva has a long road ahead of him working out the kinks on the mound.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see NU lose three of four, but also showing off competitive fire in all games, fighting all the way to the ninthinning. That alone would be a good sign, only adding to the positive results Erstad has gotten so far in his short tenure.

Brandon: It’s a great measuring stick, but it shouldn’t define Erstad in a sigifnicant way, positively or negatively. The initial loss was painful, but coming from such a huge hole to send the game into extra innings speaks volumes about this team’s personality. I don’t think you can give credit to just Darin Erstad for this change. This is truly a team effort by him, Bolt and Silva.

New Nebraska defensive backs coach Terry Joseph said the following, “The Nebraska brand is powerful because it ‘s nationally known. It’s simple, but it has a lasting effect on everyone who sees it. When you start talking about a school like Nebraska, you don’t really have to explain who you are to recruits.” What does this tell you?

Brian: Can I call this statement hogwash? Because it is.

A 18-year-old kid who is being recruited by schools will look at Nebraska football and realize that they were not in kindergarten the last time Nebraska won a national championship. They weren’t in fifth grade the last time the Huskers won a conference title and played in a BCS game.

Nebraska is nationally known by Generation X who remembers the 60-3 run in the mid 1990s. To today’s high school senior, it’s just a team that wears a lot of red, has a stadium that is full all the time, and has won the Alamo Bowl and the Holiday/Gator Bowl a few times.

The Nebraska “brand” is powerful to kids/parents who live near Lincoln, the ones that realize what it meant and still means to walk out of the tunnel. To kids in Texas, Florida, California and into SEC country, you have to do more than sell a brand.

For someone that doesn’t see what you see, you have to get them to Lincoln to experience it themselves. The game day atmosphere, the home grown kids who walked on and have the burning urge to go headfirst into a brick wall for the red “N” on the side of their helmet.

If you have someone who is paying their own way sell the program or a coach that has experienced it themselves, only then do you have the person that can give that high school senior who doesn’t know what it’s like to hear “Husker Power!” chanted, to throw the bones after a three and out or how the fans appreciate effort win or lose.

Sorry, Terry Joseph. You do have to explain it to recruits. You have to install that passion that people in Lincoln and around Nebraska have for this program. If you solely go off what you “think” the brand is, then you’re not getting it.

Chris: It tells me that despite Nebraska’s lack of recent success in finishing off conference title games and getting to BCS bowls, coaches around the country still hold Nebraska in high regard, and will still seriously consider a chance to coach here.

Joseph’s hire might represent a change in Bo’s mantra of only looking internally for coaches, but also shows that Nebraska can still go out and land quality assistants when it wants.

I also hope it helps Pelini realize that 1.) Nebraska is a big-time program and should be treated as such and 2.) going forward, he can attract good coaches, even if they’re already employed by another a top-notch or tradition-rich program.

Brandon: When Joseph gets out on the recruiting trail, he can confidently sell quality as opposed to convince recruits to take a chance. Nebraska’s lack of overall recent success hurts to an extent.

However, when you bring a kid in to a school where football’s the money sport and millions of dollars are being poured into their athletic success both now and in the future, you’re not exactly trying to sell him a rusted Geo Metro.

To properly sell anything, you have to believe in it. From all early reports, Terry Joseph believes in Nebraska.

Follow the panel on Twitter:

Brandon: @huskerlocker
Brian: @btbowling
Chris: @chris_labenz

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