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  1. 2012 Mar 27

    Husker Heartbeat (3/27/2012): Beck Part Deux, SJB Back in Action and Two New Assistants Hired

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    By HuskerLocker

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    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Take an opportunity to reintroduce yourself to Tim Beck

    - Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste is anxious to take back the starting role that he held briefly

    - The Andrew Rodriguez Experiment continues as he's shifted to tackle

    - Defensive end Cameron Meredith is ready to fill a void of Blackshirts

    - New head men's basketball coach Tim Miles fills two coaching spots on his staff

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    Tags: tim beck, stanley jean baptiste, andrew rodriguez, cameron meredith, tim miles, basketball

  2. 2012 Mar 14

    NEBRASKA SPRING FOOTBALL: The Offensive Line Shell Game

    1,798 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Chris Labenz

    With many of Nebraska’s key starters from the 2011 season moving on, the Huskers must start laying a foundation that’ll carry through spring, summer and fall.

    Who’ll make the cut following the Spring Game and be in position to start the season as top dogs?

    Likely Post-Spring No. 1s

    Offensive Tackle:

    Jeremiah Sirles, Jr., Tyler Moore, So.

    Sirles and Moore both enter the 2012 season with starting experience. Last season, Sirles was the primary backup to Yoshi Hardrick at the left tackle spot, while Moore was in a constant battle with Marcel Jones for the starting right tackle position.

    Moore showed flashes of his raw ability, but the coaches had him on a short leash. This was emphasized when he was yanked following a false start penalty on Nebraska’s first offensive play against Wisconsin.

    In 2012, both of these big men will be called on to shore up the tackle spots on an offensive line that has been inconsistent under Barney Cotton.

    Assistant offensive line coach John Garrison has added strong teaching ability to the unit, and has stated that both Sirles and Moore can play either tackle spot if necessary. Look for Sirles to start out on the left side while Moore anchors the right.

    Offensive Guard:

    Spencer Long, Jr., Seung Hoon Choi, Sr.

    Long's may not be a household name, but both players and coaches have stated that the junior guard is the Huskers' best all-around offensive lineman. At this point, he appears to be in the driver’s seat to start at left guard.

    Choi had fans buzzing about his fiery play following his start against Michigan State in place of Andrew Rodriguez. While he performed well, the Husker walk-on was inconsistent during the rest of the season.

    This left many wondering if his starts were an attempt on the part of the coaches to drag some passion out of A-Rod. The Aurora, Nebraska native is acknowledged across the staff as having amazing potential, but for some reason, he lacks the desire to tap into it.

    Whatever the reason, he will have to be even more motivated this spring to unseat Choi. In a classic battle of motivation versus apathy, Choi will go into fall camp No. 1 on the depth chart at right guard.

    Center:

    Cole Pensick, Jr.

    Pelini and company find themselves in a tough spot this year with the departure of Mike Caputo. While never a superstar, he possessed strong leadership and was relied on heavily by the other linemen for proper calls.

    Despite being aware of Caputo’s obvious graduation, Pelini didn't address the center position through recruiting. Apparently, he decided that someone who could anchor the offensive line was already on the roster.

    Due to lack of depth in the middle, Cole Pensick will get a strong look for the starting role as he’s the only player on the roster with any in-game experience, subbing in for Caputo on rare occasions.

    Pensick may not be the most heralded member of Nebraska’s offensive line, but he will have to elevate his play immediately for the unit to improve.

    Should the spring, summer and fall be beneficial in all aspects including strength and conditioning, look for this to be Nebraska's starting two-deep against Southern Miss:

    First String –

    LT: Tyler Moore, So.
    LG: Spencer Long, Jr.
    C: Ryne Reeves, RFr.
    RG: Ryan Klachko, RFr.
    RT: Zach Sterup, RFr.

    Second String –

    LT: Jeremiah Sirles, Jr.
    LG: Andrew Rodriguez, Jr.
    C: Cole Pensick, Jr.
    RG: Seung Hoon Choi, Sr.
    RT: Jake Cotton, So.

    Nebraska didn’t recruit athletes like Reeves, Sterup and Klachko to sit on the bench. If the trio of highly-regarded redshirt freshmen can pick up Tim Beck’s system and develop with the strength and conditioning crew, there’s no reason that they can’t push for serious playing time this fall.

    What this projected first group lacks overall experience, they make up for in elite athletic ability. Behind this tremendous bunch, Beck’s high-speed system could thrive at getting to the second level of a defense to free up holes for Rex Burkhead and Aaron Green.

    In addition, Moore and Sterup have the sort of size, arm length and quickness that give defensive ends fits. They’d provide more than adequate protection for Taylor Martinez on obvious passing downs, an area where the Huskers have severely struggled over the past few seasons.

    Reviewing the projected second string, you’ll notice names with some experience that can play efficiently enough to justify heavy rotation.

    This leads to fresh legs in the fourth quarter, a trait that was common under offensive lines of the Osborne era. This second unit would give with the first teamers consistent challenging battles during practice, increasing competition and forcing starters to be game-ready seven days a week.

    It's not to say that Pensick, Choi and Sirles won't earn solid minutes, or that Rodriguez won’t finally have the light bulb turn on this spring. Instead, it’s a sign that Nebraska has managed to recruit some very talented linemen under Bo Pelini.

    Any further excuses cannot continue to justify their poor play during the season. It’s time for Nebraska’s offensive line to truly earn back the “Pipeline” nickname, and there are players on the roster who have the ability to make that happen.

    Much like Andrew Rodriguez, the entire unit has plenty of potential. It’s up to the coaching staff to ensure that this translates to results on the field, perhaps stealing some thunder away from Big Ten brother Wisconsin’s vaunted big men in the process.

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    Tags: jeremiah sirles, tyler moore, spencer long, seung hoon choi, cole pensick, ryne reeves, ryan klachko, zach sterup, andrew rodriguez, jake cotton

  3. 2012 Mar 11

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Knee-Jerk Reactions (3/11/2012)

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    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Seeing Sadler go was necessary, but damn hard to watch. What made it harder to watch wasn’t Doc breaking down or the obvious desire to succeed, but how Tom explained the situation. It was like watching a funeral. The death of a good man’s efforts.

    - In brighter news, how Erstad’s sluggers are an entertaining bunch to watch if nothing else. A fun 8-8 tie after being down six runs was fun, but Cal tipped it with experience. Yesterday was complete and utter revenge.

    - It was beautiful.

    - Spring ball starts with nothing staggering to report. If no one else gets severely injured between now and mid-April, that’s about the best anyone can hope for.

    - Consider those who got the opportunity to talk shop with Bill Belichick extremely envied.

    - If Lavonte David actually ends up being the Husker taken highest in the draft, look forward to the career of Michael Rose. He has the same work ethic.

    - He was also at practice yesterday.

    - Not really a fan of Pensick at center. Caputo was a special guy. You can’t keep plugging in 275-pound guys in against Big Ten defensive interiors.

    - Slide Spencer Long over to compete with Ryan Klachko and Mark Pelini.

    - Not that Mark Pelini.

    - Digging the implementation of QB cams during seven-on-sevens.

    - Starting to question if Andrew Rodriguez should continue to have a scholarship following 2012 at this rate.

    - PARTING SHOT: If you hadn’t heard, LSU Senior goalkeeper Mo Isom is trying out for the LSU football team ala KaLena "Beanie" Barnes did for Nebraska back in the day. Turns out she’s really, REALLY good:



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    Tags: doc sadler, basketball, baseball, cole pensick, ryan klachko, mark pelini, spencer long, andrew rodriguez, mo isom

  4. 2012 Mar 10

    NEBRASKA SPRING FOOTBALL: Five Make or Break Players

    2,493 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Chris Labenz

    With the departures of key starters such as Lavonte David, Alfonzo Dennard, Jared Crick, Austin Cassidy, Marcel Jones and Yoshi Hardrick, Nebraska’s football team looks very different this spring.

    The absence of these veterans forces other Huskers to step up to keep the team goal of winning the Big Ten Championship in tact.

    As Bo Pelini continues executing the “process”, the following five players are on the verge of falling so far behind their peers, they won't be able to catch up.

    Guard Andrew Rodriguez - “A-Rod” came to Nebraska with high praise from recruiting services and scouts who touted the big man from Aurora, Nebraska as future All-Conference lineman.

    However, there was also rumor among the locals that Rodriguez lacked the necessary work ethic and passion to become of one college football’s elite.

    His play has mirrored these claims, being dominant at times, and sluggish at others. Given his incredible natural talent, there was no reason for the one-time New Yorker to get beat out midseason by former walk-on Seung Hoon Choi, no offense to the plucky South Korean.

    While coaches have stated that Rodriguez was suffering from lingering injuries, he didn’t seem to have the fire necessary keep a full-time starting gig.

    It’s time for this enigmatic player to make a decision between being great or fading into the background. If he chooses the latter, Nebraska has ample depth at the guard position to fill his absence with other highly-talented players chomping at the bit for playing time.

    Tight end Kyler Reed – No. 25 has had one of the most frustrating careers to follow. Flash back to the Oklahoma State and Missouri games of two years ago, and you see a tight end that can fly past safeties for long touchdowns and constantly create mismatches.

    Reed was non-existent last season, battling injuries and toughness issues only magnified by Ron Brown’s move to running backs coach.

    While part of the blame must be placed on Taylor Martinez for failing to find an often open Reed, there was no reason for the preseason star to experience such a dramatic drop-off in play.

    He faces his senior season, and it’s crucial to Nebraska’s success that he finds a way to play at a high level for the entire season. If not, expect the Husker offense to continue to be boxed in by safeties playing near the line of scrimmage. There's no fear of being burned deep by Ben Cotton.

    MIKE linebacker Will Compton – Lavonte David is not a player that can be replaced with one guy. No. 4’s ability to make plays across the field was the biggest reason the Husker defense had a fighting chance at stopping the better teams faced during the past two seasons.

    Nobody on the roster possesses his combination of speed, agility, sure tackling, and instincts. However, if the Blackshirts are to survive without the future NFL linebacker, Compton must step up his game this season and become the player many thought he could be when he signed his letter of intent.

    He has expressed desire to become the vocal leader of the Blackshirts, but fans have to wonder whether No. 51’s bite will match his bark.

    Against Michigan State, the Missouri native showed flashes of his why he was rated a four-star prospect, stopping running backs in their tracks and chasing the opposition down at every turn. While this performance was impressive, it still appeared to be the exception instead of the rule for Comtpon.

    In 2012, the senior linebacker must perform like he did against the Spartans every week if the Blackshirts are to regain the form that has become expected of a Bo Pelini-coached defense.

    If Compton can’t handle the load, expect young guns David Santos and Trevor Roach to garner serious playing time while all Husker fans simultaneously shake their heads and mutter, “David would’ve made that play.”

    Safety P.J. Smith – No. 13 is another Husker whose playing time has risen and fallen like the temperature of so many Nebraska seasons. With Austin Cassidy's graduation, there is a wide open spot next to Daimion Stafford at the back-end of the defense.

    While Pelini and company have accumulated above average depth at the position, nobody seems to stand out as a clear favorite this spring.

    Due to Smith’s knowledge and experience, along with the demands Pelini places on his safeties, it’s fair to guess that he could have a leg up on players like Corey Cooper. Cooper is one of many secondary members full of potential, but very green.

    Additionally, Courtney Osborne will be anxious to get back on the field after mysteriously disappearing in 2011. Smith has played well when given the chance, showing a great knack for finding the football, but injuries and a lack of top-shelf athletic ability have kept him from permanently needing an extra hanger in his locker for the a black practice jersey.

    If Smith can’t take his play to the next level this spring, don’t be surprised if new secondary coach Terry Joseph decides to roll the dice and go with the inexperienced, more athletic Cooper as his other starting safety.

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez – Martinez’s weaknesses in the passing game have been well-documented over the past two seasons. Heading into spring ball, T-Magic still has the keys to the Husker offense. One that was often very good, but maddeningly inconsistent.

    Opposing defenses were able to force Tim Beck to call plays that the dual-threat quarterback was clearly not comfortable executing, while containing opportunities for Martinez’s trademark long runs.

    If No. 3 can’t find a way to consistency complete more 10-plus yard passes downfield, Nebraska’s offense will again struggle to put up enough points to win games against the likes of Michigan and Ohio State.

    Should his struggles continue, the great unknown remains about whether Beck and Pelini will finally give another quarterback a chance to lead the first team offense against live ammunition.

    Expect fans to become restless if the staff isn't willing to make a change in the face of even more disappointing offensive performances, especially with Carnes and incoming signal-caller Tommy Armstrong itching for the chance to make people forget about Martinez.

    Can these five embrace the challenge of becoming the vital cogs to the Big Red’s success? If not, there are players below them on the depth chart happy to take their place.

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    Tags: spring football, andrew rodriguez, kyler reed, will compton, pj smith, taylor martinez

  5. 2012 Mar 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Spring Practice Position Primer

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    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Quarterback: Without Tommy Armstrong in camp, Martinez has no threat to his starting spot. He’s showed tremendous athletic potential last spring.

    If Carnes continues to improve athletically, and the mental aspect of the game can be reinforced, while the gap between he and Martinez isn’t likely to shrink that much, a legitimate backup candidate could be crowned.

    Running back: Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green start on equal footing heading into Saturday and could very well end up where they started following April’s spring game.

    Thanks to Abdullah’s edge in experience during actual FBS play, one has to think he has a leg up on Green. His fumbling problems may level the playing field, however.

    Wide receiver: Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Tim Marlowe and Jamal Turner will all have the opportunity to solidify their starting roles.

    With the departure of Khiry Cooper, look for Taariq Allen, who followed wide receivers coach Rich Fisher from Weston, Massachusetts, to vie for the fifth spot. KC Hyland and Tyler Evans are two other talents with an opportunity to shine.

    Tight End: Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed aren’t going anywhere, but David Sutton and Eddie Ridder have the opportunity to showcase their potential.

    Offensive Line: Departed center Mike Caputo’s replacement could come from a number of candidates including Cole Pensick, Nick Ash and Ryan Klachko. Pensick and Ash may have seniority, but Klachko sticks out as the prospect with a higher ceiling.

    Brandon Thompson, Andrew Rodriguez, Mike Moudy and Ryne Reeves look to be the favorites to hold down the guard spots. Rodriguez’s attitude has reportedly been lackadaisical, but Moudy and Reeves have the tenacity to step up should he slack off.

    Sirles and Qvale will start out spring at the tackle spots with Tyler Moore giving them all they can handle in an attempt to take one of their spots. Zach Sterup is a likely backup candidate with Givens Price needing a strong spring to assert himself as a legitimate threat for playing time.

    Defensive Line: Cameron Meredith, Jason Ankrah, Eric Martin and Joseph Cater have the end positions on lockdown barring injury. Donovan Vestal and Walker Ashburn need huge springs to hold off the incoming Avery Moss and Greg McMullen come the fall.

    The interior’s been decimated by injury with Chase Rome and Todd Peat, Jr. now out for the entirety of spring ball. Once Kevin Williams and Thad Randle return from injury, they’ll be plugged in next to Baker Steinkuhler in an attempt to hone their abilities, and find a suitable replacement for Rome’s spring absence.

    Having a deeper interior for rotation’s sake won’t hurt heading into Big Ten play. Jay Guy and newly-placed Tobi Okuyemi will have the opportunity to show that their work ethic has improved.

    Linebackers: Will Compton has the MIKE slot on lockdown while Sean Fisher will spend most of his time trying to cement the BUCK slot by the end of spring. Max Pirman could find himself trying to work into rotation behind him.

    Pelini mentioned to look for David Santos and Alonzo Whaley to work at the WILL position to begin the essentially-impossible task of taking over for Lavonte David. Don’t be surprised to see Santos win that battle by mid-April.

    Defensive back: Mohammed Seisay will be one of the most-watched players on the entire team this spring. Not only will he be wearing the departed David’s No. 4, but he looks to lock down the title of Nebraska’s elite cornerback.

    Andrew Green, Cinate Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and recently-switched Braylon Heard will likely get the opportunity to lock down the opposite end.

    Safety: Daimion Stafford, Courtney Osborne and P.J. Smith are the likely candidates to lock down starting role. Osborne’s recent concussion issues may cause Pelini and company to take things slow with him.

    Kicker/Punter: Brett Maher is light years ahead of Mauro Bondi, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Boca Raton native can narrow the gap in the slightest.

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    Tags: spring practice, taylor martinez, brion carnes, ameer abdullah, aaron green, kenny bell, quincy enunwa, tim marlowe, jamal turner, taariq allen, ben cotton, kyler reed, cole pensick, nick ash, ryan klachko, brandon thompson, andrew rodriguez, mike moudy, ryne reeves, cameron meredith, eric martin, chase rome, todd peat, baker steinkuhler, will compton, david santos, mohammed seisay, brett maher

  6. 2012 Jan 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: 10 Huskers to Watch in 2012

    3,218 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Guest Columnist Sean Berger

    10. Defensive Line Youngins: Chase Rome and Jason Ankrah

    Young blood on the defensive line. With all of their playing time this year, much was asked of these guys. The early injury to Jared Crick becomes a blessing in disguise for the short-term future of our beloved Blackshirts.

    9. Quarterback Taylor Martinez

    An obvious selection, the entire fan base expects improvement No. 1 signal-caller. We need to see him improve his focus on protecting the ball when running this pistol-option-hybrid thing that Tim Beck and Shawn Watson developed. This year he improved in checking down on routes. We couldn't have asked him to spread the ball around more. (Thank you, Joe Ganz?)

    He involved nearly every tight end and wide receiver on the depth chart. Throwing the ball away when necessary seems natural for this guy. He may get outplayed at quarterback in his final two seasons if he can't develop new passing mechanics, though. His current mechanics combined with his lack of arm strength for the deep ball are not a long term solution. They're a liability in the games that matter most.

    8. Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell

    Personal intuition tells me that Enunwa will plateau into a "nice" Kenny Cheatham, but we've only begun to see Bell's potential, of which the only ceiling becomes his 6’1” frame. Enunwa prove me wrong! Nonetheless, Nebraska finally has playmakers at wide receiver. Improving hands seem to be the priority, but these guys have speed, too.

    7. Offensive linemen Seung Hoon Choi, Jeremiah Sirles and Andrew Rodriguez

    Here's the beef that has to continue to get stronger. These are the underclassmen with playing time under their belts. For the read-option-pistol thinger to continue to evolve, these guys need to give Martinez the running room and the extra seconds of decision time for Beck to utilize his best athletes: Rex Burkhead, Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and Jamal Turner.

    6. Running back Ameer Abdullah

    All of his athletic capabilities — strength, agility and speed — points to this guy being a consistent No. 2 running back for 2012. He's an exciting player with game-changing capabilities on special teams.

    5. Linebacker Will Compton

    This guy becomes the anchor of the defense. During his last two games, he seemed to be more aggressive off the ball. He's a playmaker in his best moments. I think he'll be a strong leader for the defense because he's just as committed as the next guy to the team's desire to write chapters of championship legacy.

    4. Wide receiver Jamal Turner

    In my opinion, I think Tim Beck will give him a strong look at quarterback during the offseason this offseason. We saw flashes of his athleticism this season. He has the speed of a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Does he have an arm that can unseat Taylor Martinez? Beck is just crazy enough to involve three quarterbacks (Burkhead, Martinez and Turner) if the need arises.

    3. Defensive lineman Cameron Meredith

    I have to believe he'll get some Mel Kiper talk following his senior year at Nebraska. Everyone loves the curly locks, right? They resemble the raw gutsy leader that he is on the field and off.

    2. Running back Rex Burkhead

    The best running back in the categories of muscle and heart, Rex Burkhead didn't miss a beat for a Nebraska running attack that experienced the loss of third-round NFL draft selection Roy Helu, Jr. Every carry by Burkhead featured No. 22 inching out tough-as-nails yards after contract and reminding every Husker fan why Lincoln is the Pittsburgh of the Midwest in the process.

    1. Safety Daimion Stafford

    A hard-hitting safety, Stafford had some great moments in coverage this year. With all of the problems in the secondary this year - the change in coaching, a transition of philosophies, the loss of Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes and Ricky Thenarse - there were almost too many holes to for the Blackshirts to fill in pass coverage.

    Nebraska will need two solid corners to compliment Stafford but there's no overlooking the fact that he was an answer amidst all of the questions. Stafford will be the heart of the defensive backfield in 2012.

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    Tags: chase rome, jason ankrah, taylor martinez, quincy enunwa, kenny bell, seung hoon choi, heremiah sirles, andrew rodriguez, ameer abdullah, will compton, jamal turner, cameron meredith, rex burkhead, daimion stafford

  7. 2011 Dec 28

    Husker Heartbeat 12/28: Pelini Addresses Rumors, OL Out Versus SC and Practice Tidbits

    3,138 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Bo Pelini says he's "not out looking around" at other job options

    - Absent for the past three games, guard Andrew Rodriguez will not be playing in the Capital One Bowl

    - South Carolina's familiar offensive schemes doesn't mean the Blackshirts' workload will be any lighter

    - Nebraska maintains that recent coaching role shifts aren't impacting preparation for the upcoming bowl game

    - In fact, Pelini was encouraged by the Huskers' first day of practice in Orlando

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    Tags: bo pelini, south carolina, capital one bowl, andrew rodriguez, john papuchis, rick kaczenski

  8. 2011 Dec 18

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - First Day of Bowl Season Edition

    1,171 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Ranking yesterday’s bowls in order of awesomeness: 1.) New Orleans Bowl (ULL vs. SDSU), 2.) Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Ohio vs. Utah State), 3.) New Mexico Bowl (Temple vs. Wyoming).

    - They were all true college football and each better than the last.

    - The situation with Mike Caputo’s alleged DUI seems sketchy. Expecting him to play the Capital One Bowl.

    - Eric Martin and Colin McDermott are questionable. McDermott hasn’t ever seen the field and he’s a junior, though.
    .
    - The longer a defensive coordinator is not named, the sickness gets worse.

    - Here’s hoping Andrew Rodriguez is able to suit up for the Capital One Bowl. Nebraska’s going to need depth to smash heads with a very talented defensive line to open up holes for Burkhead.

    - Unfortunately, Nebraska quarterback commit Tommy Armstrong didn’t win the state championship. A couple of mischievous squirrels decided to steal the show, though: http://yfrog.com/n9xjysz.

    - For those who watched and are wondering, the fan wearing a Miami Hurricanes cap was holding up a 1965 copy of Sports Illustrated with Frank Solich on the cover behind the victorious coach. Why it had nothing to do with the 2001 Rose Bowl, I have no idea.

    - Louisiana-Lafayette’s strength coach got his head busted open, but remained on the sidelines and chilled. Is it any wonder why I enjoy Ragin’ Cajun football?

    - Seriously, if you can catch a replay of the New Orleans or Potato Bowl, do so.

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    Tags: mike caputo, capital one bowl, eric martin, colin mcdermott, andrew rodriguez, tommy armstrong, frank solich

  9. 2011 Oct 31

    Husker Heartbeat 10/31: Nebraska's Tasting Sugar, Andrew Rodriguez's Major Tell and Carriker Tackles Questions

    8,907 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - ESPN's updated bowl projections have Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl

    - Nebraska's offensive line's perseverance has paid massive dividends

    - ESPN's Chris Spielman points out a major tell by Andrew Rodriguez's

    - Alfonzo Dennard's presence has been nothing but inspirational

    - The Washington Post interviews former Husker defensive end Adam Carriker

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    Tags: sugar bowl, andrew rodriguez, alfonzo dennard, adam carriker

  10. 2011 Sep 08

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Top Five Things to Watch For Versus Fresno State

    3,404 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    After last week's game, Nebraska fans were left with a sour taste in their mouths – one that reminded them of the 2010 season. It wasn’t just the fans that felt uneasy about the win. "We won, but it just felt like it wasn't a great win," senior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie said.

    The Nebraska Cornhuskers now turn their attention to Fresno State. This is the first time that the two programs will meet, but it won’t be the last as they play again in 2014 and 2016. While Nebraska and Fresno State will have plenty to look out for as the season progresses, the Cornhuskers have a few crucial areas to keep a sharp eye on.

    1.) Offensive Line

    The offensive line is young – that’s been determined. True freshman Tyler Moore, walk-on sophomore Spencer Long and sophomore Andrew Rodriguez have been put in roles that demand experience one way or another. With only one game under their belts, UTC provided an opportunity to learn. While most would not wish to call the Mocs a “glorified practice,” it very well may have been for the young talent.

    Fresno State will be another challenge for the young line that is working to gel quickly. Maturing as a team takes time, but when Wisconsin and Ohio State are peeking over the horizon, the Huskers are going to have to find a way to grow up fast. The job is to protect and create holes to run through. Without that protection, plays become rushed and the offense falls apart.

    What will Husker fans be looking for from the offensive line on Saturday? Simple – growth.

    2.) Receivers

    While sophomore Quincy Enunwa downplayed his connection with quarterback Taylor Martinez, it’s hard to ignore the bond that was there. Enunwa caught four passes for 58 yards, leading the receivers in yardage. Even Jamal Turner had a strong first showing, catching a 19-yard pass.

    However, for the positives that were seen, it was far from a perfect performance for the receivers. Senior Brandon Kinnie only caught two balls for a total of seven yards. Many passes were often behind receivers and difficult to catch. At the same time, catchable passes were bobbled and dropped. It was a difficult combination that showed just how much work the receivers have to do.

    To become truly successful, the passing game will need to become a joint effort between Martinez and the receivers. The connection needs to be there with all wide outs, not just Enunwa. Martinez needs to start throwing the ball more efficiently. This combined with extra effort from the receivers should provide continued growth and plenty to cheer about for Nebraska fans.

    3.) Fumbles

    While penalty issues were clearly addressed, fumbles were still an issue for the Cornhuskers in the season opener. Fumbling four times, Nebraska only recovered two. Putting the pigskin on the ground for times in the first game of the season doesn’t speak highly of Nebraska’s ball-handling.

    Fumbling only puts added pressure on an offense that doesn’t need any more distractions. What will it take to keep the ball in the hands of the offense? It’s hard to say, but hopefully the issue can be resolved by Ron Brown sooner rather than later.

    4.) Brett Maher

    The season opener was a big success for kicker Brett Maher. Adjusting for the wind, Maher hit all four of his field goal attempts, clearing one by more than ten yards. Maher also averaged 52 yards on four punts. Coach Bo Pelini was quick to compliment Maher on his strong first outing.

    However, Fresno State is currently leading the nation in blocking kicks. Since 2002, the Bulldogs have blocked an impressive 59 kicks. Fresno State blocked two kicks in last week’s season opener against California alone. These numbers are important for Maher to take note of as he is aiming to create his own legacy at Nebraska.

    Husker fans should be looking for continued maturity with Maher. How he handles himself with the looming possibility of blocked kicks will be telling. Will he fall apart or keep nailing kicks? Saturday’s game will tell us all we need to know.

    5.) Leadership on Defense

    In 2009, Nebraska had a big leader on the field in Ndamukong Suh. Whenever the defense was on the field, Suh’s presence was made known. It was more than his talent that was brought to each play, but also the leadership that radiated from No. 93. Suh’s drive and passion for the team was contagious and it was clear that other players fed off of it.

    During the Post-Suh era in 2010, there was a clear lack of leadership on the defense. When leadership was needed, it appeared as if no one was truly willing to step up. While still very dominant, the defense lacked something in 2010 – a leader. After UTC, two players emerged as strong contenders as the leaders of the defense. Cameron Meredith and Daimion Stafford both showed strong talent and fire. Alongside Jared Crick, Meredith and Stafford have an opportunity to lead the defense to be even stronger.

    Saturday will be a game of firsts and growth. The Big Ten will soon be at Nebraska’s door and the Cornhuskers’ welcoming party won’t be too festive if their big problems don’t get solved quickly. What will Nebraska fans be watching for? A big win that actually feels like one.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
    Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
    Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page

    Tags: utc, tyler moore, spencer long, andrew rodriguez, fresno state, quincy enunwa, taylor martinez, brandon kinnie, ron brown, brett maher

  11. 2011 Sep 05

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: What The Cornhuskers Showed Against UTC

    4,499 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    Last Thursday, we took a look at what Nebraska needed to show against the Mocs. Now that the game has come and gone, were fans surprised, disappointed or a combination of both? Regardless, there were five key areas that were put under the microscope.

    1.) The Offensive Line

    The line has been a hot topic for fans after Saturday’s game concluded. Concern weighed heavy on many minds, while a brave few offered the opinion that this is just a young team that needed time to gel. It’s true that the line is inexperienced with three unseasoned guys up front – true freshman Tyler Moore, walk-on sophomore Spencer Long and sophomore Andrew Rodriguez. Talent can help make up for lack of experience, but proper execution needs to happen soon.

    More often than not, the offensive line was caught off guard. It wasn’t unusual to find linemen on the ground with defenders rushing by them. Quarterback Taylor Martinez was often left scrambling to make a play when his protection failed. Memories of the 2010 season came flooding back to the Nebraska faithful and by day's end, it was clear that the line was one of the offense’s most glaring immediate weaknesses.

    However, this was Tim Beck’s first outing. With Barney Cotton in the booth and John Garrison on the sidelines, the coaching adjustment may have had some side effects. Attitude of the coaches and players show faith in the system and the resolve to make it work. This offensive line is raw and ultimately, fans need to give them time to find their groove.

    2.) Taylor Martinez

    He’s still growing. After a rough latter half of the 2010 season, many were unsure if Martinez could improve to a beneficial level. Many fans believed the young quarterback simply might not be able to lead his team. On Saturday, a new Martinez walked the sidelines. He often spoke with teammates and was far more vocal than last year.

    His presence on the field, while still shaky, showed some improvement. While Martinez appeared nervous and insecure in the first quarter, there were signs of a more matured athlete. He began to look at all of his receivers and while his passes weren’t stellar, there were drops on the receiving end. With practice and team support, Martinez can prepare himself for a strong season.

    3.) Fumbles and Penalties

    After being ranked No. 119 last year in penalties earned, Nebraska fans were looking for immediate improvement. By game’s end, the Cornhuskers had three penalties – one being a false start. This alone was a dramatic upgrade in performance. While the game may have been cleaner in terms of penalties, fumbles were still an issue.

    Nebraska fumbled four times while recovering two. This was bad enough against an FCS opponent. Teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State will take full advantage of poor ball-handling. Bo Pelini equated a lot of mistakes to first game jitters, but it’s necessary for the Cornhuskers to address this problem repeatedly during practice this week. With the offensive line already struggling, coughing up the football will only make a bad situation worse.

    4.) Kicking Specialists

    Big Red fans can finally breathe easy. There’s life after Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic. Brett Maher proved that not only is he a fine replacement, but that he truly deserves the job. The atmosphere in Memorial Stadium before Maher’s first field goal was one of deep concern. The mood was quickly lifted when Maher hit all four field goal attempts, including ones from 48 and 50 yards. He also averaged 52 yards on four punts.

    What made Maher’s debut even more impressive was the wind he contended with. His first field goal was kicked into the breeze and cleared the crossbar easily 50 yards out. While his stats were impressive, it’s concerning that the Huskers required so many field goals against an FCS squad. However, it’s comforting to know that if necessity calls, Maher can handle it.

    While it may be too early to call him the next Alex Henery, Maher made one thing very clear: He’s got a leg on him and will make Husker Nation very proud.

    5.) Memorial Stadium

    On a day that sure felt like fall had arrived, Memorial Stadium sat mostly quiet. Once the excitement of the Tunnel Walk had worn off, many fans were back in their seats, opting for silence over cheers. When fans would stand, they were scolded. “I can’t see through you,” was a popular phrase. At times, it felt like there wasn’t a game being played at all. Players’ overly-exaggerated motions riled up the crowd, but only momentarily.

    It would be easy to blame this on the fans themselves, but the reason for the silence was out of the crowds’ hands. Media breaks killed momentum that had the crowd standing and yelling. Ads on the Husker Vision screens drowned out crowd cheers. During one segment, the crowd even began to boo. While television timeouts are out of anyone’s control, marketing isn’t. This may be where lost momentum can be replaced – by using pauses in action more efficiently.

    A good place to start would during the upcoming game. It’s time for all fans, not just the student section, to take back game day. When the students start chanting, “Can’t be beat, won’t be beat!” before the fourth quarter, join in. Excitement in Memorial Stadium never hurt anyone, except maybe the opponents.

    The Mocs are in the rear-view mirror and it’s time to concentrate on the Bulldogs. Pelini believes that the team will continue to improve. It’s apparent that fans will hold him to that.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
    Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
    Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page

    Tags: utc, taylor martinez, andrew rodriguez, tyler moore, spencer long, tim beck, john garrison, barney cotton, bo pelini, brett maher

  12. 2011 Apr 14

    SPRING GAME: 5 Things to Watch

    1,319 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Glorified scrimmage? You bet. An opportunity for little-used walk-ons to get their 15 seconds of of fame in a relatively-full Memorial Stadium? That, too.

    It won't be flashy. It won't be revealing schematically. But that doesn't mean Nebraska's Red/White Spring Game is bereft of stories. Coaches absolutely want to accomplish something in the three hours they're prowling around Tom Osborne Field looking for players to praise and critique.

    Five things to watch for as Huskers put on their spring show and prepare for their inaugural Big Ten season:

    Trench skirmishes: Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini and defensive line coach John Papuchis haven't sweated too much the absence of end Cameron Meredith and tackle Jared Crick for spring camp. Why? They like the talent and depth behind those two. Along with returning starter Baker Steinkuhler, Thad Randle's made a move to the No. 1s this spring. Eric Martin, by all reports, is wreaking havoc as an undersized defensive end. Chase Rome and Jay Guy have flashed some potential to play next year at tackle. Terrence Moore is working his way back into shape after he suffered an injury in the Holiday Bowl, but he'd start at many Big Ten programs. True freshman Kevin Williams missed a week of spring camp with a foot injury, but he returned Wednesday. Could he get a play or two Saturday?

    The offensive line, meanwhile, is in transition. Position coaches Barney Cotton and John Garrison emphasized physicality and effort with a young, unproven bunch whose forebearers were manhandled at the end of 2010. Starting tackle Jeremiah Sirles missed spring, too – but his loss is felt more acutely than Meredith and Crick's absence. Young pups Tyler Moore (a true freshman) and Jake Cotton (redshirt freshman) made strong moves this spring up the depth chart.

    So what happens when factions of these units match up against each other? The defensive line should have the edge. But watch guards Andrew Rodriguez and Brent Qvale closely. They're supposed to be the starters next year. Can they hold their own against guys like Randle, Moore and Steinkuhler? Also: Can the young pups – or Marcel Jones and Yoshi Hardrick – block Martin?

    Tempo: Nebraska won't reveal many of its offensive wrinkles – or, as wide receiver Brandon Kinnie called it, “hoo ha” - that it installed over the last week. No stunner. But there's a good chance you'll see the Huskers' new no-huddle tempo. It's been around long enough in college football not to be considered secret or revolutionary. NU wouldn't want to waste the opportunity, either, to see how its quarterbacks handle play calls and game management in front of a large crowd.

    So what to watch? First, see how the offensive line is handling the speed of the game. They have to be in terrific shape for a no-huddle to be truly effective. Second, watch for which quarterback best embodies the “quick, but not in a hurry” manner that you need to run the no-huddle effectively. The worst thing a quarterback can do is waste a down because he rushed his pre-snap setup and reads. Third, look at the passes thrown out of this tempo. While they'll be vanilla in design, fans should still get a decent flavor for how a rhythm-based passing game relies on timing and placement of throws.

    Playmakers: Reporters and fans have heard nothing but praise for receivers Jamal Turner, Kenny Bell and Stanley Jean-Baptiste and their playmaking skills. Last year, NU lacked a “something out of nothing” threat at wide receiver, a guy who could turn a two-yard swing pass into a 25-yard gain. Outside of a few big plays to tight end Kyler Reed, Nebraska also lacked a consistent deep threat.

    Senior Brandon Kinnie is a solid anchor on the field side, a tough-minded, possession receiver who should be the go-to guy near the goal line. But when defenses roll a two-man “bracket” coverage his way, or force his routes back toward traffic – as Oklahoma did in the Big 12 Championship – somebody on the other side has to make the defense pay. And Niles Paul isn't over there anymore. A big play or two out of the above trio would be a confidence boost heading into the summer.

    Carnes vs. Green: With quarterback Taylor Martinez getting limited action in the Spring Game because of lingering ankle and toe injuries – those need to heal up over the summer, as reports out of practice suggested Martinez still wasn't quite “right” - and Kody Spano out too, Saturday boils down to an intriguing battle between junior Cody Green and redshirt freshman Brion Carnes. Last Saturday, Carnes had his best scrimmage yet, while Green has turned some heads in camp with improved passing mechanics. How do they perform with a crowd watching?

    Green had a perfunctory-at-best Spring Game last year, as his attempt to snatch the job from Zac Lee passed by the boards. What about this year? As much as coaches want to play down the Spring Game, Green can make a statement with a strong performance.

    Carnes has the tools – he just needs the polish. Watch his passing motion for efficiency and enjoy his playmaking abilities outside of the pocket. Odds are he does one thing Saturday that neither Green or Martinez don't do well: Throw on the run.

    Hustle and Flow: More than ever in the Bo Pelini era, Nebraska's defense will need its linebackers to do many of things linebackers traditionally do. Fit the interior the run. Man up against a lead blocker or a pulling guard. Take a smart drop on a tight end bolting up the seam and make a play downfield. Although the Huskers have generally hung their hat on an elite front four and even more dominant secondary, Bo and Carl's defense is actually designed to free up the linebackers – that is, LaVonte David, Sean Fisher and Will Compton – to make most of the plays.

    While all three probably won't play together Saturday, watch for their chemistry when two of them are out there. How do they communicate? How do they flow to the ball on running plays? Big Ten teams like Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State force defenses to stay really sound in how they fill gaps and cover all bases. When there's a “break” in the fit, power running teams have a field day on it.

    Nebraska's defense is considerably ahead of the offense. In playmakers. In grasp of scheme. Probably in confidence, too. But watch for those little things anyway. How do Compton and David take on blocks? Does Fisher get low enough when he sweeps around the strong side and tries to force a play back to the middle?

    Tags: spring football 2011, spring game 2011, sean fisher, will compton, lavonte david, kenny bell, jamal turner, stanley jeanbaptiste, cody green, brion carnes, brandon kinnie, andrew rodriguez, carl pelini, john papuchis, brent qvale, thad randle, eric martin

  13. 2011 Mar 30

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Diet Produces New A-Rod

    6,265 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    At the end of his true freshman season, left guard Andrew Rodriguez weighed 340 pounds. That's not precisely fat for a guy with 6-foot-6 frame and a head the size of a small globe, but the Aurora native thought at least some of that poundage was “bad weight” that limited his time on the field.

    So he shed 30 pounds in two months. His choice. No prompting from the coaches or the training staff.

    “I've noticed a big difference,” he said. “I'm quicker. It helped me a lot.”

    Rodriguez's diet: Go organic. Fewer fillers.

    “Organic fruits,” he said. “Shakes. Gluten-free pancakes. Stuff like that.”

    He had to swear off pizza “with a lot of meats on it.” The world's culinary jury is still mostly out on the merits vegetarian pies – that triangular slab of salt seems insufficient without chunks of charred flesh – but it's the play Rodriguez had to make.

    He's 310 now, back to his playing weigh in high school, where his quick first step drew the attention of college scouts from several major conferences. Upon Rodriguez's at NU, offensive line coach Barney Cotton called him one of more the ready-made bodies for college football that Cotton had ever coached. That's why Rodriguez didn't redshirt.

    But he didn't play much, either. When starter Keith Williams hurt his ankle in the Big 12 Championship, Cotton opted to stay with his hobbled senior rather than insert a healthy – if heavier – Rodriguez.

    “We decided not to make a change,” Cotton said last week. “We talked about it. But we still thought Keith gave us our best chance.”

    The left guard job is generally believed to be Rodriguez's to lose now. NU added another offensive line coach, John Garrison, to help Cotton develop relatively inexperienced players.

    “Repetitions get me better,” Rodriguez said. “Still getting me better.”

    A simplified scheme should allow the offensive line to think less and move faster on the field, too,

    “They're attacking defensive tackles,” quarterback Taylor Martinez said of his line. “They're firing off the ball.”

    Tags: spring football, andrew rodriguez, barney cotton

  14. 2011 Mar 23

    Husker Heartbeat 3/23: Doc On the Clock, Hockey Off The Map

    751 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Welcome to Husker Heartbeat - a sampling of links and quick wit to start your morning! Keep checking each morning, Monday-Friday, for new links! We look for the offbeat as well as the straightforward - so don’t just think of us as a typical link farm!

    A quick abbreviation key FYI: OWH=Omaha World-Herald, LJS=Lincoln Journal-Star, CN=Corn Nation, BRN=Big Red Network, HI=Huskers Illustrated, BRR=Big Red Report. If we need to add more - we will. Others, like ESPN, are self-explanatory.


    *Doc Sadler tells the LJS that Jorge Brian Diaz and Andre Almeida may need offseason surgery, and his team needs to get mentally tougher. LJS Sipple rightly points out that mental toughness is something a coach has to develop and instill in his players.

    Folks wondering why Diaz seemed distant and despondent, well, most of the year should know, according to Sadler, "He can hardly walk."

    We didn't go to enough men's basketball practices to know how many of them Diaz missed. When we were there, he was practicing most of the time - which, of course, necessitated walking.

    That's harsh, but the injury "disclosure" is one of the older gambits in the book. Needing offseason surgery didn't stop Cam Meredith and Jeremiah Sirles from enjoying strong seasons on the football team. It didn't stop Diaz from logging 26 minutes per game - second most on the team to point guard Lance Jeter.

    Look: Diaz is a decent frontcourt guy with good offensive skills. Injury or no, Nebraska fans generally know what to expect from the kid. He needs to shoot free throws better, because a 51 percent average robs NU of two or three crucial points per game. He also doesn't draw enough fouls. That probably has to do with officials being unwilling to give him shooting fouls because of his lack of upper body aggression.

    One more thing: Sadler said he could sign as many as "3 or 4" players this spring. He only has one scholarship available - and that may go to LSU transfer Bo Spencer. Clearly, he thinks there's an opportunity for some players to leave. Whether they will or not...we'll see. A few always seem to.

    *As the Big Ten chooses to create a new hockey conference, don't expect Tom Osborne's Nebraska to join in on the fun.

    *Five Sleepers in Spring Camp, plus 5 Players On The Mend.

    *Brent Qvale and Andrew Rodriguez don't have much time to grow into starters - they have to do it now.

    *Early speculation on offensive and defensive depth charts.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, doc sadler, brent qvale, andrew rodriguez, jorge brian diaz, mens hoops

  15. 2011 Mar 22

    50 HUSKERS TO KNOW: No. 17

    4,272 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The 50 Huskers to Know returns for the 2011 spring season! We count down the players you absolutely have to watch heading into spring football, culminating with No. 1 during NU's spring break.

    The spring list, remember, is about players who are currently in the program, with an emphasis on redshirt freshmen and sophomores who might not have played much yet; in the fall, you'll see a list with more projected starters and incoming contributing recruits.

    Not included on this list is wide receiver Khiry Cooper, who spends the spring with the Husker baseball team.

    No. 17 Left guard Andrew Rodriguez

    Burned his redshirt in 2010 – for what? For this: Taking over for three-year starter Keith Williams in 2011. Although Rodriguez didn't get as much playing time as we thought he deserved, he's considered by many close to the program to be as complete a prospect as Barney Cotton's had. Big. Strong. A comportment and mean streak similar to Carl Nicks, now a Pro Bowler with the New Orleans Saints.

    At 6-6, 325 pounds, Rodriguez is a massive guard. And he plays to his weight. He has good lean and aggression. In spot play last year, he showed good footwork. If NU can't find a consistent right guard, he could play that role, too. Cotton has high hopes for Rodriguez, an All-Big Ten-type talent who just needs experience.

    No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18

    Tags: 50 huskers to know spring 2011, andrew rodriguez

  16. 2011 Mar 11

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Five Questions

    1,611 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The top questions and concerns for Nebraska football heading into spring camp are focused on a familiar spot: The offense. No shocker there – the Huskers wouldn't be shaking the Etch-A-Sketch clean if the spread-zone-read attack hadn't went kaput at all the wrong times in 2010.

    Bo and Carl Pelini's defense seems relatively set and confident, given they have potential All-American candidates at all three levels of the unit. Even losses in the secondary – Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes and Eric Hagg – can be reasonably covered by the quality depth created there by solid recruiting classes. More than anything, the relative stability of the defense allows the Pelini's to take a good, hard look at subtle adjustments – personnel packages, pass rushing schemes – that could help NU capture a Legends Division title in its first year.

    Five big questions for spring camp:

    Does Taylor Martinez break from the pack in the quarterback race, or can Cody Green and others keep the race interesting through fall?

    Offensive coordinator Tim Beck wasn't anointing Martinez as the defined starter during his presser Tuesday, but he said he sees greater confidence and better leadership from the sophomore, who clearly struggled with both toward the end of the 2010 season. And it's almost always a good sign when your new boss can crack a joke at the podium:

    “All them California guys are a little weird, right?” Beck joked of Martinez, a native of the Los Angeles area. “West Coast? I'll probably hear it from them now.”

    With Beck overhauling the entire offense, each quarterback is starting at the same learning level. But Martinez's skillset gives him a leg up in a spread attack over Green, who possesses leadership skills but lacks Martinez's speed and agility as a runner. Redshirt freshman Brion Carnes begins essentially where Martinez did one year ago, while true freshman Jamal Turner might get a long look at wide receiver, too. Junior Kody Spano is on the periphery of the conversation until we can see his knees are healthy enough to scramble around.

    When will the offensive line get some depth?

    In both the Big 12 Championship game and Holiday Bowl, left guard Keith Williams, because of a severe ankle injury, was operating, at times, on one leg. And yet he didn't get a spot on the bench because there wasn't, apparently, any backup suitable enough for extended minutes in a big postseason game. NU essentially employed six offensive linemen for most of the Big 12 campaign, with tackle Yoshi Hardrick occasionally rotating with Jeremiah Sirles on the left side. But that was it. And that needs to change.

    Three starters - Williams, right guard Ricky Henry and right tackle D.J. Jones – graduated. Marcel Jones is apparently healthy enough from a nagging back injury to resume starting duties at right tackles, but the two guard spots – where Williams and Henry logged more than 90 percent of the reps in conference – are wide open. It'd be wrong to simply anoint those jobs to sophomores Andrew Rodriguez and Brent Qvale, but Barney Cotton's job would be easier if both took control of those spots in the spring. Center Mike Caputo needs a solid backup at center, too. At tackle, Sirles will miss the spring – there's that nagging injury problem again – while a slimmer, more experienced Hardrick gets a crack at the starting left tackle job for the next month. Barney's son, Jake, moved from the defensive line to tackle, too – and it probably wasn't so Jake could guard a Taco Bell. He'll get a look.

    After Brandon Kinnie and Kyler Reed, who catches passes on the perimeter?

    New position coach Rich Fisher has options. But few of them are proven. Curenski Gilleylen disappeared after a decent sophomore season in 2009. Tim Marlowe hasn't been much of a factor. Quincy Enunwa dropped the only key passes thrown his way last year. The speedy duo of Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Kenny Bell redshirted last year. Jamal Turner just showed up on campus. Khiry Cooper's playing baseball. Walk-on KC Hyland always get raves for his hands – but he doesn't get playing time. If one of those three young running backs enrolling in the fall show immediate promise, perhaps Rex Burkhead can occasionally move out wide. Fisher, with little experience coaching at the college level, has one of the most daunting tasks among his peers.

    Who joins LaVonte David at linebacker?

    Nebraska will play eight teams in 2011 that require the Huskers to employ at least two linebackers as the base personnel; Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State might require three. Yes, the Big Ten has its share of spread offense and speedy players. But it's nothing compared to the Big 12, where teams flood their rosters with players from the spread-mad world of Texas high school football. Only one team in the Big Ten – Northwestern - employs what could be termed “basketball on grass,” and many of NU's new opponents can go big pretty quickly if the Huskers try to put four safeties on the field in a dime package.

    All that to say this: David, a senior, can't do it by himself. He'll need junior Will Compton and the oft-injured junior Sean Fisher – whom the coaches still seem to love – to make plays alongside the All-American candidate.

    Even if Bo and Carl Pelini find a suitable replacement for Eric Hagg by kickoff in 2011, it seems pretty unlikely that a player of Dejon Gomes' size could seriously match up against a tight end or a fullback in the Big Ten.

    Does NU stay the course with its four-man-collapse-the-pocket pass rush or attack off the edge more? And who does the attacking?

    Over three years, the Brothers Pelini created a specific, excellent scheme to slow down and frustrate the best Big 12 offenses: A match-zone read pass defense coupled with a pass rush that felt to quarterbacks like the walls closing in. Defensive ends Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith set a hard edge and didn't let quarterbacks get outside the pocket while Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler provided the bulk of the pressure up the middle. NU unveiled it in earnest during the 2009 Virginia Tech game; until the Hokies' final, miraculous drive, the scheme worked beautifully that day. It did a real number on several more Big 12 QBs too.

    But Big Ten quarterbacks are more comfy in pockets. And the routes they're throwing aren't always of the four-yard-out variety. Do the Brothers Pelini keep their pass rush structure from last year, or endeavor to find somebody who can tear off the edge and take over a game by himself?

    In 2003, Bo Pelini used a linebacker, Demorrio Williams, to fill that role; could Eric Martin – the talented-but-inconsistent torpedo on special teams – be the guy after a switch from linebacker? Is it Josh Williams, who has the frame but none of the production yet to go along with it?

    See more spring football coverage!

    Tags: spring football 2011, taylor martinez, tim beck, lavonte david, sean fisher, will compton, brandon kinnie, kenny bell, brion carnes, cody green, stanley jean baptiste, curenski gilleylen, carl pelini, bo pelini, rich fisher, barney cotton, andrew rodriguez, brent qvale

  17. 2011 Jan 17

    YEAR IN REVIEW: OL Report Card

    460 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Sam takes a long look at one of NU's most-criticized position groups, the offensive line. Is it earned for Barney Cotton? Yes and no. Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass

    Tags: report card, year in review, ricky henry, keith williams, mike caputo, jeremiah sirles, dj jones, andrew rodriguez, ben cotton, yoshi hardrick, barney cotton

  18. 2010 Sep 28

    Non-Conference Report Card - OL

    560 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Samuel McKewon takes the Pipeline apart piece by piece. Who's making the grade? Who needs to move that lumber a little bit faster? Find out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: report card, brent qvale, mike caputo, keith williams, ricky henry, brandon thompson, yoshi hardrick, andrew rodriguez, cole pensick, dj jones

  19. 2010 Aug 28

    Practice Report 8/28

    574 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska’s football team is down to a week before its season opener vs. Western Kentucky, and head coach Bo Pelini has budged as much on a three-man quarterback race as a turkey dinner lost to the permafrost of your garage freezer.

    But -

    “We have our plan,” Pelini said Saturday in his comments to end NU’s three-week training camp. “You’ll just have to wait and see what it is.”

    Get out your tea leaves and roll the bones on those two sentences.

    Anyway, don’t expect a depth chart - “I don’t really see any need to do that,” Pelini said - or a conventional answer to NU’s quarterback question. The coach offered up the “ten guy” solution to reporters Saturday. It only takes five to make a overpriced cheeseburger, while ten wouldn’t leave much in the way of offensive linemen on the field.

    “I don’t have a crystal ball,” Pelini said.

    Until next Saturday…

    That hot-button issue aside, Pelini declared the 2010 camp a success. Physical. Full of development and growth. NU players confirmed throughout camp that the Huskers’ workouts were more intense than in years past.

    “Guys are sick of hitting each other,” Pelini said. “They’re ready to play some football.”

    That means Western Kentucky, which Pelini called an “unusual opener” because of a brand-new coaching staff. WKU hasn’t won a game in almost two years.

    “It’s not the most ideal situation, but that doesn’t affect our players very much,” he said.

    The coach praised senior defensive end Pierre Allen, poised for a breakout year after fighting through a nasty and nagging turf toe injury in 2009.

    “He’s had a big-time camp,” Pelini said. “He’s playing really well…healthier, bigger, faster, stronger than he has been. He played at a pretty high level last year. But I think he’s pretty focused on taking it to another level this year.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a situational walkthrough Saturday morning instead of a fully-padded practice.

    What’s New: NU begins preparation for Western Kentucky. Fall camp ends. What’s been settled? At some positions - not much. The battles for playing time continue.

    Coach Quote: “I don’t think you can ever let yourself become comfortable. You’ve got to be on edge. There are certain ways you have to prepare and do things to put a quality product out on the field. That’s where my focus is.” - Head coach Bo Pelini

    Coach Quote II: My expectations are a lot higher than anybody else out here. I don’t worry about that. - Pelini, on preseason rankings

    Notes:

    ***Much remains to be seen, but here appear to the true freshman most likely to play in 2010:

    Left guard Andrew Rodriguez: Working with the two-deep after a season-ending injury to Mike Smith and some nagging injuries to Brandon Thompson. Rodriguez is raw, coaches and teammates, but possessing a lot of natural ability and talent.

    Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa: In the mix at wideout; where, exactly, is unclear. Likely behind the top three of Niles Paul, Brandon Kinnie and Mike McNeill. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said Enunwa is good at catching balls in traffic while Pelini called him “mature.”

    Defensive tackle Chase Rome: No surprise that the highly-touted freshman who enrolled early might see the field, even with the defensive tackle spot relatively well-stocked. He’s not exactly a lock to play because he necessarily have to. Carl Pelini said Rome needs to continue to “earn” that time.

    Other newcomers, juniors LaVonte David and Yoshi Hardrick, should play as well. Wide receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a sophomore, appears slightly out of the mix for now.

    Next Practice: Monday. Game week. Finally.

    Tags: football, fall camp, practice, pierre allen, quincy enunwa, chase rome, andrew rodriguez

  20. 2010 Aug 26

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/26

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson Thursday didn’t a drop even the hint of a hint on Nebraska’s three-man quarterback as fall camp comes to a close.

    He frequently used two phrases: “We’ll wait and see” and “we’re still evaluating.” A few times during the 15-minute conversation with reporters - almost solely focused on the signal caller - Watson joined the two phrases together in a marriage of ambiguity.

    Leaning against a table lined with flavored water and milk cartons shaped like bloated Hi-C boxes, Watson laughed and seemed at ease as a crush of media grew around him.

    Tired of the QB subject, Shawn?

    “I haven’t had to talk to you guys,” he joked.

    Just ten days. Probably felt longer. We missed you, too.

    “Everybody thinks you’ve got to do this thing like now,” Watson said. Deciding a quarterback.

    Well, most teams do that at the end of the camp. Kansas, Colorado and Texas Tech did in the last week. CU tried the mystery reveal last year, with head coach Dan Hawkins waiting until game night, only to watch Buffalo fans boo his son.

    Western Kentucky named its guy, and the head coach was furious with the kid three months ago. Nebraska did in 2007, choosing Sam Keller over Joe Ganz after two scrimmages.

    OK, so maybe Watson makes a point.

    He continued: “You don’t have to. You want to make sure you’re making the right decision and you’re giving it the time it needs.”

    And how much time is that?

    “We’ll decide when we decide,” Watson said.

    So the OC is bullish on keeping a poker face. He was equally assertive about the progress of senior Zac Lee, sophomore Cody Green and redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez.

    “They’ve all gotten better,” Watson said. “A lot better.”

    To test their skills, Watson said, NU “turned it loose” threw the book, the kitchen sink and the Pelini Package of weird blitzes at them. Live rounds. Big hits. Let’s see who’s standing.

    “We haven’t coddled them at all,” Watson said.

    He insisted that the offense doesn’t have to change much, either, depending on which quarterback plays. Although Lee and Martinez, for example, appear to land on opposite sides of the quarterback spectrum, Watson said all three had to “strengthen their weaknesses” to stay in the hunt.

    Lee became a better runner. Green improved his game management. Martinez polished up on his passing.

    “It’s worked out good for us,” Watson said. “And it’s worked out good for them.”

    The offense could look more like it did in 2008 with Ganz dipping and darting around, making plays. It could more closely resemble the 2009 Holiday Bowl plan - more conservative, but daring when necessary. Watson did not appeared worried, adding “we have lots of stuff.”

    On the offensive line, Watson said he’d like to develop 12 guys who could play this year. One plugged in right after another when injuries strike. NU appears on course, he said, despite a season-ending injury to Mike Smith. Bo Pelini reported no serious injuries Thursday, despite several players not practicing.

    In Smith’s wake, true freshman guard Andrew Rodriguez is, Pelini said, “working with the varsity” and seems a candidate to torch his redshirt. At left tackle, Watson said the position battle between redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles and junior Yoshi Hardrick remains ongoing. Hardrick missed practice Thursday, but Watson said he hasn’t missed a beat on the field, and players gush about his physicality.

    “He gets everybody going,” said wide receiver Brandon Kinnie, one of Hardrick’s best friends.

    Of Sirles, who’s never taken a snap in a college football game, Watson said, “Awesome. He’s good.”

    Even Pelini partook in the communion of praise for the offense.

    “I like what we’re doing scheme-wise,” he said. “I like what we’re doing personnel-wise. I feel real good about where our offense is.”

    NU returns for another heavy practice Friday before, Pelini said, the Huskers will “back down” physically in preparation for Western Kentucky, which hasn’t won a game since Sept. 20, 2008 and has beaten exactly one Division 1-A team - Middle Tennessee State - in three years.

    “We kind of doing some homework,” Pelini said. “Some of it’s guesswork.”

    You want a report? You got it.

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two-and-a-half hours on the fields east of the Hawks Championship Center.

    What’s New: Camp is coming to a close, the most physical one in recent memory. NU will begin preparing for Western Kentucky, inasmuch as a team that’s lost 20 in a row warrants an extreme degree of preparation. Although a handful of players were spotted in gym clothes as the Huskers filed out of the Hawks, Bo Pelini reported no injuries.

    Coach Quote: “It’s hard to let go of the position you coach. I always have an eye over there and I’m sneaking into their meeting rooms and stuff. I’m probably driving JP crazy.” - Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on becoming more of a “walk around” DC. Pelini was joking. He seemed quite comfortable with his defensive coaching staff, in reality.

    Player Quote: “I haven’t worked split out as a receiver at all this camp. I’ve worked strictly on the line. I’ve gained weight so I’m able to hold my own a little better.” - Sophomore tight end Kyler Reed

    Notes:

    *Nebraska fans won’t get a glimpse of him until next Saturday. But make no mistake - they will get to see junior linebacker LaVonte David, who has leaped the depth chart and is in the running to start despite being at NU for just one fall camp.

    “He really gets the game,” Carl Pelini said. “He’s got an instinct for it. Not perfect. It’s not an easy system to learn. But he’s very instinctive with it. And that’s given him an opportunity to progress rapidly…we’ve been able to throw a lot at him and he’s really absorbed it well.”

    David, of course, assumed a shot at the starting job when Sean Fisher went down with a season-ending injury. Behind him is junior Mathew May and sophomore Alonzo Whaley.

    *His development is nowhere near complete, but left guard Andrew Rodriguez appears ready to burn his redshirt for 2010 as a backup for Keith Williams. Others who may: Defensive tackle Chase Rome and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, of whom wideout coach Ted Gilmore is quite pleased.

    “He’s turned some heads,” Gilmore told several reporters.

    *Safety is a vastly different position for senior Anthony West, Carl Pelini said, but he’s found his natural spot and is hustling to get caught up on the mental aspect of the game.

    “He can’t get enough route combinations thrown at him,” Pelini said. “Every time he gets a new one, he learns from it.”

    *With depth on the defensive line, Carl Pelini expects to be tougher and more aggressive early in the season.

    “We’ve started slow on the defensive line for a couple years - statistically speaking,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of depth and in those hot, early games we got gassed. And that’s not going to happen. We’re eight, nine deep and I’m going to be comfortable rolling those guys through.”

    Next Practice: Friday. It is closed to the media.

    Tags: fall camp, practice, bo pelini, shawn watson, zac lee, cody green, taylor martinez, andrew rodriguez, anthony west, carl pelini, jeremiah sirles, yoshi hardrick, brandon kinnie, lavonte david

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