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  1. 2011 Aug 15

    Husker Heartbeat 8/15: Starling's Decision, a Defensive Duo and a Two-Sided Linemen


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - It's time for Bubba Starling to make his decision: Nebraska or the Kansas City Royals

    - Antonio Bell has been making the most of his switch to defense

    - Safety Austin Cassidy is proving his worth to the defense

    - Former Husker Henery makes a solid duo with former Florida Gator Chas Henry

    - The two sides of the NU line

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: bubba starling, alex henery, austin cassidy, antonio bell

  2. 2011 Jun 03

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Key Husker Matchups vs. Wisconsin Badgers


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Despite the loss of several members of a very dominant squad, the Badgers are going to have a very hostile environment behind them in Madison. If Nebraska wants to walk out of Camp Randall Stadium with a victory, they’re going to need to play as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

    Wisconsin’s Key Threats:

    RB Monte Ball
    RB James White
    WR Nick Toon
    DT Jordan Kohout
    DT Patrick Butrym
    CB Antonio Fenelus

    The problems:

    Ball and White are the most dangerous threats to Nebraska’s defense as they will be the first Big Ten power game that the Cornhuskers will face as a member of the conference. Nebraska struggled at times versus the inside run last season, so Bell and White may be able to bust the game wide open if the Cornhuskers can’t tighten the screws.

    Toon is likely going to be the Badgers’ best receiving threat and if Nebraska needs to clamp down on any receiver, he’s the guy. He was second only to St. Louis Rams 2011 second round draft pick Lance Kendricks in terms of production last year. Toon checked in with 36 catches for 459 yards (12.75 YPC) and three touchdowns in 2010.

    Defensive tackles Kohout and Butrym are going to be one of the most difficult inside defensive combos that Nebraska is going to face all season. The Cornhuskers are going to get a very good look at just how their offensive line can open lanes for both quarterbacks and running backs to find room to accelerate. A big problem arises if Wisky is able to stretch out too many running plays.

    Cornerback Antonio Fenelus looks to be the worst enemy for Nebraska’s passing attack. No matter who takes snaps for the Cornhuskers, there are question marks surrounding overall accuracy. Fenelus’ ability is capable of picking apart a quarterback’s confidence. A well-rounded defender, he tallied 56 tackles (43 solo), four interceptions, seven pass breakups, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 2010.

    The Solutions:

    Ball/White: This is where MIKE linebacker Will Compton may be able to make a new living aiding defensive tackles by plugging up the middle thanks to his size. If Wisky’s running backs can be forced to run sideline-to-sideline, while their power will remain it gives faster linebackers like Lavonte David or a very physical safety such as Courtney Osborne an opportunity to clean up the play.

    Toon: If there’s one thing that Nebraska isn’t concerned about, it’s pass defense and while Toon is likely to be the Badgers’ top receiver at least initially, he’s going up against one of the best secondaries in the nation. Regardless of if he draws Alfonzo Dennard or Ciante Evans, he’s going to have his hands full and likely not because he’s cradling a football.

    Kohout/Butrym: These two are somewhat lighter than your typical defensive tackle at 285 pounds, but that’s going to afford them a bit more speed. Nebraska’s attack will attempt to wear them down with a bruising running game. If the pocket holds and the Husker quarterback can make proper reads or take off when necessary, the Badger duo could find themselves gassed. This is when Nebraska busts out Aaron Green or Ameer Abdullah to take off if they can get past the line.

    Fenelus: He’s going to be one of the most difficult challenges and taking him out of the game is going to require some excellent blocking on running plays coupled with a passing game that’s found a groove. If Nebraska’s quarterback is struggling or wide receivers aren’t running crisp routes, Fenelus is going to take advantage. If he can be knocked on his butt by the Cornhuskers’ blocking, he might become a non-issue. Unfortunately, Nebraska can only do so much to ensure Fenelus won’t spoil their trip to Madison.

    Other teams: Michigan, Penn State

    Follow us on Twitter: @HuskerLocker

    Tags: monte ball, james white, nick toon, jordan kohout, patrick butrym, antonio fenelus, jared crick, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard, ciante evans, courtney osborne, aaron green, ameer abdullah

  3. 2011 Jun 02

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Blackshirts vs. The Big 10 - Part 3


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brian Towle

    Michigan State: The Spartans have much of their Co-Big Ten championship team from 2010 returning. A mind-blowing loss to Alabama in the 2011 Capitol One Bowl is driving the team hard during the offseason. Coach Mark D'Antonio returns seven starters on offense and six on defense from a team that didn't really stand out statically. The Spartans were a top 50 team last year in passing yardage even with second-team All-Big Ten quarterback Kirk Cousins.

    Running Back Edwin Baker returns as one of the top running backs in the conference. He’ll be running behind a line that is anchored by Joel Foreman and Chris McDonald, arguably the best guard combination in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. Cousins has Wide Receiver BJ Cunningham who is 10 receptions away from being the school’s all-time leader in receptions.

    Defensively, this team will return potential All-Big Ten players in defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, linebackers Max Bullough and Chris Norman and safety Trenton Robinson. The defense was decent at times last year only allowing 22 points per game. That earned them a stat ranking in the top 40. There were times that the defense did break such as when they allowed over 300 yards passing to Penn State then 546 yards total offense and 49 points to Alabama. In Big Ten conference play, the Spartans allowed almost four yards per rushing attempt while allowing over six versus the Crimson Tide.

    There were interesting times during the Spartans' season last year. Not many of us have forgotten the fake field goal that D'Antonio called in overtime against Notre Dame. That was definitely one of those calls that will make you a hero or a goat (ask Iowa State’s Paul Rhodes about that). The comebacks against Purdue and Northwestern also come to mind, but so does the egg laid against Iowa.

    The thing that strikes me about this team is that they appeared to play over their heads at points last year. The non-conference schedule was not very tough save for the Notre Dame game. In-conference, they were hung out to dry at times, but left all but one game with a victory. The win at home against Wisconsin and the come-from-behind triumph against Purdue showed how good this team can be.

    Offensively, this could be the best team that Nebraska will play sideline to sideline. Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar takes over play calling and I think that the confidence is there to hold audibles to a minimum. Cousins can slide and scramble out of the pocket and his line will be stout. Defensively, last year's team was the best in four years under defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. The key for the Spartans’ great season was takeaways. In 2009, they only had 14. In 2010, they reached 24 and was +0.38 in turnover margin.

    Michigan State seems like a team that will be good, but you question if they’ll be good enough to repeat last year’s success. There are enough returning players to justify favorable preseason predictions Big Ten play, but enough question marks to make you wonder how good they will be overall.

    Sparty has to deal with Wisconsin the week before they visit Lincoln, so it could help the Cornhuskers by getting this team just off a tough game. The Spartans should be able to speed through the non-conference schedule and if they can do so healthy, they could play close to the level that they were at last year.

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling

    Tags: michigan state, kirk cousins, mark d, antonio, edwin baker

  4. 2011 Mar 22

    SPRING FOOTBALL: 5 Camp 'Sleepers'


    By HuskerLocker

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    We've already identified ten prove-it players for spring football. Now – here's five sleepers to keep nestled in the back of your brain as we progress over the next month. These are guys who haven't been projected to make a splash – yet.

    Cornerback Antonio Bell: He spent the 2010 season transitioning from wide receiver to corner, and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said he began to pick up the defense by the end of last fall. A 6-2, 190 pounds, he'll battle Ciante Evans for the starting job at field corner – we're presuming Alfonzo Dennard becomes the boundary “lockdown” guy now that Prince Amukamara has graduated.

    Wide receiver KC Hyland: Arguably NU's tallest pass-catcher – 6-6, 215 - since Matt Herian, this walk-on has a scout team reputation for catching nearly every pass thrown his way. Now a junior, he'll get a chance to compete for playing time among a relatively-unproven corps of wide receivers. Hyland is probably a backup to Brandon Kinnie right now, but that could change over the course of the next five months. New position coach Rich Fisher is likely to play the guys who can read defenses well, get open, and block well enough on zone read plays.

    Running back Ty Kildow: He moves from wide receiver to the position he played until his junior year in high school. Kildow shredded his knee in a 7-on-7 competition the summer before his senior year, likely costing him a football scholarship. The 5-7, 180-pounder is back to full speed and strength, and he could be an interesting option as a punt returner – where he excelled in high school. Kildow has the speed – and he's hard to find.

    Tight end Jake Long: Nebraska's depleted tight end corps means At 6-4, 240, Long, a walk-on sophomore, will get a long look as the No. 3 overall tight end – and perhaps the No. 2 guy on power running formations. A pre-med major, he's plenty smart enough to pick up the Huskers' new simplified offense, and he's put on good weight to help his heft and strength on running plays. Just 10-15 years ago, Long probably would have been a scholarship guy at NU. He has a chance to earn one by the time he's done.

    Linebacker Graham Stoddard: He's certainly no sleeper on special teams, where he had an impressive 11 tackles last season. Stoddard, a junior walk-on, will vie for time at linebacker, where his 6-2, 235-pound frame could come in handy against some of power-running teams the Huskers will face in the Big Ten. If Nebraska struggles at all with injuries there – Stoddard could be the guy.

    See also: Husker Monday Takes - On Barney, Beck and OL Depth

    Tags: spring football 2011, antonio bell, ty kildow, kc hyland, graham stoddard, jake long

  5. 2011 Mar 03

    50 HUSKERS TO KNOW: No. 42


    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. 42 Defensive backs Lazarri Middleton and Antonio Bell

    Add these two talented players to a list of guys vying for playing time in an already-crowded secondary. Middleton, now a sophomore, has good feet and instincts. He existed on the fringe of the depth chart last fall after running into some off-the-field disciplinary issues last spring. He'll get a look over the next month; don't be shocked if he makes a move. At 6-1, 190 pounds, he reminds us a little of Dejon Gomes. Does he have Gomes' intelligence? We'll see.

    Bell moved from wide receiver to defensive back last year. The light came on in scout team work late last fall, and Bell – with a 6-2 frame – is an interesting corner prospect. He has plenty of speed – he's one of the fastest guys on the team – but his physicality needs work. Still – if defensive back Carl Pelini singles you out in an interview late during last season – and Carl did that with Bell – it's something to stick in the file. Both of these guys will have battle past Andrew Green and Ciante Evans this spring – and then Charles Jackson next fall.

    See all 50 Huskers! No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43

    Tags: 50 huskers to know spring 2011, lazarri middleton, antonio bell

  6. 2011 Jan 28

    YEAR IN REVIEW: CB Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Samuel McKewon breaks down the cornerback play in 2010...and the highest grade just might surprise you. Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: year in review, report card, alfonzo dennard, prince amukamara, ciante evans, anthony west, anthony blue, lazarri middleton, dijon washington, charles jackson, jase dean, antonio bell

  7. 2010 Aug 10

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/10


    By HuskerLocker

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    The giant cargo doors to the Hawks Championship Center were shut tight Tuesday afternoon. The Nebraska football team turned on the air conditioning inside the giant facility, and the Huskers practiced indoor after surviving 100-degree temperatures on Monday.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson told reporters the adjustment was needed for Nebraska to conduct a second “high-intensity” practice after Monday.

    “When you go outside, and it’s that hot, it’s just hard,” Watson said. “After a while, the human body just wears down. We want practices that are high intensity practices where we’re able to execute for the duration of practice. We came in because we wanted to get our practices more crisp.”

    NU didn’t change a thing in its routine, Watson said. He didn’t offer a prediction for where Wednesday’s fully-padded workout might take place, since the heat is not likely to subside in Lincoln until the weekend.

    Nor did Watson betray much about the quarterback race that remains in its early stages.

    “The last two days have been really competitive,” Watson said.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced inside the Hawks Championship Center for 2½ hours. NU donned the helmets and shoulder pads, and will wear the leg pads on Wednesday.

    What’s New: Practicing indoors. It wasn’t exactly cool inside the Hawks Center, but the conditions were significantly better than Monday’s scorcher. Also, guard Nick Ash appears to be the 105th player on Nebraska’s roster. Ash appeared Tuesday in a helmet and jersey.

    Coach Quote: He’s in China…I don’t put the fire hose out there for him to drink out of, I just give him the garden hose so he can get his feet under him. - Shawn Watson on freshman quarterback Brion Carnes It can’t be easy trying to evaluate three quarterbacks while bringing along a freshman, too.

    Player Quote: “All of the cornerbacks throughout the day, I’ll ask them ‘What am I supposed to do in this certain defense?’ Throughout the day, they tell me. At practice, I ask them all the time. They’re always helping me. Everybody has my back. They know I’m new, so they help me out every chance they can.” - Defensive back Antonio Bell It could be a good fit for Bell, who was never destined to be much of a run blocker at wide receiver.


    *Left tackle Jermarcus Hardrick was held out of practice Tuesday. Hardrick was struggling with cramps and heat on Monday. Bo Pelini will address the issue further after practice Wednesday.

    *Guard Keith Williams was held out of practice and is expected back Wednesday.

    *One reason senior Mike McNeill was moved to his “adjuster” role was to make way for sophomore Ben Cotton, whom Watson compared to tight ends he coached at Colorado, which includes one of the best in Big 12 history, Daniel Graham.

    “Ben can run, he can catch, he can block, he can do everything,” Watson said. “And he’s developed into a really good player. We wanted to clear the way for him.”

    *It’s hard to miss freshman guard Andrew Rodriguez - at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, he’s one of the largest players on the team - but his athleticism and nimble feet draw equal attention in drills.

    Although Rodriguez has “a lot of technique work to do,” Watson said, the OC added that “he’s got size and strength that a lot of freshmen don’t have.”

    “He’s been very impressive just in his skillset,” Watson said.

    Next Practice: Wednesday afternoon, as the Huskers will be able to practice in full pads for the first time.

    Tags: football, fall camp, shawn watson, brion carnes, yoshi hardrick, andrew rodriguez, alfonzo dennard, ben cotton, antonio bell, nick ash, keith williams

  8. 2010 Apr 20

    SPRING IN REVIEW: Wide Receiver


    By HuskerLocker

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    Following the 2010 spring camp, Nebraska now looks back at the progress made by each position group - and what progress is yet to come.

    Position: Wide Receiver

    Spring Summary: It’s Niles Paul’s world - the rest of the Nebraska receivers are just trying to catch up. But it’s important that Paul has a running mate for 2010 - and that appears to be junior Brandon Kinnie. Kinnie has the frame and the hands, but he needs to better develop top-end speed and separation skills. NU welcomed tight end Mike McNeill to the “adjuster” role; he still has to get used to “all the running” wide receivers do, but he could be a useful asset on third down. Khiry Cooper is busy playing baseball this spring, while guys like Curenski Gilleylen, Will Henry, Tim Marlowe and Antonio Bell continue to fight for playing time. Because this group appears more humble than last year’s version, we expect it to be better.

    Big Mover: Gilleylen, who worked hard this spring to get back in the of the good graces of position coach Ted Gilmore. He has the straight-line speed and build to be a solid slot receiver; Gilleylen needs to hold on to the ball more, and run more effectively after the catch. Too often, Gilleylen dropped the ball because he was too worried about where he was about to run.

    More to Prove: Antonio Bell. Needs to get bigger, stronger, and more aggressive in getting open. Bell has too much speed to sit the bench.

    Wild Card: Cooper, whose athletic skills are off the charts, but split between two sports. Cooper could be a terrific slot receiver if he solely devoted his time to football.

    Freshmen to Add: Quincy Enunwa, the big-bodied sleeper that some within the program expect to compete for playing time right away, and Kenny Bell, an injury-prone speedster who’s a long-strider and needs to gain to play significant snaps at NU.

    Injuries: Nothing serious.

    How to Spend Summer Vacation: Chemistry, chemistry, chemistry. Finding a role for McNeill beyond simply a new position. And separating from defensive backs at the line of scrimmage. Paul can do it consistently. The rest of the Huskers cannot.

    Spring Reviews on Quarterback, Offensive LineRunning Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End

    Tags: spring game 2010, niles paul, brandon kinnie, khiry cooper, mike mcneill, will henry, curenski gilleylen, tim marlowe, antonio bell, kenny bell, recruiting

  9. 2010 Apr 07

    SPRING FB: At WR, The Long Journey Continues


    By HuskerLocker

    It was the gut check of Curenski Gilleylen’s career.

    The Nebraska receiver, then a sophomore, had just been demoted from starter to scout after a 9-7 loss to Iowa State. He tried to take his medicine, man up, roll with it.

    But then he stood on the sidelines of NU’s 20-10 win at Baylor, waiting to enter the game for one play. Any play.

    “It was one of the first times I had a lot of family there,” said Gilleylen, a native of nearby Leander, Texas. One hour from Waco.

    But wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore never sent him in. Not once. Imagine how that would burn.

    “I realized then, this is for real,” Gilleylen said.

    Said Gilmore: “I think (Curenski) miscalculated how long it would take.”

    And no wide receiver could have hoped to predict what happened to the Cornhuskers’ offense after that. The power sets. The fullback. Four tight ends, lined up like dock workers, mashing into extra defensive linemen. Three yards and a mist of the rubber stuff in FieldTurf.

    Other than Niles Paul, do you think any of NU’s wide receivers signed up for that? Standing on the sidelines, watching trench warfare between the hash marks?

    “Did I have counseling sessions at times?” Gilmore said. “Sure. Absolutely. But we have to understand at times we have to surrender the ‘I for the We.’”

    Brandon Kinnie, an athletic junior college transfer, watched all of it transpire, watched friends Gilleylen and Menelik Holt get demoted, thus opening a door for him. Time to step through it.

    It cracked open once before in the Missouri game, when Gilmore benched his starters to begin the third quarter and welcomed Kinnie and Antonio Bell to a driving rainstorm, without their gloves, which Gilmore had snatched from his pupils at halftime.

    Then Zac Lee fluttered a pass toward Kinnie’s feet. A slider in the dirt, low and outside, no gloves, hard rain, soaked ball, smashed up against the sideline.

    Like you’d catch that.

    So Kinnie was taken out. Later, Paul rescued the Huskers with the first great catches of his career.

    When Holt got demoted - never to really return - and Chris Brooks got hurt right after that vs. Texas Tech, Kinnie seized his second opportunity.

    “I was like ‘anything can happen,’” Kinnie said. “I just kept telling myself: You have to make plays.”

    He made a few - two of the seven receptions in the Oklahoma game, two more in the Big 12 Championship game. The Sooners and Longhorns blanketed Paul. Kinnie was Plan B. And he finally figured out blocking by the Kansas State game.

    “That took the whole year,” Kinnie said.

    But Kinnie, a talkative, motivated competitor, was more driven by what he didn’t do. Didn’t catch a touchdown. Didn’t get his foot down on two key plays vs. Texas, one on third down, when Lee dialed up Kinnie - not Paul - on an end zone fade route.

    “If I have had that ball, we score a touchdown,” Kinnie said. “We would have won that game, we would have been Big 12 champs.”

    Gilleylen felt the same way about his near-miss vs. Iowa State. He ran a post, Lee stuck the ball a little high and wide. Gilleylen only got two fingers on it, tipping the ball to a Cyclone defender. Pick. Eighth turnover of nine for the day.

    “That’s a ball you want to come down with,” Gilleylen said. “And that pretty much sealed the game. That’s one I wish I could have had back.”

    How much would the receivers, as a group, take back from 2009? Enough of it.

    The mastery of small details - ball security, route running, hand placement - that defined Nate Swift and Todd Peterson in their senior seasons eluded the 2009 bunch. Instead - frustration. Ego. Inconsistency. Immaturity.

    “I got comfortable a little bit,” Gilleylen admitted. “I can’t get complacent. I always have to strive to get better.”

    It’s still a journey. For all of them, really, even Paul, although Gilmore sets him apart for now.

    “He’s had one mistake all camp,” Gilmore said. “He’s really matured.”

    Kinnie, who knows his coach too well, rattles off a list of details he trying to master. Gilmore, while praising the junior for his competitive zeal, just as quickly mentions: “We’ve got to clean up his routes.”

    Beyond that, Kinnie guns for Paul. It’s friendly, but hardcore. Somebody has to push No. 24.

    “Every little thing you could think of, we competed at it,” Kinnie said.

    Gilleylen started spring camp, Gilmore said, “on fire.” Gilleylen has that gear, you see. Straight-line speed, size, strength. He flashed all of it at the beginning of last year, when he made many of the best plays in the Florida Atlantic game, including the one he was proudest of, a block to spring Holt for a touchdown.

    But then Gilleylen “took a step back” in the last two spring practices, Gilmore said.

    “He’s got to play hard, he’s got to play explosive every single time,” Gilmore said. “We’re still working on that. We’re not where we need to be.”

    Gilleylen’s battling with senior “adjuster” Mike McNeill for the slot job while Paul holds down one outside receiver job and Kinnie seeks to secure the other. Sophomore Khiry Cooper rejoins the fray in the fall. Tim Marlowe’s in there. Sophomore Antonio Bell is “on the come,” Gilmore said, but he needs to catch more balls this summer, build up his confidence. More work in the weight room, too.

    “You see it on the field,” Gilmore said. “He’s getting knocked around a little bit.”

    A challenger has emerged at the edge of the frame, too, in senior walk-on Joe Broekemeier. Doesn’t know what he doesn’t know yet. But he has ball skills. And a summer to catch up.

    “This fall could be interesting,” Gilmore said of Broekemeier, but he could have been talking about the entire corps.

    Kinnie uses a different phrase: “Big-time.” He’ll answer a question that way, or use it as a description. Oh, big-time, big-time.

    Interesting. Big-time. The distance between the two.

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, ted gilmore, brandon kinnie, curenski gilleylen, antonio bell, niles paul, joe broekemeier, tim marlowe, khiry cooper

  10. 2010 Apr 03

    SPRING FB: Offensive 'Flashes' in Scrimmage


    By HuskerLocker

    It appeared that offensive coordinator Shawn Watson was pleased following the Nebraska football team’s first major scrimmage of spring camp.

    Because the media doesn’t watch scrimmages, it’d be hard to tell you precisely why that was. Watson, while upbeat, was certainly sticking to the very basics.

    “All we wanted to do was block,” Watson said. “Wanted to run. Tackle. Throw. Catch.”

    And yet Watson said the offense, through 10 days of workouts, was “right where we want to be.”

    “We’re seeing execution on film with a bunch of younger players, sorting through what, a week ago, was new,” Watson said. “It’s become familiar.”

    The handful of injuries sustained before or during spring camp has opened the door to backups like sophomore tight end Kyler Reed, whom Watson pointed to as a player benefiting from minor setbacks to sophomore Ben Cotton and senior Dreu Young.

    “Sometimes hardships bring a blessing to somebody else,” Watson said. “And that’s what it’s been for (Reed). He’s getting better because of the reps.”

    Elsewhere, NU is getting good work from its skill players at quarterback, running back and wide receiver, although Watson wasn’t exactly singling any player out. In questions posed to him, Watson praised quarterback Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead, but added “that goes for all the players” at their given positions.

    Over the course of 150 plays, Nebraska rotated its quarterbacks every eight. Martinez, a redshirt freshman, is “getting better” as a passer thanks to a “humble attitude” and a “hard hat” work ethic.

    Running back remains a strength with three experienced backs - senior Roy Helu and sophomores Burkhead and Dontrayevous Robinson - leading the way.

    “Never been a problem with me, buddy,” Watson said in reference to the depth and rotation at the position. “Everybody’s going to a two or three-back system…what we have now in perfect. It’s by design.”

    At receiver, Watson unsurprisingly praised senior Niles Paul, then pointed to seniors Will Henry and Joe Broekemeier, junior Curenski Gilleylen and sophomore Antonio Bell as players who have “flashed” during the spring. That quartet is likely battling for the No. 4 receiver spot behind Paul, junior Brandon Kinnie and senior “adjuster” Mike McNeill.

    “Consistency is what we’re looking for (at receiver),” Watson said. “And that’s where we’re not quite at yet.”

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, shawn watson, rex burkhead, taylor martinez, niles paul, kyler reed, joe broekemeier, antonio bell, will henry, curenski gilleylen

  11. 2010 Feb 25

    50 Huskers to Know: No. 40


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    WR Antonio Bell, 6-2, 180, So.

    Bell’s moment came - and went - in the second half of the Missouri, when Ted Gilmore inserted him into the game to try and make plays. Bell dropped a low pass thrown by Zac Lee. He missed another block. And he rarely played again in 2009.

    He should have been red shirted, but so it goes. In 2010, he’ll get the chance to be a speed outside receiver behind Brandon Kinnie. Bell has speed to burn. He possesses pretty good hands, the drop in the rain at Missouri notwithstanding. He’s not a big guy, and that seems to work against him in the Gilmore rotation, but Bell admitted himself he’s learned a lot about how to block and run routes.

    Bell needs to get bigger. But he probably won’t get huge. So he’ll have to get tougher and fill the role Frantz Hardy so capably did for three year. Bell needs to run routes more effectively and become a passable blocker.

    Want All 50 Huskers? Join Husker Locker for free!

    Tags: 50 huskers to know 2010, antonio bell

  12. 2010 Jan 07

    50 Huskers in Review: Nos. 40-36


    By HuskerLocker

    In the summer and fall, Husker Locker created its “50 Huskers to Know” list for the 2009 season. We now review our list by examining production, injuries and depth chart position.

    We’ll present these in five-player increments. Here we go!

    No. 40 Tim Marlowe - Muted impact at wide receiver, where he didn’t catch a pass. As a kick returner, he served beside Niles Paul for the last half of the season and mostly held his own; like Paul in his first year, Marlowe was occasionally too impatient for blocks to set up. He’ll have to work hard to make it on the field as a receiver. He’s a top guy on the return units, however.

    No. 39 Dejon Gomes/Alfonzo Dennard - We obviously had these too low, but, then, it was hard to gauge the impact of what were then two backup cornerbacks. Gomes is a stud - athletic, opportunistic, a competitor and humble. Dennard has pro talent in every which way - hops, speed, aggression. Both are on NFL caliber players, and part of the best secondary in America in 2010.

    No. 38 Jason Ankrah/Andrew Green - If you had to pick two freshmen that Carl Pelini was most excited about heading into 2010, these two would be neck and neck with Eric Martin. Green, from all reports, is precisely the kind of man/zone corner Nebraska needs. Ankrah is a promising defensive end product with a prototypical frame.

    No. 37 Antonio Bell - In hindsight, he should have redshirted and taken a year to bulk up and learn how to block in Ted Gilmore’s system. Bell has plenty of receiving talent, but lacks confidence and physicality.

    No. 36 Colton Koehler - After playing quite a bit in the first two games, Koehler fell back to third string linebacker - behind Phillip Dillard and Will Compton - and played sparingly. Still - “Farm Dog” was a good team guy, and a player Husker fans will remember fondly.

    Tags: 50 huskers in review, colton koehler, antonio bell, jason ankrah, andrew green, dejon gomes, alfonzo dennard, tim marlowe

  13. 2009 Aug 26

    LP Practice Report 8/26: Ready Or Not...


    By HuskerLocker

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    Why Bo Pelini's frustration Wednesday wasn't a ploy, why his defense isn't as simple as you've been led to believe, and which receiver is emerging with his speed. A super huge practice report - all 1,500 words! Catch it all with a 30-day free trial to Locker Pass!

    Tags: ndamukong suh, zac lee, larry asante, bo pelini, locker pass, ron kellogg, antonio bell

  14. 2009 Aug 25

    At WR, Nothing's Settled...Yet


    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore had wanted to find his six or seven top candidates for playing by the end of last week.

    On Tuesday, Gilmore said, he’s carrying the competition over to the end of this week. As of now, only one player – junior Niles Paul – has earned significant playing time, and another sophomore Marcus Mendoza, moved back to running back. That leaves roughly a dozen players for five spots.

    Well, maybe five more spots.

    “You knew what? I threw that number out, six, but if two of them are doing it, then two of them are going to play,” Gilmore said. “I’m looking for the best football players.

    And if NU needs four pass-catchers for a third down, who fills the role? Tight ends?

    “There you go,” Gilmore said. “We’re gonna put the best 11 players on the football field.”

    The receiving corps has until the end of this week to prevent Gilmore and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson from implementing any kind of plan out of the Norman Dale handbook.

    Said Watson: “They’re competing. We’ll find out who those guys are. We’ll give them to the end of the week to figure it out.”

    Here are the likeliest candidates for those roles:

    Senior Chris Brooks: Battled injuries, expectations and bouts of inconsistency to earn more playing time at the end of 2008. He was NU’s No. 5 receiver and occasionally lined up in the slot. He caught a touchdown pass vs. Kansas.

    Senior Menelik Holt: Has been slated to start by pundits and most fans since the start of spring football, but the coaching staff has handed the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder nothing thus far. Holt had 31 catches in 2008.

    Senior Wes Cammack: Specialist on kick coverage units in 2008, finishing with nine tackles. He caught a touchdown in the spring game and just went on scholarship last week.

    Junior Will Henry: A 6-5, slender outside receiver who had strong practice sessions in late 2008 and during the spring. Gilmore said last week Henry’s had a fair camp, but hadn’t made any standout plays.

    Junior Adam Watson: Shawn Watson’s son. Converted walk-on safety.

    Sophomore Curenski Gilleylen: With speed to burn and a good frame, he could be a front-runner at slot, but he’s struggled catching the ball at times.

    Sophomore Brandon Kinnie: Looks the part at 6-3, 220 pounds, but is “sinking” in terms of learning the playbook.

    “He hasn’t really shown what he can do,” Gilmore said. “And you can see it in his play. His hesitation…once he gets it, we’ve got something good there.”

    Redshirt freshman Khiry Cooper: The two-sport kid who missed all of spring camp playing baseball.

    Redshirt freshman Steven Osborne: Tall, lanky guy whose brother, Courtney, plays defensive back. Gilmore has alternately praised and been tough on Osborne during fall camp.

    Redshirt freshman Tim Marlowe: Small, speedy slot guy whom Gilmore has praised a couple times in camp.

    True freshman Antonio Bell: Nicknamed “Lil Frantz” because he has a frame and speed like former NU receiver Frantz Hardy, Bell has shown good receiving skills. Now it’s a matter of blocking and getting separation at the line of scrimmage. Same obstacles Hardy had, although Hardy enjoyed a solid career, and caught 54 passes for 971 yards and seven touchdowns during his career.

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    Tags: ted gilmore, shawn watson, niles paul, menelik holt, brandon kinnie, antonio bell, tim marlowe, khiry cooper, steven osborne, wes cammack, adam watson

  15. 2009 Aug 17

    Locker Pass Practice Report 8/17


    By HuskerLocker

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    Just how good does Zac Look? Also, breaking down the fierce, loaded competition at wide receiver. Check it all out with a 30-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: locker pass, bo pelini, niles paul, quentin castille, brandon kinnie, antonio bell, zac lee, phillip dillard

  16. 2009 Aug 05

    5 Fall Camp Questions - Special Teams


    By HuskerLocker

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    It’s one of the three phases, right? And it literally saved Nebraska’s hide in a 40-31 win over Colorado.

    So of course we’ve got five fall camp questions for NU’s special teams units. Click here for the offensive questions and here for the defensive questions.

    Now – let’s get to it.

    What can Alex Henery do for an encore?

    He can punt, that’s what, and Nebraska needs a good one. Field position is a defense’s best friend, and too often in 2008, previous punter Dan Titchener wasn’t up to the task. We’ve seen Henery thump some real bombs in practice, but that’s just practice. NU will be better off if Henery wins the job over walk-on Brett Maher, but not if it distracts him from what he does well – which is boot game-winning, mind-boggling field goals.

    Snapper? Holder? Anyone?

    T.J. O’Leary and Jake Wesch have left the building, so these two jobs are as wide open as the Nebraska prairie. NU would like to see true freshman walk-on P.J. Mangieri – one of the nation’s best pure high school snappers – assume that role for four years for the Huskers, and maybe take that skill to the NFL. As for holder…well, if Henery’s the punter, too, then it can’t be him. We’d prefer a backup quarterback, but we won’t pitch a Joe Thiesmann fit if it doesn’t happen. Just know that, when you least want it to happen, these two little roles can botch a perfectly simple punt or field goal try.

    On punt returns - Niles Paul or the pups?

    Paul wasn’t exactly inspiring in the role early last year before Nate Swift took it over (again) and did a fine job. There would be seem to be plenty of candidates for this role – Antonio Bell, Tim Marlowe, Rex Burkhead, Khiry Cooper – but, of course, they’ll have to earn it. NU chose the conservative route with Swift in 2008, and it actually paid off.

    True freshmen on the coverage teams?

    Last year, Bo Pelini’s massive redshirting campaign probably kept some excellent candidates from helping out in the special teams department, although Alfonzo Dennard and Mason Wald (since departed) lent their hands to the cause. How does Pelini, and special teams guy John Papuchis, revamp that plan in 2009? Business as usual, use the redshirts from last year, or populate those units with true freshmen, presuming they’re ready? We wouldn’t be shocked if a guy like Dijon Washington takes on the Dennard/Rickey Thenarse role on this year’s squad.

    Can Adi Kunalic continue the magic?

    He’s the best kickoff specialist in the nation – when he kicks a touchback. When Kunalic doesn’t boot it beyond the end zone, his low, driving boots tend to be quite returnable. Supposedly he’s worked on angled kicks, pop-up kicks, and the like. Hopefully Nebraska fans see the fruits of his labor in 2009.

    Join today and get Husker updates every day throughout the fall!

    Tags: alex henery, adi kunalic, pj mangieri, dijon washington, khiry cooper, antonio bell, tim marlowe, alfonzo dennard, fall camp

  17. 2009 Jun 25

    HLSS Rookie Rundowns: Antonio Bell


    By HuskerLocker

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    Antonio Bell may have more natural gifts than any receiver on NU's team. But can he fulfill his potential? We examine his strengths and weaknesses in this Locker Pass exclusive.

    Tags: antonio bell, rookie rundowns, locker pass, hlss

  18. 2009 Apr 18

    SPRING GAME: White Team Standouts


    By HuskerLocker

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    After the Red's 31-17 victory over the White team, seven Huskers who impressed us on the white team:

    Chris Brooks, wide receiver: Brooks made a number of difficult catches in the first half off of the arm of Latravis Washington, and hustled down on a Brett Maher punt to help down it at the one-yard line. Brooks finally looked ready Saturday to break the two-deep and be a capable backup to Menelik Holt. He hustled, ran good routes, and made tough catches.

    "He played like senior today," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "Really played big, which is good to see."

    Latravis Washington, quarterback: By no means is Washington ready to lead the Cornhuskers. But, in a mop-up or limited role, he showed Saturday he can make a play or two. Washington played quite well against the red’s top defense.

    "For where he started as a linebacker about a month ago, he came a long way," head coach Bo Pelini said.

    Antonio Bell, wide receiver: Bell’s going to be a stud, Husker fans. He made an incredible catch to help set up the white team’s only touchdown, and he showed impressive burst on punt and kickoff returns. Bell’s ready. Now.

    "He made a very competitive catch today, which was awesome to see," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "He's really talented kid."

    Keith Williams, left guard: Punishing performance from Williams. He helped open a lot of holes for the white offense early in the game.

    "I always was going against Keith today," defensive tackle Jared Crick said. "Every play was just a battle. It's been a battle all spring inside. He's 330 and strong as an ox. So he's really taught me to play great technique."

    Will Compton, linebacker: Compton got burned a few times in pass coverage, yeah, when Zac Lee threw right over his head. But Compton was very active against the run, and generally around the ball quite a bit.

    Austin Jones, running back: It was Jones, and not Lester Ward, who received more carries Saturday and looked like the team’s No. 3 guy. Jones showed wiggle, toughness and good hands.

    Baker Steinkuhler, defensive tackle: Obviously Ndamukong Suh was more dominating – pretty much unblockable for the first quarter – but Steinkuhler showed good technique and push, as well. He’ll challenge Jared Crick throughout the fall.

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    Tags: 2009 spring game, springtime with bo, latravis washington, chris brooks, antonio bell, baker steinkuhler, keith williams, austin jones, will compton

  19. 2009 Apr 18

    SPRING GAME: Red Wakes Up, Beats White


    By HuskerLocker

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    By the time Zac Lee finally got the play, the route and the read he had been looking for, he had to deal with something that’s typical of just about any Red/White Spring Game: A player slightly off assignment, out of position. Only this time it was linebacker Will Compton, right in front Lee’s perfectly lofted ball to receiver Marcus Mendoza near the goal line.

    For Lee, it figured. The first two drives of his debut as NU’s top quarterback had been unceremonious three-and-outs, punctuated with a “phantom sack.” Seems a ref thought somebody touched Lee’s emerald green jersey for a half second while Lee stood in the pocket.

    Meanwhile, White team quarterback Latravis Washington had already spearheaded two scoring drives – helped greatly by good hands of receivers Chris Brooks and Antonio Bell - leading his bunch to a 10-0 lead. The White looked surprisingly in control.

    Finally, the junior from San Francisco got some breathing room on the third drive. And as he watched his pass float toward Mendoza, he wondered, why was Compton so close to it? Mendoza wasn’t his man.

    “Will was a lot deeper than I would have liked,” Lee said. “The ball was close to being tipped.”

    But it wasn’t, as it landed right over Compton’s hands and into Mendoza’s waiting arms. It was first of three Lee touchdown passes, and the first six of the Red’s 31 consecutive points in a 31-17 victory over White Saturday in front of more than 77,000 fans who enjoyed a sunny, warm day at Memorial Stadium.

    For the game, Lee completed 15 of 18 passes for 214 yards. He also threw touchdowns to tight end Ben Cotton (24 yards, on a similar route over the middle) and Wes Cammack (42 yards, with a perfectly thrown pass in between cornerback Anthony West and Larry Asante).

    “I’d like to say it went pretty well,” Lee said. “I’m sure I’ll see some things on film that I’d like to get better at. It was good. We had some success.”

    As did the White bunch, which controlled most of the first half until Lee’s first touchdown pass and a fumble on its following offensive drive by reserve running back Lester Ward. The White defense, led by Ndamukong Suh and a surprisingly quick and physical Barry Turner initially stung the No. 1 Red offense and its top offensive line. Quentin Castille was twice dragged down behind the line of scrimmage, and Lee was forced to throw the ball quickly.

    On White’s offense Washington, a converted linebacker who’s been a quarterback for all of four weeks, started his day with an eight-minute drive, culminating in an Adi Kunalic field goal.

    He completed of 9 of 13 passes in the first half for 112 yards and a touchdown to Brooks. The highlight play was a 27-yard fade route to freshman Antonio Bell, who leapt on one foot to make the catch and landed on his back. Washington found Brooks two plays later with a four-yard TD pass.

    “Some of my passes, I was just jumping at them,” Washington said. “But after that first series, I calmed down and managed the game really well.”

    Meanwhile, Lee was trying to dodge rushers and pick his spots wisely.

    Surprising? Not necessarily. It was part of what head coach Bo Pelini envisioned in equally splitting up the teams for the game.

    “We had a lot of guys playing next to people that they haven’t played next to before,” he said. “That takes some time. It’s not an ideal situation, but for what we wanted to accomplish today, it’s the right thing to do…you saw them get more confident and kind of get their feet underneath them.”

    Once Lee hit Mendoza, the Red’s collective feet hit the ground rather quickly. They amassed 380 total yards in the game, almost all of it in the final seven or so drives.

    Defensive tackle Terrence Moore stripped Ward on the White’s next drive. Tyrone Fahie recovered for the game’s only turnover. Lee took back over and hit Cotton for a touchdown two plays later. The Red led 14-10 at halftime. After the White team punted to begin the third quarter, Lee completed three consecutive passes, the last of them to Cammack, who badly beat cornerback Anthony West on a post route, then scooted around Asante at the five-yard line and dove into the end zone.

    “We were moving in a good direction in terms of just being aggressive to the football and finishing plays,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. “I just saw shades of last of year and I didn’t like that. That’s got to get fixed.”

    The Red tacked on an Alex Henery field goal to begin the fourth quarter, then benefited from the day’s best run, a 33-yarder by redshirt freshman Collins Okafor, who cut back left into a wide hole, shimmied to his right, and accelerated through two tacklers on his way to the end zone. Okafor, who entered the game as NU’s No. 5 running back, led all rushers with 79 yards.

    “Every day, he’s been getting better,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “Today was icing on the cake for him. He really stood out.”

    Washington capped scoring for the White with a 71-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyler Reed. Washington sidestepped the rush and found Reed, wide open, 15 yards away from him. Reed hauled in the pass and did the rest, outsprinting all of NU’s defensive backs to the end zone.

    “He’s very explosive,” Watson said. “As he grows, he’ll really enhance us.”

    Reed’s performance was part of a strong group showing from Ron Brown’s crew. In all, tight ends caught 17 passes for 255 yards - almost half of the passes caught in the game.

    Quite frequently, they were wide open on short curl routes underneath the linebackers, who were often camped out in unusually deep Cover 2 zones. Lee and redshirt freshman Cody Green in particular feasted on throwing to them, while Washington was a little more apt to stretch the ball downfield.

    “A lot of talent there, and some experience,” Bo Pelini said. “We feel real good at that spot. We’re deep at that spot.”

    Overall, Pelini declared himself “happy” by the scrimmage, and the spring itself, which he called “long and physical.” Many of Nebraska’s practices dragged near the three-hour mark, and were longer than the Red/White Spring Game itself. NU’s coaches mixed and matched quite a bit throughout the spring, trying to find the right combination of players.

    Players must now hone their talents on their own this summer, and prepare for an even more competitive fall before the Sept. 5 Florida Atlantic game.

    “We got a lot accomplished in spring ball,” Pelini said. “We got a lot done. I’m happy. I’m not satisfied, but I’m happy with the progress we made. But we have a long way to go yet.”

    Tags: 2009 spring game, springtime with bo, zac lee, bo pelini, shawn watson, kyler reed, latravis washington, collins okafor, will compton, chris brooks, antonio bell

  20. 2009 Apr 03

    SPRING FB: Wats Talks "O"


    By HuskerLocker

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    More than 800 high school coaches milled around Nebraska’s football practice Friday as the Cornhuskers hosted their second day of the coaches clinic and capped it off with a situational scrimmage near the end of practice.

    NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson indicated “some good and some bad” in Friday’s two-and-a-half-hour workout. Friday was a “heavy install” day according to a number of coaches, so many of the younger Huskers – and some of the older ones – seemed to be swimming in the details a bit.

    Watson did, however, take the time Friday to run down some of the offensive players he’s been impressed with so far in fall camp.

    At quarterback, Watson kept the compliments pretty boilerplate. Zac Lee is handling the offense well, Kody Spano "has had his moments" and Cody Green is just hitting the ground with both feet now.

    "They're getting it mentally," Watson said.

    Running back Roy Helu “plays well every day,” Watson said. “I don’t expect anything but that. You watch film, he’s always making plays.”

    On the offensive line, Watson said he’s particularly pleased with left guard Keith Williams and center Jacob Hickman. Hickman, Watson said, “got lost in the sauce” last year, but “us as coaches know how good of a player Jacob Hickman is.”

    “He captains every call on the offensive line,” Watson said. Not only is he a smart player, but he’s a talented player.”

    At right guard, where D.J. Jones and Ricky Henry are duking it out for the starting job, play “has to get more consistent,” Watson said. Although Jones is getting “more assured of his assignments” and Henry has been “really good at times,” both aren’t where Watson wants them.

    Watson called Derek Meyer “a wild card” at the right guard spot.

    At receiver, Watson said Curenski Gilleylen and Niles Paul have had good springs. He's also been impressed with the speed and hands of Antonio Bell.

    “Big surprise,” Watson said. “Really fast. Instinctual. Natural at the position. Natural route runner, Good ball-catcher. Physical player. He just needs to grow in our offense. We didn’t know what to expect, but we’re pleasantly surprised because he’s a natural player.”

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    Tags: springtime with bo, shawn watson, antonio bell, jacob hickman, keith williams, roy helu

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