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  1. 2010 Oct 06



    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Forget the politics. Forget the farewell tour. Forget the storylines. Lord knows you’ll get drunk on all of that next week when Texas comes to town.

    Treat Nebraska’s Thursday night showcase at Kansas State as precisely the kind of test NU needs before that emotional slugfest Oct. 16. Because the shoe is on the other foot. It’s KSU that looks at the Huskers with scorn. It’s NU that serves as the Wildcats’ biggest game of the year. Before it zeroes in on Enemy No. 1 in UT, Nebraska is Enemy No. 1 for the Big 12 North on this night.

    So, for the Huskers, this ESPN-televised game becomes more about the enemy combatants - guys like running back Daniel Thomas - than what they stand for. There will be time for soapbox speeches and philosophical rants - plenty - next week, when it Nebraska’s turn to grind the axe.

    On with the keys. We have been hitting on some variation of them for ten days.

    Tempo: Kansas State wants to possess the ball, bleed the clock and play keep-away from the NU offense. Nebraska’s explosive, quick-strike offense puts the opponent on their heels and forces them off the their scripts. One of the two will have to give. The Huskers want to get Kansas State off the field quickly, while KSU wants to pressure Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez into mistakes by creating an atmosphere that makes him rush.

    Unsurprisingly, the running game - for both teams - is important here. NU and KSU go about it in different ways, yet both choose to imprint their physical will on the opponent. Whichever team does that better probably controls the pace of the game, if not necessarily the outcome.

    Talent Gap: I call it the 44 test. Take Nebraska’s two-deep and Kansas State’s two-deep on both sides of the ball and see which group has the advantage.

    Sparing you the analysis, it’s fair to say, across the board - especially on defense, where several Nebraska backups would start for K-State - that the Huskers get the nod. Turn NU-KSU into a sandlot game, and Nebraska runs roughshod over the Cats.

    But it’s not a sandlot game of raw-skill-on-raw-skill. So Kansas State must take its few strengths - Thomas, the offensive line - and parlay that into a game philosophy. Again - back to tempo.

    Nebraska, meanwhile, needs to exploit its advantage of speed, agility, experience and sheer athleticism. Get guys out into space to make plays. Rely on corners Alfonzo Dennard and Prince Amukamara to play man coverage down the field. Get after quarterback Carson Coffman with speedsters like LaVonte David and Eric Martin.

    Through four games, Nebraska’s been content to let offenses try to solve their complex, effective web of defense. I wonder if, in this game, it’s better to attack the Wildcats and put them on their heels, right away, to eliminate any notion of an upset.

    The Chess Match: The game behind the game is this: Bill Snyder vs. the Brothers Pelini. That’s a lot of brainpower and innovation on one field.

    Snyder’s formula is simple: Work, work, work. Plan, plan, plan.

    “I had heard stories and took them for what they are,” said KSU safety Tysyn Hartman at Big 12 Media Days. “Then you see him in person, and it’s exactly what the stories are saying. The guy’s up there almost 24/7. Rarely sleeps. Rarely eats…first one in, last one to leave.”

    I think of him as Job - a tireless, faithful guy in the face of poor resources and an iffy talent pool. His teams come ready. His script is almost always well-conceived.

    “He’s a good coach a normal week and he’s an even better coach with ten days preparation,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said.

    The Brothers Pelini have their own plan, but they’re even better at in-game adjustments. One constant, over their three years at Nebraska, has been the ability to identify a weakness, quickly create a fix, and apply it on the following drive. The Huskers rarely get beaten up for a whole game.

    Snyder can be slow to deviate from his plan when it isn’t working. It’s a criticism that’s been leveled at him for years. When the guy stays on script, though, he’s tough to beat.

    Taylor Terrific? That’s the question for Nebraska’s offense. Does anybody really know what to expect? The opaque, unreadable Martinez has presumably learned from mistakes made in the South Dakota State game - coaches don’t make him talk between games, so Martinez gladly declines the job to do it - but those lessons are best applied against a Kansas State defense that must have some bells and whistles designed for him.

    We’ll put some of NU’s offensive performance on rest of the units - plus offensive coordinator Shawn Watson - but a lot of it goes back to Martinez, the straw who’s stirred NU’s spread option drink for four games. Can he make the necessary passes to beat the blitz? Can he identify a blitz as it comes? Can he make the right reads against a defense designed to confuse him? These are hard questions for any redshirt freshman to answer. If he can’t, does Watson pull the plug on the road? If so - to which QB?

    The kid’s going to make mistakes. That’s part of the deal. You just hope they don’t create much harm.

    Wildcat zoo: I’m expecting a loud, angry crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Profane. Cruel. Ready for Husker blood. In other words - a terrific atmosphere worthy of KSU’s “Octagon of Doom” at Bramlage Coliseum for basketball.

    Nebraska’s team appears to relish these games. Bo Pelini feeds off of adversity and animosity, and his players follow suit. How the Huskers handle the crowd - especially when they’re frustrated - may play a big role in how they react on the field.

    See also: 5 Keys to KSU, 5 NU Players to Watch, 5 KSU Players to Watch, The Matchup Edge and Guess The Score

    Tags: kansas state game, five keys, taylor martinez, bill snyder, bo pelini, carl pelini, shawn watson

  2. 2010 Jul 26

    BIG 12 MEDIA DAYS: Thirteen Questions


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    It’s appropriate that the SEC holds its annual college football media days first each summer. After SEC coaches get done preening their feathers in a parade of vanity and situational ethics, the rest of leagues can feel free to play nice with one another.

    Which is what the Big 12 coaches always seem to do. Just because the league tore at every last seam in June, and lost Nebraska and Colorado to rival conferences, don’t expect that change. Midwest moralism - yes, even in Texas - dictates that deferential kindness descend over the proceedings, fake as it may be, to promote an equally-phony solidarity that we now know never existed.

    But you’ll see those smiles and handshakes again this week, perhaps more than ever, given the ides of June. Don’t be surprised if Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe smirks his way through a press session, as if he battles the forces of Mordor instead of getting an airlift from ESPN. Outside of that, expect mommy’s-watching behavior, even from Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville, who can only bring that SEC flavor if he’s willing to fork over some of his salary for it.

    Here’s one question we’d ask each Big 12 coach - plus a query for Beebe.

    Dan Beebe, Big 12 Commissioner: Where do you see yourself in ten years? As in, when the Big 12 has dissolved because Texas, with its Bevo Network built, sold itself to the highest bidder.

    Art Briles, Baylor: How do you lose your best three players off a bad defense - and somehow get better? Antonio Jones, Jordan Lake, Joe Pawelek could have started for a bunch of Big 12 defenses - but they played on a squad that gave up 406 yards and 27 points per game in 2009. Perhaps the return of quarterback Robert Griffin keeps the Bears’ D off the field more often in 2010 while a slew young recruits wait for their turn in 2011.

    Dan Hawkins, Colorado: A cigarette with your blindfold, sir? Ol “Dead Man Hawkin” could have his best team in 2010, but another brutal non-conference schedule - California, Hawaii and Georgia, oh brother - could sap the Buffaloes’ strength before the Big 12 campaign even begins. Look for a “Life Lessons with Dan” session in Dallas. Philosophy is all the guy’s got at this point.

    Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: Did you can some of that leftover pride? The Cyclones are in for a long, difficult year, starting with a home opener vs. MAC favorite Northern Illinois. ISU doesn’t get a single bye week, plays Texas Tech, Utah, Oklahoma and Texas in a row, and generally appears headed for a ten-loss season. Rhoads lived the dream in 2009. Here’s the wake-up call.

    Turner Gill, Kansas: Your kingdom for a trench? While Kansas stocked up on skill players, then-coach Mark Mangino did faulty work recruiting offensive and defensive linemen. The Jayhawks - and Gill - will not survive in a new Big 12 without seriously addressing those positions. KU has a decent offensive line this year. But it’ll start all over again in 2011.

    Bill Snyder, Kansas State: Found a quarterback yet? History has shown that Snyder’s best KSU teams had at their helm a sturdy, effective signal-caller. Without one, the Wildcats stagnate into an average, predictable team. Carson Coffman, thoroughly unspectacular until now, gets his senior shot.

    Gary Pinkel, Missouri: Shall we make table reservations for a pass defense this year? The Tigers’ run defense hasn’t been awful in 2008 and 2009, but the secondary gave up an average of 251 yards last year and 287 yards before that. Both seasons, opposing quarterbacks completed 64 percent of their passes. Mizzou returns all four defensive back starters. It could be a sign of change - or more of the same.

    Bo Pelini, Nebraska: So - the level of adversity is right about where you want it, huh? NU enters 2010 with high expectations - BCS bowl or bust, if you ask most Husker fans - and a target on its back as it dials through the Big 12 phonebook one final time. Pelini thrives on an us-vs.-the-world mentality, so he should relish his third season as head coach.

    Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: Can your boys close the deal in tight game? Recent history says that, away from home, it’s an iffy proposition. Games at Missouri and Texas A&M - plus that little Red River deal - will test the Sooners’ 60-minute toughness. Ditto for a home game vs. ACC favorite Florida State, one of the few teams that can match OU’s speed.

    Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Do you have a Boone T. Pickens? With just eight returning starters, OSU is bound to step backwards in 2010, with the media and a certain booster watching over Gundy’s shoulder. If the Cowboys drop an early game at home to Tulsa - among the favorites to win Conference USA - expect an interesting October in Stillwater.

    Mack Brown, Texas: You do realize your offensive line will have to block this year, right? There’s no Vince Young or Colt McCoy to scurry around making plays or Jamaal Charles to outrun defenders to the corner. UT’s hogs - which have given up at least 25 sacks each of the last three seasons - have to get tougher and more consistent.

    Mike Sherman, Texas A&M: Does that hot seat come with a defrost button, and is his name Jerrod Johnson? Sherman better hope so. The Aggies have too much offensive firepower - and the schedule, aside from a trip to Texas, is too darn comfy - not to make “the leap” in 2010. Much depends on an awful defensive line improving under new coordinator Tim DeRuyter. Six wins or less, and we say “See ya, Lone Star Bill Callahan.”

    Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech: Will you try to fix what ain’t broken? Over the last five years, the “Air Raid” offense has averaged 495 yards and 39 points per game. Yeah, so a pompous eccentric designed the thing. It works, doesn’t it? You could see Tuberville - who has a little pomp of his own - tinkering with Mike Leach’s schemes and recruits needlessly.

    Check Out Our Full Big 12 Preview: Big 12 Coaches, Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Offensive Lines, Defensive Lines, Linebackers, Commentary, 12 Best Players, Ten Overrated Players, Ten Underrated Players

    Tags: big 12 media days, big 12, dan beebe, bo pelini, bill snyder, turner gill, mack brown, dan hawkins, mike sherman

  3. 2010 Apr 13

    Husker Heartbeat 3/11: A Cup of Joe, Suh, Helu, The Baxter and Phil Mickelson


    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.

    Cool? Cool!

    *The ballad of Joe Broekemeier.

    *Mike Anderson says Nebraska baseball can’t afford to overlook mid-week games. Well, yeah. Anderson also makes sure to mention NU’s lack of pitching depth due to injuries. We’ll be watching to see if that the new excuse du jour.

    *Roy Helu is learning to play through pain says Tim Beck, his running backs coach. Helu has given exactly one interview this spring - to us. Read it here.

    *A double dose of Shatel. First, his chat talks in depth about the future of Doc Sadler (tired of that topic already?). Second, his column suggests - wisely so - that whoever next wears Ndamukong Suh’s No. 93 truly earn that honor.

    *Bill Snyder tears his MCL and ACL in practice.

    *The first scenes of the next Reggie Bush, Dillon Baxter.

    *Oregon has a special use for Phil Mickelson. The Ducks may want to rethink the snap count after Sunday’s Masters, though.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, baseball, mike anderson, tom shatel, phil mickelson, bill snyder, more kiffin

  4. 2010 Feb 05

    RECRUITING: Inside the Big 12: Kansas State


    By HuskerLocker

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    It's the usual strange class for Kansas State Bill Snyder? Just how many players are in it, anyway? 28? 23? 17? Samuel McKewon explains the weird makeup of the bunch - two players that Snyder heaped praise upon on Signing Day. Hear from Snyder, too! All with a 14-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: recruiting, big 12, bill snyder, kansas state

  5. 2009 Dec 26

    DECADE IN REVIEW: 10 Years, 10 Valleys


    By HuskerLocker

    1. The Day-After-Thanksgiving Massacre: The 62-36 loss to Colorado in 2001, the fitting of the noose, as it turned out, on the Frank Solich era. Of all the ugly losses during the Callahan era, it was the bomb in Boulder that let all the spirits in.

    2. One pathetic half: After 30 minutes, Nebraska trailed Oklahoma State 38-0 in 2007, and fans streamed out of Memorial Stadium in protest. This, on a day when the Huskers welcomed back the 1997 national championship team. NU never showed less effort and less passion than that afternoon.

    3. Lunacy: Bill Callahan sends his defense up the river in Lubbock, by inserting true freshman Beau Davis at QB while the Huskers trailed 35-10. Four interceptions and one fumble later, NU lost 70-10.

    4. Party pooped: Nebraska gets all gussied up in 2007 for No. 1 USC to visit town. The Trojans dither around for a quarter, then smash the ball down the Huskers’ throat on simple counter plays. The 49-31 can’t mask a beatdown.

    5. Black October: On national TV, Nebraska humiliates itself vs. Missouri, losing 41-6 in a game that wasn’t even that close. Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove stays in a conservative three-man rush for the entire game; Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel calls it a “high school defense.”

    6. Cosgrove cries: After Nebraska’s 76-39 loss to Kansas, Cosgrove is captured in anguish by the Omaha World-Herald. The coach had endured a great deal in 2007 from fans, including death threats.

    7. Kick the Field Goal!: Solich ruins a chance at sending an exciting Nebraska-Texas game in Lincoln to overtime when, instead of letting Josh Brown kick a game-tying field goal, he allows Jammal Lord to take one shot at the end zone. Lord badly under throws Mark LeFlore, and UT’s Nate Vasher makes the pick.

    8. The Lost Quarter: Oklahoma smashes Nebraska in the first seven minutes of the 2008 contest with a myriad of big plays and turnovers. Bo Pelini spends the night cursing up a storm, all of it captured by ESPN’s cameras. Final score: 62-28, OU.

    9. Quick Fix: Pelini dials up a funky gameplan to rattle Missouri’s Chase Daniel into mistakes. It fails miserably as the Huskers lose 52-17.

    10. Snyder Smackdowns: In consecutive years, 2002 and 2003, Kansas State humiliates NU, 49-13 and 38-9. These two games serve as significant nails in Solich’s coffin. Nebraska is out coached, outplayed and out-talented in both game to an incredible extent.

    See also: NU's All-Decade Team, 10 Best Moments, 10 Worst Moments and A Decade of Upheaval - And Healing

    Tags: decade in review, bill callahan, bo pelini, bill snyder

  6. 2009 Nov 20

    Five Keys: Kansas State


    By HuskerLocker

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    So tell me what you want, what you really, really want.

    A trip to Dallas? (Arlington for our Nat Geo types.) A date with the biggest jumbotron this side of a Japanese arcade in JerryWorld? Two weeks of contemplating vengeance against Texas for 1996?

    Then finish it Saturday, in a game that won't test Nebraska's talent as much it will its patience.

    Let's be blunt: Kansas State, 6-5 and clawing for its postseason life, is a shade more talented than Iowa State. The Wildcats remain, 11 games into their season, a work in progress. It's Ron Prince's parting gift to leave behind an undersized-if-energetic defense. The offense has two key playmakers – Brandon Banks and Daniel Thomas – who have to account for the lion's share of KSU's yards and points. Quarterback Grant Gregory is a better story – sixth-year transfer from South Florida makes good – than he is player.

    Bill Snyder's 2009 team is not terribly unlike his last one in 2005. Fairly stingy at home. Weaker on the road. Run-heavy. Patient. Opportunistic on the special teams. But not a great team - and not one that should, with everything that's at stake Saturday, beat Nebraska, on Senior Day.

    A loss for the Cornhuskers on national TV – with a berth to the Big 12 Championship on the line – wouldn't be a casual thing. This is, again, one of those defining moments. Good coaches – good teams – find ways to close out these games. Pundits talk about comparing the 2009 defense to 1999. Well, that 1999 bunch stoned top 20 teams – Texas A&M (37-0) and Kansas State (41-15) – in back-to-back weeks to help secure a Big 12 crown. KSU was still undefeated, in fact, at the time of its game with NU.

    All the 2009 version has to do to is overcome a thoroughly mediocre Snyder club.

    Just a little perspective – before the pressure sets in.

    On to the keys:

    To the Banks: KSU receiver Brandon Banks is the Wildcats' one true home run hitter. He's the punt and kick returner, for one – and he's dangerous enough in that arena. But his speed makes him sneaky tough to cover on deep routes, and his shiftiness makes him a pain to tackle in the flat. Kansas State tries to get him five-ten touches per game in a variety of ways – screens, sweeps, deep shots, quick slants. Nebraska needs to know where he is, successfully mark him and then – tackle, tackle, tackle.

    Power Play: Both teams will line up in heavy formations, try to put “hat on hat,” and grind out clock and yards. And both teams will try to use their playaction passing game off of the power game. And both teams will do so out of a variety of formations, motions and personnel groupings. In short, plan to see two offense with the same goals, equally good running backs, and equally iffy quarterback. The difference?

    Front Four: We're about to find out just how good Nebraska's much-praised defensive line really is at accepting the challenge of a straight-ahead running game with a big, talented, physical running back in Daniel Thomas. This isn't going to be a “flash” game for Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick so much as a test of guts, strength, pad level and sheer technique. Again – great defenses eat one-dimensional teams like KSU for lunch. Behind the front four, NU's linebackers – expect plenty of Phillip Dillard, Sean Fisher and Will Compton, and maybe even Eric Martin – need to wrap Thomas and drive with their legs.

    Zac Attack: Nebraska fans better hope Zac Lee's strong play at Kansas wasn't a one-week wonder. Not only does Lee need to keep NU in down-positive situations with timely scrambles and smart throws, he needs to continue on an improvement curve toward that game in Dallas, where Texas promises its own brand of nasty.

    The Snyder Factor: Snyder is a major storyline in the game. But his best strengths are, in truth, minor, understated touches on gameday.

    The man prepares well and gets his assistants to do the same. His offenses usually take care of the ball and rely on field position for points. His defenses aren't flashy from a sacks/tackles for loss perspective, but they tend to have guys in the right place against the run, relying on the athleticism of the secondary against the pass. The special teams are across-the-board strong. KSU conservatively clings like a leech to a small lead.

    The Wildcats aim to win the hidden details, all while giving up yards, sacks and style points. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini and his staff may be tested by this mindset. Or, the Huskers could jump out in front and run away with a three-touchdown win.

    It may depends on which team can taste Dallas the most.

    Is Nebraska as good as we remember? Saturday night - two contenders become one.

    Tags: kansas state game, bo pelini, bill snyder, brandon banks, ndamukong suh, jared crick, zac lee, roy helu, daniel thomas

  7. 2009 Nov 16

    BIG 12 NORTH BATTLE: Snyder on 2003: "Not An Issue"


    By HuskerLocker

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    [url][/url]Water under the bridge.

    That's how Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder characterized a tense post-game meeting between he and Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini after KSU's 38-9 win over NU in 2003, when Snyder was on his way to his only Big 12 Championship, and Pelini was the Cornhuskers' defensive coordinator.

    Pelini had strong words after the game for Snyder, who kept his starters in despite enjoying a comfortable lead. The extent of the loss was considered by most the final nail in Frank Solich's coaching coffin; Solich was fired shortly thereafter. This past summer, Pelini said he “regretted” the incident.

    “We haven't talked about it,” Snyder said during Monday's Big 12 Coaches Teleconference. “I don't think it's an issue. On my part it's not. I hope it's not with Bo. Kind of a heat-of-the-moment thing. Competitive people respond competitively. I'd like to think it's beyond us.”

    Snyder spent a good chunk of his time during the teleconference praising Nebraska's defense, which ranks tenth in total defense and third in scoring defense.

    “They're every bit what people say about them – and perhaps more,” Snyder said. “They play hard. All 11. They pursue well. They've got speed and quickness to compliment the effort.”

    Snyder said Bo Pelini, his brother Carl and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler – who played for Snyder at KSU – have enough shared history together to create a solid, cohesive defensive mindset in a short amount of time.

    “They're well ahead structure-wise and implementation-wise and schematically and fundamentally than most teams would be with a staff's that come in,” Snyder said.

    Pelini returned the praise to Snyder, who employed Carl Pelini was as a graduate assistant, along with long-time friends Bob and Mike Stoops and Brent Venables.

    “I was pretty familiar of what was going on at the time and how far he took that program,” Pelini said. “Really he's done it again. Just goes to show how good of a coach Coach Snyder is. He does a great job; he works hard at it. He gets the kids to be committed, and they play tough, very sound, fundamental football. That's a pretty good equation.”

    Pelini singled our KSU running back Daniel Thomas, who leads the Big 12 with 1,166 yards.

    “They use him really well,” Pelini said. “They do a good job of getting him the football in places where he can make plays. He's very athletic. He's also very physical and tough. He has nice size. He's a load.”

    NU-KSU tickets - for free!

    Tags: kansas state game, bill snyder, bo pelini, daniel thomas

  8. 2009 Aug 03

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 7 Kansas State


    By HuskerLocker

    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 7 Kansas State

    Coach: Bill Snyder
    2008 Record: 5-7 (under Ron Prince)

    What’s Changed Since 2008: Heh – everything. Prince was fired – and deservedly so. Snyder was brought back to heal the family. Then, in the spring, it got really crazy, with secret deals to Prince and audits, and firings and resignations and turmoil. KSU is in a hurtin’ place as an athletic department.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Snyder worked a little magic, as UMass and Tennessee Tech worm their way onto the slate. A game at Louisiana-Lafayette shouldn’t be a sweat, and the game at UCLA, poor, no-offense UCLA, is winnable.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Highly favorable. KSU hosts Texas A&M, Colorado, Missouri and Kansas, plays at Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas Tech (all losses there) and plays Iowa State in Kansas City, which will probably end up being a home game for the Wildcats. We see 4-5 wins in there.

    Offense: Power/Spread

    Coordinator: Del Miller and Dana Dimel. Don’t be surprised if Snyder’s imprints are all over the offense, though. Miller worked at San Diego State for the last three years, while Dimel was at Arizona. Both know their way around a spread passing offense; Dimel built a balanced attack at Zona last year. Preferably, Snyder would like a mobile QB who can run and pass, but he’ll settle for a guy who keeps the Cats out of bad situations.

    Strength: Wide receiver Brandon Banks (1049 receiving yards, 126 rushing yards) is the kind of dynamic player Snyder loves, and he’ll get 10-15 touches per game. One way or another, Banks will be the team’s primary offensive weapon. KSU has intriguing running backs, too, in Logan Dold, Keithen Valentine and transfer Daniel Thomas, a JUCO guy who could play QB in a pinch.

    Weakness: Quarterback. After the Josh Freeman show for three years, Coffman essentially takes over, and while he’s not terrible – he was actually decent in spot duty last year – he’s not a guy who can beat you by himself. On the offensive line, arguably KSU’s best lineman, Brock Unruh, was lost for the year to a weight room injury.

    Defense: 4-3/4-2-5

    Coordinator: Co-coordinators again, with Vic Koenning, Clemson’s former DC and Chris Cosh, the former DC at Maryland, which was one of the few teams to shut down California running back Jahvid Best. This was an awful defense in 2008. We sense that, at some point, KSU simply gave up on that side of the ball, especially the linebackers, who played with little overall discipline.

    Strength: The defensive line could be very good, with super-soph defensive end Brandon Harold (45 tackles and 3 sacks as a freshman) and University of Virginia transfer Jeffrey Fitzgerald at an inside defensive tackle. But this bunch didn’t get great push last year. That part of it has to improve. With Fitzgerald, who started 25 games at UVA, we think it will. The secondary, led by cornerback Joshua Moore, might be, fair, too. Moore was the best pure cover guy on the team last year, and one of the best in the Big 12 outside of Norman, Okla.

    Weakness: The linebackers are a little undersized, a little slow, and were really chewed up by the spread last year. Then again, they seemed to be getting some iffy coaching as the year went on (like when Nebraska ran the same zone read play over and over, and the Wildcats refused to adjust to it) so maybe that will change. The co-DCs may try to counteract that by getting an extra safety on the field.

    Beyond that, the Wildcats are in need of a better pass rush.

    Special Teams It was good under Prince, and it’ll remain good under Snyder. Banks is an excellent return man for kickoffs or punts. DJ Fulhage returns as punter, and freshman Ryan Doerr now becomes the kicker. KSU coverage units should be pretty good, too; Snyder likes to populate those units with JUCO guys.

    Intangibles: By year two or three of the “Miracle in Manhattan,” Snyder found a way to keep his Wildcats in games where they were severely overmatched. A few years later, KSU was winning those games. Few coaches prepare like this guy. He never strays too far from the plan, his teams don’t often get blown out, and Kansas State will commit to a solid running game. You watch. The formula typically works.

    Best-Case Scenario: Kansas State wins nine – all four non-conference games, and five more in the league. Long shot, but doable.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Last in the Big 12 North.

    Our Take: Same record as Kansas, with the tiebreaker going to the Wildcats on head-to-head matchup. The Wildcats simply get a favorable schedule this year. They’ll need it, and take advantage of it.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech
    Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it.

    Tags: big 12 breakdown, big 12, kansas state, football, bill snyder, carson coffman, joshua moore, brandon harold, brandon banks

  9. 2009 Jul 29

    7/29 Podcast: Learning to Love Dallas


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Enjoy today's podcast for free. Listen to other podcasts via a Locker Pass. Click here for more information.

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, big 12, bill snyder, tom osborne, teammates

  10. 2009 Jul 28

    Osborne Issues 'Coaches Challenge' for TeamMates


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Tom Osborne and Bill Snyder are, once again, competing against each other for recruits.

    TeamMates, a mentoring organization started by Osborne in 1991, started a “Coaches’ Challenge” competition Tuesday against Kansas Mentors, which is led by Snyder. The organizations will add up the mentors each organization signs July 28-Nov. 21, when Nebraska and Kansas State meet on the football field.

    Osborne made the announcement Tuesday at St. Mark’s Church in Lincoln as part of TeamMates’ annual partnership meeting for coordinators of the organization’s 112 chapters in Nebraska and Iowa. Snyder was not on hand; he'll be in Dallas Wednesday for Big 12 Media Days.

    The friendly contest is in its second year, and it started before Osborne signed on as Nebraska’s athletic director and Snyder came out of retirement to coach Kansas State again.

    “Bill and I, at that time, were a couple of old has-beens, unemployed with nothing else to do,” Osborne said.

    Osborne said TeamMates is the underdog because Nebraska has a million fewer people than Kansas and Kansas Mentors encompasses all of the state’s mentor groups. Kansas Mentors got its paws on the trophy last year.

    “This is a new year,” Osborne said. “It’ll be a tremendous effort for us to beat them. But I think we can.”

    The group’s goal is to sign 1,000-1,200 new mentors by the football game. Osborne told the coordinators that it is important for each chapter to hit their goal. Compared to football there is a larger and older recruiting pool, as TeamMates have had mentors in their 80s.

    But the recruits still have to be dedicated.

    Suzanne Hince, the executive director of TeamMates, said the goal of each mentor should be to stay with the mentee until they graduate high school and head to college.

    The 4,000 mentors average 31 months of weekly meetings with their mentee. Some mentors have spent more than eight years guiding a youth.

    The best successes of mentoring programs occur after a lengthy pattern of consistent weekly contact, Hince said. The hour-long meetings take place at the child’s school.

    Another theme of Tuesday’s event was young people’s increasing use of technology. Technology has connected the mentors to their mentees. A short video titled “Mentor Your Mentor” was put together by several mentor/mentee pairs and was played Tuesday. The video is now a recruiting tool on YouTube.

    But the Internet also poses a serious threat for school-aged children. Enter the luncheon’s keynote speaker, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who has taken on national companies like Yahoo and made it a point to push bills through the Legislature that have limited sex offenders’ access to social networking sites.

    “Part of the fun for me is getting bad guys … For whatever reason I feel like a street sweeper or a chimney sweeper,” Bruning said. “It’s like cleaning out your garage; I’m the guy that cleans out the people in the streets who are trying to get your kids.”

    Bruning said his dad was a compassionate mentor who taught him to treat everyone fairly and his mom was the “hard-nosed” kind that pushed him to do well in school.

    “Kids need both types of influences in their lives, and that’s one of the important things about TeamMates,” Bruning said. “Frankly, not all kids are fortunate to have a mom and a dad around.”

    Ann Gradwohl, a Lincoln artist and a TeamMate mentor, started meeting with her mentee when he was in second grade. Their relationship started through a different mentoring organization; when the child entered the fifth grade, the duo switched over to TeamMates. The boy will enter the eighth grade this fall with Gradwohl as his mentor.

    “The child I began mentoring was learning to read. He was doing things one does in the second grade,” she said. “Now he has become an active thinker in the world. We talk about the local environment and the larger world…I believe that college has gone from a very abstract and remote idea to something that is attainable and realistic for him.”

    Tags: tom osborne, teammates, bill snyder

  11. 2009 Apr 15

    OPPONENT REPORT: Life of Bill, Part 2


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The old man's rehauling everything in Manhattan - and even stealing a page from the Tom Osborne playbook to do it. How dark could it get at KSU before the dawn? Find out with a Locker Pass today!

    Tags: opponent reports, locker pass, kansas state, bill snyder, carson coffman

  12. 2009 Apr 01

    The Six Easiest Football Jobs in the Big 12


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    In light of Bo Pelini’s new contract at Nebraska, we decided to review the coveted coaching jobs in the Big 12 Conference and determine, top to bottom, which job was hardest and which was easiest.

    We decided to eschew “best” and “worst” in part because that debate automatically thrusts Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska to the top of the list and schools like Baylor and Iowa State to the bottom, based on sheer tradition.

    Rather, we decided to take a bold stab at figuring out which jobs – perks and warts combined – were the kind coaches could tackle with enthusiasm and effort, and which jobs needed, shall we say, a bit more than that. Like a few a well-placed prayers to the pigskin karma saints.

    Our list goes from easiest to hardest, and takes into account five categories:

    Recruiting Base/Interest
    Administrative/Booster Support
    Media/Fan Expectation
    Chance of “Success”
    An “X” factor

    Today, we run down we deem to be the six easiest jobs in the Big 12. Tomorrow, the sixth toughest.

    And as we count them down, know this: None of them are what you’d call “easy.” All take 60-hour workweeks, strength, smarts, stamina and personality.

    One other thing…the list partially takes into account who’s coaching the program, which, in the case of Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, frankly, makes the job easier than it would have been for Snyder’s predecessor, Ron Prince, or whoever follows Snyder.

    On with the countdown!

    No. 12 KANSAS

    Head Coach: Mark Mangino. Compensation: $2.3 millon per year, with tons of performance bonuses. Mangino gets five grand just for beating Nebraska, for example. For every game televised on ESPN that KU wins, Mangino scores ten grand.

    Recruiting Base: KU has direct access to the best talent in Kansas City and Wichita, along with reasonable access to the second-tier prospects in Oklahoma. The Jayhawk State is also home to many of the Midwest’s best junior college football programs. Mangino still plucks his share of players out of Texas – that’s one of the secrets to his success – but there are more home-grown kids to choose from, too.

    Administrative/Booster Support: For football, it’s better than ever, after KU finished a $33 million football complex in 2008. Basketball will always be king in Lawrence, but football is being embraced like never before.

    Media/Fan Expectation: Tempered by the hulking monolith that is the basketball program, KU football is expected to compete for the Big 12 North trophy and beat its rivals, Missouri and Kansas State. Beyond that? Gravy. At least a quarter of the Big 12 programs would like a national title in the next decade. If that doesn’t happen at Kansas, nobody is losing sleep over it.

    Chance of “Success”: Mangino has upped the ante and created his own success story. Still – “success” at KU is defined by eight, nine wins a year, a solid bowl game, and win over Mizzou. Would many Kansas fans have considered 2008 a “down” year? Following 2007, yes, it was. Overall? It was quite good by historical Jayhawks standards.

    X Factor: Kansas football is not, and never will be, the flagship sports program in Lawrence. Outside of possibly Iowa State, it’d be hard to claim that about anywhere else right now.

    No. 11 OKLAHOMA

    Head Coach: Bob Stoops Compensation: Around $6 million. This includes a $3 million lump sum Stoops received recently for his tenth anniversary as OU coach and bonuses he earned last year.

    Recruiting Base: It’s national, really, but Oklahoma does most of its damage at home and in Texas, routinely plucking great players from both states. Some years, OU outperforms Texas for coveted players in the Lone Star State. Stoops is a good recruiter, sure, but he resides in and near the land of milk and honey, too.

    Administrative/Booster Support: Very strong. Stoops has the full support of the old guard (guys like Barry Switzer) and his athletic director, Joe Castiglione, is a proactive standout in his field. As far as facilities go, we’ll take Nebraska’s swank spread of OU’s ten-year-old digs, but the Sooners want for very little. Stoops has all the tradition, support and booster bucks he wants. He’s created a lot of success, yes. He’s also been given a lot to create it with.

    Media/Fan Expectation: They’re high. Very high. But they’re not lunatic high, like they are at certain SEC programs, and the fans aren’t fickle, like they are at Texas. Sooner fans want to win. Stoops does win. But he’s not required to be a messiah (again: see the SEC).

    Chance of “Success:” OU has every advantage in this regard. It’s one of the great programs, and has been since Bud Wilkinson. There’s talent. There’s tradition. There’s reasonably warm weather for recruiting purposes.

    “X” Factor: Stoops’ recent run of losses in bowl games makes fan groan a little. Not that they want him to go anywhere.

    No. 10 TEXAS

    Head Coach: Mack Brown Compensation: Around $3 million.

    Recruiting Base: None better. The best talent in the state of Texas. And most of them are rounded up by the end of spring football. UT’s recruiting budget must be equal to the military budget of Albania.

    Administrative/Booster Support: Some would call DeLoss Dodds the nation’s most powerful athletic director. He’s sure one of them. In defense of Brown, he’s done a really good job winning back his share of boosters after the long, dark period after Darryl Royal retired. Then again, it was Brown’s predecessor, John Mackovic, who got the unpleasant job of bluntly telling those boosters UT’s facilities were woefully out of date. Brown walked into a better situation than Mackovic left when he was fired.

    Media/Fan Expectation: We know some Texas fans, and, outside of rubbing OU’s nose in it, the goals are sometimes fuzzy. UT will cherish Vince Young and the national title he won for the Longhorns for the next century. But do they blame Brown for the one loss that blemished an otherwise terrific 2008? Success doesn’t always bring out the fans anyway, as witnessed by the occasional empty seats in UT’s stadium.

    Chance of “Success”: Right up there with OU. Texas has all the advantages. At this point, any number of coaches – say, Will Muschamp – could be plugged into that job and coast on fumes for five years.

    “X” Factor: The University of Texas has more beautiful women on its campus than any other in America, in one of the nation’s best college towns. It helps.


    Head Coach: Bill Snyder Compensation: 1.85 million

    Recruiting Base: The same as Kansas, except that Snyder leans much more heavily on the JUCOs.

    Administrative/Booster Support: Basically, Snyder will get the “Joe Gibbs” treatment. He’s already performed “The Miracle in Manhattan” and if he carves out a modicum of success, any setbacks will just be blamed on Ron Prince’s three years at KSU. Snyder runs that town, and he’ll make darn sure the Wildcats schedule three or four wins per year.

    Fan/Media Expectations: A respectable program. Coaches who don’t have to run stadium stairs.

    Chance of “Success”: Pretty good, if 7-5 is the standard, and we don’t really see Kansas State doing much better than that in whatever time Snyder chooses to put into this second act.

    “X” Factor: Snyder will need one year, and maybe two, to clean up the mess Prince left behind. And he won’t have Stoops and Mangino to help him do it.

    No. 8 TEXAS A&M

    Head coach: Mike Sherman Compensation: $1.8 million

    Recruiting base: The central/southern part Texas seems pretty sweet to us. The Aggies make a killing in NASA country (that’s Houston). A&M probably draws a little too much talent from a 100-mile radius, for that matter.

    Administrative/Booster Support: Aggies are plenty competitive, and will spend top dollar to win in almost every sport. Athletic director Bill Byrne is no less competitive, even if his zeal in the past, including at Nebraska, was for non-revenue sports that could inch him closer to a Sears Directors Trophy. Still – at A&M, excellence is the standard. Another season like 2008, and Sherman might be gone very soon.

    Fan/Media Expectation: For a solid decade, A&M was the premier program in Texas. Getting there again is a top priority, and it’s not completely out of the question, either. The Longhorns are due for a dry spell. Oklahoma, on other hand…we don’t see the Sooners going anywhere. The fans at A&M are terrific. The closest to Nebraska fans, in fact.

    Chance of “Success”: Ten wins, a Big 12 South crown and bragging rights over UT are a lot to ask for right now. Maybe a little too much to ask. But the Aggies are committed, support is entrenched, and the area talent is rich. This is fertile ground for winning. Sherman has no excuses, really, because Dennis Franchione didn’t exactly run the program into the ground.

    “X” Factor: A&M is making the painful transition from option zone read to West Coast Offense with a former NFL coach. Ask Nebraska how well that turned out.

    No. 7 TEXAS TECH

    Head Coach: Mike Leach Compensation: $2.3 million

    Recruiting Base: Leach has made inroads into central and the Texas Panhandle to go along with the football-rich region of West Texas.

    Booster/Administrative Support: It’s no great secret that Leach and his athletic director aren’t great chums. But Leach won the war of public opinion in a recent contract dispute, and let’s just say wasn’t the proletariat that turned the tide, but the Tech bourgeoisie. The Red Raiders just finished a $84 million renovation to Jones Stadium.

    Media/Fan Expectation: Leach seems to win eight every year – 11 in 2008 – and fans don’t seem too riled up if he can’t win the big games, which he rarely does. He’s brought more publicity to Lubbock than anyone since Buddy Holly. Yeah, even more than Bob Knight.They love the big pirate-lovin lug.

    Chance of “Success:” Every four years or so, Tech might be able to climb that national title mountain like it did in 2008. Otherwise, since fans seem content with nine wins and a fun offense each year – and the Wes Welkers and Michael Crabtrees of the world are still willing to enroll – chances are pretty good, we’d say.

    “X” Factor: Leach makes this job easier for himself, because Leach is Texas Tech. We pity, really, the coach who must follow him.

    Tags: big 12 football, mark mangino, bob stoops, mike sherman, mike leach, bill snyder, mack brown

  13. 2008 Nov 23

    Another Miracle? Nah.


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    (Above: Bill Snyder)

    So Bill Snyder's reportedly heading back to coach Kansas State. The Kansas City Star says it'll be a five-year contract.

    The man who created the original "Miracle In Manhattan" will be asked to do it again - without any of the terrific assistants that helped him get there the first time, although it wouldn't surprise us if he tried to lure former defensive coordinator Phil Bennett away from Pittsburgh. It's what we'd do.

    Poor Kansas State just has no earthly idea how badly this could fail. Snyder just can't work himself out of the problem now. He needs players, he needs really good assistants, and he needs to figure out - like, now - whether he can screw Josh Freeman's head on straight for a senior season, or just cut him loose. Our money's on the cut loose.

    It's instructive to remember that the last two of Snyder's KSU squads weren't any good, although they went 1-1 against Nebraska. They were undersized and lacking talent. They were challenged on offense. They were, in short, much like Ron Prince's last two teams in Manhattan.

    So how do you suppose Bo Pelini feels about this hire? He'll be asked about it. Real soon.

    Click here for more coverage!

    Tags: bill snyder

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