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  1. 2010 Sep 20

    Husker Heartbeat 9/20: The Origin of "T-Magic"


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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.

    *Where does "T-Magic" come from? From Taylor Martinez himself, writes Steve Sipple.

    *The DMN puts Nebraska at the top of its Big 12 rankings.

    *Hello, South Dakota State.

    *Update on the Husker basketball training complex.

    *Missouri escapes San Diego State's clutches thanks to a missed block in the back call on the Tigers' final touchdown.

    *Dan Hawkins lives for another week.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, taylor martinez, dan hawkins, missouri, colorado, big 12 rankings

  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 Jun 29

    BIG 12 PREVIEW: One Final Tussle Between Nebraska and Texas


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Two long-separated cultural brothers joined, at long last, after nearly 100 years of football. One perfected the wishbone. The other perfected the less-structured, more fluid option. Each enjoyed fan bases unusually in love with bold colors. Both employed uncharacteristic mascots: A gigantic, horned cow excellent for lean eating and breeding; and a shaggy-haired, overall-wearing field worker with a perpetual smile.

    The older brother needed a lifeline to be saved from his old, generally corrupt friends. The younger, generally happier brother gladly invited him in. The richer brother, venal, good-looking and clever, then set about changing the rules of the game to tilt in his favor. He succeeded, while the younger brother watched, seethed, but finally shrugged, secure in the empire he had created, certain it was sturdy enough not to crumble.

    He was right and wrong. It crumbled, to some extent. But enough remained.

    And so, from 1996 to 2009, the Big 12 stood, with Texas and Nebraska serving as anchors to their respective southern and northern outposts as states similarly built on ingenuity, pride, populism, pickup trucks, big-box stores and excellent steaks, but exposed to histories that made one outsized and arrogant, and the other modest and insecure. Texas, land of presidents and gerrymandering, rattling its political saber, daring one day to secede if the nation ever got too rich for its blood. Nebraska, landlocked, forever insisting on minor statehood complaints, still choosing, out of respect for the system, to divide its electoral votes as its citizens saw fit and run a unicameral legislature largely absent of controversy.

    It was and is an uneasy marriage, often controlled by UT. It was that way in football from the start of the Big 12, and, in recent years, the Longhorns had begun to rule the Husker roost in baseball, softball and volleyball, too. Times changed. Money won out. The south’s biggest, most prestigious university often prevailed over its steady Midwestern sibling.

    And yet the schools developed a trust, you see - or a least a trust that both would act as they often have. Texas with an eye on singularity. Nebraska with an eye on fraternity. Those two values clashed consistently until NU boldly broke toward the Big Ten - whose liberal-minded academic institutions have little in common with Nebraska’s relative conservatism - which offered a safe athletic haven, away from the reckless, imperious Longhorns, who seek, like venture capitalists, to find the next wave to ride - or crash into.

    The final year of the original Big 12 - NU and Colorado jump for their respective leagues in 2011- boils down to that Oct. 16 game in Lincoln between the Huskers and Longhorns. Given the subtext - the machinations of the last month, the 2009 Big 12 Championship, UT’s long winning streak over Nebraska - the text itself will be written with a flourish on a wild, loud Sea of Red in Memorial Stadium, which isn’t likely to see Texas pass through its gates ever again.

    The brothers couldn’t make the partnership work. Before they split - one last contest. Perhaps two. With pride, in its disparate forms, at stake.

    The league as a whole, once again, breaks down into two different stories in its North and South Divisions.

    In the north, Nebraska appears to have its best team since 2001, a mean, athletic bunch of Blackshirts buffeted by one of the nation’s great kickers, all of whom carry an offense in search of a consistent identity - and quarterback. Missouri looks like the primary (only) challenger, a team built on the right arm of Blaine Gabbert. For the Tigers, it’s the defense that groped through the darkness in 2009, hoping to make strides in 2010 with a solid defensive line. The rest of the division - Kansas State, Kansas, Colorado and Iowa State - will be hoping to make a bowl game.

    In the south, it’s a free-for-all, led by, of course, Texas and Oklahoma, joined by Texas A&M and Texas Tech. It should be the Aggies’ best year since 1998, considering they return 16 starters and enjoy a favorable schedule (Nebraska, Tech and OU at home). But A&M hasn’t done much since upsetting UT in 2006. The Red Raiders, meanwhile, change coaches and defensive philosophy. Is the offense still sharp enough to deliver an improbable division crown in Tommy Tuberville’s first year? Still-building Baylor and rebuilding Oklahoma State are present to play spoiler.

    After years of spectacular individual play - Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Ndamukong Suh, Russell Okung, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Daniel, Todd Reesing and Michael Crabtree come most readily to mind - the Big 12 should have a more low-key flavor in 2010. There is no clear-cut Heisman Trophy candidate in the league - although, one day, Baylor’s Robert Griffin sure could be - and the most gifted player may be a still-learning cornerback (Prince Amukamara) or a quarterback whose big arm doesn’t exactly fit his team’s quick-throwing offense (Gabbert).

    Maybe that uncertainty and change was part of the poaching pulled off by the Big Ten and Pac-10. Would UT and OU have considered so drastic a move to a different league in 2008? Would Colorado - which has absolutely nothing else to lose, right? - have jumped to the Pac-10 if Dan Hawkins had engineered a big turnaround in 2009 as he had planned? Would Nebraska have sought out the Big Ten, if Missouri, bolstered by two productive seasons, hadn’t moaned and lobbied for an invite?

    In lieu of a race to the national title, what remains is a compelling narrative, especially for the Huskers, who will find games at Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State plenty challenging. Nebraska may want to make friends on its way out the door, but it’s not in the cards to happen. NU will get every opponent’s best shot, and you can bet fans of fellow Big 12 North teams will be rooting for the carnage.

    The stakes are different at Texas, where just perhaps an era has ended. UT enjoyed nearly-unprecedented quarterback play for the last six years. (Who wouldn’t take a Vince Young/Colt McCoy two-step? Only USC, which jumped from Carson Palmer to Matt Leinart.) The Longhorns hand the ball to Garrett Gilbert, who hasn’t lost an official start in ages, although he took his lumps - and survived - in the BCS national title game. Gilbert is not necessarily surrounded by the best line or skill talent - Texas’ “commit or beat it” recruiting method has allowed some incredible players to slip away - and UT is in the midst of altering its offense to suit Gilbert’s talents. Will the switch be seamless? And if it isn’t, can Longhorn fans wait out a few losses?

    By the time Texas rolls into Lincoln, it could be a juggernaut playing its last tough game of the 2010 regular season, or a wounded team with two losses. UT without swagger and confidence is typically weak; see the 2007 offering that nearly blew a game to Nebraska’s crappiest collection in the last half-century.

    Oklahoma, which serves as impressive enforcer to Texas’ leadership, has questions of its own. Bob Stoops is now ten years removed from his national title. Statistically, OU remains excellent. But to what end? Five losses in 2009. With a tougher schedule in 2010.

    As we preview the Big 12 throughout July, we’ll cover all the bases you could possibly imagine. But we’ll start with a classic list of games, coaches, players and teams worth remembering.

    Preseason offensive player of the year: Blaine Gabbert, Missouri quarterback. He gets the nod over OU’s Landry Jones and A&M’s Jerrod Johnson, in part because he’ll play an easier schedule, in part because he’s healthy, and in part because Gabbert just has better tools than either one of them. Look for 4,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns. Runners up: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State, Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, Johnson, Jones.

    Preseason defensive player of the year: Von Miller, Texas A&M “jack” backer. Miller is an exciting, dynamic pass rusher with an endless motor and creative determination. Not the best run stopper, but he’s a perfect fit for the Aggies’ gambling defense. Runners-up: Jared Crick, Nebraska, Aldon Smith, Missouri, Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma, Prince Amukamara, Nebraska.

    Preseason coach of the year: Bo Pelini, Nebraska. We think it’s NU’s time to win the Big 12 outright, and Pelini, who took Bill Callahan’s players, added a few of his own and instituted a winning culture, is the guy who deserves the credit. His system, thus far, has worked. Runners-up: Tommy Tuberville, Art Briles, Bob Stoops.

    Preseason freshman of the year: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M left tackle. A true freshman good enough to start for a head coach (Mike Sherman) who knows good offensive linemen? Sign the kid up.

    Preseason newcomer of the year: Toney Clemons, Colorado wide receiver. The Michigan transfer is already CU’s No. 2 receiver, and could surpass Scotty McKnight by midseason if he’s the big-play guy the Buffaloes think he is.

    Conference game of the year: Texas at Nebraska, Oct. 16. Enough blood and pride at stake to fill a whole season of “Dallas.” Runners-up: Texas vs. Oklahoma, Nebraska at Texas A&M, Oklahoma at Missouri, Texas at Texas Tech, Missouri at Nebraska

    Ugliest conference game of the year: Iowa State at Texas, Oct. 23. You know that’s gonna be an ouch.

    Non-conference game of the year: Florida State at Oklahoma, Sept. 11. The Seminoles’ experienced, balanced offense will challenge OU’s defense in Norman. Runners-up: UCLA at Texas, Georgia at Colorado, Colorado at California, Nebraska at Washington, Missouri vs. Illinois, Kansas at Georgia Tech, Oklahoma at Cincinnati.

    Ugliest non-conference game of the year: Weber State at Texas Tech, Nov. 20. There are plenty of ugly non-conference games in the Big 12, but the key to this one is the date. By then, Weber will have little interest in getting thumped by a team twice as big and fast as it is. And you know what the Red Raiders do to teams like this. Runners-up: South Dakota State at Nebraska, Stephen F. Austin at Texas A&M, Missouri State at Kansas State.

    Coach on the Hottest Seat: Dan Hawkins, Colorado. That goes without saying, of course, but it could be an interesting season in Stillwater, too, for head coach Mike Gundy if the Cowboys stumble out of the gate. A weak non-conference schedule may save Mr. Man. Runners-up: Mike Sherman, Texas A&M

    Check Out Our Full Big 12 Preview: Commentary, 12 Best Players, Ten Overrated Players, Ten Underrated Players

    Tags: big 12 preview, big 12, bo pelini, blaine gabbert, texas, dan hawkins, mike gundy

  4. 2010 Jun 21

    Husker Heartbeat 6/21: Big 12 Winners and Losers


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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!

    *Former Nebraska assistant Joe Rudolph reflects on his awful 2007 season at NU. [url][/url]

    *While Colorado celebrates moving to the Pac-10, Dan Hawkins is glum and beaten down.

    *How Nebraska’s recruiting will change once NU hits the Big Ten.

    *Roy Helu and Prince Amukamara have appeared so far on ESPN’s best 25 players in the Big 12.

    *Lee B talks winners and losers in the Big 12 realignment game. [url=http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&id=5291319 ]Pat Forde[/url], too.

    *Should the NU-OU rivalry continue?

    *Trophy games have a unique importance in the Big Ten. Let’s not push it too hard on Nebraska, OK?

    *Miami quarterback Jacory Harris can be amazing - or average.

    *Ohio State recruit shot.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, big 12, roy helu, prince amukamara, lee b, big ten, oklahoma, recruiting, dan hawkins

  5. 2010 May 19

    Husker Heartbeat 5/19: Tails Wagging Dogs, Suh, The Hawk and ACC


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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!

    Compared to most news outlets, we’ve sat on the sideline of this Big Ten expansion story. Maybe you figured the big boys had come in to do the real work.

    Hardly. We saw a tail out of Missouri wagging the dog of the media down there. Fine professionals caught up in projecting a story that hadn’t yet materialized.

    So when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany basically said - as he’s said all along - that no decisions or invitations were imminent at this week’s Big Ten meetings in Chicago, we weren’t surprised in the least. The Big Ten, after all, isn’t going to consult some administrator at Mizzou on timetables.

    Of course, some of the media just couldn’t buy they’d been assembled in Chicago like Geraldo Rivera once was for Al Capone’s tomb, so they ran with Delany’s main chat of the day - on the shifting population demographic to the Sun Belt - as a “twist.” A twist that frustrated a veteran scribe like Tom Shatel:

    “That’s because the longer this story goes on, the more you wonder who is going to pop out from behind the curtain.”

    Except that the Big Ten hasn’t been pushing any story. Delany sticks to his original story. He’s done this over and over. There are no quotes on-the-record that the Big Ten is about to do anything or has done anything. The “sources” - mostly from the Missouri end - have done almost all the speculating and work on this story. And who reports those sources? The media.

    What you’re getting, fine reader, is a lesson in how the media has been taken for a ride in this new digital age. Instead of raw, hard reporting, insisting people show their cards and go on the record, journalists settle for a “Watergate”-style hand-me-down of “follow the money.”

    *Ndamukong Suh heads to one of Detroit’s many offseason minicamps before the main camp.

    *Dan Hawkins is spinning tall tales again. Although - and we’ve said this before - CU is going to be better this year than some expect.

    *ESPN vastly overpays for the rights to ACC football and hoops. There’s a reason for that perhaps we’ll explore sometime.

    *NU baseball rolls Creighton in Rosenblatt finale.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, tom shatel, big ten expansion, dan hawkins, baseball

  6. 2010 Apr 28



    By HuskerLocker

    As Nebraska’s 2010 spring football season is over, Husker Locker takes a glance at what NU’s opponents – as well as the Big 12 and the nation as a whole - are doing this spring.

    Team: Colorado
    Coach: Dan Hawkins (3-9 last year 16-33 at Colorado, 69-44 in Division I)
    Plays Nebraska: Nov. 26, 2010 (Lost in 2009 28-20)
    Spring Game: April 10

    Summary: And so, Dan Hawkins’ final stand in Boulder. Or perhaps you’d prefer to look at it as his final meal. Saddled with yet another difficult non-conference schedule (California and Georgia) and a Big 12 slate that isn’t any easier (games at Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma), it’s hard to see how CU emerges from 2010 with anything better than a .500 record - especially if the Buffaloes start slow.

    But Hawkins will field the best team he’s had in Boulder. Yes. Read that again.

    Hawkins’ two decent recruiting classes - the 2007 and 2008 - now comprise the bulk of the Buffaloes’ two-deep. And while some of those players hit the bricks - Darrell Scott and Josh Smith, to name two - there is enough material behind, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, for Colorado to be semi-competitive. If Hawkins had ever been able to coax a decent quarterback to Boulder, who knows? These Buffs might have competed for the Big 12 North title this year. As it is, the lack of belief in the program, coupled with an iffy QB play, makes CU a sleeper team with just the minor chance of surprising Big 12 pundits.

    Spring Progress: Offensive coordinator Eric Kiseau chose to simplify the West Coast attack and add a bit of zone read to the playbook (sound familiar?). The two dueling quarterbacks, Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen, both had decent spring games - Hawk Jr tossed for 220 yards while Hansen threw for 170 - but it’s Hansen who offers CU a true running threat. If he can cut down on negative plays - he made several in the 28-20 loss to Nebraska, if you’ll recall - he’s the guy. For now, he holds a “paper thin” lead over Hawkins heading into fall. Neither are the true answer; true freshman Nick Hirschman enrolled early and may be a factor in 2011.

    CU used a patchwork offensive line during the spring because of injuries and academic issues, but the trio of Nate Solder (tackle), Bryce Givens (tackle) and Ryan Miller (guard) are a good trio around which to build. The offense’s strength is wide receiver, where Scotty McKnight and Markques Simas are joined by Michigan transfer Toney Clemons. Running back is thin, but Rodney Stewart, presuming health, is a versatile, if small, back.

    Listen to Dan Hawkins talk about his offensive line:

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    The much-maligned defense made more progress. The defensive line, according to reports, rounded into shape and controlled most of the scrimmages. Conrad Obi should anchor one tackle spot, and much-ballyhooed defensive Nick Kasa could nab a starting job by the fall. The secondary returns two starters at corner. The linebackers are the big question. Remember: At times last year, Colorado’s defense wasn’t half bad, shutting down Texas and Oklahoma State for a half. The offense simply kept putting the defense in bad spots.

    Breakout player: On offense, it was Clemons, who has impressive athleticism, and 6-foot-4, 230-pound redshirt freshman tight end DeVaughn Thornton, who caught two touchdowns from Hansen in the spring game. On defense, Kasa recovered from injuries and a fall illness nicely. Undersized (5-11, 185) safety Parker Orms, a redshirt freshman, had ten tackles and a sack in the spring game.

    What You May Not Know: The special teams remains awful. Kicker Aric Goodman just had hip surgery, and hopes to return by August. Whereas most teams would use its youngest players to populate kick and punt coverage teams, CU doesn’t have a lot young talent. The 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes were average and awful, in that order.

    Keep an eye on: How Hawkins handles the hot seat questions over the summer and during fall camp. And how he handles the quarterback race. If Hansen could wrest complete control of it away from Cody Hawkins, CU would be all the better for it. The Buffs have to hit the ground running with that non-conference schedule.

    Spring Opponent Reports: Kansas State Kansas, Western Kentucky, Colorado

    Husker Spring Reviews: Quarterback, Offensive Line Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Defensive Backs, Special Teams

    Tags: spring opponent report 2010, cu, dan hawkins, tyler hansen, cody hawkins

  7. 2010 Apr 12

    Husker Heartbeat 4/12: Wats, Fearless Frankie, The Hawk, Tabloids and Sweatshops in Honduras


    By HuskerLocker

    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!

    *Shawn Watson potpourri: Why he’s about to look a lot smarter, and why Sipple thinks he’s playing the offense close to his vest.

    *Is Isiah Norton the next Nebraska commit?

    *Austin Cassidy - Man with Something to Prove.

    *CN defends Mike Anderson. Why? Find out.

    *Alabama loses a key member of its defensive secondary to a NCAA violation.

    *Colorado held a fireworks-laden, entertaining spring game. Plenty of offense. File that away for next fall. CU will be able to score points next season.

    *Fearless Frankie supports Ron Zook.

    *Wisconsin ends its Nike relationship over sweatshops in Honduras.

    *Baylor had a spring game, too. And you know what? Robert Griffin is going to have a hard time keeping Nick Florence off the field for the next three years.

    *At Tennessee, media was charged $50 per head to watch a scrimmage. What are we now - the National Enquirer?

    Tags: husker heartbeat, frank solich, shawn watson, dan hawkins, nick florence, austin cassidy, baseball, mike anderson, recruiting

  8. 2010 Apr 07

    Husker Heartbeat 4/7: Prince, Nixon and the Hawk, Connie and Blaming Barry Collier


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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!

    BRN asks: Who’s the fourth running back at NU? We’ll take Lester Ward if somebody above him gets hurt, and Austin Jones for spot plays out of the shotgun on third down.

    *Marvin Sanders toils away at making the already-gifted Alfonzo Dennard and Prince Amukamara more complete players.

    *Do you remember when Nixon, during the Vietnam War, mysteriously (and apocryphally?) confronted protestors at the Lincoln Memorial in the middle of the night? I give you Dan Hawkins, answering the questions of Buff fans in the Denver Post - at length!

    Quoth the Hawk:

    The power and magic of people with a purpose will make it happen. I think the people on campus and in the Dal Ward Athletic Center know what we have done and what we are up against. Every situation has a different boiling point for success, and I believe we are getting closer to that point. We are at a critical point and we need the Buff faithful to be supportive of the program; if everyone rolls up their sleeves and rows in the same direction, we will reach the destination.

    *Lee B’s Big 12 chat, still blaming the Barry Coller era for Doc Sadler’s current struggles. The chat is aces otherwise, but Collier’s bland personality simply cannot translate to every single problem NU has. Sadler had too much success in his first three years to now retroactively point out the grey clouds. (Yes, I prefer "grey"!)

    *Nebraska and Creighton’s softball teams are facing unexpected struggles.

    *Can Connie Yori stage an encore season at NU?

    The quick answer: No. Nebraska should aim to return to the NCAA Tournament, which will be challenge in itself. Baylor and Oklahoma, Final Four participants, will improve, Missouri and Colorado inch forward, Kansas State probably gets back into the NCAA Tourney picture.

    Nebraska has its point guard - Lindsey Moore - and senior leader - Dominique Kelley. But the Huskers need to find consistent scoring in the post - Cathryn Redmon can provide the defense and rebounding, but not the shooting - while getting more out of shooter Kaitlyn Burke than she provided before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. The freshman class looks strong, but it’s asking a lot of it to produce wins right off the bat.

    Look for a slightly softer non-conference schedule.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, richard nixon, dan hawkins, marvin sanders, lee b, prince amukamara, alfonzo dennard, connie yori, softball

  9. 2010 Feb 04

    RECRUITING: Inside the Big 12: Colorado


    By HuskerLocker

    Samuel McKewon reviews the strengths and weaknesses of each Big 12 class in this exclusive recruiting podcast! Today: No. 12 Colorado. Listen to head coach Dan Hawkins' odd explanation of the worst class in the last 20 years of Buff football, and hear Sam break down the few strengths of the class! All with a 14-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: recruiting, big 12, colorado, dan hawkins

  10. 2010 Jan 21

    11 BCS Coaches on the Early Hot Seat


    By HuskerLocker

    The seat’s already been preheated for these eleven gentlemen of the BCS, for reasons explained below.

    Don’t get too riled up, Florida fans. Just read the explanation.

    Dan Hawkins, Colorado: The man has lost virtually every useful member of his staff in the last two years, he has little-to-no-credibility in Boulder, and CU’s schedule in 2010 is fairly brutal. The only thing “The Hawk” has going for him is a better-than-average offensive line and some pieces at the skill positions. But, overall, it’s going to go badly for the Buffaloes in 2010. And Hawkins is going to get the axe for it.

    Rich Rodriguez, Michigan: He could write a handbook, at this point, on how not to lead college football’s Tiffany program. Does the influx of talent get enough experience in time for 2010? Can the undersized defense perform my better than my neighbor’s mangy cat?

    Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Down in Cowboy country, you have to smell what the T. Boone’s cookin, and if OSU blows an early-season game vs. Troy, Tulsa or Lafayette - perfectly possible with a new quarterback - look out, Mr. 40. And a guy like Bo Pelini ought to pay close attention. If Shawn Watson ever were to bolt, a guy like recently-deposed Gundy would be an excellent choice for offensive coordinator.

    Bill Lynch, Indiana: The Hoosiers couldn’t crack the Big Ten egg no matter who the coach might be, but losses at Michigan and Iowa last year stung with the pain of badly missed opportunities. Lynch can’t afford the same blunders in 2010.

    Mike Sherman, Texas A&M: The Aggies had better make the leap in year three. Too much talent not to do it.

    Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: When does this program break through? And when does Spurrier, with his brilliant offensive mind, finally build an attack worth fearing? He likely saved his job with a big win over Clemson. But then USC crapped out in the bowl game against overmatched Connecticut.

    Paul Wulff, Washington State: Just 3-22 in two years. Has anyone actually seen this team anywhere other than a milk carton? If Wulff gets canned, which we expect…hello Mike Leach! Eastern Washington is curiously similar to West Texas.

    Ron Zook, Illinois: Hard to see how he currently has a head coaching job, but he’s managed to fool somebody in Champaign. For one more year, anyhow. The talent has to translate into wins eventually.

    Randy Shannon, Miami: The feel-good guy of September 2009 once again botched some easy wins in the last half of the schedule. The whole “USwag” look will get old real fast if the Hurricanes dump a few out of the gate.

    Dennis Erickson, Arizona State: The Sun Devils were tantalizingly close in a half-dozen games last year. But it didn’t count for much. There’s too much talent down there - and ASU is too gorgeous a school, from several perspectives - to turn in three losing seasons in a row.

    Urban Meyer, Florida: Meyer’s put himself there, and you can bet that next season - which should be trying because breaking in a new quarterback, and a glut of new defenders, is never easy - will stand as Meyer’s toughest yet. His sideline demeanor will be scrutinized, his players and assistant coaches will be queried, and the minute UF shows a few cracks in the armor, writer and pundits will correctly trace it back to Meyer’s decisions and statements made in late December. Hey - Meyer’s a terrifically driven coach. But he’s officially put himself on Vermeil Watch. At Tennessee, at Alabama and LSU in three out of four weeks in late September/early October? It’ll put the team - and the man - to a major test.

    See also:

    11 BCS Coaches on the Hot Seat
    5 Things CFB Can Learn from the NFL
    Best Fans/Worst Fans
    Best Helmets/Worst Helmets

    Tags: dan hawkins, mike gundy

  11. 2009 Nov 25

    Five Keys: Colorado


    By HuskerLocker

    You're busy with turkey, stuffing, yams and the blowout game on the TV in the background. No preamble. Just on to NU-CU, and those five keys.

    Win one for the Hawk: Even when Dan Hawkins sticks as Colorado's coach, the Buffaloes are perfectly aware of his embattled situation, and now that he's said about every mea culpa possible for this debacle of a season – just watch how hard CU plays on Friday. That doesn't mean Colorado doesn't get beaten. But I think you'll see the CU defense, inconsistent for much of the year, hone in on their talent for at least one game. Nebraska's offense is still learning how to move with power treads on its wheels, so our hunch is Colorado thinks it can win against NU's running game, and sell out everywhere else.

    Expect, as a result, the kitchen sink approach on offense. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini even knows it's coming.

    “We're prepared for a lot of different things we could see,” Pelini said after Wednesday's practice. “I'm sure they'll do some things we haven't seen. We've been dealing with that for a couple weeks now. A lot of teams throw things at us. We make adjustments and move past it. Our kids are pretty resilient that way. They don't get all caught up and flustered.”

    Bo's right. But CU will have an extra dose of – something – for the Big Red.

    The Specials: Colorado is among the nation's five worst teams in punting and punt returns, and kicker Aric Goodman remains one of the Big 12's spottiest performers. Nebraska, meanwhile, has two Mr. Reliables: Kicker/punter Alex Henery and kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic. Throw in much-better-than-average punt and kickoff return units, and Nebraska should have a whopping edge in an area where CU typically excels. Henery, meanwhile, has to be considered one of the MVPs of the entire Big 12, as huge punting performances helped turn around the Oklahoma and Kansas State games, while his reliable field goal kicking makes NU a threat anywhere around the opponents' 35-yard line.

    Inside-Out: If you peruse the offenses that have had the most success against CU's defense – Toledo, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas A&M – all but the Mountaineers exploited the middle of the Buffaloes' secondary for big plays at touchdowns. While Colorado has fair corners, and its linebackers run downhill pretty well, the deep middle has been vulnerable from the opening-season kickoff, and CU's interior line has been susceptible to inside zone, iso and counter plays between the hash marks. Nebraska can – and will – challenge the core of Buffaloes' defense.

    Tyler, Cody and Zac: That's Cody Hawkins, for those of you keeping track at home, not Cody Green. Expect to see all three on Friday, warts, talents and all, and if Zac Lee's one game can outplay the combined efforts of CU's two, then Nebraska should win by ten points or more. Lee is a hybrid, of sorts, of Hawkins and the slightly taller, more mobile Tyler Hansen. Like them, Lee still makes head-scratching mistakes now and again. Like them, Lee is capable of some big passing plays – seemingly out of thin air. And Lee's becoming - almost against his instincts - a better runner.

    Play the odds: Hawkins' shoddy handling of the quarterback situation, coupled with errors upon errors, has put a mask on a fairly talented team in each spot but defensive line. Certainly Nebraska wouldn't mind some of CU's receivers and tight ends, that's for sure. The Buffaloes are one or two recruiting cycles away from having the talent to win the Big 12 North, but there's enough on hand for an upset at home over a rival.

    But the Buffaloes always manage to do something dumb. They're 118th out of 120 in penalties, and 117th in penalty yards. They're 82nd in turnover margin. They're 117th in sacks allowed.

    Translation: CU pretty much leads in America in self-inflicted, big-yardage wounds. How an athletic director could look at those numbers and conclude Hawkins should stay is beyond us. Just hope that it benefits Nebraska on Saturday.

    Tags: five keys, colorado game, alex henery, adi kunalic, zac lee, bo pelini, dan hawkins

  12. 2009 Nov 25

    CU GAME: Scouting Report


    By HuskerLocker

    The best scouting report on the Web reveals the true strengths and weaknesses of the Colorado defense, and where the Huskers might gain 3-7 points on the Buffaloes.

    Check it out with a 14-day FREE TRIAL of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: dan hawkins, cu game, scouting report, locker pass

  13. 2009 Nov 25

    CU GAME: Commentary: Buffalo Bailout


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    "When I came to Colorado there were a lot of guys going, 'Don't go there, man, are you kidding me? Don't go there.' But you know what? I believe in this place. I still believe in this place, and I believe in me."

    -Dan Hawkins, Colorado football coach

    In the March 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, there is the story of a supermodel, Carmen, older – much - but still beautiful, graceful, artificially worthy of whatever 3000-thread-count blanket she sleeps under at night. This is Carmen in early 1994, before everything, practically, that you even care about: Britney, W., iPods, Erin Andrews, The Sopranos, the mass production of Famous Dave's, reality TV, David Beckham, Fight Club, the dot.com boom/bust/boom, Monica, Osama, three Nebraska national titles.

    Carmen has been summoned to an office in New York, that of a financial analyst, a wizard, a genius, a Gatsby, really – but no Daisy to derail him! - who can guarantee the kind of annual returns that buys a refined life, the one an educated man would mortgage all of his ordinary pursuits and possessions to procure: Naps in white cotton button-down shirts, a beach run at dawn, golf at Shinnecock, a glistening black car slipping through the night toward the Met, a dinner of $100 tapas, at the appropriate Spanish hour to eat them.

    Carmen's suitor, even older than she, is precisely such a man. He bought and sold a lot of real estate for a living – the kinds of buildings behind which the sun rises and sets - and, in this moment, he'd like to buy Carmen. And his manner of doing it is to sneak $100,000 into her bank account so she can write a check to this wizard, who has a personal investment fund, a financial cask of amontillado. The fund guarantees a certain unreasonable return. And, inconceivably, it delivers.

    Fifteen years later, the suitor is dead, Carmen is penniless and the wizard no longer has his curtain. He's Bernie Madoff, architect of a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. And seemingly half of Aspen, Colo., stop their collective spoons of soup halfway between the bowl and their mouth. They haven't invested some of their money with Madoff. They've invested almost all of it. At that moment, about 70 Coloradan magnates, trusts, foundations or charities lose most of their collective fortune to Madoff's pyramid – a bunch in Aspen alone, and 22 in the “front range” of the state, many of those folks living in Boulder.

    It's December 11, 2008.

    Four days after that, Dan Hawkins, defiant to the image of NU kicker Alex Henery – a mild-mannered, almost sheepish soccer player from Omaha – beating the Buffaloes with a 57-yard field goal on national television – picks up where Madoff ended, declaring at the annual CU team banquet: “Ten wins. No excuses.”

    “It's been kind of overwhelming,” said Henery of reaction to the kick.

    Alex – you ain't kiddin.

    By New Year's, a local Aspen resident - remembered as a good skier - has gift-wrapped four gasoline bombs, sent two of them to nearby banks, scrawled out a suicide note and shot himself in the head. His note promises a "horrible price paid in blood." Three months after that, it's revealed that a quarter of Aspen's residents have suffered from some kind of "psychiatric illness" and the suicide rate is nearly triple that of the rest of the state. Colorado's richest band together for a "Crisis in Paradise" workshop.

    A few months later, Josh Smith, the best playmaker for CU's football team, leaves, he says, to become a rapper. Quarterback Matt Ballenger just leaves.

    The Hawk opens up spring ball to the public for a week, and changes haircuts - from the hippie bowl to junior executive. And then the losses, all debacles on national television, the bizarre short weeks. Hawkins conducts 90-second press conferences with the weekly Big 12 media, trying to keep his word count somewhere below 50. One week, after several minutes of silence, reporters are told, simply, Hawkins isn't showing up at all.

    It's been one hell of a year for Colorado.


    Money? You think CU's football boosters, however many exist, should pony up the $3.5 million it would take to buy out Hawkins?

    After all, he's had four losing seasons in Boulder and officially regretted, well, pretty much everything in his press conference Monday. The bold “10 wins” proclamation. Recruiting his son, Cody, to play quarterback. His admitted “pie-in-the-sky” optimism. He sounded like a dead Hawk walkin.

    He finished 53-11 at Boise State, and left that program on the verge of stardom. He arrived in the Big 12, where he's endured some brutal non-conference schedules and some BCS-conference brand of nasty, and failed to draw enough of the top-shelf talent it takes to win even seven games. The top-shelf talent he was able to draw either belonged on a lower shelf (Darrell Scott), took the last train for the coast (Scott and Smith) or simply hasn't been developed by a less-than-elite coaching staff. As of two weeks ago, the students were wearing powder blue – the preferred Buffs' color prior to Bill McCartney's reign - in protest to Hawkins' tenure.

    But here's the truth: CU already paid Gary Barnett – who dragged the program and university through considerable mud - $3 million when he was fired. Higher public education in the state faces a $150 million budget hit in 2011, when the federal stimulus money runs dry. That's a lot blood in Boulder's streets.

    “People are going to be pretty upset if they see the Boulder campus claiming poverty down at the state legislature and in turn, turn around and invest seven figures to buy Hawk out,” Colorado Regent Tom Lucero told the Boulder Daily Cameraon Saturday.

    And CU's athletic department isn't operating as 20th Century Hong Kong, like Nebraska's outfit does. Colorado doesn't just write its own athletic ticket. The struggling football program is the crown jewel out there. Colorado maintains one of the Big 12's weakest athletic profiles – no baseball, no wrestling, treading water in most sports, drowning in basketball, where games routinely start at 8 p.m. - and has to compete for fan dollars with the Broncos, Nuggets, Rockies, Avs and Colorado State.

    Now – another $3.5 million to buy out a guy whose contract was extended after a 6-7 season? For a program that's quickly become the Stephanie Tanner of the Big 12, a step slow in facilities, academic support, fan excitement, etc? Baylor's stadium might be a ghost town on Saturdays, but you should see the fancy new digs on the outskirts of campus.

    If Colorado wants to be bailed out of a problem it created, it's going to dive right back in, possibly doubling the $850,000 annual package it paid Hawkins, to attract some coach with meaningful BCS experience and solid recruiting ties to the south, where the rest of the league recruits. It can either dip into its pockets or maybe try Mark Mangino on for size. That'd be an intriguing – albeit controversial – coup.

    What other coach, besides a disgraced one, wants to fight that apathy? I shudder at the words “Turner Gill.” And why should CU's richest boosters bankroll another foray into the wilderness?

    “Coach McCartney proved that can be done,” NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “After having been there and gone through seven years, it's a place that has a lot going for it. The beauty is unbelievable. So it's attractive to a lot of people...you have to be strong-willed person (out there). (McCartney) just persistently pursued his vision and found it.”

    What is beauty, really, awash in plain red ink?

    For a brief moment, 2001 and a few years after, Watson was part of a second Camelot before the crap hit the propeller. But the renaissance under Barnett – truly the best fit for CU, if only, you know, his whole enterprise hadn't been besotted with scandal and Freudian slips of misogyny – only created a faint echo of what McCartney was able to erect in a decade.

    The shadow of “Coach Mac” is a problem. He left right before the dawn of the Big 12 while the Buffaloes were loaded with Southern California riches. His final 1994 team had 10 players drafted into the NFL. Colorado's only had ten players drafted over the last five years.

    CU ignores the entrenched issues surrounding its program – namely, that few people really want it or need it, while Utah, BYU and Boise just keep getting better and better – to look for a “visionary” - Mac, Rick Neuheisel, Barnett, the Hawk – who combats relative disdain with positivity and golden hope. A lot of college football programs do this, in fact, although the motives are different.

    There's no such thing as a guaranteed return. And no such thing as a football wizard. Boosters, who like to gamble, can keep throwing money at the problem, hoping the equation eventually spits back wins and they kind of life they dream of: Private planes hopping around to important road games, steak dinners, buckets of the best beer, parties thrown in front two twin 52-inch televisions showing the game, a tan, hours by the pool at the bowl site.

    But it's a little like the Shangri-La hiring a new doorman every few years in the hopes that his warm words and friendly smile entices wayward travelers to step inside.

    People either want to stay in the hotel, or they don't.

    At any rate, you're beginning to see these institutions of higher learning buckle and crack under the pressure of keeping up with Texas, USC, Florida, et al.

    So many of them have flown too close to the sun, purchased too many shares in the same dream, and kept their hands out to the rich boosters, who, like Paulie in “Goodfellas” demand a return on their ever-increasing investment.

    Colorado could be paying $6.5 million over the last four years for 16 wins, two coaching changes and the potential yet more turnover within the roster. Or it could keep The Hawk, pray that he hopes turns it around with road games at Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma and California (plus home games vs. Georgia and Texas Tech!). Either way, CU inches closer to become its little brother, Colorado State. A Mountain West team trapped in a Big 12 Conference.

    Those rich Buffaloes might as well be Carmen.

    Tags: cu game, dan hawkins, shawn watson

  14. 2009 Aug 26

    Wednesday Comment: A Last, Distant Rumble of Thunder


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    “I always feel like, being a Husker at Nebraska, there’s a double standard. We have our ups and downs. We get away with a lot of things. Sometimes we get hit harder with things. In this case right here? My name convicted me. If I was any other Joe Blow, I feel I would have beat this case.”

    Thunder Collins, a fool and convicted murderer, still putting that Husker stamp on his life. Not less than a minute into his rambling jailhouse interview after being found guilty of first-degree murder and assault charges, he summed up the identity of his adult life. His Husker name opened some doors. Slammed this one in his kisser.

    Do I believe that? Not for a twelfth of a second. But I don’t doubt Thunder believes it. Guilty men harbor such delusions, for one. But Thunder – you see how natural it is to use his first name, the only name he ever really went by at NU, the only name that probably ever rolled off the tongue of 99 percent of Husker fans – embodied the identity of the troubled Husker as well as anyone.

    Gifted. Given too much too quick. Lacking some necessary skills. Lost in a parkland town where, with its leisurely pace, forgiving folks and police force constantly chipping away at minor crimes, it can be easy to get and be lost for a long, long time.

    Before he ever arrived at Nebraska, the halls of glory were greased for him by the media, and even head coach Frank Solich, who tried some, but not too much, to temper expectations. Thunder was the offensive side of a coin that had a similar rags-to-riches tale, Demorrio Williams, on the defensive side. The name “Demorrio” – see how easy that name is, too? – still bounces around Memorial Stadium walls in admiration.

    “Oh, Bo talked about Demorrio all the time,” defensive ends coach John Papuchis told reporters last spring.

    Pelini coached Williams for one brilliant year in 2003, and helped transform him into a viable NFL prospect. He remains in the League today, with his name painfully connected to the financial troubles of Michael Vick. It was Williams’ financial advisor who allegedly used a Ponzi scheme to bilk Vick of large sums of cash while Vick was in jail. She was the financial advisor of Josh and Daniel Bullocks, too. Mary Wong, indicted Monday, worked out of Omaha, same place where Thunder was convicted for his role in a drug deal bloodbath.

    There are no connections, really, besides that Husker connection. Otherwise, ships passing in the night. And yet we, as Husker fans, follow these boys through all the pratfalls and triumphs of their lives, don’t we? When Turner Gill delivers his “speechless, man, speechless” line on ESPN in some MAC Championship game, we’re there tearing up with him. When mercurial Marlon Lucky was cut by Cincinnati, there was, we’re sure, one last debate in a thousand living rooms about whether he really panned out at Nebraska.

    We can’t help ourselves. This is the fabric of our lives. On nights cold and empty, driving alone, we remember some random fact about 1994, 1995, or where we were the night Jammal Lord threw that stupid interception against Texas. The girl we kissed during 2001 Oklahoma. That great road trip down to Columbia for Frazier’s first start. That cold-as-hell game in Boulder or Ames. The time after the 1997 Kansas game, driving back in an ice storm, trees bending and breaking, as if in mourning to the soon-to-be-dead fall harvest. That weekend in New York for the Kickoff Classic in 1994, the only time thousands of Nebraskans had ever been to the Big Apple. We remember.

    And the names. Thunder Collins may have left our consciousness for years at a time, but when you’d see the name, you’d remember the whole story. His hard-luck life in East LA. His arrival at NU. How he wore LP’s No. 1, a foreshadowing, as it turns out, of the worst kind. How he never remotely panned out. How he was suspended by NCAA for taking gifts, reinstated, and later had to quit, with just a few games left in the season, to supposedly take care of his younger brother. He even typed a statement in ALL CAPS, signed it, and granted one exclusive interview to a radio reporter to explain his departure. I talked to that reporter Tuesday. His recollection of that interview? That it was cold, in November, and Thunder didn’t have any heat in his house. That’s why he remembers the cold.

    The reporter took that typed statement and got it laminated.

    And finally, we recall how he bounced in and out of jail - due to what Thunder calls his “M.O.” , domestic violence and bar fights (He used that as an explanation, mind you, for why he wasn’t guilty of murder: Felonies weren’t his M.O. Just misdemeanor bar fights and domestic disputes. Lovely.) – before this current, unholy mess.

    Now and again, you’d hear stories about Thunder, or you’d see him out at the casino, or at a nightspot. He attracted a crowd. He was mercurial. He could be bright and funny. He could be morose and evasive, too. He promoted some, worked hard when necessary. The few times I encountered him, there was always somebody around saying the word “Husker.” I suspect Thunder would have liked to escape that word. I suspect, like he says, it opened doors – but ones he ultimately would have preferred stayed close. I suspect Thunder fell in with folks who, like many fans, could remember a run of his, or a certain game in 2001, or something he said on the TV. I suspect that, after a truckload of hard times, being a Husker felt alternatively good and bad.

    I think back to his unveiling at Nebraska.

    Thunder’s arrival in early 2000 was an age of great excess in Nebraska athletics. Then-athletic director Bill Byrne seemingly had a cast of thousands over in South Stadium working for him. NU was preseason No. 1 heading in 2000. Oklahoma was regarded as a pimple before the season. Texas had just been slain in the 1999 Big 12 Championship. Almost every team was on the national map. Athletes on campus were stars – more so then than today. Volleyball players, soccer players. They were beautiful, highly recruited, magnetic. Sweden’s sexiest woman was on the swim team. The baseball team was loading up with Shane Komine and Ken Harvey and dropping 50 runs on Chicago State at old Buck Beltzer, young fans suddenly surrounding the old ones who had sat through all those worthless doubleheaders with Peru State and Kearney State in the John Sanders days. The men’s basketball team stunk, but it was rich with colorful stories – the talented center who lived out of an Econo Lodge before NU, the guy who quit the team because he just didn’t want to run five more miles for Barry Collier.

    Y2K for Nebraska athletics was a lush, vibrant bouquet of scarlet roses.

    It was into this arena Thunder stepped.

    Newspapers were flush with dough all over America – they were, and that’s part of why it all fell apart seven years later, you see, the massive overspending on useless projects, the absurd profit expectations - and the second golden age of sports journalism – in print, on radio, on TV – was booming. Booming! The Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald were busting out 50-inch portraits on all kinds of Huskers. Eric Crouch’s mom, for goodness sakes, got the Sunday takeout treatment. The national media frequently breezed in and out of town.

    It was an era of drunkenness on the booze of optimism. The Dow Jones would forever stay above 10,000. The Yankees would never lose another World Series. Nor the Lakers another NBA title. Home runs would be thumped into the night. Marion Jones would conquer the world. Tiger Woods would do it first. And Husker football would kick tail and leave tire marks of 50 speed options run right off the hip pad of the defensive end.

    Well, at least Tiger conquered golf, if not the world.

    A guy like Thunder Collins? He’d just cruise on the sea of life, making his mark as a Husker, being known around town as a running back, a cool dude, a guy for whom you’d want to buy four drinks.

    Right until his arrest and subsequent incarceration on the murder charges, that Thunder name – and the Husker football program it represented – got him in some doors. It might even have been that name that brought him to a house, day after day, in midtown Omaha. And it might have been that name that stuck out like a Big Red Thumb in the police investigation.

    Thunder sees himself as a “fall guy” in all this. Not so sure. But a fallen guy? Absolutely. And, as Husker fans, what can we say, when the media pokes fun at his troubles? He is, regrettably, ours. Just like LP, who so often, strangely comes up in message board lists of great Nebraska running backs like a ghost – he was so good/really the best/a shame it is really/all of the rest - is ours. And just like all the award winners with spotless records are ours. Tom Osborne is ours. And Bill Jennings, the man cast out of Bud Wilkinson’s inner circle into a nearly a decade of mediocrity at NU, is ours. To be a fan of any team is live with these conflicts in triumph and defeat, on and off the field.

    Thunder Collins, the man who was after just a little bit of money in this life, is Nebraska football’s Sonny Liston. There is no pleasure in it, just as there is no pleasure in knowing when Bruce Springsteen and countless other musicians made their way to Lincoln through, they wanted to make one odd, morbid stop at the gravestone of Charlie Starkweather.

    And yet we know, 12 years after the last national championship, the great success comes with some price. That it’s not all ice cream cones and pigtails. Bo Pelini strikes me as a man who understands this to some extent and yet won’t be satisfied with bargaining. Well, we shall see, if the games changes him, or he changes the game, or nothing changes, and he just doesn’t win enough.

    It’s Division I football, as Dan Hawkins might squeal. It’s the Big 12. Heroes are made instantly. Villains sometimes take a little longer. Both of them bang around in our memories, dueling for attention.

    Tags: locker pass, special comment, thunder collins, bill byrne, bo pelini, dan hawkins, lawrence phillips, demorrio williams, frank solich, marlon lucky, turner gill, bill jennings, tom osborne

  15. 2009 Aug 18

    The Big 12's Pressure Chamber


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Ten poor blokes – players and coaches alike – feeling the heat in the Big 12 as the 2009 season approaches. (The order’s alphabetical, Mizzou fans).

    Blaine Gabbert, Missouri QB: Gary Pinkel’s already set the bar at Chase Daniel, ca. 2006. So Gabbert’s gotta play at least that well. Thing is, he could be much better than that.

    Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State Coach: He’s got the hair, the new football facility, the TV sound byte, the skill players and a billionaire watching over his program. For now. If OSU lays an egg vs. Georgia that opening weekend, let the sirens in Stillwater wail.

    Cody Hawkins, Colorado QB: Is this kid going to start again? Is the Big Mac special sauce really just diluted thousand island dressing? So, on Hawkins’ shoulders goes the follow: A brand new offense, a punchless receiving corps and, frankly, dad’s head coaching job. As Cody goes, so do the Buffaloes. The question now is: Is the kid Jacob or Esau?

    Dan Hawkins, Colorado coach: Ten wins. No excuses. Read his lips.

    Zac Lee, Nebraska QB: Lee has more physical talent than any Nebraska quarterback since Eric Crouch. Time to strap in, harness it into good decision and, for the love of Herbie, stay healthy.

    Colt McCoy, Texas QB: Another season of gunslingin’ in Austin without half of Sam Bradford’s prodigious weapons. McCoy basically has to be the gingerbread man for the third straight year. If you don’t root for this kid, you’re swallowing yard cuttings. And considering head coach Mack Brown sent McCoy to every news outlet in the free world this summer, there is pressure, albeit of a different kind, to live up to all of those appearances, plus his 2008 season.

    Taylor Potts, Texas Tech QB: Has to be on the list, although Mike Leach’s track record shows he can plug any old dude in there. But Potts doesn’t want to be the first to falter.

    Ryan Reynolds, Oklahoma LB: Since Sooner fans basically chalked up the Texas loss to Reynolds’ injury, his return is supposed to solidify a leaky pass defense, end the war for conflict diamonds, reverse the Santa Ana winds…you get the picture.

    Mike Sherman, Texas A&M coach: How many guys take the Callahan method and apply to a tradition-rich program, thereby sending said program to an inexplicably bad season. This guy does.

    Daniel Thomas, Kansas State RB/Wildcat QB: The guy’s about as big as Hagrid with Johnny B. Goode’s arm. On top of that, the kid was under the “will he qualify” thunderstorm watch for much of the summer. Much is expected, quickly, of Thomas, an unusual talent who rises out of a Mississippi JUCO like…OK, enough similes.

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    Tags: big 12, mike gundy, mike sherman, dan hawkins, cody hawkins, zac lee, blaine gabbert

  16. 2009 Jul 23

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 10 Colorado


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    In preparation for Big 12 Media Days, 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. 10 Colorado

    Coach:Dan Hawkins
    2008 Record: 5-7

    What’s Changed Since 2008: CU lost its offensive coordinator to Oregon, the Buffs switched back to the West Coast Offense, QB Matt Ballenger bolted, WR Josh Smith, the team’s most dynamic player, chose to bolt, too, in order to pursue a rap career (and play football). Hawkins, believing the only place a rap career can flourish, apparently, released Smith only to USC and UCLA. Top-notch running back recruit Darrell Scott lost 30 pounds. Hawkins made a “10 wins and no excuses” guarantee. He’d better have the excuses ready. An old lady left all of her money to CU upon her death. Hawkins went in the hospital for kidney stones.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Easier than it has been, but still no cakewalk. The toughest game on paper is a Thursday night trip to West Virginia after a bye date, but a Friday game at Toledo could be tricky, too. CU hosts Colorado State and Wyoming, the latter of which we identified as a potential upset.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Tough road games at Texas and Oklahoma State practically bookend the schedule, but CU gets to host Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. That schedule advantage has led some pundits, most notably Phil Steele, to suggest the Buffaloes are headed for an upper division finish.

    Offense: West Coast/Spread
    Coordinator:Eric Kiseau, another young guy who takes over for the departed Mark Helfrich, who kept CU in the shotgun much of the time, using a modified spread rushing offense. Kiseau is a high-energy guy, but he prefers the control of the West Coast Offense. Kiseau has openly said his offense will resemble that of California, where he coached under Jeff Tedford.

    Strength: Running backs. Colorado has three pretty good ones, and two of those three are potential stars. Sophomores Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart – the first is built like a bowling ball, while the second is a 5-7 scatback - are an effective 1-2 punch, and senior Demetrius Sumler is good around the goal line. The offensive line, while young, has the potential, later in 2009, to be CU’s best in years. Sophomore guards Ryan Miller and Blake Behrens are both all-league candidates over the next two years.

    Weakness:There just no way around it: Cody Hawkins has been the worst starting quarterback over the last two years in the Big 12. He gets sacked a lot, his adjusted yards per attempt average is under five – which is anemic, among the nation’s worst – and he throws interceptions. He may be smart. He may be Dan Hawkins’ kid. But he is not a good passer, and there is no indication that the more mobile Tyler Hansen, who is recovering from a broken thumb, is ready to replace him. Hansen looked awful in a 40-31 loss to Nebraska – like he didn’t belong on the field.

    Beyond that, CU will have to adjust to a new offense. It’s going to take time, and the front of the Big 12 schedule, which includes games at Texas and vs. Kansas and Missouri, will be a tough test.

    Defense: 4-3
    Coordinator: Brian Cabral, the longtime CU assistant who has lasted through four different head coaches. It speaks to his personality and his talent of getting a lot out of a little. After going through some rough patches in 2003 and 2004, his defenses have been pretty solid, considering the anemic nature of the CU offense under Hawkins.

    Strength: Cabral is a linebackers coach at heart, and he’s always got a pretty good crew. No exception in 2009, as the team’s two leading tacklers, Shaun Mohler and Jeff Smart, both return. Jon Major, one of the nation’s recruits in 2008, redshirted last year, and may fill a starting role now. Also look for former NU commit Doug Rippy, a redshirt, to get some playing time. The secondary could be pretty good if two new safeties can support solid corners Cha’pelle Brown and Jimmy Smith.

    Weakness:The defensive line was raided by graduation. Gone is George Hypolite, Brandon Nicolas and Maurice Lucas. That’s more than 100 tackles. You don’t just replace that in a few weeks of play, no matter how talented the replacements are. And there’s some evidence that they may not be as talented. Colorado will struggle to generate a pass rush without blitzing.

    Special Teams The big weapon in the kickoff and punt return game, Josh Smith, is off working on his flow. Matt DiLallo wasn’t much of a punter for the alititude he kicks in (just a 34.0 net average) and Aric Goodman was positively awful at kicker last year, missing 9 of 14 attempts.

    Intangibles: Colorado seems to play Nebraska well since Hawkins arrival – even that awful 2006 team hung with NU for a half - and that may color Huskers’ fans concern for the Buffs. In recent years, however, CU seems utterly flummoxed when playing Missouri. Hawkins is an emotional leader, and his teams tend to go into the Big 12 conference with some emotion. Then it hits a brick wall. There’s just a lot of bad voodoo around this joint in general. Hawkins is probably getting fired after this year. Then…expect a full push for Turner Gill.

    Best-Case Scenario: It’s not 10 wins, that’s for sure. Maybe eight. CU isn’t going to sweep KU, NU and MU and it’s got no shot on the road at Okie State and Texas.

    Worst-Case Scenario: The Buffs drop two before the Big 12, lose to Texas and Kansas, and Hawkins goes on execution watch. Colorado won’t mess around waiting for the Hawk to make it work. His offenses have stunk thus far. And it’s not all Gary Barnett’s fault for leaving the cupboard bare.

    Our Take: We just don’t get Phil Steele’s vision here for picking CU No. 2 in the Big 12 North. While the Buffs might have a pretty good running game, it’d better be wondrous to account for a below-average passing game. On defense, Colorado’s small defensive line figures to get shoved around. We see four, five wins, depending on whether Iowa State upsets CU in Ames.

    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: colorado, big 12 breakdown, big 12 media days, big 12, dan hawkins, cody hawkins, darrell scott

  17. 2009 Jul 02

    National CFB: Five Coaches On Their Way Out


    By HuskerLocker

    Periodically throughout the summer, we'll be offering some insights on the national college football scene, both through our burning questions, and through top and bottom five lists.

    See the entire archive here.

    Today: Five Known Coaches on the Hot Seat

    Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: We’ve already chronicled the Ol Ball Coach’s team as one of those ready to take a tumble, and we think Spurrier’s ripe for a year-round stint on the golf course, too.

    Speaking of golf, imagine the SEC as the lounge of a semi-swank country club. These are football coaches, after all. Their tastes aren’t that refined.

    See that guy in the Tiger Woods gear, with the shades perched on his gelled tips, gritting his teeth over the two bogeys he made during his scratch round? That’s Urban Meyer. The guy in the corner, bleating loudly into his cell phone? Lane Kiffin. The guy hitting on the cart girl as she reloads beer? Houston Nutt. The guy at the snack counter debating whether he should splurge for the frozen Snickers? Mark Richt. The guy getting the biggest laughs in the room, half in the bag and ready to play nine more? Les Miles. The small, Napoleonic club pro who’s straightening the sleeves of Titlelists in the next room? Nick Saban.

    Steve Spurrier is the guy over by the TV, dressed in a four-year-old Antigua polo with the three-quarter sleeves and pleated slacks, hair stuck to his forehead by sweat, thumbing through year-old Golf Digests trying to “Reclaim Your Putting Stroke!”

    His humor isn’t funny anymore. His offense is no longer on the cutting edge. And, most importantly, he doesn’t coach Florida anymore. The SEC is now either a younger man’s game, that of a borderline pigskin sociopath like Saban or whatever they do at Kentucky and Vandy. Spurrier is none of those things. Either he heads for the Pac 10, or he flings that visor into the sunset.

    Dennis Erickson, Arizona State: Boy, the Sun Devils sure were smart to run Bruce Snyder out of town, huh? Erickson’s not an awful coach, per se; we just wonder if he’s been so many places and coached so many teams that he can really be invested in the long-term success of ASU. His teams, talented enough, don’t play like it.

    Bobby Bowden, Florida State: It’s a little sad what’s happened to this kind, funny coach. He could have walked away so many times. Why’d he stay in the game, fielding mediocre teams full of miscreants and cheaters? Bowden hasn’t had a decent quarterback in nearly a decade – FSU QBs haven’t completed 60 percent of their passes in a season for the last eight years – his offensive lines have been abysmal, his receivers lightning rods for the wasted talent bug.

    Dan Hawkins, Colorado: The “Hawk” hasn’t turned a buck in Boulder, and he’s been saddled with the decision of recruiting his own son, Cody Hawkins, to play the team’s quarterback. Now, let’s be clear: Cody Hawkins isn’t a bad quarterback. He’s not a charity case. This isn’t nepotism. But he can only take this team so far, and it should not be a coincidence that CU has struggled to land a top-flight QB in Daddy Hawkins’ tenure at CU.

    As long as Cody Hawkins is the QB, Colorado doesn’t win 10 games. The Buffs may not win six this year. And, if Dan Hawkins really means “no excuses,” it’ll be time for the CU administration to flush.

    Mike Sherman, Texas A&M: Absolutely not kidding with this one. While we expect the Aggies to get off to a 3-0 start, we don’t expect them to win more than two games from that point forward. And if A&M loses to Iowa State and finishes on a 7/8-game losing streak, you’ll see Bill Byrne, who is typically reluctant, pulling the trigger. It’s not like he’s Mr. Popular down in College Station at this very moment. And if A&M were to lose to, say UAB? Immediate execution watch. The Aggie faithful won’t put up with it. And there are plenty of good candidates right in the Big 12 (ahem, Shawn Watson?) from which to choose.

    Tags: hlss, ncfb, texas am, colorado, dan hawkins, mike sherman

  18. 2009 Apr 28

    OPPONENT REPORT: At CU, Still Searching for an Identity


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Life in Boulder isn't getting any easier. Check out our insights, including which Buff we think may have a breakout season in 2009...and he's on defense, and well known to Husker fans. Sign up for a Locker Pass today!

    Tags: locker pass, opponent reports, springtime with bo, colorado, dan hawkins

  19. 2009 Apr 01

    The Six Toughest Football Jobs in the Big 12


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Today we continue with part two of our Big 12 coaches “toughest jobs” list. We’ve already covered what we consider to be the easier jobs. Now we flip the switch and come at from the more difficult end.

    Again, the criteria:

    Recruiting Base/Interest
    Administrative/Booster Support
    Media/Fan Expectation
    Chance of “Success,” defined in part by the school’s tradition
    An “X” factor unique to each program, which may be positive or negative.

    On with the list!


    Head Coach: Mike Gundy Compensation: $2.2 Million

    Recruiting Base: Oklahoma State combs over much of the same turf as Oklahoma and Texas, but can’t land many of the best players in the area. OSU tends to locate some of their best players, like running back Kendall Hunter, where OU and UT weren’t looking. Still, a ton of rough diamonds in the Pokes’ neck of the woods. And OSU is gaining momentum.

    Administrative/Booster Support: Gundy has the money and watchful eye of T. Boone Pickens, who has flooded OSU with enough donor dollars to attract a top-flight coaching staff and vastly improve facilities. With that money comes expectations, though, and if OSU can’t get over the hump vs. Oklahoma soon, times may be a-changin in Stillwater.

    Media/Fan Expectation: OU casts a large shadow over OSU, but the expectations, given the money and the coaching staff, are higher than they’ve ever been. The Cowboys are akin to Jay Gatsby – nouveau riche. Now they have to move into East Egg, if you will.

    Chance of “Success”: It’s not easy to play Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech every year. That said, all the money, support and momentum is there. Nine wins is a reasonable, achievable standard each year. So is a win over Georgia to open the 2009 season.

    “X” Factor: Gundy draws attention to himself, whether it’s with his “I’m a Man!” speech, his hair, or his penchant for completely ignoring his team while the defense is on the field so he can draw up plays. Right now, it’s working for him. One day, it might not.

    No. 5 MISSOURI

    Head coach: Gary Pinkel Compensation: $2.5 million

    Recruiting Base: Better than any team in the Big 12 North, frankly. Mizzou can draw from the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas. The rest of the Show-Me state isn’t bad, either. The Tigers also have good ties with one of the best programs in Texas, Southlake Carroll, because they took a chance on Chase Daniel when others wouldn’t.

    Booster/Administrative Support: Since Pinkel underwent a conversion, of sorts, after the death of a player four years ago - and Mizzou gutted its administration in the wake of a real mess with the basketball program – life in Columbia has been a lot better. But the fans remain a little tepid and, after losing his offensive coordinator, Daniel, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin, people want to see just how much magic Pinkel has.

    Fan/Media Expectation: Pinkel is on better terms with the media in the last three years, but, again, there is a sense that 2009 is a litmus test. We’ll see how he handles it. Four/five years ago, the atmosphere around Mizzou was fairly toxic and Pinkel was rumored on his way out. These days, Missouri is expected to win nine and beat Kansas. Might be a tall order.

    Chance of “Success”: This remains a tough job. Missouri didn’t quite take advantage of its opportunities over the last two years, and it may affect how fans view Pinkel if things turn south in 2009.

    “X” Factor: Mizzou’s spread, no-huddle offense takes just the right quarterback.

    No. 4 NEBRASKA

    Head Coach: Bo Pelini Compensation: $1.851 million

    Recruiting Base: We can wax poetic all we want about the NU walk-on program, but the fact is, Nebraska often gets two-thirds of its starters from other states. In some years, it’s more than that. And while NU used to own the surrounding states, particularly Missouri, that’s just not the case anymore. Pelini and Co. have to work much harder and smarter than just about every other staff in the Big 12. Even Iowa State and Colorado are closer to population centers with football talent.

    Booster/Administrative Support: Nebraska arguably has the best facilities in the Big 12, and Pelini has a mentor and friend in athletic director Tom Osborne. The NU fan base is so grateful to be rid of Bill Callahan that Pelini will be given the time and latitude he thinks he needs to build a consistent 10-game winner.

    Fan/Media Expectation: At least nine wins yearly, and preferably ten. Conference titles, BCS games, and the occasional national title. The Big Red Nation has been a little spoiled by Osborne. And Pelini won’t diminish those expectations for a second. Still – he has to live up to them.

    Chance of “Success”: It’s still good, mind you, but, as Pelini will learn, recruiting is such a crucial part of keeping up with OU and Texas and staying ahead of KU and Mizzou. Nebraska has all the amenities, great fans, and other perks. But you’ve still got to convince kids to leave home, family and friends. Not always easy.

    “X” Factor: The longer Osborne stays, the better this job is for Pelini. He’s the ultimate coach’s ally.

    No. 3 COLORADO

    Head Coach: Dan Hawkins Compensation: $1.1 million

    Recruiting base: Denver and Colorado Springs usually have their share of players, and Utah tends to produce quite a few for its small population but, like Nebraska, CU is spending a lot of its time in other states. Particularly California.

    Booster/Administrative Support: Average at best. CU football is more of a pastime in Boulder, not a passion. Gary Barnett’s been gone for nearly four years, but what happened under his watch won’t ever be forgotten. Hawkins struggles to rile up a fan base that mostly cares about beating Nebraska and Colorado State every year.

    Fan/Media Expectation: Let’s put it this way: They think Hawkins is a little nutty for suggesting 10 wins in possible. It’s an apathetic place, Boulder, to traditional sports. The basketball team couldn’t buy a fanbase.

    Chance of “Success”: Getting slimmer. CU may always hang around that 6/7 win mark, but becoming a consistent contender? It may never happen again. The Buffs had to take too many risks on California kids just to get to that point, and you wonder whether the administration or campus would ever allow that again.

    “X” Factor: Boulder is really appealing to some. Just strange to others.

    No. 2 IOWA STATE

    Head Coach: Paul Rhoads Compensation: $1.15 million

    Recruiting Base: Worse than Nebraska’s in a lot of ways, because most of the best players in Iowa head out of state or play for the Hawkeyes.

    Administrative/Booster Support: ISU has a small, loyal, and wounded base of fans who clearly felt betrayed by the departure of Gene Chizik. Athletic director Jamie Pollard has a vision, and it isn’t working out too well for football or men’s basketball. Some people rightly question whether firing Dan McCarney was a useful, smart thing to do.

    Fan/Media Expectation: What McCarney was doing clearly wasn’t enough, and Iowa State has no real tradition upon which to fall back. The expectations are too high given the history. They just are. It’ll take several years, and maybe another uniform/helmet change, for the ship to right itself. May we suggest the yellow helmets again?

    Chance of “Success”: Not real high. ISU has the odds and momentum stacked against it. We wish Rhoads well.

    “X” Factor: Ames is a tough place to recruit to.

    No. 1 BAYLOR

    Head Coach: Art Briles Compensation: $1.8 million

    Recruiting Base: Baylor’s base is made smaller by its academic standards and by its location in Waco. The Bears are situated in Texas but usually have to pick after Texas, A&M, OU, OSU, Tech, TCU, Houston, LSU, NU, Kansas and a few other schools.

    Booster/Administrative Support: Have you seen the stands at a Baylor home game lately? The money is there. The passion is not.

    Fan/Media Expectation: The expectation is that Baylor, a small private school, will somehow legitimately compete against the giants of the Big 12 South. That happens in basketball. Rarely does it occur in football.

    Chance of “Success”: Art Briles really did a terrific job in 2008, and his team still couldn’t muster a winning record. His job, right now, is about as tough as Bill Snyder’s job was in the 1989. Since Big 12 inception, BU has never beaten Texas or Oklahoma. It’s not about to happen, either.

    “X” Factor: Briles is a darn good coach who wants to turn Baylor around, and has some high school connections he can rely upon for recruiting.

    Tags: football, big 12, bo pelini, gary pinkel, art briles, paul rhoads, dan hawkins, mike gundy

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