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  1. 2011 Oct 29

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Michigan State Gameday Thoughts


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Husker Locker staff will be presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of each week's game all season long.

    This week:

    If Nebraska wins today’s game, who will be the MVP and why?

    Brian: The Defense. They are being called upon to do something that they haven’t done this year: shut down the pass. SJB and Fonzie need big games, but the supporting cast needs to be just as big. Offensively, the ‘skers can score. I don’t know if they will score enough, but they can put points up.

    Erin: This is a tough question because it really could go any direction. It could go to Taylor Martinez for leading the team and making sure he didn't hold on to the ball most of the game.

    However, if Martinez is passing the ball off, it's likely going to Rex Burkhead, so it could be argued for him to have MVP, especially with a couple of touchdowns. At the same time, we can't forget the defense and Lavonte David could really bring that group together. He would be deserving then.

    So I'll sum it up: If Nebraska wins today's game, one of three people will be MVP - Taylor Martinez, Rex Burkhead, or Lavonte David.

    Greg: When Nebraska wins, there will be an MVP on both sides of the ball. On defense, it will be Dennard. The Spartans will have to throw the ball since their rushing game is anemic. This will be the game where Fonzie puts his stamp on his senior year.

    On offense, it will a player who earns MVP because of his leadership and character. Respect MSU's front seven, maybe even eight at times, and know that the Huskers will likely be put in a position to throw the ball more than usual. Look for a big game from Brandon Kinnie.

    James: Taylor Martinez. In order for Nebraska to win, T-Magic is going to have to play smart, manage the game, and complete high-percentage throws (swings, screens etc) in order to keep the chains moving. If Taylor can keep the chains moving and get Nebraska enough points to win against a salty defense, he will have done his job.

    This will come down to him making good decisions, throwing well, attracting attention from MSU's defenders (and freeing up threats like Jamal Turner and Rex Burkhead), while also hitting some long balls to Kenny Bell and Kyler Reed.

    Brandon: This goes one of two ways. Both Burkhead and Martinez are going to earn Co-MVP honors or whoever successfully operates trickeration will obviously be given the nod. Rex and Taylor are who defenses are going to key in on and take the chance of letting talented, but young players burn them knowing that they’ll likely make mistakes.

    Honestly, I can’t say what or even if Tim Beck will pull any rabbits out of his hat, but this game means too much for anything less than the kitchen sink to be thrown at Michigan State.

    If Nebraska loses today’s game, how should the Cornhuskers regroup/handle the rest of the season?

    Brian: They need to keep going with the season, but realize that it’s now an audition for who wants to start for 2012. Two games back in the division with the tiebreaker out of hand is almost impossible to overcome (especially with MSU’s schedule).

    Even though there are bowl implications, there’s nothing the Huskers can do but try to win out and hope. When it comes to the point that Nebraska is eliminated from division title hopes, then you start to find out what you have/need for 2012. No time like the present to figure that out.

    Erin: I will just say these words over and over to myself while praying to the Gods of football that Michigan State loses to Iowa: "We just have to take each game one at a time. It doesn't matter if we lose this game. Michigan State might lose to someone else. This doesn't have to be a key game for us." - Taylor Martinez

    As for the team, they need to do what we do every week after a game, win or lose: Practice, get better, and win. Yes, Michigan State could lose to someone else. If we happen to lose to them, it's not time to give up. It's time to work harder and be ready.

    Greg: Can't get discouraged. Play every game like they're playing for the Big Ten championship. The chips might fall into place where they still might.

    James: As I outlined in my piece on Wednesday, the season, in terms of winning the Legends Division and reaching the conference championship game, will effectively be over.

    Nebraska should look to get the youth as many reps as possible. We should still try to win the games, of course, but it would effectively be a chance for Nebraska to start building for 2012, and maybe even more importantly for 2013. Maybe the coaches could even hit the road recruiting a bit more during the week to try and shore up some of the deficiencies.

    Brandon: The most beneficial thing would be to give Brion Carnes a 50/50 split in both practice and game situations. Taylor’s the starter and that’s fine, but if he struggles against Nebraska’s remaining opponents, Carnes should be given an equal opportunity to shine. If he beats out Martinez for the starting spot, well, that’s the game of football. If you can’t get the job done, the guy behind you will.

    Starting a youth movement would seem to be the next logical step, but so many starters are already young that it’s basically already happened. 75 percent of the running back depth chart is composed of true freshmen. Nebraska’s got Jamal Turner, Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa stepping up at receiver. I’d definitely focus on getting Tyler Moore extensive minutes.

    With Crick done and Randle likely out for at least a while, you’re going to see guys like Chase Rome and Jay Guy get more time. It’d be silly to burn linebacker Davis Santos’ redshirt at this point which is something I feel should’ve happened earlier in the year. The secondary’s as green as it can get. Simply put: Work towards 2012.

    If you could add one player from last year’s defensive back seven, who would it be and why?

    Brian: Dejon Gomes. The corners are good, but he was the difference maker in the secondary. Blitzing, coverage, knowledge, etc. You’re seeing it now with him playing in the NFL. Matt O’Hanlon is a close second. He had the physical game and always seemed avoid getting stuck in a bad spot.

    Erin: Prince Amukamara. He had an island and people didn't like to be on it. The secondary misses and needs him.

    Greg: He wasn't a first round draft pick by chance. PRINCE PRINCE PRINCE!

    James: Eric Hagg - in the "Peso" role, he was a gigantic asset. Hagg could cover tight ends, receivers, slot men, running backs, you name it. He also was killer in run defense.

    You'd have to think that if Nebraska still had him, the defense would be a good step stronger than where they are right now, from both the personnel and schematic viewpoints. That said, it'd be hard not to want Prince Amukamara back as well, Nebraska's second cornerback is a guy who played wide-receiver five weeks ago.

    Brandon: The sexy pick is Amukamara, but I’d honestly take Eric Hagg. Amukamara’s a first rounder and would solidify the spot opposite Dennard, but Hagg’s versatility in the defensive backfield would allow him to be moved around and expecting an instant impact wouldn’t be far-fetched.

    How do you feel about Nebraska’s chances going into this game?

    Brian: I would feel a lot better if we had all hands on deck. No Crick or Randle worry me up front on defense to make sure the run game for MSU is non-existent. Nebraska may have to blitz in this game, which is something that Bo doesn't like to do much of.

    Offensively, it’s the same story: Put yourself in good situations and try to find match ups to exploit. Get the ball to the playmakers and help Taylor realize he doesn’t have to do it all.

    Erin: I feel good. I think Sparty is overrated. Everyone is acting like they beat Wisconsin in this huge beat-down when they won in a last minute pass play. I'm happy for Michigan State, but come on, they're not suddenly LSU. Nebraska has just as good of a chance at beating them as they did a month ago. One game for Sparty doesn't change anything.

    If you want to get technical, this is a very familiar situation for Nebraska. Last year the Huskers faced a Missouri team that had come of a huge 36-27 win over No. 1 Oklahoma. The Tigers walked into Memorial Stadium with their heads held high, only to have Roy Helu Jr. going completely crazy, helping rake up a 24-0 score by the end of the first half.

    The game ended 31-17 and the Huskers walked away with the win. Different conference, different team, but the scenario is awfully similar.

    Greg: I'm a healthy blend of confident and cautiously optimistic. Win this game and Nebraska's probably back in the top ten. Lose this game and they're out of the top 15. My confidence levels are in the 80 percent range. GO BIG RED!

    James: I honestly don't know what to think. Nebraska is certainly capable of winning this game if they show up, and show up for four quarters (instead of the typical two we seem to be getting from this bunch). I also don't know what Michigan State team will appear on Tom Osborne Field, they aren't great on the road, and they may be out of juice after the last three weeks.

    If the Michigan State team from last week shows up, and Nebraska from the second half of Wisconsin/first half of Ohio State is on the field, we'll get blown out. I think the answer will be somewhere in the middle, and as such, I expect a close game. Right now, I'm expecting a Spartan win, though.

    Brandon: Nebraska can beat Michigan State, but they absolutely cannot afford another Ohio State scenario. If this turns into a battle of struggling offenses, I’d prefer that over a shootout as Cousins is a far more refined passer. Nebraska would have to lean on Burkhead as Taylor’s a coin flip when it comes to completions unless he checks down to No. 22.

    MSU loves to blitz and if I was scheming against Martinez, I’d try to rattle his cage all day long until he proved to me he could exploit the gaps in coverage. This is where Rex comes in. If he can battle against Wisconsin, he can do so against the Spartans. Beck has a lot of tools at his disposal, but it’s going to come down to crisp execution, and I cannot emphasize this enough, winning the turnover battle.

    Will Nebraska win? Honestly, everything I’ve seen thus far causes me to say no, but knowing what the Cornhuskers are capable of tells me that they can win.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @HuskerLocker
    Brian: @btbowling
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    Greg: @thehooch36
    James: @jamesstevenson
    Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page

    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, brandon kinnie, kenny bell, kyler reed, bo pelini, prince amukamara, dejon gomes, eric hagg, brion carnes

  2. 2011 Oct 05

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Pelini Needs to Put Cornhuskers Back in Black


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Since Bo Pelini arrived at Nebraska, he’s taken a different approach to the tradition of handing out the dark practice jerseys affectionately known as the “Blackshirts.” For decades, these garments have been worn by the starting 11 on the defensive side of the ball, but under Pelini’s watch, even the best of the bunch have to earn the right to wear them. This year, that strategy needs to be tweaked.

    Using Pelini’s current method, it’s easy to see why no Cornhusker defender has worn black in practice yet. A unit that gives up 351 yards and over 27 points per game doesn’t strike fear into the heart of any opposing offense. While the head coach’s strategy has been effective and admired by many up to this point, the current handling of the Blackshirts’ presentation is doing more harm than good.

    Every Nebraska defender knows what those jerseys represent. In years past, players admitted having held back tears of pride and joy upon seeing them hang in their locker. At this point, given the struggles that the Cornhuskers have faced five games into the season, players under the watchful eyes of the Pelini brothers and their assistants have to be wondering if any defender will dress in black this year.

    This might not be at the forefront of their minds, but to suggest that ownership of the coveted Blackshirts isn’t at least on a subconscious level is absurd. Coming off a disappointing start to Nebraska’s Big Ten conference debut and a return to fall camp levels of preparation, the black jerseys need to make an appearance before the Cornhuskers take the field on Saturday to face Ohio State.

    While some players may feel undeserving, the original reasoning behind the tradition is simple - if you started Nebraska’s first game at a defensive position, you wore black in practice. If you couldn’t hold onto your starting spot due to poor performance or another player stepping up, then you would have to work even harder to regain what you’d lost. The offense that Pelini’s team employs in 2011 employs a throwback style. It’s time to go back to the Blackshirts’ traditional method of distribution.

    It’s easy for fans to point to the secondary’s struggles and claim that they certainly don’t deserve to wear the renowned attire of defenses past. However, with the loss of players like Eric Hagg, DeJon Gomes and Prince Amukamara, expecting the 2011 secondary to not skip a beat is simply unreasonable. If Pelini is going to start from scratch and open competition for all starting roles, taking a page from his predecessors may be the morale boost his currently-maligned defensive unit needs to regain lost confidence.

    Nebraska’s head coach has made it quite clear that no one player is bigger than the team. Not Taylor Martinez, Rex Burkhead, Jared Crick, Lavonte David or even Alfonzo Dennard. By the same token, no coach on Nebraska’s staff is bigger than what has been a Cornhusker tradition since 1964.

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: blackshirts, bo pelini, taylor martinez, red burkhead, jared crick, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard, eric hagg, dejon gomes, prince amukamara

  3. 2011 Sep 28

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Five Keys To Beating Wisconsin


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brett Baker

    5. Forget the Hype: Yes, it's Nebraska’s first conference game as a member of the Big Ten. Yes, the game is going to be televised nationwide in primetime, and yes, ESPN College Gameday will be in Madison. None of that matters without the win to go with it. It all has to be tuned out.

    If last Monday's press conference is any indication then Bo Pelini is already well on his way to instilling this mindset. He’s making sure the team knows that this is just the next game on the schedule. Which of course it is and isn't.

    4. Take the Crowd Out: Husker Nation is going to represent in Madison but the Badger fans aren't just going to roll over and let the corn replace the cheese. That means that Camp Randall Stadium is going to be the loud, crazy and hostile environment that's it's known to be.

    The defense needs to get Wisconsin off the field on third down. Too many times already this year they have let the opposing team off the hook on third down, and that can't happen Saturday night. Keep the Badgers’ offense on the sideline for extended runs and sap the energy out of their fans.

    3. Get in Russell Wilson's Face: The Wisconsin football department generously lists the Badgers quarterback at 5'11". It’s a firm guess that's about an inch and a half taller than the NC State transfer signal caller actually is. That said, he's still pretty dang good.

    The Nebraska defenders would do well to get in his passing lanes early and often while keeping their hands up, going full bore, and closing his field of view. That's no magic potion for victory, but it's a start.

    2. The Defensive Backs' Best Game to Date: The secondary has to grow up and fast. The great thing about Nebraska's defense over the past few seasons was the ability of so many to do so much. Unfortunately, Prince Amukamara, DeJon Gomes and Eric Hagg have all moved on taking their abilities and corporate knowledge with them.

    If there was going to be a game where the Pelini brothers needed "it" to click for Green, Evans, Blatchford, Thorell and company, this is that game. The physical ability and mental preparation that has brought the Blackshirts back to prominence in years prior needs to emerge. It's time to put it all together and slow down what has been a very impressive offensive unit.

    1. Ground and Pound: The one area where Wisconsin can probably be exploited is along their defensive line. After toiling at more than seven thousand feet about sea level last weekend, Madison's modest 832 feet above sea level should be a breeze for the Huskers’ offensive line.

    In an ideal scenario, the offense enters the original "three yards and a cloud of dust" conference with that mindset. Four yards per snap wouldn’t be too shabby, either. Nebraska should lean on Wisconsin’s defensive front for three quarters and not let up. Wear the Badgers down and take advantage of them when the situation presents itself.

    What this game is going to boil down to is playing mistake-free football and imposing will. The question is, are the Huskers able to do that?

    Follow Brett on Twitter: @BigRedinTejas
    Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: russell wilson, prince amukamara, dejon gomes, eric hagg, andrew green, ciante evans, justin blatchford, lance thorell

  4. 2011 Jun 16

    Husker Heartbeat 6/16: Five Fantastic Freshmen, Niles Paul Wants to Play Ball and Coachless Practices


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Ex-Husker Paul: "I just want to play football"

    - Five Nebraska freshmen who will make an impact in 2011

    - Two former Buckeye players will be very close come October 8

    - Fellow Redskin/Husker Gomes adjusts to practices with no coaches

    - Where does Nebraska football fall in the new Big Ten?

    - Former Husker baseballer Asche signs with Phillies

    - Former Husker Ruiz named Greco-Roman wrestler of the year

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

    Tags: bo pelini, niles paul, dejon gomes, luke fickell, justin ruiz, cody asche

  5. 2011 Mar 02

    Podcast 3/2: Prince Blazes at Combine


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, nfl combine, mens hoops, prince amukamara, womens hoops, baseball, dejon gomes, eric hagg

  6. 2011 Mar 01

    Husker Heartbeat 3/1: Mixed NFL Combine Results


    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.

    *A minor calf injury keeps Pierre Allen out of the NFL Combine while Ricky Henry and Keith Williams struggle as well.

    This morning, Prince Amukamara ran a 4.37 in the 40 at the Combine while DeJon Gomes ran a 4.48 and Eric Hagg ran a 4.68.

    *Ahman Green will play in the CFL with Montreal.

    *Elmo - former Nebraska secondary coach Phil Elmassian - heads back to Purdue. Good for him. NU can roast his DBs now.

    *Denard Robinson makes Jeopardy!

    *And now a picture of Gene Chizik feeding bottled milk to a calf draped in a Cam Newton jersey.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, pierre allen, roy helu, prince amukamara, ricky henry, keith williams, eric hagg, dejon gomes

  7. 2011 Jan 24

    YEAR IN REVIEW: S Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Our report card for the Nebraska safeties and their position coach, Marvin Sanders. Eric Hagg A Stellar season for the senior Peso, who won Team MVP from his teammates. Terrific, good-natured...

    Tags: year in review, report card, eric hagg, dejon gomes, courtney osborne, austin cassidy, pj smith, rickey thenarse, marvin sanders

  8. 2011 Jan 10

    YEAR IN REVIEW: Defensive Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our season report card for Nebraska's offense. Stay tuned for position-specific report cards, available via a 30-day free trial with Husker Locker Pass!

    Two key things to remember about the report card:

    *Grades take into account all players at a given position.

    *Greater weight was given to “big games” and the performances in them.

    Defensive Line: B

    Final combined stats: 20 sacks, 44 tackles for loss, 38 QB hurries, three forced fumbles

    NU's front four – Pierre Allen, Jared Crick, Baker Steinkuhler and Cameron Meredith – was still among the best in college football, and arguably the finest group in the Big 12. The quartet generated decent heat on the quarterback during certain points of the season. At other times, they disappeared, or needed help from Bo Pelini's blitzes Against the run, they missed Ndamukong Suh's ability to shuck offensive linemen and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. A solid year – but not 2009.

    Crick heated up toward the end of the season, having his best game in the Big 12 Championship vs. Oklahoma. But he struggled in the Holiday Bowl. He still needs to improve as a run stuffer. As a pass rusher, the Brothers Pelini need to cut him loose more often to make big plays, instead of insisting on collapsing the pocket methodically.

    Allen played hard all year, anchored against the run, and did a fine job of collapsing the pocket from his end position. He was perhaps Carl Pelini's favorite player on the line because he executed his job so well and played through one painful injury after another. Nevertheless, Allen wasn't an elite pass rusher off the edge. It's been awhile since NU had one.

    Steinkuhler shot out of a cannon to start the year, then wore down as the season progressed, becoming less and less effective. He'll be back and more seasoned in 2011. A DUI arrest in December shouldn't be an ongoing issue.

    Meredith became a versatile chess piece for the Brothers Pelini, playing some “spinner” outside linebacker in some rush formations. A better pass rusher than Allen, Meredith will more of an impact next season. His best days are still ahead of him.

    Terrence Moore spelled Steinkuhler more often in late 2010 and started for him in the Holiday Bowl. The light finally seems to have blinked on Moore, a very good interior pass rusher. Thad Randle played inside for Crick on occasion; he held his own, but buckled a bit against the run. Josh Williams and Jason Ankrah need to get better this offseason; one of them will likely have a starting job next season.

    Linebacker: A

    Final combined stats: 17 tackles for loss, six sacks, 10 pass breakups, 7 QB hurries

    Is there another grade to give Lavonte David, the man responsible for most of that stats, plus a school-record 152 tackles? The kid had four weeks to learn one of the most complex defenses in college football, surpassed Will Compton on the depth chart before Compton's injury, then had to play practically every snap, all year, against a bevy of no-huddle, speedy offense. And do it with a smile.

    David is some kid, really. He saved NU's bacon against the run, improved in his pass coverage, and was unquestionably the Huskers' best blitzer. Along with being our defensive MVP, he earns his position an A grade. He played arguably his finest games in two losses – Texas A&M and the Big 12 Championship – when he strafed and chased and hit all over the place. The odds-on favorite for the Butkus next year still has weight to gain and room to grow, too. Part Terrell Farley, part Barrett Ruud, David was a thrilling player to watch in 2010.

    After suffering a broken foot, Compton starting playing midway through the season, and while he's good – he's no David. Compton thinks when David reacts. If Compton can ever stay healthy and turn the corner on trusting his instincts, he'll be a key cog in the wheel next year, as playing in the Big Ten will require NU to use more than one linebacker.

    Alonzo Whaley played in goal-line situations as a run stopper. He needs another spring learning the defense. The physically and “want-to” is there, though.

    Eric Martin flew around for half the season before moving to defensive end. He has all the ability David has – plus size – but he often put himself in bad spots to make tackles. He's a bit like Rickey Thenarse in that way.

    Sean Fisher got hurt before the year. Where will he play in 2011? Hard to say.

    Secondary: A-

    Combined stats: 19 interceptions, 4 defensive TDs 36 pass breakups, four sacks, 7 tackles for loss

    We grade on a curve around here, but NU's stellar pass defense still gets an A- from us. Simply spectacular for most of the season against the pass, the Huskers' safeties struggled at times making tackles – Texas, Oklahoma, Washington, Part 2 – on the second level, which led to big plays. But that was more than offset by the slew of big plays from the country's most talented secondary.

    Prince Amukamara enjoyed a Darrelle Revis-type season, rebuffing almost every challenge that came his way except a few plays against Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. He's the nation's best corner.

    Alfonzo Dennard – cocky, physical, competitive – is pretty darn close. Dennard was nails at the beginning of the year, like glue on receivers. He was outplaying Amukamara, in fact. He slowed down a bit during the middle of the season, suffered a concussion in the Missouri game, missed the Iowa State contest – and immediately came back with a big play in the Kansas game. He was our MVP for the Holiday Bowl, too.

    Eric Hagg was valuable in all kinds of ways – as a linebacker, as a safety, as a corner – and his absence next year will be sorely felt. His athleticism allowed him to matchup with all kinds of players.

    Our favorite player, Houdini Gomes, wore down a bit as the season closed, but he's still one of NU's best pure playmakers in recent memory. Smart in coverage, ahead of the game, tough for his size – Gomes has a place in the NFL.

    At safety, P.J. Smith and Rickey Thenarse played the first half of the season, while Courtney Osborne and Austin Cassidy essentially played the second half. NU sacrificed pass coverage for better tackling, and while that worked well in wins over Missouri and Colorado, it hurt in the Big 12 Championship. We'd like to see Smith back in the lineup to start 2011; his hook and benching seemed a little premature.

    Ciante Evans spelled Dennard for a game or two and filled in well. He reminds us of Ralph Brown. He'll be just fine next year.

    More Year In Review Features
    The Best in Pictures, Part 1, Highlights and Lowlights, Ten Best Defensive Plays, Ten Best Offensive Plays, Offensive Report Card

    Tags: year in review, prince amukamara, alfonzo dennard, eric hagg, dejon gomes, courtney osborne, pj smith, rickey thenarse, austin cassidy, ciante evans

  9. 2011 Jan 04

    YEAR IN REVIEW: The 10 Best Defensive Plays


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    So many excellent plays to choose from on Nebraska's stellar, suffocating defense and just ten spots to fill.

    It's never easy narrowing down the best of the best with Bo Pelini's crew, but here's our effort to recap the finest defensive plays of the 2010 season. There's no real order – except awesomeness.

    Houdini Special: NU defensive back Dejon Gomes marked his Husker career with spectacular plays on the ball, and his strip of Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey in the season-opener was among his finest plays. Rainey seemed a sure bet to score a touchdown when Gomes popped the ball out at the Nebraska 1-yard line. The Huskers recovered and saved a touchdown.

    Whaley to the Rescue: In a tighter-than-expected 17-3 win over South Dakota State, NU sophomore linebacker Alonzo Whaley made a huge goal-line play on SDSU's first quarter drive to Husker 1. On fourth down, Jackrabbit running back Kyle Minett took a Wildcat snap and veered hard to his left. Whaley met him at the line of scrimmage, drove him back and pounded him to the turf. It was the best play by any NU linebacker all season – including every terrific play by Lavonte David.

    Pick Six, Part 1: Textbook play from Gomes, who baited Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle into throwing a short curl route. Gomes stepped in front of the pass, snatched it in stride and coasted in for a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown.

    Pick Six, Part 2: On Idaho's next possession, NU's pass rush flushed Enderle from the pocket, where the North Platte native wildly flung a pass toward the sideline. Thenarse, sprinting, lunged in front, kept his balance and bolted home for 47-yard interception return for a score.

    Pick Six, Part 3: The best play of them all from cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who slipped around Washington wide receiver Devin Aguilar to intercept Jake Locker and return the pick 31 yards for a score. The play essentially slammed the door on the Huskies' hopes of a comeback. Dennard played freakishly well for the first half of the season; not quite as good after suffering a concussion in the Missouri game.

    Pick Six, Part 4: Safety Austin Cassidy stepped in front of a bad pass from Iowa State's Austen Arnaud and wove his way through traffic for a 29-yard touchdown. Cassidy flashed his running skills on this particularly; dipping and darting his way to the end zone. The play gave NU a 17-10 lead over the game Cyclones.

    The Kid Makes a Play: Subbing for Dennard, true freshman Ciante Evans – all 5-foot-11, 185 pounds of him – stuffed and flipped over Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert right at the goal line on third down, forcing the Tigers to settle for a field goal. Evans got low while Gabbert stayed high like a giant car high-ended on a low curb. It was some play for a true freshman.

    Lockdown Lavonte: On Kansas State's opening drive, the Wildcats had a 4th-and-2 from the Husker 25. Bill Snyder rolled the dice - calling a quarterback keeper, complete with a jet sweep fake – and tried to fool the Huskers. But JUCO linebacker Lavonte David – in just his fifth career start – had none of it, tracking the play beautifully and knocking out KSU QB Carson Coffman one yard short of the first down. The air went out of the Cats' cause with that single play.

    Crick's Monster Sack: In the Big 12 Championship game, Jared Crick fought off an Oklahoma lineman trying to yank him to the ground to make a big sack on OU's Landry Jones. It was Crick's “Suh Moment” of the 2010 season and he got a torn jersey for the effort.

    Freak: The most athletic defensive play of 2010 comes courtesy of Eric Hagg, who made a deflection in the Washington game that rivaled any Major League centerfielder climbing a wall to save a home run. UW quarterback Jake Locker had perfectly lofted a pass to a UW receiver running a deep corner route when Hagg elevated...and elevated...and just kept elevating to deflect the pass away. Hagg made more important and noteworthy plays in 2010 – but none was better than that one.

    More Year In Review Features
    The Best in Pictures, Part 1, Highlights and Lowlights, Ten Best Defensive Plays

    Tags: year in review, eric hagg, jared crick, lavonte david, ciante evans, dejon gomes, alonzo whaley, alfonzo dennard, austin cassidy

  10. 2010 Dec 15

    NU/NFL Draft Rumblings


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Out the corner of his eye – or perhaps in the back of his mind – of course Prince Amukamara has to pay a little attention. The AP and Sports Illustrated first-team All-American knows that several NFL Draft scouting services – whether you put stock into them or not – have the 6-foot-1, 205 pounder listed as a certain first-round pick.

    CBS Sports' NFLDraftScout.com tabs Amukamara as its No. 1 overall prospect. Mel Kiper has Amukamara at fifth on his latest Big Board. NFLDraftDog.com puts him at No. 6. ESPN's Scouts, Inc. ranks him No. 8.

    Pick any “guru” you wish, and the Prince is coming up with a healthy chunk of change. Presuming a work stoppage doesn't gum up the negotiation process.

    “I still hear people say where I'm projected of going,” the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year said Wednesday. “But I am not focused on it.”

    There's a Holiday Bowl still to play. Finals to finish. And, once the January hits, training to begin.

    He has an invite to the Jan. 29 Senior Bowl - the ESPN-televised, post-grad pony show that NFL scouts prefer to attend - as do several other Huskers, according to Amukamara: Roy Helu, Mike McNeill, Keith Williams and Niles Paul.

    Amukamara is the highest-ranked the of 12 or so NU seniors who could have a shot at the NFL in 2011 – or short of that, the UFL. NFLDraftScout ranks ten Huskers in its top 250 prospects – guys likely to be taken in the seven rounds of the April draft:

    Wide receiver Niles Paul (No. 56)
    Wide receiver/tight end Mike McNeill (No. 73)
    Defensive end Pierre Allen (No. 88)
    Running back Roy Helu (No. 109)
    Kicker Alex Henery (No. 151 and the No. 1 kicker)
    Safety Eric Hagg (No. 202)
    Guard Keith Williams (No. 210)
    Guard Ricky Henry (No. 239)
    Safety Dejon Gomes (No. 247)

    Out of the bunch, Hagg and Henery could be the most intriguing prospects.

    Hagg, a hybrid linebacker/safety in Nebraska's Peso defense, has a long, slender build – 6-2, 210 - that most resembles a wide receiver. He covers well enough to play defensive back but tackles running backs and wide receivers aggressively, too. Defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders has said more than once that if he was building a defense, he'd begin with Hagg.

    He just may not fit easily into a NFL position.

    “I think it kinda hinders me but it can help me at the same time,” Hagg said.

    NU's Team MVP said he has “no clue” where he might land in the Draft, or which teams would be interested. He said he'd talk to Husker defensive coaches in the upcoming weeks to figure it out.

    “It can give you anxiety attacks so I try not to think about it,” said Hagg, who admitted he takes a look at projections every now and then.

    Henery appeared unconcerned about his draft slot. Scheduled to become the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, he's a dual kicker/punter prospect with a 60-yard leg and uncanny accuracy.

    “They love him,” head coach Bo Pelini said of NFL scout

    He's almost too good; the few kickers taken in the upper rounds of the draft rarely turn out to be the best, although the Oakland Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski – a former first-rounder - remains one of Al Davis' better picks during the last 15 years. Most teams prefer to try out a glut of kickers, find the right free agent fit, and ride that guy until he gets a case of the shanks.

    “I won't worry about that process until after the bowl game,” Henery said with his usual calm. “I'll push it all until after the end of the year and not wonder 'What if?' It'll take care of itself.”

    Tags: nfl draft, prince amukamara, niles paul, mike mcneill, pierre allen, roy helu, alex henery, eric hagg, keith williams, ricky henry, dejon gomes

  11. 2010 Dec 06

    Husker Monday Review - Big 12 Championship


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Since you're feeling absolutely lovely this morning, let me toss out this happy nugget to Husker fans: The combined 2010 record of Nebraska's 2011 Big Ten opponents was 64-32. That's eight 8-4 teams for those of you not capable of quick division.

    So there's that threshing machine to look forward to next year. Helluva housewarming. I'll bring the veggie tray.

    For now, I believe Richard III, via Shakespeare, said it best. Winter of our discontent and all that.

    NU's back. You bet, brother. Holiday! Don't celebrate! To play Rub-A-UDub. Three games against the damn Huskies, all in one year's tub.

    This one stings because this was the year. You know, I know, Bo knows. Pelini's coaching combined with Bill Callahan's best recruits made for a killer combo. Period. Beginning of the Bo Dynasty. RVSP to the Big Chip Soiree at least and Really Big Chip Soiree at most.

    The senior class is loaded with talent. You won't see a secondary that skilled and experienced in college football for the next five years. The schedule gods handed the Huskers a berth to Big 12 Championship on a platter. Shoot – NU lost two league games and still landed an invite to Dallas.

    You know what that would have earned Nebraska in the Big Ten this year? Fourth place.

    When Bo stood on that Holiday Bowl podium last year, holding a glass whale above his head, no doubt he felt like Ahab, with the scent of Mody Dick in his nostrils. Having just seen the Huskers beat a good Arizona team to a submissive pulp, he got a little chuffed. You know what he said, and I don't blame him one bit for saying it. He saw a vision of greatness unfold that night in San Diego, a three-hour ass-kicking, replete with a healthy Rex Burkhead and devilishly dangerous Niles Paul at wide receiver. He saw an offensive line that could maul a lil bit, a secondary from “The Matrix” and Alex Henery, amen.

    What happened? The Big 12 and Big Ten did, and 2010 will be remembered by Nebraska fans as the year NU got tarred and feathered by a corrupt league looking to bully the Huskers on their way out the door. When Texas Independence brings down the Big 12 in five years, revenge and a side of crow will be served.

    But that's not all that occurred. Somewhere between that Holiday Bowl game and Nebraska's season-opener vs. Western Kentucky, Bo drastically altered his vision of a winning offense. He chose to veer away from the Huskers' still-developing passing game and direct offensive coordinator Shawn Watson buy full shares in the zone read option, with a speedy wunderkind at the controls in Taylor Martinez.

    It is, thus far, the defining decision of Bo's career at NU. He handed the keys of a senior-laden team to a young, mercurial, close-mouthed Cali kid who frankly shunned the typical media and team-building responsibilities that most quarterbacks gladly – or at least obligingly - embrace.

    You saw it play out.

    Martinez was brilliant in September, and he saved Nebraska's hide at Oklahoma State. For a quarter, he played great vs. Missouri. When he was good, he was damn good. Like Irving Fryar running the zone read. But he was bad vs. Texas, and Nebraska lost. He was hurt at Texas A&M, and Nebraska lost. He was bad and hurt in the Big 12 Championship game, and Nebraska lost. He didn't talk after any of them. This is his team, remember - except after a loss. Watson said Martinez didn't answer questions Saturday night because he's a “competitor” and “really stung.”

    “I imagine he doesn't want to talk to anybody right now,” Watson said.

    And Burkhead - playing for the last time in his hometown, in front of family and friends – did? He has to sit on the podium and explain to reporters how he thought Martinez played?

    On with the review:

    Five Players We Loved

    Running back Rex Burkhead: Pretty terrific, again. The fumble wasn't his fault. It'll be a pleasure watching Burkhead grind away in the Big Ten. It's a league fit for his talents.

    Defensive tackle Jared Crick: Two sacks and several more uncalled holding penalties. He turned it on during the last half of 2010. But the Big Ten has better offensive lines than the Big 12, so I'm not sure he goes “Beast Mode” in 2011.

    Linebacker LaVonte David: After 17 tackles, Pelini said on his TV show - taped right after the game - that David “made a lot of mistakes.” Way to keep plugging the kid, Bo.

    Safety Dejon Gomes: Big stop on a fourth down play in the first half, plus his usual excellence everywhere else. Coming to a NFL team near the late rounds of the draft, in the form of a steal.

    Kicker Alex Henery: To paraphrase Eli Cash: How is Alex especially not a Lou Groza finalist? And how hard did Nebraska pimp the kid for postseason awards? Yeesh. If Kirk Herbsteit and Brent Musberger know the deal, how come the good folks in Palm Beach County – home of the Groza – don't? Hanging chads still on the ballots?

    I'll write it one more time so you folks at home can say it for fun: GuhraOzahhhh.

    Three Concerns

    Sloppy special teams: Gotta get that fake punt off on time. Plus, I'm not sure Nebraska's playing its very best athletes on the coverage units. Mr. No-Groza and Adi Kunalic won't be around to paper over some of the deficiencies on special teams next year.

    Crossed wires: It sure seemed like Watson called plays Saturday night that Martinez couldn't execute very well. Considering Martinez doesn't acknowledge the existence of check down receivers, I'm not sure what good it is having one flared out by the sideline, watching No. 3 get sacked.

    Mojo and morale: Nebraska's already proven it's much better than Washington, but proving it again will be more a chore, especially with Martinez at less than 100 percent. The Huskies have a whole month to get healthy and look at NU tape. Jake Locker will probably not make some of the same mistakes twice.

    Three Questions

    Does the staff stay intact through this month? Hard to say. Watson has reportedly interviewed at Vanderbilt according to ESPN's Bruce Feldman, while defensive coordinator Carl Pelini is reportedly in the running for some mid-major jobs. Both could vie for the Northern Illinois job that just opened up when NIU's coach headed to Minnesota. Both deserve their shots at a head coaching job, although Carl would be more at home in a mid-major job that focuses less on kissing the rear ends of boosters and more on his specialty: developing players.

    What really happened with the Insight Bowl? Bowls don't usually turn down TV hype and wads of cash for integrity, so, naturally, the Insight Bowl – which snubbed Missouri last year for Iowa State's fans – did precisely that this year. Makes total sense. What's the side deal here? Conferences are tied to bowl games, but they rarely have much influence. But, in this case, a Nebraska vs. Iowa matchup benefits almost solely the Big Ten. News flash: So will the Holiday Bowl. The talk certainly won't be about the game.

    Which of the scout team all-stars creates buzz during bowl prep? The one reason you don't turn down a bowl trip – Nebraska isn't likely to make much money on this little venture – is to get the three extra weeks of practice to prepare for next spring. Teams often use one of those weeks to start developing young guys for the future. Will Husker fans hear any buzz about Brion Carnes? Corey Cooper? Chase Rome?

    Tags: husker monday review, big 12 championship, bo pelini, taylor martinez, shawn watson, rex burkhead, alex henery, dejon gomes, lavonte david

  12. 2010 Nov 30

    Huskers Clean Up in Big 12 Awards


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Even if the Big 12 office seems primed to slight the Nebraska football team at every turn, the league coaches Tuesday more than took care of the Cornhuskers – with the noted exception of kicker/punter Alex Henery - with the release of the All-Big 12 awards.

    Six Huskers made the All-Big 12 first team: Defensive end Pierre Allen, cornerback Prince Amukamara, defensive tackle Jared Crick, linebacker LaVonte David, Peso Eric Hagg and offensive guard Ricky Henry. Five Huskers – including Henery – landed on the second team. Six more were named to the honorable-mention squad.

    In a nod to his sheer dominance - without the usual statistics to back it up - Amukamara won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year despite not catching an interception this year. Opposing teams only dared throw toward him 45 times this year, completing just seven passes. Amukamara had 13 pass break-ups, too. He's only the second cornerback to win the award – Kansas State's Terrence Newman won in 2002 – and the third Husker overall after defensive end Grant Wistrom (who won in 1996 and 1997) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (who won in 2009).

    Amukamara beat preseason favorite, Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, who finished the season leading the Big 12 in sacks.

    David won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. David finished with 128 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, six sacks and 10 pass break-ups. Quarterback Taylor Martinez won Offensive Freshman of the Year despite missing the equivalent of two league games. Martinez amassed 2,409 yards in just 297 plays.

    On the Big 12's second team, Henery was named both the punter and the kicker. OSU's Dan Bailey beat Henery for Special Teams Player of the Year and first-team kicker despite Henery having a better field-goal percentage for the season and his career. Henery is poised to become the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. Running back Roy Helu, defensive end Cameron Meredith, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, and wide receiver/kick returner Niles Paul joined Henery on the second team.

    Huskers named to the honorable-mention bunch were: Running back Rex Burkhead, center Mike Caputo, defensive back Dejon Gomes, Martinez, defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler and offensive lineman Keith Williams.

    Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy won Coach of the Year, while OSU receiver Justin Blackmon unsurprisingly won Offensive Player of the Year. Colorado's Nate Solder won Offensive Lineman of the Year while Oklahoma's Jeremy Beal won Defensive Lineman of the Year.

    Every Big 12 team was represented on the first or second team except Kansas, which had a scant three players named honorable mention.

    Tags: big 12, prince amukamara, lavonte david, taylor martinez, ricky henry, pierre allen, jared crick, alex henery, dejon gomes, alfonzo dennard, keith williams, mike caputo, rex burkhead, eric hagg, roy helu, niles paul

  13. 2010 Nov 29

    OU's No Huddle? No Joke.


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Until recent years, the no-huddle offense in football wore its “fad” tag proudly, either constrained by the circumstances of the game – the two-minute drill – or relegated to the smartest, most polished quarterbacks in the game - Peyton Manning.

    But certain offensive minds in college football – initially the architects of the run-and-shoot, then “Air Raid” inventors Hal Mumme and Mike Leach, and now Chip Kelly – managed to seamlessly integrate the no-huddle approach with an emphasis on plays run instead of time of possession.

    Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is at the cutting edge. He made the shift before the 2008 season with quarterback Sam Bradford, and produced an offense that averaged 51 points and 547 yards per game and 6.9 yards per play. OU has been running the offense ever since, with varying degrees of success.

    “They use different tempos, they 'check with me' at the line a significant amount and they're well-coached,” NU head coach Bo Pelini said. “They can put stress on you in a hurry in a lot of different ways. They've got good athletes, they get them in space, they get a lot of plays.”

    In 2008, OU's no-huddle overwhelmed the Huskers in a 35-point first quarter. Bradford hit a number of deep passes, and the Sooners' massive offensive line created big holes for DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, who repeatedly gained chunks of yards on simple outside zone plays.

    Without Bradford in 2009, Oklahoma tanked in Lincoln. The Sooners rushed for just 80 yards. Quarterback Landry Jones, hurried by the moment and the Memorial Stadium atmosphere, threw five interceptions. OU ran 87 plays – 30 more than NU that night – but gained just 3.7 yards per play. Nebraska forced five punts.

    The difference? Making plays on third down, Peso Eric Hagg said.

    “There's no way to 'slow it down' – you have to get three and outs or otherwise they just keep picking it up and picking it up,” he said.

    Another key: Red zone defense. Case in point: In their 47-41 win over Oklahoma State, the Sooners scored on all seven trips inside the Cowboys' 20-yard line. In a 33-19 loss to Texas A&M, that ratio dropped to 2 of 6.

    In both of those games, OU ran more than 100 plays – and, even more indicative of how the offense works – more than 25 third-down plays.

    Unlike Leach's old approach, Oklahoma integrates a power running game into its no-huddle attack, which sets the stage for longer, more time-consuming drives. The crucial chess piece is Murray, the oft-injured senior with 1,837 all-purpose yards this year. He's versatile enough to play running back or wide receiver, which means OU doesn't have to substitute him off the field to change formations. If it did, referees would give the opposing defense a chance to “match” personnel. Murray's flexibility equals freedom.

    “They can come out and do basically whatever they want,” Hagg said.

    The result gasses a defense quick.

    “(Conditioning) definitely gets tested,” safety Dejon Gomes said. “You have make sure you stay hydrated on the sidelines.”

    Oklahoma alternately spreads out a defense or forces it to pack in based on the formation, which creates mismatches either in the defensive box – emptied out and thus vulnerable against the run – or on the edges of the field, where Murray and receiver Ryan Broyles are experts at catching quick bubble and tunnel screens and making yards after the grab.

    OU also uses varying speeds dependent on the look of the defense. Jones will sometimes hustle to the line, then look over to the sideline for a different play. Other times, the Sooners will buy rest for their defense by operating a version of the no-huddle that's as slow as Nebraska's typical pace for running plays.

    More than the physical challenge, Gomes said, is what Oklahoma – averaging 37 points and 480 yards this year – does mentally to a defense that constantly has to think fast – and react even faster.

    “That's the biggest challenge,” he said. “Getting lined up and knowing your responsibilities because they're going to be on the ball fast.”

    But if a defense figures out the tempo and alignment, it's Oklahoma that could be at the disadvantage. It clearly rushed Jones into bad throws and decisions in NU's 10-3 win last year. OU's red-zone struggles out of the no-huddle trace back to the 2009 BCS National Championship, when Florida twice stuffed the Sooners inside the 10-yard line.

    Fast, athletic defenses – in case you hadn't noticed, Nebraska has one – is a good antidote to slowing down Oklahoma. So is practicing against it, which is why NU's scout-team is working the no-huddle hard this week.

    “Our guys are in really good shape,” Pelini said. “They do get a lot of snaps, and we anticipate that. This time of year you hope you're in game shape. We're going to need to react well to their tempo.”

    Tags: big 12 championship, oklahoma, eric hagg, dejon gomes

  14. 2010 Nov 29

    Husker Monday Review - CU


    By HuskerLocker

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    OK, so the next Husker fan who even thinks about threatening Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe or his family – or even emails the guy with a minor complaint – needs to understand the following:

    *Cops can and will find you, genius: Not so much fun in court, huh? You'd think people would learn from the Big Red doof who tried to smear Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Landry Jones a few years back.

    *If you're that guy impersonating a Husker fan to make Nebraska look bad: Your alter-ego called. You forget to cut the crusts of his tuna-fish sandwich and buy the Strawberry Quik.

    *Dan Beebe is not your Congressman: You can't vote on his job. He is not compelled to respond. His authority is limited to the edges of his creative intelligence – you know what I think of that – and minor pigskin-political decisions under his purview. He is, in short, a functionary. Not a particularly powerful one with extraordinary reach or vision, either.

    *Nor is he really the scapegoat: If you want to trace the real source of animosity for Nebraska football, it sure isn't some guy who hung out in the OVC for years and hails from Walla Walla. It's not even Texas, an appropriate, more-respectful-than-you-think adversary of NU. You can always trust Texas to be Texas, which is trust enough for me in the world of competitive sports and high-finance.

    The real scapegoats are the Huskers' “mates” in the Big 12 North - Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and, to a lesser extent, Colorado – who sided with Texas on key decisions in the genesis stage of the league and took Nebraska's brief decline in football as an opportunity to slag on the North's true cash cow team in the cash cow sport of college athletics.

    That doesn't mean you threaten or cajole the chancellors and athletic directors of those schools, either. But it might mean – and I stress “might” - that when your kids or grandkids reach a certain age, you think twice before sending your or their hard-earned money to an institution that, when the chips were down, didn't think twice about sticking it to Dear Old Nebraska U.

    Especially since NU will be gaining significant academic strength – and contacts - with its entrance into the Big Ten.

    And I'm not condoning Beebe's no-show in Lincoln. Part of leadership is showing some sense of equanimity and a sliver courage. Beebe blew it. It wasn't as if Husker fans would have been looking for the guy, either; of the hundreds of emails I received from Husker fans and critics last week, not a single one mentioned the Big 12 North trophy presentation.

    Enough of this. On to the review:

    Five Players We Loved

    Cornerback Prince Amukamara: Stuck like glue to his intended receivers. He still can't buy an interception, but his anticipation skills are the best in the nation – considering he plays for the best pass defense, bar none, in the nation.

    Running back Rex Burkhead: His only big mistake was a first-quarter drop. Otherwise, Burkhead filled his role of Wildcat extraordinaire perfectly. And his two touchdown passes were as good as any Taylor Martinez has thrown this season. Excellent job, Superman.

    Quarterback Cody Green: Let's not get too ahead of ourselves here. Green wasn't brilliant. But he was steady, smart and under control. A start in the Big 12 Championship would, of course, be a whole different animal than beating worn-out Colorado on Senior Day. Oklahoma's pass rush alone is more dangerous than CU's entire front seven.

    Safety Dejon Gomes: Kid just has a nose for the ball. One interception, one more fumble recovery, a slew of nice tackles. Nebraska will sorely miss his versatility.

    Guard Ricky Henry: Steamrolled one Buffalo after another with his pancake trap blocks. When Nebraska wants to run pure power, the Henry's ready to roll all day.

    Three Concerns

    Defending Oklahoma's no-huddle: The Blackshirts didn't fare so well against Oklahoma State and Iowa State's version of the offense. OU runs a quicker, more polished version of it than either team. Now, that said, NU stoned the Sooners last year in Lincoln. But Nebraska won't have the advantage of the best Memorial Stadium crowd in several years to throw off communication.

    Kick coverage: When Adi Kunalic doesn't blast one his kickoffs through the end zone, NU's coverage – for whatever reason – has been a little vulnerable this year. Oklahoma has the speed to exploit some of the Huskers' mistakes.

    Big-play outage: A half-speed Taylor Martinez and no Niles Paul means the Huskers have officially cut in half its number of big-play guys in half. Who remains? From our view: Roy Helu and Kyler Reed. Helu needs to fully recover from a gimpy calf while NU's quarterback – whoever he is – has to find Reed on those one or two plays per game when he gets a clean release and gets to beat a safety on a post route.

    Three Questions

    Who wins - young talent or senior experience? We'll explore this question again later in the week, but Oklahoma relies more on redshirt and true freshmen – at key skill positions – more than any team still in BCS contention. It's led to a share of breakdowns for the Sooners, yes – but OU creates big plays out of thin air. That's part of why Bob Stoops' bunch is so streaky. Nebraska has its strongest, deepest senior class in arguably a decade. You'd like to think, on the biggest stage, that experience counts for something?

    Can NU and the Big 12 kiss and play nice in this final week? If “NU” includes Husker fans, no we'd guess not. It'll be on Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini – Ice and Fire if there ever was a name for this duo – to set the right tone. They'll do it – but swallow hard and keep their tongues in the process. It helps that Oklahoma is the opponent. Puts a sunny spin on things.

    Could Nebraska really fall to the Insight Bowl – and play a better team than it would in the Fiesta Bowl? If NU lost the Big 12 title and played Michigan – a 30-10 winner over Big East leader and presumed Fiesta favorite Connecticut – then, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. What a system! Gotta love it!

    Tags: husker monday review, cu game, dan beebe, prince amukamara, ricky henry rex burkhead, cody green, taylor martinez, big 12 championship, dejon gomes

  15. 2010 Nov 28



    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Related photos

    Cover photo for the Bandiola Spice album
    Bandiola Spice
    6 photos
    Trophies: 10
    This list is sure to please Husker fans, as Nebraska players populate our all-Big 12 list. Complain if you wish about the glut of NU defensive backs, but the nation's best pass defense, which repeatedly broke down quarterbacks all season – has to count for something, doesn't it?

    Here it is:

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Von Miller, Texas A&M Tough choice here, but Miller played his finest football right at end the year, when the Aggies ripped off five straight wins and emerged, at least for now, as the Big 12's best teams. His numbers don't remotely compare to last year, but A&M's defense is so much better in 2010 – and a big part of that is Miller. He edges out a whole slew of Nebraska defensive backs and linebacker LaVonte David.

    DEFENSIVE FRESHMAN/NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: LaVonte David, Nebraska When the Huskers lost their two top linebackers before the year, David, a junior college transfer, stepped right in and enjoyed one of the best years for a Husker linebacker since Demorrio Williams in 2003. David goes about his job with a sly smile and humility. Some recruit.

    DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR OF THE YEAR: Tim DeRuyter, Texas A&M Took an Aggie defense that was truly a laughingstock in 2008 and 2009 and morphed it into the Big 12's third-best defense. The turnaround was pretty stunning.

    END: Sam Acho, Texas A rotten year for the Longhorns' offense didn't hamper Acho's strong senior season. Smart, agile and one of the Big 12's best pass rushers, Acho was equally good against the run or pass.

    TACKLE: Jared Crick, Nebraska Quietly enjoyed an excellent year with more than 60 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Crick adjusted, much like Ndamukong Suh did, to how offensive lines were blocking him and tore up some opponents, including Missouri.

    TACKLE/END Aldon Smith, Missouri Anchored the best Mizzou defense since 2007 playing both positions based on the situation. Spent some time on the shelf midway through the season, which put a small dent in his stats. He makes a huge impact when he's on the field, though.

    END: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma The best edge rusher in the Big 12, Beal has to be accounted for on each play. He can get pushed around a little in the run game, but his pass-rushing skill is too hard to leave off this unit.

    LINEBACKER: Von Miller, Texas A&M He will make some NFL team in search of a outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme very, very happy.

    LINEBACKER: LaVonte David, Nebraska Would find a spot on any Big 12 defense because of his speed, instincts and ball skills. Quick enough to play safety, as six sacks attest.

    LINEBACKER: Keenan Robinson, Texas Also missed some action because of small injuries, but Robinson could be the most physical, aggressive linebacker in the Big 12.

    LINEBACKER: Jake Knott, Iowa State ISU's defense wasn't great, but Knott was. 130 tackles, four forced fumbles, four interceptions, 9 passes defended – he belongs.

    LINEBACKER/SAFETY: DeJon Gomes, Nebraska Played both spots depending on the situation. He was a turnover-creating machine, forcing two fumbles, recovering another and intercepting three passes. And 89 tackles to boot. What a player.

    CORNERBACK: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska The gold standard. Uses his length, athleticism and anticipation skills to shut down his opponent. Teams don't even bother throwing his way.

    CORNERBACK: Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska The more aggressive “field” corner for the Huskers who nabbed four interceptions, forced a fumble and recovered one.

    UTILITY: Eric Hagg, Nebraska He can play three different position with equal skill. It's not an All-Big 12 defense without Hagg, who had four interceptions, a fumble recovery and a punt return for a touchdown.

    PUNTER: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State Enjoyed the best average at roughly 46 gross yards per game. Also the nation's best kickoff specialist, too.

    PUNT RETURNER: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma A quiet year for Big 12 punt returner, so we go with the prohibitive favorite.

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    Tags: big 12, eric hagg, dejon gomes, jared crick, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, prince amukamara

  16. 2010 Nov 26

    NU-CU: Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-Colorado game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Running back Rex Burkhead. Since Taylor Martinez's injury, he's become, in many ways, the focal point of Nebraska's offense as a runner, blocker – and now thrower. It's pretty hard to believe that some teams in Big 12 South were skeptical about Burkhead's durability and toughness. When the chips were down this year, he's been NU's offensive MVP.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Safety Dejon Gomes had an interception and returned a fumble to the CU 3-yard line. He remains one of the headiest players in the Big 12 – as do his mates in the secondary.


    QUARTERBACK: B Cody Green was steady. He only let the play clock run down a single time, the fumbled snap wasn't his fault, and during money time – on third down – Green threw for two touchdowns and two more first downs. He still doesn't give Nebraska much in the running game – and he took a bad sack that pushed the Huskers out of field goal range – but, if needed to win the Big 12 title game, Green can do just enough with his arm to Oklahoma or Oklahoma State pause. A solid effort. Zac Lee came with eight minutes left and handled mop-up duty with class. He even completed two passes. That shoulder/elbow/whatever is healthy enough for that, I guess.

    RUNNING BACK: A Burkhead was very good, making two terrific passes for touchdowns and gutting out one tough run after another until it became clear that Colorado was ready to say “uncle.” He's such a versatile weapon, and patient runner, that he helps an offense make yards even when the execution isn't perfect. After a slow start, Roy Helu chugged out 75 yards for his final home game as a senior. He was nursing an injured calf, so some of the burst was missing, but Helu still busted a 21-yarder. Tyler Legate's lead blocks were fair-to-good. In the second half, Tray Robinson did a fine job in mop-up duty. He'll be of more use in the Big Ten, when a power running game is a must. Austin Jones got a few carries, as well.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: B+ Better! The big boys consistently paved open gaps for the three running backs; a gameplan heavy with inside counters and power traps certainly helped. First-half penalties gave way to a more focused, physical unit in the second half, when NU just lined and plowed away. You'd still like to see the Huskers punch it in from the 1-yard line, though. Pass protection was good, even against the blitz; of course, NU didn't throw it much, either.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B+ Excellent blocking from Ben Cotton from his tight end spot, and Kyler Reed caught two more touchdowns to continue his successful season. At receiver, Joe Broekemeier filled in capably for Niles Paul, catching two important third-down passes that kept alive touchdown drives. Brandon Kinnie caught two touchdown passes, although both were well-thrown balls. Perimeter blocking was just so-so, but NU tried to keep its game mostly between the hash marks.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: C+ Against a pretty solid CU line, NU's front four struggled some to get a push on pass rushes, although they did deflect a few Cody Hawkins passes. Colorado had some success in the running game but had to abandon it when the score got out of control. Nebraska will get a much stiffer test next week from the Cowboys or Sooners, whichever team emerges from the Big 12 South.

    LINEBACKER: B LaVonte David and Will Compton – who played extensively – filled their gaps well, for the most part, only letting Stewart out of the pen a few times. Both flowed to the ball without too much trouble. David made a nice play in pass coverage, breaking up a pass and nearly intercepting it.

    SECONDARY: B+ Gave up two long touchdowns and kept alive a drive with a defensive holding penalty, but also set up three Husker touchdowns with second-half turnovers. Prince Amukamara may have had his finest game of the year on Senior Day – but still no interceptions. He remains one whale of a player.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: A Nothing bad happened, so a clean grade. Alex Henery made a 42-yard field goal against the wind, NU fielded punts well, Henery punted well. Overall – fine.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: B Penalties are still a major problem for the Huskers, and they didn't go away in this game, with 8 for 79. Fortunately, Colorado committed a few costly ones of their own. On offense, Shawn Watson called a smart, clean game. He saw that Colorado was struggled to adjust to NU's shifts, so he loaded up on them throughout the game. He put enough wrinkles into the Wildcat to keep CU off balance, and his “toss” package, complete with a halfback pass, was a very smart installation. Ditto on the fake jet sweep action to Tim Marlowe. When Taylor Martinez understands the playbook as well as Green and Lee do, Watson will be a more effective playcaller. On defense, Nebraska didn't try to get too fancy, nor did Carl Pelini have to. He kept it smart and simple. Nice call by head coach Bo Pelini to go for it on fourth down; he's becoming more willing to do that in recent weeks, and it's a good idea.

    Tags: report card, cu game, dejon gomes, rex burkhead

  17. 2010 Nov 26

    CU GAME: Burkhead Bucks Buffs


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Just seconds after he'd caught a perfectly-thrown pass from a running back for a 26-yard touchdown, Nebraska wide receiver Brandon Kinnie located Rex Burkhead and posed him a simple question: Why are you so good at everything?

    Naturally, the best answer that a modest Burkhead could give in the post-game press conference after NU's 45-17 romp over rival Colorado was his usual fare: “I don't really know what to say to that.”

    He preferred to let his performance – 101 yards and touchdown rushing, 30 yards and two scores passing – stand for itself and help punch the Huskers' ticket back to Dallas for their second straight Big 12 Championship. Nebraska (10-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big 12) Oklahoma-Oklahoma State Bedlam game played Saturday night, although Texas A&M has an outside shot the Big 12 South's place in Cowboys Stadium Dec. 4.

    “Rex ran like a man possessed,” said NU quarterback Cody Green, who subbed for Taylor Martinez.

    Head coach Bo Pelini, fresh off a tumultuous week – he and his brother Carl had to apologized for their behavior during and after the Texas A&M game while rumors swirled that Martinez might have left the team – said his team earned a night to enjoy its North division crown in the face of “ a lot of people who tried to tear this team apart.”

    “They better enjoy it,” Pelini said. “It's all about those kids. They won ten games and won the North doing so. People don't appreciate it? Fine. I appreciate it. I know they appreciate it. And they appreciate each other.”

    Aside from a few white knuckle moments in the first half, the game hardly match the drama of this past week in Huskerville, as Burkhead's toss to Kinnie gave Nebraska a 17-3 lead late in the first half, upon which NU quickly tacked on two more touchdowns early in the third quarter after CU quarterback Cody Hawkins threw back-to-back interceptions.

    One of those scores was Burkhead's improvisational encore to the first touchdown. Out of the Wildcat formation Burkhead rushed forward to throw a pop pass to Ben Cotton, who was covered. He then scrambled hard to his left, drawing a Buffalo cornerback away from NU tight end Kyler Reed. Burkhead calmly flipped the ball to Reed, who clutched it to give Nebraska a 31-3 lead.

    “I reversed field and tried to make a play out of it,” Burkhead said. “I can't really explain anything else. I was just hoping there wasn't a guy coming backside.”

    Burkhead, a native of Plano, Texas – not far from Arlington - put an injured offense – missing starters Martinez and Niles Paul – on his back along with Green who, getting his fourth start in two years, delivered a steady performance, completing 10-of-13 passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he kept alive four of the Huskers' touchdown drives with big plays on third down.

    Green knew he'd start on Monday of this week, and Nebraska's offense reflected it in some of the playcalling. NU stuck to a power running game, repeatedly pounding Colorado's front seven with counters and power traps. Green passed frequently out of three-and-four wide receivers sets, much like he did in high school. A 16-yard touchdown toss to Kinnie was a textbook throw, as Green pump faked to the corner and hit Kinnie on a skinny post route.

    “We just did the things we were good at,” Green said. “We filed down the excess stuff that we didn't need and just went to the basics, to what we were good at. We don't want to be the jack of all trades but the master of none. We really stuck to the plan. That's what we did. And we had fun.”

    Said Pelini: “We've had confidence in him, but I know one thing: It's got to give him a jolt of confidence, playing in this kind of situation and stepping up the way he did.”

    Martinez didn't play, but was available as an emergency third-string. Senior Zac Lee played in mop-up duty, completing 3-of-4 passes for 32 yards. Pelini declined to say whether Martinez would be healthy enough to start next week, but if he, he'll be the guy, said offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.

    “Now's not the time to worry about that,” Pelini said.

    For the game, NU racked up 407 yards to Colorado's 262. The Blackshirts gave up two long touchdown passes in the third quarter, but also forced three second-half turnovers that led to Husker scores, as well.

    “They outplayed us,” said CU interim head coach Brian Cabral. “They made more plays and we didn’t. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make, so my hat is off. They rebounded from their loss in great fashion.”

    Cabral said the Buffaloes “ran out of gas” after two emotional wins following the firing of Dan Hawkins, who actually watched the game, in a bit of a surreal scene, from the Husker press box, surrounded by reporters.

    Nebraska drew first blood on its second drive of the game,using runs of 13 and 15 yards from Burkhead to set up a 42-yard Alex Henery field goal into the wind.

    After forcing a three-and-out from the Buffaloes, NU rode Burkhead again – this time to a touchdown. He had runs of 11, 7 and 13 yards to help up his 2-yard plunge out of the I-formation. Green converted a crucial 3rd-and-11 in CU territory with a 12-yard pass to senior walk-on Joe Broekemeier, who replaced the injured Niles Paul. Broekemeier, who left the Husker baseball team to walk on the football squad, had not played in a football game since 2002 – his freshman year at Aurora High School.

    “It's kinda surreal just the way it happened,” he said.

    Colorado answered with a field goal drive of its own, paced by a 25-yard trick play double pass and a Rodney Stewart 24-yard run. CU drove the ball to the Husker 6, but Nebraska forced an Aric Goodman field goal by stuffing Stewart one yard short of the marker on third down.

    Burkhead set up his first touchdown pass by gaining six yards on 4th-and-1, and three yards out of the Wildcat on 3rd-and-3. NU led 17-3 at halftime.

    NU safety Dejon Gomes intercepted Hawkins on CU's opening drive, returning the ball to Buffaloes' 43. Five plays later, Green laced a touchdown pass to Kinnie, who was running a post route, for a 24-3 lead.

    Eric Hagg intercepted a deflected Hawkins pass on the following drive and rambled to the Colorado 4. Burkhead did his best Mike Rozier impression – plus a pass – on the next play.

    Colorado (5-7, 2-6) cut the lead to 31-10 on its next drive when Hawkins hit Paul Richardson for a 50-yard touchdown. Richardson beat NU corner Alfonzo Dennard with a double move. The Buffaloes' onside kick try rolled out of bounds, and Green led a nine-play touchdown drive, spurred by his 17-yard pass to Broekemeier on third down. NU led 38-10. Hawkins then became CU's all-time leading passer on his next touchdown drive, capped by a 29-yard pass to Will Jefferson.

    NU ended scoring after safety Dejon Gomes recovered a fumble forced by NU corner Alfonzo Dennard and returned it to the Buffalo 3-yard line. Green scored on a 1-yard sneak from there.

    After the game, Memorial Stadium fans were treated a highlight video of Nebraska's stint in the Big 12. In ended with a image of Cowboys Stadium and the words “one last time.”

    The Huskers have been thinking about making the return trip since a 13-12 heartbreaking, controversial loss in 2009. Now, they simply await the opponent. Many Huskers copped to watching the OU-OSU game Saturday night, if only as football fans.

    Not Pelini.

    “I'll see that on film on Sunday,” he said. “You guys can watch it. I'll see if there's a good basketball game on.”

    Tags: cu game, rex burkhead, cody green, dejon gomes, eric hagg, brandon kinnie, kyler reed

  18. 2010 Nov 19

    Five NU Players to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Five Nebraska players to watch in Saturday's game at Texas A&M:

    Linebacker Will Compton: A&M's West Coast Offense relies on a tight end and a fullback in some of its formations, and that probably means Compton heads on the field. He has a Blackshirt – but not much playing time this year. Compton could play more than half of the defensive snaps. Next week vs. Colorado, he may not leave the field. We'll see how well he's recovered his speed and recognition skills.

    Safety Dejon Gomes: It seems a little ridiculous that teams would actually “pick” on Gomes, who's one of the best defensive players in the Big 12. But opponents just have nowhere else to go, so they line up their tight ends and bigger receivers against Gomes and see if they can create a mismatch. Don't be surprised if, more than once, Gomes is matched up on A&M's best receiver, big, burly Jeff Fuller, in the slot. Gomes plays with savvy and expert ball skills, but he'll have his hands full.

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez: Whether or not his ankle is 100 percent – it seems unlikely, not that you'd hear a Nebraska coach utter so much as a peep to the contrary – may pale in comparison to the accuracy of his arm. Texas A&M's 3-4 alignment is built to slow down running running quarterbacks – it Baylor's Robert Griffin 20 carries to gain 92 yards – so Martinez will have to hang in the pocket and deliver the same kind of darts he threw at Oklahoma State. Game management, tempo, cool under fire – these are the qualities Martinez must possess in College Station.

    Wide receiver Brandon Kinnie: When it comes right down to it, Martinez prefers throwing to Kinnie than any other player on NU's roster. Kinnie provides the biggest target, he's more reliable near the goal line and teammate Niles Paul is often running the go routes that Kinnie can't run for his relative lack of speed. What Kinnie does is catch balls in traffic and break tackles.

    Left tackle Jeremiah Sirles: He'll often draw the difficult assignment of blocking Aggies' end/linebacker Von Miller, one of the league's purest, most feared pass rushers. Miller's biggest strength is a relentless motor; he doesn't quit just because it looks like an offensive lineman has taken him out of the play. Sirles has to be wary of Miller's various moves, twists and techniques. He'll have a busy night.

    Win Tickets to the Nebraska-Colorado game!

    Tags: tamu game, jeremiah sirles, brandon kinnie, taylor martinez, dejon gomes, will compton

  19. 2010 Nov 01



    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Bo Pelini followed one of the worst losses of his coaching career – the increasingly hand-to-figure setback to Texas – with his two best wins as a Nebraska head coach.

    And he just might have the 2009 goat – offensive coordinator Shawn Watson – to thank for it.

    One year ago, some Husker fan clung to a metal fence in the bowels of Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium and screamed to no one in particular how much Watson stunk. Pelini still conducted his post-game presser, but when he finished, he went looking for that joker, who, of course, got the hell out of Waco several minutes before.

    No such jeers this Halloween. Watson's offense saved the Huskers' bacon at Oklahoma State two weeks ago, and his superior plan produced 256 yards and 24 points against a top-tier defense in just one quarter Saturday.

    Yes, Missouri adjusted to Nebraska's new formations, and NU struggled to move the ball against the wind. But when the Huskers needed a third-quarter touchdown, they got it. When Watson needed to bleed almost nine minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter, he called the right combination of plays, and trusted Roy Helu and his offensive line to do the rest.

    Nebraska is No. 17 in total offense. No. 12 in scoring offense. No. 6 in rushing offense. No. 25 in passing efficiency. And those numbers – with four games against poor defenses coming up – are bound to rise.

    Some of that is Taylor Martinez. The kid's special as a runner, and a good enough passer.

    But Watson had to coach him up, too, showing Martinez the ropes – and how to stay off of them - in a single spring, summer and fall camp. While also revamping the running game. Juggling two other quarterbacks. Managing a confident, hungry, but inconsistent group of wide receivers. Dealing with what has amounted to, thus far, season-ending injuries to offensive linemen Mike Smith and Marcel Jones. And facing the inevitable criticism that comes his way every time Nebraska's offense falters just a little bit.

    Think about the job that Watson's done so far in 2010. Is it worthy of a few more looks from BCS-autobid conference programs for head coaching jobs? Yes. But Watson may be waiting it out with some his colleagues - especially defensive coordinator Carl Pelini - for some of those openings.

    On with the review:

    Five Players We Loved

    Defensive tackle Jared Crick: With eight tackles, a hurry and a sack, he flashed some real potential as a 3-4 defensive end Saturday, if you ask me. Crick is a better outside rusher because he can set up a tackle with that quick first step, then blast back inside with a strong bull rush when the tackle overcompensates. NU may not use that 3-2-6 defense again this year – or ever – but Crick gave NFL scouts something to chew on. He could still use one more year in college.

    Cornerback Ciante Evans: He needs to fight off blocks a little better when a quarterback is loose and scrambling, but Evans is a cold-blooded baller as a cover corner. He rarely allowed his man to fight back across his face on deep routes, and his positioning took away that back-shoulder throw, too. Evans has learned Marvin Sanders' lessons quickly, using the sideline as an extra defender.

    Safety Dejon Gomes: He was everywhere and did a little of everything against Missouri's spread offense. He's a keystone of NU's defense; take him out, and the Blackshirts just aren't the same.

    Running back Roy Helu: He now owns the school's rushing record and he's about to eclipse 3,000 career yards. And yet Helu is likely to leave NU without ever being first-team all-conference. One of the most underrated players in Husker history. His big runs Saturday were more than just the beneficiary of good blocking – especially that third score from 53 yards. That's not a cut many backs can make, and even fewer can accelerate so quickly out of it.

    Kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic: Seven kickoffs, seven touchbacks. Rotten field position for Missouri all afternoon. Kunalic's best game in a big moment. Kudos.

    Three Concerns

    Taylor Martinez's injury: Perhaps it goes away immediately and Martinez is leading touchdown drives at his dad's old stomping grounds in Ames next week. In fact, I'd guess Martinez wouldn't miss that game for anything. But how effective will he be? So much of his talent is based on his explosive running ability. If he can't accelerate to top speed is his usual blink of an eye, how does that affect NU's offense while he's out there?

    Horrible Big 12 officiating: I'd expect an apology of some sort from Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson this week, as the zeebs plum missed Blaine Gabbert's fourth-quarter fumble by pretending that his forward progress had been stopped. Gabbert was never moving forward on the play; NU safety Courtney Osborne blasted the kid into next week – I heard Full House Dad Ed Cunningham didn't like that – and Gabbert fell backward until his shoulder blades met the turf.

    Why doesn't the crew just make up words along with the calls? After further review, the play is a blooney blup blarhar, first down Missouri.

    Trap Games: Nebraska has two in the next three weeks. First NU heads to Ames, where Cyclone fans will be plenty fired up for one last shot at the Huskers. On Nov. 20, watch out for that game at Texas A&M. Aggie coach Mike Sherman is rolling the dice with a quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-back-to-quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and it's working. I give A&M a puncher's chance at beating Oklahoma this week. If so – watch out.

    Three Questions

    Does Nebraska risk resting Martinez for two weeks to get him ready for the stretch run? If Martinez' dad, Casey, hadn't played at Iowa State years ago, and I'd say yes. As it is, Martinez will want a game inside the Jack Trice wind tunnel, and this will be his only chance. But if NU grabs a comfortable lead – sit the kid and turn it over to Zac Lee, and perhaps some Rex Burkhead Wildcat.

    Do Osborne and Austin Cassidy keep their starting safety jobs? And if so, do Rickey Thenarse and P.J. Smith lose the Blackshirts they earned? For folks who know the program, Osborne has the physical talent and hitting ability to be a stud. But he doesn't know the scheme like Smith does. Cassidy, meanwhile, probably gives the Huskers less in pass defense, but more than Thenarse against the run. If only Thenarse had truly learned how to tackle.

    Could a one-loss Big 12 champion actually face Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl? Well, somebody has to play the Big East champ, and Pitt has the inside track. The Fiesta Bowl has the last pick of all the Bowl Championship Series sites, and pundits widely believe that the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls will want no part of the Big East, which routinely lays an egg in the BCS.

    The Big 12's best hope is Nebraska, which could shimmy its way to No. 2 with an unlikely sequence of dominoes toppling just so. The biggest obstacle, frankly, is Boise State stumbling along the way. It just doesn't seem likely.

    Tags: mizzou game, husker monday review, ciante evans, dejon gomes, roy helu, jared crick, adi kunalic, courtney osborne, austin cassidy, taylor martinez

  20. 2010 Oct 14

    RECRUITING: When Being Picky Pays Off


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    If there's one area in recruiting where coaches don't want to miss, it's in targeting a junior college prospect who may have three or fewer years to play. The learning curve is steeper because the need to contribute immediately – and thus justify the scholarship – is greater.

    In his four short years at Nebraska, Bill Callahan recruited a glut of junior college players. He hit on his share – Zac Taylor, Larry Asante, Steve Octavien, Carl Nicks and Maurice Purify come to mind – and whiffed on guys like Victory Haines, Steve Allen, Brock Pasteur, Dontrell Moore and Tyrell Spain.

    Bo Pelini's recruiting plan has been distinctly different. He's recruited just seven in three recruiting classes – and one of them, tight end Tyson Hetzer, never made it to NU and wasn't Pelini's recruit in 2008.

    Four of them – wide receiver Brandon Kinnie, right guard Ricky Henry, linebacker LaVonte David and safety Dejon Gomes – start. One of them – left tackle Yoshi Hardrick – sees significant time. Only one – wide receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste who technically attended Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College without ever playing there – hasn't seen the field yet.

    Pelini said Tuesday his staff is “very picky” when it comes recruiting junior college players – and that choosiness is paying off.

    “We don’t spend a lot of time recruiting junior college guys, but when we do we’re very specific not only on the kid, but the situation, the type of kid he is,” Pelini said. “There are a lot of things that go into that. We really do our homework as far as that’s concerned.”

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    Tags: recruiting, dejon gomes, brandon kinnie, lavonte david, ricky henry, yoshi hardrick

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