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  1. 2010 Aug 30

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/30

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    By HuskerLocker

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    The clocks ticks for the Nebraska football team toward a game nobody suspects the Huskers will sweat, much less lose, and the questions accompanying NU’s preparation for Western Kentucky are appropriately few and threadbare.

    It’s suited Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini just fine, thank you, as he pleasantly met the press after Monday’s workout on the fields east of the Hawks Championship Center. Pelini, who faced even fewer queries during the Big 12 coaches teleconference, said the Huskers needed “better attention to detail” and a full week of practice before kicking off vs. the Hilltoppers.

    “There were some mental errors that weren’t up to our standard,” Pelini said. “I saw a lot of good things, too.”

    Players interviewed Monday focused on the process of improving - not a WKU team that’s lost 20 straight games dating back to September 2008, and is breaking new offensive and defensive schemes unseen by Nebraska.

    “We’re repping stuff over and over and over so it becomes reaction when we get out there,” linebacker Eric Martin. “So we can do it without thinking…I’m not thinking about the game. Just about practice.”

    Pelini’s tango with the media on the three-man quarterback race continued in its leaden manner, as reporters posed questions to which, at this point, they can nearly recite the answers.

    Are Zac Lee, Cody Green and Taylor Martinez still splitting reps three ways at quarterback?

    Bo: “We manage the reps at the quarterback position in a way that we think will enable us to play the best.”

    Will the competition extend into the season?

    Bo: “That’s how the culture of this program is built - ongoing competition. It’s a constant evaluation.”

    Do the quarterbacks know who’s starting?

    Bo: “No…I wouldn’t tell you if I did.”

    For you behavioral psych majors out there - Pelini was smiling during that last bit.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced Monday in full pads on the fields outside the Hawks Championship center in unseasonably hot weather. You could feel the storms a-comin in the humidity of the air.

    What’s New: Austin Cassidy received NU’s 85th scholarship. On the injury front, unknown. Reporters did not ask Monday and appear to be on a need-to-know basis.

    Coach Quote: “I know there are some other deserving guys and I think we’ll be able to reward some other guys down the line.” - Head coach Bo Pelini on awarding Austin Cassidy a scholarship

    Player Quote: “It’s possible. We’re more comfortable with the scheme this year. That’s a plus. We got a lot more depth. It’s not going to be a letdown if I have to go out of the game. - Senior defensive end Pierre Allen, on whether Nebraska’s defensive line can improve on 2009 without Ndamukong Suh

    Notes:

    ***Pelini announced that backup quarterback LaTravis Washington would play special teams this year. Washington, who moved from linebacker to quarterback in spring 2009, has played sparingly in mop-up duty.

    “He’s as good a guy in the locker room as you’re ever going to have,” Pelini said. “We love having him around. Great attitude. He’a a winner.”

    ***Pelini supported a potential college “exhibition game” or scrimmage during fall camp that helps teams work out kinks on some other team.

    “It’d break up the monotony of camp,” Pelini said. “I don’t think that will ever happen with the NCAA. I think that’s an advantage. It gives you a chance to get out there. Even if they let you practice against somebody else it would be good…I’d welcome it.”

    ***Center Mike Caputo has to work a little extra on snaps each day because he’s dealing with three different quarterbacks of three different sizes and three different styles, shall we say, of taking a snap from under center.

    “Everyone’s a little different underneath, but I kind of look at it as their job to adjust,” Caputo joked. “I just snap the ball. Just to be blunt.”

    Next Practice: Tuesday. Full pads again. Heavy install days. Coaches and players are typically very tired afterward.

    Tags: football, fall camp, practice report, bo pelini, austin cassidy, pierre allen, mike caputo, latravis washington

  2. 2010 Aug 28

    Practice Report 8/28

    575 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

    But -

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

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

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

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

    Until next Saturday…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On with the report:

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

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

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

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

    Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

    Next Practice: Monday. Game week. Finally.

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

  3. 2010 Aug 26

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/26

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    By HuskerLocker

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

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

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

    Tired of the QB subject, Shawn?

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

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

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

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

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

    OK, so maybe Watson makes a point.

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

    And how much time is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    You want a report? You got it.

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

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

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

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

    Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  4. 2010 Aug 24

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/24

    2,007 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    For the first time in this fall camp, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini took on a clipped, irritated tone after his football team’s practice, seemingly unsatisfied with NU’s focus during the two-hour workout outside Hawks Championship Center.

    “It was OK,” Pelini said. “Not to my liking. But it was OK. Got a long way to go, though.”

    When asked if he was edgy, he replied: “Call it as you may.”

    Over four minutes, Pelini didn’t precisely elaborate on Nebraska’s struggles Tuesday.

    Sophomore linebacker Will Compton did.

    “The mental part what was not there today,” Compton said. “We’ve got to do a better job than that. That was not up to our standard…we’re competing for a national title. The national champion doesn’t just go along each and every day and not put pressure on themselves and work hard. You’ve got to hold yourself up to a national championship standard if you want to compete for it.

    “If he says we have a bad day - we’ve got to get it fixed.”

    Said senior safety Dejon Gomes: “You’re trying to go out and get better. If you stay the same, in theory you’re losing a practice.”

    Pelini shut down questions about the Huskers’ three-man quarterback.

    “There’s a chance we could play ten guys,” Pelini quipped. “Anything can happen.”

    Asked when he’d decide on a starter, Pelini indicated Sept. 4 - the day of the Western Kentucky game.

    “So I’m not answering quarterback questions,” Pelini said.

    Ditto for the rest of the depth chart.

    “Guys that trot out there for the first play - guys we put out there - are the starters,” Pelini said. “Until then it’s a competition to see who steps up.”

    It remains to be seen whether NU will release a depth chart prior to the first game.

    Pelini said there were scholarships available to be given to walk-ons, but no decisions had yet been made. The coach reported no injuries.

    With the start of fall classes on Monday, Nebraska welcomed the rest of its roster - mostly walk-ons with a handful of scholarship players - but Pelini said practice wouldn’t change much until the end of the week when the Huskers begin preparation for WKU.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two hours outside the Hawks Championship Center on one most of the pleasant weather days of August.

    What’s New: Several players appeared held out of practice Tuesday, but Pelini reported no serious or significant injuries

    Coach Quote: “If people have time to follow twittering and tweeting, then they need to get a job.” - Head coach Bo Pelini, on players’ Twitter accounts. Nebraska apparently has a policy on players having these accounts, but Pelini said it’s handled internally.

    Player Quote: “We’re going to have a huge target on our back. Everybody’s going to be out there trying to prove a point on Nebraska as a whole, but especially on our secondary because of how we performed last year.” - Free safety Dejon Gomes on NU’s defensive backs.

    Notes:

    ***Bo Pelini’s sole praise of the evening was reserved for left guard Keith Williams.

    “He’s doing really well,” Pelini said. “He has practiced well. He hasn’t missed a rep.”

    ***Few of Nebraska’s offensive players were tipping their hands in the slightest about the NU quarterback race. Most of them stuck to the “it’s a competition” line.

    “They’re all playing well,” receiver Brandon Kinnie said. “We’ll see.”

    Said sophomore tight end Kyler Reed: “They’re all great leaders. They’re all out there leading the team with a great huddle presence.”

    ***To a player, this fall camp in 2010 is more intense than the previous two under Pelini. Part of it is higher stakes. And part of it is a resurgent pride on the part of the offense after struggling for much of 2009.

    “We’re being a lot more physical,” Reed said. “We’re proving we can be a lot more physical with our defense. We have a great defense. If we can be physical with them, we feel we can be physical with most people in the country.”

    And part of it is the leadership and chattering from receivers Kinnie and Niles Paul.

    “It’s intense every day,” Kinnie said. “If it’s not, we make it intense.”

    Next Practice: Wednesday. There is no post-practice media access.

    Tags: fall camp, practice, bo pelini, football, will compton, dejon gomes, brandon kinnie, kyler reed, keith williams

  5. 2010 Aug 23

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL:Husker Monday Takes

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Is the heat ever going to stop? Ugh! OK, six takes:

    *My view on the now-ended Nebraska media ban: I held off on commenting until Bo Pelini publicly offered his side Saturday, in part to see if he addressed the basic incongruity of having media availability at practices when he didn’t speak.

    Pelini did resolve it by reducing access to those days when only he planned on chatting with the media in the first place. I think it’s better that he’s around after each practice, however briefly, to discuss injuries - if there are any. When game week rolls around, perhaps that will be the plan.

    I was more surprised by the crush of media who surrounded Bo on Saturday and then rattled off a bunch of roster questions when even Bo himself, I suspect, figured he’d kick off the post-practice presser by explaining the ban. I dunno. Maybe he didn’t expect it. He certainly had an answer for the query when it came nearly ten minutes into the conversation.

    To the point: Nebraska football is a massive operation that pays for nearly everything that is NU’s athletic department, and it is the key reason why the Huskers had a chance at joining the Big Ten and tapping into its massive academic resources.

    More than that, it’s a cultural icon. As an expert fly fisherman finds a perfect rhythm to his cast, so too does college football move among us in mid-August. In the midst of a state budget crunch, the Gulf oil spill, boring summer movies, politics as usual and battles over abortion and immigration bills, by God, Nebraska football is one of the few pleasurable things around.

    So it’s kind of a big deal. Bo is the program’s chief steward. So he’s kind of a big deal, too. Whether he fully appreciates his value to the state or not yet, the line “How did Bo think practice went yesterday?” is probably the breakfast routine of many Nebraskans, along with their danish and coffee. Whether they thumb to the sports page of their newspaper, turn on talk radio or log on to their favorite Husker Web site, mild-mannered folks in these parts live a little vicariously through the no-nonsense Pelini persona.

    Bo should try to see Nebraska football as a regional phenomenon - not merely one bound by state borders. Like the Boston Red Sox or Atlanta Braves or Utah Jazz. The absence of competition for fans’ time and money generates cultural intensity worth preserving and nurturing.

    Injury report concerns are duly noted. Breathless reports or camera shots of kids being loaded into an ambulance? Not the way I’d play it. We get a little bogged down in the details and sometimes miss the forest to examine a blemish on one tree. That’s a flaw of the press, nurtured by this belief that toil and trouble fundamentally tells an equanimous, objective truth. It can but only in context - which we can lack or fail to apply because that would violate the brevity cause.

    And we’re walking here…we’re walking…

    *Accepting former Washington tight end Kavario Middleton onto the team - it’s not a done deal as of last Saturday, but it’s expected to happen soon - is the right kind of risk. Nebraska gets a proven pass-catcher at tight end; Middleton gets a second chance.

    Now, can he block? Ron Brown - the red courtesy phone.

    *Based on what I’m hearing, the quarterback race will head into the season, potentially through several games, with the timetable being when one QB clearly identifies himself as the consistent, dependable guy, drive after drive. I’d give Zac Lee the edge, but he has to prove it in a game, on the road, with the pocket collapsing around him. See you in Seattle.

    One notion worth repeating: Lee has the best arm on the team. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson raved about Lee’s “arm talent” early last season, and he threw deep passes in the Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State games that Joe Ganz, Zac Taylor and Sam Keller couldn’t throw. After his elbow injury got worse, however, the zip he could put on the deep out or that lovely fade pattern wasn’t there.

    “There were times I’d watch the tape last year and I’d just know: That wasn’t me,” Lee said. Lee insists he’s all the way “him” now.

    I think what became “clearer” in the QB race was the separation between No. 2 and No. 3. Which, in practical terms, has to happen. It’d be terribly hard, for game prep, to keep splitting repetitions between three guys.

    *Teams that try to throw the ball on Nebraska will do so at their own peril. The Brothers Pelini have assembled one mean unit. With Anthony West and Dejon Gomes potentially starting at both safety spots, NU’s base defense will have five natural cornerbacks on the field. And while the front four is down a Ndamukong Suh, the pass rush - from a pure attacking standpoint - could improve.

    This does not bode well for Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas, which, by the time it plays the Huskers, is likely to have abandoned its quest for a power offense.

    But running teams - and Nebraska faces more than a few - will test the middle of NU’s defense pretty well. West and Gomes aren’t big guys. They’re not likely to support the run as well as Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon did by the end of their senior years. And while junior college transfer LaVonte David may be the goods at linebacker, he’ll still get tested.

    *Boise State surging for a national title may make the best case imaginable for a playoff. If that seems backward, just remember: What makes a good case to members of BCS-autobid conferences isn’t the same as what makes a good case to us.

    The third-ranked Broncos are, by all accounts, a pretty darn good team. But few seriously think that Boise could withstand the week-in, week-out pounding of, say, the Pac-10. In a one-game vacuum, sure. A whole conference slate? Doutbful.

    So if BSU waltzes its way into the BCS national title game having been tested exactly once - in its season-opener vs. Virginia Tech - taking a big wad of cash and media attention with it, rest assured: The powers that be won’t like it. That is, after all, their money, not Boise’s money. And now that ESPN has reclaimed the BCS contract, it will wage a war on two opposites fronts: Pumping up the BCS because it has to, while showing journalistic “integrity” by undercutting it with the views of its on-air talent. Goldman Sachs comes to college football.

    There is, by the way, a distinct possibility that Boise State and TCU could square off for the national crown. The Horned Frogs have by and large humiliated the Mountain West over the last two years, and its season-opener, vs. Oregon State, is the precisely the kind of game the Beavers - sporting a new quarterback - tend to throw away.

    *Five Heisman favorites (and a sleeper) not named Mark Ingram, who will not repeat as the winner because, well, only one guy ever has.

    Adrian Clayborn, Iowa: If Ndamukong Suh cracked the door open a bit for defensive players, Clayborn - an absolute beast of a defensive end for the Hawkeyes - could crack it open a little more. It’ll help that Iowa’s defense as a whole is one of the nation’s best.

    Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh: He’s a throwback, able to carry the ball 40-50 times per game in the Panthers’ run-heavy attack. If he goes north of 2,000 yards, he’ll get a hard look. Especially if Pitt wins the Big East. It’s been 35 years since Tony Dorsett won the Heisman.

    Kellen Moore, Boise State: Presuming the Broncos get by Virginia Tech, Moore will spend the rest of the season chalking up big numbers in low-pressure environments, often on Friday night national TV. That’s a perfect recipe for a Heisman campaign.

    Christian Ponder, Florida State: An early game at Oklahoma is key. The best quarterback prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft - just watch, he will be - Ponder is mobile, armed with a cannon, surrounding by an experienced offensive line and three of his top four receivers from last year. He’ll have a huge year. If he stays healthy.

    Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: All eyes are on college football’s chosen one, who’s been so since Tim Tebow’s final pass in the Sugar Bowl. Pryor’s wonky throwing motion is less of a big deal because of his height, and he’s just a notch below Vince Young in terms of mobility. Moreover: This is OSU’s year.

    Sleeper: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma:
    You’ll notice that Murray is not my Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year - that’s Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert - but he shows up here because of OU’s apparent willingness to let Murray return kickoffs. He’s a real threat to go over 2,000 total yards in that case.

    Tags: football, fall camp, husker monday takes, bo pelini, zac lee, anthony west, dejon gomes, lavonte david, kavario middleton, ron brown

  6. 2010 Aug 21

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/21

    3,785 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Crammed a in tight, rugby-like scrum far too cramped for their middle-aged physiques, reporters circled around Bo Pelini early Saturday afternoon as the head coach opened practice to the media for the first time in three days.

    “We missed you - if you couldn‘t tell,” one camera operator quipped. Another, unable to squeeze in, lifted his camera above the fray to capture what must have been the top of Pelini’s cap.

    And then Pelini answered media questions for more than nine minutes on a variety of topics - starting with the injuries of linebacker Sean Fisher and cornerback Anthony Blue - without being pressed to address the elephant in the room.

    When a reporter finally asked for his rationale behind the ban - which was accompanied by a shorter prohibition of practice guests - Pelini, ready for it, delivered an answer without a hint of irritation.

    I wasn’t real happy with the way a couple situations were handled,” Pelini said, alluding to news reports of player injuries - including Fisher’s - before he could address them specifically. “One situation in particular. I understand you guys got a job to do - I’ve got a job to do, too.

    “So I just thought it was at the right time - really not one single thing, a culmination of things - that I thought it was time to eliminate some distractions for this football team. Get back to focusing on what we need to focus on. I thought it was the right time to do that.”

    Pelini then announced an adjusted practice availability schedule to the media, which is invited Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of next week. Pelini will speak at each gathering. Players can field interviews Tuesday, assistants on Thursday, and Pelini alone on Saturday.

    “In hindsight, I wish that’s the way we would have handled it,” he said. “With all the things that happen in fall camp and the busy schedule, I wish we would in hindsight that’s the way we would have done it in the first place. But you live and learn, right?”

    And Nebraska football marches on, as Pelini answered a variety of questions after Saturday’s two-hour scrimmage on the fields east of the Hawks Championship Center, a workout marked by “good tempo,” Pelini said.

    Pelini had just one significant injury to report: Tight end Dreu Young, nagged by a bad back for more than a year, will again undergo surgery. He won’t be back until midseason “if at all.”

    “It’s going to take some time for that to play our medically,” Pelini said. “He wants to be out there.”

    Young was, along with sophomore Ben Cotton, one of the best blocking tight ends on the team, but Pelini said he’s comfortable with the depth at the position and wouldn’t initially think to recall slot adjuster Mike McNeill back to the position.

    “That’s always an option,” Pelini said. “We have a lot of options.”

    The quarterback race, meanwhile, got “clearer,” Pelini said. He wouldn’t elaborate.

    Under the adjusted media schedule, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson won’t be talking until next Thursday.

    “No timetable,” Pelini said. “There’s great competition. I see all three guys getting better. The picture’s become a little bit clearer for us, but nothing’s been decided.”

    At linebacker, Fisher should miss the entire season, Pelini said, but junior college transfer LaVonte David - even before Fisher’s injury - was making a move at the position.

    “He’s showing he’s a really good football player,” Pelini said. “He’s showing he can be a factor for us. We’re excited about him and what he’s shown up to this point. He’s come in and made some quick strides.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska scrimmaged and practiced for two hours on Saturday - likely its final major scrimmage of fall camp

    What’s New: Media access. But you knew that. Dreu Young’s out until midseason and possibly all year. He was one of NU’s best blocking tight ends; look for a walk-on to slide in there and take over some of the blocking duties.

    Coach Quote: When you’re in camp and it’s hot and you’re working hard, that’s part of the deal. You just look across the country. That’s why it’s football. - Head coach Bo Pelini on tempers flaring in practice.

    Notes:

    ***Pelini said there’s a small chance that kicker Adi Kunalic will get a chance to kick some field goals in games season. Alex Henery is among the nation’s best kickers, and has been from the second Kunalic stepped on campus.

    “We’re not afraid to put him in the game, I’ll tell you that much,” Pelini said.

    ***Aside from David, four linebackers appear to be most in the mix for playing time: Sophomores Will Compton, Eric Martin, and Alonzo Whaley and junior Mathew May. Pelini said Whaley’s struggled through some “consistency issues” during camp.

    ***Pelini doesn’t pay attention to polls too much - Nebraska is No. 8 in the Associated Press poll - but he does appreciate how a high ranking early helps anchor a team in the top 25.

    “It’s pretty easy to move down if you screw up, but it’s pretty hard to start way out of there to move up if you have aspirations of doing something special,” Pelini said. “That’s always a positive. People recognized we played pretty good football at the end of last year.”

    Next Practice: Monday. The practice is closed to the media.

    Tags: fall camp, practice, bo pelini, football, dreu young, lavonte david, adi kunalic

  7. 2010 Aug 18

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Reversal of Fortune?

    563 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    If you're a Nebraska fan and didn't spend the last 24 hours in a meat locker, you probably know that head coach Bo Pelini banned the press from post-practice interviews until Saturday. Ex-players, parents and friends of the programs aren't allowed indefinitiely.

    The practices guests still aren't allowed. But the Associated Press reached Pelini Wednesday, and the coach appears willing to adjust his position on the media ban.

    There has been, predictably, a lot said and written on the matter.

    Here's a quick catalogue of the views on the matter. We'll have our own Thursday. Check back for more views.

    Tom Shatel
    Steve Sipple
    LJS Video chat
    AP
    1620 Schick and Nick
    1620 Unsportsmanlike Conduct
    Huskers Illustrated: Mike Babcock

    Tags: bo pelini, fall camp, football

  8. 2010 Aug 18

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Your Classic Fullback - with a Elementary Twist

    756 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    As Shawn Watson walked out of the Hawks Championship Center Tuesday, Nebraska’s offensive coordinator paused at the entrance and looked back at a scruffy, scraggily-haired kid who one day hopes to be a fifth-grade teacher.

    “Too many interviews for a fullback,” Watson joked to junior Tyler Legate, who held court with a few reporters.

    Legate, at 5-10, 235 pounds, can take it.

    “Legate’s a tough sucker, man,” running backs coach Tim Beck says with a smile and a hint of admiration. “He just does everything right. He’s a fierce competitor and tough kid. He’s a typical Nebraska fullback, I can tell you that.”

    Even Beck, just a third-year coach, knows the template. A stud runner in high school. A blocker in college. Occasionally a pass reception or a carry. But a fullback lives for the isolation play or the kickout block, down after down.

    The Neligh native is in a good position battle with junior Ryan Hill, a converted tight end with good hands and deceptive speed. Redshirt freshman C.J. Zimmerer, an Omaha Gross product, is still learning the ropes, although he broke a few runs in the Red/White Spring Game.

    "No job is safe," Legate said.

    He’s the frontrunner, though. His stature allows him to get under a defender’s pad. He’s redistributed a little weight to the right spots. He’s a little faster. And Nebraska’s emphasis on a power running game may lead to an expanded role.

    Plus - the pedigree.

    “It’s always been a Nebraska kid,” Legate said. “Doesn’t have the greatest speed, not the most athletic kid in the world, but tries to just find his way on the team.”

    Tyler’s cousin, Billy, was one of those guys. And Tyler remembers most of the big names, too. Or, at least the ones you can count on a 21-year-old to remember: Cory Schlesinger. The Makovicka brothers. Dane Todd. Steve Kreiwald. Judd Davies.

    Like most of those fullbacks, Legate is a bit of a raconteur, too. He can chat up a media guy, even if the Neligh native looks like he turned in a 12-hour shift at the mill. Not a kid with aspirations of teaching grade school. He worked his practicum last year at Lincoln’s Huntington Elementary. Fifth grade.

    “I liked that age group,” Legate said. He relates to them well. And he remembers his own fifth-grade experience. He never got in too much trouble, either.

    “Fun times,” he said.

    He tried not to tell his students he played football at Nebraska. Practicums are hard enough without playing ask-a Husker.

    They found out anyway.

    “They get pretty excited,” he said. “The ones that like football. Kinda like me growing up. If I had somebody come into the classroom who played football, I’d have been the same way.”

    The future profession is a sharp contrast to his current day job. Legate doesn’t mind indulging a little in that, either.

    “It’s the manly part of everybody,” he said. “Nobody wants to get pushed around. Nobody wants to get beat on something.”

    Tags: football, fall camp, tyler legate, ryan hill, cj zimmerer, shawn watson, tim beck

  9. 2010 Aug 18

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: When Comes to Pass - Run

    863 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    For every compliment Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson’s doled out since last December’s 33-0 win in the Holiday Bowl - and he’s doled out his share - there seems to be a little voice that reminds him to temper each line praise with another of caution.

    It happened again Tuesday night. By Watson’s mood and comments - and the ticked-off looks on the faces of Husker defenders you could tell: The offense had a good day against an even better defense.

    “We made a handful of plays,” Watson allowed. Against these budding Blackshirts, hey - a handful can look like a Barry Switzer-style half a hundred. Especially when the uber-competitive Brothers Pelini are, however briefly, on the receiving end.

    But Watson carefully added this: “We have to put it on film when it really counts.”

    And that’s smart. Even if Nebraska’s offense was besieged with injuries last year (it was) and head coach Bo Pelini declared martial law and put the attack on early curfew with two and three tight ends to guard the gates (he did), Watson perhaps knows now that, well, this is Nebraska.

    Husker fans love them some defense. But it’s gobbling up those chunks of yards, accompanied by a bonanza of points, that puts more stars in their eyes.

    Watson’s offense didn’t do that last year, and revisionist history has more credit going to quarterback Joe Ganz in 2008 than to Watson, even if the OC had to rebuild the offense after a disastrous 52-17 loss to Missouri and did so - in a week.

    Remember the stigma Scott Frost collected in 1996 after his second start at Arizona State (19-0 loss, three safeties, Frost’s rear end in a proverbial sling)? Despite recovering nicely that year, Frost didn’t shake it - or the doubts or the boos - until 1997. It took one quarter, two long touchdown runs, and a 27-14 win at Washington to do it. To put it on film - when it really counts.

    Funny, that the Huskers return to Seattle in 2010.

    Funny, too, that what will save the Huskers’ bacon in Husky Stadium this year, is the same thing that Nebraska used 13 years ago: A healthy, dominant, downhill running game.

    Play your three-card QB Monte all you want. Ganz and Zac Taylor aren’t walking through that door. At least not in uniform. At least not this year. Watson isn’t going to be able to stick Lee - and certainly not Cody Green or Taylor Martinez - in a shotgun and ask him to deal 45 times a game. Or 35 times a game. Frankly, 25 is pushing it under Bo’s new watch.

    It’ll be land with an occasional dose of air. A Tom Watson seven-iron at Carnoustie. More zone read plays, less dig and drive routes.

    “If you can run the ball it doesn’t matter what else is going on,” Lee said. “You can move the ball, be steady, control the clock.”

    You saw it in the spring and again now in fall - the Huskers are packing for a long, fruitful winter of smashmouth football. The quarterback race, while interesting, is subplot of the main story: Folks - up close - this is a huge offense, built for power.

    Aside from undersized center Mike Caputo - and he’s far from small - it’s the biggest and tallest offense I can remember. The backs all weigh north of 205 pounds. The starting wide receivers measure 6-1, 220, 6-3, 220 and 6-4, 235. Tight end Ben Cotton is 6-6, 255.

    Running backs coach Tim Beck has spent all of fall camp drilling into pupils heads: Don’t get cute with your running style. Don’t search for a hole. Cut and go. Get tough yards. Wear down the opponent. Play faster.

    “Be more physical,” Beck said. “Be more decisive. When there’s not a hole - create one.”

    Pound, pound, pound.

    And whether any of it works hinges on the offensive line. You hear the raves, sure. And after the Huskers smash-n-grab Western Kentucky and Idaho, you’ll hear some more. But they’ll need to put it on tape. When it really counts.

    Tags: fall camp, football, shawn watson, tim beck, barney cotton

  10. 2010 Aug 17

    Practice Report: Wats Upbeat

    491 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Though cooler temperatures finally blew into Lincoln Tuesday, it was not a faint-hearted afternoon practice for Nebraska’s football team.

    “It got a little heated,” running back Rex Burkhead told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “A few fights got out of hand.”

    The sophomore was referring to a variety of competitive scuffles that occurred during the workout. Enough that head coach Bo Pelini cleared out the practice of the few visitors he does allow - to dole out a little extra conditioning at the end of practice.

    Many players, tired, quickly filed for the skywalk that connects the Hawks Center to the locker room. Most of the Huskers who stayed behind were on the offensive side of the ball.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson certainly was upbeat.

    “We’re making plays against a great defense,” he said. “It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come.”

    And he’s still vague about the three-man quarterback race that reached Day Ten Tuesday. The media can’t watch practice

    “Competition is really close,” Watson said. “I feel like they’ve all really gotten better…the battle wages forward.

    Watson praised the management skills of senior Zac Lee, sophomore Cody Green and redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez.

    “They know what each other’s doing - yet they’re taking care of their job,” he said.

    NU’s offense continues to hum in the run game, according to several Huskers. Running backs coach Tim Beck said he’s seen a distinct improvement in the offensive line’s run blocking.

    “I love our mentality,” Beck said. “We’re really being physical.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska held a spirited workout two-hour workout inside the Hawks Championship Center, its cargo bay doors flung open to let in an unseasonable - and much needed - cool breeze. The practice itself was anything but cool, as players confirmed that enough scuffles broke out that head coach Bo Pelini ordered disciplinary runs at the end. The offense appeared in a decidedly happier mood than the defense.

    What’s New: Several news outlets reported that linebacker Sean Fisher suffered a leg injury. To what extent is unclear. Pelini will address the issue Wednesday morning. Dreu Young and Austin Cassidy did not practice. Freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell was in full pads for his first day after recovering from a hamstring injury. Scouts from several NFL teams were on hand for the workout.

    Coach Quote: “He plays big, and he plays fast. He’s got ability to get in and out of a cut. He functions very well in space and in tight proximities. He’s really a complete player. We’re really pleased with him.” - Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on freshman wide receiver Quincy Enunwa

    Player Quote: “It’s different for me coming from corner. We had our opportunities where we had to get into the run fit and give our support, but at safety there’s a lot more opportunity. It’s really big. We’ve been talking about throughout camp and even in the spring. - Senior safety Anthony West on stopping the run.

    Notes:

    ***The best thing about former Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz being back as an intern? Quarterback Zac Lee said it’s the value of talking to a guy who “just got done doing this.”

    “There’s some little tricks of the trade that maybe he’s been forced to use that we haven’t used,” Lee said. “He’ll say ,‘Hey, try this.’ He’s good for the little extra stuff.”

    And it hasn’t been awkward, Lee said, having the guy who started in 2008 back as a coach. When Lee transferred to NU in 2007, it was Ganz and Beau Davis who tutored him then, too.

    “It’s just been a continuation of that,” Lee said.

    ***Lee said mentioned four areas of improvement he focused on in the offseason: Running the zone read better; pushing the pocket; throwing on time; and anticipating breaks and throws. We’ll have more on Lee in a few days.

    ***West doesn’t look a thing like former strong safety Larry Asante did - he’s a good 20-25 pounds lighter - so it would hard to expect the same production as a run stopper. Yet West is counted upon to fill up holes and support linebackers when necessary. He spent all summer watching Asante - and former NU free safety Matt O’Hanlon - to pick up tackling tips.

    “The main we stress is: Just get the guy down,’” West said. “Coach (Marvin Sanders) always says there’s no bad tackles, just get the guy down. That something I try to keep in my head.”

    ***Beck said Lester Ward, Austin Jones and Collins Okafor are in the running for the No. 4 tailback job. Just how much they’ll be needed, of course, depends on whether Roy Helu, Rex Burkhead and Tray Robinson stay healthy. They didn’t have much luck in 2010.

    ***Watson said Enunwa - a California native who drew little interest from Pac-10 schools during the recruiting cycle but looks like a prototypical West Coast Offense receivers, has “put himself in the hunt” at playing this year. Enunwa, at 6-2, 205 - he’s all of that - has a natural talent for receiver.

    “Some kids, you throw the ball out back and they start making plays,” Watson said.

    ***Junior fullback Ryan Hill Tuesday confirmed that he changed numbers from 80 to 33 last week, in part to make way for Kenny Bell to wear No. 80, and in part because 33 is his mother’s favorite number, along with several close friends and family.

    Next Practice: Two on Wednesday, morning an afternoon.

    Tags: football, fall camp, practice report, shawn watson, ryan hill, zac lee, quincy enunwa, anthony west, tim beck

  11. 2010 Aug 16

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Fall Camp Impressions, 8/16

    955 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Samuel McKewon has even more insights and oberservations to share after one full week of Husker fall camp. Stuff you won't find anywhere else! Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: football, fall camp, fall camp impression, locker pass

  12. 2010 Aug 16

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/16

    9,151 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    As the Nebraska football team starts its most grueling week, head coach Bo Pelini gave a thumbs up to NU’s Monday morning practice - the first of nine over six days.

    “They’re still a little leg-weary, I’m sure, but you couldn’t see that,” Pelini said. “They moved around pretty good out there today.”

    The two-hour workout on fields east of the Hawks Championship Center featured “good tempo,” Pelini said. Players benefited from getting Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday off to rest their bodies before plunging into what Pelini called a “big evaluation week” that should begin to separate the top units from scout-team types.

    Said sophomore safety P.J. Smith: “After this week, we’re going to know who’s in the first group, who’s in the second group. We have to pick it up a lot this week.”

    Through nine days of fall camp, Pelini said liked the intensity and mental fortitude despite brutal weather conditions.

    Unlike 2008, when Pelini frequently criticized the lack of focus and concentration from his players, a competitive culture has taken hold in 2010 that leaves the third-year coach, more often than not, pleased with progress.

    “Our consistency’s better,” Pelini said. “Our kids understand how to approach the day. I don’t see as many ups and downs. Our guys are little more mentally tough than we have been in the past…I don’t see our guys feeling sorry for themselves.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: NU practiced Monday morning for two hours without a scrimmage. The Huskers will go again Monday afternoon, with a two-a-days on Wednesday and Friday, as well.

    What’s New: Cooler temperatures. Dare we say Monday morning was downright lovely? After last week, it sure was.

    Coach Quote: "Fans don’t find out who’s on it. Doesn’t matter. They’re elected by their teammates." - Head coach Bo Pelini on the Huskers’ Unity Council

    Player Quote: "We have so many calls - as never before. As we go along each day, we’ll make up a new call to try and stop an offense. You have to study a lot. Stay in your playbook…every day we’re writing something new in it." - PJ. Smith, on Nebraska’s evolving defense

    Notes:

    ***Nebraska kicker Alex Henery worked with San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding this summer at a couple of kicking camps. But he didn’t exactly get lessons from Kaeding. Both of them spent most of their time teaching kids how to kick.

    Who taught Henery? And who helps refine his technique now?

    “Um, myself?” Henery says sheepishly. The kid has the ego of a flea, so he’s not kidding. For tutelage, he watches Kaeding and the Chicago Bears’ Robbie Gould - whose style and accuracy inside 45 yards is strikingly similar to Henery - and critiques himself on videotape. But, yes, Henery does most the work on his own.

    ***Henery gave the thumbs to the new holders he’s been working with during fall camp, as punter Brett Maher tries to concentrate on place-kicking - especially junior Peso Austin Cassidy.

    “Not too much a difference really,” Henery said. “Kind of learning their habits and what they like to do. Getting them to hold the ball just the way I like it.”

    ***Fall camp is a tough grind even on the reporters - kidding there - but NU freshmen may find their heads swimming as the Huskers dive headlong into two-a-days.

    Smith remembers his first camp in 2008. Just wanted it to be over. The physical toll was part of it, but a bigger chunk was trying to process the complexity of the defense, when in high school he was used to basic zone coverage schemes.

    “You coming here with all these terms and I’m sitting here like ‘What the hell you talking about?’” Smith joked. “I know how the young guys feel.”

    Just wait, he tells them, you’ll get it. Then, fall camp becomes “fun.”

    “Once you know what you’re doing, you’re just flying around - you don’t even care,” Smith said.

    Next Practice: Monday afternoon, then again Tuesday afternoon.

    See also: Fall Camp Impressions

    Tags: football, fall camp, practice report, bo pelini, alex henery, pj smith

  13. 2010 Aug 16

    Husker Heartbeat 8/16: Suh, Seals, Heat, Hell, Prince and Indy

    496 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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


    *Ohio State uses a "Hell Week" inspired by the Navy Seals during its training camp.

    *OWH: The heat wears on the Huskers.

    OWH: Is this the year for Kyler Reed?

    *Recapping Ndamukong Suh's first game for the Lions.

    *A lot of offense in Missouri's first scrimmage.

    *Why the Big Ten chose Indy for the title game.

    *Fox Sports: The Prince is ready for the NFL.

    *Kansas State's most talented defensive player, Brandon Harold, is making his move in 2010 after injuries derailed 2009.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, ndamukong suh, prince amukamara, kyler reed, big ten, fall camp, missouri, kansas state

  14. 2010 Aug 14

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/14

    7,139 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Bo Pelini revealed no surprises as Nebraska’s football team held its first major scrimmage of fall camp, an hour-long crack of the pads on fields just east of the Hawks Championship Center. The head coach termed the scrimmage a mixture of good and “sloppy.”

    “It’s about where I thought we’d be right now,” Pelini said. “Not good enough to play championship football yet, but that’s why we’re in camp and that’s why we’re practicing…when you see something good on the offensive side, obviously you don’t like it on the defensive side and vice versa.”

    Pelini is rare to point out specific positives, and he didn’t exactly indulge on Saturday, either, although he said the quarterback play was “good” and “running backs ran really hard.”

    “We’re running the system well, and I think we’re deeper,” Pelini said. “Which obviously makes you better. I think we have more guys capable of playing winning football for us. We’re showing some physicality in the run game, which I really like. There’s a lot of positives.”

    Pelini also continues to praise what he calls NU’s “back end” of defensive backs.

    “Across the board, we have some versatility, which gives you a lot of options,” Pelini said.

    But there remains much to clean up on both sides of the ball, Pelini said. He saw “sloppy tackling” from the defense Saturday and “protection break down” on the offensive line.

    “Some communication errors,” Pelini said. “Maybe a protection against the pressure. Overall, we’re protecting the quarterback pretty well.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two hours - scrimmaging for roughly one - getting every player some useful repetitions. NU films the scrimmages, examines it to see who stood out, and will reconvene after a day off Sunday.

    What’s New: Freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell and sophomore cornerback Lazarri Middleton joined the 105-man roster Saturday both wearing jerseys. Also - it appeared that H-back Ryan Hill has changed to No. 33.

    Coach Quote: They’re gonna set the ground rules and curfew and what we expect. This is a time in camp, when you give them a day off heading into kind of a long week next week, guys gotta be smart. They gotta protect each other, understand what’s at stake and make good decisions.” - Head coach Bo Pelini on the Unity Council and a night off for the Nebraska football team. Translation: The police blotter better stay cold.

    Notes:

    ***Pelini said freshman defensive tackle Chase Rome is working with the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses and could be a candidate to burn his redshirt this fall.

    “He’s playing good football,” Pelini said. “He’s definitely in the mix…hopefully that will continue. Having that spring (camp) will help him a little bit.”

    ***Pelini said sophomore tight end Kyler Reed - oft-hurt and sparingly used last year despite considerable athleticism - will get more looks this year.

    “He’s more confident and he’s playing with a little bit of an attitude,” Pelini said. “He’s playing well. He’s made some plays. I think he’s going to be a playmaker for us.”

    ***Nebraska left tackle Mike Smith and tight end Mike McNeill graduated Saturday. Smith broke his leg earlier in camp. McNeill was given the day off by Pelini.

    ***Nebraska will be breaking a new left tackle this fall, and thus far, Pelini likes what he’s seen from redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles and junior Yoshi Hardrick.

    “That position is manned pretty well,” Pelini said. “I see progress.”

    Next Practice: Monday morning, for the second of four two-a-day practices.

    Tags: football, fall camp, practice report, bo pelini, jeremiah sirles, yoshi hardrick, lazarri middleton, kenny bell, mike mcneill, mike smith, chase rome

  15. 2010 Aug 13

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/13

    1,228 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    As if Nebraska’s quarterback race wasn’t hot enough.

    NU head coach Bo Pelini Friday put to rest budding rumors that redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez had skipped practice Thursday by saying Martinez was excused from the workout and scrimmage.

    “We knew he wasn’t going to be at practice,” Pelini said. “…I don’t know where you’re getting your information. It’s bad information. No he wasn’t at practice. I knew he wasn’t at practice. I knew where he was.”

    When asked of Martinez’s whereabouts, Pelini said: “Don’t worry about it. It’s no one’s business but ours. We know exactly where he was.”

    Pressed again, Pelini said: “There was no concern! Next issue.”

    The Norco, Calif., native was present at Friday morning’s workouts, the first of two. Thursday afternoon, Pelini unexpectedly closed the end of that day’s practice to the media, plus the stretching portion of Friday morning’s practice.

    NU holds four two-a-days over the next eight days. Pelini said the Huskers will scrimmage again on Saturday.

    “Little by little, we’ll ease them into it,” Pelini said. “You want to get your work done, but you don’t want to overload your guys either…we have to be smart as a staff to make sure we come out of this (next) week and you’re not beaten down.”

    Martinez missed the Thursday scrimmage - the first day, Pelini said, the Huskers were allowed to really tackle. Pelini said he liked what he saw.

    “I think we’re getting better in a lot of areas, I really do,” Pelini said. “I’m seeing progress.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: NU got to go back outside Friday morning with a two-hour workout on the fields east of the Hawks Championship Center. Nebraska was in full pads.

    What’s New: Nebraska scrimmaged Thursday and started two-a-days on Friday with a 2-hour workout in the morning. NU returns to practice at 3:45 p.m. The Huskers will head back to scrimmage on Saturday. Yoshi Hardrick returned to practice Thursday and Taylor Martinez, after being excused Thursday, returned to practice on Friday.

    Coach Quote: He’s made some plays. In the last few days, he’s started to get more comfortable. I’m seeing him make more plays. He’s really athletic. I like what we’re seeing from him” - Head coach Bo Pelini on new JUCO linebacker LaVonte David.

    Player Quote: I’m not going to want to come off the field this year but I need a blow, it’s going to be good to know that the guy coming in for us is capable and ready to do the job. - Defensive tackle Jared Crick on depth at the defensive line

    Notes:
    ***With Mike Smith’s broken leg, there’s no looking back at left tackle, where redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles and Yoshi Hardrick are battling for the starting job. With Hardrick’s absence from practice this week, Sirles, a giant at 6-6, 310 pounds, has been getting most of the work with the No. 1 unit.

    “A lot of potential,” said defensive end Cameron Meredith, who faces Sirles daily in practice. “He gets me on plays and I get him on plays. We’re making each other better, which is good.”

    ***Crick said he can feel the offensive line’s health - especially during the scrimmage.

    “I saw kind of a bounce in their step,” Crick said. “They were coming off hard. That’s how they are when they’re healthy. Quick off the ball and tough to go against.”

    Crick’s been able to renew his daily battles with left guard Keith Williams.

    “He’s fast again, he’s strong again,” Crick said.

    ***Meredith had praise, too, for sophomore guard Brandon Thompson, who is likely to back up Williams or Ricky Henry now that Smith is lost for the year. Thompson struggled through a hernia last year.

    “He was really getting off the ball and really getting after people,” Meredith said. “His technique has gotten better.”

    ***If you thought life might get a little easier for 6-foot-4, 230-pound wide receiver Mike McNeill once he was able to match up with smaller cornerbacks - think again.

    “They’re a different animal,” McNeill said. “Especially our corners. They’re freaks. It’s fun going against them….as far as being able to pick on them, they can hold their own.”

    Of course, McNeill is facing what many consider to be one of the nation’s best secondaries. When he lines up in the slot, Peso back Eric Hagg lines up against him. That’s one terrific matchup between two of the team’s better athletes.

    ***McNeill said Rickey Thenarse has the biggest hit in camp thus far.

    “Will Henry got smacked on the sideline by Rickey,” McNeill said.

    Henry caught the ball, turned, stood up and Thenarse “just KO’d him,” McNeill said.

    “That’s what Rickey does,” McNeill added.

    Next Practice: Friday afternoon, and again Saturday morning.

    Tags: football, fall camp, bo pelini, taylor martinez

  16. 2010 Aug 13

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Cotton Coming to Harvest

    800 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    He talks quickly and confidently, rarely breaking stride or dimming his smile as he hits up teammates with a joke or a jab. Occasionally, to anyone or no one, he busts out the line of a random song in a goofy, mock-falsetto that makes the mundane job of holding a water cooler a little more livable.

    Then Nebraska tight end Ben Cotton gets down in a three-point stance and slams into teammate Dreu Young in a blocking drill that pits brute against brute in a test of strength, balance and sheer want-to. Position coach Ron Brown’s barking instructions halts and the battle is over. A stalemate.

    Cotton’s grin comes right back.

    The favorite to win NU’s tight end job, the sophomore makes a point of loving this. He plays for a top ten team. His brother, Jake, is at the other end of the field in the chute with the rest of the freshmen defensive tackles. His dad, Barney, coaches the offensive linemen 20 yards away, and occasionally, in tandem drills, they work together, two giant guys, both Huskers, sharing something that seemed unlikely three years ago.

    “It was always a dream of mine,” Ben Cotton said. “I wanted to play for him at some level.”

    Which is why, before his junior season at Ames (Iowa) High School, Ben committed to play at Iowa State, where Barney served as offensive coordinator. After coaching at four different spots 1989-2003 - including the one year at Nebraska - Barney finally seemed settled at ISU, which hoped in 2006 to contend for the Big 12 North title after back-to-back 7-5 seasons.

    A brutal conference schedule (that mirrors the 2010 slate) derailed the season. The Cyclones fired head coach Dan McCartney. Barney, too. Ben committed to Louisville during the summer of 2007. And Barney chose volunteer at Ben’s high school.

    “I’ll look up to him for the rest of my life for making that decision,” Ben said. “It helped me a lot as a football player. It was a great time just for me and him to get to know each other.”

    Suddenly, Barney was around more often in 2007, a change from his life as a college assistant when, Ben said “they don’t take one second off.” Ames struggled in Ben’s senior season, but he appreciated his dad’s teaching.

    “I’ve always believed in everything he taught,” Ben said “Just simple things. Being relentless. Working hard. That’s the kind of player I want to be. Hard worker, a guy who will never quit, a guy who will tough it out through anything.”

    Meanwhile - chaos at Nebraska in 2007. You know the story.

    Goodbye, Steve Pederson, hello Tom Osborne; goodbye Bill Callahan, hello Bo Pelini. And hello Barney Cotton, who coached with Pelini at Nebraska in 2003.

    When Barney got the NU job, Ben was actually on a plane to take his official visit to Louisville. An ice storm hit Des Moines. Ben’s flight was delayed. And Bo offered Ben to play at Nebraska.

    “God works in mysterious ways,” Ben said.

    And here is Ben Cotton now, drawing raves from offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who compares the 6-foot-6, 255-pounder to some of his pupils at Colorado, which turned out some of nation’s best tight ends during Watson’s tenure there.

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

    Starter Mike McNeill moved to slot receiver. Ben takes little for granted - there’s plenty of depth, including Young and Kyler Reed, behind him - but he is going to enjoy it. Yes, even a brutally hot fall camp.

    “There’s no point fighting each other,” Ben said. “That’ll never get the best out of you. But if you keep guys upbeat, keep supporting each other, keep competing with each other, we’ll get better.”

    Is that mindset a chip off dad’s block?

    “I was more of a pain in the ass when I played,” Barney said, laughing. “He’s got a different personality. Hopefully people would say I played hard, which he does. But I wasn’t probably quite as positive.”

    Tags: fall camp, football, ben cotton, barney cotton, shawn watson, jake cotton

  17. 2010 Aug 12

    Podcast 8/12: Cook Confident

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: podcasts, football, fall camp, mike smith, bo pelini, volleyball, john cook

  18. 2010 Aug 11

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/11

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    By HuskerLocker

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    The lauded depth on Nebraska’s 2010 offensive line got a little thinner Wednesday, as head coach Bo Pelini confirmed after practice that senior Mike Smith broke his leg in practice Tuesday and would miss the season.

    “It’s pretty clean break,” Pelini said. “He’ll recover fully.”

    Pelini declined to say which leg. Offensive line coach Barney Cotton said Smith snapped it on a play in practice.

    “Guys kind of fall into each other,” Cotton said. “Turned out to be a more severe injury than maybe you would have thought looking at it.”

    Smith had started for two years at left tackle, but served as a “swing” player this fall. At 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, Smith had struggled with nagging injuries that diminished his play at tackle.

    But it’s still a blow to NU’s overall experience and versatility on the offensive line.

    “It’s one less guy,” Pelini said. “But we still have great competition.”

    Pelini said Smith could petition for a sixth year of eligibility, but “it’s up to him.”

    “I anticipate he’d want to come back for another year,” Pelini said.

    Nebraska spent its first day in pads - and its second straight day overall - practicing inside the Hawks Championship Center with the air conditioning turned on as temperatures again soared near the triple digits outside. Although Pelini lauded his team Monday for battling through the heat, he sensed, too, that the Huskers were getting “worn down.”

    “It’s pretty ridiculous out there,” Pelini said. “You beat your team down if you’re out there too much.”

    Left tackle Yoshi Hardrick, who struggled with heat exhaustion Monday, was held out again Wednesday. Pelini said Hardrick should return Thursday.

    “He’s feeling good,” Pelini said. “There’s no issues.”

    Through five practices, Pelini said the NU quarterback race is “about even” between Zac Lee, Cody Green and Taylor Martinez.

    “This could go on for a long time,” Pelini said. “I know you guys don’t want to hear that, but that’s the facts.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced again inside the Hawks Championship Center with temperatures outside hovering around 100 degrees.

    What’s New: Full Pads! Players have been hitting pretty hard for two days now. On Wednesday, perhaps, they got to wrap up a little more. Also, left guard Keith Williams returned to practiced after missing two days. Left tackle Yoshi Hardrick did not. Lingenfelter replaced Smith on the 105-man roster.

    Coach Quote: “It’s better protection. I don’t really like when it’s no pads because our guys don’t like it. You’re banging each other’s shoulder. We still get a lot done without pads, but it’s back to real football again.” - Head coach Bo Pelini on practicing in full pads.

    Player Quote: “It’s not something I was forced to do. I could have backed out at any time. It was a little something that I think helped me, and it’ll benefit me in the future. There was never a time where I felt overwhelmed.” - NU wide receiver Khiry Cooper on playing baseball during the summer while participating in the full summer conditioning program Cooper drove two hours to Junction City during the week ten times this summer.

    Notes:

    *Junior cornerback Anthony Blue was not in pads today.

    *Sophomore defensive end Josh Williams physically looks like a different player from his arrival in 2008. Different, in fact, from 2009, when nagging injuries often kept Williams on the stationary spinner bike.

    “It gives him a lot more confidence that he can carry out and do the techniques we ask him to do,” ends coach John Papuchis said. “In all ways, he’s really changed.”

    *Sophomore Brandon Thompson and Lingenfelter were seen snapping the ball to former Nebraska quarterback and current Husker intern Joe Ganz after practice to perhaps find a No. 3 center.

    *Cole Pensick is currently the No. 2 center despite moving to the position in the spring. Having just 20 practices under his belt at center, Pensick has progressed quickly, said Cotton.

    “He’s way ahead of where he was in the spring,” Cotton said.

    The biggest item on Pensick’s summer to-do list?

    “Getting the ball off on time,” Cotton said. “So far, we’re getting off on a good cadence.”

    Next Practice: Thursday. At long last, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini will speak and his interviews are usually among the best.

    Tags: fall camp, football, practice report, bo pelini, mike smith, barney cotton, cole pensick, khiry cooper, yoshi hardrick, luke lingenfelter, brandon thompson, anthony blue

  19. 2010 Aug 11

    Podcast 8/11: Wats on the Heat

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: podcasts, football, fall camp, shawn watson

  20. 2010 Aug 10

    FALL CAMP IMPRESSIONS: 8/10

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Read Samuel McKewon's exclusive takes on the quarterback race, which true freshmen pass his eye test, Brion Carnes' development, Yoshi Hardrick's progress, and more with a 30-day FREE TRIAL, yes, free, to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: locker pass, fall camp, fall camp impressions

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