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  1. 2011 Sep 14

    Obsessed and Displaced: The Travel of a Homeward Bound Husker

    3,295 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brett Baker

    I am one of the hundreds of thousands of Huskers fans that happen to live beyond the borders of our great state, but every fall I hear the roar of the crowd and know that I need to get home. The Huskers are playing and I need to be there. This is my story of how I returned home this weekend. The names remain the same; the facts may have been embellished.

    Monday:

    4:56 PM - First craving for Runza.

    5:01 PM - Still craving Runza...Which makes me think of Valentino's. Saturday can't get here soon enough. Decide to go looking for a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor.

    5:04 PM - Abandon search cursing Doc Brown. Surely Doc Sadler is happy to be off the hook for once.

    Tuesday:

    11:16 PM - Get home from work, randomly wonder which Huskers hat I should wear this weekend. Spent the offseason buying new hats free of the Big 12 taint. Now the question is which one to pack. Red? White? Black? Maybe the plaid? In the end, I decide to go with the Huskers holy trinity of colors. Red, white & black. Three hats. Side note: I'll be in Nebraska for 49 hours.



    Wednesday:

    12:34 PM - Got a package from Eastbay. Validating my commitment to the Huskers, Adidas & getting through the TSA line in short order. Since I hate waiting, and making others wait in in the TSA line, I buy some new red Adidas sport slip-on sandals. Also, screw Nike
    .
    Thursday:

    3:27 PM: Shoes! I wake from a stone cold slumber feeling like an older, fatter version of one of those shoe snobs from those chick flicks like 'Sex In The City' or 'The Devil Wears Prada'. Only my movie would be called 'The Devil Wears Adidas'. The question is: which pair? I have five viable candidates. I may have a problem. Decided to table the decision in favor of more of sleep.



    Thursday:

    3:34 AM: Can't sleep. MUST MAKE A SHOE DECISION RIGHT NOW! No, I don't know why. Yes, I'm single. After much thought, I go with the newest ones on the shelf. These really cool Adidas/Goodyear driver shoes. They make me feel fast. Like LaVonte David fast. If LaVonte David was a 41-year-old white guy. Finally ready to sleep.

    Friday:

    7:34 PM: Wondering if Runzas are acceptable breakfast food. Will be in Dallas 24 hours from now. I think my layover might just be long enough to get a cab, find the Big 12 offices and backhand Dan Beebe.

    11:16 PM: Work is over! Time to go home and watch Missouri take on Arizona State while packing. I picked ASU with a parlay on Gary Pinkel out-coaching himself.

    Saturday:

    12:34 AM: He iced his own kicker?!

    12:35 AM: TWICE?! Going to enjoy watching Missouri blame Pinkel for their removal from the AAU.

    6:00 AM: Wheels up out of Austin. *Little known scientific fact, burnt orange causes cancer...of the soul.

    10:26 AM: Wheels down in Omaha. Back in the homeland. **Little known fact, the cure for burnt orange cancer is a healthy dose of Nebraska.

    3:15 PM: Hit our first tailgate of the season with my father & daughter in tow. Shockingly the 65-year old psychologist outmaneuvers the 17-year old for the day’s first keg stand. Equally as shocking, he drinks a red beer while performing the keg stand, finished, and then rips off his shirt to reveal full body paint. He is the "B" in "Nebraska". I've never been prouder.



    4:30 PM: Made our way into Memorial Stadium. Immediately spot a guy selling Runzas. I eye him like a sailor eyes a Playmate at the Playboy mansion after 24 months at sea.

    4:32 PM: Runza in my belly. If it was socially acceptable, I'd smoke a cigarette & promise to call it the next day and I’d actually mean it.



    6:07 PM: Kickoff. You can always remember what game day in Memorial Stadium is like, but there is nothing like being there. It's like making love with your clothes on... and with 85,000 people...Pretty sure that's not going to make it into the university's brochure for visiting Big Ten schools. It should, though.



    7:38 PM: Halftime. Trailing 17-14 in a thus far painful affair. For the halftime entertainment, I smash my face into the aluminum bleacher.

    10:02 PM: Victory! The Huskers win in a fashion that will probably trim three years off of my life. Hopefully they would have been crappy years anyway.



    Sunday:

    12:16 AM: Drift off to sleep for the first time since Thursday. Slightly worried that Ameer Abdullah will run into my dreams. Side note: wonder what is up with me.

    9:33 AM: Family all day. The only thing slightly better than Husker football.

    Monday:

    11:02 AM: Wheels up out of Omaha, say goodbye to the greatest state in the union and start looking forward to my next trip home...and wondering what shoes I'll wear.

    *This is not true.
    ** This is probably not true, but it does sound true.

    Follow Brett on Twitter: @BigRedinTejas
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    Tags: adidas, runza, gary pinkel, missouri

  2. 2011 Sep 07

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL: A Look Around the Nation - Week Two

    2,343 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brian Towle

    What a great week to start off the season!. Before we move on to week two, let’s review last week’s winners and losers.

    Winners:

    Boise State – The Broncos went to Atlanta and throttled the Georgia Bulldogs. For a team that isn’t supposed to be able to hang with the worst of the SEC because of the conference’s supposed superiority, their performance was pretty impressive.

    LSU – Their performance against Oregon wasn’t fantastic, but they took advantage of several Oregon errors and managed the game well enough to make the final score look like a blowout.

    BYU – Starting the season in unfriendly confines for the second time in three years and winning a slugfest speaks volumes about the Cougs.

    Baylor- Robert Griffin III is the real deal.

    Losers:

    Auburn – The Tigers needed an onside kick and what appeared to be favorable clock operation to beat a team from the WAC? Really? Aim for the Independence Bowl, Auburn, because it’s the best you can hope for. A special round of applause goes to Tiger fans who decided to rush to the gates.

    Congratulations on leaving your team lying in the lurch before clapping and celebrating a win on your way out. Apparently the national championship shirts are getting difficult to wear from swelling heads.

    Notre Dame – The weather delays were a sign. You’re doing it wrong.

    Georgia and Ole Miss – A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? -



    Here are your week two dandies. All times listed are in CST.

    Arizona at No. 9 Oklahoma State (7 PM Thursday, ESPN)

    The fantastic duo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon take on the Wildcats in a Thursday night tilt in Stillwater. Arizona comes into town following a beat down of Northern Arizona while Okie State took care of business against Louisiana-Lafayette. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles returns for what seems to be a ninth season, and has a talented receiver to go to in Juron Criner.

    The Wildcats did shut out Northern Arizona while Oklahoma State had some issues stopping the Raging Cajuns and Weeden did throw a pick-six. However, Weeden also threw for 388 yards. Blackmon helped pick up 144 of those. OSU sophomore Joseph Randle ran for 129 yards at 5-plus yards per carry, too.

    Boone Pickens Stadium has provided solid home field advantage for Mike Gundy, and with the knowledge that a Mike Stoops team doesn’t play well on the road, look for the Cowboys to roll to a win.

    No. 21 Missouri at Arizona State – (9:30 PM Friday, ESPN)

    Gary Pinkel takes his Tigers back to the site of the 2010 Insight Bowl debacle as Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson and linebacker Vontaze Burfict welcome them into the desert heat. Mizzou didn’t impress anyone last week with a lackluster win over Miami of Ohio. Quarterback James Franklin didn’t look remotely as poised as his predecessors Blaine Gabbert and Chase Daniel did.

    For the Sun Devils, quarterback Brock Osweiler did well against UC-Davis until a cramp sidelined him in the third quarter. This game will depend on Franklin’s ability to improve. Defeating a MAC team at home is one thing. Going against defenders like Burfict on the road is a completely different task. Arizona State wins barely because they can run the ball better. If it’s up to Osweiler to save the day, expect struggles by both teams.

    No. 3 Alabama at No. 23 Penn State – (2:30 PM Saturday, Regional)

    Alabama played very well last week versus Kent State. Sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron will more than likely getting the starting nod again. While Nick Saban’s offense was merely efficient, the defense is back to their ball-hawking selves. Penn State didn’t get a proper test from the Indiana State Sycamores as Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin split time at quarterback.

    Joe Paterno has a difficult decision with those two. Bolden is a great talent, but McGloin seems to be the more efficient choice. Regardless, Alabama won’t be scared of Beaver Stadium. The game may be close early, but the mental toughness that Saban instills will be a huge benefit. The Crimson Tide pulls away at the end.

    No. 16 Mississippi State at Auburn – (11:21 AM Saturday, SEC Network (JP)/ESPN3.com)

    Hopefully Gene Chizik realizes that the Bulldogs are legitimate and are far from a WAC team. Dan Mullen brings his boys into Jordan Hare Stadium hoping to get a jump on the SEC West race. Mullen has quarterback Chris Reif and running back Vick Ballard, two seniors with live game time against SEC opposition.

    If freshman wide receiver Jameon Lewis can replicate the numbers he did against Memphis, Mississippi State could be dangerous. Auburn, on the other hand, played down to their competition and looked lost on both sides of the ball. Unless the Tigers improved dramatically in the span of six days, expect the Bulldogs to do well and stake their claim as legitimate SEC competition.

    BYU at No. 24 Texas – (6 PM Saturday, ESPN2)

    The final preview takes us to Austin where the Mighty Mormons invade to take on the Longhorns. Bronco Mendenhall takes super sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps into a second-straight brutal environment. On paper, the Cougars and Longhorns appear to be equals. Texas didn’t look great early on against Rice, but looked far more polished in the second half.

    The locals were not impressed and know that BYU is a very dangerous team to test quarterback Garrett Gilbert and wide receiver Mike Davis against. With running back Malcolm Brown toting the rock, the Longhorns are talented, but young on offense. Jake Heaps is very raw but incredibly talented, and will likely outperform Gilbert. Don’t be shocked if BYU wins, possibly by more than a score.

    Coaches on the Hot Seat:

    Houston Nutt, Mississippi: Well done, coach. You apparently didn’t take another home opener seriously, and BYU made you look silly. The pick-six thrown on 3rd and 23 cemented that. Your game against Southern Illinois is a must win.

    Mark Richt, Georgia: Fans across the nation knew you might be in trouble against Boise, but Aaron Murray should give you hope. That said, starting the season 0-2 by losing to South Carolina would be near-fatal.

    Rick Neuheisel, UCLA: San Jose State is a welcome sight at the Rose Bowl. You’d better beat them so that people might forget how good you made Case Keenum look last week.

    Mike Riley, Oregon State: Sacramento State? You lost a lot, but come on, man. Wisconsin is going to destroy you this week.

    Mike Locksley, New Mexico: The good news is that you kept Colorado State to 14 points. The bad news is that you could only muster 10. Bobby Petrino can easily hang 70 on your nose.

    Bonus Conference Official – Dan Beebe, Big 12 Commissioner: It’s not your fault that Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Colorado left you or that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State want new partners. Repeat that while staring into the mirror and it just might be believable.

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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    Tags: college football, boise state, lsu, georgia, ole miss, auburn, notre dame, brandon weeden, justin blackmon, nick foles, joseph randle, mike gundy, mike stoops, gary pinkel, missouri, arizona state, brock osweiler, james franklin, chase daniel, blaine gabbert, vontaze burfict, miami of ohio, alabama, penn state, aj mccarron, nick saban, rob bolden, matt mcgloin, indiana state, joe paterno, gene chizik, mississippi state, texas, byu, houston nutt, mark richt, rick neuheisel, mike locksley, dan beebe, big 12

  3. 2010 Aug 27

    Husker Heartbeat 8/27: Mizzou Gets a Big Blow

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    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.


    *Missouri loses one of its captains and best offensive players, running back Derrick Washington, after head coach Gary Pinkel suspends him indefinitely. Would pending sexual assault charges be the reason why?

    Our take: Pinkel needs to explain why Washington spent any time in camp with these charges looming over his head.

    *Carl Pelini talks walk-ons.

    *From the "nerve" department: Dan Hawkins, asking for a contract extension.

    *Two more takes on Big Ten Divisions: Frank the Tank fears the Big Ten will become the New Coke, while Tom Shatel figures that OSU-Michigan game isn't that sacred that it can't be moved.

    *Crap has officially hit the fan at North Carolina. Some academic tutor who might have committed fraud was also Butch Davis' nanny. Yeesh.

    *How BYU nearly became independent in football - and the role ESPN played in it.

    *NU basketball unveiled a zone defense in the Bahamas.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, big ten, missouri, carl pelini, mens basketball, byu, gary pinkel

  4. 2010 Jul 29

    BIG 12 MEDIA DAYS: Nil By Mouth

    574 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    There’s an old Ben Folds Five song to perfectly describe the coaches at Big 12 Media Days: Selfless, Cold and Composed.

    For another random music reference, it’s three days of Wilco music, which, as a general rule, I really like, but does not make for compelling copy when humanized into press conferences.

    Blank and blithe is the new fashion in college football. Betray nothing, load up on the platitudes, trudge though and get the hell home. Heck, if you’re Missouri, don’t even bother to show up on time. No skin off anybody’s hide but a couple hacks who want to know, and head coach Gary Pinkel, veritably lionized by the Mizzou media anyway, doesn’t have to sell a thing.

    You figured Nebraska was in for a beating in Dallas? Wrong-o. Those fictionalized clouds of controversy were sugar plums dancing in reporters’ heads. A couple scribes sure tried - what’s with the Dallas Morning News columnist calling NU "Big Red Weenies?” - but most saw the fallow field for what it was. No fruit hanging from the trees borne of spare, lukewarm quotes

    Bo Pelini, as prescribed, played the straight man and saved the jokes for a high school coaches’ clinic the next day. Pinkel was somnambulant. Missouri running back Derrick Washington told Omaha radio show “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” that the annual NU affair was a “rivalry of pure hate,” but he said it in such a way that, well, sounded considerably less hateful. Mack Brown? All smiles and business. You know him. Bill Snyder was mild-mannered. Dan Hawkins smiled his way through the first step of his own personal green mile. Dan Beebe smirked, grinned and looked halfway quizzical, as he often does. Even Turner Gill, genuine guy that he is, just wants to get right back to the massive project he has in rebuilding Kansas’ culture to last, not crash and burn in abuse and vicious insults.

    Poring over a slew of stories and radio interviews, my analytical hands close on nothing. To a man - coach and player - the game is the thing, and the season can’t get here soon enough. The remaining Big 12 schools didn’t seem so much energized by staying together as relieved to get past the distraction. They’re bunker boys, these coaches, lost in the maze of preparing for 12-14 games. Fans demand so much of these guys for their seven-figure salaries that expecting pearls of wisdom is utopian.

    Only the SEC (and Lane Kiffin) is still raucous enough to kick up some dirt and raise a few reporters’ hackles. It was telling, then, that Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville, an SEC castoff, and his players, appeared to be, according to reports, some of the big stars of the three-day Dallas event. They shook hands. Worked the room. Turned on the charm. Mack Brown and Art Briles know their way around a quip and a smile, too.

    But that isn’t really what scribes were searching for in Dallas. They wanted veiled rage and visible bitterness. Enmity. You know the kind between the snake and heel? That. Set to an Ennio Morricone score.

    When you hear a plea for honesty know that probably means anger, which, when captured, can be set to some ethical litmus test that invariably has two sides: Moralism and relativism. That’s why certain stories sell. Rage draws indignity or bathing pleasure. You think it’s blood, death, carnage and all that crap? Nah. It’s the gummy pride in us to which strife appeals. The SEC freely gives itself to the impulse, and thus creates a cynical carnival of it. The league keeps some part of its heart old-fashioned and decrepit, and I suppose, just for the exposure to it, we can be thankful, so as to avoid it.

    Although there’s a decade’s worth of thoughts as to how the Big 12 nearly broke apart, survived and inevitably will collapse when Texas desires world domination, understand that these men who run football teams are driven by immediacy. How can they improve their team today? Who skipped class last hour? How can they fit in a family dinner this weekend? When can they review the 2009 rivalry game tomorrow? Which recruit texted in the last 20 seconds? Relax? Like, ha, yeah.

    For millions of dollars - the right, as a persuasive estate planner might say, to secure your family’s future - these men break down football to an atomic level as much as they can. They talk of the game as it it’s an engineering project, installations and stations. The occasional iconoclast - a guy like Mike Leach - is such a bizarre outcast that he bewilders as much as he bewitches.

    The larger context - the relationship of their team to the community, of the game to America, of a rivalry, gained or lost, to time and a region - are lost within the constant pressure to maximize time. To squeeze every last inch of juice out of life before reaching about 62, examining the pulp, and realizing that, my God, some much time was spent on proactivity and reaction, and so little on reflection.

    And reflection with the media, at their pace and schedule, is not an option. “This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.” That’s the computer HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” And just about every coach in college football.

    There are too many dollars at stake. Too many boosters to please. Too many athletic department employees whose well-being and happiness rise and fall on the success of the football team. Too many footballs to sign, fundraisers to attend and speeches to give. Too many fires to put out in a culture where a minor drinking infraction or an argument between roommates or a car accident gets elevated into histrionics and dramatic police reports. When every fissure in the façade is blown into a significant character flaw, and the press turns into a collection of Senor Semantics, coaches take the superficial superhighway.

    I’m not making excuses for these guys; coaches helped create this 24/7 reality by assenting to ridiculous salary increases. I am saying that, more and more, they are less generals than, say pigskin actuaries, calculating schemes and odds, and proceeding accordingly. They’re insurance executives. Their product? Career mortgage protection. Thirty-year term.

    Hours and hundreds of thousands of words can be written about that dais in Dallas. But that’s nougat of it. And one day, we’ll just dispense with the formality, the antiquated concept of a media day, convince the NCAA to schedule a few more football games, and get a real Christmas in July.

    Until then, it’s like Fitzgerald wrote: Boats against the current, yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ll report. You’ll devour. Somewhere, in a coach's strategy cave, the plot will thicken. There is less and less pleasure in it.

    Tags: big 12, big 12 media days, mack brown, gary pinkel, bo pelini, turner gill

  5. 2010 Jul 06

    BIG 12 PREVIEW: Ranking the Big 12 Coaches

    4,535 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The two southern giants. A fast riser in the north. Two intriguing new hires and two guys with flaming hot seats. The Big 12 coaches are those seven men and five more to boot.

    The top of the list remains a choice between Mack Brown and Bob Stoops. As Texas has taken four of the last five from Oklahoma, so too has Brown pulled ahead of his Red River rival.

    Yes, UT has its share of advantages, but Brown, one of college football’s premier CEOs, manages those resources well, and has taken smart steps to ensure the Longhorns’ long-term viability by hiring defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as the head-coach-in-waiting.

    Brown caught the spread-zone-read wave at the right time with the right two quarterbacks in Vince Young and Colt McCoy and instructed his offensive coordinator, Greg Davis, to get out of their way. While a man of ego - what college football coach isn’t - Brown is a good ambassador of the league and a suave pro with the media. His style isn’t a perfect fit for every program - but it is for Texas.

    Stoops is well-matched with Oklahoma, as well. His coaching star is still burning bright, but questionable coaching decisions in recent years - sticking with a no-huddle goal-line offense in the BCS National Championship two years ago (to disastrous results) was one of them - have brought him down one rung among league coaches. No Big 12 team blows out an opponent like Oklahoma can, but the Sooners are just 12-12 in games decided by ten points or less during the last five years, including three 1-point losses in 2009. OU enjoys a talent advantage over so many of its opponents, but if a foe can get Oklahoma to the fourth quarter, it has a 50/50 shot of winning.

    UT’s record in similar games over that same span? 16-5.

    Tommy Tuberville jumps in at No. 3, and if that seems too kind, consider how hard it is to win 100 career games while coaching solely in the SEC. Actually - consider how hard it is to win 100 career games while coaching in the Big 12. Of the Big 12’s current coaches, only Brown, Stoops and Bill Snyder have done it.

    The league’s other new coach, Turner Gill, checks in at a tie for seventh. Gill’s positivity is a plus, but we want to see it work on a grander scale than the MAC Conference.

    Bo Pelini, having coached only two years, stands in fourth-place tie with Missouri’s Gary Pinkel. Nebraska’s much improved, but inconsistent in Pelini’s two seasons. In 2010, NU is expected to start inside the national top ten and stay there throughout the year.

    Here’s our rankings for Big 12 coaches. For division titles, understand that ties were counted.

    1. Mack Brown
    Record: 208-96-1 overall, 128-27 at Texas, 11-7 in bowls
    Milestones: Six division titles, two Big 12 titles, one BCS title.
    Strengths: Understands it’s about Jimmies and Joes, not Xs and Os, and recruits and schemes accordingly. Open to change on offense. Built North Carolina from ashes and quickly dragged Texas out of the doldrums. Cultivates a relationship with the media, which helped score UT in a berth in the 2005 Rose Bowl over California. Smartly hired one of the nation’s best defensive coordinators to be his successor, then paid Will Muschamp to stick around. Talks a good game, and rarely stirs up bad blood. He is one of college football’s best CEOs, and a perfect match for UT. Weaknesses: Not the best in-game adjuster. Still gets a little antsy with his quarterbacks, despite getting superlative play from Vince Young and Colt McCoy over the last six years. His early-bird recruiting method is open to flaws and has allowed some outstanding late-bloomers to escape the state elsewhere.

    2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
    Record: 117-28 overall, 5-5 in bowls
    Milestones: Seven division titles, six Big 12 titles, one BCS title
    Strengths: Infectious confidence that catches on with his players. Excellent defensive mind. Great closer on the recruiting trail. Fosters a “family” atmosphere at OU, which appeals to players and their parents. He and his staff develop individual talent well. Weaknessess: Impulsive decision-maker whose gambles don’t always work. Doesn’t always seem comfortable with a four-quarter game, and neither does his team; the Sooners often come out like a house on fire to overwhelm an opponent, only to lose gas if the game gets dragged into the second half. His teams have not performed well recently in bowls, either.

    3. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
    Record: 110-60 overall 6-3 in bowls
    Milestones: Five division titles, one SEC title, undefeated in 2004 (all at Auburn)
    Strengths: The record doesn’t lie; over 100 wins in the SEC (with Auburn and Mississippi) is nothing to brush off. A confident risk-taker who has won his share of close games under the watchful eye of the nation’s toughest booster at Auburn. Good bowl game coach. He’ll recruit better to Lubbock than Mike Leach ever did, occasionally plucking a player or two out of Florida. Weaknesses: Viewed as cocky and outspoken. Takes risks - he got the nickname “Riverboat Gambler” - that don’t always pay off. His final season at Auburn was a disaster, as he hired - then fired - his equally outspoken offensive coordinator before the year had ended. Seemed to openly ask for jobs in the offseason. Well - he got one.

    T4. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
    Record: 140-83 overall, 67-46 at Missouri, 4-3 in bowls
    Milestones: Six division titles, one MAC title (at Toledo)
    Strengths: On the brink of being fired at Mizzou, he surprisingly changed his coaching style, touching off the best years in recent school history. Runs an offense players like. Has created a recruiting presence in Texas for the Tigers. Seems in it for the long haul at Missouri and has built a real program out of a perpetual underachiever. Turned Toledo into one of the best programs in the MAC prior to Columbia. Weaknesses: Doesn’t win many big games. Hasn’t beaten Texas or Oklahoma yet. His coaching - and team - tightens up in close games, especially near the goal line. Offense is too quarterback-oriented. Pinkel seems unable to attract top-flight coordinators; or perhaps he’s too loyal.

    T4. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
    Record: 20-8 overall, 3-0 in bowls
    Milestones: Two division titles
    Strengths: One of the nation’s premier defensive innovators who doubles as a dogged teacher of the game. Good in-game adjuster. Plays well as an underdog. Has created a culture, similar to Stoops, that players gravitate toward. His style and energy will arguably play better in the Big Ten than it does in the Big 12. It’s early, but he carries himself like one of the greats. The 2010 season will be key.
    Weaknesses: The temper, which rubs the more effete, sensitive Big 12 referees the wrong way. It doesn’t play well on TV, either. A bit imperious with the media, although he’s not as bad as perceived. The occasional perplexing roster decision - not playing Phillip Dillard for two games in 2009, then suddenly turning him loose to become an all-league player.

    6. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
    Record: 142-74-1 overall, 6-5 in bowls
    Milestones: Four division titles, one Big 12 title
    Strengths: Prepares for a game as well as any coach in the Big 12. Works however many hours it takes. Mild-mannered style allows his players to generate the emotion. Believes in excelling at special teams, and generally gets that result. Grooms other coaches for bigger and better things. Working the percentages, Snyder turned around an awful K-State program before Kansas or Missouri got a clue. Weaknesses: Softens his non-conference schedule for easy wins. Can be stubborn and intractable, not adjusting within the game until it’s too late. His JUCO-reliant recruiting method is akin to roulette, and the Wildcats’ talent base suffers as a result. Snyder builds his offense around the quarterback to such an extent that he needs an elite one to have much success. Snyder is just 15-19 in his last three seasons as a head coach, and that 28-8 record he chalked up against Kansas and Missouri during his career won't be so easy to reproduce in his second stint.

    T7. Art Briles, Baylor
    Record: 42-44, 8-16 at Baylor, 0-3 in bowls
    Milestones: One Conference USA title (at Houston)
    Strengths: Gets graded on a bell curve, considering how pathetic the Bears were for the last decade before he took over. Excellent offensive mind. Good recruiter who’s stocking Baylor’s best talent in 20 years. He works the media like Mack Brown. In two years, he’ll be a highly sought-after coach if the Bears catch a few breaks. Weaknesses: After quarterback Robert Griffin went down, offense appeared to crawl in a shell for a month. Defense never seems to be a huge priority with Briles, whose teams don’t play much of it. Has to attract more fans to home games.

    T7. Turner Gill, Kansas
    Record: 20-30 overall
    Milestones: One division title, one conference title (at Buffalo)
    Strengths: Took a laughingstock at Buffalo to an out-of-nowhere conference title. Knows the college quarterback position as well as nearly any coach, yet was smart enough to hire experienced coordinators (Chuck Long and Carl Torbush) for his move to the Big 12. Decent recruiter. Gets kids to buy in to his positive-thinking template for success. Good role model. Weaknesses: Does Gill have a sense of urgency? Is his method too friendly? College football takes on a corporate culture, and boosters, for better or worse, enjoy a kind of manic intensity in their coaches. Gill is just the opposite. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire in the MAC, either.

    T7. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
    Record: 36-27, 2-2 in bowls
    Milestones: None
    Strengths: Probably the league’s best quarterback coach, or darn close to it. Knows offense and believes in a balanced attack - or at least he did. Shrewd recruiter who had discovered some underrated talent (Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter) and developed it well. Weaknesses: With his two best teams,he didn‘t come very close to beating Oklahoma or Texas. Because of uber-booster T. Boone Pickens, Gundy can seem beholden to the rich guy’s wishes. Literally turned his back on his defense in 2008 for whole chunks of the game so he could draw up offensive plays on an equipment trunk. His teams got smacked around in its last two bowl games. He’s “I’m a man! I’m 40!” diatribe against a reporter won him some admirers, but if and when Gundy gets fired, it’ll be the epitaph on his gravestone.

    10. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
    Record: 7-6 overall, 1-0 in bowls
    Milestones: None
    Strengths: Blue-collar persona should help transform ISU into a program that competes hard on defense - which is a change from most years. Well-traveled and respected defensive coordinator who hired a good defensive staff to help him. Thanks to the football gods, beat a very good Nebraska team 9-7. Seems to have a nose for close games and how to win them. Weaknesses: Don’t mistake one fluke win and the media’s enjoyment of the guy for long-term progress. The Cyclones’ honeymoon is over, and Rhoads is likely to experience a 10-loss season this year. Has to recruit the Midwest and Texas more effectively; the Dan McCarney method of plucking second-tier guys out of Florida and combining them with JUCO players worked to diminishing returns as McCarney’s tenure came to an end. It’s going to take more work than just one season.

    11. Mike Sherman, Texas A&M
    Record: 69-58 overall, 10-15 in college, 0-1 in bowls, 2-4 in the NFL Playoffs
    Milestones: Three NFC North Division titles
    Strengths: A master of the West Coast Offense who called plays for three different NFL teams. Good quarterback coach. Good recruiting plan. Attracted a lot of good offensive players in a short time. Weaknesses: A&M’s first two defenses have been a disaster, and hiring defensive coordinator Joe Kines - who retired after the 2009 season - was clearly a mistake, too. His teams suffer bewildering losses (to Arkansas State and Colorado) and crippling blowouts (62-14 to Kansas State, 65-10 and 66-28 to Oklahoma) much like Nebraska did under Bill Callahan. His WCO sputters in key moments. Sherman, who often seems a bit perplexed or detached - he’d have an NFL assistant job within 20 seconds of leaving A&M, and he must know that - has to win in year three, or face the chopping block.

    12. Dan Hawkins, Colorado
    Record: 69-44 overall, 16-33 at Colorado, 2-3 in bowls
    Milestones: Four conference titles (all at Boise State)
    Strengths: Positive-thinking, hand-clapping kind of coach who appears to be a good guy. He could throw the Buffaloes’ pathetic athletic department under the bus, but he doesn’t. Good offensive mind. Weaknesses: Seems whipped and out of options. Inspires pity. Made the monumental mistake of recruiting his undersized son, Cody, to play quarterback at CU, which put both of them in the uncomfortable position of constantly defending one another. Recruited a lot of lameoids and reprobates who either left school or got in trouble with the law. Never insisted on getting out of murderous non-conference schedules. To get on TV, had his CU team play three games in 13 days last year, including a ridiculous Friday night 54-38 loss at Toledo.

    How Would You Rank the Big 12 Coaches?

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

    Tags: big 12 preview, big 12, bo pelini, mack brown, bob stoops, gary pinkel

  6. 2010 Jun 17

    BIG 12 OPPONENT REPORT: Mizzou

    3,961 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    (This photo is from the Kansas City Star)

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

    Team: Missouri (8-5, lost to Navy 35-13 in the Texas Bowl)
    Coach: Gary Pinkel (140-83-3 overall, 67-46 at Mizzou)
    Plays Nebraska: Oct. 30, 2010
    Spring Game: April 17

    Summary: Is it possible that Missouri will sport a better defense in 2010 than offense? It’s entirely possible. The Tigers, while returning quarterback Blaine Gabbert, most of its offensive line and running back Derrick Washington, saw quite a few strides from its defense during the spring. Gary Pinkel’s best recruiting classes are finally rounding into shape, and Missouri’s defenders will be spending their second year under defensive coordinator Dave Steckel. Plus, the Tigers may boast the Big 12’s most dominant defensive lineman in defensive end Aldon Smith, who will give Nebraska’s Jared Crick a run for his money in 2010.

    The spread shotgun offense is run by Gabbert, who has healed from a nasty ankle injury suffered in the 2009 Nebraska game. Gabbert’s size and skills could fit into any offense, but his mobility is especially helpful for the Tigers, who rely on their quarterbacks getting outside of the pocket to create plays downfield. Washington, meanwhile, dropped more than ten pounds, and returned, at least in the spring, to his sophomore form, when he was one of the best running backs in the Big 12.

    Progress so far: Gabbert was hot and cold during the spring, but he was also operating against an improved defense and without two of his best receivers from 2009: Jared Perry and Danario Alexander. He’s never like to be as pinpoint accurate as his predecessor Chase Daniel - not many quarterbacks are - but Gabbert’s arm strength and raw athleticism allow him to make plays few can. Washington improved, averaging more than five yards per carry and scoring seven touchdowns. TJ Moe, a sophomore from suburban St. Louis, emerged as one of the Tigers’ leading receiver while tight end Michael Egnew is close to becoming a top-flight tight end.

    The defense appears to be where the real strides have been made. The secondary, frequently burned in 2009, was more aggressive in the spring. The defensive line, anchored by Smith, will be among the best in the Big 12. Sean Weatherspoon has to be replaced at linebacker - and that will probably take more than one season - but the Tigers appeared to have simplified the scheme and put more emphasis on playmaking instead of schematic trickery.

    Breakout player: On offense, look for Egnew. There’s a chance the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder will become Gabbert’s favorite target down the field. Defensively, redshirt freshman Brayden Burnett, from Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School, had a fine spring, and should contend for major playing time.

    What You May Not Know: Missouri will likely have a true freshman backup quarterback in James Franklin, who beat out three other quarterbacks (including Tyler Gabbert) to seemingly secure that No. 2 spot. Blaine Gabbert needs to stay healthy, in other words. Mizzou was so concerned about the backup QB issue last year that Gabbert, badly hobbled, couldn’t afford to take a week to heal.

    Keep an eye on: Defensive improvement throughout fall camp. If Steckel’s schemes take hold among his players, the Tigers could be a sleeper team in not just the Big 12 North - where it will compete for the title with Nebraska - but the Big 12 as a whole.

    Spring Opponent Reports: Texas A&MOklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas, Kansas State, Kansas, Western Kentucky, Colorado

    Tags: spring opponent report, missouri, blaine gabbert, gary pinkel, derrick washington

  7. 2010 Feb 28

    RECRUITING: Inside the Big 12: Missouri

    415 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Our most in-depth Big 12 recruiting report yet covers the strengths and weaknesses of the Missouri class. Plus - Samuel McKewon reviews the growing rivalry between Nebraska and Mizzou - and what it means for the future.

    Tags: recruiting, big 12, gary pinkel, missouri

  8. 2009 Oct 08

    Podcast 10/8: Pelini vs. Pinkel

    478 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: volleyball, ten days of tiger, gary pinkel, bo pelini

  9. 2009 Oct 07

    Five Keys to Missouri

    898 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    No preamble. Let’s just head to the disco.

    Mystery Ingredients: Namely, the weather, and a little flu bug that may hamper some members of Nebraska’s offense.

    The forecast calls for heavy rain – truly looking forward to driving in it – chilly temperatures and a north breeze, if not a wind. The conditions aren’t what you’d call “throwing weather” and it puts Nebraska in the position of having to test the Faurot FieldTurf on the fly, essentially, especially if there’s a tarp on it before the game.

    That rainy weather will also make for a long day of cabin fever cooped up in a hotel. It’ll get boring. Maybe Bo Pelini can dial up some baseball buddies, learn some new card games.
    The flu is a different, slightly more manageable distraction. A full day in a hotel bed might actually be good for some of the players, including running back Roy Helu, who was held out of the last two practices. Plus, the flu can, but does not necessarily, keep a player from being effective.

    Zac Lee On the Road - Again: Nebraska’s quarterback doesn’t have beat to Missouri so much as make the throws allowed by Mizzou’s relatively conservative Cover 2. We’ve seen Zac Lee throw the deep ball, and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson will certainly dial up some shots – regardless of the coverage. What Lee has to do is hit the short stuff on rhythm – slants and bubble screens and shotgun playaction passes – that keeps NU in third-and-manageable. Then, he’ll have to convert some of those key third down plays.

    We’ve got a hunch that, at some point, the Tigers will get aggressive, try to pressure Lee, and force throws against one-on-one coverage. And Lee has to answer that bell. In 2007, Sam Keller left 10-14 points on the field by failing to make quick reads under pressure. As bad as Nebraska’s defense played in that game, Keller played worse, and didn’t recover from it for weeks.

    The First Impression: Nebraska’s defense may give up a field goal on Missouri’s opening drive. It may even give up a touchdown. But NU has to send the Tigers a message that 2009 won’t be a repeat of 2008 and 2007. If Mizzou busts another easy score to open the game, it’ll be precisely the emotional juice the Tigers need.

    Bo Pelini tends to put his defense out on the field first in games by deferring when he wins the coin toss, which almost automatically means the opponent will choose offense. Let’s see if he changes it up, and gives his offense a crack at drawing first blood.

    Stick or Quit: If Missouri’s running game gets shut down early, offensive coordinator David Yost will have a choice to make: Keep plugging away, or put the game on Blaine Gabbert’s shoulders. We think Gabbert’s good enough to do it on his own, but the Mizzou braintrust remains pretty adamant about getting Derrick Washington his carries, especially in the red zone. While the Tigers don’t want to be Texas Tech, can they afford to keep running the ball if it doesn’t work?

    Pinkel vs. Pelini: Games like this, blowouts or not, often come down individual plays…and individual decisions made by the head coaches. Pinkel often uses a more tactical, clinical approach. Pelini is aggressive and impulsive. They are pretty apt representatives of the offensive superego vs. the defensive id. Analysis vs. feel.

    Pelini is a tactician, don’t get us wrong. Sometimes he overschemes the opponent, in fact. But his basic defensive mindset remains “attack” and he often brings unpredictable blitzes based on a preternatural hunch of what the offense is going to do.

    Pinkel’s offense dissects. When a defense bull rushes an offense that prefers to go as much horizontal as it does vertical, the defense loses. That was the main culprit for 52-17 last year.

    So Pelini’s plan needs to smarter, but also simpler. Pinkel, meanwhile, may be forced to trust elements of his team - the offensive line, the secondary – that haven’t earned it yet. Can he and his assistants push the aggressive button at the right moment? Or do they bend so much they break?

    Tags: five keys, ten days of tigers, zac lee, blaine gabbert, gary pinkel, bo pelini, derrick washington, roy helu

  10. 2009 Oct 07

    All Eyes on Blaine

    675 views

    By HuskerLocker

    During his press conference Sunday, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel frequently put his hands on the lectern about a foot apart, as if describing a small rock bass he caught in the Lake of the Ozarks or demonstrating how the umpires in Australian Rules Football signal a goal.

    But he’s really talking about the mental and emotional “zone” he likes his quarterbacks to reside in, whether they throw four touchdowns or four interceptions.

    Pinkel said his latest prodigy, sophomore Blaine Gabbert, is skilled at staying inside that zone. Whether it was his astonishingly good first start in the “Braggin Rights” game vs. Illinois, or a crucial second half comeback at home vs. Bowling Green, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder is a tough kid to rattle.

    "I'm impressed with his poise,” Pinkel said. “He's kind of trying to find where he fits himself in a game, mentally, where he keeps focused…one important thing for quarterbacks is to stay in a place where you can function, where you don't get caught up in the hype or the negative of what's going on and you kind of stay in the zone. Whether you get sacked, or throw a touchdown or an interception, you come right back in this zone. I've been impressed with him.”

    The numbers make those intangibles look like a shabby coat. Gabbert’s thrown for 1,161 yards and 11 touchdowns in four games. Nary a pick. Thus far, he’s been at his best in the second half, where he leads the nation in passing efficiency – 33-of-43, 547 yards and six touchdowns.

    Pinkel shrugs off those numbers a little bit.

    “He's only played four football games,” he said. Against Nevada, Furman, Illinois and Bowling Green at that.

    But Gabbert had the advantage of one year behind former starter Chase Daniel, whom Pinkel referred to frequently during Sunday’s press conference, labeling him “a battlefield commander.” Getting to watch Daniel run and operate the offense, Pinkel said, helped Gabbert to hit the ground running in 2009. Another Mizzou standout, Brad Smith, didn’t get that chance. He and Pinkel were learning the life of the spread offense together, on the fly.

    Several years later, the Tigers’ passing game seemingly works to a metronome. Receivers know their spots, taking the short, choppy steps on bubble and tunnel screens necessary to set up blocking before accelerating, 0 to 60, with impressive speed. Gabbert, positioned in a deep shotgun, gets the snap and is ready to fire to them immediately.

    "When we get going and when our tempo is up, everything is pretty much clicking,” Gabbert said. “That's when our offense really rolls.”

    He’s taller than Daniel, and can see receivers Daniel could not. Graced with a bigger arm, Gabbert is able to manufacture long passing plays – he threw several howitzers at Nevada – outside of the offense’s framework. He’s burly, too, which allows him to throw the ball under duress with more velocity and accuracy. For all their talents, Daniel and Kansas’ Todd Reesing are forced to skitter about, inviting a risk-reward proposition that tilts toward the lesser choice against better defenses.

    Count Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini as impressed. He complimented Gabbert more than once during his Monday press conference. They weren’t expansive compliments – Pelini prefers the “good football player” line – but he went out of his way to suggest that no matter Gabbert’s performance Thursday – if it were, say, ugly – it wouldn’t change that Gabbert can play.

    Pelini never bothered to say that about Daniel.

    Indeed, the one element Nebraska and Missouri fans can agree on before this game is that Gabbert’s a keeper. NU players are friends with him. He’s impressed the pants off of the Kansas City and St. Louis media, for good reason, without giving off Daniel’s almost aggressive charm.

    “We all know what Chase was like, he was wired all the time,” Pinkel said. “…He was just electric out there all the time. Blaine doesn't have to be like that, he doesn't have to be like Brad Smith.”

    He might be better than either one of them.

    Tags: ten days of tiger, blaine gabbert, gary pinkel, chase daniel

  11. 2009 Oct 04

    Podcast 10/5: The Stakes Keep Getting Higher

    4,012 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: podcasts, recruting, tyler gabbert, ten days of tiger, gary pinkel

  12. 2009 Oct 04

    Chalk Talk: Mizzou's Passing Offense, Part 1

    800 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    We've given you the skinny on Missouri's running game. Now learn about the meat of the Tigers' offense: The passing game. We talk origins, philosophy and the idea of "attacking grass."

    It's the insight you've got to have! Check it out with a Locker Pass!

    Tags: gary pinkel, blaine gabbert, chase daniel, brad smith

  13. 2009 Oct 04

    Pinkel on Big Red: No Weaknesses

    1,814 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    When Gary Pinkel became head coach of Missouri’s football team in 2001, he recalled Sunday, he was pretty much reminded every day how long it had been since Mizzou had beaten Nebraska. How long that thorn had been stuck in the Tiger toe.

    “It was hugely important to knock that down,” Pinkel said. “But we’ve had obstacles since we got here. ‘Can’t win at Nebraska. Can’t beat Nebraska.’ We inherited all those.”

    And Missouri’s long put that that barrier in the rearview window with wins in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008. The last two wins were by a combined score of 93-23.

    “I think we’ve played some good games against Nebraska,” Pinkel said during his weekly press conference. “But if you look at the win-loss record, they’ve beaten us a lot more times than we’ve beaten them. They’ve certainly got a huge edge on us.”

    Thus, Pinkel said, a respect for the Cornhusker brand – in a series that hasn’t had a lot of warm feelings lately.

    “A lot goes with that name in terms of history and tradition, he said.

    The architect of Missouri’s resurrection isn’t skimping on his praise of the current Nebraska squad, either.

    Pinkel said he’s “very impressed” with the 3-1 Cornhuskers, who visit the 4-0 Tigers Thursday night in Columbia.

    “Very well-coached, very disciplined,” Pinkel said. “I think they’re playing very, very well…you look for weaknesses, and I don’t see any. I think they’re sound in every area.”

    He particularly singled out NU running back Roy Helu and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

    Of Helu: “The more he runs, the better he gets. I think that’s a
    sign of great running back.”

    Of Suh: “He’s a big athlete. He can run. Very explosive. He’s
    very, very competitive…he’s a very dominating player. Very impressive. It’s kind of fun to watch him play and compete.”

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    Tags: ten days of tiger, gary pinkel, roy helu, ndamukong suh

  14. 2009 Oct 01

    The Legacy Builder

    581 views

    By HuskerLocker

    In part two of our conversation with Columbia Tribune columnist Dave Matter, we explore two key topics:

    1. The internal effect Missouri's win over Nebrasja has had on the Tigers' program over the last year.

    2. How Gary Pinkel went from the hot seat to building a legacy at Mizzou.

    Enjoy it today with a Locker Pass!

    Tags: gary pinkel, ten days of tiger

  15. 2009 Sep 29

    Podcast 9/29: The Buildup Begins

    474 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: podcasts, ten days of tigers, bo pelini, gary pinkel, hannah werth

  16. 2009 Sep 28

    Pelini on Mizzou: "It's a New Year"

    1,960 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Ten days before Nebraska’s Thursday night tilt with Missouri head coaches Bo Pelini and Gary Pinkel offered their initial assessments of the opponent, along with a few pointers for their own bunches.

    “Really good football team,” Pinkel said of Nebraska. “Obviously they re-established a great tradition they’ve had over many, many, many years. Very impressed with them on both sides of the ball. Very disciplined. The Virginia Tech game came down to one kinda fluke play, or they would have won that.”

    Pelini’s comments on Mizzou were brief, perfunctory and positive: “Good football team. Well-coached.”

    One that NU’s players seemed motivated to play in the moments after their 55-0 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday night, especially considering the stage (ESPN Thursday night), last year’s 52-17 blowout Tiger win in Lincoln and the relative importance in relation to the Big 12 North title.

    While Pelini considers any division team a potential rival, he said NU isn’t looking backward.

    “It’s a new year,” he said. “I don’t get caught up in what happened last year or recent history or anything else. We’re going to go play a football game, and it’s the next game on the schedule, and that’s how we’ll treat it.”

    Pinkel, whose Tigers are 4-0 after a 31-21 win at Nevada last Friday night, would like to see more progress in the running game that is tenth in the Big 12 at 143 yards per game. NU is ninth in the Big 12, but gaining 5.7 yards per carry. Mizzou only averaging 3.8 yards.

    “When we had Chase Daniel, if they overloaded on the run, we just wouldn’t run it,” Pinkel said, referring to his now-graduated quarterback. “We’d throw 15 times in a row until they backed out.”

    With sophomore Blaine Gabbert, Pinkel said, “we want to run the ball more so there’s a little bit of a conflict there.”

    NU is licking some wounds in the secondary. Starting strong safety Larry Asante is “fine” after leaving with a bruised leg on Saturday night. However, backup safety and special teams dynamo Rickey Thenarse is “out for awhile,” Pelini said, with a knee injury.

    “I feel good about our depth at safety,” Pelini said. “We’re a lot deeper there than we were a year ago.”

    NU’s coaches will be recruiting for a big chunk of the next two days.

    A Look at Mizzou's Run Game

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    Tags: bo pelini, gary pinkel, ten days of tigers

  17. 2009 Aug 17

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 5 Missouri

    1,831 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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

    Enjoy!

    Today: No.5 Missouri

    Coach: Gary Pinkel
    2008 Record: 10-4

    What’s Changed Since 2008: Mizzou lost its best quarterback (Chase Daniel) and receiver (Jeremy Maclin) and second-best tight end (Chase Coffman) in history. The Tigers also lost their two coordinators, neither of whom we consider huge losses, especially defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, whose defensive schemes were too cute with a talented unit last year. The Tigers also have a greater sense of purpose in 2009 after being summarily dissed by most major publications in terms of the Big 12 North race.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule:Challenging enough, with the neutral site St. Louis tilt vs. Illinois, which some think is a top 20 team, and a game at defensively-challenged-yet-offensively-exciting Nevada. Bowling Green and Furman should be easy wins, but this non-conference schedule looks tougher than what Mizzou has planned in later years.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Favorable. Toughest road game is at Oklahoma State, which is winnable. Mizzou hosts Texas, Nebraska and Baylor, plays Kansas in Kansas City and travels to Kansas State and Colorado.

    Offense: Spread/Passing

    Coordinator: David Yost – The quarterbacks coach at Mizzou for eight years, Yost knows the offense as well as anyone and helped install the no-huddle, wide-open attack upon Chase Daniel’s arrival (with some help from Daniel’s high school coach). At any rate, Yost is a unique guy – Missouri’s version of Mike Leach. If Andy Warhol had decided to be a football coach, he’d probably look like Yost. His demeanor will help the Tigers, who really seized up in key situations over the last two years.

    Strength: We expect some drop-off from Missouri’s 2007 and 2008 production, but not much. That’s because MU sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert is as talented as Daniel was, only taller. It’ll take Gabbert time to settle in, but we expect him to be a top-flight guy by the end of the season, and certainly by 2010. Missouri’s offensive line is a little young, but it has size, depth, and good experience. Finally – Missouri’s offensive design is proven to work. Nebraska’s figured it out once in the last four years. Colorado’s been hapless against it. Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas haven’t had much success, either. Only Texas and Oklahoma – and only one of those teams in on the regular season schedule.

    Weakness: Derrick Washington is a big, plodding, overrated back who, yes, was hurt for some of 2008, but isn’t as good as his production (1,036 yards and 5.9 yards per carry) suggests. And there is no suitable replacement for Coffman, who was money on third down, and around the goal line.



    Defense: 4-3/Attacking

    Coordinator: Dave Steckel. Another new guy, replacing Eberflus. Last year, the Tigers had a ton of talent, but still gave up 412 yards and 27 points per game. Eberflus will now try to work some 3-4 magic at the Cleveland Browns. Steckel, meanwhile, is all ex-Marine in his approach, a bit of a throwback to the old Big Ten days of Bo and Woody, if you will. He’d fit in on a Bo Pelini coaching staff.

    Strength: Solid linebacking corps led by the league’s best, Sean Weatherspoon, who turned down the NFL to return for his senior season. He’s a classic linebacker – everywhere, all the time – as his 155 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions suggest. Mizzou already seems to have found Weatherspoon's replacement, too, in true freshman Donavan Bonner.

    Weakness: The defensive line lost Stryker Sulak and Ziggy Hood, two of the better linemen in the league last year. Their absence should hurt what was a fair run defense in 2008. The secondary should be OK, but safety William Moore (not as good in 2008 as his second round NFL draft status would suggest) has to be replaced.

    Special Teams Mizzou takes a pretty good shot here. Maclin was invaluable as a kickoff and punt returner, accounting for 1280 return yards and two touchdowns. Then you had kicker Jeff Wolfert, arguably college football’s best in 2008 (we’ll take Nebraska’s Alex Henery, thanks) who needs to be replaced, too. Missouri has a ton of ground to cover here, and there’s just no way to do it in one year.

    Intangibles: One week after a 52-17 win over Nebraska, Missouri hit a curious wall, of sorts, and fell backward, losing 4 of the last 9. So, in a sense, it was time to flush the system a little bit, and start over. And the Tigers do it with a chip on their shoulder, aiming to prove that the last three years weren’t a fluke. And Gabbert is as good of a guy to try it with as any.

    Finally – Missouri really wants to beat Nebraska. No, it’s not the Border War. But it is personal, and borne out of a number of on-field incidents and off-the-field comments during the last six seasons. These two teams don’t like each other.

    Best-Case Scenario: A third-straight Big 12 North title.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Phil Steele’s prediction of 5-7.

    Our Take: Phil’s often right, but here he’s wrong. Missouri finishes 8-4 or 9-3, depending on the non-conference schedule and the Nebraska game, which we predict will be, in essence, for the Big 12 North title.

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

    Tags: missouri, big 12 breakdown, big 12, gary pinkel, hlss, blaine gabbert, sean weatherspoon

  18. 2009 Jul 28

    B12MD: Day 2 Wrap: Pinkel, Bradford and Mangino Hold Court

    555 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Grim and a little frustrated, Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel hustled up to the podium Tuesday at the Big 12 Media Days and immediately apologized for a delay at the Dallas airport that left him tardy for his appointed engagement.

    Not long after Pinkel settled in, he was quickly peppered with queries about the immense talent – especially on offense – that he lost in the offseason to the NFL. Chase Daniel. Chase Coffman. Jeremy Maclin.

    First, replacing Daniel, that love him/hate him quarterback that put Mizzou in the national spotlight and won two straight Big 12 North titles.

    Pinkel shot straight: Former prep phenom (and Nebraska commit) Blaine Gabbert is the guy.

    “Any time you have a transition quarterback,” Pinkel said, “everybody sits back and goes, ‘Wow, what's going to happen?’ When you lose a high level guy like that, hopefully, we can replace him with a high-level guy.”

    Pinkel said he’ll bring along Gabbert, a sophomore, much as he did Daniel in his corresponding season. Daniel was inconsistent in 2006, alternating between excellent and average. He made “the leap” in 2007. Pinkel’s hoping the same for Gabbert.

    He’s not so sure Maclin, the receiving and return whiz, can be replaced. But, he added, this version of the Tigers was his fastest.

    On replacing two coordinators, Pinkel referenced the “Bill Belichick approach” of training and promoting from within. Pinkel the admitted he hasn’t lost two coaches, much less coordinators, in nine years at Mizzou.

    ***

    Baylor’s Art Briles delighted the media with clever lines and quick answers. Briles kept referring to “turning hope into happen” throughout his interviews, because, at this point, that the Bears’ next step.

    Briles talked a lot of about his quarterback, Robert Griffin, the fast, gifted sophomore quarterback. Griffin has helped with TV exposure, with recruiting, with fan recognition, with everything.

    But Griffin, and his Bear teammates, won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2008. Teams that narrowly escaped with wins – like Missouri, Nebraska and Texas Tech – learned their lesson.

    “People are going to approach us differently on the other side, in other staff rooms and on other practice fields because they're going to come into Baylor with a different mindset than they did a year ago,” Briles said. “We understand that. We understand we're going to have to rise up and be better in all facets
    of the game, not only physically, to deal with the charges that are going to come our way.”


    Briles drew laughs for his stories about accompanying Jason Smith to the NFL Draft, and his comments on the wardrobe of some of his questioners. Briles is going to make an interesting push in the Big 12 South. He’s the first with the raw charm to recruit head-to-head with Mack Brown. His program doesn’t have the facilities, it doesn’t have the tradition, and it doesn’t have any recent success. But Baylor does have Briles.


    ***


    There’s a curious, gentlemanly quality to the way Kansas Coach Mark Mangino handles himself in front of media. You tend to see a lot of different sides of the guy. You see the pride, the attention to detail, the self-made aspect. Just about every coach brings that to the table. But with Mangino it’s something a little more – a vulnerability, perhaps? A love for the little guy?


    The coach talked with great care about recruiting quarterback Todd Reesing to KU several years ago, about how Reesing, tiny as he was, just had a confidence, a style, a belief that belied his looks. You could see why that might impress a guy like Mangino, who gets more comments about his appearance than he did his coaching.


    Yes, Reesing runs around a little too much – and sometimes gets himself in trouble for doing it.


    “But that's what makes him unique, you know, the idea that he believes in himself and that
    he can make plays when there's not one,” Mangino said. “Kind of really reflects his personality; that he always thinks he can overcome. He always wants to prove the opposition wrong. Those traits have served him well.”


    Good coaches tend to know – what’s best for each player is to fulfill their potential…through their own personality.


    Also appreciated that Mangino admitted he likes to recruit “tough” players – read, guys a little rough around the edges – and that “sometimes we fail in that area, but we like kids that love to play this
    game.”


    ***


    Mr. Heisman and Big Game Bob was last to appear Tuesday, as Oklahoma took the podium.


    The big questions for OU, of course, revolved around its offensive line. Everything else about the Sooners – QB Sam Bradford, the running backs, the extraordinary defense – is in place. But the line, which must replace three starters, remains a weakness.


    “Mistakes they were making on day one, day two, they weren’t making on day 14 and day 15,” Bradford said. “I think we still need that progress once we’re in camp.”


    Bradford also touched upon the “frustration” of never having won a bowl game. Especially when reporters, who have to find something negative about the kid, ask so often.


    “It’s not something we like to do – “oh, we had a good season, let’s lose the last game,’” he said. “It’s starting to really to get to everyone.”



    At one time, Bradford didn’t much care for the no-huddle offense, either.


    “When we first switched to it, I didn’t it like it,” Bradford said. “It just seemed like chaos, it seemed like no one was on the same page. It sucked. If you would have seen us trying to run it the first couple days, you would have thought it was just a disaster.


    “But the more time we spent on it, and the better we got, the more I fell love with it.”

    Tags: big 12 media days, missouri, baylor, kansas, oklahoma, mark mangino, todd reesing, sam bradford, bob stoops, art briles, robert griffin, gary pinkel, blaine gabbert

  19. 2009 Apr 14

    OPPONENT REPORT: Life After Chase - With Blaine

    862 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Tigers are young, hungry and looking to replace a boatload of production. How is Blaine Gabbert progressing? Is Mizzou looking to reduce a certain starter's touches? Find out with a Locker Pass!

    Tags: locker pass, opponent reports, springtime with bo, missouri, gary pinkel, blaine gabbert

  20. 2009 Apr 01

    The Six Toughest Football Jobs in the Big 12

    3,320 views

    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

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

    Again, the criteria:

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


    On with the list!

    No. 6 OKLAHOMA STATE

    Head Coach: Mike Gundy Compensation: $2.2 Million

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

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

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

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

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

    No. 5 MISSOURI

    Head coach: Gary Pinkel Compensation: $2.5 million

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

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

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

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

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

    No. 4 NEBRASKA

    Head Coach: Bo Pelini Compensation: $1.851 million

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

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

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

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

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

    No. 3 COLORADO

    Head Coach: Dan Hawkins Compensation: $1.1 million

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

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

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

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

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

    No. 2 IOWA STATE

    Head Coach: Paul Rhoads Compensation: $1.15 million

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

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

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

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

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

    No. 1 BAYLOR

    Head Coach: Art Briles Compensation: $1.8 million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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