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  1. 2012 Apr 04

    How Bo Pelini can Break the Four-Loss Curse


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Chris Labenz

    There’s no question that Bo Pelini has had a positive influence on Nebraska football since taking over prior to the 2008 season.

    Since his hiring, Pelini has led the Huskers to four nine-win seasons, making Nebraska one of only seven teams to win at least nine games during that period.

    Digging further into Pelini’s record, you'll find that Nebraska has also lost four games each year, usually falling against ranked opponents.

    2011: 9-4 (5-3 Big 10) 1-3 vs. Top 25 (Best win: No. 11 Michigan State)
    2010: 10-4 (6-3 Big 12) 2-2 vs. Top 25 (Best win @ No. 13 Oklahoma St.)
    2009: 10-4 (6-3 Big 12) 0-3 vs. Top 25 (Best win @ Missouri)
    2008: 9-4 (5-3 Big 12) 0-4 vs. Top 25 (Best win: Clemson)

    How does Nebraska break this “Four Loss Curse” in 2012? There’s no simple response to this question, and it’s likely caused the Husker head coach to put in some late hours trying to solve the riddle.

    Despite the many reasons for Nebraska’s struggles, all discussed ad nauseum in newspapers and on message boards, let’s examine some specific components of Pelini’s team that must be fixed in order for the Big Red to overcome potential roadblocks set.

    While obvious, it’s critical that Taylor Martinez make strides in the passing game for the Husker offense to put up points against quality opponents.

    In the four games Nebraska played against AP Top 25 teams last year, the Huskers were only able to put up 17.8 points per game, 12 below their season average.

    A big reason for this meager output was that Martinez struggled mightily when throwing the ball against ranked teams, averaging a pedestrian 123 yards passing per game.

    This was partially due to Tim Beck allowing (and trusting) T-Mart to throw the ball only 18 times per game, of which No. 3 completed only half on average. In those same games, the then-sophomore signal-caller threw just three touchdowns to six interceptions.

    Since these teams were able to force Beck’s offense to be so one-dimensional, the Nebraska rushing attack struggled to consistently move the ball against eight-man fronts that could play with reckless abandon knowing there was such a limited threat through the air.

    It’s clear Pelini and Beck want the offense’s main course to be the rushing attack, but success demands a more balanced passing game as a side dish.

    If this can't happen, Big Red opponents will continue to feast on the Husker offense, constantly asking head chef Tim Beck for more helpings of Rex Burkhead draw plays and Martinez read-options smothered in three and outs and field goals.

    In that same vein, wide receivers coach Ross Fisher has a lot of work to do this summer in terms of developing the current group of Husker pass-catchers.

    While a good portion of of the blame for Nebraska’s passing woes falls on the shoulders of Martinez, he didn’t always get the best assistance from his receivers in 2011.

    Catching Martinez-thrown balls half the time produced a mind-numbing three touchdown catches. The leading receiver was Kenny Bell, who was good for 35 yards per game.

    These numbers have to improve noticeably in 2012 if Beck’s group is to average more than 18 points against their best competition.

    While Martinez doesn’t throw the prettiest or most catchable ball, Husker receivers have to help him out by eliminating the high number of frustrating drops and hauling in those throws even when they are catchable, but not on target.

    While improving the passing game will be a tremendous challenge, Beck and Fisher won’t be lacking the talent to do so. Along with Bell, Nebraska has assembled perhaps its most talented group of receivers in team history.

    Sophomore Jamal Turner has elite athletic ability and we should see his route running and pass-catching technique develop in only his second year as a full-time wideout.

    Quincy Enunwa is a wrecking ball out wide when he’s asked to run block, and has enough speed and size to be a solid weapon over the middle, giving Martinez a safety valve when things get hectic around or in the pocket.

    Tim Marlowe was reliable in 2011, if not spectacular at times. While it’s unlikely they'll make a huge impact in 2012, redshirt freshman Taariq Allen and incoming freshman Jordan Westerkamp have the skills to be All-Big Ten receivers once they have a total understanding of Beck’s system.

    I expect the first group to be on a short leash this year. If the drops and errors pile up, don’t be shocked if Bo tells Beck to throw Allen and Westerkamp into the fire.

    On the other side of the ball, Pelini must remold his Blackshirts if he wants to achieve the sort of success he became accustomed to while he was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma and LSU.

    Nebraska allowed a disastrous 173 rushing yards per game (3.8 yards per carry) against Top 25 opposition last year.

    In these same games, the Huskers gave up 11 rushing touchdowns, five more than the Big Red offense produced.

    Opposing quarterbacks had a field day through the air against the Blackshirts in these four games throwing for 188 yards per game and averaging a shocking 9 yards per attempt.

    Nebraska’s secondary, one year removed from being considered the best in the nation, gave up six touchdowns and only grabbed two interceptions against these teams.

    While Bo Pelini is considered by many to be one of the brightest defensive minds in football, the former All-Conference safety was unable to brainstorm ways to stop opponents on a week-to-week basis.

    Carl Pelini’s departure is potentially good news for Pelini’s stress level and for Nebraska’s defense as a good friend of the head man taking his brother’s spot in John Papuchis.

    The two go back several years to when Bo was making the calls in Baton Rouge, and there is definitely a level of trust between the two fiery coaches which will aid Pelini in handing off the reigns.

    New secondary coach Terry Joseph will have to learn Pelini’s famed pattern-matching scheme on the fly as he works to rebuild the confidence of a back seven who looked confused and out of place all too often in 2011.

    If this new-look coaching staff can get back to basics and teach the Huskers to play fast, smart, and mistake free (all characteristics of Pelini’s best defenses), then Nebraska should get the stops it needs to win close games in 2012 and break the Four-Loss Curse.

    Follow Chris on Twitter: @chris_labenz
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    Tags: bo pelini, tim beck, taylor martinez, quincy enunwa, jamal turner, taariq allen, jordan westerkamp, kenny bell, rex burkhead, carl pelini, terry joseph, john papuchis

  2. 2012 Mar 13

    Husker Heartbeat (3/13/12): Turner's Every Down, Carnes in Football School and No. 18 Cal Splits Series with Huskers


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Jamal Turner's now on the field every down instead of third down

    - Brion Carnes is determined to do everything he can to push Martinez including pouring effort into NU's Football School

    - Dennard and David are two names now showing up in NFL Draft first round predictions

    - Could Ohio's John Groce be the next men's Nebrasketball coach?

    - Nebraska takes down No. 18 Cal and splits the crucial series 2-2

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    Tags: jamal turner, brion carnes, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, john groce, basketball, baseball

  3. 2012 Mar 08

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Will Martinez Spring Forward or Fall Back?


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    Saturday marks the return of College Football Lite a.k.a. spring practice. Regardless, it is football all the same. What is unique about this period is the opportunity for early competition that carries over into the summer and fall.

    Nebraska has several positions up in the air, such as at linebacker. David Santos and Alfonzo Whaley will both have the first shot at replacing Lavonte David.

    While there are many positions worth keeping their eye on, there is one that may stand out more than the rest – quarterback.

    Taylor Martinez will enter the 2012 football season as a legitimate veteran, a junior with two starting seasons under his belt. Spring football is exactly what the quarterback needs to cement his place as No. 1 on the depth chart.

    During Tuesday’s press conference, head coach Bo Pelini said he feels good about the quarterback position as a whole and where it stands as of now.

    He was also not shy to say that Brion Carnes will bring ample competition to the table. “He’s going to be fun to watch,” Pelini said.

    While Carnes may bring athleticism to the field, the question remains whether he will actually have a legitimate shot at the starting position.

    Over the past two years, Martinez has won his spot over the likes of Zac Lee and Cody Green. Pelini has clearly always had an immense amount of faith in the California native.

    By fall, Martinez may find himself in a quarterback controversy thanks to incoming freshman Tommy Armstrong. Until then, Carnes will be the primary threat for Martinez’s starting role. Former safety Bronson Marsh will also take snaps, but his chances of replacing T-Magic are remote.

    If fans should be grateful for anything, it should be that the rumors of Carnes transferring before spring practice were false. Martinez needs to be pushed now more than ever if he is to truly improve.

    Fans want to see more of the rarely-seen Carnes, who gained immense popularity after the 2011 spring game. Pelini speaks higher of Tommie Frazier’s cousin these days than he ever has.

    It appears that maybe, just maybe, he has a shot at leveling the playing field. However, it is what Pelini says between the votes of confidence that are important to note.

    "We have a lot more confidence in Brion than people think," Pelini said last week to the Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple. "I sometimes get the feeling that people think we don't have confidence in him. That isn't the case.

    I think Brion's going to be a good player. But he's a young guy. He's still learning, still developing. He was in a new offense last year. Didn't have the experience Taylor had. I think this spring will be big for Brion."

    The most notable theme from Pelini’s comments is that Carnes’ is “a young guy.”

    Pelini and his staff clearly do have faith in Carnes. However, actions speak louder than words. For every positive message about the athletic Floridian, there is the visual reminder that Martinez plays the vast majority of actual minutes.

    The 2011 season was a challenging one for Martinez. A new offensive coordinator and a new system put the second-year starter in unfamiliar territory.

    His opportunities for break-out runs were limited, while his decision-making improved. He continues to add to his experience, which both Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck are excited about.

    From what Pelini and Beck say, the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is smaller than fans think. Is that statement true? Only time will tell.

    If anyone were to hedge their bets on the starter coming out of spring, put your money on Taylor Martinez. An improved Carnes will help all involved, but Martinez will hold onto the lead role. Truthfully, the veteran’s biggest threat wears no jersey.

    The biggest obstacle standing between Martinez and immense improvement is the person that stares back at him in the mirror.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: spring practice, taylor martinez, brion carnes, david santos, alfonzo whaley, jamal turner, bronson marsh

  4. 2012 Mar 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Spring Practice Position Primer


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Quarterback: Without Tommy Armstrong in camp, Martinez has no threat to his starting spot. He’s showed tremendous athletic potential last spring.

    If Carnes continues to improve athletically, and the mental aspect of the game can be reinforced, while the gap between he and Martinez isn’t likely to shrink that much, a legitimate backup candidate could be crowned.

    Running back: Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green start on equal footing heading into Saturday and could very well end up where they started following April’s spring game.

    Thanks to Abdullah’s edge in experience during actual FBS play, one has to think he has a leg up on Green. His fumbling problems may level the playing field, however.

    Wide receiver: Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Tim Marlowe and Jamal Turner will all have the opportunity to solidify their starting roles.

    With the departure of Khiry Cooper, look for Taariq Allen, who followed wide receivers coach Rich Fisher from Weston, Massachusetts, to vie for the fifth spot. KC Hyland and Tyler Evans are two other talents with an opportunity to shine.

    Tight End: Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed aren’t going anywhere, but David Sutton and Eddie Ridder have the opportunity to showcase their potential.

    Offensive Line: Departed center Mike Caputo’s replacement could come from a number of candidates including Cole Pensick, Nick Ash and Ryan Klachko. Pensick and Ash may have seniority, but Klachko sticks out as the prospect with a higher ceiling.

    Brandon Thompson, Andrew Rodriguez, Mike Moudy and Ryne Reeves look to be the favorites to hold down the guard spots. Rodriguez’s attitude has reportedly been lackadaisical, but Moudy and Reeves have the tenacity to step up should he slack off.

    Sirles and Qvale will start out spring at the tackle spots with Tyler Moore giving them all they can handle in an attempt to take one of their spots. Zach Sterup is a likely backup candidate with Givens Price needing a strong spring to assert himself as a legitimate threat for playing time.

    Defensive Line: Cameron Meredith, Jason Ankrah, Eric Martin and Joseph Cater have the end positions on lockdown barring injury. Donovan Vestal and Walker Ashburn need huge springs to hold off the incoming Avery Moss and Greg McMullen come the fall.

    The interior’s been decimated by injury with Chase Rome and Todd Peat, Jr. now out for the entirety of spring ball. Once Kevin Williams and Thad Randle return from injury, they’ll be plugged in next to Baker Steinkuhler in an attempt to hone their abilities, and find a suitable replacement for Rome’s spring absence.

    Having a deeper interior for rotation’s sake won’t hurt heading into Big Ten play. Jay Guy and newly-placed Tobi Okuyemi will have the opportunity to show that their work ethic has improved.

    Linebackers: Will Compton has the MIKE slot on lockdown while Sean Fisher will spend most of his time trying to cement the BUCK slot by the end of spring. Max Pirman could find himself trying to work into rotation behind him.

    Pelini mentioned to look for David Santos and Alonzo Whaley to work at the WILL position to begin the essentially-impossible task of taking over for Lavonte David. Don’t be surprised to see Santos win that battle by mid-April.

    Defensive back: Mohammed Seisay will be one of the most-watched players on the entire team this spring. Not only will he be wearing the departed David’s No. 4, but he looks to lock down the title of Nebraska’s elite cornerback.

    Andrew Green, Cinate Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and recently-switched Braylon Heard will likely get the opportunity to lock down the opposite end.

    Safety: Daimion Stafford, Courtney Osborne and P.J. Smith are the likely candidates to lock down starting role. Osborne’s recent concussion issues may cause Pelini and company to take things slow with him.

    Kicker/Punter: Brett Maher is light years ahead of Mauro Bondi, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Boca Raton native can narrow the gap in the slightest.

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    Tags: spring practice, taylor martinez, brion carnes, ameer abdullah, aaron green, kenny bell, quincy enunwa, tim marlowe, jamal turner, taariq allen, ben cotton, kyler reed, cole pensick, nick ash, ryan klachko, brandon thompson, andrew rodriguez, mike moudy, ryne reeves, cameron meredith, eric martin, chase rome, todd peat, baker steinkuhler, will compton, david santos, mohammed seisay, brett maher

  5. 2012 Mar 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Spring Practice Opening Press Conference Notes


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    - Bo Pelini announced that he will be opening up Pro Day and first day of practice to media.

    - Pelini is anxious to start spring football, saying, “I like the potential of what we have coming back on defense.”

    - He also added, “I like the leadership, I like the potential.”

    - When asked about Taylor Martinez: “We watch a lot of film and watch all the things from last year. Last year, he was putting in a new offense.

    There were a lot of new things for him to learn. You put a quarterback in the type of system we run, he had a lot of things on his plate and had to learn what to do. Now it’s refining that.”

    - The status of Jamal Turner was brought up. Pelini said he knows they can move Turner to quarterback if needed to take a few snaps, but that he feels good about the quarterback position as it stands right now.

    - Pelini believes Brion Carnes will have an important spring. He also believes he will bring a lot of competition to the table. “He’s going to be fun to watch.”

    - He would not comment on defensive backs coach Terry Joseph, but did offer up one thing: “He’s about as perfect a fit as you can have.”

    - When it comes to replacing Lavonte David, David Santos and Alonzo Whaley will get the first shot.

    - On Rex Burkhead: “He’s his toughest critic. I think he’s anxious.”

    - Pelini believes the team is ready for spring football: “I like the attitude. I think our guys are hungry. I think they understand that this spring practice is important.”

    - “You have to be ready to live it, and that’s a challenge to do it day in and day out,” Pelini said.

    - On his coaching style: “Every coach is different. Everybody has a different personality. I’m different than JP, I’m different than Tim (Beck). You have to coach within your personality. You have to play to your strengths and continue to work on your weaknesses.”

    “I don’t want to surround myself with a bunch of people who are going to tell me I’m right all the time, because I’m not right all the time,” Pelini said about his staff.

    - Pelini confirmed that Khiry Cooper is no longer with the team and that the decision was Cooper’s. He is set to graduate in May. Pelini also made it clear that the door is open if he ever wants to come back.

    - Jake Cotton, Chase Rome, and Todd Peat, Jr. will most likely miss all of spring practice.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: spring practice, bo pelini, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, jamal turner, brion carnes, terry joseph, lavonte david, david santos, alonzo whaley, john papuchis, tim beck, khiry cooper, jake cotton, chase rome, todd peat

  6. 2012 Feb 10

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: The OFFICIAL Husker Locker Podcast (2/10/2012) - The Wide Receiver Battle Royale Edition


    By HuskerLocker

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    Explore the Archives

    Vote for Rex Burkhead to receive the 2012 Rare Disease Champion Award! (One entry per person)

    On the docket:

    A podcast featuring questions and topics submitted ONLY by you, the Husker Locker fan base:

    - How much playing time can Jordan Westerkamp expect?
    - Kenny Bell vs. Jamal Turner
    - How will the first month of Nebraska baseball go?
    - Did Alfonzo Dennard hurt his stock after his All-Star weekend troubles?

    Have a topic or question that you'd like to hear discussed? Send us an e-mail or a message to any of us on Twitter.

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @huskerlocker
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    Greg: @thehooch36

    More info on the Husker Locker intro voice:
    Rob Kugler's Profile

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    Tags: jordan westerkamp, kenny bell, jamal turner, baseball, alfonzo dennard, podcast, podcasts

  7. 2012 Jan 12

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Playing The Redshirt Game


    By HuskerLocker

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    By James Stevenson

    An important part of roster management in college football is utilizing redshirts correctly. High school players, especially those that join major BCS programs, are usually not physically ready to play at that level. Even those that are physically gifted must adjust to new college systems and increased speed of the game.

    An initial redshirt year costs a team a scholarship, but allows a player time to mature and potentially contribute significantly in the future. There is a fine balance to the use of redshirts as with only 85 scholarships available, keeping every player on the roster for five years would only allow 17 players to be signed during each recruiting cycle (assuming no one leaves).

    The Nebraska philosophy appears to be that if a player can make a year-long impact, that player sees the field. Nebraska’s success with freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell, who led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns is one example.

    On the surface, it appears the current coaching staff’s philosophy on playing true freshmen is similar to Callahan’s in that players who can quickly learn the system have the best shot of playing early. Countless young wide receivers and running backs under the Callahan and Watson offenses struggled to find playing time their first season, such as Marlon Lucky who struggled to learn pass protection assignments.

    Under Pelini, young defensive talent usually doesn’t immediately grasp his system. Given the sheer lack of depth at linebacker, it surprised some observers that true freshman David Santos didn’t see the field at all in 2011.

    Perhaps worse than leaving a potential contributor on the bench for the year is wasting a potential four-year contributor’s first season by not redshirting them. The most notable example of this in recent years was Niles Paul, who caught one pass and returned two kickoffs during 2007.

    Having Paul in 2011 would’ve been a boost to a young receiving corps, but that season was traded for minimal action in Callahan’s final year. Conversely, redshirting players that will never contribute leaves them on the roster, and counts against scholarship limits for five years instead of four handicapping recruiting efforts.

    Pelini fell into this trap in 2008 as nearly the entire freshman class was redshirted. While this certainly helped build needed depth and Nebraska achieved a respectable 9-4 record, the Huskers are left with players who have contributed little to nothing in Lester Ward, Collins Okafor, Micah Kreikemeier, and Khiry Cooper for an additional season, tying up scholarships the 2012 recruiting class desperately needs.

    2011 offered some significant head-scratchers. True freshman wide receiver Jamal Turner excited Husker fans in the spring game. Despite limited action, he still finished the season sixth on Nebraska's reception chart with 15.

    Similarly, Nebraska played true freshman offensive lineman Tyler Moore early in the year, but his time lessened during conference play including showing up literally once against Wisconsin. After causing a false start penalty, he was yanked.

    Nebraska certainly seemed committed to playing the freshmen receivers and lineman early in the year, only to put them on the shelf. It’s hard to know if these were disciplinary actions, the result of other players having better work ethics or simply fitting in the system better. However, with Turner having arguably the best combination of speed and moves of any offensive skill player, his absence was puzzling. Is a redshirt worth 17 touches over the course of a season?

    The Huskers also dealt with a good problem to have last season what with three stud true freshmen running backs. Two came straight from high school in prep stars Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green. The third, Braylon Heard, had taken a year between high school and college to become academically qualified.

    Nebraska lacked any sort of backup behind Rex Burkhead, so it’s understandable that the coaching staff would try to find an eventual replacement or someone to spell Burkhead. There’s something to be said for having running backs test the waters during an actual FBS game and seeing who reacts best, too.

    However, when you have a logjam at a position with three players, all of whom are used to having the ball all the time, it makes sense to redshirt one of those players. Nebraska instead played all three with Heard and Green totaling 49 carries. At one point, Heard disappeared with a mysterious injury. It looked like he may have been headed for a medical redshirt, but he returned to play late in the season.

    As it stands, the Huskers will have three true sophomore running backs behind Rex Burkhead next season aside from any signings. It doesn’t seem that all three, along with wide receivers Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, and incoming prep star Jordan Westerkamp can have enough touches spread between them to keep everyone happy.

    While the coaching staff’s strategy on redshirts is hard to decipher, there is one pitfall they've avoided: taking a redshirt off of players late in the season. A player who dodges a redshirt year and gets snaps in games while competing to be first string all season is much better than a practice squad player who is forced into action due to injuries. That player than loses an entire year of eligibility.

    Nebraska’s lack of depth at linebacker could’ve been temptation for the staff to play Santos as the year progressed, but they rightfully resisted the urge. That’s something the previous regime couldn’t say.

    Going forward, with a small recruiting class and obvious holes on the depth chart, it will be interesting to see who Pelini and his staff redshirt in 2012. Unfortunately, it’s an inexact science, where only hindsight allows fans to wish that stud players had an extra year of eligibility remaining.

    Follow James on Twitter: @jamesstevenson
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    Tags: kenny bell, jamal turner, niles paul, david santos, lester ward, collins okafor, micah kreikemeier, khiry cooper, tyler moore, rex burkhead, jordan westerkamp

  8. 2012 Jan 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: 10 Huskers to Watch in 2012


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Guest Columnist Sean Berger

    10. Defensive Line Youngins: Chase Rome and Jason Ankrah

    Young blood on the defensive line. With all of their playing time this year, much was asked of these guys. The early injury to Jared Crick becomes a blessing in disguise for the short-term future of our beloved Blackshirts.

    9. Quarterback Taylor Martinez

    An obvious selection, the entire fan base expects improvement No. 1 signal-caller. We need to see him improve his focus on protecting the ball when running this pistol-option-hybrid thing that Tim Beck and Shawn Watson developed. This year he improved in checking down on routes. We couldn't have asked him to spread the ball around more. (Thank you, Joe Ganz?)

    He involved nearly every tight end and wide receiver on the depth chart. Throwing the ball away when necessary seems natural for this guy. He may get outplayed at quarterback in his final two seasons if he can't develop new passing mechanics, though. His current mechanics combined with his lack of arm strength for the deep ball are not a long term solution. They're a liability in the games that matter most.

    8. Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell

    Personal intuition tells me that Enunwa will plateau into a "nice" Kenny Cheatham, but we've only begun to see Bell's potential, of which the only ceiling becomes his 6’1” frame. Enunwa prove me wrong! Nonetheless, Nebraska finally has playmakers at wide receiver. Improving hands seem to be the priority, but these guys have speed, too.

    7. Offensive linemen Seung Hoon Choi, Jeremiah Sirles and Andrew Rodriguez

    Here's the beef that has to continue to get stronger. These are the underclassmen with playing time under their belts. For the read-option-pistol thinger to continue to evolve, these guys need to give Martinez the running room and the extra seconds of decision time for Beck to utilize his best athletes: Rex Burkhead, Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and Jamal Turner.

    6. Running back Ameer Abdullah

    All of his athletic capabilities — strength, agility and speed — points to this guy being a consistent No. 2 running back for 2012. He's an exciting player with game-changing capabilities on special teams.

    5. Linebacker Will Compton

    This guy becomes the anchor of the defense. During his last two games, he seemed to be more aggressive off the ball. He's a playmaker in his best moments. I think he'll be a strong leader for the defense because he's just as committed as the next guy to the team's desire to write chapters of championship legacy.

    4. Wide receiver Jamal Turner

    In my opinion, I think Tim Beck will give him a strong look at quarterback during the offseason this offseason. We saw flashes of his athleticism this season. He has the speed of a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Does he have an arm that can unseat Taylor Martinez? Beck is just crazy enough to involve three quarterbacks (Burkhead, Martinez and Turner) if the need arises.

    3. Defensive lineman Cameron Meredith

    I have to believe he'll get some Mel Kiper talk following his senior year at Nebraska. Everyone loves the curly locks, right? They resemble the raw gutsy leader that he is on the field and off.

    2. Running back Rex Burkhead

    The best running back in the categories of muscle and heart, Rex Burkhead didn't miss a beat for a Nebraska running attack that experienced the loss of third-round NFL draft selection Roy Helu, Jr. Every carry by Burkhead featured No. 22 inching out tough-as-nails yards after contract and reminding every Husker fan why Lincoln is the Pittsburgh of the Midwest in the process.

    1. Safety Daimion Stafford

    A hard-hitting safety, Stafford had some great moments in coverage this year. With all of the problems in the secondary this year - the change in coaching, a transition of philosophies, the loss of Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes and Ricky Thenarse - there were almost too many holes to for the Blackshirts to fill in pass coverage.

    Nebraska will need two solid corners to compliment Stafford but there's no overlooking the fact that he was an answer amidst all of the questions. Stafford will be the heart of the defensive backfield in 2012.

    Follow Sean on Twitter: @bergrbergr
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    Tags: chase rome, jason ankrah, taylor martinez, quincy enunwa, kenny bell, seung hoon choi, heremiah sirles, andrew rodriguez, ameer abdullah, will compton, jamal turner, cameron meredith, rex burkhead, daimion stafford

  9. 2011 Dec 26

    Husker Heartbeat 12/26: Raymond's Recruiting Effects, Burkhead Bounces Back and Turner Presses Reboot


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Secondary coach Corey Raymond speaks softly, but carries a big stick when it comes to recruiting

    - Burkhead and the young backs are looking to explode out of the gate versus the Gamecocks thanks to the recent time off

    - Wide receiver Jamal Turner is looking for yet another rebound in what has been a life full of them

    - Some of the youngest Cornhuskers are making names for themselves on the football scout team

    - Nebrasketball finally meets the Big Ten and concern is already starting to rise

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: corey raymond, rex burkhead, jamal turner, basketball

  10. 2011 Nov 19

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Michigan Game Day Thoughts


    By HuskerLocker

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

    This week:

    How do you contain Denard Robinson?

    Brian: Right now, the easiest thing to do is load up the box and dare Denard to throw. Last week, there were reports that Robinson couldn’t even throw a 10-yard ball after the game. With several injuries and the growing talk about moving Robinson to a wide receiver spot during this coming spring, look for Robinson to make the most of what he can do while he can do it.

    That being said, Brady Hoke hasn’t really given his quarterback the chance to do much. Robinson is not an I Formation/Pro Set quarterback. He's the spread/zone read master that many thought he would be. You can’t take him, tweak a few things, and get Ball State's Nate Davis circa 2007 overnight.

    Erin: That's an excellent question. I'm not positive that our defense can stop a mobile quarterback. If we're going to, we need to put a lot of pressure on Robinson. Forcing him to throw would be the best case scenario.

    Greg: Make him one-dimensional. Make him try to beat you through the air. Don't over-rush him. We've seen a few times this season, particularly earlier on, where defensive linemen flew past the quarterback. It's imperative that they keep Robinson in front of them.

    James: You can never really full contain him, as he has too many moves. Brady Hoke is probably the biggest containment effect on him, he's drilled it into Denard to pass first, and not run until he's through his progression.

    This gives you a window to harass him, so blitzing and sending your fastest defenders after him before the passing play breaks down is key. "Nard-dog" as my Michigan friends call him, is prone to throwing bad passes, especially in the red zone, so that pressure is key.

    To contain him in the running game will require the efforts of linebacker Lavonte David. The downside of doing this, is that Nebraska leaves star Michigan running back Fitz Toussaint open. He's gashed defenses for 420 yards in his last four games. Pick your poison, as they say.

    Brandon: Thankfully, Brady Hoke seems to have done a solid job of doing that for Michigan’s opponents. Regardless, when Shoelace decides to tuck it and run, he’s even faster than Taylor Martinez and shiftier. He’s buckled under pressure this year and while the interior defensive tackles have had a rough go, Cam Meredith has been money on the outside.

    A four or occasional five-man rush to frazzle Robinson and force his hand (almost literally) will be essential. Shoelace is dangerous, but he’s dinged up, can’t pass well and won’t like several upset Blackshirts in his face. Keep a spy back just in case the big boys whiff and you’ve got a winning combination.

    If you’re Tim Beck, how do you attack the Michigan defense?

    Brian: Michigan is decent on the line, but horrendous in the back seven. It's fair to say they're almost as bad, if not worse, than Nebraska was early in the season. The perfect plays are inside counters and edge plays that seemed to work well against Penn State.

    Teams have kept bringing safeties up to help defend the option. If this happens, Tim Beck can, and should, be able to call some successful line option playaction passes. Kyler Reed and Kenny Bell, if totally healthy, should be able to exploit Michigan's safeties. Look for a lot of Tim Marlowe. That jet sweep action where Rex plays quarterback has prepared a number of plays.

    Erin: A balanced offensive attack. That's absolutely crucial.

    Greg: With balance. Not just with play calling, but with the personnel used. Utilize the stable of talented, young running backs and spread the ball around to the great guys at wide receiver. There's so much talent. Don't waste it with predictable play calls.

    James: You attack the middle of their secondary. Michigan has some solid defensive talent that is finally playing well together. While the individual units work well together, they seem to have issues as an entire 11 which causes breakdowns to occur. I'm looking for some of our Milk Carton players like Kyler Reed to finally make their presence known. Whatever happened to that Jamal Turner kid?

    Brandon: The outsides of the Wolverines’ defense are weak, but the back seven has bigger holes. Nebraska may employ the services of faster players that haven’t seen much action lately (Aaron Green, Jamal Turner, etc.) to tire out the Michigan linemen and pull the secondary up. Beck has something invaluable and that’s the threat of Martinez and Burkhead.

    If you’re Michigan, you have to respect Martinez’s feet and force him to throw. The problem is that he’s hitting mid-range passes better than ever. On option plays, opponents finally have to commit and not key in on Taylor like last year or Burkhead earlier this season. Use that extra second of hesitation to launch some bombs downfield to Kyler Reed, Quincy Enunwa or Kenny Bell. In summary: Get the Wolverines tired, then go for the gusto.

    Do you see Nebraska being affected by The Big House?

    Brian: In a way, yes. Michigan Stadium, even with all the additions, is still one big place, and roughly 80 percent of the stadium is underground. That can create a noise factor for the Wolverines. However, as we have all seen, the crowd can be easily taken out of the game from time to time.

    It’s not like Memorial Stadium where the stands can seem right on top of you. If you can get a little bit of that EA Sports-style momentum on your side, things can go your way pretty easily.

    Erin: Not really. I mean, it will be impressive, sure. But I feel like this team doesn't get phased by the crowd too much. Plus, we've seen this time and time again that Martinez loves a visiting crowd. I'll be interested to see how he handles the Big House.

    Greg: After the first quarter, Nebraska should be used to playing in front of the massive and hostile bunch. They need to get that early lead and take the crowd out of it.

    James: No. The Big House is consistently talked about by fans of the Big Ten as being one of the quieter stadiums in the nation. It's more of a country club atmosphere, and the design of the stadium allows a lot of the noise to escape. If Nebraska can survive Happy Valley and Camp Randall, the Big House shouldn't be that big of a deal.

    You get the feeling Michigan fans, knowing the division is out of reach, are already looking forward to their battle against the hated Buckeyes. Combine that with an 11 A.M. kickoff and I'm not expecting noise to be a critical factor.

    Brandon: No, and that seems really weird for a place that packs in over 110,000 people, doesn’t it? The problem with Michigan Stadium is that while the tradition and grandeur is there, the place is built for watching a football game, not intimidating the opponents. Unless they have severe Agoraphobia, that is.

    Sound escapes due to how The Big House is built. It’s a cool place to play football, but it also makes a nice backdrop for the hometown photographers of the opposition.

    How is your confidence level in this team at this point in the season?

    Brian: Same as it ever was and leaning towards Nebraska winning this game. As many of you know, the bigger the game, the greater the chance the Huskers come out flat. Last week was a very emotional week, both with the buildup to the game plus the actions before and during it.

    There hasn’t been as much buzz leading up to this game as we first thought there would be back in July/August. However, the winner still has an inside track to a BCS at-large game. That's huge considering where these two programs have been over the last few years.

    Let's not forget last year when Nebraska went into College Station with the same possibility of a BCS berth, only to lay a dud on the road, though. Granted, these are not Big 12 officials on Dan Beebe’s watch, however the performance of that game has to be avoided.

    Nebraska can inflict their will on a Michigan team that is very similar in every aspect of the game. When two teams like this are so evenly matched, intangibles come into play. The Huskers have been pretty good when it comes to penalties and holding onto any fumbles this year. In order to win this game, that must continue.

    Erin: It's pretty high. I think we've seen a lot of really positive things from this group and I have a lot of faith that they can win out. I think when all the working pieces come together, they are difficult to stop. It just really depends on how they want to play.

    Greg: I know some are uncomfortable with a two-loss season. It hurts to lose games, and it pisses you off to lose games you're supposed to win. I'm still confident. I know we are dependant on a Michigan State loss to make it to Indianapolis, but hey, no one expected Iowa State to beat Oklahoma State. That's why you play the game.

    James: It'd be higher if we weren't so injury decimated. We have 2-3 offensive guards who are usable, an issue at defensive tackle, a third defensive back who was a wide receiver, questions at nickel/safety, no linebackers behind our top two, a star running back who has had way too many carries, and our best blocking tight end is out.

    On the offensive side, it's frustrating we haven't developed more talent behind Rex Burkhead, but the defense's current state is a result of the the 2008 and 2009 recruiting effort made by this staff. If Nebraska can stop Michigan's running game, I feel pretty good about this weekend.

    I think that's a tall order given the weapons the Wolverines have in Robinson, backup quarterback Devin Gardner and Toussaint. That said, Iowa's lack of a mobile quarterback makes me feel very good about our chances to send the seniors out as winners at home on Black Friday.

    Brandon: It’s pretty high, actually. Take that as a good sign from a guy who might as well be from Missouri with his “show me” attitude. I like Beck Ball and I’ve been impressed with what Pelini has done with a defense that’s cobbled together at this point. My main concerns are Rex’s legs, the wide receivers’ mitts, extra defensive backs and the safeties.

    Against Michigan, I’d like to see Rex stay as close as he can to 15-20 carries if at all possible. Coach Fisher has an abundance of young talent on his hands, but they’ve got to bring those balls in before they turn on the jets.

    Finally, Dennard’s playing at an NFL level and Andrew Green appears to have solidified the spot opposite. If Robinson was a better passer, I’d be concerned about Thorell, Blatchford, Cassidy, etc. He doesn’t seem to be able to hit the broad side of the Big House right now, though.

    The elements are there for an impressive victory, but I’m sure Nebraska fans would settle with scoreboard and more ammo for the “Real 1997 National Champions” argument.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @eightlaces
    Brian: @btbowling
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    Greg: @thehooch36
    James: @jamesstevenson

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    Tags: michigan, jamal turner, aaron green, rex burkhead, taylor martinez, denard robinson

  11. 2011 Nov 18

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: The OFFICIAL Husker Locker Podcast 11/18: Taking the Big House's Keys


    By HuskerLocker

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    Subscribe to the podcast

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    On the docket:

    A podcast featuring ONLY questions asked by you, the Husker Locker fan base:

    - Will Michigan State fall to Northwestern and put down the red carpet for Nebraska to waltz into Indianapolis?
    - How well could Jamal Turner duplicate the abilities of Denard Robinson?
    - What has been the cause of Taylor Martinez's improvement
    - The panel's favorite Huskers

    Have a topic or question that you'd like to hear discussed? Send us an e-mail or a message to any of us on Twitter.

    Follow the roundtable on Twitter:

    Brandon: @eightlaces
    Brian: @btbowling
    Brett: @BigRedinTejas
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    Greg: @thehooch36
    James: @JamesStevenson

    More info on the Husker Locker intro voice:

    Rob Kugler's Profile

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    Tags: michigan, michigan state, northwestern, denard robinson, jamal turner, taylor martinez, podcast, podcasts

  12. 2011 Nov 13

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Penn State


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - The score was near-expected. The atmosphere was exactly as expected and yes, it was surreal.

    - The mid-field prayer may be one of the highlights of the entire college football season.

    - If Taylor Martinez can learn how to draw that much attention and provide a pitch off the option like that every time, no one will complain.

    - Someone clearly changed out Rex Burkhead’s batteries. Another game, another 100 yards.

    - When Martinez and Rex switched positions, did it look like they just got curious about what the other’s day was like to you, too?

    - Due to what we’ve been told regarding receivers’ performance habits, Jamal Turner will clearly be starting against Michigan…right?

    - Kinda thinking that a redshirt should’ve been kept on Aaron Green or Braylon Heard.

    - Two offensive guards traveled and went the distance. Bravo Mr. Choi and Mr. Long.

    - That wasn’t a fumble.

    - Will Compton has taken his game up a notch and none too soon.

    - Alfonzo Dennard continues to look better every week. That guy’s gonna make some coin in The League.

    - Take a look at every FBS team around the country and thank your lucky stars for Brett Maher again.

    - An amazing press conference by Bo Pelini. As Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples said, it’s required viewing.

    - Bowl Prediction of the Week: Outback Bowl vs. Georgia.

    Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces
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    Tags: penn state, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, jamal turner, aaron green, braylon heard, spencer long, seung hoon choi, will compton, alfonzo dennard, brett maher, bo pelini, andy staples, outback bowl, georgia

  13. 2011 Nov 10

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Mucho Hooch-O - Penn State Under the Microscope


    By HuskerLocker

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    The eleventh edition of Mucho Hooch-O, an audio blog by Husker Locker's own Greg "Hooch" Mehochko, features a regular cornucopia of content.

    Hooch praises those who shined in the Northwestern/Nebraska game, takes a look at the Penn State situation, the lack of Jamal Turner on the field and the Blackshirt quandary.

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Follow Greg a.k.a. Hooch on Twitter: @thehooch36
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    Tags: northwestern, penn state, jamal turner, blackshirts

  14. 2011 Nov 08

    Husker Heartbeat 11/08: Stealing Nebraska's Signals, Turner's Work Ethic and Surviving 28 Turnovers


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Northwestern was apparently unable to steal Nebraska's signals during last Saturday's game

    - Defensive tackle Chase Rome is eager to step up and reinforce a depleted defensive line

    - Wide receiver Jamal Turner says he needs to improve his work ethic to see the field more often

    - The Nebraska men's basketball team overcomes 28 turnovers to topple Doane College

    - NU Volleyballer Lauren Cook "freaked out" before making a 911 call following her automotive accident

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    Tags: northwestern, chase rome, jamal turner, basketball, lauren cook

  15. 2011 Nov 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Press Conference Notes (Post-Northwestern)


    By HuskerLocker

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    - Head coach Bo Pelini kicked off the presser by talking about Rex Burkhead. Pelini said that while beat up, “Rex is a guy that’s not always going to tell you how he’s feeling.”

    - Pelini plans to rest Burkhead this week and will reduce his workload as much as possible.

    - When asked about why he chose to continue playing Burkhead over the younger backs when Burkhead couldn’t break through: “I don’t think we blocked very well up front.”

    - “At the end of the day, you’ve just got to play and we didn’t,” Pelini said about the team’s performance. “We didn’t take advantage of some plays and it cost us in the end.”

    - Pelini on Penn State head coach Joe Paterno: “It takes a lot of energy and hours. It wears on you. To be doing it at his age, it’s a pretty amazing thing.”

    - Pelini was asked about how he handles a loss like Saturday’s: “The way I’m wired, I take it hard, really hard. But you have to move past it.”

    - Many wondered why Pelini continued to keep Jamal Turner out of the receivers’ rotation. Pelini answered that by saying Turner was ill last week, and Marlowe has practiced well and taken snaps away from Turner as well.

    - Tim Marlowe spoke about quarterback Taylor Martinez: “People doubt his passing but I think he silenced that this week.”

    - “I think that I have a little bit of speed at times too,” Marlowe said about his abilities versus other receivers.

    - Tyler Legate first spoke about the effect the loss has had on him personally: “I know I’m down. Haven’t been able to sleep too much. But we need to move on.”

    - “It wasn’t his fault. There’s 11 of us out there,” Legate said about Burkhead putting the loss on his shoulders.

    - When asked about how the team was feeling, Legate said, “I believe everyone is fatigued right now but everyone in the country is fatigued right now.”

    - Austin Cassidy talked about Big Ten play versus Big 12 play: “Football is football. It’s physical no matter where you play it.”

    - Cassidy on Paterno: “When I was little and he was coaching, he seemed really old then. Hopefully I catch a glimpse of him. He’s a legend.”

    - Taylor Martinez talked about how important the upcoming away games are: “It’s going to be a great challenge and hopefully we come away with two wins.”

    - Martinez also dodged questions on Joe Ganz coaching him, much like Pelini. Settled for, “We’re really good friends.”

    - Martinez said Northwestern figured out the play calls and knew what plays were coming. His reasoning? “It’s Northwestern. They’re a smart school.”

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    Tags: bo pelini, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, austin cassidy, tyler legate, jamal turner

  16. 2011 Nov 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Evolution of The Nebraska Way


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brian Towle

    Fans toss the term around like crumpled pieces of paper that eventually find their way to the bottom of a wastebasket. A constant reminder that how things are done at the University of Nebraska are carried out differently or are unique to our state and school.

    Included are: How to treat players, the media, those who to cheer for and how to adhere to it. This is “The Nebraska Way.”

    Somewhere along the line, one very important aspect was lost: How to win using The Nebraska Way. Saturday’s 28-25 loss to a Northwestern team that had far inferior talent than the Big Red (at least on paper) was a glaring example of the issues this team has. The more maddening, almost incomprehensible, other issue is the acceptance of performances like this.

    Some Nebraska fans say that a national championship wasn’t a realistic goal with this team, which is fair. However, with the loss to Northwestern, we made sure that two years are still relevant to Cornhusker football history:

    1999: The last time Nebraska fans bought conference championship shirts. In San Antonio, the Huskers took care of the Texas Longhorns and earned a Fiesta Bowl appearance.

    2002: The last time Husker fans paid for tickets to a BCS bowl game. Even though that team was arguably undeserving of appearing in the national championship game, Nebraska was in the national spotlight.

    The Nebraska Way includes excellence in player recruitment and development. Where has this gone? Ask yourself that as you see Ciante Evans whiff on defending a slant route resulting in an 81-yard touchdown scamper by the visiting team.

    Ask this again as Lance Thorell is torched time after time, and wonder why players such as Corey Cooper, Courtney Osborne, or Stanley Jean-Baptiste sit on the sidelines. Using your depth to maximize your attack on offense, this is The Nebraska Way.

    Where has this commitment gone? It seems a fair question to ponder as Ameer Abdullah, Jamal Turner, Braylon Heard and Aaron Green sit on the sideline as an obviously hurting Rex Burkhead gets bulldozed into a line that provided no daylight. Why is Tyler Moore not logging minutes as Yoshi Hardrick plays on a busted wheel?

    The Nebraska Way also includes taking every game seriously and to strategize accordingly. To be out-schemed, out-coached, and embarrassed on your home turf by a team that quite honestly had no business being on the same field with Nebraska is simply appalling.

    Don’t discredit Northwestern entirely, though. Pat Fitzgerald realized that Nebraska was to be had, kept his foot on the gas pedal and did what Mike Krzyzewski‘s Duke basketball teams are famous for: Running plays that work until the other team proves they can stop them.

    There were bright spots for Nebraska, of course. Taylor Martinez’s passing was a pleasant surprise, as was the play of defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler. However, there are no truly great performances in losses.

    That’s a shame, because the quarterback that several call a liability (author included) was an asset last Saturday, and his performance will be nothing but a random statistic as time rolls on.

    There should be rage over this loss. The defeat in Madison brought screaming, berating, and other rants to sports talk radio, message boards, and social media outlets. However, the tepid, melancholy response to this past weekend’s results is wide-spread.

    This, my friends and enemies, is the scariest thing of all. A sign that after years of expecting conference titles, bowl games played in January and double-digit win totals every season, the Nebraska Cornhusker fan base has come to a point where we’re alright with it.

    Much like we’re alright with a Blackshirt “tradition” that has gone from 11 black practice jerseys hanging in lockers two weeks before the season opener to 20 being handed out come Halloween.

    There was much talk about a Big Ten title in July and early August. That has changed to hoping the Capital One Bowl still is interested in a team that may get one more loss in the next three weeks. However, the feel good crowd will point out that if 2011 ends with nine wins, that result was good enough for Tom Osborne.

    Tom Osborne would have made this 2011 squad realize that there cannot be a single game taken lightly. Even against a team with their sights set on the Pinstripe or TicketCity Bowl. Coach Osborne would have also taken ownership of what happened in front of 85,000-plus first and foremost.

    Then there’s the matter of several students demanding better or even more seating from Osborne that couldn’t make a 2:30 PM kickoff or be bothered to stay around with ten minutes to go as their team needed them.

    How will the Take Back Game Day movement address that little matter? Can’t be beat? Won’t be beat? Do they know if their team was beat in the first place?

    Finally, Osborne would have realized the issues with this team over the last two years. The inability to stop dual-threat quarterbacks, an offensive line and play calling that can easily be liabilities, and the steadfast refusal to start playmakers who, while young, still give Nebraska the best chance of winning.

    There’s no reason to hold anything back in November. Teams that win constantly put the best 11 out on the field. Does anyone think the 1995 national championship season happens if Ahman Green is held back at all?

    Imagine that happening now and you see the frustration some have with Turner, Ameer, Braylon and SJB among others riding the pine.

    Welcome to the new Nebraska Way where losing games that should be afterthoughts are tolerable. Where handing out 20 Blackshirts eight games into a season, three or four losses, and a late December bowl game is considered a successful campaign. Where wins are a team effort, but losses are under-addressed, excuses are made and promptly accepted.

    For the foreseeable future, get used to your surroundings, Husker fans. Take in the atmosphere, and accept it for better or worse.

    Do you feel that The Nebraska Way has been watered down? Discuss it in the new and improved forums: Husker Locker Forums

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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    Tags: the nebraska way, bcs, ciante evans, lance thorell, corey cooper, courtney osborne, blackshirts, capital one bowl, tom osborne, ahman green, stanley jeanbaptiste, ameer abdullah, jamal turner, braylon heard, aaron green, rex burkhead, tyler moore, yoshi hardrick, northwestern, pat fitzgerald, taylor martinez, baker steinkuhler

  17. 2011 Nov 06

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Northwestern


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Can’t quite put my finger on it, but something was off yesterday. The Huskers looked a few steps slower than they did against Sparty.

    - It’s a shame that Taylor Martinez’s best game of the year (and one of his career) had to end in a loss. His play is encouraging for the remainder of the season, however.

    - Jamal Turner’s absence is inexcusable. While Coach Fisher clearly has his methods, it’s hard not to question getting a playmaker of Turner’s caliber on the field.

    - Was very happy to see Brandon Kinnie in sync with his quarterback.

    - Wishing Kenny Bell would’ve snagged those drops. Not only for the sake Martinez and his team, but it would’ve made his performance even bigger. Regardless, when Taylor sees the 'fro, he has to throw.

    - If Nebraska could keep Bell back with Abdullah on kick returns, that’d be just grand.

    - When Lavonte David is missing tackles in the backfield, that’s a bad omen.

    - While Lance Thorell’s interception against Michigan State was huge, getting scorched like a marshmallow pre-Smore is, too.

    - While Nebraska may not have the overall talent of Alabama, the Crimson Tide would’ve killed for Brett Maher last night.

    - Have to think the Capital One, Outback and Gator Bowls are all smiling on the inside. Their reps keep showing up to Husker games.

    - Controversial thought alert: Taking away the Blackshirts following this loss would be an absolutely horrible decision.

    After nearly a day to reflect, what are your reactions about yesterday's game? Chime in on the new forums: Husker Locker Forums

    Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces
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    Tags: taylor martinez, jamal turner, brandon kinnie, kenny bell, ameer abdullah, lavonte david, lance thorell, brett maher, capital one bowl, outback bowl, gator bowl, blackshirts

  18. 2011 Nov 06

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Most Valuable Huskers vs. Northwestern


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By James Stevenson

    Offensive MVP: Sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez was the only reason Nebraska was in this game. His completed 28 of 37 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.

    He also accounted for nearly half of Nebraska’s rushing yards, carrying the ball 12 times for 53 yards. Martinez was on fire and throwing exceptionally well despite the windy conditions.

    Defensive MVP: Junior defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler has attracted more attention with the lack of injured defensive tackles Jared Crick, Thad Randle, and Chase Rome next to him.

    Despite walk-on (and offensive lineman according on Huskers.com) junior Justin Jackson seeing significant playing time next to him, Steinkuhler turned in one of his best games of the year. He recorded nine tackles, including one sack and two tackles for loss, the only such tackles recorded by the “Blackshirts”.

    Northwestern MVP: Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck called his worst game of the season. Knowing he had a banged up I-Back in Rex Burkhead, and two offensive linemen working their way through nicks and cuts (Hardrick and Caputo), Beck’s play calling in short-yardage conversion situations was baffling and often ineffective.

    In the first three quarters of play, the Cornhuskers only converted two of six third or fourth downs situations requiring four yards or less (converting 25 percent on third and fourth down with only two yards to go).

    Nebraska didn’t even pretend the ball was going to someone else than Burkhead or Martinez, with 33 of 34 carries going to the duo. Where was the Diamond formation? Where were the young and healthy running backs? Why do Husker fans have to wait until late in the fourth Quarter to see Kyler Reed catch a pass?

    Missing in Action: Freshman wide receiver Jamal Turner is one of Nebraska’s most dynamic athletes, so where was he? On a day where Nebraska ended up flinging the ball around 37 times, the fact that it’s most shifty and elusive wide receiver wasn’t on the field is inexcusable.

    Burn Notice: Senior defensive back Lance Thorell led the team in tackles with 15. This was in large part because the receivers he was covering kept catching the ball. What happened to the emergence of Stanley Jean-Baptiste?

    Even a converted safety like Corey Cooper might be a better option than watching Thorell get burned all day. (Dis)Honorable mention goes to Ciante Evans for getting torched on an 81-yard touchdown (though the lack of safety support was baffling).

    No Take Backs!: Hope the Blackshirts enjoyed their new jerseys for a week. After giving up 468 yards, averaging six yards gained per play and 28 points, the defense should be back in white this week (all 20 of the individuals in question).

    Going into this game, I would’ve argued that the offense certainly would’ve needed to score 30-plus points to assure victory. The 81-yard touchdown pass hauled in by Northwestern wide receiver Jeremy Ebert was the back-breaker for the Blackshirts. It was absolutely inexcusable for a defense that is designed to prevent the big play.

    Triple Threat: Sophomore quarterback Kain Colter lead Northwestern with 115 passing yards on four completions. He also paced the Wildcats on the ground, rushing 17 times for 58 yards and two touchdowns. He even showed off his receiving skills, lining up in the slot frequently, and catching another 3 passes for 57 yards. He accounted for 21 of Northwestern’s 28 points.

    Will the Real Nebraska Please Stand Up?: Who is this team? Are they the unit that lost to a 3-5 Northwestern team at home, the one that dominated a (once again) division-leading Michigan State, the one who got exposed in the first half versus Ohio State or the one that dominated the Buckeyes in the second half?

    It’s baffling how inconsistent Nebraska has been this season. It certainly speaks volumes about the lack of depth at key positions with defensive tackle, defensive back, offensive line, and I-back all looking very thin right now. More accurately, the inconsistency sums up and defines the Bo Pelini era at Nebraska. It’ll be fascinating to see which Cornhusker team shows up during every half-game over the next three weeks.

    How Does the Hawkeye Fight Song Go?: Nebraska fans will be the biggest Iowa Hawkeye fans this side of Carter Lake for the rest of the season. Legends Division leader Michigan State visits Iowa City next week.

    A Hawkeye victory would return Nebraska’s destiny to its own hands: win out, and the Huskers could still make the improbable trip to Indianapolis, due to holding the tiebreaker over the Spartans. Michigan State also still has to take a trip to Evanston to face this very Northwestern team on the last weekend of the regular season.

    Follow James on Twitter: @jamesstevenson
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    Tags: taylor martinez, baker steinkuhler, jared crick, thad randle, chase rome, justin jackson, blackshirts, tim beck, rex burkhead, yoshi hardrick, mike caputo, kyler reed, jamal turner, lance thorell, corey cooper, cinate evans, kain colter, northwestern, jeremy ebert, iowa

  19. 2011 Nov 03

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Five Most Underutilized Huskers of 2011


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brett Baker

    transitive verb: to utilize less than fully or below the potential use

    I don't have any proof that a coach coined the term "armchair quarterback", but I think it's a reasonable assumption that one probably did. Between football coaches and politicians, I'm not sure who is second guessed more often, but I know which one I'm more interested in.

    Eight games into the 2011 Nebraska football season, we have a pretty good idea of who the team is, but could it be more than what we see? Here are five players that I'd like to see used more than they have to this point.

    5. Defensive End Joseph Carter:

    To say Carter passes the eye test is an understatement. Maybe it's because he wears a single digit jersey number or maybe it's just because he's a huge dude, but if the Huskers needed a comic book super hero cover model, Carter is the guy. Why is this JUCO transfer student underutilized?

    Looks alone don't get it done in the Pelini defense. There's a steep learning curve and rare is the player that can step right in, excel and get the job done (I'm looking at you LaVonte David). That's one factor. Another is production.

    Carter has played in six games and has yet to record a solo tackle. When you get the chance, you have to produce. Here's hoping that Carter gets those chances and makes the most of them going forward.

    4. Quarterback Brion Carnes

    There's a saying in NFL towns that the most popular guy on the roster is the backup quarterback. That's definitely not true in Lincoln (paging Mr. Burkhead, Mr. Rex Burkhead). Carnes is a bit of a victim of circumstance, though.

    The Huskers have only had two games truly in control long enough to let Carnes have any real run: Tennessee-Chattanooga and Minnesota.

    Even so I'd like to have seen a couple special packages and predetermined series for the freshman quarterback. It's better to get experience on your terms than on someone else's.

    3. Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste

    When I looked at the stats it kind of surprised me that SJB has played in a mere four games. Such has been the impact of his arrival on the defensive side of the ball.

    Inserted during a crucial stretch of the Ohio State game, the sophomore wide receiver-turned-cornerback came up with a huge interception. Given his position change it's easy to see why it took a while to get him on the field.

    I can't really fault the coaches for bringing him along slowly, but given how well he's done in such a small sample of time, I can't help but wish that he had made the switch as fall camp opened.

    2. Wide Receiver Jamal Turner

    With his electric performance in the spring game, many had summer visions of the slippery fast freshman dancing across the Huskers’ opponents this fall, and he has, to an extent. With just 15 receptions, he's racked up 243 yards receiving. That's a little more than 16 yards a catch.

    Even though he has yet to find the end zone, he has the kind of ability that makes fans simultaneously hold their breath and lose their minds, certain they are about to witness the launch of Johnny Rodgers 2.0.

    That's a lot to put on any player, but Nebraska is not just any other school. That's not why he needs to have a bigger role in Tim Beck's offense, though. Turner is a game breaker that needs touches. I don't care if it's on a bubble screen, reverse or a fly pattern. Get the ball in his hands and turn him loose.

    1. Tight End Kyler Reed

    Would it surprise you to learn that the 2011 preseason All-Big Ten tight end has only started one game?

    It surprised me, but not nearly as much as how absent he's been from the team's offensive attack. Even though he sat out the Minnesota game with a hamstring injury, his numbers are alarmingly off the pace he set last year.

    With just eight receptions in seven games and no touchdowns, the junior will be hard pressed to match his stats from last season (22 catches and a team-high eight touchdowns).

    I'm not going to pretend to know the inner workings of Beck Ball but I've got to think that Reed needs to be a bigger part of the passing game. He can stretch the field and has proven to be a reliable target.

    Hopefully with the meat of the schedule staring the Huskers in the face, Reed can remerge as the weapon he's known to be and find his way off this list.

    Follow Brett on Twitter: @BigRedinTejas
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    Tags: joe carter, brion carnes, stanley jeanbaptiste, jamal turner, kyler reed

  20. 2011 Oct 23

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Minnesota


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - It was awfully nice of the local Minneapolis junior college team to provide Nebraska fans with a lovely afternoon in TCF Stadium.

    - Taylor Martinez’s throwing motion is going to cost Nebraska another game or two this year.

    - Kenny Bell is another in a long line of amazingly fast skill players on the Cornhuskers' offense. Enunwa, Turner and Bell are a dangerous trio.

    - Speaking of those three, a case of The Dropsies can be contagious and stick around all season long. Coach Fisher has his work cut out for him before Sparty visits.

    - Rex Burkhead obviously paid attention in physics class. How else could he have turned himself into a human battering ram?

    - Yoshi seems to be gaining confidence with every game.

    - 27 first downs (20 on the ground) and only five penalties will get you a lot of wins. A third down conversion rate under 50 percent against the Gopher defense is somewhat concerning, though.

    - Nebraska fans might be seeing something special as Chase Rome finishes out the season. He’s not Jared Crick, but he’ll carve out a niche all his own.

    - The lack of playing time that Brion Carnes is seeing is going to come back to bite Nebraska one way or another.

    - Stanley Jean-Baptiste looked solid in his first start and Lance Thorell had an excellent game. With that said, the final judgment of SJB will be reserved until approximately 2:30 P.M. next week.

    - Finally,

    Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces
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    Tags: taylor martinez, kenny bell, quincy enunwa, jamal turner, rich fisher, rex burkhead, yoshi hardrick, chase rome, stanley jeanbaptiste, lance thorell

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