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  1. 2012 Jan 19

    Husker Heartbeat 1/19: Hoosiers Husked, Dobson's Workload and Beck's Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Nebrasketball comes alive and shocks No. 11 Indiana 70-69

    - S&C coach Dobson has his hands full yet again this offseason

    - Another report card is passed to Tim Beck

    - Despite Doc's big win, skeptics aren't going away any time soon

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    Tags: basketball, james dobson, tim beck, doc sadler

  2. 2011 Sep 28

    Husker Heartbeat 9/28: Martinez's Feelings on Travel, Bo's in His Zone and Dobson's Heading Home


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Taylor Martinez feels peace and harmony when playing on the road

    - Bo Pelini isn't interested in the hoopla surrounding this weekend's game

    - Can the Huskers stop the Badger "machine?"

    - There are no divided loyalties for former Husker and current UW AD Barry Alvarez when Nebraska meets Wisconsin

    - Nebraska's S&C coach James Dobson is heading home to his alma mater this weekend

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    Tags: taylor martinez, bo pleini, james dobson, barry alvarez

  3. 2011 Sep 09

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Grading the Coaches After Week One


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Ryan Donohue

    Bo Pelini – Head Coach

    The first game of 2011 is under Pelini's belt and the fourth-year coach appears more comfortable in the cockpit. He finally has his hand-picked staff running the offense and his brother has the defense on lockdown. It’s up to Bo to manage each game from a higher perspective so that he can worry more about overall strategy and less about strictly defensive tactics.

    He has to give more attention to the offense and help guide Beck in his first year. Pelini seemed more even-keeled last week although the win was never in doubt. He’ll need to keep his temper in check in the Big Ten to shed the reputation he’s earning as a hot head. If he can show himself to be more balanced head coach with a level head, he may be leading a championship team. There wasn’t much to go off of in week one, but all eyes will be on Pelini as he molds his squad in preparation for a feisty Fresno State team.

    Grade: B

    Tim Beck – Offensive Coordinator

    The new offensive mastermind has produced his first game for all to analyze. What’s Beck trying to say? Is Nebraska really transporting back to the late 1980s with an option-first ground game or is that a swerve to give future defenses less to analyze? Certainly the option is a component of Beck’s offense, but when does the zone read come into play?

    Beck spoke this past spring about having a multi-faceted offense like the 2007 Kansas Jayhawks. There wasn’t much multiplicity going on last week and since Beck is responsible for quarterbacks, let’s look at Taylor Martinez.

    Martinez still has a sick second gear, remains very impatient with his reads, and is liable to getting hurt again with his flailing running style. Brion Carnes looked just as uncomfortable as Martinez running the option. Beck may have something in the works, but we need more data.

    Grade: Incomplete

    Ron Brown – Running Backs

    One of the three freshman backs would be redshirted, right? Thanks to a major decision by the new running backs coach, all three will play. There’s a lot of excitement about the three-headed monster of Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah, but how will Nebraska fans feel in four years?

    Pelini’s 2008 redshirting strategy seems to have pulled a 180 just three years later. Either Nebraska is at a better place in terms of depth or getting impatient for playmakers. Regardless, with Rex Burkhead in the backfield, Coach Brown can’t go wrong.

    Grade: B

    Rich Fisher – Wide Receivers

    Brandon Kinnie, the vocal leader of the receiving corps, didn’t seem in rhythm. Quincy Enunwa, a true sophomore who looked like a redshirt senior against UTC, may surprise this year.

    Fisher’s squad has potential if they can get the ball. Turner showed promise on several plays as he ran his routes well made a big gain on a broken play. There are playmakers waiting in the wings, but there needs to be two or three dependable options for Martinez to find.

    Grade: C+

    Barney Cotton/John Garrison – Offensive Line & Tight Ends

    It’s hard to get a feel for the Cotton/Garrison experiment. There’s nothing wrong with giving Cotton some helping hands to mold this young offensive line as obviously there’s work to be done. This line doesn’t appear to transition well from run-blocking to pass-blocking and are scrambling in the option game.

    The technique looked a little sloppy overall. The offensive line has been the Achilles’ heel of the Husker offense for so long that it seems silly to refer to it as “The Pipeline” at this point. Hopefully this group has stepped preparation up a notch for a less vanilla scheme. At least the Huskers’ tight ends can block well.

    Grade: D+

    Carl Pelini – Defensive Coordinator

    Kudos to Carl for retooling the defense so well after losing so many high-impact players to the NFL ranks. There might not be a drop in performance this year. The only question mark is at linebacker. As long as the defense can prove they can properly attack a heavy rushing offense – and they’ll get their chance on October 1 – they’re clearly the most complete unit in the conference.

    Grade: A-

    Ross Els – Linebackers

    Coach Els has the tough task of transitioning Nebraska’s linebacking corps away from a spread-based Big 12 to the run-heavy Big Ten style. He also has the challenge of finding three starting linebackers that mesh. Lavonte David is a rock star and will continue to shine.

    Sean Fisher has a lot of rust to knock off and Will Compton is beset by injury once again. Trevor Roach is intriguing in a 2008 Mathew May way. The Blackshirts will need to re-establish their identity as a run-stopping bunch and the linebackers will play a big part in that.

    Grade: C+

    John Papuchis – Special Teams/Defensive Line

    How about Brett Maher? The kid can kick and will help fill the void left by Alex Henery. The defensive line is stacked with depth. Jared Crick continues to dominate and Cameron Meredith showed he will be a beast out of the base end position. Baker Steinkuhler looks like the next Crick. Coach Papuchis has clearly built his own version of "The Pipeline" on defense and if last week showed Nebraska fans anything, it’s that the defensive line will be the backbone of the Blackshirts.

    Grade: A+

    Corey Raymond – Secondary

    Raymond shoulders a lot of expectation as he takes over a vaunted secondary that was ravaged by the NFL draft. Without his crown jewel Alfonzo Dennard, it’s hard to get a good read on Raymond’s revised unit. Ciante Evans seems capable as the No. 2 corner, but Andrew Green was shaky, giving up the day’s lone score. The safeties are sound, with Courtney Osborne and Austin Cassidy looking like a seasoned duo. Look for Daimion Stafford to push them all year long.

    Grade: B+

    James Dobson – Head Strength Coach

    Dobson technically isn't a game day coach, but players looked thicker, leaner and meaner in the opener. Everyone seemed to have packed on a little extra muscle since the last time we saw them while looking quick and agile. Kudos to Dobson for getting the Cornhuskers motivated in the gym during a long, cold winter.

    Grade: A

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    Tags: bo pelini, tim beck, rich fisher, barney cotton, john garrison, ron brown, john papuchis, carl pelini, ross els, corey raymond, james dobson

  4. 2010 Aug 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL CAMP: Practice Report 8/7


    By HuskerLocker

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    On a blazing hot afternoon to kick off the Nebraska football team’s fall camp, head coach Bo Pelini sauntered into sea of 30-or-so reporters, fixed his gaze on Hawks Center turf and said “have at it.”

    But there just isn’t much to have at on a first day, other than a firm grasp of the confident mood among the players after a 2½-hour workout and 90 minutes in front of fawning Husker supporters at Saturday morning’s Fan Day.

    Pelini, the most popular autograph of fans - his efficiency under the white tent was something to behold, considering he’s given all manners of items to sign, and fans swiftly darted behind him for stealth photos with the coach - called Saturday afternoon’s jaunt a “typical first day” with a flurry of mistakes and good effort.

    “They’re a little more comfortable,” Pelini said of the Huskers. “Meaning with the system, with the coaches, there’s been some continuity. That always helps…we got a lot of work to do. Just kicking it off and getting it started. Getting the kinks out.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced on the grass fields adjacent to the Hawks Championship Center for 2½ hours in helmets and shorts on a sunny, hot, breezy afternoon. A typical first day, as Nebraska began the long journey toward Sept. 4 and the first game.

    What’s New: The FieldTurf practice fields, installed over the summer for a cool half-mil. They now look like the turf inside Memorial Stadium and theoretically give NU the opportunity to practice in the rain more easily instead of heading inside the Hawks Center.

    Coach Quote: “I wouldn’t trade James Dobson for anybody.” - Bo Pelini. Dobson, NU’s strength and conditioning coach, did another knockout job in Pelini’s opinion - even with the true freshmen on the roster. Pelini said the Huskers were more athletic and sporting more lean body mass.

    Player Quote: “We’ve been itching to get back out every since the Holiday Bowl. It’s good to start hitting each other again. We all had a great offseason.” - Defensive lineman Jared Crick.

    *Several scholarship players did not make the 105-man roster: Wide receiver Kenny Bell, defensive backs Lazarri Middleton and Marcus Mendoza, guard Nick Ash, linebacker Micah Kreikemeier and quarterback Kody Spano all were not at Saturday’s practice. In addition, 2010 recruit Bronson Marsh was not at practice; he is expected to “grayshirt” and join the team in January.

    Pelini said Spano has not fully recovered from his second torn ACL and will spend the rest of the month rehabbing. It’s also questionable, to some extent, just how many useful snaps Spano would have received with a quarterback competition raging. Bell has a hamstring injury that could take at least ten days to heal.

    *Former Husker linebacker Matt Holt will retire from NU because of a recurring shoulder injury, according to Huskers Illustrated.

    *Nebraska now has three post-practice tables of goodies for players to gobble based on whether they’re trying to gain weight, maintain weight or lose weight. A new staple on each of the tables: Kosher pickle spears. Muscle Milk, Propel and Gatorade sit on the tables, as well.

    *The new defensive intern - replacing Doug Colman - is former Husker linebacker T.J. Hollowell. Colman took an assistant coaching job at Tulane.

    *Roy Helu confirmed Saturday that he and Rex Burkhead spent their bulk of their summers competing against one another in conditioning drills. Helu said his shoulder wasn’t 100 percent until after spring practice, early in the summer.

    *Left guard Keith Williams had high praise for 2010 recruit and true freshman Andrew Rodriguez for his size and athleticism.

    Next Practice: Sunday afternoon, which is closed in its entirety to the media.

    Tags: fall camp, bo pelini, jared crick, kody spano, james dobson

  5. 2010 Apr 18

    5 Burning Questions for Summer


    By HuskerLocker

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    School’s out for sum-mer! School’s out for-

    Well, not really. There’s still classes and stuff for the Nebraska football team. But the pigskin version of school turns into an independent study until August.

    So pardon us a moment of Alice Cooper. Even if, we’re sure, Husker football players will be carrying around pencils and playbooks every day, all the time, until fall.

    Here’s five questions to ponder over pool and park season in Nebraska. Maybe, if we remember, we’ll bother to revisit these after we’ve seen “Inception” a couple times (look it up.)

    When does Zac Lee return to throwing full-time, and how well does he throw? Two questions for the price of one! We presume the answers are “next month” and “just fine.” Then again, it’s elbow surgery. It’s a serious enough to await the final results.

    Whither attrition? Players leave. It’s part of the college football business. But that number may be small, given an exciting 2010 to come. Don’t expect Bo Pelini to kick anybody out of the door. He may not exactly bar the door, either, for a few players buried on the depth chart.

    How hotta the blotter? It’ll be a summer of expectant electricity in Lincoln regarding the Husker football team; players could make their rounds about town like once and future mini-kings. Bo would prefer - and I suspect he’ll get - a quieter profile from them.

    Does Nebraska keep the recruiting momentum? Last summer, NU hit the recruiting doldrums in June and July. The Huskers have retooled a bit in the recruiting office, and the next three months could bring 3-5 verbal commitments. Watch the defensive side of the ball.

    Who’s the workout warrior? No way to know that, of course, until players reconvene in August. But some player - maybe several of them - will take James Dobson’s teachings to the next level, and return to fall camp like the next coming of Phillip Dillard.

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    SPRING GAME COVERAGE: Game Story, QB Commentary, Red Team Standouts, White Team Standouts, Photos

    Tags: spring game 2010, springtime with bo 2010, zac lee, recruiting, james dobson, bo pelini

  6. 2009 Aug 08

    FC Day 1: Huskers Kick Off Camp with a Scorcher


    By HuskerLocker

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    Related photos

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    It was a summer afternoon fit for a Steinbeck novel, or roadside chain gang. Thick, fierce heat that pressed down on your shoulders, brought in by a south wind that pushed the sweat into your ears.

    Nebraska’s football team opened fall camp in those 100-degree-temp conditions, spending nearly three hours on the freshly cut, newly marked grass fields east of the Hawks Center. Head coach Bo Pelini, crossed behind his back like a general, walked through the rows of 105 Husker players, fresh themselves off a difficult, punishing summer of conditioning.

    And it was that conditioning, Pelini said, that saved them on a brutal first day. The Huskers took an extra water break but, otherwise, it was business as usual – in half pads, anyhow.

    “They reacted well,” Pelini said. “I thought they flew around, and I saw some good things. I think it’s obvious they’ve done their work conditioning-wise, because that heat didn’t bother them at all.”

    “…It was hot as heck out there, and you wouldn’t have known it. They worked hard. They’re in good condition.”

    Still, Nebraska’s army of assistants were ready with tables of Gatorade, water and chocolate protein shakes just before the skywalk entrance back to the locker room. The bigger Huskers, especially the offensive and defensive linemen, lumbered through the Hawks Center.

    One guy who wasn’t: senior middle linebacker Phillip Dillard, who lost 15 pounds over the summer and declared himself, “in the best shape of my life.” It was Dillard, remember, who fell to the bottom of the depth chart after reporting to spring camp at 250 pounds.

    “After today, I might be at 229,” Dillard joked as sweat ran into his eyes. “I felt good out there. I’m not tired. I wasn’t breathing hard or nothing. Normally I’d get in the cold tub, but I feel great.”

    Dillard’s change in attitude is reflective of a whole summer of accountability, which Pelini said he’ll empathize again in fall camp.

    “They feel like they have something to prove,” Pelini said. “And they do have something to prove. The attitude seems right, but we’ll see as time goes on. It’s easy for it to be right the first day. But after we’ve been together 4,5,6,7 days in a row is the time we’ve got to make sure we stay consistent.”


    *True freshman Chris Williams was not part of the 105-man roster, as he is finishing rehab on an injured knee. “We’re trying to make sure there’s no issues with him, that he’s 100 percent,” Pelini said.

    *Tight end Dreu Young is being held out of practice while recovering from an injury. “He’ll be fine,” Pelini said.

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    Tags: fall camp, phillip dillard, bo pelini, james dobson, dreu young, chris williams

  7. 2009 Aug 08

    A Summer of Competition and Accountability


    By HuskerLocker

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    So let’s say you spent your summer vacation - if you had one in this economy - eating hot dogs, watching movies, moving into a new house, getting back home to see family and splashing around in the backyard pool with your kid.

    Well, Nebraska football players did a little of that, too.

    But they also had hours of fierce competition in the weight room and on the field for summer workouts. And when head coach Bo Pelini said two weeks ago at Big 12 Media Days that he envisioned a tougher, more accountable football team than the one he inherited in 2008, he wasn’t kidding.

    In a word, tight end Mike McNeill said, the summer was “intense.”

    “The other word we used all the time was “dominate,” McNeill said. “And we did a good job of dominating our tasks this summer.”

    The mindset flowed from Pelini’s parting words in the spring. More than that, it came from strength and conditioning coach James Dobson, whom McNeill described as “full-go all the time.”

    “He pushed us to the max,” McNeill said. “Really hard workouts.”

    One of them was called “GPP,” a series of quick-twitch, agility exercises. Husker players would, in total, pull prowlers, push sleds, do sit-ups and push-ups for three straight minutes and perform speed and agility drills with weighted vests.

    “It’s a combination of intense things,” McNeill said.

    Another is “County Fair,” a series of agility and running drills inside rings and cones, all to be completed within a certain time.

    The Huskers had accountability for poor effort or tardiness, too. Senior safety Larry Asante said players who fell short of expectations, or were late, had to admit those mistakes in front of the whole team.

    Then the team would decide a punishment for the player. It was the kind of player accountability, Asante and wide receiver Menelik Holt agreed, that members of NU’s national championship teams in the 1990s had talked to them about in the spring.

    “Sometimes we’d make them stand there and watch us run,” said Asante, a member of the 2009 Unity Council. “It was kind of a mental thing, to make them sit on the side and watch us run. Because we are a team.”

    Holt, also on the Unity Council, said Pelini stressed that each Husker “learn how to be a man.”

    “Part of being a man is being accountable for your actions,” Holt said. “We hear that all the time. Pelini’s always teaching us about those characteristics like a father would. And I think you’ve seen our team change in our leaders and how they act. You saw the team also change. We hear that from the 95 team when those guys come in.

    Yes, Holt said, it’s a change from the Bill Callahan era.

    “His motto was, ‘I shouldn’t have to tell you how to be a man,’” Holt said. “He expected that of you already.”

    But, sometimes, 18-to-22-year-olds need a “Turkish Get Up” to remind them how.

    That’s the name of the punishment Dobson devised for any player being late to anything – a lift, a meeting, a workout. It involved a player lying on his back with a 45-pound plate, rocking to standing position, and pressing up above his head.

    “That’s 1,” Asante said. “Then you lay all the way back down and do it again. You do that about 15 times, and your back is about ready to give out.”

    Except the punishment is to do 100 of them. McNeill saw one player, unnamed, do 150 of them. It took him an hour to lift the equivalent of 6,750 pounds, in 45-pound increments.

    “It happened twice, I think,” Asante said. “And it never happened again. Guys seen other guys doing it, and said “Oh no, I don’t want to be doing that.”

    Once, McNeill said, Dobson inflicted the punishment after the offense lost a mini-competition to the defense.

    “But he just made us do one,” McNeill said, smiling. “It was a just a trick."

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    Tags: bo pelini, james dobson, mike mcneill, larry asante, menelik holt, unity council

  8. 2009 Jun 08

    Five Keys for Summer Conditioning


    By HuskerLocker

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    As Nebraska’s football team kicks summer conditioning into high gear – and many of the incoming freshmen do, too, arriving last weekend - here’s five keys to building a better Husker squad in June, July and early August:

    Follow The Leaders: First, of course, the leaders have to emerge. A few, like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and center Jacob Hickman, already have, but NU needs one or two more. Don’t be surprised if it’s a junior, either - guys like Roy Helu or Eric Hagg, both of whom are well-liked on the team. After leaders identify themselves, it’s up to the rank-and-file to fall in, bust tail and work toward a common goal.

    No Dumb Injuries: Conditioning has become such a science that most dangerous lifts and exercises have died out over the last decade. No more do guys shred their core strength with absurdly heavy power lifts or push themselves to the brink of death with torturous hour-long killer drills inside converted steam room. The best conditioning for a football team is the right mix of burst and endurance exercises, heavier on the short, high-impact stuff, but mindful of that extra dose of fourth-quarter juice, too.

    Head strength coach James Dobson is a demanding guy, but he also has kept the team healthy in his short tenure at Nebraska. He’s big on speed and replicating football moves in his training. Look for it to continue, and for NU to be smart with precious cargo like Helu and Cody Green.

    Intense 7-on-7 work: Zac Lee has to cement his relationship with a new crop of receivers, while wideouts Meno Holt and Niles Paul need to leave little doubt about their starting jobs, and the secondary needs to practice its aggression to the ball. Players often have to organize these on their own, so it becomes an exercise of planning, dedication and unsupervised competition.

    The best teams are built when the coaches aren’t watching, because the team handles problems, pecking order and motivation in house. Sadly, on the NFL level, such a thing doesn’t really exist anymore, as controlled as those environments are. In college, however, it does, and you can rest assured the nation’s best signal callers – Bradford, McCoy, Tebow – run those offseason 7-on-7 drills like generals. It’s Lee’s turn.

    Freshman Integration: Most college programs have taken to bringing in its recruiting class – NU invites its preferred walk-ons, too – in early summer to go to class, practice with the team, and generally sink into “the life” without all the craziness that comes with the usual first day of school, which, it should be noted, happened to be one of Nebraska’s worst practices in 2008.

    Aside from walk on long snapper PJ Mangieri, there’s no real “lock” on any of the freshmen getting a chance to start next season, so this summer is about fitting in, getting up to speed and adjusting to college classes and dorm life, where the unsupervised free time goes way, way up – as does, sometimes, homesickness.

    Stay Off the Blotter: As in, the police radio. Yep, that’s pretty much No. 1 at any college football program these days. Not that the Huskers aren’t, as a whole, a well-behaved bunch of guys. Bo Pelini runs a tight enough ship in that regard, as did, for that matter, Bill Callahan. But it takes only one temptation, one guy in the wrong place, one too many brews and one ill-timed comment for some player to be making the wrong kind of news over the summer.

    Lincoln isn’t small, per se. But it isn’t that big either.

    See also: A Bonus Sixth Key

    Tags: five keys, zac lee, niles paul, meno holt, ndamukong suh, james dobson

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