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  1. 2012 Mar 14

    NEBRASKA SPRING FOOTBALL: The Offensive Line Shell Game


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Chris Labenz

    With many of Nebraska’s key starters from the 2011 season moving on, the Huskers must start laying a foundation that’ll carry through spring, summer and fall.

    Who’ll make the cut following the Spring Game and be in position to start the season as top dogs?

    Likely Post-Spring No. 1s

    Offensive Tackle:

    Jeremiah Sirles, Jr., Tyler Moore, So.

    Sirles and Moore both enter the 2012 season with starting experience. Last season, Sirles was the primary backup to Yoshi Hardrick at the left tackle spot, while Moore was in a constant battle with Marcel Jones for the starting right tackle position.

    Moore showed flashes of his raw ability, but the coaches had him on a short leash. This was emphasized when he was yanked following a false start penalty on Nebraska’s first offensive play against Wisconsin.

    In 2012, both of these big men will be called on to shore up the tackle spots on an offensive line that has been inconsistent under Barney Cotton.

    Assistant offensive line coach John Garrison has added strong teaching ability to the unit, and has stated that both Sirles and Moore can play either tackle spot if necessary. Look for Sirles to start out on the left side while Moore anchors the right.

    Offensive Guard:

    Spencer Long, Jr., Seung Hoon Choi, Sr.

    Long's may not be a household name, but both players and coaches have stated that the junior guard is the Huskers' best all-around offensive lineman. At this point, he appears to be in the driver’s seat to start at left guard.

    Choi had fans buzzing about his fiery play following his start against Michigan State in place of Andrew Rodriguez. While he performed well, the Husker walk-on was inconsistent during the rest of the season.

    This left many wondering if his starts were an attempt on the part of the coaches to drag some passion out of A-Rod. The Aurora, Nebraska native is acknowledged across the staff as having amazing potential, but for some reason, he lacks the desire to tap into it.

    Whatever the reason, he will have to be even more motivated this spring to unseat Choi. In a classic battle of motivation versus apathy, Choi will go into fall camp No. 1 on the depth chart at right guard.


    Cole Pensick, Jr.

    Pelini and company find themselves in a tough spot this year with the departure of Mike Caputo. While never a superstar, he possessed strong leadership and was relied on heavily by the other linemen for proper calls.

    Despite being aware of Caputo’s obvious graduation, Pelini didn't address the center position through recruiting. Apparently, he decided that someone who could anchor the offensive line was already on the roster.

    Due to lack of depth in the middle, Cole Pensick will get a strong look for the starting role as he’s the only player on the roster with any in-game experience, subbing in for Caputo on rare occasions.

    Pensick may not be the most heralded member of Nebraska’s offensive line, but he will have to elevate his play immediately for the unit to improve.

    Should the spring, summer and fall be beneficial in all aspects including strength and conditioning, look for this to be Nebraska's starting two-deep against Southern Miss:

    First String –

    LT: Tyler Moore, So.
    LG: Spencer Long, Jr.
    C: Ryne Reeves, RFr.
    RG: Ryan Klachko, RFr.
    RT: Zach Sterup, RFr.

    Second String –

    LT: Jeremiah Sirles, Jr.
    LG: Andrew Rodriguez, Jr.
    C: Cole Pensick, Jr.
    RG: Seung Hoon Choi, Sr.
    RT: Jake Cotton, So.

    Nebraska didn’t recruit athletes like Reeves, Sterup and Klachko to sit on the bench. If the trio of highly-regarded redshirt freshmen can pick up Tim Beck’s system and develop with the strength and conditioning crew, there’s no reason that they can’t push for serious playing time this fall.

    What this projected first group lacks overall experience, they make up for in elite athletic ability. Behind this tremendous bunch, Beck’s high-speed system could thrive at getting to the second level of a defense to free up holes for Rex Burkhead and Aaron Green.

    In addition, Moore and Sterup have the sort of size, arm length and quickness that give defensive ends fits. They’d provide more than adequate protection for Taylor Martinez on obvious passing downs, an area where the Huskers have severely struggled over the past few seasons.

    Reviewing the projected second string, you’ll notice names with some experience that can play efficiently enough to justify heavy rotation.

    This leads to fresh legs in the fourth quarter, a trait that was common under offensive lines of the Osborne era. This second unit would give with the first teamers consistent challenging battles during practice, increasing competition and forcing starters to be game-ready seven days a week.

    It's not to say that Pensick, Choi and Sirles won't earn solid minutes, or that Rodriguez won’t finally have the light bulb turn on this spring. Instead, it’s a sign that Nebraska has managed to recruit some very talented linemen under Bo Pelini.

    Any further excuses cannot continue to justify their poor play during the season. It’s time for Nebraska’s offensive line to truly earn back the “Pipeline” nickname, and there are players on the roster who have the ability to make that happen.

    Much like Andrew Rodriguez, the entire unit has plenty of potential. It’s up to the coaching staff to ensure that this translates to results on the field, perhaps stealing some thunder away from Big Ten brother Wisconsin’s vaunted big men in the process.

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    Tags: jeremiah sirles, tyler moore, spencer long, seung hoon choi, cole pensick, ryne reeves, ryan klachko, zach sterup, andrew rodriguez, jake cotton

  2. 2011 Aug 08

    Husker Heartbeat 8/8: Big Red Youth, No Doubting Dennard and a Sophomore Leader


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Young Huskers could shake things up this fall

    - There's no doubting Alfonzo Dennard

    - Seven Cornhuskers who could put the nation on notice

    - Redshirt sophomore Sirles looks to lead fellow linemen

    - Starling continues to mull his options

    - Nebraska/Iowa needs history not hype

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: jeremiah sirles, iowa, bubba starling, alfonzo dennard

  3. 2011 Jun 23

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: 10 Players Who Will Make or Break New Cornhusker Offense – No. 4


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Basic elements of Tim Beck’s new offense were unveiled in April to the Cornhuskers’ adoring public. Just what Beck’s plans are past page one are anyone’s guess. One thing that isn’t difficult to predict is the talent with which he will try to get the Big Red Machine rolling. If these ten pieces of the puzzle don’t fall into place, the wheels may fall off of Beck’s invention entirely.

    No. 4: Jeremiah Sirles

    Sirles is a special breed of lineman. The 6’6” 320-pound mountain of a man got the call to start at left tackle as a redshirt freshman. He raised more than a few eyebrows with his performance. Rated a Second-Team Freshman All-American by CollegeFootballNews.com, Sirles participated in all 14 games for the Cornhuskers.

    He sat out this past spring due to a shoulder injury, but should be ready to do his best to nullify Big Ten defenders. Nebraska will need all of the effort he can give as the Cornhuskers replace three senior starters on the offensive line.

    Sirles is crucial to the success of the Nebraska passing attack. From what’s known of Beck’s passing preferences, his quarterbacks won’t drop seven steps back often, but they do need to feel comfortable in the pocket or production will go down the tubes in a hurry.

    Fortunately, thanks to Sirles' year of experience going against the best that the Big 12 had to offer coupled with an offseason to heal and improve, his quarterbacks should be able to sleep easy at night.

    No. 10, No. 9, No. 8, No. 7, No. 6, No. 5

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    Tags: jeremiah sirles

  4. 2011 Mar 15

    50 HUSKERS TO KNOW: No. 27


    By HuskerLocker

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    The 50 Huskers to Know returns for the 2011 spring season! We count down the players you absolutely have to watch heading into spring football, culminating with No. 1 during NU's spring break.

    The spring list, remember, is about players who are currently in the program, with an emphasis on redshirt freshmen and sophomores who might not have played much yet; in the fall, you'll see a list with more projected starters and incoming contributing recruits.

    Not included on this list is wide receiver Khiry Cooper, who spends the spring with the Husker baseball team.

    No. 27 Left tackle Jeremiah Sirles

    The sophomore will be missing all of spring while recovering from a shoulder injury, but he's still on our list for what he can learn despite not practicing. Such breaks have helped Huskers in the past, and Sirles – one of the smarter guys on the team – will get to grasp the offense from a conceptual perspective.

    Sirles had a good first year as a redshirt freshman. He wore down toward the end of the year because of lingering injury problems. We'd like to see him grow as a run blocker. In pass blocking, he'll need to cut down on holding penalties. Apparently, Tim Beck has a pretty good plan for that.

    See all 50 Huskers! No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28

    Tags: 50 huskers to know spring 2011, jeremiah sirles

  5. 2011 Jan 17

    YEAR IN REVIEW: OL Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Sam takes a long look at one of NU's most-criticized position groups, the offensive line. Is it earned for Barney Cotton? Yes and no. Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass

    Tags: report card, year in review, ricky henry, keith williams, mike caputo, jeremiah sirles, dj jones, andrew rodriguez, ben cotton, yoshi hardrick, barney cotton

  6. 2010 Nov 19

    Five NU Players to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Win Tickets to the Nebraska-Colorado game!

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

  7. 2010 Nov 18

    Practice Report 11/17: Leaving the Lone Star State - But Still Recruiting Texas


    By HuskerLocker

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    Even when Nebraska football moves to the Big Ten, Bo Pelini isn't really expecting a drop-off for NU's voracious appetite for recruiting in Texas.

    “There is a lot of talent down there, a lot of people, so there's more to choose from obviously when you're talking about a population base like you're dealing with in Texas," Pelini said Tuesday.

    But, after Saturday's game at Texas A&M – and a potential berth in the Big 12 Championship - the Huskers will be losing one of their selling points: Each year, 1996-2010, Nebraska coaches could guarantee any kid from the Lone Star State that they'd play at least one game in their home state. The rotation went as thus: Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas. With the Big 12 title game moving to Dallas, the chances of playing two games in Texas went up.

    It won't happen again soon. Nebraska will have to play a bowl game or schedule a home-and-home with some team in Texas willing to host the Huskers. Don't bet on any of the old Big 12 South programs biting on such an offer anytime soon.

    Is it hurting this year's recruiting effort? Hardly. NU is making perhaps its biggest killing ever in the state, first landing Arlington quarterback Jamal Turner last January. Since then Nebraska's received verbal commits from four more Texas players, including, most recently, San Antonio running back Aaron Green. Running backs coach Tim Beck, who's plugged into the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, has swiped many of the area's best-known players, including Plano running back Rex Burkhead, who turned down a scholarship offer to A&M, among other Big 12 South programs.

    Still, many factors played in NU's favor for 15 years. Regional ABC telecasts that featured Nebraska always played in Texas because it's Big 12 country. Brand recognition was easier because of NU's annual presence in the state. Players looking for that blend of going-away-from-home – but not too far – could find Lincoln as a nice fit.

    The Huskers are bound to see those advantages diminish to some extent. But not too much, Pelini said.

    “Most of the time families now travel,” Pelini said. “It's not that hard to get to Lincoln and to come to games here. Bottom line, you see Big Ten teams recruiting well in the state of Texas. It's not like we would be down there alone.”

    The Big Ten Network, which televises nearly every Big Ten game not picked up by ABC/ESPN, helps. Beck, who used to coach high school football in Texas, does, too. NU's made inroads as some of the state's strongest programs – Klein Collins, Euless Trinity, Southlake Carroll, Denton Guyer, Plano, and San Antonio Madison among them – and those connections don't disappear.

    “We've had good reception down in Texas,” Pelini said. “You hope to continue the relationships that you've had. You have to ask me that a couple of years down the road here, because I think there are a lot of unknowns as to how the move will affect you in a number of ways."

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a two-hour practice inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    Coach Quote: "Any chance we get to pass he just gets better at it...his pressure passing percentage is good. Throughout the whole season he's been really good on those pressure-throw situations, like third down. He's really grasping it. He's not a done project, there's still a ways to go, but he's really coming along " Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on the development of Taylor Martinez's passing game.

    Player Quote: “They're just a very physical team and that shows on film. Very physical front, very physical linebackers. That just definitely shows on film. Similar schemes, I'd say, to Texas, but they're very different.” Left tackle Jeremiah Sirles on Texas A&M's scheme


    *Watson said Nebraska communicates better during road games than at home. Rolling your eyes yet? After all, the Memorial Stadium crowd – dead quiet anyway, according to certain head coaches – is supposed to be dead quiet when the NU offense on the field. On the road, it's just the opposite.

    Here's Watson's rationale: When the Huskers pipe in that artificial noise during the week, he sees improved focus out of his players for practice. And that translates to a better performance in games.

    “There's detail in the mindset,” Watson said. “It heightens when you're away and the crowd can get loud.”

    *Watson also outlined in greater detail Nebraska's method for reducing fumbles and dropped passes:

    -A focus on quarterback/center and quarterback/running back exchanges.

    -A Monday-Wednesday circuit of drills “that emphasizes what can happen in the open field, what can happen in piles.”

    Tight ends coach Ron Brown oversees the ball security program.

    “He watches what's happening and we take what he finds as a focal and we address it in our fundamental work as a unit.”

    *Zac Taylor (graduate assistant) and Randy Jordan (running backs coach) are likely to get a hello from Watson Saturday. Taylor quarterbacked the 2006 NU team that Watson coached on. Jordan coached with Watson under Bill Callahan.

    Watson compared Taylor to another pupil in Joe Ganz. Tough, fiery, competitive and smart.

    “Those two might fight before the game,” Watson joked. “I saw Zac a lot like I see Joe: He's a natural. He was made to coach. He'll be a star in this business.”

    *The Wildcat offense worked efficiently vs. Iowa State. Not so much against Kansas, which seemed prepared for the reads that Wildcat quarterback Rex Burkhead was making. Watson said Nebraska continues to tweak its approach, formations and plays.

    “We're starting to see how people want to defend it,” Watson said. “We're evolving. There's really one way to defend it, and it's pretty universal across-the-board. And it forces a one-on-one with a back on a safety, so if your back is better than their safety you're going to have some chances for breakout runs or productive runs. So there's some things we're evolving with in our package with that. I don't give that away because it's top secret.”

    Next Practice: Thursday

    Win Tickets to the Nebraska-Colorado game!

    Tags: practice report, tamu game, bo pelini, tim beck, shawn watson, jeremiah sirles, taylor martinez, zac taylor, joe ganz, recruiting, aaron grea, jamal turner

  8. 2010 Oct 20

    Practice Report 10/19: Moving Past Texas


    By HuskerLocker

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    A quiet, ruminant Carl Pelini took the podium Tuesday just after his brother Bo, Nebraska's head football coach, had described the Huskers' defensive effort in 20-13 loss to Texas as the “worst tackling game I've been a part of.”

    NU missed 28 in all. Carl Pelini watched the tape and deemed his unit “overzealous” to make the big hit against the Longhorns instead of the basic tackle. Why?

    “I'm not a psychologist,” Pelini said, his voice failing to echo much through the microphone. “I have been through it 100 times in my head. Were we tight, were we not tight? I don't know. I can't answer that. It is stuff that we have talked about as a staff and talked about as team and creating awareness on their part.”

    It particularly stung, Pelini said, because Nebraska typically excels in that phase of defense.

    “We have been a pretty good tackling team over the last three years,” he said. “It is one thing I think we have always done well. It bit us on Saturday.”

    The challenge of tackling well grows Saturday when Oklahoma State – the nation's No. 2 total offense – presents NU with a variety of weapons to account for and cover. OSU likes to run quick screen passes that take advantage of receivers speed and strength, especially that of Justin Blackmon, who leads the country in receiving yards (955) and touchdowns(12).

    “They create matchup issues because they have a lot of speed to work with,” Pelini said.

    But OSU can run it, too. Senior Kendall Hunter is the nation's fifth-leading rusher, averaging 138 yards per game. The Cowboys, while operating out of the shotgun, often provide Hunter a lead blocker to get him rolling downhill.

    “They spread you out really well with the screen game and the inside runs and the deep balls,” Pelini said. “They always try to keep you off balance. I don't want to point at any one guy because they are all effective."

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two-and-a-half hours inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    What’s New: Not much. Nebraska players and coaches talked at length about Texas loss; not so much about the upcoming Oklahoma State game.

    Player Quote: “We lost. We were beat. And we gotta go on to Oklahoma State. We can't change it. If we dwell on it, it'll just bring us down. I've seen teams worry about a loss too much and it hasn't been good for them.” Tight end Mike McNeill, on moving forward

    Player Quote II: “The coaches have plans and rhymes and reasons for what they do. We do what's called. We block what's called, and we execute what's called. It doesn't matter if it's Taylor behind there calling the signals, Cody or Zac back there. If things aren't working because of a certain thing, it doesn't just fall on one person's shoulders.” Left tackle Jeremiah Sirles on blocking for different quarterbacks

    Coach Quote: “If you are a coach, and worth your salt, and you're going to do what you preach, you have got to dwell on what you did wrong. Whether you win or lose, you can't change that. You can't change a result. But whether we won that game or lost that game, we were poor tacklers. If we would have won the game, we still would have dwelled on that.” Carl Pelini on the missed tackles

    Next Practice: Wednesday

    Tags: oklahoma state game, practice report, carl pelini, jeremiah sirles, mike mcneill

  9. 2010 Oct 12

    Practice Report 10/12: UT Front Four An 'Exciting' Challenge


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Texas defensive end Sam Acho has a distant admirer in Nebraska left tackle Jeremiah Sirles, who's been watching film of the UT senior for three days.

    “He's a great player,” Sirles said. “He's got good moves. He's fast, he's quick, he's strong.”

    Acho is the physical and emotional anchor of a UT defensive line that might be statistically better than the 2008 or 2009 versions, which featured All-Americans Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle, respectively. The Longhorns are 2nd in the nation in tackles for loss and 9th in sacks. Acho has two sacks; bookend Eddie Jones has four more. Freshman Jackson Jeffcoat is a rush specialist who's given offensive lines fits on third down.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson explained the scheme of Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp: Pressure with the front seven in a way that isolates the defensive ends for one-on-one matchups against tackles. UT's opponents have converted just 33 percent of their third-down opportunities.

    “There's a lot of one-on-one opportunities that they create and they really force you to be good across the board with your blocking patterns at every position,” Watson said. “You can't have a weak link.”

    Said Sirles: “We have to execute our technique. We can't be giving free runners at the quarterback. That's the big thing. We have to know where everyone is and who we're responsible for and just use good technique.”

    Watson said UT's front four is the best Nebraska has faced this year. A quick glance at the remainder of the schedules reveals that Texas' defensive line might be the best NU faces, period.

    Sirles, a redshirt freshman, is excited.

    “Every player loves to test themselves against someone who's considered a top-notch, big-time player. It's like 'Bring it on. Test it,'” he said.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska worked out for two hours inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    What’s New: NU appears to be about as healthy as it's been all season, with Will Compton and Marcel Jones returning to full speed in practice.

    Player Quote: “I got to pop a couple wheelies but I felt pretty (stupid) driving a scooter around in front of people.” Will Compton on rehabbing his injured foot.

    Coach Quote: “We haven't faced anybody like them. We've faced good receivers, but I don't know that we've faced as many as they can put out there. They do a good job protecting (Garrett Gilbert) and the quarterback makes good decisions. It'll be a good challenge for our secondary.” Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on Texas' passing game


    *Head coach Bo Pelini hinted there would be “personnel changes” on NU's kickoff coverage unit after the Huskers gave up several long kick returns to KSU's William Powell last week.

    *What might surprise some Nebraska fans was the Brothers Pelini's praise for quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Both Bo and Carl were impressed with Gilbert's accuracy and command in the pocket – somewhat rare for a classic dropback passer.

    “They don’t run this quarterback as much,” Bo Pelini said, “but I know one thing - he is capable of running. He showed that on film. We have to be prepared for anything.”

    Sophomore safety P.J. Smith wasn't quite as impressed.

    “That's the quarterback, huh?” Smith said when asked about Gilbert by name. “He's a quarterback, I don't know. He throws a lot of short passes...and at times, he just throws the ball deep, just up for grabs.”

    *Mike McNeill has seen Texas' secondary already – in practice. Every day.

    “A lot of speed, they play a lot of cover one, even cover zero, which obviously takes a lot of skill,” McNeill said of UT. “It takes a lot in the back-end to do that. That's what our guys do, so we've seen it a lot. We haven't seen it the past five weeks from our opponents, but going against our own defense, we see it all the time-a lot of press coverage, stuff like that.”

    *Both Carl Pelini and Bo Pelini said there's a chance that when NU runs a nickel package, both LaVonte David and Compton could be on the field at the same time.

    *NU is planning its biggest recruiting weekend in years, inviting several prospects in to take in the gameday atmosphere and tour the grounds, usually with a guardian or parent.

    “We always seem to get a number of recruits at this time of year, and it just so happened that Texas fell on this date,” Bo Pelini said. “You start getting into October when high school seasons are well into play and then before the playoffs start, this is the time of year when coaches are a little more comfortable with their players going to take visits.”

    Next Practice: Tuesday

    Want to Head to the Big Nebraska-Texas Game? Click here!

    Tags: texas game, shawn watson, jeremiah sirles, practice report, bo pelini, carl pelini, will compton, mike mcneill

  10. 2010 Sep 16

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 9/15


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Such a lovely day Wednesday afternoon in Lincoln. Warm temps, breeze, cotton ball clouds. Shame the Nebraska football team was stuck in the Hawks Championship Center, cargo doors slammed shut, having their brains blasted with artificial crowd noise.

    “You couldn’t even talk,” offensive line coach Barney Cotton told reporters after NU’s two-hour workout. The noise is designed to simulate - with extreme prejudice - the kind of reception that the Huskers may face Saturday at Washington’s Husky Stadium.

    “You could not coach your guys,” Cotton said. “You had to get somebody’s ear to coach them when they came out. There was no coaching between huddles. It was very game like. Very, very, very loud.”

    That’s by design, wide receivers coach Ron Brown said.

    You have to be pretty well organized,” Brown said. “Little things have to be taken care of. Logistics are huge in games like this - without a doubt…people stay up late at night trying to figure out how to get communication across the board.”

    Brown’s coached twice at Husky Stadium - 1992 and 1997 - while at NU. The 92 game, a 29-14 UW victory, is considered one of the loudest crowds in college football history. That night Nebraska quarterback Mike Grant - “kind of a soft-spoken guy” - struggled in the atmosphere, taking a safety in the end zone and throwing two interceptions.

    “We had a tough time getting it going,” Brown said. “We had a tough time communicating.”

    Brown said head coach Bo Pelini’s approach to the problem reflects his attention to detail.

    “Every drill is game-like,” he said. “Every meeting is game-like. You’re trying to replicate the scenario and the little nuances that go on game day.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: NU practiced for two hours in the midst of major, artificial crowd noise, doing so in just shoulder pads and shorts. Wednesday has been a full pads day during some weeks.

    What’s New: Right tackle Marcel Jones appears to be practicing at full speed, though Cotton declined to say if he’d be starting Saturday.

    Coach Quote: “It’s the same blocking scheme. You have to do it just as physically. You do nothing differently. Tight zone is tight zone, wide zone is wide zone, power is power. It’s just happening out of the shotgun.” - Offensive line coach Barney Cotton on power football out of the shotgun.

    Coach Quote II: “Sometimes I have to realize he is a red shirt freshman. He’s done a good job since he’s been here. We expect an awful lot out of him…we quit classifying how old guys are once the season starts.” - Cotton on left tackle Jeremiah Sirles


    ***Cotton was pleased to get back sophomore guard Brandon Thompson for last week’s game vs. Idaho. Thompson missed game one with an injury, but played roughly 30 snaps against the Vandals. He can back up either guard slot - and potentially at tackle, as well.

    “It’s really nice to have that piece you can move around a bit,” Cotton said.

    Next Practice: Thursday.

    Tags: practice report, washington game, barney cotton, ron brown, jeremiah sirles, brandon thompson

  11. 2010 Sep 08

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 9/8


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    As Bo Pelini was not talking to the media Wednesday night, it fell to Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton, the last Husker assistant off the field, to opine on the subject he knows best: A budding crop of young studs mixed with veterans on Nebraska’s pipeline.

    His grade for their performance in the Western Kentucky game?

    “At least it gives us benchmark,” he said. “I think we did a pretty decent job inside. We’ve got to get a little better in our pass sets in our offensive tackle positions but for a first game, we did a pretty good job in the running game.”

    Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles swung at both tackle spots as junior Marcel Jones missed the game with an injury; it’s hard for most tackles to swing from spot to spot, period, much less a guy playing his first career game as a Husker.

    But Sirles, who looks and acts older than his age, pulled it off.

    “He’s pretty intelligent guy,” Cotton said. “…For a guy at his age to play both tackle spots and to keep it all straight? That’s a pretty good feat in itself.”

    Cotton had similar compliments for freshman left guard Andrew Rodriguez, whom Cotton played better in the game than he did in the practice week preceding it.

    “He's a physical young guy who likes to play football,” Cotton said.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two hours inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center Wednesday. Assistant coaches spoke afterward.

    What’s New: Defensive end Cameron Meredith practiced for a second straight day. Wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen appeared to be out again from practice.

    Coach Quote: “We’ve got 15 spring practices plus 29 spring practices plus a game, we ought to be well past the getting-to-know-each-other part. “ - Cotton on the offensive line’s chemistry

    Player Quote: “As far as the defensive front, we played high. We weren't as aggressive as we should be. It was the first game so we were just getting our feet wet, getting our feel, but going into this week this has to be the biggest jump that we make to improve, and I think we will.”
    - Defensive tackle Jared Crick

    Next Practice: Thuirsday in half-pads.

    Tags: practice report, idaho week, barney cotton, jeremiah sirles, andrew rodirguez, jared crick

  12. 2010 Aug 31

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/31


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Call it Steve Pederson’s parting gift, Nebraska’s 2010 season opener against a Western Kentucky team that hasn’t won since 2008 and is currently gnawing on a 20-game losing streak.

    The former athletic director attended the Bill Snyder school of non-conference scheduling, larding September with no-names and also-rans in an effort to build annual momentum for his hand-picked head coach Bill Callahan.

    The upshot now is a game tailor-made for NU’s quarterback experiment.

    Even if WKU is sporting a new coaching staff that leaves Husker assistants guessing, just a little, how the Hilltoppers will line up.

    “The pressure is on the coaches to prepare the guys for any contingency,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. “I feel that pressure. I’m sure every coach on our staff does. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments required early…you just can’t be surprised if nothing you’ve worked on is what you see.”

    Obviously Pelini was talking about WKU’s offense, which returns nine starters from a spread scheme that averaged 20 points and 321 yards in 2009. First-year head coach Willie Taggart assisted Jim Harbaugh at Stanford - and quarterbacked for Harbaugh’s dad at Western Kentucky - so his background is in the West Coast Offense.

    “Western Kentucky’s personnel is as different from night and day as what was at Stanford,” Pelini said.

    He presumes NU will see a mix of the two, but his staff has cast as wide a net as possible in preparing the Blackshirts.

    “What you don’t ever want to do is guess and say: ‘This is what they’re going to be,’” he said.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has it easier. WKU’s new defensive coordinator is Clint Bowen, whom Watson torched while Bowen coached at Kansas in 2008 and 2009. Nebraska racked up more total yards against KU’s defense - 410 - than against any other Big 12 opponent. Bowen is switching WKU’s 3-4 attack to a 4-3 with the help of nine returning starters.

    “I’ve faced him for a long time,” Watson said. “I know him fairly well. I know what he likes to do.”

    Watson pointed to WKU free safety Mark Santoro - who finished 2009 with 91 tackles - and middle linebacker Thomas Majors - who finished with 101 - as the Hilltoppers’ standouts on defense.

    On offense, Western Kentucky’s most dynamic weapon is inconsistent quarterback Kawaun Jakes, who threw for 1,516 yards and rushed for 366 in 2009. He threw for 276 yards in a 38-22 loss to Navy.

    “They have a very agile quarterback,” defensive tackle Jared Crick said. “He can hurt you if he gets out.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced in full pads for a little more than two hours on the fields east of the Hawks Championship Center in hot and muggy weather. Players filed slowly past media reps Tuesday while several stayed behind to work on drills.

    What’s New: Nebraska held its first official press conference of the season, and threw Carl Pelini into the rotation. Shawn Watson will come next week. It’s a great addition to the Tuesday roster.

    Coach Quote: “It’s always the same. It’s a nerve-wracking time setting up for the first game. Wouldn’t matter if we brought all 11 guys back. The emotions would be the same. You’d feel untested.” - Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on first-game jitters

    Player Quote: “It's a big statement game, I guess you could say. Come out and just prove to everybody, like Coach Pelini said, we are back and we're here to stay. Just to make plays and be that hardcore, hardnosed football team.” - Wide receiver Brandon Kinnie

    Player Quote II: “Honestly, every day out there was a fight. And that’s not a fistfight. That’s us out there competing. Our intensity level was so high.” - Wide receiver Niles Paul on fall camp


    ***Ready for those Big Ten Divisions? NU director of football operations Jeff Jamrog said on Big Red Wrap-Up Tuesday night the divisions will be announced Wednesday.

    ***Head coach Bo Pelini said Brandon Thompson is likely out for Saturday with a sprained ankle. He reported no other specific injuries.

    ***Pelini expressed confidence in new left tackles Jeremiah Sirles and Yoshi Hardrick, but he tossed in a contingency plan at his presser: Moving over one of the right tackles, D.J. Jones or Marcel Jones - currently locked in a battle for the starting job - if necessary. Look for that to be Marcel Jones if it happens.

    “We have two right tackles that have experience and one of those guys can always move over to left,” Pelini said. “We have some movable parts there. We feel like our depth at tackle is pretty good.”

    ***It’s hard to rank the “best” special teams in the country when it’s hard to boil it down into a simple digestible statistic. Phil Steele, using 13 different variables, ranked NU’s 2009 unit No. 16 in the nation. Boise State was No. 1.

    But in his 2010 preseason magazine, Steele indicated that NU could top his charts this year. With a returning kicker/punter in Alex Henery, kick/punt returner in Niles Paul, and most of the players on the coverage units, it makes sense.

    “I think we've put a lot of work into our special teams - a lot,” Pelini said. “I think we're further ahead. I think we have a lot of returning players in that aspect of the game. I feel real good about where we are and where we're headed in that phase of the game. We've put a lot of emphasis into it in spring ball and through camps.”

    ***Media emphasis on the quarterback position has left the running game a bit off in the corner, ignored although it’s a bigger part of the offense than in years past. Then again, Nebraska hasn’t exceeded 200 rushing yards per game since 2003 - when Frank Solich was head coach. Its highest total since then: 176 in 2004. NU averaged 147 yards last year.

    Pelini has repeatedly said Nebraska rededicated itself to being physical in the offseason, streamlining the schemes to make it easier for linemen to block and running backs to find holes.

    “If anybody is overlooking the running game I promise you it is not the offices downstairs,” Pelini said. “That is something that is always going to be an emphasis with us.”

    Next Practice: Wednesday, likely the last “heavy” practice of the week.

    Tags: football, practice report, bo pelini, carl pelini, shawn watson, jeff jamrog, big ten, wku week, brandon kinnie, niles paul, marcel jones, dj jones, jeremiah sirles, yoshi hardrick, alex henery

  13. 2010 Aug 27

    50 HUSKERS TO KNOW: No. 22


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Our 50 Huskers to Know series returns for the fall, as we count down the key players on Nebraska’s 2010 team. Check back throughout fall camp for the countdown, and scroll to the bottom for links to the whole list.

    No. 22 Jeremiah Sirles, 6-6, 310, LT, RFr.

    If this were the NFL, Sirles would have a massive spotlight on him, a rookie protecting the quarterback’s backside against a whole league of elite defensive ends.

    College isn’t quite like that. There aren’t as many terrific pass rushers. But Sirles - and junior Yoshi Hardrick - are being thrown, at the very least, into a sauté pan for the non-conference schedule. By the Big 12 Conference season, it becomes a veritable frying pan.

    Who is Sirles? He sure looks the part, and until suffering a slight injury last year was probably in line to play in 2009. His practice partner, Cameron Meredith, has plenty of praise for Sirles. Physical. Athletic. Smart.

    The game will tell the story. Left tackle isn’t quite a premium position in college. But it’s important. And a bad day there can still lose a team games. Sirles has a lot to achieve in a short amount of time. He’ll get the live bullets soon enough.

    See all of the Huskers: No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23

    Tags: 50 huskers to know fall 2010, jeremiah sirles

  14. 2010 Aug 26

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/26


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

    Tired of the QB subject, Shawn?

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

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

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

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

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

    OK, so maybe Watson makes a point.

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

    And how much time is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    You want a report? You got it.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  15. 2010 Aug 16

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Husker Monday Takes


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Here's a six-pack of Monday takes:

    *The Nebraska quarterback race isn’t over. But know this: By all accounts, Zac Lee had a good first week. It’s never a bad thing when a senior finds a sense of urgency.

    *One question I keep getting in the email box: What impact will Mike McNeill have at the “adjuster” position?

    My cryptic answer: Don’t define “impact” too narrowly. McNeill may not produce eye-popping numbers, but if he’s a dependable target on third-and-medium, and he’s able to stretch defenses up the seam, he’ll have a quality impact.

    Good passing offenses often rely on their two outside receivers. In Nebraska’s case, that’s Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie. Although McNeill will see some time on the outside, his size and athleticism is a good fit for the middle of the field.

    *If Nebraska were an NFL team breaking in what amounts to a rookie left tackle, it’d be the biggest question mark on the offense. In college football, of course, the relative inexperience of such players can be hidden a bit by sheer skill and athleticism. Nevertheless - is anyone else supremely curious to see how Jeremiah Sirles and Yoshi Hardrick protect the blind side against Big 12 pass rushers like Missouri’s Aldon Smith and Kansas State’s Brandon Harold?

    NU coaches appear confident in Sirles, who’s yet to take a snap in college game. Sophomore defensive end Cameron Meredith, who faces Sirles every day, gave me and a few other reporters the seal approval last week. Hardrick might be the nastier run blocker of the two, but I wonder about his footwork against a hard outside pass rush. I wonder, too, if he’s as slim as he should be. Hardrick is listed at 320 pounds, but his 6-foot-7 frame seems slighter than Sirles, who carries his 310 better.

    *How good is Nebraska’s secondary? Better than 2003 bunch, which featured the Bullocks brothers and Fabian Washington? Better than the 1999 bunch headed by Mike Brown and Ralph Brown with sophomore Keyuo Craver? Or the 1997 squad with Mike, Ralph and Eric Warfield? How about the 1995 crew that featured Michael Booker, Tyrone Williams and Mike Minter?

    The 2010 bunch is athletic as any of them, frankly - especially Eric Hagg and Prince Amukamara. The gaudy stats of the 2003 bunch - earned against, let’s face it, pretty average teams - probably can’t be matched, but the versatility of this current unit slots it only behind the 1999 unit in my recent memory. This Nebraska version lacks a sheer, stone-cold intimidator/playmaker of Mike Brown’s caliber at safety. Although Dejon Gomes could, by the end of the year, be pretty close. What a JUCO recruiting coup he was for NU.

    *Now that Ndamukong Suh’s brute strength in the middle is gone, you might expect Nebraska’s front four to rush the passer outside in; that is, the ends trying to get on the edge, attacking the quarterback from all sides.

    Here’s Meredith: “What we’re looking for is to close that pocket. You don’t want throwing lanes for that quarterback. Every day Coach Carl (Pelini) says it, if I’m rushing too wide. He likes that once in awhile, but, for the most part, we’re trying to close that throwing lane. Not only a sack matters. It’s closing the pocket and making that quarterback throw the ball away.”

    So more bull rushes and more collapsing pockets that hopefully work, as they did last year, as quarterback quicksand.

    *I’ve made my Big 12 picks already; here’s the rest of my conference winners:

    ACC Coastal: North Carolina ACC Atlantic: Florida State Overall: Florida State
    Big East: Pittsburgh
    Big Ten: Ohio State
    CUSA: Tulsa
    MAC East: Temple MAC West: Northern Illinois Overall: Temple
    Mountain West: TCU
    SEC East: Florida SEC West: Alabama Overall: Alabama
    Sun Belt: Troy
    Pac 10: USC
    WAC: Boise State

    Look for the Heisman top ten next. No, don’t plan on Mark Ingram repeating as the winner.

    Tags: husker monday takes, mike mcneill, prince amukamara, austin cassidy, dejon gomes, mike brown, ralph brown, niles paul, brandon kinnie, jeremiah sirles, yoshi hardrick, zac lee, cameron meredith

  16. 2010 Aug 14

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/14


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On with the report:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  17. 2010 Apr 21

    SPRING IN REVIEW: Offensive Line


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Following the 2010 spring camp, Nebraska now looks back at the progress made by each position group - and what progress is yet to come.

    Position: Offensive line

    Spring Summary: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and offensive line coach Barney Cotton met with two groups in the offseason: Oregon’s staff and former Husker line legend Milt Tenopir. The result: A simpler scheme, more pulling, wider splits and a new aggressive mindset. Now Nebraska needs to stay healthy. Is that a sure thing? Frankly, no: Guard Ricky Henry sat out all of spring, and tackles Yoshi Hardrick and Mike Smith missed the spring game with injuries. Hardrick’s broken hand will take time to heal and it’ll affect how much lifting he can do in the offseason.

    But, overall, spirits are up. Brent Qvale and Jeremiah Sirles are terrific young talents, Mike Caputo looks like a capable heir apparent for Jacob Hickman at center - having Hickman as a volunteer coach probably helps - while the right tackle position seems more solidified with Marcel Jones and D.J. Jones. And left guard Keith Williams remains a solid NFL prospect.

    Big Mover: D.J. Jones, who re-sculpted his body for his senior season and might be the favorite to start at right tackle heading into the fall. If he were to solidify his starting job, Marcel Jones just might get a look at left tackle. Hardrick’s progress was slowed by a broken hand, but his work ethic is contagious.

    More to Prove: Brandon Thompson. A gifted, physical sophomore, Thompson needs to get in the mix for playing time soon before he’s overcome by redshirt freshmen.

    Wild Card: Hardrick, who’s raw, but willing to punish. He could be a weapon in a power running game. Yes, a weapon - he wears out defenders with his motor.

    Freshmen to Add: Mike Moudy and Andrew Rodriguez. Both look the part, and both will probably redshirt anyway. Moudy is a sleeper recruit.

    Injuries: Henry missed all of spring, and Hardrick will have a tough summer ahead of him in terms of upper-body lifting. Mike Smith struggled with injuries, which is nothing new for him.

    How to Spend Summer Vacation: Don’t get in freak weightlifting accidents?

    Spring Reviews on Quarterback, Offensive LineRunning Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, spring in review, mike smith, keith williams, brent qvale, jeremiah sirles, yoshi hardrick, ricky henry, mike caputo

  18. 2010 Mar 27

    SPRING FB: The OC Speaks


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    It’s all of three practices into the Nebraska football team’s spring camp, and coordinator Shawn Watson is still installing the very basics of the 2010 offense.

    “We’re not trying to scheme each other, just trying to introduce guys to plays,” Watson said after Saturday’s two-hour workout in the Hawks Championship Center.

    It was the first day the Cornhuskers were allowed to don pads, so Watson, naturally, wasn’t about to hand out any blue ribbons for performance.

    And yet, well, inquiring minds, cameras and tape recorders…

    Watson obliged with a brisk eight minutes of cautious optimism after a rocky 2009 that, at very least, ended well: 396 total yards in a 33-0 thumping of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl.

    “It’s a fresh start,” Watson said. “We’ve got some new things we’re doing, tweaking ourselves, that have been fun to do.”

    Nebraska finally has a little depth at the offensive line to tinker and experiment. Two-deep across five positions, Watson said. Three-deep at some spots.

    Senior Mike Smith is working at guard and center after starting for two years at tackle. NU wants “guys inside who can run,” Watson said, because the Huskers pull and trap so often.

    Junior left tackle Yoshi Hardrick has a “hot motor,” while redshirt freshmen Jeremiah Sirles (left tackle) and Brent Qvale (right guard) possess “natural talent” that belies their youth.

    “There’s a skillset there,” Watson said of the duo. “We’ve got to develop it.”

    Not surprisingly, Watson said little of the quarterbacks. Senior Zac Lee, out for spring while recovering from elbow surgery, can still improve his footwork and take mental reps.

    Sophomore Cody Green remains a “work in progress,” Watson said. But film study in January and February has helped.

    “We watched the offense over and over and over again,” Watson said. “It helps the learning curve. He studied, and you can see it out here on the field. He’s got a long way to go, but you can see it, the time he’s spent.”

    Watson applauded the extra weight put on by running back Rex Burkhead. And he acknowledged that senior Joe Broekemeier, a former Husker baseball pitcher, has “flashed” at wide receiver despite converting to the position late last fall.

    “He’s got an instinct, a presence,” Watson said.

    A fourth practices awaits Monday, with Bo Pelini and probably defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, sharing their thoughts.

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, shawn watson, cody green, mike smith, jeremiah sirles, brent qvale, yoshi hardrick, rex burkhead, zac lee

  19. 2010 Mar 21

    SPRINGTIME WITH BO: Ten Newcomers to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    It’s Nebraska football, so let’s face it: There isn’t a name on the “newcomer to watch” list that hasn’t already been tossed around at the water cooler. You, after all, are a Husker fan. You pick apart the depth chart while your daughter’s at swim practice.

    So take these ten names, compare them with your own list, and, in the comments section, pitch your picks. You’ll notice a lot of emphasis on offensive linemen.

    Jason Ankrah: The man with the “football ready” body to play defensive end redshirted in 2009, but not because he couldn’t hold his own. Ankrah could play base or rush end, but we suspect his impressive upper body will make him a better fit for the base position. We’re especially excited to see how he plays against the run.

    Justin Blatchford: His biggest 2009 play was a special teams touchdown vs. Baylor. But Blatchford has earned the coaches’ attention in the defensive backfield, too. There’s plenty of competition back there for the 2010 roster, but watch for Blatchford to position himself for a backup role at safety this year - with a crack at starting next year.

    Jesse Coffey: One of those young, talented offensive linemen who got hurt last fall and will be counted upon for competition this spring and fall. Coffey might be the tallest of the young redshirt bunch and was quick learner in the fall.

    Andrew Green: An impressive candidate at cornerback who received praise from assistants for his skill, size and perfect fit into the Pelini match-zone defense. Green breaks on the ball well and fights for position. He will push guys all over the field. We see a lot of P.J. Smith in Green.

    Jermarcus Hardrick: Nebraska’s own Phil Loadholt…just kidding. This big, ready-to-play JUCO tackle is expected to improve NU’s offensive line immediately - not just push the starters. We’ll only know more once “Yoshi” practices, but if he’s what coaches think he might be - Barney Cotton will be a pleased man.

    Taylor Martinez: You almost feel for the kid, who received so much attention in the offseason for having played occasional quarterback on the scout team. He’ll get a good, long look at quarterback this spring, and he’ll have to become a more accurate passer - and possibly change his throwing motion more - to win the job.

    Lazarri Middleton: The least-hyped of the defensive back recruits in the 2009 class, we like his feet, his low center of gravity and his ability to break on the ball. Just a hunch here.

    Brent Qvale: All of 6-foot-7, Qvale is also nimble and smart. Barney Cotton plucked a remarkable sleeper here out of North Dakota; prior to an injury last fall, Qvale was vying for the backup role at right guard. Should he stay healthy, he’s the last thing linebackers want to see pulling toward their facemask.

    Chase Rome: Supply, meet demand. Rome has a good, explosive body for the interior defensive line, and Nebraska is looking for several players to fill the shoes of Ndamukong Suh. Rome knows his way around a weight room, he’s smart, and he has a fellow freshman (Jay Guy) to push him.

    Jeremiah Sirles: Another freshman offensive lineman who was vying for playing time before an injury. Not as tall as Qvale or fellow freshman Jesse Coffey, Sirles has the build and look of a Husker hog circa 1995: Square-shaped upper body, giant trunks for legs, a confident scowl. Sirles is athletic enough to play outside at tackle.

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    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, lazarri middleton, taylor martinez, jeremiah sirles, jesse coffey, brent qvale, jason ankrah, jay guy, justin blatchford, jermarcus hardrick

  20. 2010 Mar 02

    50 Huskers to Know: No. 35


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    OT Jeremiah Sirles, 6-6, 310, RFr.

    Of Nebraska’s four offensive line recruits from the 2009 class, Sirles was the one who, in pads, looked like he belonged on the field right away. Smart, athletic and blessed with just the right amount of football nasty, Sirles was solid at the No. 2 left tackle before sustaining a few minor injuries that forced him to red shirt. He’ll back up Mike Smith at left tackle and push for extensive playing time by the end of the season if Smith can’t work on his false start penalties.

    Reports from fall camp painted Sirles as a consistently good run blocker for the left side, and a decent pass blocker. He may lack Smith’s pure agility - remember, Smith came to NU as a defensive end/tight end recruit - but he can better absorb a bull rush. We’ll watch Sirles closely this spring. He’s a budding star on the line.

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    Tags: 50 huskers to know 2010, jeremiah sirles

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