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  1. 2011 Aug 19

    Husker Heartbeat 8/19: Patching the Pipeline, Football's Youth Movement and Ganz's Coaching Future

    4,146 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Building depth at center on the Nebraska offensive line is no snap

    - Young players may become familiar faces by the time 2011 is done

    - Graduate assistant and former NU quarterback Joe Ganz hopes to make coaching a career

    - The optimism and pessimism regarding Nebraska football's 2011 season

    - What you might expect from Nebraska as the B1G's newest team

    - Former NU wide receiver Maurice Purify is back on the Omaha Nighthawks roster

    - Huskers' Sadler expects "big things" for the NU men's basketball team this season

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
    Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page

    Tags: mike caputo, jamal turner, joe ganz, doc sadler, maurice purify

  2. 2010 Dec 30

    Husker Heartbeat 12/30: San Diego Super Huskers!

    1,235 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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


    *OWH Tom Shatel writes the essentially the same Holiday Bowl preview column we did several days ago, but he turns it into the list, so we guess that's OK.

    *Steve Sipple thinks Taylor Martinez can silence doubters with a big performance Thursday. We guess we said that, too, but we certainly didn't write this:

    Pelini said Martinez in time will become more comfortable doing interviews. He seldom did them this season. In fact, I can't remember the last time.

    "He's ready to do it," Pelini said.

    This season, Pelini said, he wanted to protect Martinez a bit. The coach essentially wanted to ease the kid into the spotlight. Nothing wrong with that.

    "I think now you see a young man who's a lot more comfortable in his role than he was in September," Pelini said.

    "He's grown up a lot."


    We can remember the last time: After the Kansas game.

    Beyond that, well, Pelini's plan to "protect" Martinez didn't exactly work.

    First, it didn't actually seem like a plan. It seemed like Martinez not wanting to talk. The press requested Martinez all the time; we were never told we couldn't. If it was a plan, then just announce it to the press, so the LA Times doesn't waste its time and money flying to Lincoln and trying to interview Martinez. (We'll get to the LAT in a minuto.)

    Second, Bo's protection disappeared the second he unleashed fury on Martinez during the Texas A&M game. Was it part of the plan to upbraid the freshman on national TV with curse words and spittle?

    We hope you're seeing a narrative form over several weeks in the Heartbeat section. We're not frustrated with Martinez's off-field behavior; we're frustrated for him. If Bo understood, as he suggests in the Sipple column, all of the inherent risks in starting a brand new, young quarterback - when he had a ten-game starter and fifth-year senior on the bench - then he mismanaged, in our view, the situation by allowing multiple negative opinions to bloom and persist about Martinez. Then he compounded it with that sideline sermon delivered two inches from Martinez's face.

    Bo's a better head coach now than when he started. But he's also trying to control more aspects of the team than he did in 2008, when Joe Ganz, Matt Slauson, Todd Peterson and Nate Swift essentially led the offense, under the direction of Shawn Watson. As rotten of a head coach as Bill Callahan was, he still managed to cultivate this small handful of leaders who made Bo's job in 2008 easier than we can appreciate.

    *Now, more on Martinez - from his dad, who admits he called Martinez during the Texas A&M game (c'mon, man) and T-Magic skipped the "team shakeout" the following day for reasons the story doesn't make entirely clear.

    "Maybe [that] wasn't the politically correct thing to do," Casey now says."

    Maybe not.

    *If you know the way, let Curt McKeever say so.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, holiday bowl, taylor martinez, bo pelini, shawn watson, joe ganz

  3. 2010 Nov 18

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

    5,039 views

    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

    Notes:

    *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

  4. 2010 Jul 09

    Ranking NU Teams Since 1980: No. 24

    7,847 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    In July, we’ll be ranking all 30 of Nebraska teams since 1980, worst to first. Be sure to keep track and argue along the way. Remember, too, to visit our 30 best games and 30 best players series since 1980, as well. Enjoy!

    2008 Nebraska

    Overall Record (Big 8/12): 9-4 (5-3)
    Titles won: Gator Bowl
    All-Americans: None

    Summary: Bo Pelini’s first year at Nebraska was unquestionably an improvement over the 2007 campaign, but it included two disappointing blowout losses to Missouri and Oklahoma and a generally poor performance vs. 5-6 Colorado that was redeemed by Alex Henery’s miracle 57-yard field goal. The Gator Bowl, a 26-21 win over Clemson, mirrored the entire season to some extent, as NU’s sloppy errors led to a 21-10 third-quarter deficit, while the Huskers’ resiliency led to a big comeback.

    NU rolled its first three foes - Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State - while working out some of the typical kinks before dropping a game to Virginia Tech 35-30, due to a number of blown defensive assignments and some untimely special teams play in the first half. In that game, a pattern emerged that would continue in several games: Nebraska was capable of excellence during one stretch, and mediocrity in another.

    Missouri rolled into town the following week, and pummeled Nebraska from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, 52-17, passing over and running through the beleaguered Big Red, which touted a special gameplan to thwart Mizzou QB Chase Daniel before the game. It was nowhere to be found.

    Surprisingly, the Huskers rebounded with their best performance of the season in a 37-31 overtime loss to Texas Tech the following week. NU outplayed the Red Raiders, but mental breakdowns on a handful of big Tech plays - plus an ill-advised interception thrown by Joe Ganz - caused Nebraska a chance at the upset.

    After two straight wins over Iowa State and Baylor, the Huskers lost 62-28 to Oklahoma. OU led 35-0 after the first quarter. NU had four turnovers in those 15 minutes to seal its fate. The Huskers rolled off three wins over Kansas, Kansas State and CU to end the regular season.

    Other than being Bo’s first year, 2008 will be remembered for Ganz, who broke the school record for passing yards by throwing for 3,568. He rushed for 258, too. Wide receiver Nate Swift broke the school record for career receptions. Ndamukong Suh was nothing short of brilliant, scoring two defensive touchdowns, notching 76 tackles and 7.5 sacks. He also blocked two kicks.

    Highlight: Until his interception, Ganz was brilliant in the Texas Tech game. Hennery’s field goal was fairly amazing.

    Lowlight: The Missouri game. Nebraska spent the second half jawing with Mizzou players and getting their Big Red rear ends handed to it. NU was a better, more organized team after that game.

    Check out the rest of the list!

    No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25

    Tags: 30 best teams since 1980, bo pelini, joe ganz, ndamukong suh

  5. 2010 Jul 04

    Ranking NU Teams Since 1980: No. 30

    8,075 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    In July, we’ll be ranking all 30 of Nebraska teams since 1980, worst to first. Be sure to keep track and argue along the way. Remember, too, to visit our 30 best games and 30 best players series since 1980, as well. Enjoy!


    2007 Nebraska

    Overall Record (Big 8/12): 5-7 (2-6)
    Titles won: None
    All-Americans: None

    Summary: The ugliest team in the last 30 years began the season with such promise and high expectations. Bill Callahan’s final team had a slew of returning starters on defense and a solid offensive line. But it fell apart after a 49-31 loss to No. 1 USC. NU barely beat Ball State the following week, defeated Iowa State, then suffered a string of humiliating defeats that eventually led to the firing of Callahan and his boss, athletic director Steve Pederson. The defense was obscene, giving up almost 38 points per game and 5.2 yards per carry on the ground. The emperor had no clothes, as it turned out, and once Callahan’s carefully crafted façade of a professionally-run team began to crack, it crumbled, Humpty-Dumpty-style, to the ground. The few bright spots - such as Joe Ganz’s late-season play and Marlon Lucky’s record-breaking season as a receiver - were just that: Few.

    Highlight: A late-season 73-31 blowout of Kansas State in which Callahan deliberately ran up the score, then walked off the field by himself while his team celebrated.

    Lowlight: The first half of a 45-14 loss to Oklahoma State. NU trailed 38-0 at the break, playing with half-hearted effort, it appeared, in front of most members of the 1997 national championship team. Fans poured out of Memorial Stadium in disgust, not to return for the second half. They didn’t miss much.

    Tags: best teams since 1980, bill callahan, marlon lucky, joe ganz

  6. 2010 Mar 24

    SPRINGTIME WITH BO: As Spring Heats Up, Henry Held Out

    3,305 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    On Tuesday Bo Pelini promised that his offensive line, riddled with injuries during the 2009 season, wouldn’t hold back in spring practice.

    As workouts kicked off Wednesday, Pelini added that he would limit starting right guard Ricky Henry for most - and potentially all - of camp as Henry recovers from shoulder surgery.

    “He’s doing real well,” Pelini said. “He might be out there later on for individual (workouts) and stuff like that. But more than likely he’s out for all spring. It’s nothing long-term.”

    That curveball aside, NU began spring camp with no hiccups, working out for close to three hours in jerseys and shorts inside Hawks Championship Center. Pelini described an afternoon of basics, individual work and needed reps for young players.

    “It was what you expect from a first day,” Pelini said. “Really liked the effort and intensity. Guys were flying around…it’s never as clean as you’d like it to be on the first day because there’s a lot to learn.”

    Nebraska will don pads later this week, and possibly scrimmage more this spring than last, Pelini said, to get its young stable of quarterbacks, including sophomore Cody Green, more work.

    “They’re under fire every day…the competition is on,” Pelini said.

    Green, mobbed by a dozen reporters, said “I’ve done a 180” in terms of preparation for the 2010 season, compared to his freshman season, when a severe groin injury limited him during spring camp. Green’s gained weight and tied former Husker Steve Taylor for NU’s fastest 10-yard dash time at quarterback.

    “During the winter conditioning, I was up here every day for multiple hours,” Green said. “I watched every play we ran at least three times. That’s just what the coaches wanted to do.”

    Green called the help of former Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz - now a NU intern - “amazing.”

    “You can actually get a player’s perspective,” Green said.

    Notes:

    *Other than Henry, redshirt freshman tight end J.T. Kerr, junior linebacker Mathew May and redshirt freshman cornerback Andrew Green all missed practice Wednesday; none appeared to be dramatically injured. Pierre Allen missed practice because of class. Among quarterbacks, only sophomore Kody Spano wore a green jersey. Senior quarterback Zac Lee, out for all of spring, watched drills and fetched cones while sticking close to the quarterbacks.

    *Former running back/wide receiver Marcus Mendoza was working at a third position Wednesday: cornerback. Mendoza donned the white jersey of Husker defenders and participated in all of position coach Marvin Sanders’ drills and stations.

    “He’s a great athlete,” Sanders said. “First day. Thinking a lot. We’ll get him on film then and get some things corrected. Marcus wanted to do it. He wanted to do anything he could to help.”

    *Former NU center Jacob Hickman was on site instructing some of the Nebraska linemen. Hickman chose not to pursue a professional career - he declined a preferred invite to the NFL Scouting Combine - but expressed some desire to get into coaching.

    *Starting left tackle Mike Smith indeed dabbled at center, where junior Mike Caputo is the presumed starter. Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles and JUCO transfer Yoshi Hardrick worked at left tackle. Former tackle Brandon Thompson, now a sophomore, slid down to the right guard spot with redshirt freshman Brent Qvale. Redshirt freshman Nick Ash worked at left guard. At right tackle - the usual duo of Marcel and D.J. Jones.

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, bo pelini, ricky henry, cody green, joe ganz, marcus mendoza, jacob hickman

  7. 2010 Mar 18

    Husker Heartbeat 3/18: Big Trouble for Big Tiny...

    508 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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

    Cool? Cool!


    *New Husker coach Joe Ganz keeps close tabs on Cody Green, apparently, by making Green do 100 “pencil rolls” on the practice field if he sits next to a female student-athlete at lunch, dinner, whatever. The incentive is to sit next to his teammates.

    Wise idea? Well, first - is that for all the quarterbacks, or just Cody? Maybe you do “gotta be there,” but punishing kids for their lunch room seating doesn’t strike me as the best way to strengthen team bonds. It might be a funny or high-profile manner of doing it, though, and sometimes effect is what coaches are trying for.

    *Oklahoma basketball player Tiny Gallon may have taken a $3,000 payment from an investment banker before last season began. Not good, Big Tiny.

    *The OWH has a women’s tournament preview - plus a feature on Dominique Kelley, who, in more than one way, is the hub of the Husker team.

    *The incredible story of Nebraska wrestler Craig Brester- told once more with feeling by Lee B.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, joe ganz, dominique kelley, wbb, oklahoma

  8. 2009 Dec 26

    DECADE IN REVIEW: 10 Years, 10 Peaks

    1,709 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    1. Sept. 20, 2001: Nebraska vs. Rice. The first college football game after 9/11, and boy, if they didn’t hold it in the right place. When those firefighters and police officers walked out of the tunnel instead of the NU football team, the collective hairs of 77,000 fans stood on end. Screaming and tears and hollers and chants of “USA.” It felt like living again. It felt like America. You had to be there, but if you were - nothing has ever topped it.

    2. Frank’s Haymaker: A battle royale between Nebraska and Oklahoma in 2001 bursts into frenzy when Frank Solich dials up precisely the right play: 41 Black Flash Reverse Pass. Thunder-to-Stuntz-to-Crouch.

    3. The Valiant Fight: As a huge underdog, Nebraska stood toe-to-toe with Texas in the 2009 Big 12 Championship game and came within one second of victory. Are there such things as moral victories? Yeah, there are.

    4. Billy C’s Bowl Win: It sure felt like the beginning of something big, Nebraska’s 32-28 win over a Michigan team with beaucoup talent. The Wolverines finished 11-2 in 2006. NU topped out at 9-5.

    5. The Drive: Zac Taylor’s signature drive to beat Texas A&M 28-27, nailing down the Big 12 North title. Wouldn’t have been possible without Barry Turner’s blocked field goal kick.

    6. Bo’s Opening Statement: Bo Pelini’s defense stuffed a solid Oklahoma State offense 17-7 to open the 2003 season, and the kept the momentum going from there.

    7. Notre Dame, Two Ways: Both games were wonderful in their own way, but the road trip to South Bend was memorable. And don’t let anyone tell you different: As many NU fans made it into the stadium, the Huskers were still in a hostile atmosphere. Eric Crouch - and tight end Tracey Wistrom, who made a clutch third-down grab - bailed out the Huskers.

    8. Bo Beats Bob: NU intercepts Landry Jones five times in a 10-3 win. Afterward, Husker players leap into the stands, and Bo exults as he lives the field.

    9. I’m Suuhing in The Rain! Ndamukong Suh announced his Heisman candidacy with a magnificent performance in Columbia, a 27-12 fourth-quarter comeback. That was the game that won, as it turned out, the Big 12 North title for NU.

    10. Joe’s Masterpiece: Nebraska QB Joe Ganz tossed for 510 yards and seven touchdowns in a 73-31 win over Kansas State where Bill Callahan fell into pure mercenary mode.

    See also: NU's All-Decade Team, 10 Best Moments, 10 Worst Moments and A Decade of Upheaval - And Healing

    Tags: decade in review, ndamukong suh, joe ganz, bo pelini, eric crouch

  9. 2009 Nov 29

    MONDAY LIST: 10 Unforgettable NU-UT Moments

    4,228 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    1960 Big Win for Bill: Bill Jennings is bit a punchline around these parts now, but he kicked off the 1960 season with a surprising upset of the No. 4 Longhorns.

    1971 Thanks Ara! Texas is a heavy favorite for the AP national title heading into the bowl season – indeed, the Longhorns have already tied up the UPI crown for the regular season – when Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian devises a “wishbone defense” for the Cotton Bowl that slays UT 24-11. Once Ohio State chokes in the Rose Bowl vs. Stanford, the door is open for Nebraska to win its first national title with a 17-12 win over LSU in the Orange Bowl

    1974 A Runty Trumps Roosevelt: Nebraska backup quarterback Steve Runty takes over for David Humm and leads NU to two second-half touchdowns in a 19-3 Cotton Bowl win over the Longhorns. UT running back Roosevelt Leaks – Earl Campbell before Earl Campbell, if you will – is shut down; his third-quarter mid-air fumble is returned 67 yards to set up NU's first touchdown. It's one of the finest defensive performances in Husker bowl history.

    1996 Roll Left: A Texas team loaded with skill players – try Ricky Williams, Priest Holmes, Wane McGarity and Mike Adams – stuns a flu-ridden Nebraska squad behind the play of quarterback James Brown and the daring playcalling of coach John Mackovic, who dials up a rollout pass on a crucial fourth down play late in the fourth quarter. Leading 30-27, Brown narrowly escapes a sack to hit tight end Derek Lewis for a 61-yard gain; Holmes scores on the next play to seal the win. Oft-forgotten is DeAngelo Evans' finest performance (172 total yards, three touchdowns) and a crucial drop in the end zone by tight end Vershan Jackson that would have given NU a 31-23 lead.

    1998 A Major Moment: Texas ends Nebraska's seven-year home winning streak with a 20-16 win on Halloween. Redshirt freshman quarterback Major Applewhite is knocked out with a concussion, but returns in the fourth quarter to lead a 14-play, 85-yard game-winning touchdown drive. Heisman Trophy winner Williams ices the game with some key runs in the closing minutes.

    1999 How'd That Happen?: No. 2 Nebraska dominates the Longhorns in Austin, outgaining UT 429-275, but still loses 24-20. Three lost fumbles, some questionable trick play calls from Frank Solich, and another vintage Applewhite performance doom the Huskers' national title hopes.

    1999 Fourth Down Crouch: Nebraska gets its revenge less than two months later, as NU smothers Texas 22-6 in the Big 12 Championship game. Quarterback Eric Crouch puts Texas in an early hole with a 31-yard touchdown run on fourth down.

    2002 Kick the Field Goal, Frank: NU head coach Frank Solich wastes a career performance from quarterback Jammal Lord – 332 total yards, including 234 on the ground – when, instead of tying the game with a Josh Brown field goal, he opts to let Lord throw one pass to the end zone before Brown trots on. Lord throws an interception right to All-American corner Nate Vasher. Texas wins 27-24. In hindsight, a win there posssibly saves Solich's job long-term.

    2006 The Classic: Somebody had to lose – and Nebraska got the duty in a 22-20 heartbreaker. NU wide receiver Terrence Nunn's crucial fumble in the waning moments – when he had secured the game-winning first down – sets up UT's game-winning 22-yard field goal from walk-on Ryan Bailey. The best game in the series, featuring memorable performances from Zac Taylor and Colt McCoy.

    2007 Colt's Crucible, and the Dawn of Joe: With virtually nothing to lose, Nebraska defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove chooses to blitz Colt McCoy on every down. And, for three quarters – it works, as NU holds a 17-9 lead. But the fourth quarter ensues, Texas employs the zone read, and Jamaal Charles runs wild, finishing with 290 yards for the game (216 in the quarter alone) as the Longhorns surge ahead 28-17. After starter Sam Keller gets hurt, he's replaced by Joe Ganz, who never relinquishes the starting job for the rest of his career. Ganz promptly throws a touchdown pass and converts a two-pointer.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    See also: Big 12 Postseason Awards, 10 Unforgettable NU-UT Moments, Big 12 Rankings, Bowl Watch, Onward to DFW, Huskers Giving Back and [url=http://www.huskerlocker.com/blogs/view/bid/2363/i/podcast

    Tags: colt mccoy, big 12 championship, joe ganz

  10. 2009 Aug 11

    Ganz Heading Back to NU?

    1,530 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    If a shot at the United Football League, doesn't work, it seems so.

    Ganz, who tried out with the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills, told the AP Tuesday he'd tryout for the Florida Tuskers of the upstart UFL, and if he didn't stick there, he'd come back to Lincoln, work for the Husker Sports Network and take a graduate assistant job at Nebraska in 2010.

    The Husker record-setter would prefer to play in the UFL, of course, but the Tuskers hold the rights to Michael Vick. If Vick doesn't land in the NFL, he'll be the marquee player of the UFL.

    At any rate, we're on record as suggesting Ganz would be a terrific coach, and a start at NU, under his old offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, seems perfectly logical.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: joe ganz, bo pelini, shawn watson, nfl, ufl

  11. 2009 Jul 05

    10 Burning Questions: Zac Lee, in 09

    5,927 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Welcome to Ten Burning Questions, Husker Locker’s version of a preseason game show!

    In it we examine an issue surrounding Nebraska football from three potential perspectives, or, in this case, doors. On some of the burning question, there’ll even be a grand prize or a booby trap, so be on the lookout!

    At the end of each burning question, we want you, the reader, to weigh in with your take. So have those comments ready, OK?

    Burning Question No. 1: What kind of season will quarterback Zac Lee have?

    Overview: Lee takes over for departing Joe Ganz, who, in his 16-game career as a starter for NU, became a kind of folk hero for the Husker faithful, and a record breaker to boot. Ganz’s quick sense of humor, easy humility and juxtaposition to Sam Keller made him an easy fan favorite. He was the kind of guy your grandmother loved.

    It won’t be as easy for Lee, who has the athleticism and size of Ganz, but the NFL pedigree and flash of Keller. Lee may be faster, and he may have a stronger arm, but will he have that sixth sense, especially on the run, that Ganz used to have? Can he make plays where none exist? Will he have the exquisite chemistry Ganz enjoyed with receivers Nate Swift and Todd Peterson?

    And does Lee have enough time to settle in before the Big 12 Conference schedule hits with a road game at Missouri and a home game vs. Texas Tech right off the jump?

    “Zac’s going to have some confidence building games,” college football analyst Phil Steele said. “Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State and Louisana-Lafeyette. Those are nice. But if you’re talking about being tested, go against Bud Foster’s defense on the road in Blacksburg. After Zac’s gone into Blacksburg and faced a Bud Foster defense, the rest of the year will be pretty easy stuff for him.”

    Let’s go to the doors!


    Door No. 1: One Big Season, with Lots of Help

    It’s not often that new quarterbacks, even upperclassmen, come in and shine immediately. But if Lee were looking for a target player to fit that mold, he’d do well to look at Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark’s 2008 season. Clark, who had played sparingly prior to last year, was solid through the non-conference and only had two “bad” games, both of which came later in the year at Ohio State and Iowa. For the year, Clark threw for 2,592 yards, 19 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. Why was he so effective? He got help from a PSU running game that 206 yards per contest. Could NU, which averaged 170 last year, reach that number? Very possibly.

    While Penn State didn’t have a test like Nebraska will at Virginia Tech, Lee should have a strong running game to take the pressure off of him. One disadvantage when compared to Clark: PSU had arguably its best receiving corps in history last year in Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams. All were seniors. Lee will throw to a bunch of largely untested or inexperienced targets.

    Door No. 2: Shades of another first-year Zac – with a tougher schedule.

    Although Zac Taylor finished the 2005 season on a high note, the first three games of that year were not memorable, as Taylor completed just 39-89 passes for 399 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Fortunately, NU scored four defensive touchdowns in three games against Maine, Wake Forest and Pittsburgh. Taylor, facing criticism and pressure, magically turned it on the next week with a 431-yard performance vs. Iowa State.

    Lee probably won’t be throwing the ball as much, but he could begin the season out of rhythm and needing to find the groove, so to speak, with his receivers. Remember that Taylor, too, had a spectacular spring game in 2005. It meant nothing once the season began.

    In Lee’s favor will be a better running game. Nebraska averaged just 96 rushing yards per game in 2005. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson would love to double that in 2009.

    Working against Lee: Road games at Virginia Tech and Mizzou in the first five. Taylor played his first five at home. In 2007, Keller was never really the same after spitting the bit in Columbia.

    Door No. 3: A hybrid of Watson’s former protégés.

    In his time at Colorado and Nebraska, Watson coached a number of guys right in Lee’s size, speed and skill range. Lee might have more raw talent than any of them except Craig Ochs, who played at CU for a couple years before transferring. Watson even compared Lee to Ochs during spring football.

    Let’s look at some of Watson’s guys 1999-present. We don’t count Joe Ganz in 2007 because we deem that as Bill Callahan’s “mercenary” phase when he trying to score points to polish up his resume.

    1999: Mike Moschetti 203-307 (62%) 2,688 yards, 18 TDs, 12 INTs, 117 rush yards, 5 TD

    2000: Craig Ochs, 145-245 (59%) 1,788 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs, 106 rush yards, 4TDs

    2001: Bobby Pesavento/Craig Ochs: 184-305 (60%), 2,454 yards, 15 TDs, 10 INTs, 82 rush yards, 1 TD

    2002: Robert Hodge 131-245 (51%) 1547 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT, 85 rush yards, 2 TD

    2003-2005 Joel Klatt (average of 3 seasons) 222-364 (61%) 2,458 yards, 15 TDs, 11 INTs, -42 rushing yards, 1 TD.

    2007: Sam Keller 205-325, 2,422 yards (63%) 14 TDs, 10 INTs -97 rushing yards

    2008: Joe Ganz 258-420 (67%) 3,568 yards, 25 TDs, 11 INTs, 258 rushing yards, 5 TDs.

    What can we glean from this list and what might it foretell for Lee?

    *Expect rewards for risks. When a Watson quarterback completes a pass, it’s usually for a first down, at least. Even dropback guys like Keller and Klatt were well above 11 yards per completion. Ganz was near 14 yards.

    *But also expect some sacks and interceptions, too. Ganz, Ochs and Moschetti were all pretty mobile guys who could create yards with their feet. But they got nabbed a lot in the backfield, too. All Watson QBs, aside from Ochs in 2000, had more than ten picks. In other words, don’t expect Zac Taylor’s 2006 season, when he entered the Big 12 title game with just four interceptions.

    *If Watson’s QB can run, he’ll get some shots to do so. And Lee may Watson’s fastest quarterback in a decade.

    Which of the doors would you pick? Before commenting, also consider:

    The Grand Prize: A season similar to that of Ganz or, if you figure in rushing yards, Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson: 3,064 passing yards, 562 rushing, 33 total touchdowns.

    and

    The Booby Trap: In which Lee gets injured, and Watson has his toughest QB job since Ochs took over as a true freshman in 2000.

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    Tags: 10 burning questions, hlss, zac lee, shawn watson, joe ganz

  12. 2009 Jun 25

    6/25 Podcast: NFL Moves

    618 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Enjoy today's podcast for free. Listen to other podcasts via a Locker Pass. Click here for more information.

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, joe ganz, mike brown

  13. 2009 May 27

    5/27 Podcast: A Bright Future for Joe

    580 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Now he's been cut by the Washington Redskins, Ganz's future in college coaching should be a great one. What similarities did he share with NU's coaching staff? Get a Locker Pass subscription to find out!

    Tags: joe ganz, podcasts, locker pass

  14. 2009 May 21

    Redskins Cut Ties with Ganz

    1,808 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    So reports the Washington Post. The Redskins will bring back Jason Campbell and Todd Collins, obviously, plus Colt Brennan and Chase Daniel for the next minicamp.

    From what we read and heard, Ganz looked better in drills than Daniel, and certainly knows the West Coast Offense better than Daniel does.

    But it seems the Redskins are more interested in giving Daniel another look in early June.

    Now we'll see if Ganz tries to catch on with another team, or pursues that graduate assistant job waiting for him up in North Shore at Northwestern.

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    See also: Podcasts are here!

    Tags: joe ganz, chase daniel

  15. 2009 Apr 26

    The Death Rattle of the Callahan Era

    4,945 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    If you had any doubt – the slightest bit, doubt the size of a single fish egg – about the utter failure of the Bill Callahan era at Nebraska, this weekend should have washed it away like the tide drags abandoned crab shells out to sea.

    In 2009 NFL Draft, only three members Callahan’s vaunted recruiting classes were selected. Three. San Jose State had that many. New Mexico and Abliene Christian had two. And no Huskers higher than midway through the fifth round. You might have to go back to the 1969 NFL Draft to find such a meager NU class, although the 2008 bunch is right in there.

    And the first of the 2009 picks – linebacker Cody Glenn – was stuck at fourth-string running back for much of the 2007 season, his career resurrected only by Callahan’s firing and the hiring of head coach Bo Pelini and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, who gave Glenn a good enough crash course to eeld his skills to one of the more difficult positions on the defense.

    Meanwhile, Callahan’s preferred back, Marlon Lucky, didn’t even get to be Mr. Irrelevant.

    Maybe If Callahan hadn’t wasted Lucky’s first year on campus. Or burned Zach Potter’s redshirt. Or buried Joe Ganz underneath the depth chart rubble, only to be forced into giving him a shot when he was the only one left standing.

    If only.

    Does that mean Potter, Lucky, Ganz or others won’t play in the NFL? Of course not. There are some advantages, in fact, to becoming a priority free agent instead of a draft pick, and NFL teams sometimes use late-round draft picks on projects who flame out two weeks into training camp. NU has a number of players good enough for the NFL. They need the right fit and the right attitude, but they’ll get their chance.

    What the 2009 class means is that Callahan’s pitch - which revolved around his NFL experience, around his ability to recognize talent, recruit it with fierce diligence and organization and turn it into a professional product – was akin to oceanfront property in Grand Island. His “talent” was more upside than finished product, and he and his staff didn’t take enough pains to finish it. Often, they rushed the talent into service before they were ready and snatched a crucial redshirt year away from guys like Glenn, Niles Paul and Prince Amukamara.

    Now - had Callahan landed that gilded, magic quarterback he always pined for, like Kansas State’s Josh Freeman, I don’t doubt he would have produced, consequences be damned, the kind of player Freeman became: A big, sturdy stiff with enough intelligence and arm strength to con some poor NFL franchise, like the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers, into drafting him.

    Ron Prince ran Kansas State into the ground that way, protecting “his” QB to the point where, when KSU’s offensive line seemingly refused to block for Freeman, or Freeman temporarily lost his faculties, Prince pulled Freeman from the Nebraska game. Freeman sat on the bench, staring into dead space, while Ganz pounded the Wildcats’ defense with the zone read. Freeman walks away from Manhattan with a fat contract. Prince got his old job back at Virginia. KSU fans, meanwhile, must curse their twin presence for the next decade; that’s how quickly they ruined what Bill Snyder had built.

    Callahan, forced to work with the chopped ham of Zac Taylor and Ganz, who often performed like the delectable pieces of Spanish jamon, didn’t get the Princely opportunity to sacrifice a whole team for one man.

    But he did make sure Lucky got rushed through the system, Potter received dubious coaching from a recruiting mercenary, Andre Jones disappeared into the ether and Matt Slauson, who was selected this year, wasted 2007 at his “Chipotle” weight, far above where he belonged.

    You may counter: Isn’t Ndamukong Suh headed for a first-day pick in 2010? Sure. Did Callahan recruit him? Yep. Callahan also left behind guys like Keith Williams, Mike McNeill, Eric Hagg, Roy Helu and Jacob Hickman. I forsee all of them being drafted in the next two years.

    But Callahan hardly developed those guys. Indeed, Suh was backsliding in his last year under Kevin Cosgrove. Their draft positions will be small credit to Callahan recruiting them, and large credit to Pelini, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson (who, to be fair, is a Callahan disciple) and position coaches developing them.

    Finally, coaches told Nebraska players why they were doing something. Coaches corrected mistakes on the field, instead of in a film session. Finally, players were treated like the kids they still remain, instead of cogs in a wheel. Finally, they developed the down-in, down-out technique that makes good NFL players.

    You know, it’s interesting. ESPN’s Tim Griffin reviewed the NFL Draft picks of each Big 12 team since the inception of the league and NU, unbelievably, remains on top in terms of number of players drafted (59 in all), and the relative quality of those players. Although Oklahoma and Texas have dominated the Big 12 over the last seven years, Nebraska is close to both programs when it comes to players selected in the first three rounds of the draft.

    It’s now been two years since any Husker was picked in the first four rounds.

    Since Callahan took over in 2004, just one of his scholarship recruits, Brandon Jackson, was drafted in the top three rounds. And Jackson left NU after his junior season in 2006, with the legitimate concern that, if he returned, he would have been buried on the depth chart like he had been the beginning of that year, when he was fourth. Behind a guy named Cody Glenn. Who, one year later, was fourth on the depth chart.

    You figure it out.

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    Tags: nfl draft, bill callahan, marlon lucky, lydon murtha, josh freeman, zach potter, joe ganz, bo pelini, cody glenn

  16. 2009 Apr 24

    Assessing NU's NFL Draft Prospects

    958 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The NFL Draft is set to begin Saturday in New York at 2 p.m.; the first two rounds should take the long day’s journey into late night, while Sunday brings rounds 3-7.

    While a number of Huskers could be selected in the Draft, none are expected to land on that first day; it could be argued that tackle Lydon Murtha or defensive end Zach Potter stand a rare outside chance of it, be we doubt it. But NU should be well-represented on day two, with as many as five or six players getting drafted, and several more finding free agent contracts, if the chips fall the right way.

    Here’s where we at Husker Locker see the former Nebraska players fitting in over the weekend:

    Position rankings, in order, are by NFLDraftScout, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated (out of a 6.0 scale)

    Offensive tackle Lydon Murtha: 6-7, 309 4.78 40-yard
    Ranked: No. 19, No. 14, and 3.39 (“fence player”)
    Round Projection: 4th-7th

    Our take: Murtha missed the equivalent of a whole season of football, and maybe more, to injuries and illnesses. For a tackle, he plays a little high in the running game, and is better chipping a defender and going to the next level than he is clearing out a single guy. Murtha’s draft workouts, especially at the NFL Combine, were terrific, showing off the athleticism and speed that made him a solid pass blocker at NU. It’s a tackle-heavy draft, which may cause Murtha slide into the middle part of day two. We think, by the end of the fourth round, he’ll be gone.

    Defensive end Zach Potter: 6-7, 280, 4.79
    Ranked: No. 15, No. 27, 3.39 (“fence player)
    Round Projection: 3rd-7th

    Our take: Potter is an intriguing prospect that could, one day, become a pretty good offensive tackle if he so wished. Potter’s biggest advantage – and in some ways a slight disadvantage – is his height, which helps him bat down passes and become a general backside nuisance for smallish quarterbacks. That height, though, could make it hard for him to play inside at a defensive tackle position in a 4-3 defense. Potter is plenty tough and technically sound against the run. He’s not a great pass rusher, but if he can keep contain, he collapses a pocket pretty well. We also imagine Potter interviewed well; he’s a natural leader with a good sense of humor, and he’d fit well in an NFL locker room. We think Potter may drop below Murtha, but the fourth or fifth round is a pretty good guess.

    Running back Marlon Lucky: 6-0, 215, 4.52
    Ranked: No. 26, No. 18, 3.34 (“fence player”)
    Round Projection: 6th-7th

    Our take: If used correctly, Lucky could make some NFL team pretty happy. He’s an NFL third-down back from the minute he enters the league, and arguably the most gifted pass-catching running back in the draft. Lucky makes tough catches, runs well in the open field, and generally doesn’t fumble in the open field, either. Lucky is also a polished enough pass-blocker to stay in for protection. Where Lucky struggles is the carry-for-carry grind that is running the football. He doesn’t attack holes, and in the NFL, you need to. He doesn’t break a lot of tackles. He can seem indifferent, as well, to his play on the field. He can get little, nagging injuries, too, like toe problems or chronic headaches. Lucky’s a bit too fine-tuned, sometimes. But when he’s plugged in, he’s pretty good, and we think a team could nab him as early at the fifth round, if the fit is right. Or he could go undrafted.

    Offensive guard Matt Slauson: 6-6, 313, 5.14
    Ranked: No. 19, No. 10, 3.21 (“practice squad”)
    Round Projection: 6th-free agent

    Our take: Whether or not Slauson gets drafted, we predict he’ll make a team’s final roster come fall, because he’s burly, aggressive and not afraid to mix it up. He can move earth on a short-yardage play, if nothing else, and had the versatility to fit in at guard or tackle. He’s not the fastest guard and probably isn’t your first pick to pull, but Slauson can fill in capably should a starter get hurt. The free agent route may suit Slauson better, for then he can pick his team.

    Quarterback Joe Ganz: 6-0, 212, 4.84
    Ranked: No. 44, No. 23, 2.80 (“free agent”)
    Round Projection: Free Agent

    Our take: Ganz doesn’t have a lot of the physical tools you’d like in an NFL QB, but he knows how the play the position, and for a short guy with only a decent arm, he makes quite a few big plays. Excellent leader, learns and knows the offense, rarely audibles into the wrong plays, and has a sixth sense when he’s scrambling outside the pocket. Ganz occasionally makes bad decisions when rolling to his right, and needs to find a rhythm early in the game, or he struggles. He could fit as a third quarterback somewhere. We think he’s better than Zac Taylor, though, for what it’s worth.

    Linebacker Cody Glenn: 6-0, 244, 4.78
    Ranked: No. 34, No. 27, 3.30 (“practice squad”)
    Round Projection: 7th-Free Agent

    Our take: Had Glenn been a linebacker under Bo Pelini for four years, he would possess the seasoning and smarts he’ll need to overcome his average speed and lack of height in the NFL. But Glenn only got one year, and that was cut short by injuries and a still-mysterious suspension. He’s a natural playmaker who instinctively plays the run pretty well, especially on outside edge plays. Decent pursuer of the ball. Likes playing defense. Glenn remains raw and unpolished, and will need to prove himself, for at least one year, on special teams.

    Receiver Nate Swift: 6-2, 203, 4.64
    Ranked: No. 62, No. 46, 3.10 (“free agent”)
    Round Projection: Free Agent

    Our take: With a couple years of learning some crafty moves on how to get open, Swift could become a decent NFL receiver, because he’s excellent after the catch and pretty comfortable making the tough grab, too. Swift runs solid routes and blocks well. His weakness is simple: As a slot receiver – and that’s what he’ll have to be in the NFL it’s all about slipping into space and getting open. Can Swift beat an NFL cornerback or linebacker doing that?

    Tags: nfl draft, lydon murtha, zach potter, joe ganz, nate swift, cody glenn, matt slauson

  17. 2009 Mar 27

    SPRING FB: Zac Lee is Ready for His Close Up

    1,347 views

    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    The juxtaposition of the two backup quarterbacks, at least on that day, was jarring.

    It was two weeks before Nebraska’s bowl game with Clemson, and a cluster of reporters had decided – in whatever unspoken-yet-oddly-unanimous vote we often take – that interviews with Patrick Witt and Zac Lee were in order for the weekly temperature-taking being done at that time because we had already exhausted every angle on starter Joe Ganz.

    One of the backups got off the elevator in the Hawks Center sucking on a juice box. Grape flavor. White straw.

    The other was still on the practice field throwing a variety of passes to wideout Menelik Holt.

    Juice man walked.

    Zac Lee, meanwhile, stood in front of reporters clustered together like girls in a Jonas Brothers concert, answering questions after spring practice Friday. He smiled. He laughed. He more or less served as a recruiting pamphlet for Nebraska football.

    “It’s fun,” Lee said. “This is why you come to a place like Nebraska. It’s why you want to be a college football player. You want to be the guy when the game’s on the line. It’s just a blast.”

    He played down the fact that he’s working with the No. 1 offense – “There’s three other guys out here and we’re all competing,” – and answered the “Patrick Witt” question with a simple “wish him well” statement. Even when he challenged a little, and forced to more or less admit it was his No. 1 job to lose as much as it was his to win, Lee grinned and brought up his own resume.

    “I’ve done just about as much as they have,” comparing himself to Kody Spano, Cody Green, and Latravis Washington. “I’ve thrown two passes since I’ve been here. There’s not a lot of game experience there. So I just got to keep working.”

    Lee had a university test to take Wednesday night. He’ll find out the results this weekend.

    He took his first fishbowl exam with the media Friday night. He can know his score now: He passed, terrifically.

    Yeah, Lee was smooth. He looked and sounded like the son of NFL quarterback. Which he is – his dad, Bob Lee, played 14 seasons of pro football. Lee may develop the habit of looking at the ceiling or a blank spot on the wall as he talks later in his career, but for now, he faces the reporter and delivers the answer right to them.

    Boy, is he going to be a hit with the fans.

    Part of Ganz’s appeal in front of the media each week was his lunchpail persona. The bed head. The quick joke. The banter with head coach Bo Pelini. Ganz had charisma and guts. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson loved how Ganz attacked the practice field every day, and took what skills he had and perfected them.

    “I put Joe on the cover of our quarterback manual,” Watson said. The remaining quarterbacks razzed Watson pretty good for that.

    The Chicago-style QB had one hell of a year. Now, in his place: a polished, telegenic, California kid with four stars behind recruiting profile. Lee was supposed to be locked in a battle with Witt for the starting job. Know this: It would have been a doozy. Each had his strengths.

    As it stands, Lee must forge ahead imagining he’s getting pushed. Maybe Spano, a redshirt freshman who spent last year on the scout team, can do that this spring. Maybe Green, once he recovers from a hip injury, can, too. Maybe.

    So, really, this is Lee’s team. Which is fine. It needs to be. Nebraska has a whale of a schedule in 2009, and the sooner it cements the quarterback position, the sooner it can go about winning games rather than figuring out just who, exactly, will be winning them.

    But with that comes a different kind of pressure than the one that goes along with a quarterback competition. Lee has to get a bunch of untested receivers on the same page, for one thing.

    Watson has seen Lee ramp up his intensity over the last year. Lee won’t say now there was a particular time the light went on, but last fall he alluded to it being right around spring practiceof last year, when he was fully healed from a knee injury, and he was off the scout team. He showed flashes of brilliance in the Spring Game. He showed more last fall in practice. Then, in winter, his focus got even stronger.

    “I spent a ton of hours in Coach Watson’s office just drawing stuff on the board for him. He’d shout something out and I’d have to draw it up,” Lee said.

    Said Watson: “It’s a different Zac Lee. He’s really, really confident right now. I think the confidence comes from experience. He’s been in the offense, he knows the terminology. He didn’t stumble over anything. He did a really, really nice job. Usually that’s the first thing.”

    “He feels a responsibility to his teammates. You can tell.”

    Most quarterbacks struggle when they start at the major college level for the first time. Zac Taylor had NU fans speaking in low, hushed tones during the Maine, Wake Forest and Pittsburgh games in 2005. Ganz admits he cringed at some of the throws he made in the 2007 Kansas and Colorado games. So must have Watson.

    The West Coast Offense is based on timing, recognition and savvy skills like ball fakes and precise footwork, multiplies the difficulty. The WCO, at its essence, is designed to supply a quarterback with enough options that no play is blown up by an opposing defense. But the quarterback has to process those options quickly enough to burn said opposition.

    Ganz became quite good at locating, for example, tight end Mike McNeill on a flat route when Ganz felt pressure after a play-action fake. He also learned how to extend a play by scrambling laterally so that Nate Swift and Todd Peterson could work across the field after their initial routes had been covered. Taylor, meanwhile, burned teams – especially Michigan in the Alamo Bowl – on that skinny slant that took advantage of a late-arriving safety. That sixth sense is practice, and repetition. You have to do it – and maybe screw it up – to appreciate the split-second difference between a first down and an interception.

    “The West Coast is just a different offense,” Lee said. “There are guys who are 10-year vets in the NFL who are still learning stuff about the offense so it’s just a continuous process where you just learn and learn and learn and you never stop learning.”

    In other words, Lee can take care of the ball like it’s a baby in swaddling clothes this spring, but, next fall, he’ll have to take his lumps. He’ll have to hear the crowd murmur about him for a play or two. He’ll have to miss an open receiver in a game when it matters. He’ll have to engineer two touchdown drives, then suffer through a couple three-and-outs. He’ll have to cringe the next day in film study.

    Lee must assert himself as the leader of an offense that lost its five biggest figureheads from 2008: Ganz, Swift, Peterson and Matt Slauson. He can practice patience when the pocket begins to collapse. And he can try to convince Watson that’s he’s accurate enough with his deep, deep ball to consistently send Holt and possibly Antonio Bell down the field for zone-busting bombs.

    Until then?

    “If you work hard, keep your head down and do what you’re supposed to do, everything has a way of working itself out,” Lee said. “I’m just going to keep trying to do that.”

    The California kid can talk it. Now, like Ganz and Taylor before him, Zac Lee will get the chance to walk it.

    Tags: zac lee, shawn watson, joe ganz, zac taylor, springtime with bo

  18. 2009 Mar 12

    Ganz on Witt's departure and Lee's ascension

    693 views

    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    We pretty much figured these comments were coming sooner or later. Good to see Joe played them pretty straight and fair: High praise on Lee, mild critcism on Witt. The Witt issue is a dead deal, anyhow, and dredging up anymore (although it will be, when Zac Lee speaks more in the spring) is kinda pointless.

    One comment Ganz made about Lee stood out, though:

    "He gets happy feet sometimes. We kind of kid him about it, taking off running a little too early. He’d like to be the checkdown instead of letting other people get hurt. We just told him if you’re going to spend a whole season (healthy), you’re going to have to check the ball down and let other people get hit instead of you."

    First, Ganz kinda had happy feet, too, and he was the type to look for the big play downfield, when he scrambled, rather than the safe, Sam Keller pass to Marlon Lucky. It served Nebraska's offense well, that daring.

    But Ganz was also a fifth-year quarterback working with Nate Swift and Todd Peterson, two fifth-year receivers. Don't take that lightly. Easier to improvise when you've got experienced guys like that.

    Lee is faster than Ganz. Know that. And he has a stronger arm. But the savvy it takes to run the West Coast Offense, and the leadership...that's what Ganz had in spades. And what, over the next year, Lee will acquire.

    Tags: joe ganz, patrick witt, zac lee

  19. 2009 Mar 12

    Nebraska's Official Pro Day Results

    912 views

    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Nebraska's seniors got a final chance to show off for NFL scouts Thursday at NU's annual Pro Day, which was, according to NFL.com, attended by 20 teams. The workouts were closed to the public and media - about ten years ago, one could stand right next NFL coaches and shoot the breeze, but no longer - and while players gave an estimate of they did, NFL.com's Gil Brandt actually posted the official results late Thursday night.

    Our impression? Marlon Lucky, who was once a third or fourth-round prospect, did himself no favors by pulling a hamstring and not being able to do positional drills. Looks like his work out in California didn't much pay off.

    Meanwhile, it seems like Ty Steinkuhler mihgt have worked his way into a preferred free agent slot, which some will tell you, is better than being drafted in the sixth or seventh round, because a player can actually choose where they'd like to go. Steinkuhler has a pretty good season on tape, and while injuries are a major concern with him, his workout numbers were such that He was faster and had a higher vertical jump than quarterback Joe Ganz.

    As for Ganz's numbers, well, not mind-blowing, but you don't sign or draft a quarterback for any of those reasons. Ganz will have to catch on somewhere and learn to stick in the pocket as long as it will hold.

    See also: Ganz on Witt and Lee

    Tags: pro day, nfl draft, joe ganz, ty steinkuhler, marlon lucky

  20. 2009 Jan 23

    No Room For Ganz?

    497 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The NFL is a fickle, heartless joint. A guy like former Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz, even with a terrific regular season, can't get a date to the NFL Combine or a college all-star game.

    Whether it's fair or not - don't be particularly surprised or disappointed. Ganz is 6-foot-1, and that's on the short side for the NFL. The shorter a guy is, the harder it becomes to do a whole slew of things. Read a defense. Float passes over a defensive line on a screen pass - which is something Ganz struggled to do.

    Here's the other thing: When teams forced Ganz to stay in the pocket - where most NFL quarterbacks must live - he didn't like it. Outside of the pocket, Ganz did his best work. He still has a ways to go when it comes to standing tall and stepping up.

    And that's OK. Ganz has leadership skills in spades, and he's a solid improviser outside of the pocket. If he hitches on with a team that runs the West Coast Offense - and that particularly version emphasizes a rollout passing game - he's got a chance. Whether he's drafted or not.

    Tags: joe ganz

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