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  1. 2012 Mar 28

    Which Coaches Will Pack the Most Punch in 2012? - Offense


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Ryan Donohue

    Only one Pelini returns for 2012. Carl, a fixture of Bo's staff since the start, split for a head coaching gig of his own. Corey Raymond also departed after only one season at the helm of the secondary.

    Barring any further changes, the Husker football coaching staff will forge ahead, continuing to build and mold a program that is still finding its place in the Big Ten. Which will make the most impact in 2012?

    The offense’s bunch in descending order:

    Rich Fisher – Wide Receivers: While coach Fisher isn’t completely settled in after only one season directing NU’s wideouts, he has incredible talent to work with.

    Quincy Enunwa, Kenny Bell, and the volatile Jamal Turner form an explosive tandem capable of stretching the field and providing the potential for big plays.

    Redshirt freshman Taariq Allen has received rave reviews. Incoming freshman Jordan Westerkamp is a record-setting blue chipper capable of playing immediately.

    Fisher could help ignite a Husker passing game in desperate need of consistent playmakers. With the talent on board, it’ll take effort on Fisher’s part to screw this up.

    John Garrison – Assistant Offensive Line: Similar to Fisher, Garrison has a full cupboard when it comes to tight ends. Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed are the best tight end tandem in the Big Ten. With them, Garrison has command of dependable blocking and vertical play ability.

    On the offensive line, Garrison isn’t the man in charge, but his commitment to improve and ability to support Barney Cotton will be something to monitor. Is Garrison being groomed to be the Nebraska’s next offensive line coach?

    If so, think of this season as an important step in his progress. Should the offensive line stay healthy and continue to grow, praise should be shared between Garrison and Cotton.

    Ron Brown – Running Backs: Brown may end up making more of an impact off the field given the recent media attention he received. Assuming the issue subsides, he'll continue to work with the Huskers' horses, including thoroughbred Rex Burkhead.

    No. 22 is primed for a remarkable senior session, and coaching him should be a pleasure for Brown. There is plenty of talent behind him with super sophomores like burner Ameer Abdullah, and the ever-agile Aaron Green.

    Where Brown can make waves is finding a true thumper now that Tyler Legate is gone. Is transfer Mike Marrow that guy, or perhaps incoming freshman Imani Cross?

    Burkhead has shown he can do it all, but finding another option in short-yardage situations would add a valuable dynamic to the Husker’s rushing game.

    Barney Cotton – Associate Head Coach/Offensive Line: Many fans have lost their patience with Coach Cotton. Performance in the trenches has been lacking over the past few years, but injuries and lack of experienced depth have played a heavy part.

    This season gives Cotton an opportunity to show that his line can control defenses, and finally has enough freshly-stocked talent to bolster depth.

    It’s becoming easier to speculate about Cotton’s future, and the biggest impact he can make is proving he’s the guy to restore The Pipeline. He hasn’t done that yet, but with Garrison as his apprentice, Cotton has a chance to silence the critics. If he doesn’t, a shakeup may be coming.

    Tim Beck – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks: In his second year at the wheel of offensive guidance, Beck knows he needs to vary the Husker attack, and help likely starter Taylor Martinez find confidence his passing ability.

    Much of Coach Beck’s impact is tied to Martinez’s improvement as a quarterback. If T-Magic can build off of his strong performances last year, such as those against Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State, then the entire offense should follow his lead.

    Beck must continue to find ways to help Martinez feel comfortable, open up the passing game, and take pressure off Nebraska's backs. If Beck finds his rhythm and Martinez improves, the Husker offense could be scary…in a positive fashion.

    Given the challenges present on the defensive side of the ball, this level of improvement is a dire necessity. We’ll examine who’ll make their mark as potential Blackshirt-builders tomorrow.

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    Tags: rich fisher, john garrison, ron brown, barney cotton, tim beck

  2. 2012 Jan 26

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Mid-Day Mailbag (1/26)


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Bo's defense seems to rely on a shutdown corner for it to work at its best, why do you think we haven't recruited it more this year and/or do you think we have the talent at that position to be successful? – Matt Hanson

    Shutdown corners are a great thing for Pelini to have at his disposal, but they’re not essential. What’s more important is that the interior defensive linemen can occupy their men allowing for havoc at the point of attack. If Pelini’s cornerbacks can simply stick to their men like glue, this creates opportunities for coverage sacks or interceptions…in theory.

    At this point, the only guy that sticks out with the ability to be your standard “lockdown” guy is incoming JUCO transfer Mohammed Seisay. I doubt we see the output of Amukamara or Dennard, but he should be more than serviceable. Pelini knows how to pick his JUCOs.

    In terms of recruiting these guys, Nebraska has. It's just that others have done a far better job. If the Huskers grab Devian Shelton and Raymond Ford on Signing Day, that'll be a step in the right direction.

    Could Martinez actually be transplanted or are we stuck with him for the long haul? – Dan Gibson

    Despite the severe skeptics, Martinez can be jimmied from the starting spot under center. I felt the same way as those who don’t believe me now not that long ago. When Carnes was inserted as little as he was in 2011, that said, “Taylor’s the captain of this ship.”

    The thing is, Pelini wants to win, not lose four games every year. Have a look back and see why Armstrong (and maybe now Fuller?) have a legit shot: Recruiting Shows Martinez’s Spot Far From Safe

    With Greg Schiano headed to Tampa Bay, will Nebraska be able to get Devin Fuller and Quanzell Lambert? – Corey Demmings

    Like many things in recruiting, this gets a great big “maybe.” As of now, Lambert’s coach has confirmed he’s still a commit. Even if he does switch, Iowa appears to have the inside track as they were believed to be at the No. 2 spot when he selected Rutgers.

    Fuller’s more likely, but far from a lock. His commitment to the Scarlet Knights seemed like a sure thing a few hours ago. He may select Nebraska, but I can also see him getting talked down off the ledge and staying close to home. Honestly, if I were Fuller, I’d push my decision back to Signing Day and think.

    Who’s been the staff’s best recruiter this year? – Toby Adams

    John Garrison, bar none. He was incredibly meticulous and hard-working as an intern, so it doesn’t shock me that he’s a guy that may very well end up with new recruiting coordinator duties. Combine his recruiting prowess with his ability to help cobble together an overall effective offensive line and you’ve got an impressive hire.

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    Tags: bo pelini, devin fuller, quanzell lambert, mohammed seisay, taylor martinez, brion carnes, tommy armstrong, john garrison

  3. 2011 Nov 21

    Husker Heartbeat 11/21: Football Standards Dropping?, Nebraska/Iowa Beef and Rams Rolled by Big Red


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - The biggest challenge Bo Pelini faces now is to not let Nebraska's standards drop

    - The Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes already have beef with each other...on the line, that is.

    - John Garrison is ecstatic to be working with the football program again

    - Doc Sadler's Nebrasketball team schools Rhode Island

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    Tags: bo pelini, iowa, john garrison, doc sadler, basketball, rhode island

  4. 2011 Oct 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Grading the Coaches After Week Five


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Ryan Donahue

    Corey Raymond – Secondary

    After the season opener, it was tough to get a read on Coach Raymond’s new unit sans Alfonzo Dennard. Well, he’s back so it’s time to rip off the band-aid. The secondary is not good. Losing three players to the NFL doesn’t help, but there is a cavern between the performance of last year’s group and this outfit. Dennard is still getting his legs back but there is no one who can fill in the other corner spot with confidence.

    Ciante Evans has been fragile. Andrew Green has been horrendous. The Corey Cooper experiment was ill-conceived from the start. Every team left on the schedule knows to throw where Dennard is not, and that’s a lot of open field. With Bo Pelini holding full pad practices, here’s hoping someone steps up.

    As for the safeties, Austin Cassidy has been serviceable and Daimion Stafford is excellent against the run, but both starters and even reserves have had plenty of busted assignments in coverage. Clearly, a lot of this is coaching. Raymond needs to get his unit figured out in a hurry because it’s the weak link in the defense through five games.

    Grade: D

    Ross Els – Linebackers

    We are still waiting for not one, but two capable sidekicks for Lavonte David. The Peso formation is sorely missed and it appears Nebraska will move forward with a three linebacker base. The biggest problem with that is Nebraska has only one truly talented linebacker in David, and he can’t be everywhere at once. Will Compton would be the educated choice to help, but Compton hasn’t looked great in run support and still gets burned by shifty receivers on crossing routes.

    Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley don’t seem to be coming around and also look lost in coverage. What good is having three big bodies if opposing offenses can easily toss the ball around them? Going back to the Peso isn’t a possibility because there aren’t enough bodies in the secondary to run a permanent nickel, and a dime formation makes any Husker fan shudder. The common theme emerging here: it’s all on David until someone else steps up and consistently makes plays for this unit.

    Grade: C-

    John Papuchis – Special Teams/Defensive Line

    If you had said before the season began that special teams might actually be the strength of this team nearly halfway through, you’d likely have received many odd looks. Ameer Abdullah constantly puts the Husker offense in great field position and Brett Maher appears to have a booming leg and some real skill in all facets of the kicking game. Since the grades are harsh this week, let’s judge Papuchis only on special teams and leave the defensive line analysis for Carl. There needs something to be excited about and the special teams has looked the best.

    Grade: A-

    Carl Pelini – Defensive Coordinator

    After week one, Carl Pelini had apparently reloaded and possessed the most complete defensive unit in the Big Ten. Apparently, this is not the case. It’s hard to say what Coach Carl has at this point. This unit has lost its identity. Some point to the loss of Ndamukong Suh, but he left two years ago. What happened last year?

    There was a huge loss of secondary talent that hasn’t been replaced and has caused stress on the other levels of the defense. A shift in philosophy is also hurting the Blackshirts. This unit isn’t ready to play a base 4-3 defense, and perhaps not even nickel. Honestly, last year Nebraska played a dime defense against some pretty finesse offenses, and it worked every time. Now teams know they can smash the Huskers in the mouth and if that stops working they can air it out fairly easily.

    The Brothers Pelini need to do more than carry out full pad practices. They need to revisit their philosophy for stopping Big Ten offenses. The good news is Wisconsin was the best of the bunch, but the Spartans and Wolverines can be explosive and the Huskers will be staring down more embarrassing losses if they don’t get a handle on the Blackshirts’ identity. If they can, the talent is there and this unit can be more than competent.

    Grade: D

    Ron Brown – Running Backs

    Brown’s unit continues to come along and Rex Burkhead is looking the part of leader. Burkhead continues to make great plays and churn out hard-fought yards. Behind him, the young three-headed monster has been used effectively with each freshman tailback getting meaningful carries. Brown appears to have a solid group on his hands and while this unit needs to be relied on much more in big games, that’s no fault of Brown’s who appears to have done a fine job developing the talent he’s responsible for. Ohio State will be a great test for the running game, which should be featured more than ever.

    Grade: A-

    Barney Cotton/John Garrison – Offensive Line & Tight Ends

    A few weeks back, Nebraska fans didn’t have much of an idea how good the offensive line was going to be and how the Cotton/Garrison package would work out. While things are still murky, it’s clear that Nebraska has a young line that is going to make mistakes. The false starts and holding penalties are still plentiful. The inexperience is real and won’t get much better this season, although Seung Hoon Choi has been a great story.

    Still, the offensive line doesn’t seem to be the most troubling area on offense. This young line pushed Wisconsin off the ball on many running plays and looked capable against Washington and Wyoming. The potential for this line is great, but actual production will have a ceiling this year. There are too many fresh faces. As for the tight ends, they haven’t been featured enough.

    Kyler Reed is the best receiver on the team and still only makes brief cameos in each game. Ben Cotton needs to perform better with the opportunities he’s given. The dynamic duo at tight end needs to show up often during the conference slate.

    Grade: B-

    Rich Fisher – Wide Receivers

    There seems to be a youth movement emerging for Nebraska’s wide receivers. Quincy Enunwa seems destined to be a solid possession receiver by season’s end. Jamal Turner and Kenny Bell are both electrifying when they touch the ball. That’s a big when, however. This assumes the ball can be delivered properly and unfortunately, that rarely happens.

    The Husker wide receivers seem capable of making big plays if the ball gets in their hands. Route running has been sloppy at times and it took Brandon Kinnie awhile to shake the butterfingers, but this group seems to be doing all it can. Most importantly, they’ve all been open enough to get first downs. The ball has to come their way more accurately and on time, though. If that happens, this group could be above average and take real pressure off the rushing attack. Until then, it’s just average.

    Grade: C

    Tim Beck – Offensive Coordinator

    It's almost halfway into the season and Nebraska fans are still wondering what Tim Beck’s vision for the Nebraska offense is. It turns out he was serious about the option. He’s dialed back, but not eliminated the zone read. He’s placed more emphasis on stretching the field, but also fell into the same trap that Shawn Watson did - getting an itchy trigger finger when he feels a shootout is at hand and abandoning the run when it is working.

    He seems all in favor of an air-it-out passing attack that almost no part of the offense is properly equipped to run. The line still can’t pass protect very well. The receivers are not All-World and will not always be open. When they are, Taylor Martinez cannot find them. He panics, runs too early and too often while forcing the ball on his way to becoming a turnover machine.

    That isn’t all on Beck, but if he continues to build his offensive strategy around Martinez’s passing, the fallout will steadily become his problem. The Husker faithful have no patience for an offense that attempts to impose its will, changes things up haphazardly, and gets shell-shocked on a big stage. It’s been happening for four years now and Beck will have a short leash to change things.

    So far, he does not appear up to task. The Wisconsin debacle could be a great turning point so early in Beck’s coordinator career and if he rediscovers the run while slowly finding Martinez’s comfort zone in a limited passing attack, the offense could be more than serviceable. It will take incredible patience to achieve this. If Beck can’t do it, things could get ugly fast and even uglier than in years past as fans’ patience has run out.

    Grade: D-

    Bo Pelini – Head Coach

    Nothing went his way in Madison, but Pelini made the right move in immediately making a post-game apology to the Husker faithful for such a disappointing loss. One thing that unnerved fans about Bill Callahan was his stubbornness and inability to fault his own schemes. Pelini avoids this by simply being honest and sharing in the disappointment. He also seems resolute about fixing the problems.

    Whether or not a tougher approach by way of full pad practices will do the trick, fans can’t be sure. Pelini does seem to be trying. He knows this isn’t Year One and last Saturday was a Year One-style loss. What is most troubling is Pelini’s statement of disbelief regarding some of the mental errors the Huskers displayed against Wisconsin.

    He offered that perhaps some players weren’t taking to coaching. That is especially disturbing because these are almost all Pelini’s players and they have been schooled in the same system since they arrived in Lincoln.

    If they aren’t taking to the coaching, it appears to be a mental issue. These issues are the most deadly because they don’t fix easily. Think 2007 – that was a team stacked with talent from the neck down, but rotting from the neck up with lack of confidence in convoluted schemes and shaken from humiliating losses. Pelini can use one bad loss to recharge the team, but if there are more blowouts things will go off the track fast.

    Can Pelini get a handle on this team? Does he need to get more involved in the schemes or in the day-to-day processes? Does he treat this team like a 2008 squad that needed a serious overhaul laced with tongue-lashings or does he have confidence that current problems can be fixed and this squad is championship-caliber with only a few tweaks and adjustments?

    His decision on how to handle this troubling bunch of Huskers will be a turning point in his tenure as head coach.

    Grade: C-

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

  5. 2011 Oct 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: For the Cornhuskers, Buckeyes Have Become Cardinals


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    The stage had been set. The Nebraska Cornhuskers were under the brightest of spotlights, including headlining ESPN College GameDay, and being featured in the primetime ABC game. What followed was absolute humiliation of Nebraska on every level, live and in high-definition.

    While Southern Cal walked into Lincoln and pummeled the Cornhuskers, Wisconsin had the privilege of doing so in friendly confines. Nebraska and Ohio State haven’t met since 1956, but the significance of this week’s game is eerily similar to one four years ago against the Ball State Cardinals.

    For those who have seared the Callahan Era from their brain for completely understandable reasons, allow a brief refresher. An upstart Ball State squad came into Lincoln following the Huskers’ drubbing by the Trojans in 2007 and hope was high among the Nebraska faithful for an immediate rebound.

    The results were less than encouraging. Nate Davis, Ball State’s upstart sophomore quarterback, torched the Nebraska secondary to the tune of 422 yards. The Cornhuskers would deny the upset bid thanks to a Bo Ruud pick-six and Maurice Purify touchdown catch. Nebraska had their own “free agent” in former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller who performed well, throwing for 438 yards and three touchdowns.

    Following the heroics that saved the Huskers further embarrassment, Nebraska would drop six of its next seven games. The head coach was promptly removed following a shootout during the final contest of the season, and the rest is history. Bo Pelini finds himself in a position not unlike that 2007 squad, except the pieces to this season’s puzzle are scattered a bit differently.

    In 2007, Keller was far from perfect, but he did manage 2,422 yards passing and 14 touchdowns. He also set Cornhusker records for passing accuracy and single-game yardage. In 2011, Nebraska has sophomore Taylor Martinez delivering more passes that result in eventual scores for the opposition thanks to a 5-4 interception-to-touchdown ratio.

    Perhaps what’s most concerning about the 2011 squad is that prior to the season, this defense appeared loaded. With Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard all returning, fans likely anticipated black practice jerseys being handed out by now. Five games into the season, the Cornhusker defense is giving up 377 yards per game.

    To be fair, Nebraska didn’t have those three talented athletes all healthy and on the field at the same time until reaching Madison. Unfortunately, even their presence didn’t affect a vastly superior team across the board nearly enough. The loss to Wisconsin is behind Nebraska and now comes a very crucial game for the Cornhuskers.

    Neither Ohio State’s Joe Bauserman nor Braxton Miller is going to be confused for Nate Davis circa 2007. In addition, three very talented players in running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and offensive lineman Marcus Hall had their suspensions extended as of yesterday. While Las Vegas’ coffers were promptly filled following this news, Ohio State’s cupboard isn’t entirely bare.

    The good news for Nebraska is that this game presents an opportunity for a massive shift in morale and direction for the entire 2011 season. Pelini and company have the necessary talent to bounce back on both sides of the football, but changes are necessary for Pelini’s “process” to begin an upward trend. If the Cornhuskers are going to have a successful inaugural season as a member of the Big Ten, it’s time to erase the drawing board and start from scratch.

    While there’s little doubt Taylor Martinez will start against the Buckeyes this week, the call to relieve him in favor of another option, be it Brion Carnes or Rex Burkhead, needs to be made. Burkhead has proven to be a rock at running back. This is one position where Cornhusker fans know they have a reliable leader and talented corps.

    Jamal Turner is being sinfully underutilized. There’s no reason that he should be held back any longer. It doesn’t matter if he’s used as a wide receiver, quarterback or even running back. Turner needs to be on the field, as all playmakers should be. Nebraska’s offensive line is quite reliable overall. The work of John Garrison and Brendan Stai is clearly meshing well with what Barney Cotton already had in place.

    On defense, the Cornhuskers may want to consider moving the versatile Jared Crick to the outside opposite Cam Meredith and plug the middle using Steinkuhler, Moore, Randle and Rome. Unfortunately, Sean Fisher doesn’t look like he’ll ever regain his old speed which necessitates one of three things: Move Daimion Stafford to linebacker, a Peso-style hybrid, or burn David Santos’ redshirt.

    Despite only having one game under his belt, Alfonzo Dennard wasn’t attacked much by Wisconsin. The same can’t be said for the rest of the secondary. Where is Antonio Bell or Josh Mitchell? At this point, is giving P.J. Smith or Courtney Osborne truly not worth a shot? Yes, the defensive backfield is still a work in progress, but as it stands, it’s hard to comprehend why the coaches wouldn’t start mixing up personnel until they find a group that clicks.

    If these changes are made and an absolute commitment is made by Tim Beck to stick to an effective game plan (See: First quarter vs. Wisconsin), Nebraska will very likely avoid a record mirroring 2007’s. However, if there is little to no shakeup, Taylor Martinez remains under center, and square pegs keep being slammed against round holes, the Buckeyes are good enough to beat the Cornhusker team seen last Saturday in Camp Randall Stadium.

    A 41-40 win over Ball State in 2007 was an ominous sign of things to come. If Nebraska’s first Big Ten home game is a loss, the difficult challenges that Nebraska faces this week may be welcomed in comparison come this Sunday.

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    Tags: ball state, taylor martinez, tim beck, bo pelini, jared crick, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, david santos, daimion stafford, baker steinkuhler, terrence moore, thad randle, chase rome, jamal turner, john garrison, brendan stai

  6. 2011 Sep 09

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Grading the Coaches After Week One


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Ryan Donohue

    Bo Pelini – Head Coach

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

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

    Grade: B

    Tim Beck – Offensive Coordinator

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

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

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

    Grade: Incomplete

    Ron Brown – Running Backs

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

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

    Grade: B

    Rich Fisher – Wide Receivers

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

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

    Grade: C+

    Barney Cotton/John Garrison – Offensive Line & Tight Ends

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

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

    Grade: D+

    Carl Pelini – Defensive Coordinator

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

    Grade: A-

    Ross Els – Linebackers

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

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

    Grade: C+

    John Papuchis – Special Teams/Defensive Line

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

    Grade: A+

    Corey Raymond – Secondary

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

    Grade: B+

    James Dobson – Head Strength Coach

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

    Grade: A

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

  7. 2011 Sep 07

    Husker Heartbeat 9/7: The Injured Returns, Garrison Ratchets Up The Heat and NU on ESPN


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    - Linebacker Will Compton returns; Kicker Brett Maher handles his workload

    - Assistant offensive line coach John Garrison is asking more of senior center Mike Caputo

    - The Fresno State Bulldogs won't roll over for Nebraska

    - The Huskers are still standing strong in the Big Ten despite their shaky showing versus UTC

    - Nebraska basketball will be seen five times on ESPN networks

    - The Big Ten remains calm among the chaos of the crumbling Big 12

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    Tags: will compton, brett maher, john garrison, big ten, fresno state

  8. 2011 Sep 05

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: What The Cornhuskers Showed Against UTC


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    Last Thursday, we took a look at what Nebraska needed to show against the Mocs. Now that the game has come and gone, were fans surprised, disappointed or a combination of both? Regardless, there were five key areas that were put under the microscope.

    1.) The Offensive Line

    The line has been a hot topic for fans after Saturday’s game concluded. Concern weighed heavy on many minds, while a brave few offered the opinion that this is just a young team that needed time to gel. It’s true that the line is inexperienced with three unseasoned guys up front – true freshman Tyler Moore, walk-on sophomore Spencer Long and sophomore Andrew Rodriguez. Talent can help make up for lack of experience, but proper execution needs to happen soon.

    More often than not, the offensive line was caught off guard. It wasn’t unusual to find linemen on the ground with defenders rushing by them. Quarterback Taylor Martinez was often left scrambling to make a play when his protection failed. Memories of the 2010 season came flooding back to the Nebraska faithful and by day's end, it was clear that the line was one of the offense’s most glaring immediate weaknesses.

    However, this was Tim Beck’s first outing. With Barney Cotton in the booth and John Garrison on the sidelines, the coaching adjustment may have had some side effects. Attitude of the coaches and players show faith in the system and the resolve to make it work. This offensive line is raw and ultimately, fans need to give them time to find their groove.

    2.) Taylor Martinez

    He’s still growing. After a rough latter half of the 2010 season, many were unsure if Martinez could improve to a beneficial level. Many fans believed the young quarterback simply might not be able to lead his team. On Saturday, a new Martinez walked the sidelines. He often spoke with teammates and was far more vocal than last year.

    His presence on the field, while still shaky, showed some improvement. While Martinez appeared nervous and insecure in the first quarter, there were signs of a more matured athlete. He began to look at all of his receivers and while his passes weren’t stellar, there were drops on the receiving end. With practice and team support, Martinez can prepare himself for a strong season.

    3.) Fumbles and Penalties

    After being ranked No. 119 last year in penalties earned, Nebraska fans were looking for immediate improvement. By game’s end, the Cornhuskers had three penalties – one being a false start. This alone was a dramatic upgrade in performance. While the game may have been cleaner in terms of penalties, fumbles were still an issue.

    Nebraska fumbled four times while recovering two. This was bad enough against an FCS opponent. Teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State will take full advantage of poor ball-handling. Bo Pelini equated a lot of mistakes to first game jitters, but it’s necessary for the Cornhuskers to address this problem repeatedly during practice this week. With the offensive line already struggling, coughing up the football will only make a bad situation worse.

    4.) Kicking Specialists

    Big Red fans can finally breathe easy. There’s life after Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic. Brett Maher proved that not only is he a fine replacement, but that he truly deserves the job. The atmosphere in Memorial Stadium before Maher’s first field goal was one of deep concern. The mood was quickly lifted when Maher hit all four field goal attempts, including ones from 48 and 50 yards. He also averaged 52 yards on four punts.

    What made Maher’s debut even more impressive was the wind he contended with. His first field goal was kicked into the breeze and cleared the crossbar easily 50 yards out. While his stats were impressive, it’s concerning that the Huskers required so many field goals against an FCS squad. However, it’s comforting to know that if necessity calls, Maher can handle it.

    While it may be too early to call him the next Alex Henery, Maher made one thing very clear: He’s got a leg on him and will make Husker Nation very proud.

    5.) Memorial Stadium

    On a day that sure felt like fall had arrived, Memorial Stadium sat mostly quiet. Once the excitement of the Tunnel Walk had worn off, many fans were back in their seats, opting for silence over cheers. When fans would stand, they were scolded. “I can’t see through you,” was a popular phrase. At times, it felt like there wasn’t a game being played at all. Players’ overly-exaggerated motions riled up the crowd, but only momentarily.

    It would be easy to blame this on the fans themselves, but the reason for the silence was out of the crowds’ hands. Media breaks killed momentum that had the crowd standing and yelling. Ads on the Husker Vision screens drowned out crowd cheers. During one segment, the crowd even began to boo. While television timeouts are out of anyone’s control, marketing isn’t. This may be where lost momentum can be replaced – by using pauses in action more efficiently.

    A good place to start would during the upcoming game. It’s time for all fans, not just the student section, to take back game day. When the students start chanting, “Can’t be beat, won’t be beat!” before the fourth quarter, join in. Excitement in Memorial Stadium never hurt anyone, except maybe the opponents.

    The Mocs are in the rear-view mirror and it’s time to concentrate on the Bulldogs. Pelini believes that the team will continue to improve. It’s apparent that fans will hold him to that.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: utc, taylor martinez, andrew rodriguez, tyler moore, spencer long, tim beck, john garrison, barney cotton, bo pelini, brett maher

  9. 2011 Sep 01

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Top Five Things to Watch For Versus UTC


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    Come Saturday, the moment so many have been waiting for will finally arrive – the kickoff of the 2011 Nebraska football season. The last few months have been filled with speculation. Whatever their questions may be, Nebraska fans will finally get some answers this Saturday. Let’s examine five key things to keep an eye on against the Mocs.

    1.) The Offensive Line

    For Nebraska, the season begins and ends with the offensive line. 2010 was a rollercoaster ride for the offensive linemen. In the first few games against the likes of Washington and Kansas State, Nebraska’s offensive line dominated. At times, flashes of the fabled "Pipeline" from the 1990s showed.

    Then Texas came to Lincoln and things changed in a hurry. A defensive switch by the Longhorns from the 4-3 alignment to the 3-4 left the Husker linemen scrambling. Every Nebraska opponent followed the blueprint that Texas had created. Playing defense from the 3-4 set could stop Nebraska cold.

    In 2011, Nebraska looks to overcome the struggles of the past. Bo Pelini brought on former Huskers John Garrison and Brendan Stai to aid Barney Cotton in an assistant coach and intern capacity, respectively. This combination of coaches will look to transform their linemen into not only a powerful unit, but one that can rely on depth and adjust to defensive changes.

    Nebraska will need to prove that the offensive line can remain dominant or Big Ten coaches will happily mirror the actions of the Big Red’s 2010 opposition.

    2.) Taylor Martinez

    Frequent speculation this offseason has been whether or not the “T-Magic” that shredded defenses through the first half of the 2010 will return. Never afraid to make snap decisions, Martinez led Nebraska through the first half of last year putting up impressive numbers.

    Unfortunately, injuries would stall Martinez’s stellar season, as Cody Green came in to assist. Martinez spent the latter half of the season trying to fight through injury, but what resulted was an inconsistent quarterback taking the field with a worrisome hobble in his step. 2010 quickly went from talk of Heisman candidacy to rampant rumors about his status with the team following the loss at Texas A&M.

    As of now, Martinez is believed to be healthy and back to where he was prior to last year’s opener against Western Kentucky. Head coach Bo Pelini believes that he has also matured and grown as a leader.

    Teammates are standing firmly behind the sophomore quarterback stating that he is now part of a faster offense that will be exciting to watch. The question still remains: Is Martinez really as good as advertised? He said it himself, “You’ll find out on September 3rd.”

    3.) Fumbles and Penalties

    Last year, the ability to hold onto the football was a challenge for the Huskers. Penalties plagued the team making it extremely difficult to convert drives into points. Nebraska’s offensive efforts often ended with nothing to show for them.

    Shocking stats dotted the 2010 stat sheets. The Cornhuskers had a staggering 46 fumbles in 14 games only recovering 16. Fumbling aside, penalty numbers were just as eye-popping.

    Last season, Nebraska was ranked No. 119 in penalties, averaging nearly 91 yards per game in yardage lost due to mental errors. Big 12 referees miffed at Nebraska’s departure can’t be blamed entirely for that number. Nebraska was ranked No. 104 in the nation during the 2008 season, Bo Pelini’s first as head coach.

    In 2011, it’s key for Nebraska to reverse the trend of mental mistakes if they want to achieve the goals they’ve made public. On Saturday, the Cornhuskers will show exactly what kind of game it intends to play. Will it be one plagued by dropped balls and pointless penalties or can ball security and clean, crisp play be the norm?

    4.) Kicking Specialists

    Since 2007, Nebraska hasn’t needed to worry about its kickers. It was all but guaranteed that Adi Kunalic would launch kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. It was a shock if Alex Henery didn’t convert every field goal, even from a distance of 60 yards.

    In 2011, the security blanket that was the duo of Henery and Kunalic are gone. The Cornhuskers are faced with a new set of specialists including one that Pelini believes has truly earned the job in Brett Maher

    Nebraska will be looking at P.J. Mangieri and Maher to take over for Kunalic and Henery. While those are some huge shoes to fill, the team is confident that both players can handle the pressure. On Saturday, Nebraska fans will find out if the new guys can even remotely replicate the success of their predecessors.

    5.) Memorial Stadium

    Nebraska students are out to “Take Back Game Day” on Saturday, but will this actually happen? In 2010, Memorial Stadium often sat quiet, choosing to sit over stand and clap over cheer.

    Those that would ask others standing and cheering to sit down and be quiet have been mocked repeatedly. On Saturday, Husker fans have the perfect opportunity to get some practice in themselves for when Big Ten opposition comes to town.

    While it will be hard to not be excited for Saturday’s season opener, can Nebraska’s fabled cathedral keep the excitement going for four quarters all year long? Hopefully Cornhusker fans will be doing their best to make the college football world aware that Nebraska is Big Ten title material complete with passionate fans.

    For Nebraska, this year is one of historic change. What sort of legacy will the Cornhuskers add to annals of Big Red lore? Come 2:30 PM on September 3, it’ll be time to find out.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: taylor martinez, barney cotton, john garrison, brendan stai, adi kunalic, alex henery, brett maher

  10. 2011 May 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Importance of 2011 to Bo Pelini


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini commands a salary on par with many of his NFL peers. He has some of the finest facilities to recruit with and one of the best athletic and academic support staffs available. Believe it or not, it’s still possible that 2011 could be a season that makes or breaks the fourth-year coach’s career at Nebraska.

    With the departure of Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore, not only is the program Pelini’s to command, but it is filled with his hand-picked crew. The “dean” of the staff, aside from the head coach himself, is offensive line coach Barney Cotton who Pelini brought in with him as part of his initial 2008 campaign.
    The addition of Rich Fisher, John Garrison, Ross Els and Corey Raymond appears to be positive so far. While Els and Fisher’s work with their respective units won’t be on full display until fall, Raymond and Garrison look like the real deal.

    Garrison was a question mark after his hire due to Nebraska being his first coaching gig ever. The same work ethic that he used over the past three years as an intern is starting to show.
    Despite his inexperience, the former starting center for the Cornhuskers has been relentless on the recruiting trail while working with tight ends and assisting Barney Cotton.

    Corey Raymond stepped in for a resigning Marvin Sanders and the transition appears seamless. The Blackshirt secondary looks as salty as ever. Raymond came to Nebraska with plenty of praise regarding his recruiting ability. His skills will be on display as he tries to reel in coveted defensive tackle Eddie Goldman.

    The 2009 defense can arguably be called Pelini’s finest thanks in large part to the presence of the most decorated Cornhusker in school history, Ndamukong Suh. The young guns on that defense are now seasoned veterans and Nebraska has a defense that contains fiery leadership at all three levels.

    Jared Crick keeps the nastiness flowing along the front four.
    Lavonte David will likely try to break his own single season tackling record and Alfonzo Dennard looks to match or better the senior season of first round draft pick Prince Amukamara. Add in youthful talent across the board and Pelini’s got all of the ingredients for a defense that could surpass 2009’s intensity.

    As of this writing, Nebraska has only two commitments for the 2011-2012 recruiting cycle. While there aren’t as many scholarships to go around, that total needs to increase soon. New quarterbacks and defensive ends are needed in the worst way. After Dennard departs, the secondary will be talented but young. The Cornhuskers will also have to account for the loss of offensive linemen Jermarcus Hardrick and Marcel Jones.

    During the offseason, there was some scuttlebutt that Pelini was entertaining the vacant Miami Hurricanes job, but all rumors were put to bed with a big raise courtesy of Tom Osborne. With Pelini making millions per year he’ll likely stick around Lincoln, but that price tag comes with expectations.

    For that kind of dough, conference championships are expected not just division bragging rights.Luckily for Pelini, if Tim Beck’s new offense gets humming and his defense performs to its usual high standards, the likelihood of the Cornhuskers smelling roses in 2011 increases significantly.

    Finally, there’s a spotlight the size of the Midwest on the entire Nebraska football program and it’s not going away any time soon. The college football world wants to see how well Nebraska can adapt to life in the Big Ten. The curiosity of pundits and fans alike will rival a three-year-old’s .

    During the Colorado game last season, ABC literally had a split-screen set up watching Pelini’s reaction to potential unfavorable conditions for the Big Red following a controversial loss to Texas A&M and ensuing meltdown by Pelini.

    While there may not be a split-screen this season, any potential outbursts will be plastered across the Internet before you can blink and put at the top of the hour on Sportscenter. If there are any incidents like last year’s eruption at College Station, the fallout likely won’t be contained to the Nebraska sideline.

    2011 is a grand opportunity for both coach Pelini and the University of Nebraska. Whether it is a positive or a negative is up to Bo.

    Follow us on Twitter @HuskerLocker

    Tags: bo pelini, ross els, rich fisher, corey raymond, john garrison, jared crick, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard

  11. 2011 Mar 21

    Husker Monday Takes: Barney's New View


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Six takes for your spring break. (As a side note, did you notice that scent in the air Sunday? The aroma of fresh earth. Smells like golf, fishing, picnics, outdoor concerts and those field trips you used to take in grade school):

    ***Throughout his career, Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton had a graduate assistant helping him with individual line drills. Makes sense. Cotton had five guys to manage. Lil help gets everything done faster.

    Until Cotton's return to NU, anyway. In three years, Cotton didn't have the GA. That guy, Curt Baldus, assisted with the skill positions.

    “He was never involved with us up front,” Cotton said.

    Cotton didn't lobby for an assistant coach to help him. He even seemed to take a little pride in flying solo. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck had the idea to add John Garrison this year. But Cotton didn't turn down the help. With the Garrison coaching the tackles and new GA Vince Morrow assisting with tight ends, Cotton said the Huskers are now producing “25-30-35” percent more reps.

    “We can do more in five minutes now that sometimes I can get done in ten or 12 minutes, just because I had to keep flopping back and forth,” Cotton said. “Go over here. Go over there. Now I just take my half of the line.”

    Maybe Cotton will develop the depth that - when it counted last year - once again did not seem to exist. Nebraska had two offensive linemen pretty banged up toward the end of 2010 – center Mike Caputo and guard Keith Williams - and neither got much of a rest. That set an unfortunate stage for their work in losses Oklahoma and Washington in December. When Williams severely rolled his ankle in the Big 12 Championship, he spent the rest of night hobbling around, doing his best, getting knocked back – but still playing.

    Standing next to a blocking dummy, surrounded by reporters, Cotton recalled the night. He talked on the phone with Beck and then-offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, assessing whether to replace Williams with true freshman Andrew Rodriguez. Should we make a change, Cotton asked Watson/Beck several times, because their eye-in-the-sky vantage point gave them a better handle on Williams' play.

    “We decided not to make a change,” Cotton said. “We talked about it. But we still thought Keith gave us our best chance.”

    Was that, perhaps, because young offensive linemen were getting fewer practice reps?

    The Washington game was far uglier. On one Taylor Martinez sack, four guys couldn't block one fat Husky nose tackle. UW sold out to stop the run, NU had no counter, so the black-clad Dubs painted the Qualcomm Stadium field with scarlet.

    “Do we like the way we finished? Absolutely not,” Cotton said. “You're kinda measured on how you finish, right? I accept that wholeheartedly.”

    Beck's offense could have a Cottony touch to it. Remember that Cotton coordinated offenses for three different teams: New Mexy State, Nebraska and Iowa State. While at ISU, he also recruited a few of Beck's high school players.

    “We've gotten to be good friends – not just coaching mates,” Cotton said of Beck. “We have very similar philosophies. Even schematically, we're eerily close.”

    Said Beck: “Bottom line: You're going to win with your guys up front. Nobody knows them better than their position coach. If he tells me we can't run that play, I'm going to listen to him. He's a veteran coach. He's been very successful. I have a lot of respect for him and listen to him as well.”

    As Watson had his Professor Gilmore, so too will Beck have a consigliere.

    ***Hunch No. 1: If NU's offense is really to improve, the passing game has to change, which means it must adapt better to the coverage of the defense. Getting just brief glimpses of what wide receivers coach Rich Fisher is teaching, I see that. Nebraska needs to get receivers open quicker in the play. Watson designed a system that eventually left one mismatch on the field, but it was often a shallow crossing route that needed to “clear,” and by that point in the progression Taylor Martinez was often rattled to hell.

    I've made no secret of loving Oregon's fairly basic passing game. The Ducks attack seams in defenses with gusto, gobbling up big chunks of yards. An UO's receivers aren't really NFL guys. They're fast, fairly skinny and efficient. They find gaps. They don't waste routes. It's not classical music so much as jazz with the right amount of improvisation.

    ***Hunch No. 2: The Brothers Pelini want to try to find a spot on the field for Sean Fisher. Whether that's at a strongside linebacker spot or a hybrid, Fisher has a kind of unique skillset, like Eric Hagg did at Peso. Fisher – now 6-foot-6 , 235 pounds – doesn't exactly have the same talents as Hagg, but he's a matchup problem for offenses because of his lateral speed. Or, at least, the speed he had before breaking his left fibula and tearing left ankle tendons. Just before the 2010 season-opener, a wide receiver threw a vicious crackback at a safety, who fell into Fisher's leg.

    “I was at my house a lot just sitting on the couch with my leg up,” Fisher said. “It wasn't really what I envisioned.”

    The ankle injury was more serious than the broken leg. He ices it after every practice; he's not yet 100 percent. He expects the full mental recovery – just as important as the physical one – to be complete by summer.

    Back to Fisher's strengths: If he regains his speed, it's hard for backs to go wide on him. His pursuit speed is just as good as LaVonte David's – and David routinely meets running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Doing that on a run blitz is one thing; David can do it while “fitting” his regular assignment. So can Fisher.

    If you want to know why that matters, chew on it: Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State all want to run wide “stretch,” “counter” and “toss” plays. Like these from the Badgers. Or these from the Hawkeyes. The cutback lanes needed to make those plays really hum exist when the middle linebacker overplays the stretch and gets caught in the backwash. If you have a sleek strongside guy who can gum up the play at or before the line of scrimmage, the play's dead in the water because the Mike keeps in the box.

    The key for Fisher: Can he take on a Big Ten tight end or tackle at the point of contact and hold up? We were about to find out more about the kid last year – until he got hurt.

    ***He tries to hide it sometimes, but Jared Crick is a funny guy, a blend of jock humor and irony that'll come in handy for his second year of leading the Blackshirts. To (literal) wit:

    On new defensive line coach John Papuchis: “He's such a good teacher. That's the biggest compliment anybody could give a coach. He knows how to translate what he wants done to us. It's very easy. If JP could follow all my classes, I'd be an academic All-American.”

    On his nickname: “White Mamba. (Ndamukong) Suh gave it to me. Kobe Bryant – he's the Black Mamba. It was a name Suh or (defensive end) David Harvey gave me my sophomore year. 'The' White Mamba. I've kept it. I love it. It's really one that's unique.”

    White Mamba turned down a chance to turn pro after last season. Crick's size and speed would have put him on the NFL Draft's first-round radar. The fifth-year senior ultimately came back to graduate.

    “My parents wanted me to get my degree,” the history major said.

    Consider Crick fortunate: He avoided what could be a long, spiteful NFL labor fight. If TV interests like ESPN weren't leaning so hard on the league to get a deal done – the Mouse House must have some internal manifesto that stipulates updates “on the 8s” like the Weather Channel – the stakes and rhetoric might be lower. As it is, projected high picks – Prince Amukamara among them – are being asked not to appear at the NFL Draft in New York as a sign of, oh, hazing if you ask me. Solidarity if you ask the union-that-no-longer-technically-exists.

    “I'm glad I'm not mixed up in that,” Crick said.

    ***Not quite ready yet to fully weigh in on Doc Sadler's vision – and two-year extended warranty - after his Nebraska basketball team appeared to mope its way through a 76-49 beatdown at Wichita State. Just two quick points that I'll return to later:

    *Once it became clear that the Shockers were going to hit their 3-pointers, what chance did the Huskers have? Sadler is reluctant to call off his usual double-team-the-post strategy because he doesn't appear to trust his interior guys to defend such luminaries as J.T. Durley straight up. A bigger, slower Husker team tends to rotate late to the double team, which gives the opposing big man time to find the open shooter. Durley did it again and again last week. Nebraska only gave up 60 points per game this year, but there were more defensive breakdowns this year than in 2009 or 2008.

    *Sadler has 89 wins in five years. Chew on this: According to realtimerpi.com, 27 of them – a full 30 percent – are against the three worst conferences in college basketball: The SWAC, MEAC, and transitional Independents/Division II teams. And that list doesn't include gems like South Carolina-Upstate, Southern Utah, IPFW and Eastern Washington. Most of these programs play 5-10 road games in a row, sometimes just hopping from town to town thousands of miles away from campus, collecting a paycheck to serve as sacrificial lambs.

    Yeah, every major conference college basketball team feasts on a few. Not many are devouring five per year, though. Or playing an average of three teams per year with a RPI above 300 – NU has played 15 since Sadler's arrival. Colorado, in the same timeframe, played 15 teams from the SWAC/MEAC/Independents and 13 teams with RPI ratings above 300. Oklahoma played nine 300+ RPI teams. Texas Tech played seven. Only Iowa State (17) played more 300+RPI teams in that timeframe – and Greg McDermott hit the escape hatch on his short-lived tenure to coach at Creighton.

    It's all just a bit...miserly. Sadler is a shrewd manager, massaging 18 wins per year. The raw numbers aren't bad. But when you peek at some of those opponents – and the meager crowds they draw to the Bob Devaney Sports Center – you must ask: Does Sadler do a better job of framing the debate for his supporters – or moving the program toward consistent berths in the NCAA Tournament?

    ***After he won his second national title – completing his second undefeated season – Saturday night at the NCAA Championships, Nebraska wrestler Jordan Burroughs vaulted into the top ten of NU's best all-time male athletes. Ahead of every basketball player, for certain. Every baseball player not named Alex Gordon. Among the football giants, right there with former Husker sprinter Charlie Greene.

    Define tough: Here's a kid who wins the national crown in 2009 without a loss and has every expectation to do it again in 2010. Except he shreds his knee. Snaps the PCL.

    Remember Bobby Newcombe in the first half of his first start at quarterback? Remember him after that? Good – but not the same? That could've happened to Burroughs.

    But he rehabbed the left knee and regained his speed, a thwoop of a first step that makes his double leg shot almost impossible to block for a whole period. He's craftier now, too; he can set up that shot more effectively. And like the dip of the Jet's shoulder on a punt return or that effortless kick of Merlene Ottey in just about any collegiate race she ever ran, it's a signature move of a great artist – whose canvas happens to be a mat cured by years of tension and sweat.

    If you've been to the Nebraska High School Wrestling Championships – especially at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, where they'd open the doors and kids would sprint in to corral seats for their family, or half their town – you know the sport has a blooming culture in this state like a freshly-irritated cauliflower ear. That's why UNO wrestling – about to be gutted and cast aside by the Nebraska Board of Regents – is what it is. That's why half of Howells still comes down for Husker duals even though native son Craig Brester graduated last year. That's why the 2009 Big 12 Championships, held in NU Coliseum, was packed to the gills and roared when Nebraska “beat” Iowa State by tying the Cyclones for the conference crown. This stuff matters here, and Burroughs is best many have ever seen around these parts.

    The official hotbed of college wrestling – the Big Ten – awaits. Nebraska goes without Burroughs, but with considerable momentum from his achievement.

    Tags: husker monday takes, spring football 2011, tim beck, barney cotton, john garrison, vince morrow, sean fisher, jordan burroughs, doc sadler

  12. 2011 Mar 12

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Camp Begins!


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Related photos

    To Bo Pelini, “practice is practice” - even when the Nebraska head coach is breaking in four new assistant coaches.

    So while NU's first workout of spring camp Saturday had a few hiccups, “it was pretty smooth,” Pelini said.

    “A couple drills to start - it was little bit of a Chinese fire drill,” Pelini said. “But overall I thought it was a really good day. We got a lot of work done. The effort was great. I thought we hit the ground running.”

    Wide receivers coach Rich Fisher, co-offensive line coach John Garrison, linebackers coach Ross Els and secondary coach Corey Raymond have already been on campus for several weeks. Saturday, they along with new offensive graduate assistant Vince Morrow started working with players inside the Hawks Championship Center.

    Garrison and Els moved briskly among their position groups instructing players. Fisher initially seemed unsure where to start drills for his group, but settled on a sideline spot near midfield of the practice facility. He immediately instructed his receivers to sit on the ground and start catching passes. Raymond, in a skull cap and gray pullover, looked like a player, blending in among the defensive backs, occasionally pulling one aside for a pointer.

    In a sharp contrast to the more reserved Shawn Watson, new offensive coordinator Tim Beck was active, vocal and smiling, moving briskly among the quarterbacks, who were taking snaps from centers. A few times he took aside true freshman Jamal Turner for a quick instructional chat. Turner took virtually no snaps from under center in high school.

    Bo Pelini took his customary spot near midfield, surveying various stations with his arms crossed. Business as usual.

    “I would have pushed back spring practice if I didn't feel like we were on the same page,” he said.

    In their first three practices – including Monday and Wednesday of next week – the Huskers will undergo a “pretty aggressive install,” Pelini said, before sending players on spring break. NU coaches will use the 12-day break to review what's left to install, if anything, while giving players a much-needed rest from a fierce winter conditioning period.

    “Whatever they want to do,” Pelini said when asked how players would be allowed to spend spring break. “They know what's at stake...they have to do a little working out when they're at home.”

    Monday's practice is closed to the media.

    Notes: In addition to defensive end Cameron Meredith and left tackle Jeremiah Sirles, Pelini confirmed that sophomore guard Jesse Coffey and senior walk-on tight end/H-back Jay Martin would miss all of spring, too...Walk-on Mychael McClure will likely retire from football because of concussions, too...junior running back Lester Ward is working with the tight ends for spring.

    Tags: spring football 2011, rich fisher, corey raymond, ross els, john garrison, jamal turner, tim beck

  13. 2011 Mar 09

    Beck Gets Big Raise


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Unsurprisingly, Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck got a huge raise as part of his recent promotion – but he won't be paid as much as former OC Shawn Watson.

    The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Beck would make $345,000 per year – or $30,000 less than Watson made in his final season at NU. Beck made $220,000 last year.

    Other new coaches' salaries: Defensive backs coach Corey Raymond will make $200,000, linebackers coach Ross Els will make $170,000, wide receivers coach Rich Fisher will make $160,000 and offensive line/tight ends coach John Garrison will make $140,000.

    Defensive line coach John Papuchis – who added recruiting coordinator to his duties – gets a raise to $200,000 as well. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini still makes $375,000 while Barney Cotton and Ron Brown will both make $220,000.

    See also: Beck's Boys

    Tags: spring football 2011, tim beck, shawn watson, rich fisher, corey raymond, ross els, john garrison

  14. 2011 Feb 23

    Husker Heartbeat 2/23: Bo's New Revolution, Gordon's New Groove


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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.

    *Tim Beck really knocked his initial interview out of the park Tuesday night - not that many Husker fans (or members of the media) were listening to the guy. We have the most comprehensive write-up (we happened to be listening and picked up all of the good stuff) of the interview, but the LJS and OWH weigh in, too.

    Not found in any of those stories - only here, as far as we can tell - is Beck explanation of why NU will be using two offensive line coaches, hiring John Garrison to assist Barney Cotton, whom Beck will occasionally use as an advisor to the offense as a whole:

    "(Barney) can see the big picture very well and there's times when we've relied on him and said “Hey, what do you think of this or that?” And sometimes you want who's in there still running those offensive linemen. It's great to be able to get another set of eyes. It's certainly a big help when they have to work combination drills. Barney's got somebody he can split his group with."

    Will there be a Cottony flavor to the offense? In small doses, this isn't a terrible thing; Cotton ran a more-than-passable shotgun running game (the passing attack left a little to be desired) at Nebraska and Iowa State in his stints as OC. The LJS looks further at the offensive line matters here.

    *Meanwhile, Husker Mike over at Corn Nation is less than thrilled with Bo Pelini's handling of the media during the coaching staff hire. He writes:

    "Since returning from vacation, Pelini and the new coaches haven't faced the media. That's not a problem for the media; that's a problem for the staff. Sure, Pelini and Beck have done one-hour stints on the Husker Sports Network, but that's not a substitute for facing all of the media. And let me make it clear: it's a problem for Pelini and his coaching staff, not for the media. The media is going to continue to do their job and cover Nebraska football whether Pelini wants to talk or not. In this 24x7 Twitter-fueled blogosphere, fans demand coverage constantly. (Isn't that why you are reading this?) Pelini's rejection of a press conference doesn't quiet the discussion, it just means that the discussion occurs without Pelini."

    *Prince Amukamara continues to prepare for the NFL Draft. ESPN has a video of his workouts, while Pro Football Weekly has a diary.

    *The Nebraska basketball team got a little advice from Tom Osborne after the big Texas win: Keep your cool. Meanwhile, center Jorge Brian Diaz gets a MRI for his knee, but appears ready to go for tonight's big game vs. Kansas State.

    *Alex Gordon has yet to fulfill his promise as a great Major League hitter - and the Kansas City Royals are still waiting for it to happen.

    "This has got to be it," Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said Tuesday. "This is his time. He knows it. I don't feel like at all he's putting pressure on himself. He's very focused. He's always worked extremely hard. He's always tried to do everything we've talked about. It's just a matter of us doing a major, major surgery on his swing this offseason."


    "I would say right now he's closer to being what he was when he got drafted from a video standpoint," Seitzer said. "From everything I've seen, the dude was off the charts. As he got into to pro ball, he worked harder, tried harder, wanted it more, tried to do too much. He wanted to hit for power, wanted to hit the ball hard. All of that brought bad habits."

    Seitzer said to the "normal eye" the changes in Gordon's swing are not that dramatic.

    "But from my standpoint, it's going to be huge," Seitzer said. "It's really huge for him. His confidence right now is probably as high as its ever been since I've been here. We're getting him looser with his upper body, doing pretty much a solid month of drill work, just the tension out of his upper body and really focusing him being more consistent in his approach. His hands are working better. His swing is much better. Now it's just going to be seeing how consistent he can be once the game starts."

    It definitely is time for Gordon, NU's most naturally gifted player, well, ever.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, bo pelini, tim beck, barney cotton, john garrison, mens hoops, alex gordon

  15. 2011 Feb 22

    Beck: Change Is Good


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    After three years of a hybrid West Coast/spread attack that played to diminishing returns in big games and had critics sniping at the heels of Shawn Watson, the new leader of Nebraska's offense - Tim Beck - is officially hitting the reset button and putting the “gas pedal to the floor.”

    In a bold, upbeat first interview since becoming NU's latest offensive coordinator, Beck told the “Sports Nightly” radio program Tuesday night that he intends to completely overhaul the Huskers' attack for their inaugural Big Ten season in 2011.

    “You can't be afraid to start over and junk everything and get a system in place,” Beck said during a 15-minute, wide-ranging chat. “Even though there may be things your guys know, change is good. And you've got to make those changes and live through those early times, because once the foundation is laid on what you plan on doing, you're going to be set for years to come with it.”

    And what will Nebraska's offense look like? Beck didn't offer precise details. But he gave two notable statements:

    *“We're going to run the ball first and foremost and we're going to hang our hat on that.”

    *“We're going to go where they're not – and attack. I just think you gotta be an attacking offense nowadays and constantly put pressure on defenses and put the gas pedal to the floor. Go after them.”

    Beck's comments matched up with those of his boss, head coach Bo Pelini, who told “Sports Nightly” last Friday that he wanted the way offense was taught at NU to mirror methods he and his brother, Carl Pelini, had used to radically – and successfully - revamp Nebraska's defense.

    It's also what Beck said he did as a co-offensive coordinator at Kansas under Mark Mangino. KU peaked with a 12-1, Orange-Bowl-winning season in 2007, when the Jayhawks' high-octane, no huddle attack – led by diminutive quarterback Todd Reesing – was the No. 7 total offense and No. 2 scoring offense in the country.

    “We overhauled it, started from scratch, put in the system we needed to put in, had enough flexibility and kept it simple,” said Beck, who added that Kansas had no “five-star players.” Instead, “we had a bunch of guys who worked hard, and we gave them a chance to have success. And that's what the offense allowed them to do.”

    One mistake coaches often make, Beck said, was to “tie in so many different philosophies, techniques and verbiage that it becomes a whole bunch of stuff. And it becomes 'What am I supposed to do on these plays?' as opposed to 'How we do run these plays and why do we run these plays?'

    The “how and why” method of learning the offense, Beck said, starts with the quarterback. Nebraska returns two signal-callers who started games last year – sophomore Taylor Martinez and junior Cody Green.

    The dynamic Martinez enjoyed a smashing start to the season. After a severe ankle injury, however, he struggled executing whole chunks of NU's shotgun zone-read attack. Green, who lacks Martinez's big-play running ability, successfully led the Huskers to wins over Iowa State and Colorado. Brion Carnes, Kody Spano, Ron Kellogg and Jamal Turner will also participate in spring camp at QB.

    Beck said he'd look at a quarterback's leadership – in the huddle and elsewhere – above any other attribute when picking a starter.

    “He's got to be able to convince those guys that, no matter what, we're going to have success,” he said.

    After that, the quarterback's mastery of the new offense – which will be installed during spring camp and again in fall practice – will be another key factor.

    “I'm not going to know every single time where they're 'not going to be' based on formations or whatever it is their defensive coordinator wants to do,” Beck said. “The plan is to have that quarterback and myself be on the same page. He understands the offense. He understands why we want to run the plays we want to run. 'How do I get to the best play?' And that's what we're putting in.”

    The new OC hedged somewhat on confirming whether NU would employ a “check with me” sideline audibling system that he used at Kansas. He did tell “Sports Nightly” he expected to be in the press box calling plays.

    He'll also be open to taking suggestions from boss and long-time friend Pelini, whom Beck said “knows as much about offense as he does about defense.”

    “Because he knows what hurts them,” Beck said. “Knowing me like he does – and I know him – he's not ever going to hurt my feelings by coming in and saying 'How about this?' or 'What do you think of this?' or 'We ought to run this or this.' I hope he does it. He's an extremely smart guy.”

    Beck also lauded his new, revamped offensive staff during the interview. Nebraska hired Rich Fisher to coach wide receivers and John Garrison to assist with the offensive line. Neither are bursting with recent credentials – Fisher coached high school football and gave golf lessons, while Garrison served as an intern with the Huskers – but Beck didn't care.

    “I don't believe a resume ever won any ballgames,” Beck said. “It's about people. People win games. Players win games. It's not about plays. It's not about resumes.

    “...We needed some hungry guys. Some guys from outside the realm of Nebraska. Just being different. Bringing a different view of everything that was going on. That's kind of what these guys had. They're hungry. They're aggressive.”

    Moving former tight ends coach Ron Brown to oversee running backs – Beck's responsibility in 2010 – was a no-brainer given that incoming freshmen Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah are expected to contribute early and often behind presumed starter Rex Burkhead.

    “We needed some experience there, some leadership there to make sure that they understood what they're getting into,” Beck said. “They're going to be a tailback at the University of Nebraska. That's a different deal now. Expectations are higher. The physical play those guys need to bring to the table, the pride they need to play with. Who better to teach that than Ron? He's as good as they get.”

    Beck talked at length about only two offensive newcomers – Abdullah and Turner.

    On Abdullah: “He's a huge get. I think he's an electrifying player...he plays big. He plays tough and physical.”

    On Turner: “He kinda has the “It” factor. Extremely hard worker. Very unselfish player. And he's shown it. He's gained a lot of success already – an instant credibility from the way he works. I know our older players have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”

    Beck said he has not yet talked to NU's other quarterback recruit for 2011, Bubba Starling, since the changes were officially announced by Pelini last via cell phone.

    McKewon Commentary: The Boldness of Beck

    Grade Bo's Revamped Coaching Staff

    Tags: tim beck, rich fisher, ron brown, ameer abdullah, jamal turner, john garrison

  16. 2011 Feb 19

    Bo Talks Staff, New Offense


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    A poor finish to the 2010 season gave Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini “a new sense of purpose” heading into NU's inaugural Big Ten season in 2011.

    “It reinvigorated me,” Pelini told the “Sports Nightly” radio program Friday night.

    Now, Pelini hopes to do the same to the Huskers' offense.

    In his first substantive comments about Nebraska's revamped coaching staff, Pelini said the four new assistants he hired – Rich Fisher, Ross Els, John Garrison and Corey Raymond – are “extremely intelligent football people and “guys I trust, guys I know” who can hit the ground running when spring football starts March 12.

    “In the end: Do they see things the way I see it?” Pelini said. “I know I got that in the staff that I hired...we're all on the same page. That's No. 1 in my book.”

    As for the NU offense, Pelini said to look for promoted coordinator Tim Beck to employ a “highly adjustable” yet slimmer playbook and more audibling – presumably from the sideline – as the Huskers turn the page on Shawn Watson – who officially landed a job as Louisville quarterbacks coach on Thursday.

    “It's not as much what we do, but how we do it, how we call it, how we get to things,” Pelini said. “We want to be a little more multiple than we were before and really cut down the playbook in such a way that we get good at something. And really utilize our players so they have deep understanding of what we're doing. Not just what we're doing – but why we're doing it. And therefore, we can make adjustments on the run, so we can attack. We want to attack people...it's going to take a lot of teaching.”

    Tags: football, coach search 2011, tim beck, ross els, corey raymond, john garrison, rich fisher

  17. 2011 Feb 18

    Husker Heartbeat 2/18: The New Guys, Hardball, and Hard Questions


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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.

    *Randy York explains why Ross Els and Corey Raymond are perfect fits for NU's defensive staff.

    *Former teammates and co-workers laud new Husker assistant John Garrison, both his attention to detail and work ethic.

    *Bubba Starling may have developed a strong relationship with former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, but he's OK with recent changes made. Starling also understands he will not redshirt, and he knew nearly one month ago that Marvin Sanders was leaving the program and Watson probably was, too. So Bo could tell Bubba about coaching changes, but not Charles Jackson?

    *Much of Nebraska baseball's new groove depends on volunteer hitting coach Darin Erstad, who brings a long, fruitful MLB career and a World Series title to the Husker clubhouse. OWH's Mitch Sherman - arguably the best college baseball writer in the country, for our money, writes:

    Ninth-year coach Mike Anderson, Erstad's hitting coach at NU in 1995, said he expects Erstad to instill some of the former star's habits in the Huskers.

    “The first I notice is his attention to detail,” Anderson said. “He's brought that to each of our kids and created a good focus. He's not only got an individual plan but a team plan. And probably one of the most important things is the relationship between player and coach.

    “They trust him. They know he's been through it. It's fun to sit back and watch.”

    *Meanwhile, Mike Anderson is on the warpath for the agent/advisor that's currently keeping freshman NU pitcher Logan Ehlers from taking the field.

    *Former Nebraska basketball standout Bruce Chubick - one of two Husker players ever to go to the NCAA Tournament in each of their playing years - wants one more game in a Husker uniform. And he doesn't like Texas.

    *Former Lincoln Southeast player Matt Hill - now a pretty good utility player for No. 2 Texas - comes home for what he calls a "business trip."

    *When an Iowa boy wrestler refused to take on a girl at the state tournament, it raised the obvious question: What of such close, physical competitions between boys and girls?

    Tags: husker heartbeat, ross els, corey raymond, john garrison, baseball, mens hoops, wrestling, logan ehlers

  18. 2011 Feb 17

    Podcast 2/17: Bo's New Crew


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, bo pelini, ross els, tim beck, corey raymond, john garrison, rich fisher

  19. 2011 Feb 09

    COACH SEARCH 2011: 2/9 Update


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    OK, so we're giving it a name and shoving out updates - including some of our own - until this matter of Nebraska's coaches is resolved.

    As they love to say in the movie review business, here's where we came in:


    Latest Official Update: According to Tom Shatel, Bo Pelini has finished his coaching staff and just waiting for university protocol to unveil the whole thing. Expect the deed to be done by the end of the week while Shawn Watson tries to line up a NFL job.

    Potential Candidates: NU running backs coach Tim Beck appears to be the new offensive coordinator. He helped operate Kansas' no-huddle, spread offense in 2007 when the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl and laid waste to an extremely weak Big 12 schedule (with the exception of Missouri, the only team KU didn't beat). Beck's the guy to coach the quarterbacks, too. Most offensive coordinators naturally want that role.

    We see Barney Cotton retaining his role as an offensive line coach with the promotion of intern John Garrison to an assistant role. Garrison played center/long snapper at Nebraska in 1999-2002, so he'd be a good fit for the interior spots. Garrison's been around for awhile, he knows the system and coaches, and figures to fit in well. He's also pretty darn tough.

    We see Ron Brown moving to coach wide receivers and tight end. We think Brown will be a good dose of energy and excitement for the wides.

    That leaves a mystery coach for Bo to hire for the running backs. What follows is speculation that's not to be construed as a report. Get it? Got it? Good.

    We've heard our share of folks for that spot from Ohio's Tim Albin to USC's Chris Kiffin to NU intern Joe Ganz to Alabama's Burton Burns to Ft. Scott Community College head coach Jeff Sims. Those are simply names in the wind, Husker fans, but they tend to have something in common: One connection or another to Bo or Nebraska football. We think Bo's pick will be someone he knows, someone he can trust, and someone familiar with the Husker culture.

    We don't have a solid lead on that mystery coach. We're not sure anybody does. But, if Shatel's report is right - we'll have a good idea by the end of the week.


    Latest Official Update: NU has two openings after the resignation of Marvin Sanders. Sanders' opening will be filled within the next week by Corey Raymond. The open linebackers jobs appears headed to Ohio position coach Ross Els. Pelini confirmed both to Tom Shatel Friday night.

    Els is not a terribly sexy name. But - he's a Lincoln native, he's purported to be a good teacher of the game, he fits in well with defensive coordinator Carl Pelini and he may get a crack at coaching special teams. At any job short of coordinator, we're less likely to play the resume game. If Els can coach, he can coach, and if Bo thinks he's the guy over Doug Colman, so be it. Since Raymond probably assumes some pretty aggressive recruiting duties - Sanders was nonchalant at best on the recruiting trail despite excellent communication skills - then Els can probably worry less about locking down a bunch of prospects. He'll also probably work the JUCO routes with Carl Pelini, who has strong contacts throughout Kansas.

    Tags: coaching search 2011, tim beck, ron brown, barney cotton, john garrison

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