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  1. 2012 Apr 04

    How Bo Pelini can Break the Four-Loss Curse


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Chris Labenz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. 2012 Mar 30

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


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Ryan Donohue

    We had a look at which offensive coaches would impact Nebraska the most in 2012. Let's examine the defense and the head man himself:

    Rick Kaczenski – Defensive Line: Not since the days of Ndamukong has Nebraska been able to apply consistent pressure on opposing offenses with only a four-man rush.

    Unless the defensive philosophy changes, the front four needs to step up and wreak more havoc and in 2012, and they’ll need to do it with arguably less talent than last year.

    All-American Jared Crick is gone and so is senior-to-be Josh Williams. Ends Cameron Meredith, Jason Ankrah and tackle Baker Steinkuhler will need to come up big to match, and even excel beyond last year’s production.

    If Kaczenski can find a way to use senior Eric Martin’s raw aggression, the entire defense will benefit.

    Ross Els – Linebackers/Special Teams Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator: The rush is on to make the herculean effort of replacing Lavonte David. Nebraska has experience in the form of a trio of seniors in Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley.

    Two intriguing prospects in JUCO transfer Zaire Anderson and redshirt freshman David Santos are ready for duty, so hopefully they can find ways to adapt and improve.

    Where Els can make a true impact is on special teams and recruiting, two areas that have taken a hit lately. You don’t need to look further than last year’s debacle in Ann Arbor to see how important special teams can be.

    Nebraska’s kicking game is strong thanks to the foot of Bret Maher, but the coverage and return game needs to improve in a hurry. A new scheme to get Abdullah’s spark back must be in the cards to ensure that the new touchback rules don't nullify him.

    Recruiting is an area where the Huskers need to circle the wagons and start bringing in more prospects early on. The strategy of casting a nationwide net backfired in a big way last year. It’s up to Els' organizational skills to get the Huskers back in five star living rooms.

    Terry Joseph – Secondary: With Alfonzo Dennard gone, young corners Andrew Green and Ciante Evans must improve in a hurry. Incoming JUCO transfer Mohammad Seisay may be able to start right away.

    Austin Cassidy departs, but the safety position could be one of strength thanks to Daimion Stafford’s return. PJ Smith, Harvey Jackson, Corey Cooper appear ready to make waves as well.

    Joseph seems to be a good fit thus far and is certainly enthusiastic about leading Nebraska’s back four, but it’s a normally-proud group that’s licking its wounds from last season. The former Volunteer appears to be the guy to whip the secondary into shape early on.

    John Papuchis – Defensive Coordinator: With Carl Pelini gone, will JP and Bo be able to coexist? Will he actually have control over the defense, and If he does, what ideas and schemes does he have in store?

    A good recruiter with seemingly-high coaching acumen, Papuchis speaks of having a fire in his belly for building a dominant defense. That's good, because as evident from last year, defense is a sticking point for achieving success in the bruising, brawling Big Ten.

    If Papuchis can seamlessly take over and inject both refreshing ideas and youthful enthusiasm, a Pelini/Papuchis combination could be the cure for what’s ailed the Blackshirts. If not, expect another nine-win season.

    Bo Pelini – Head Coach: This is now Pelini’s team in every sense. He has his own system in place and a refined, experience staff that he’s hand-picked.

    While his coaches, new and familiar to Husker fans, will largely determine the success on the field, Bo’s impact lies in the perception of the entire program.

    Many Huskers fans expect some hardware soon as in this season, and likely did last season. Pelini needs to find a way to elevate the program Big Ten Year Two.

    If Nebraska’s able to win the Legends division, things will be hunky dory. If not, the program stands on rocky footing. Bo has the cards, now he needs to play them.

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    Tags: rick kaczenski, ross els, terry joseph, john papuchis, bo pelini

  3. 2012 Mar 29

    Husker Heartbeat (3/29/12): Amukamara Addresses College, a Center's Final Chance and Lost Rivalries


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Former Husker Prince Amukamara is kicking off Collegebound Nebraska, a tuition-assistance program

    - Justin Jackson's switch to centeris his final chance to remain a Husker

    - Now eligible to play, transfer Mike Marrow is making a push for playing time at fullback

    - Defensive coordinator John Papuchis is pleased with what he's seen this spring

    - Johnston: Losing a rivalry a meaningless issue one year removed

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    Tags: prince amukamara, justin jackson, mike marrow, john papuchis

  4. 2012 Mar 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Spring Practice Opening Press Conference Notes


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. 2012 Jan 22

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Knee-Jerk Reactions (1/22)


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - List of positives that can be taken away from the worst home loss in Nebraska basketball’s recorded history:

    - After what will be six years including a current 93-73 record, the best postseason run being to the NIT’s second round and being involved in the worst loss the program has seen in a century plus, how can Tom Osborne rationally keep Doc Sadler after this season?

    - In hindsight, that Indiana floor rush looks kinda silly now. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

    - Crick, Dennard, David and Jones should all do well at the NFL Combine. David could bump himself up to a late second round pick with an excellent showing. Jones could cement his status as a fifth or sixth-rounder.

    - When few people, if any, know a commit’s name 10 days out from Signing Day, you can safely say they’re a reach.

    - Nebraska needs Devian Shelton in this class, if only for legitimacy purposes.

    - John Papuchis gets a 50 percent bump? He’s a solid coach, but that seems steep.

    - Side note: Chancellor Harvey Perlman’s not a fan of the huge college football coach salaries these days.

    - Of all the people expected to bring Dunkin’ Donuts to Omaha and the surrounding areas, that two ex-Huskers are doing it isn’t so surprising. That Kris Brown and Zach Wiegert are doing it, that’s the weird part.

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    Tags: doc sadler, basketball, jared crick, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, marcel jones, devian shelton, john papuchis, harvey perlman, kris brown, zach wiegert

  6. 2011 Dec 28

    Husker Heartbeat 12/28: Pelini Addresses Rumors, OL Out Versus SC and Practice Tidbits


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Bo Pelini says he's "not out looking around" at other job options

    - Absent for the past three games, guard Andrew Rodriguez will not be playing in the Capital One Bowl

    - South Carolina's familiar offensive schemes doesn't mean the Blackshirts' workload will be any lighter

    - Nebraska maintains that recent coaching role shifts aren't impacting preparation for the upcoming bowl game

    - In fact, Pelini was encouraged by the Huskers' first day of practice in Orlando

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    Tags: bo pelini, south carolina, capital one bowl, andrew rodriguez, john papuchis, rick kaczenski

  7. 2011 Dec 20

    Husker Heartbeat 12/20: Pelini to Penn State?, Coaching Roles and Sadler's Bunch Slow to Start


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Bo Pelini denies any contact with Penn State regarding their vacant head coach position

    - Shatel: Get used to the Pelini rumor mill

    - Defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator John Papuchis reports that all coaches' roles have stayed static

    - Doc Sadler's bunch is looking for answers to their slow starts as of late

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    Tags: bo pelini, john papuchis, doc sadler

  8. 2011 Dec 11

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Sunday Husker Conversation


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Neil Raus: Who is going to replace Carl (Pelini)?

    BC: That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? The three names everyone has been tossing around are Mike Stoops, Ron Zook and John Papuchis. I think you can pretty well cross Papuchis off of that list as promoting another coach to learn a high-level position on the job isn’t a good move by Pelini.

    Peter Bruno: Who’s the next quarterback after Martinez?

    BC: Rex Burkhead. Seriously. With the lack of playing time that you saw Brion Carnes get, it’s pretty obvious who the No. 1 guy is, but let’s say Martinez went down. I think you’d see something similar to 2010 when Burkhead stepped in as a Wildcat quarterback.

    Kaleb Henry: How many conference championships will be won this year and which sport will be the first to win a national championship in the Big Ten era?

    BC: Well, the volleyballers already notched one. I could see some track and field titles, maybe softball and even baseball if some luck graces Darin Erstad’s first year. When it comes to national titles, I’d give the volleyball team the inside track.

    Lance Badousek: If we don't win a conference championship next year how much longer will Bo have a job?

    BC: That depends on how bad any losses are and if Nebraska looks just plain out of it like they did against Northwestern this season. That kind of performance will get you a loss in the Big Ten nearly every time. It seems like Pelini’s teams are good for a few surprising wins and a few shocking losses. 2012’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, either.

    Patrick Farrell: When will we find out about the new defensive coordinator?

    BC: I’m honestly surprised we haven’t already.

    Beverly Kay: What's next for Turner Gill?

    BC: At this point, I think a trip back to the mid-majors would do Turner well. It’s a shame he didn’t snag the UAB job as he’d do well there. If he can coach Buffalo up, I’d trust him with about any mid-major. I know what you’re thinking and I severely doubt he’ll be back at Nebraska as long as Bo is head coach.

    Shane McKinney: When we get to our usual 17 points against South Carolina, will we once again shut down the offense?

    BC: It’s possible. Watch for a heavy dose of Burkhead as Carolina’s strength is defending the pass. They’re a little more susceptible to a powerful running game. Alfonzo Dennard is going up against one of the best receivers in the country in Alshon Jeffery, but Jeffery’s playing with a busted finger. Dennard still needs to treat him like he’s 100 percent. The lack of South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore really evens the playing field.

    Caleb Gorham: Can we have another Tom Osborne?

    BC: Another T.O. will never come along. Not for Nebraska or anyone else. Coach Osborne’s a special guy on a number of levels. There will be new coaching masterminds, but only one Tom Osborne.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, mike stoops, ron zook, john papuchis, carl pelini, brion carnes, darin erstad, turner gill, south carolina, alshon jeffery, alfonzo dennard, tom osborne

  9. 2011 Dec 10

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Bowl Season Thoughts


    By HuskerLocker

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    The Husker Locker staff will be presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of each week in the world of college football all season long.

    This week:

    Three names seem to be at the top of the list to replace Carl Pelini as defensive coordinator: Mike Stoops, Ron Zook and John Papuchis. Who’s your pick and why?

    James: I'm torn between Ron Zook and Mike Stoops. I think Mike is probably the better defensive coach, but Zook might be the stronger recruiter. Then again, was Zook's recruiting success due to his former recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley?

    I think the doubt about Zook's true recruiting prowess leads me to Stoops. Ultimately though, this is Bo Pelini's defense, the real key to me is bringing in a guy who is killer at coaching a position, can take some of the film breakdown and basic gameplanning off of Bo's plate, and will recruit like crazy.

    Erin: Luke Fickell.

    Just kidding. I can dream though, right? I'd take Mike Stoops, even though I'm fairly positive one ref would go deaf every game from being yelled at by the Pelini/Stoops combo. The two of them are so similar, so maybe Ron Zook is the better option?

    Moral of the story: Not John Papuchis.

    Brandon: I’m high on Zook and have been since I heard his name was a possibility. He can walk into Lincoln and make an immediate impact as a recruiter which is something the program desperately needs. His connections throughout the Big Ten won’t totally nullify Urban Meyer’s advances, but Zook’s been around the block and knows how to play ball.

    He’s got experience with the secondary, so I could see him helping Corey Raymond continue to grow and he’d be able to handle a number of the duties that Bo simply doesn’t care for. It seems like a win-win to me.

    What are your thoughts on the Capital One Bowl matchup with South Carolina?

    James: It's not as bad of a match-up as it initially appears. South Carolina has a nasty and stout pass defense, but is soft against the power running game. Big opportunity there, especially with a healthy offensive line and rested Rex Burkhead.

    Bo Pelini, with a month to gameplan and install said gameplan, should wring out a great game from the Blackshirts. I think Nebraska's in for a physical brawl down in Orlando. The team should be jacked for this game against a good SEC team, unlike last year's Holiday Bowl.

    Erin: Another Big Ten-SEC matchup and this one should be interesting. South Carolina has a great defense and will definitely give our offense a tough time. Hopefully Taylor Martinez can replicate how he played in the second half of Ohio State here. If he can, it should make for a win. It'll be close, but a good game.

    Brandon: Couldn't love it more. I spoke to some Capital One Bowl representatives earlier in the season and mentioned the possibility of this matchup when asked who I’d like to see Nebraska face if they went to Orlando.

    The storylines are plentiful: Spurrier-Nebraska, Alshon Jeffery-Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska’s offense versus South Carolina’s defense (the gamecocks are No. 2 in pass defense and No 13 in scoring defense). No matter how you slice it, this game’s awesome. I wish Marcus Lattimore would be suiting up for the Gamecocks, though.

    How do you feel about the BCS’ selection of LSU-Alabama for the national championship?

    James: From a pure perspective of the BCS existing to ensure the top two teams play for the national championship, this is the correct decision. From a "fairness" and "watchable" perspective, it's a bit of a bummer. I would've loved to have seen Oklahoma State get a chance to play in this game.

    The fact that LSU already beat Alabama (at home), means the Crimson Tide doesn't really deserve another shot at this game. On the other hand, it's going to be fun to watch these teams go at each other with a whole 5-plus weeks to prepare for this game. How sick must you be if you're Boise State's kicker though? If they beat TCU, I think the Broncos might've played for the title.

    Erin: Well, I know it's not ideal. Most people wanted Oklahoma State to face LSU. Unfortunately, Okie State held up their ticket to the National Championship and let Iowa State snatch it from their grasp, then burn it. It was one loss, but it was a defining loss. Alabama lost to the No. 1 team in the country. OSU lost to Iowa State. So like it or not, the BCS says this is what is.

    But if you want to talk playoffs...

    Brandon: The BCS is what it is. It technically did its job. The problem with computers is that there will still be human input (See: garbage in, garbage out). Alabama and Oklahoma State can (and probably will) argue over their rightful place in the BCS National Championship Game, but honestly I can’t say Team X should be in without noting the case for Team Y.

    I was happy to hear that the Plus-One model is being looked at seriously and while I don’t think it’ll be implemented immediately, I’d like to see it as a part college football’s post-season ASAP.

    Which players do you feel have the most to gain/lose in terms of draft stock against USC?

    James: I don't think anyone can change their position too much at this point. Brandon Kinnie could potentially elevate his worth a bit. Lavonte is probably late first/early second and if he plays really well in this game, he might help secure a first round spot. I think Dennard is pretty locked in where he's going to be. I don't see this as make or break for most of the players, though maybe some of the fringe seniors could make a statement for a late round draft choice with a big game.

    Erin: Alfonzo Dennard. I think Lavonte David has more than sealed up his fate in the NFL, but Dennard needs another strong game. He'll be drafted, but this game will determine how high he goes.

    Also, Brandon Kinnie will need a big game. It's been a rough season for the senior wide receiver, but he's proven that he has the strength and speed to play his position. If he can make one more big outing, it could create some buzz that he desperately needs.

    Brandon: Right now, I think things are pretty well set. A loss to Nebraska, no matter the size, isn’t going to hurt an SEC player. Guys like Alfonzo Dennard and Lavonte David have nowhere to go but up as they’ve been scouted all season long, made highlight reels, heck David is a first-team All-American during his second year of FBS football.

    It’s a shame that Crick isn’t able to step in, but he’ll have his opportunities down the line and will still likely make a good chunk of change on Sundays.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @eightlaces
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    James: @jamesstevenson

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    Tags: capital one bowl, ron zook, john papuchis, mike stoops, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, brandon kinnie, taylor martinez, jared crick

  10. 2011 Dec 09

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Three Names Top New Nebraska Defensive Coordinator List


    By HuskerLocker

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    By James Stevenson

    Carl Pelini is preparing to ride off to the sunny Floridian peninsula to become the head coach of Florida Atlantic and the Huskers now look to fill the vacancy he leaves behind. Bo Pelini is certainly the principal architect behind the defense, and will look for someone who can accent his scheme.

    The hire should tell us a lot about what Bo values most importantly heading into next season. Will he look for a defensive guru to complement his scheme, help with game-planning and play-calling?

    What position will the defensive coordinator coach? Perhaps the new guy is an ace recruiting coach who can bolster one of the staff’s biggest weaknesses or maybe a “big name” and possibly one from outside the Pelini circle will take over. Will Pelini stick with loyal and trusted lieutenants, even if they may not be the best available choice?

    Here are the three main names that stick out as legitimate candidates for the defensive coordinator position at Nebraska:

    Mike Stoops - Perhaps the most coveted defensive coordinator on the market right now, Mike Stoops is freshly removed as head coach of the Arizona Wildcats.

    Prior to that, he served on his brother Bob Stoops’s staff at Oklahoma as defensive coordinator. This is almost a trifecta for Nebraska, an excellent defensive coach, a good recruiter and someone very familiar with Bo Pelini and his family.

    The challenge in making this hire is that he’s a hot commodity. Ohio State and Oklahoma have both been rumored to offer him the position, though in both cases he’d be co-defensive coordinator.

    There are also many mid-major head coaching jobs available which might take a chance on a BCS-level head coach despite his efforts with the Wildcats.Stoops is probably undervalued right now due to a brutal stretch of 10 games in Arizona against exceptionally high caliber opposition.

    Ron Zook - Bo Pelini’s position coach at Ohio State, Zook brings some immediate name recognition and credibility to any school he joins. The former head coach of Florida and Illinois, Zook is well-known for his unorthodox style.

    His Gator recruiting classes helped set up Urban Meyer’s national championship runs, and he’s generally regarded as an excellent recruiter. Some would argue then-recruiting coordinator and now former New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley deserves the credit for Meyer's stacked cupboard, though.

    Zook is an interesting possibility for Nebraska. He'd bring in expertise in coaching safeties and defensive backs, and could certainly handle some defensive responsibilities for Pelini. Bo knows him well with their relationship dating back to his own playing days, adding a level of comfort. Zook could very well ignite a spark to help Nebraska bring in a few more top-rated recruits each year, too.

    John Papuchis: Nebraska’s current defensive line/special teams coach and recruiting coordinator is widely regarded as a rising star in the coaching world. Will Muschamp tried to lure him to Florida to reportedly become the defensive coordinator, but “JP” stayed in Lincoln. Given that, you might wonder if Pelini feels indebted to offer the defensive coordinator title to Papuchis.

    It’s unclear whether he’s is capable of handling the role, especially at a school like Nebraska. He has done a reasonably good job with both special teams and in his recruiting role. The issues with Nebraska’s recruiting appear to come from the top, rather than Papuchis himself.

    This would also fit the Bo Pelini model that resulted in Tim Beck’s promotion to offensive coordinator, rather than going outside the program for a candidate like Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

    If Bo does go with the loyal an trusted internal candidate, he’ll need to then need to make a second hire, while also reassigning the other coordinator responsibilities. In theory, the new position coach brought in would need to be able to take on a large share of the recruiting duties. That new coach could also take on a special teams role or those responsibilities could be reassigned to an existing coach.

    Regardless of if one of these three names is brought on, it’s clear that three roles need to be filled. First, the Huskers need someone who can handle some of the defensive game-planning and organization on behalf of Bo in order to allow him to continue to tackle the CEO role.

    Secondly, this staff desperately needs more recruiting expertise and follow-through when locking up prospects during the regular season. Finally, the new staff member needs to be someone who can be trusted by Bo Pelini to a point that they can do their job effectively.

    All three (pending the hire to replace Papuchis) could do this. But who will Bo offer to the position to? Furthermore, would a candidate like Mike Stoops accept? Stay tuned.

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    Tags: mike stoops, ron zook, john papuchis

  11. 2011 Oct 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Grading the Coaches After Week Five


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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

  12. 2011 Sep 27

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL RECRUITING: Notes From the Recruiting Trail


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The latest news and views on who Nebraska's after on the recruiting trail, updates on inroads being made with big time players and more!

    Tags: jordan diggs, drake martinez, john papuchis, ron brown, devin fuller, brandon beaver, tyreece jiles, michael rose, quanzell lambert, jonathan bullard

  13. 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

  14. 2011 Jun 17

    Husker Heartbeat 6/17: Papuchis Says Plenty, NU Pushes Towards Title and Sterup's Coming


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    - Q&A with Nebraska defensive ends/special teams coach and recruiting coordinator John Papuchis

    - Nebraska aims for first Big Ten Championship in Year One

    - Husker football recruit Zach Sterup is gearing up for NU football

    - Cornhusker football players return to Columbus, Nebraska

    - Darin Erstad: Nebraska kids the foundation of the program

    - Big Ten releases basketball format; opponents

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: john papuchis, zach sterup, darin erstad, basketball

  15. 2011 Apr 14

    SPRING GAME: 5 Things to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Glorified scrimmage? You bet. An opportunity for little-used walk-ons to get their 15 seconds of of fame in a relatively-full Memorial Stadium? That, too.

    It won't be flashy. It won't be revealing schematically. But that doesn't mean Nebraska's Red/White Spring Game is bereft of stories. Coaches absolutely want to accomplish something in the three hours they're prowling around Tom Osborne Field looking for players to praise and critique.

    Five things to watch for as Huskers put on their spring show and prepare for their inaugural Big Ten season:

    Trench skirmishes: Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini and defensive line coach John Papuchis haven't sweated too much the absence of end Cameron Meredith and tackle Jared Crick for spring camp. Why? They like the talent and depth behind those two. Along with returning starter Baker Steinkuhler, Thad Randle's made a move to the No. 1s this spring. Eric Martin, by all reports, is wreaking havoc as an undersized defensive end. Chase Rome and Jay Guy have flashed some potential to play next year at tackle. Terrence Moore is working his way back into shape after he suffered an injury in the Holiday Bowl, but he'd start at many Big Ten programs. True freshman Kevin Williams missed a week of spring camp with a foot injury, but he returned Wednesday. Could he get a play or two Saturday?

    The offensive line, meanwhile, is in transition. Position coaches Barney Cotton and John Garrison emphasized physicality and effort with a young, unproven bunch whose forebearers were manhandled at the end of 2010. Starting tackle Jeremiah Sirles missed spring, too – but his loss is felt more acutely than Meredith and Crick's absence. Young pups Tyler Moore (a true freshman) and Jake Cotton (redshirt freshman) made strong moves this spring up the depth chart.

    So what happens when factions of these units match up against each other? The defensive line should have the edge. But watch guards Andrew Rodriguez and Brent Qvale closely. They're supposed to be the starters next year. Can they hold their own against guys like Randle, Moore and Steinkuhler? Also: Can the young pups – or Marcel Jones and Yoshi Hardrick – block Martin?

    Tempo: Nebraska won't reveal many of its offensive wrinkles – or, as wide receiver Brandon Kinnie called it, “hoo ha” - that it installed over the last week. No stunner. But there's a good chance you'll see the Huskers' new no-huddle tempo. It's been around long enough in college football not to be considered secret or revolutionary. NU wouldn't want to waste the opportunity, either, to see how its quarterbacks handle play calls and game management in front of a large crowd.

    So what to watch? First, see how the offensive line is handling the speed of the game. They have to be in terrific shape for a no-huddle to be truly effective. Second, watch for which quarterback best embodies the “quick, but not in a hurry” manner that you need to run the no-huddle effectively. The worst thing a quarterback can do is waste a down because he rushed his pre-snap setup and reads. Third, look at the passes thrown out of this tempo. While they'll be vanilla in design, fans should still get a decent flavor for how a rhythm-based passing game relies on timing and placement of throws.

    Playmakers: Reporters and fans have heard nothing but praise for receivers Jamal Turner, Kenny Bell and Stanley Jean-Baptiste and their playmaking skills. Last year, NU lacked a “something out of nothing” threat at wide receiver, a guy who could turn a two-yard swing pass into a 25-yard gain. Outside of a few big plays to tight end Kyler Reed, Nebraska also lacked a consistent deep threat.

    Senior Brandon Kinnie is a solid anchor on the field side, a tough-minded, possession receiver who should be the go-to guy near the goal line. But when defenses roll a two-man “bracket” coverage his way, or force his routes back toward traffic – as Oklahoma did in the Big 12 Championship – somebody on the other side has to make the defense pay. And Niles Paul isn't over there anymore. A big play or two out of the above trio would be a confidence boost heading into the summer.

    Carnes vs. Green: With quarterback Taylor Martinez getting limited action in the Spring Game because of lingering ankle and toe injuries – those need to heal up over the summer, as reports out of practice suggested Martinez still wasn't quite “right” - and Kody Spano out too, Saturday boils down to an intriguing battle between junior Cody Green and redshirt freshman Brion Carnes. Last Saturday, Carnes had his best scrimmage yet, while Green has turned some heads in camp with improved passing mechanics. How do they perform with a crowd watching?

    Green had a perfunctory-at-best Spring Game last year, as his attempt to snatch the job from Zac Lee passed by the boards. What about this year? As much as coaches want to play down the Spring Game, Green can make a statement with a strong performance.

    Carnes has the tools – he just needs the polish. Watch his passing motion for efficiency and enjoy his playmaking abilities outside of the pocket. Odds are he does one thing Saturday that neither Green or Martinez don't do well: Throw on the run.

    Hustle and Flow: More than ever in the Bo Pelini era, Nebraska's defense will need its linebackers to do many of things linebackers traditionally do. Fit the interior the run. Man up against a lead blocker or a pulling guard. Take a smart drop on a tight end bolting up the seam and make a play downfield. Although the Huskers have generally hung their hat on an elite front four and even more dominant secondary, Bo and Carl's defense is actually designed to free up the linebackers – that is, LaVonte David, Sean Fisher and Will Compton – to make most of the plays.

    While all three probably won't play together Saturday, watch for their chemistry when two of them are out there. How do they communicate? How do they flow to the ball on running plays? Big Ten teams like Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State force defenses to stay really sound in how they fill gaps and cover all bases. When there's a “break” in the fit, power running teams have a field day on it.

    Nebraska's defense is considerably ahead of the offense. In playmakers. In grasp of scheme. Probably in confidence, too. But watch for those little things anyway. How do Compton and David take on blocks? Does Fisher get low enough when he sweeps around the strong side and tries to force a play back to the middle?

    Tags: spring football 2011, spring game 2011, sean fisher, will compton, lavonte david, kenny bell, jamal turner, stanley jeanbaptiste, cody green, brion carnes, brandon kinnie, andrew rodriguez, carl pelini, john papuchis, brent qvale, thad randle, eric martin

  16. 2010 Dec 10

    Husker Coaching Hot Stove


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    So here's a quick recap of “rumors and innuendo” swirling around Nebraska coaches – including head man Bo Pelini. Keep checking back to see updates.

    Coach: Bo Pelini
    Background: Bo's name quietly surfaced for the Miami job on the Internet Sunday night, Dec. 3 and Monday morning, but it remained in the wind until the Miami Herald committed the U's interest in Bo to print Wednesday morning. The Lincoln Journal-Star and Omaha World Herald called Bo on his cell and both got the same “I don't respond to rumors and innuendo” line. Thursday afternoon, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that Bo was “in the mix” for the job, according to two sources.
    Latest Update: Pelini denied he would interview for the Miami job via statement. Media access was closed on Friday.

    Coach: Shawn Watson
    Background: NU's offensive coordinator has been attached to the Vanderbilt job since Dec. 3. Rivals.com reported he interviewed by phone with Vandy. The Nashville Tennessean confirmed it. A source told the Lincoln Journal-Star he/she saw Watson's wife at the Lincoln airport with a “Vandy” binder under her arm. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Watson was out of the running for the job, as the Commodores had narrowed their search to two. But Rivals.com reported that Watson's still has skin in the game.
    Latest Update: Watson has been recruiting, and may speak to reporters Friday.

    Coach: Ted Gilmore
    Background: Watson's right-hand man, Gilmore may follow Watson to help rebuild the Vandy program.
    Latest Update: None

    Coach: John Papuchis
    Background: NU's defensive ends coach has been linked to the opening at Texas for a defensive line and special teams coach. The Austin-American Statesman and Chip Brown's outfit both reported Thursday Papuchis is a hot name for the job. Papuchis told both the LJS and OWH Thursday he hasn't heard a word about the job from UT officials.
    Latest Update: Papuchis may speak to reporters Friday, but UT won't be the last suitor for this smart, humble talent.

    Tags: husker hot stove, bo pelini, shawn watson, john papuchis, ted gilmore

  17. 2010 Oct 18

    Practice Report 10/18: Tackle, Tackle, Tackle


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Rickey Thenarse knew he wasn't going to like what he saw when Nebraska's football team flipped on the film of its 20-13 loss to Texas. Thenarse missed crucial tackles on two UT touchdown drives, wildly throwing his shoulder into the ballcarrier instead of wrapping up with his arms.

    “It was embarrassing,” Thenarse said. “It's hard to watch. I'll learn from it. I took it like a man. Took the criticism. I'm responsible for everything I did out there.”

    The senior safety from Los Angeles had plenty of company, head coach Bo Pelini said. The Huskers – usually a strong tackling bunch – strayed from their fundamentals, Pelini said, which led to more than 100 yards after contact for the Longhorns.

    “If you want them to go down, you've got to bring it and wrap up,” Pelini said.

    Said sophomore safety P.J. Smith: “We just didn't wrap up and run our feet when we hit them...and that's not like us.”

    Thenarse has always been more of a big-hit artist than a tackling tutorial, but his first torpedo bounced off the hull of quarterback Garrett Gilbert in the first quarter as Gilbert extended the drive with a third-down scramble. Had Thenarse made the tackle, Texas would have been forced to settle for a field goal.

    “I was trying to knock the ball out Trying to make a play,” Thenarse said. “I kinda was surprised. Then again, he's the quarterback. starting for Texas. He can take a hit.”

    Later, Thenarse tried the same thing after UT running back Fozzy Whitaker burned NU linebacker on a circle route. Same result: Whitaker bounced away, going for a 41-yard gain instead of a 15-yard play.

    Smith estimated that more than 100 of UT's 271 total yards came after initial contact.

    Monday's practice – though conducted in half pads – contained plenty of tackling work, Smith said. It was a competitive day, Thenarse added, with jobs again on the line.

    “We had some good-on-good,” Pelini said. “We got a good jump on Oklahoma State.”

    The undefeated Cowboys have the nation's No. 2 passing offense. But OSU hasn't played a pass defense with a national rank above 100 in six game. NU is No. 1.

    “I love our secondary,” Pelini said. “We didn't tackle well the other day. I didn't like that aspect of it. But I think we match up well on the outside.”

    Particulars: Nebraska worked out for two hours inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center, starting a little earlier Monday to account for fall break.

    What’s New: There was a more competitive edge and resolve in Monday's practice, players said. Adversity always tends to help these Huskers.

    Player Quote: “If we could play all of our games on the road, we probably would play all of our games on the road. Don't get me wrong: It's wonderful playing in our stadium with all of our fans and all that, but there's something about playing on the road.” P.J Smith, on road games

    Player Quote II: “I don't think we played with passion at all. Not one play was I out there hyped. Not one. So I don't think that I went out there and played as hard as I can play.” Safety Rickey Thenarse on NU's play vs. Texas

    Coach Quote: “It's important to him. He knows, hey, if I want to be the player I'm capable of being and make the plays, I need to come through.” Wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore on NU receiver Niles Paul


    *Special teams coordinator John Papuchis said Texas added a twist to its two rugby-style punts that went for 55 and 67 yards against the wind Saturday: Punter John Gold, a right-footer, rolled to his right and kicked them back across the field.

    “In two years of gameplanning for it, they had never punted back across the field,” Papuchis said. “That was an adjustment they made in their gameplanning and they executed it well.”

    Of course, it happened twice. Papuchis said the second successful kick was “our fault.”

    *Alex Henery hadn't attempted an onside kick since the 2008 Virginia Tech game. He wasn't successful there and he wasn't on Saturday, either.

    “We didn't get a great bounce on it,” Papuchis said. “It kind of popped up in the air into their hands.”

    Next Practice: Tuesday

    Tags: oklahoma state game, rickey thenarse, bo pelini, john papuchis, pj smith

  18. 2010 Apr 23

    SPRING IN REVIEW: Defensive Line


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    Position: Defensive Line

    Spring Summary: Ndamukong Suh is gone, and so is Barry Turner, but there’s a lot left over to build with. The best of the bunch is obviously defensive tackle Jared Crick, a gifted, bullish two-technique that could be NU’s best interior pass rusher in years. Defensive ends Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith may comprise, once the season begins, the best pass-rushing end duo in the Big 12 North; Allen, finally healthy after suffering from a painful turf toe last year, could be high NFL Draft pick in 2011. The big question is at the nose tackle spot, where Baker Steinkuhler and Terrence Moore will try to platoon to replace Suh. Their play in the Red/White Spring Game wasn’t bad, but they’ll need to get stronger and stand their ground better once the season begins. Backups include undersized-but-quick Thad Randle, natural rush end Josh Williams, big-bodied redshirt freshman Jason Ankrah at the other end spot, walk-on Justin Jackson and true freshmen Chase Rome and Jay Guy, who enrolled early. With Carl Pelini and John Papuchis teaching in tandem, expect this line to be terrific, if different from the 2009 version.

    Big Mover: Randle, who gives NU a variety options as a versatile player. He’s a pass-rushing threat and potentially a guy who can play a little end on third down pass rushing situations.

    More to Prove: Moore, who was hurt most of last season. He’s strong enough, and the right size, but his technique needs to improve.

    Wild Card: Jackson, a blue-collar type who has the strength to hold up against the run. Watch for him in goalline situations.

    Freshmen to Add: Donovan Vestal, Tobi Okuyemi, Walker Ashburn and Jake Cotton figure to be redshirt types. Vestal could grow into an offensive tackle before his career at NU is over.

    Injuries: With Allen now healthy, only Steinkuhler’s occasional back spurs are a minor concern. None of the defensive linemen missed spring practice.

    How to Spend Summer Vacation: Staying healthy and polishing technique.

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

    Tags: spring game 2010, springtime with bo 2010, spring in review, jared crick, baker steinkuhler, terrence moore, pierre allen, cameron meredith, chase rome, jay guy, thad randle, josh williams, carl pelini, john papuchis

  19. 2010 Feb 16

    Podcast 2/16: Baseball's Optimism in 2010


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: podcasts, kelsey griffin, mike anderson, bo pelini, carl pelini, marvin sanders, john papuchis, mike ekeler, barney cotton, shawn watson, tim beck, ron brown

  20. 2010 Feb 15

    Pay Bump for Bo, Assistants


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    According to several news outlets, Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne bumped the base salary for head coach Bo Pelini again on Monday - and sweetened the pot for NU’s assistants - particularly defensive coordinator Carl Pelini.

    Effective Feb. 1, 2010, Bo Pelini will make 2.1 million per year. Last year, he made $1.851 million as a base, although incentives pushed him over $2 million.

    Carl Pelini gets $375,000, while offensive coordinator Shawn Watson gets a small raise to $380,000. Secondary coach Marvin Sanders now becomes the highest-paid non-coordinator, making $250,000 per year. Ted Gilmore, Tim Beck, Ron Brown, and Barney Cotton will make $220,000. Previously, all five, plus Carl Pelini, made $208,360. Watson made $375,000 last year.

    Mike Ekeler and John Papuchis were bumped from $150,000 to $175,000.

    Bo Pelini is now the fifth-highest paid coach in the Big 12, inching just ahead of Kansas’ Turner Gill, who will make $2 million at KU. Bo is just behind Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s $2.2 million base salary. Like OSU, NU and Osborne has chosen to focus more dollars toward the assistant coaching staff than most programs in the Big 12.

    Tags: bo pelini, carl pelini, marvin sanders, john papuchis, mike ekeler, barney cotton, shawn watson, tim beck, ron brown

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