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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.

    Follow Chris on Twitter: @chris_labenz
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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 18

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Knee-Jerk Reactions (3/18/12)


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Erstad’s troops aren’t perfect, but they've been impressive out of the gate. The split with Cal and their recent merciless mauling of Louisiana Tech was encouraging.

    - Cole Pensick might want to replace Caputo, but he’s not the best center Pelini's staff can put in the middle.

    - If Shaka Smart comes to Nebraska, I'll eat my hat*

    - Terry Joseph’s currently out recruiting the Southeast. Does this guy also make julienne fries?

    - Another spring, another promise of Kyler Reed being more involved. Pretend this is SEC country.

    - Kenny Bell’s afro is top notch, but he’s no Wonder Monds…yet.

    - Congrats to Carl Nicks for making bank as an NFL guard. Was it really necessary to take a shot at the team he won the Super Bowl with, though?

    - Alonzo Whaley’s the logical starting point for replacing Lavonte David at WILL. David Santos is the sane choice.

    - If Braylon Heard can pick up his new secondary role, he’ll be a beast at cornerback. He can hit. If Joseph can teach him to cover, he’ll be decleating Big Ten wide receivers in no time.

    - Oh this is just priceless:

    - P.S. Don’t forget your PowerTowel®.

    *Will find nacho hat to eat.

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    Tags: baseball, cole pensick, john groce, terry joseph, kyler reed, kenny bell, carl nicks, alonzo whaley, david santos, barylon heard

  3. 2012 Mar 16

    Husker Heartbeat (3/16/12): Fullback's Importance, Bell Talks Fro with ESPN and Whaley Hits Rock Bottom


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Fullback is not a position to be taken lightly at Nebraska

    - Kenny Bell talks offense and The State of the 'Fro with ESPN

    - Linebacker Alonzo Whaley is climbing back up after hitting rock bottom

    - The Husker Hardballers show no mercy against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

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    Tags: kenny bell, alonzo whaley, baseball

  4. 2012 Mar 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Spring Practice Position Primer


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Quarterback: Without Tommy Armstrong in camp, Martinez has no threat to his starting spot. He’s showed tremendous athletic potential last spring.

    If Carnes continues to improve athletically, and the mental aspect of the game can be reinforced, while the gap between he and Martinez isn’t likely to shrink that much, a legitimate backup candidate could be crowned.

    Running back: Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green start on equal footing heading into Saturday and could very well end up where they started following April’s spring game.

    Thanks to Abdullah’s edge in experience during actual FBS play, one has to think he has a leg up on Green. His fumbling problems may level the playing field, however.

    Wide receiver: Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Tim Marlowe and Jamal Turner will all have the opportunity to solidify their starting roles.

    With the departure of Khiry Cooper, look for Taariq Allen, who followed wide receivers coach Rich Fisher from Weston, Massachusetts, to vie for the fifth spot. KC Hyland and Tyler Evans are two other talents with an opportunity to shine.

    Tight End: Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed aren’t going anywhere, but David Sutton and Eddie Ridder have the opportunity to showcase their potential.

    Offensive Line: Departed center Mike Caputo’s replacement could come from a number of candidates including Cole Pensick, Nick Ash and Ryan Klachko. Pensick and Ash may have seniority, but Klachko sticks out as the prospect with a higher ceiling.

    Brandon Thompson, Andrew Rodriguez, Mike Moudy and Ryne Reeves look to be the favorites to hold down the guard spots. Rodriguez’s attitude has reportedly been lackadaisical, but Moudy and Reeves have the tenacity to step up should he slack off.

    Sirles and Qvale will start out spring at the tackle spots with Tyler Moore giving them all they can handle in an attempt to take one of their spots. Zach Sterup is a likely backup candidate with Givens Price needing a strong spring to assert himself as a legitimate threat for playing time.

    Defensive Line: Cameron Meredith, Jason Ankrah, Eric Martin and Joseph Cater have the end positions on lockdown barring injury. Donovan Vestal and Walker Ashburn need huge springs to hold off the incoming Avery Moss and Greg McMullen come the fall.

    The interior’s been decimated by injury with Chase Rome and Todd Peat, Jr. now out for the entirety of spring ball. Once Kevin Williams and Thad Randle return from injury, they’ll be plugged in next to Baker Steinkuhler in an attempt to hone their abilities, and find a suitable replacement for Rome’s spring absence.

    Having a deeper interior for rotation’s sake won’t hurt heading into Big Ten play. Jay Guy and newly-placed Tobi Okuyemi will have the opportunity to show that their work ethic has improved.

    Linebackers: Will Compton has the MIKE slot on lockdown while Sean Fisher will spend most of his time trying to cement the BUCK slot by the end of spring. Max Pirman could find himself trying to work into rotation behind him.

    Pelini mentioned to look for David Santos and Alonzo Whaley to work at the WILL position to begin the essentially-impossible task of taking over for Lavonte David. Don’t be surprised to see Santos win that battle by mid-April.

    Defensive back: Mohammed Seisay will be one of the most-watched players on the entire team this spring. Not only will he be wearing the departed David’s No. 4, but he looks to lock down the title of Nebraska’s elite cornerback.

    Andrew Green, Cinate Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and recently-switched Braylon Heard will likely get the opportunity to lock down the opposite end.

    Safety: Daimion Stafford, Courtney Osborne and P.J. Smith are the likely candidates to lock down starting role. Osborne’s recent concussion issues may cause Pelini and company to take things slow with him.

    Kicker/Punter: Brett Maher is light years ahead of Mauro Bondi, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Boca Raton native can narrow the gap in the slightest.

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    Tags: spring practice, taylor martinez, brion carnes, ameer abdullah, aaron green, kenny bell, quincy enunwa, tim marlowe, jamal turner, taariq allen, ben cotton, kyler reed, cole pensick, nick ash, ryan klachko, brandon thompson, andrew rodriguez, mike moudy, ryne reeves, cameron meredith, eric martin, chase rome, todd peat, baker steinkuhler, will compton, david santos, mohammed seisay, brett maher

  5. 2012 Feb 10

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: The OFFICIAL Husker Locker Podcast (2/10/2012) - The Wide Receiver Battle Royale Edition


    By HuskerLocker

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    Explore the Archives

    Vote for Rex Burkhead to receive the 2012 Rare Disease Champion Award! (One entry per person)

    On the docket:

    A podcast featuring questions and topics submitted ONLY by you, the Husker Locker fan base:

    - How much playing time can Jordan Westerkamp expect?
    - Kenny Bell vs. Jamal Turner
    - How will the first month of Nebraska baseball go?
    - Did Alfonzo Dennard hurt his stock after his All-Star weekend troubles?

    Have a topic or question that you'd like to hear discussed? Send us an e-mail or a message to any of us on Twitter.

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @huskerlocker
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    Greg: @thehooch36

    More info on the Husker Locker intro voice:
    Rob Kugler's Profile

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    Tags: jordan westerkamp, kenny bell, jamal turner, baseball, alfonzo dennard, podcast, podcasts

  6. 2012 Jan 17

    Husker Heartbeat 1/17: Where Does Bell Rank?, Former Kicker Passes and True Frosh Sweeps B1G Awards


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - A review of the 2011 wide receivers' performance

    - Former Husker kicker Alan "Al" Eveland has passed

    - True freshman NU women gymnast Jessie DeZiel sweeps Big Ten honors

    - Nebraska softball gets comfortable in the facilitythat they and Darin Erstad's baseball team will call home

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    Tags: kenny bell, gymnastics, softball

  7. 2012 Jan 12

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Playing The Redshirt Game


    By HuskerLocker

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    By James Stevenson

    An important part of roster management in college football is utilizing redshirts correctly. High school players, especially those that join major BCS programs, are usually not physically ready to play at that level. Even those that are physically gifted must adjust to new college systems and increased speed of the game.

    An initial redshirt year costs a team a scholarship, but allows a player time to mature and potentially contribute significantly in the future. There is a fine balance to the use of redshirts as with only 85 scholarships available, keeping every player on the roster for five years would only allow 17 players to be signed during each recruiting cycle (assuming no one leaves).

    The Nebraska philosophy appears to be that if a player can make a year-long impact, that player sees the field. Nebraska’s success with freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell, who led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns is one example.

    On the surface, it appears the current coaching staff’s philosophy on playing true freshmen is similar to Callahan’s in that players who can quickly learn the system have the best shot of playing early. Countless young wide receivers and running backs under the Callahan and Watson offenses struggled to find playing time their first season, such as Marlon Lucky who struggled to learn pass protection assignments.

    Under Pelini, young defensive talent usually doesn’t immediately grasp his system. Given the sheer lack of depth at linebacker, it surprised some observers that true freshman David Santos didn’t see the field at all in 2011.

    Perhaps worse than leaving a potential contributor on the bench for the year is wasting a potential four-year contributor’s first season by not redshirting them. The most notable example of this in recent years was Niles Paul, who caught one pass and returned two kickoffs during 2007.

    Having Paul in 2011 would’ve been a boost to a young receiving corps, but that season was traded for minimal action in Callahan’s final year. Conversely, redshirting players that will never contribute leaves them on the roster, and counts against scholarship limits for five years instead of four handicapping recruiting efforts.

    Pelini fell into this trap in 2008 as nearly the entire freshman class was redshirted. While this certainly helped build needed depth and Nebraska achieved a respectable 9-4 record, the Huskers are left with players who have contributed little to nothing in Lester Ward, Collins Okafor, Micah Kreikemeier, and Khiry Cooper for an additional season, tying up scholarships the 2012 recruiting class desperately needs.

    2011 offered some significant head-scratchers. True freshman wide receiver Jamal Turner excited Husker fans in the spring game. Despite limited action, he still finished the season sixth on Nebraska's reception chart with 15.

    Similarly, Nebraska played true freshman offensive lineman Tyler Moore early in the year, but his time lessened during conference play including showing up literally once against Wisconsin. After causing a false start penalty, he was yanked.

    Nebraska certainly seemed committed to playing the freshmen receivers and lineman early in the year, only to put them on the shelf. It’s hard to know if these were disciplinary actions, the result of other players having better work ethics or simply fitting in the system better. However, with Turner having arguably the best combination of speed and moves of any offensive skill player, his absence was puzzling. Is a redshirt worth 17 touches over the course of a season?

    The Huskers also dealt with a good problem to have last season what with three stud true freshmen running backs. Two came straight from high school in prep stars Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green. The third, Braylon Heard, had taken a year between high school and college to become academically qualified.

    Nebraska lacked any sort of backup behind Rex Burkhead, so it’s understandable that the coaching staff would try to find an eventual replacement or someone to spell Burkhead. There’s something to be said for having running backs test the waters during an actual FBS game and seeing who reacts best, too.

    However, when you have a logjam at a position with three players, all of whom are used to having the ball all the time, it makes sense to redshirt one of those players. Nebraska instead played all three with Heard and Green totaling 49 carries. At one point, Heard disappeared with a mysterious injury. It looked like he may have been headed for a medical redshirt, but he returned to play late in the season.

    As it stands, the Huskers will have three true sophomore running backs behind Rex Burkhead next season aside from any signings. It doesn’t seem that all three, along with wide receivers Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, and incoming prep star Jordan Westerkamp can have enough touches spread between them to keep everyone happy.

    While the coaching staff’s strategy on redshirts is hard to decipher, there is one pitfall they've avoided: taking a redshirt off of players late in the season. A player who dodges a redshirt year and gets snaps in games while competing to be first string all season is much better than a practice squad player who is forced into action due to injuries. That player than loses an entire year of eligibility.

    Nebraska’s lack of depth at linebacker could’ve been temptation for the staff to play Santos as the year progressed, but they rightfully resisted the urge. That’s something the previous regime couldn’t say.

    Going forward, with a small recruiting class and obvious holes on the depth chart, it will be interesting to see who Pelini and his staff redshirt in 2012. Unfortunately, it’s an inexact science, where only hindsight allows fans to wish that stud players had an extra year of eligibility remaining.

    Follow James on Twitter: @jamesstevenson
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    Tags: kenny bell, jamal turner, niles paul, david santos, lester ward, collins okafor, micah kreikemeier, khiry cooper, tyler moore, rex burkhead, jordan westerkamp

  8. 2012 Jan 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Three Tales That Made the Huskers' Season Special


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    A blue jersey, a missed opportunity by LSU, the friendship of a little boy named Jack.

    Every season is filled with stories; some good, some bad. However, there are occasionally stories that resonate deeper than any other. These are the ones that define a team and a program, the stories that go above wins and losses.

    For Nebraska, there were three stories that stood out in 2011. They involved trio of Huskers from three different backgrounds. Yet, all three provided reasons that make Husker Nation great.

    - Kenny Bell and his Blue Jersey

    Kenny Bell spent his first year at Nebraska on the scout team. It was there that Bell learned the true meaning of hard work. He is not shy to tell anyone that asks the lessons gained.

    When Bell’s second year began, the scout team was behind him. Would he forget his roots or what taught him the value of hard work? That’s when it was noticed.

    Worn under his game jersey, the edges of a royal blue jersey often snuck into sight. It created buzz. People wondered what the jersey could mean. Many assumed it was his high school jersey. That’s not a bad assumption either, considering Bell is a vocal fan of his hometown, Boulder, Colorado. It was actually the one he wore on the scout team.

    As it turns out, the garment was something much more than mesh.

    The equipment staffed laughed. They refused to take care of the jersey for Bell. If he wanted to wear it, it would be his responsibility to pack it. Bell only forgot it once this season – Penn State. He hoped no one noticed.

    That blue jersey became as much about Bell as anything else. It became iconic for fans that dressed up as the redshirt freshman for Halloween. Add an afro and two arm bands with “F.O.E.” (Family Over Everything) and “T.Hoog” (for Tyler Hoog, his cousin), and Bell became a favorite that kept fans curious.

    - LSU’s Loss is Nebraska’s Biggest Gain

    Fort Scott Community College is well-known by Husker fans. It has produced the likes of Brandon Kinnie, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Jermacus “Yoshi” Hardrick and Lavonte David. Of all the players included on that list, David’s story is probably the most interesting. It is also a testament to friendship.

    When Hardrick was being recruited out of the small Kansas community college, he had some heavy-hitting SEC schools knocking on his door. In fact, Hardrick originally committed to LSU while at Fort Scott. A southern boy himself, Hardrick couldn’t wait to get back.

    There was only one thing stopping him: Lavonte David.

    LSU didn’t want David. Neither did any of the other SEC schools Hardrick talked to. It was clear that Hardrick wanted to stick with his best friend, though. He wanted them to keep playing with the playmaking linebacker. Where Yoshi ended up as a result was in the air.

    Enter Bo Pelini.

    Nebraska offered Hardrick, but before the lineman would commit, he had a single request: Offer David too. The next day, the Cornhuskers did just that.

    The rest is really history. Any fan would agree that LSU’s loss is one of Nebraska greatest gains.

    - Team Jack and Superman

    On April 22, 2011, Jack Hoffman, only five years old at the time, experienced a life-threatening seizure. That unexpected seizure would immediately begin a journey that put young Jack through two brain surgeries, countless MRIs, pathology reports, neuro-surgery appointments and much more.

    While a daunting road, it was one that would create “Team Jack.” The support system that was and is Team Jack grew quickly. It was hard not to want to support a young boy who was so brave in the face of something so frightening.

    It was that strength and courage that caused I-Back Rex Burkhead take notice. Jack’s first tour of Memorial Stadium resulted in the two meeting and becoming buddies. From there, Burkhead began to sport a Team Jack bracelet and his teammates followed suit.

    To Jack, Burkhead may have been “Superman,” but Burkhead made it clear the feelings were mutual.

    "No matter how tough it gets for us on the practice field or in a game, it's nothing compared to what he's going through with his illness and all the struggles that go with that illness. Jack's a great kid. He has a great family and a lot of friends behind him, and I'm really proud to be one of them. He's going through so much, but still manages to stay so positive. He motivates me."

    In 2011, Jack didn’t just motivate Burkhead, but all of Husker Nation.

    These are only a few of the stories that help build the foundation of Nebraska’s 2011 season. Behind every player and coach, every win or loss, are stories that made everything more than just another game.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: kenny bell, yoshi hardrick, lavonte david, bo pelini, rex burkhead, jack hoffman

  9. 2012 Jan 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: 10 Huskers to Watch in 2012


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Guest Columnist Sean Berger

    10. Defensive Line Youngins: Chase Rome and Jason Ankrah

    Young blood on the defensive line. With all of their playing time this year, much was asked of these guys. The early injury to Jared Crick becomes a blessing in disguise for the short-term future of our beloved Blackshirts.

    9. Quarterback Taylor Martinez

    An obvious selection, the entire fan base expects improvement No. 1 signal-caller. We need to see him improve his focus on protecting the ball when running this pistol-option-hybrid thing that Tim Beck and Shawn Watson developed. This year he improved in checking down on routes. We couldn't have asked him to spread the ball around more. (Thank you, Joe Ganz?)

    He involved nearly every tight end and wide receiver on the depth chart. Throwing the ball away when necessary seems natural for this guy. He may get outplayed at quarterback in his final two seasons if he can't develop new passing mechanics, though. His current mechanics combined with his lack of arm strength for the deep ball are not a long term solution. They're a liability in the games that matter most.

    8. Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell

    Personal intuition tells me that Enunwa will plateau into a "nice" Kenny Cheatham, but we've only begun to see Bell's potential, of which the only ceiling becomes his 6’1” frame. Enunwa prove me wrong! Nonetheless, Nebraska finally has playmakers at wide receiver. Improving hands seem to be the priority, but these guys have speed, too.

    7. Offensive linemen Seung Hoon Choi, Jeremiah Sirles and Andrew Rodriguez

    Here's the beef that has to continue to get stronger. These are the underclassmen with playing time under their belts. For the read-option-pistol thinger to continue to evolve, these guys need to give Martinez the running room and the extra seconds of decision time for Beck to utilize his best athletes: Rex Burkhead, Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and Jamal Turner.

    6. Running back Ameer Abdullah

    All of his athletic capabilities — strength, agility and speed — points to this guy being a consistent No. 2 running back for 2012. He's an exciting player with game-changing capabilities on special teams.

    5. Linebacker Will Compton

    This guy becomes the anchor of the defense. During his last two games, he seemed to be more aggressive off the ball. He's a playmaker in his best moments. I think he'll be a strong leader for the defense because he's just as committed as the next guy to the team's desire to write chapters of championship legacy.

    4. Wide receiver Jamal Turner

    In my opinion, I think Tim Beck will give him a strong look at quarterback during the offseason this offseason. We saw flashes of his athleticism this season. He has the speed of a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Does he have an arm that can unseat Taylor Martinez? Beck is just crazy enough to involve three quarterbacks (Burkhead, Martinez and Turner) if the need arises.

    3. Defensive lineman Cameron Meredith

    I have to believe he'll get some Mel Kiper talk following his senior year at Nebraska. Everyone loves the curly locks, right? They resemble the raw gutsy leader that he is on the field and off.

    2. Running back Rex Burkhead

    The best running back in the categories of muscle and heart, Rex Burkhead didn't miss a beat for a Nebraska running attack that experienced the loss of third-round NFL draft selection Roy Helu, Jr. Every carry by Burkhead featured No. 22 inching out tough-as-nails yards after contract and reminding every Husker fan why Lincoln is the Pittsburgh of the Midwest in the process.

    1. Safety Daimion Stafford

    A hard-hitting safety, Stafford had some great moments in coverage this year. With all of the problems in the secondary this year - the change in coaching, a transition of philosophies, the loss of Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes and Ricky Thenarse - there were almost too many holes to for the Blackshirts to fill in pass coverage.

    Nebraska will need two solid corners to compliment Stafford but there's no overlooking the fact that he was an answer amidst all of the questions. Stafford will be the heart of the defensive backfield in 2012.

    Follow Sean on Twitter: @bergrbergr
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    Tags: chase rome, jason ankrah, taylor martinez, quincy enunwa, kenny bell, seung hoon choi, heremiah sirles, andrew rodriguez, ameer abdullah, will compton, jamal turner, cameron meredith, rex burkhead, daimion stafford

  10. 2012 Jan 03

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against South Carolina


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    30-13 - a score Nebraska fans were neither expecting nor hoping for. Well, maybe fans hoped the score was flipped in the Big Red's favor. Unfortunately, the Huskers landed on the bad end, recording their second consecutive bowl loss. The game was filled with plenty of game-changing moments. Fans were asked to keep an eye on five very important areas. How did they fare in the season finale?

    1. Connor Shaw Was Contained…For a While

    South Carolina’s quarterback saw the ground more than he was probably expecting yesterday. At times, it appeared as if the Blackshirts had the Gamecock offense more than figured out. At others, it was Wisconsin and Michigan all over again.

    The Blackshirts of the Michigan State game made various appearances during the game. It wasn’t consistent, but it was clear Shaw was getting tired of being run around. Had the Huskers been able to keep it up, Shaw could have been worn down.

    2. The Rex Burkhead Show (With a Supporting Cast)

    Everyone saw this coming a mile away including the Gamecocks, The Rex Burkhead Show made another appearance yesterday. However, Burkhead is a player than can break blocks and find holes where there are none, so this wasn't much of an issue. When it seemed impossible for him to run, he broke free. The month-long break was clearly good for his legs.

    Interestingly, Nebraska's offense wasn't a one man act this time. Thankfully, he had a supporting cast that did what they could when they could. Ameer Abdullah scored a touchdown, for instance. That more players were seeing the ball was a positive note for Tim Beck and his play calling. Again, this might not have been much but it was something worth noting.

    However, Abdullah also proved why the ball is often handed solely to Burkhead – he fumbled the ball on the Gamecocks' eight-yard line. Abdullah shouldn’t be vilified for one fumble, but this one was a momentum changer. Fans can expect to see Burkhead in an even bigger role come 2012, making sure his young backups learn to hold on to the ball.

    3. The Results of Team Preparation

    It turns out that “team preparation” wasn’t what should have been the biggest thing to watch for with the Huskers. No, it was “team discipline.” Calling this Nebraska team unprepared would be inaccurate. This team was prepared. You could see it in those several glimmering moments of hope. You saw the groundwork laid that resulted in Kenny Bell’s 30-yard touchdown catch. Unfortunately, you also saw the lack of discipline in the reaction to the following blocked PAT.

    More often than not, players were in it for themselves. The things they were coached to do went out the window. Emotions were worn on sleeves and frustration got the better of many. It overshadowed every bit of preparation the Huskers had. You can watch as much game film as you want, but without attention to discipline, none of it matters.

    The blame cannot rest fully on the players. While they did make mistakes, their lack of composure reflected their head coach who stood on the sidelines yelling at referees. This is a passionate team and fans know that. However, it’s time to start finding balance.

    4. Lavonte David’s Finest Hour

    As was said post-game, “Lavonte David is a freak.” He really is. David had a stellar game against South Carolina. Don’t agree? You might have missed it between every blown coverage and poorly read South Carolina offense. David held up his end of the deal by being where he needed to be, as always.

    If anything, he solidified himself as a desirable early-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. For his size, David is a tough player. When the going got tough, he kept playing. He was also the player to offer words of wisdom and comfort cornerback Alfonzo Dennard after he was ejected from the game. David is truly a special player through and through.

    It may not have been Nebraska’s finest hour, but it surely was one of David’s.

    5. Lack of Confidence by Taylor Martinez

    Taylor Martinez’s confidence level has been a rollercoaster this season to say the least. He has had extreme highs (Ohio State and Northwestern) along with severe lows (Wisconsin and Michigan). How he handles adversity has been a crapshoot each and every game of his career. Yesterday’s performance has been added to the extreme lows for the sophomore quarterback.

    Martinez is now a veteran. He has been the starting quarterback for two years. There are no more excuses in 2012. He has the talent. The confidence needs to be there, too. Here’s hoping Brion Carnes and incoming recruit Tommy Armstrong can provide some stiff competition in the offseason. Martinez feeds off of that competition. With enough coaching, the low-confidence days of 2010 and 2011 could be a distant memory. It’s time for him to be the CEO of the huddle.

    It really has been a wild ride. The SEC once again dominated the Big Ten. Nebraska must be feeling right at home among their conference brothers. The Capital One Bowl didn’t end as fans had hoped and it is sending the team into a long offseason with a bitter taste in their mouths…again. How will it ultimately affect the program? Husker fans have plenty of time to wait and see.

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    Tags: capital one bowl, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, kenny bell, bo pelini

  11. 2011 Dec 12

    Husker Heartbeat 12/12: Major Money in Play for DC, Bell and Moore Named to All-Freshman Team and Helu Hits One Hundred (Again)


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    - Nebraska might shell out a large chunk of change for their new defensive coordinator

    - The Huskers are headed to Orlando, but it's all business to them

    - Kenny Bell and Tyler Moore make BTN.com's Big Ten All-Freshman team

    - Women's Nebrasketball sets a record with two teammates scoring 30+ in the same game last Saturday

    - Roy Helu cranks out another 100-yard game as one of the Washington Redskins' lone bright spots this season

    - We're giving away a flat screen TV and other great prizes when you sign up for FREE on the Husker Locker Forums

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    Tags: kenny bell, tyler moore, roy helu

  12. 2011 Dec 08

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Capital One Bowl Comparison - Receivers


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Nebraska’s Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and Brandon Kinnie vs. South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington

    - Receiving

    Bell: 29 catches for 408 yards (14.1 YPC) and two touchdowns
    Enunwa: 21 catches for 293 yards (14.0 YPC) and two touchdowns
    Kinnie: 22 catches for 257 yards (11.7 YPC) and one touchdown

    Jeffery: 45 catches for 614 yards (13.6) and seven touchdowns
    Sanders: 26 catches for 338 yards (13.0 YPC) and two touchdowns
    Ellington: 17 catches for 211 yards (12.4 YPC) and one touchdown

    - All-Purpose Yards

    Bell: 646 (53.8 YPG)
    Enunwa: 293 (24.4 YPG)
    Kinnie: 257 (21.4 YPG)

    Jeffery: 614 (51.2 YPG)
    Sanders: 476 (39.7 YPG)
    Ellington: 707 (58.9 YPG)

    - Best Receiving Game:

    Bell: Vs. Northwestern – 5 catches for 58 yards and one touchdown
    Enunwa: Vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga – 4 catches for 58 yards and one touchdown
    Kinnie: Vs. Michigan - 1 catch for 54 yards and one touchdown

    Jeffery: Vs. Kentucky – 6 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns
    Sanders: Vs. The Citadel – 4 catches for 49 yards and one touchdown
    Ellington: Vs. Clemson – 3 catches for 71 yards and one touchdown

    - Worst Receiving Game:

    Bell: Vs. Michigan – 1 catch for 8 yards
    Enunwa: Vs. Minnesota – 1 catch for 7 yards
    Kinnie: Vs. Tennessee Chattanooga – 2 catches for 7 yards

    Jeffery: Vs. Tennessee – 3 catches for 17 yards
    Sanders: Vs. Navy – 1 catch for 3 yards
    Ellington: Vs. Navy – 1 catch for 7 yards

    - Size

    Bell: 6’1” 180 pounds
    Enunwa: 6’2” 210 pounds
    Kinnie: 6’3” 225 pounds

    Jeffery: 6’4” 229 pounds
    Sanders: 5’7” 175 pounds
    Ellington: 5’9” 197 pounds

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    Tags: kenny bell, quincy enunwa, brandon kinnie, alshon jeffery, ace sanders, bruce ellington

  13. 2011 Nov 28

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Statistically Speaking as of 11/28


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    At the end of this season, if current trends continue:

    - Quarterback Taylor Martinez will complete 55.9% of his passes (165-295) throwing for 2137 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions ending 2011 with a passing efficiency rating of 125.9.

    - Running back Rex Burkhead will finish the season with 283 carries for 1374 yards rushing (4.9 YPC) and 16 touchdowns.

    - Wide receiver Kenny Bell will wrap up his year with 32 catches for 530 yards (16.6 YPC) and three touchdowns.

    - Linebacker Lavonte David will have accumulated 132 tackles, 62 solo, 12 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions, two passes broken up, three quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

    - Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will have broken up at least one pass in all but two games he’s played.

    - Specialist Brett Maher will have converted 21 of 24 field goals. He will have kicked 59 punts averaging 44.6 yards per punt, downing 26 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. On 75 kickoffs, he’ll have averaged 67 yards per kickoff, tally 21 touchbacks and have scored 107 points.

    - Running back Ameer Abdullah will have piled up 896 yards in total return yardage (69 YPG).

    - Nebraska will have fumbled the ball 34 times, but will have only lost 11.

    - The Cornhuskers will have committed 82 penalties accumulating 683 yards of punishment (52 YPG).

    - The third quarter will have been Nebraska’s finest as they will have outscored opponents 119-72.

    - If the Huskers win the 2012 Capital One Bowl, about 771,463 fans will have seen Nebraska win live.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, kenny bell, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard, brett maher, ameer abdullah, capital one bowl

  14. 2011 Nov 27

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Most Valuable Huskers vs. Iowa


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By James Stevenson

    Offensive MVH: Could it be anyone other than junior running back Rex Burkhead? The Huskers’ season-long workhorse carried the ball a school-record 38 times for 160 yards and a touchdown and snagged a catch for 12 yards.

    His sole rush for negative yardage was No. 38, when Nebraska handed the ball to Burkhead in the victory formation for him to kneel. Some may view it as backing into the record, but given the way No. 22 has carried the team all season (along with already nearly setting the record against Michigan State), it was only appropriate for “Superman” to take a knee.

    Defensive MVH: Nebraska has never had a two-year force on defense like senior linebacker Lavonte David. He led the team with eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

    He also played well in pass coverage, breaking up two passes. In just two years, David has ranks fifth on Nebraska’s all-time tackle list, and barring a bowl-game meltdown, will finish fourth place behind Husker greats Barrett Ruud, Jerry Murtaugh and Mike Brown.

    Iowa MVHawkeye: Husker fans haven’t seen the last of sophomore running back Marcus Coker. The sole highlight on offense for the Hawkeyes was Coker and his relentless attitude. He rushed for 87 yards on 18 carries (4.8 YPC) and walked in a touchdown.

    He also caught three passes for 39 yards, one of those being a 19-yard scamper early in the contest. One must wonder why Iowa didn’t stick with what seemed to be their most potent offensive threat.

    Stick 'Em Award: Freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell turned in his best game as a Husker. He came up with five catches for 93 yards. Four of his grabs resulted in Nebraska first downs. One of Bell’s catches was spectacular, as a he dove for a ball that was thrown low and away from him.

    Lockdown Award: Senior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard had a slow start to the season after sitting out Nebraska’s early games while recovering from injury. At his best when he’s not on the stat sheet, he only recorded three tackles, but his presence on the field is undeniable.

    In the last few weeks, Dennard has proven himself as one of the elite corners in college football, shutting down the Big Ten’s top receivers. He did it again on Friday, limiting junior Hawkeye wide receiver Marvin McNutt to just four catches.

    B1G Ten Rivalry Award: Nebraska won not only one, but two trophies on Friday. First, the Huskers took home the Heroes Game trophy that was commissioned by the universities.

    Second, the Big Red also laid claim to the Corn Bowl, a trophy commissioned by the Nebraska Innocents Society and Iowa’s President’s Leadership Society. In a league dominated by rivalry games and trophies, Nebraska one-upped everyone with a two-trophy rivalry game.

    Quick Recovery: A mere six days after getting blown out in Ann Arbor by a Michigan team that dominated time of possession, the Huskers’ effort was eerily reminiscent of the Wolverines last week. While both Nebraska and Iowa averaged 4.6 yards a play, Nebraska ran 83 plays to Iowa’s 59, and time of possession favored the Huskers by over 15 minutes (37:47 to 22:13).

    The Blackshirts were the biggest reason for this, holding Iowa to just to two successful third down conversions on twelve attempts. Until the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes offered little scoring threat, and it looked as if Nebraska might record its first shutout of the season.

    Last Friday’s performance was an appropriate way to send off this year’s seniors, especially the ones on a defensive unit that underwhelmed fans with some very high expectations.

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    Tags: rex burkhead, lavonte david, marcus coker, barrett ruud, jerry murtaugh, mike brown, kenny bell, alfonzo dennard, marvin mcnutt, heroes game, corn bowl, iowa

  15. 2011 Nov 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Michigan


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Holy regression, Batman! T-Magic morphed back into Taylor Martinez as doubt clearly flooded his decision-making processes.

    - Rex Burkhead only ran the ball 10 times and no one should be upset. That Superman’s legs actually work at this point in the season is a miracle.

    - Aside from Brandon Kinnie’s waltz into the end zone, all that can really be said is potential doesn’t make catches.

    - This offensive line’s banged up something awful and it’s starting to show. Michigan has a solid front four, but there was severe confusion and limited mobility among the big uglies.

    - Kenny Bell’s second half-opening fumble perfectly illustrated the Huskers’ day with one play.

    - Will Compton is continuing to develop as a solid Big Ten MIKE linebacker.

    - Lavonte David is an NFL linebacker. His draft stock is rising every week.

    - Terrence Moore runs the option with a pitch to Eric Martin following a tipped interception? Someone wanted to make SportsCenter in a bad way.

    - Brett Maher is apparently Rex Burkhead’s cousin from Krypton’s nearby solar system. Take a beating, walk it off, boom a punt across the length of the field.

    - There seemed to be so much confidence going into this game before Brady Hoke remembered that Denard Robinson is, in fact, very fast.

    - What is it with teams from Michigan faking injuries against Nebraska? Is the Big Ten really so slow that they can’t keep up?

    - Perhaps the most entertaining part of the game (for Husker fans, anyway):

    - Bowl Prediction of the Week: Gator Bowl vs. Florida

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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, brandon kinnie, kenny bell, will compton, lavonte david, terrence moore, eric martin, brett maher, brady hoke, denard robinson

  16. 2011 Nov 18

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Surprising Huskers of 2011


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Following the end of a tumultuous 2010 season that saw Nebraska drop three of their last four games including an embarrassing performance against Washington, what 2011 held was a mystery.

    As spring turned to fall and this Cornhusker squad stubbed their toes, learned from their mistakes and grew, some unexpected developments took place amongst the roster. Five stand out in particular:

    - Seung Hoon Choi

    The Seoul, South Korea native made waves in fall camp and was expected to be put in rotation by many who follow the program closely. It’s hard to believe that anyone aside from coaches and players saw Choi's exceptional performances coming. The junior offensive guard has proven his mettle, especially when it comes to steamrolling defensive linemen to make way for his running backs.

    Choi’s development is a testament to the assistance that John Garrison and Brendan Stai have been giving Barney Cotton this season. It appears that with Cotton relaying what he’s seeing from the big uglies up front, the Garrison/Stai combination has been able to install strategic training allowing all linemen to excel, but Choi’s improvement stands above the rest.

    - Kenny Bell

    "If you don’t know, throw to the ‘fro!"

    While Bell's had a case of the dropsies lately, that doesn’t change the fact that the redshirt freshman has proven game-changing ability. He currently leads the team in receiving yards with 307 and is tied with three others for the most touchdown catches with two. Bell’s signature hairdo isn’t the only thing that has endeared him to Husker fans.

    His measurables (6’1” 180 pounds according to Huskers.com) make for a daunting deep threat against any secondary. Many times, Bell has found himself ready to haul in massive chunks of yardage via passes from quarterback Taylor Martinez. Unfortunately, far too many of those tosses have bounced off of his hands. The good news is that while young, Bell has a tremendous upside and the potential to become an extremely dangerous weapon in Tim Beck’s offense.

    - Ameer Abdullah

    As the 2011 season has developed, it seems like we’ve seen less and less of Abdullah who thrilled Nebraska fans thanks to his kick returns earlier in the year. With a reliance on the unwavering Rex Burkhead to help guide Nebraska to victory from the I-Back spot, Abdullah is now been primarily used to get Superman what little rest he's afforded.

    Despite having some issues securing the football, many Husker fans remember back to Abdullah's electrifying 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Fresno State. Thanks to that one remarkable play, the Big Red masses are waiting for him to thrill them over and over. One has to think it’s only a matter of time.

    - Brett Maher

    Let’s face it, folks. Nebraska’s spoiled. No, not by conference titles or national championships, but by the seeming assembly line of efficient, if not great, kickers and punters to come through the football program. Severe uncertainty ran rampant following the departure of arguably the best kicker in Cornhusker history, current Philadelphia Eagle Alex Henery.

    How do you replace the NCAA’s all-time most accurate kicker? Enter Brett Maher. He watched silently as Nebraska signed Boca Raton, Florida native Mauro Bondi to a scholarship. Surely the guy with a free ride had the starting spot on lock down, right? Maher never had to say a word.

    His cleats briefly flatten the Memorial Stadium FieldTurf before he nails field goals with accuracy coveted by the SEC. He booms punts, often downing them inside the 20-yard line and trots back to the sidelines. Sorry, Mr. Bondi. Brett Maher's the new sheriff in town.

    - Taylor Martinez

    How can Nebraska’s returning starter at quarterback be a surprise? The consensus last April/May was to get Brion Carnes on the field immediately following an absolutely putrid performance by Martinez in Nebraska’s Red-White Spring Game. Then came the summer and he grew. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck worked with him and organized an offense that afforded Martinez the opportunity to think less and react more.

    Beck Ball has been rough to watch at times as the sophomore signal-caller has looked uncomfortable at times on option runs. There’s no argument that he’s improved, however. Using short to intermediate strikes, Martinez’s passing won’t make many highlight reels. His throwing motion has even been ridiculed on national television.

    Regardless, he’s effective and those small to medium chunks of yardage build up. Less zone read and reliance on those around him appear to have injected new confidence in Martinez. He’s not the only one who believes a play can be successful with the ball in his hands. The 10 others on the field wearing the same colors do, too.

    Martinez’s trust in himself and those around him has helped him flourish. If he continues to grow at this rate, Nebraska will be afforded the opportunity to begin developing those behind him in the same fashion. If Brion Carnes, Ron Kellogg and the incoming Tommy Armstrong can benefit from the same tutoring, the quality of the Cornhusker quarterback depth chart will skyrocket.

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    Tags: seung hoon choi, kenny bell, ameer abdullah, brett maher, taylor martinez

  17. 2011 Nov 14

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Press Conference Notes (Post-Penn State)


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    - This week, redshirt freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell kicked off the press conference. He spoke first about quarterback Taylor Martinez’s growth and ability to get the ball to the receivers. Bell did point out that, “A drop can be the same as a fumble, a turnover, or an interception.” He reported that there were four drops.

    - He also gave a lot of respect to Penn State’s players, saying they responded well to the scandal.

    - Bell on playing at the Big House: “I want to win. It’s another football game.”

    - However, Bell did say, “It’s been a dream of mine to play in these stadiums.”

    - He pointed out that it is a challenge putting together four quarters of terrific football.

    - How long does Bell wish the football season went? “I’d play football until the middle of May.”

    - Head coach Bo Pelini said that early games are nice for the team: “We landed around 7:30, so our kids had a good night off on Saturday.”

    - Pelini on Martinez: “He’s only a sophomore. It feels like he’s been around here for five years, but he’s only a sophomore.”

    - “The more you do it, the better you get at it,” Pelini said about running the option.

    - Pelini touched on Penn State: “Our team has a lot of character, and a lot of ‘want to.’ I give them a lot of credit. I said this after the game, I give the kids of Penn State a lot of credit.”

    - “I don’t know if you ever have normalcy around here,” Pelini said over a laugh.

    - When asked about how Nebraska prepared for Penn State, Pelini said, “There was the sense of the unknown going in, but I don’t think our team approached it any differently.”

    - Injury report from Pelini: Ben Cotton will not be practicing and it is doubtful he will play on Saturday but he won’t need surgery. Khiry Cooper is day-to-day.

    - Pelini on Alfonzo Dennard: “I think he’s as good as any corner in the country. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”

    - “Well, you got about an hour?” Pelini said when asked about how to stop Denard Robinson.

    - More from Pelini on Robinson: “He’s quick, he could beat you and do a lot of different thing. You watch him on film and he’s fun to watch.”

    - Pelini talked about how he felt about Michigan when he played for Ohio State: “You always had respect for Michigan, but you wanted to beat them bad.”

    - Rex Burkhead spoke about his experience under center: “It was fun, it was a lot of fun. Act like you’re the quarterback every now and then. You get to show your versatility.”

    - Burkhead on returning to full-strength: “It was a great week of preparation.”

    - Michigan has forced 19 fumbles this season, Burkhead stressed the importance of ball management: “Yeah, it’s huge. It could turn a game around in an instant.”

    - “It was something I’ve never been a part of and something that was really cool,” Burkhead said about the pregame prayer with Penn State.

    - Will Compton spoke about “all the drama” from last week and said the team did know about what was going on. He was quick to say though that being at Penn State was “awesome.”

    - Compton said of Penn State: “Nothing but good things to say. The prayer in the beginning was first class, which it was. Nothing but respect for Penn State and I hope everything works out for the football program.”

    - Austin Cassidy talked a little about what games he has been most looking forward to: “When the schedule came out, these were the two games I was the most excited for.”

    - He had one thing to say when asked about the critique the defense receives: “People say all kinds of things about our defense.”

    - Cassidy also spoke about the pregame prayer: “I thought it was really cool. I said after the game that not too many people would remember who won that game, but people would remember what happened before forever.”

    - Taylor Martinez was asked about Michigan’s quarterback quite a few times. He said he has never spoken with him but said that, “He’s a great quarterback, an awesome player, and great athlete.”

    - Martinez on big games like Penn State and Michigan: “I play college football for big games like this.”

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    Tags: press conference, bo pelini, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, kenny bell, will compton, austin cassidy

  18. 2011 Nov 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Northwestern


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    “Maybe we overlooked Northwestern for Penn State.”

    These brutally honest words were uttered by Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez following last Saturday’s 28-25 loss to Northwestern. For fans, the game was a shock. Just before kickoff, Nebraska controlled its Big Ten destiny.

    With a tiebreaker over Michigan State, Indianapolis didn’t seem so far away. By 6:00 PM, things had changed in Memorial Stadium. Fans saw a very different team than the one seen against Michigan State. There were five main areas Husker fans needed to keep an eye on. What did they end up seeing?

    1. Stopping Dan Persa, But Not Kain Colter

    One of the most important things Nebraska’s defense needed to do on Saturday was stop Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. While the Wildcats use the dual-quarterback approach, it was clear Persa was going to play most of the game as backup Kain Colter watched from the sidelines.

    Things changed in the second quarter when Eric Martin delivered a big hit to Persa, injuring his left shoulder and removing him from the game. It was a very similar scenario to when Ohio State’s Braxton Miller was injured during Nebraska’s recent heroic victory over the Buckeyes.

    However, while familiar, this scenario played out much differently. Colter, a good friend of Nebraska’s Kenny Bell, stepped in and ran like the wind. He proved to be too much for the Blackshirts’ front seven as Northwestern picked up chunks of yardage play after play. It wasn’t pretty and Nebraska showed once again that its defense is a weak link.

    2. A Shaky Secondary (For Some)

    It would be unfair to call the performance of Nebraska’s secondary last Saturday a big flop. In fact, most of the secondary played well.

    The standout player was clearly Austin Cassidy, who intercepted a pass and ran it back for a huge momentum swing in the Huskers’ favor. It was a shining moment for a senior safety that has been battling adversity throughout the season.

    However, the rest of the secondary overshadowed Cassidy’s big plays, and not in a positive way. Through the struggles, Stanley Jean-Baptiste was noticeably absent, while Lance Thorell continuously got scorched.

    Even more surprising, Alfonzo Dennard played a little softer than usual. After such an emotional win against Michigan State, fans saw defensive backs that were clearly worn out. On a positive note, the heart and determination is still there.

    3. Poor Clock Management

    By the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, quarterback Taylor Martinez was poised to make another comeback. He was throwing perfect short passes that were resulting in big gains.

    He then dug down deep and scored two fourth quarter touchdowns. If Martinez had more time left on the clock, he could have scored again, but time was a luxury that Nebraska did not have.

    Northwestern managed the clock phenomenally well on Saturday. The Wildcats knew that the more time they used on offense, the tougher it would become for Nebraska to score.

    With the way the Blackshirts were playing, it was far too easy for Northwestern to run down the clock. As for Nebraska, too much time was wasted. Whose shoulders does this massive error fall on? Unfortunately, this was an issue for the entire team, both offense and defense.

    4. Continued Pressure on Rex Burkhead

    I-Back Rex Burkhead had 15 carries by the end of the first half on Saturday. It was essentially a consensus among the Husker Locker crew's game day thoughts that Burkhead should only have had 15 carries by the end of the game.

    However, it was immediately clear in the first quarter that the game plan mirrored the one against Michigan State: Give the ball to Burkhead.

    While effective against the Spartans, this strategy was ineffective for a couple of reasons. The first being that Burkhead was still tired coming off a 35-carry game against Michigan State.

    It was imperative that Burkhead received a week to rest. Nebraska has three true freshman running backs that easily could have stepped in and taken on more responsibility. All three would watch from the sidelines for the most part.

    The second reason handing the ball to Burkhead was ineffective was due to the offensive line's struggles. With both offensive tackle Yoshi Hardrick and center Mike Caputo limited by injuries, the line often found itself allowing Northwestern big holes that forced Martinez to scramble or Burkhead to get hit.

    There was no room for Nebraska’s stud I-Back to run, who even uncharacteristically fumbled the ball for the first time since the 2010 Holiday Bowl.

    It was at this point that fans saw offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s stubbornness rear its ugly head once again. The game plan was ill-advised and Northwestern took full advantage. With a quarterback throwing a perfect game, the need to hand the ball to Burkhead was baffling.

    Many still point to the fact that it is Beck’s first season as offensive coordinator, but fans will only buy that for so long. Beck needs to stick to what works and go with it. It may not always be what was envisioned originally, but Nebraska saw an offense that can adapt when given the opportunity last Saturday. It simply wasn’t.

    5. An Active and Involved Crowd

    Regardless of last Saturday’s outcome, Nebraska fans were loud and active throughout the game. Constant “Husker Power” chants filled the walls of Memorial Stadium and fans were often on their feet. It was a positive moment for those continuously criticized for not being involved enough.

    The Big Ten is filled with stadiums full of tradition and fans that love their home-field advantage. While not quite on the same level as some, Nebraska fans are starting to find their footing.

    With the help of “Take Back Gameday,” the Cornhusker faithful are taking steps in the right direction. Given the way the crowd reacted against Northwestern, it would be hard to believe Memorial Stadium won’t be rocking against Iowa.

    However, a large criticism would be the amount of fans that chose to leave early based on the score. Those individuals missed an amazing touchdown pass from Martinez to Kenny Bell. It may not have given the Huskers a win, but it was a sight worth seeing. It is unfortunate so many missed it live.

    Nebraska fans are now the biggest Iowa Hawkeye-backers for one week. With a Michigan State loss to Iowa, it could put the Cornhuskers back in the driver’s seat for a Legends division title.

    While a challenge, it is far from impossible. If there is anything Nebraska fans have learned about the Big Ten so far, it is that there are no guarantees. Any given week, a new team could be at the top. Will Nebraska find its way back? As always, time will only tell.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, kenny bell, dan persa, kain colter, northwestern, eric martin, blackshirts, austin cassidy, alfonzo dennard, lance thorell, stanley jeanbaptiste, rex burkhead, yoshi hardrick, mike caputo

  19. 2011 Nov 06

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Northwestern


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Can’t quite put my finger on it, but something was off yesterday. The Huskers looked a few steps slower than they did against Sparty.

    - It’s a shame that Taylor Martinez’s best game of the year (and one of his career) had to end in a loss. His play is encouraging for the remainder of the season, however.

    - Jamal Turner’s absence is inexcusable. While Coach Fisher clearly has his methods, it’s hard not to question getting a playmaker of Turner’s caliber on the field.

    - Was very happy to see Brandon Kinnie in sync with his quarterback.

    - Wishing Kenny Bell would’ve snagged those drops. Not only for the sake Martinez and his team, but it would’ve made his performance even bigger. Regardless, when Taylor sees the 'fro, he has to throw.

    - If Nebraska could keep Bell back with Abdullah on kick returns, that’d be just grand.

    - When Lavonte David is missing tackles in the backfield, that’s a bad omen.

    - While Lance Thorell’s interception against Michigan State was huge, getting scorched like a marshmallow pre-Smore is, too.

    - While Nebraska may not have the overall talent of Alabama, the Crimson Tide would’ve killed for Brett Maher last night.

    - Have to think the Capital One, Outback and Gator Bowls are all smiling on the inside. Their reps keep showing up to Husker games.

    - Controversial thought alert: Taking away the Blackshirts following this loss would be an absolutely horrible decision.

    After nearly a day to reflect, what are your reactions about yesterday's game? Chime in on the new forums: Husker Locker Forums

    Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces
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    Tags: taylor martinez, jamal turner, brandon kinnie, kenny bell, ameer abdullah, lavonte david, lance thorell, brett maher, capital one bowl, outback bowl, gator bowl, blackshirts

  20. 2011 Nov 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Legend of Rex Burkhead Continues to Grow


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    During one of the crucial moments during last weekend's game versus Michigan State, Rex Burkhead motioned to the sidelines to be taken out. The junior I-Back from Plano, Texas was tired, and his legs were beginning to cramp.

    He had carried most of the workload for the Nebraska offense against the Spartans and he needed to catch his breath, but he stayed in. Following his 31st carry of the game, he was on the ground and the crowd was deathly silent.

    Bo Pelini walked out to check on his workhorse, but immediately turned around. Burkhead was going to get up. He would only need two plays to rest before returning to the game.

    He would then catch a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taylor Martinez on his first play back on the FieldTurf. After 35 carries, it was time to rest, and Burkhead watched the last few minutes from the sidelines.

    The bruising I-Back's statistics speak for themselves: 882 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry, 12 rushing touchdowns; nine receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns. The Cornhuskers are 9-0 when Burkhead has rushed for at least 100 yards in his career.

    There is a lot more to the soft-spoken Texan than just numbers, though. It is his heart, leadership and determination. It is the things that can’t be quantified or caught on tape.

    One of the biggest examples of this is Burkhead’s relationship with Jack Hoffman, a six-year-old from Atkinson, Nebraska that is battling brain cancer.

    When the two met several weeks ago, he befriended the little boy and began to wear a “Team Jack” bracelet on his wrist in honor of his little buddy. Burkhead believes Jack’s illness “is motivation for [the team] to strive that extra mile.”

    Through their time as friends, Burkhead has brought national media attention to Jack’s story, something the family believes would not have been possible if not for No. 22. Jack has just enjoyed getting to know “Superman.” It’s an inspiring friendship that is a testament to Burkhead as both a person and a leader.

    The junior’s teammates also have an immense amount of respect for him. In fact, redshirt wide receiver Kenny Bell started a #FactsAboutRex hashtag on Twitter. Over the last few days, Bell has tweeted out interesting “facts” about Burkhead, inviting fans to do the same.

    Senior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie also has a deep admiration for Burkhead. When asked to comment on the powerful running back, Kinnie said he was a great teammate.

    When asked what his teammate's greatest trait was, the senior wide receiver responded, “His name. He’s a perfect human being. Rex can do everything. He can literally do it all.”

    The incredible part is the respect Burkhead has for his teammates. When speaking of Kinnie, he has said, “There is no one else like him.” As for Bell, Rex believes “[Bell] has a huge impact.” It is the mutual respect between both Burkhead and his teammates that adds to his likability with fans.

    A grassroots effort to get Burkhead noticed in the Heisman race has now cropped up. The people behind the @Rex4Heisman twitter account have gained nearly 500 followers in two days, reaching out to fans, former and current players, and members of the media for support.

    While Burkhead will need big performances against Penn State and Michigan to beef up his resume and highlight-reel, a trip to New York City is not out of the question.

    Many believe if he does not receive the attention this year, he will in 2012. “He’ll be up for the Heisman next year if he stays healthy and keeps doing what he’s doing,” said former Nebraska 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier.

    Beyond the Heisman talk, Burkhead has positioned himself as arguably the most beloved Cornhusker football player since the late Brook Berringer.

    This is fitting as he's has been named to the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team in both 2010 and 2011. Whatever “it” is, the I-Back has it and people are beginning to take notice now more than ever.

    For Burkhead, it’s just business as usual. As he walked off the field following a 24-3 win against Michigan State last Saturday (during which he scored all three touchdowns), he admitted his legs were a little sore. While head coach Bo Pelini would love to get him more rest, Burkhead is clear on what he loves to do, “I love being out there.”

    The fans, coaches, teammates, and Jack Hoffman love having him out there, too.

    Support ‘Team Jack’ on Facebook: Team Jack

    Support the ‘Rex Burkhead For Heisman’ on Twitter here: @rex4heisman

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: rex burkhead, kenny bell, brandon kinnie

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