login / sign up / content filter is: on

Home > Blogs > Official Husker Locker Blog > Search

Official Husker Locker Blog

Blog (1 – 17 of 17)

  1. 2010 Aug 14

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/14


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On with the report:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. 2010 Aug 12

    Podcast 8/12: Cook Confident


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: podcasts, football, fall camp, mike smith, bo pelini, volleyball, john cook

  3. 2010 Aug 11

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/11


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The lauded depth on Nebraska’s 2010 offensive line got a little thinner Wednesday, as head coach Bo Pelini confirmed after practice that senior Mike Smith broke his leg in practice Tuesday and would miss the season.

    “It’s pretty clean break,” Pelini said. “He’ll recover fully.”

    Pelini declined to say which leg. Offensive line coach Barney Cotton said Smith snapped it on a play in practice.

    “Guys kind of fall into each other,” Cotton said. “Turned out to be a more severe injury than maybe you would have thought looking at it.”

    Smith had started for two years at left tackle, but served as a “swing” player this fall. At 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, Smith had struggled with nagging injuries that diminished his play at tackle.

    But it’s still a blow to NU’s overall experience and versatility on the offensive line.

    “It’s one less guy,” Pelini said. “But we still have great competition.”

    Pelini said Smith could petition for a sixth year of eligibility, but “it’s up to him.”

    “I anticipate he’d want to come back for another year,” Pelini said.

    Nebraska spent its first day in pads - and its second straight day overall - practicing inside the Hawks Championship Center with the air conditioning turned on as temperatures again soared near the triple digits outside. Although Pelini lauded his team Monday for battling through the heat, he sensed, too, that the Huskers were getting “worn down.”

    “It’s pretty ridiculous out there,” Pelini said. “You beat your team down if you’re out there too much.”

    Left tackle Yoshi Hardrick, who struggled with heat exhaustion Monday, was held out again Wednesday. Pelini said Hardrick should return Thursday.

    “He’s feeling good,” Pelini said. “There’s no issues.”

    Through five practices, Pelini said the NU quarterback race is “about even” between Zac Lee, Cody Green and Taylor Martinez.

    “This could go on for a long time,” Pelini said. “I know you guys don’t want to hear that, but that’s the facts.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced again inside the Hawks Championship Center with temperatures outside hovering around 100 degrees.

    What’s New: Full Pads! Players have been hitting pretty hard for two days now. On Wednesday, perhaps, they got to wrap up a little more. Also, left guard Keith Williams returned to practiced after missing two days. Left tackle Yoshi Hardrick did not. Lingenfelter replaced Smith on the 105-man roster.

    Coach Quote: “It’s better protection. I don’t really like when it’s no pads because our guys don’t like it. You’re banging each other’s shoulder. We still get a lot done without pads, but it’s back to real football again.” - Head coach Bo Pelini on practicing in full pads.

    Player Quote: “It’s not something I was forced to do. I could have backed out at any time. It was a little something that I think helped me, and it’ll benefit me in the future. There was never a time where I felt overwhelmed.” - NU wide receiver Khiry Cooper on playing baseball during the summer while participating in the full summer conditioning program Cooper drove two hours to Junction City during the week ten times this summer.


    *Junior cornerback Anthony Blue was not in pads today.

    *Sophomore defensive end Josh Williams physically looks like a different player from his arrival in 2008. Different, in fact, from 2009, when nagging injuries often kept Williams on the stationary spinner bike.

    “It gives him a lot more confidence that he can carry out and do the techniques we ask him to do,” ends coach John Papuchis said. “In all ways, he’s really changed.”

    *Sophomore Brandon Thompson and Lingenfelter were seen snapping the ball to former Nebraska quarterback and current Husker intern Joe Ganz after practice to perhaps find a No. 3 center.

    *Cole Pensick is currently the No. 2 center despite moving to the position in the spring. Having just 20 practices under his belt at center, Pensick has progressed quickly, said Cotton.

    “He’s way ahead of where he was in the spring,” Cotton said.

    The biggest item on Pensick’s summer to-do list?

    “Getting the ball off on time,” Cotton said. “So far, we’re getting off on a good cadence.”

    Next Practice: Thursday. At long last, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini will speak and his interviews are usually among the best.

    Tags: fall camp, football, practice report, bo pelini, mike smith, barney cotton, cole pensick, khiry cooper, yoshi hardrick, luke lingenfelter, brandon thompson, anthony blue

  4. 2010 Apr 21

    SPRING IN REVIEW: Offensive Line


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    Position: Offensive line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. 2010 Apr 14

    SPRING FB: Bo Gives Spring Game Skinny


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    A final exam it isn’t, but the Red/White Spring Game tends to be, well, the best-attended of the Nebraska football team’s 15 spring practices.

    And though head coach Bo Pelini previewed Saturday’s glorified scrimmage with the phrase “really basic football,” the stage and audience isn’t lost on him. Memorial Stadium should be packed and excited, especially with a weather forecast of sun and temps in the 60s.

    “You get them in front of seventy, eighty-thousand people and see how they respond in that type of environment,” Pelini said after NU’s workout Wednesday.

    Aside from that, Pelini said, “it’s just another evaluation.”

    “We’re not going to show a whole heck of a lot,” Pelini said. “We want to see fundamentals and technique. It’s not going to be a lot of ‘scheme’ things.”

    The Huskers will hold a player draft to divide the team “right down the middle,” Pelini said, and most of the offensive playbook will stay under wraps. The clock will run normally for the first half. Depending on repetitions and depth, the third quarter clock might stop at the appropriate times, as well.

    “If we have to start taking guys from one team and putting them on another team, that’s not the most ideal situation,” Pelini said.

    Pelini was certain the clock would run continuously in the fourth quarter.

    Of the quarterbacks, only sophomore Kody Spano will wear a green jersey, Pelini said. Cody Green was back in red Wednesday. While the quarterbacks will be “a little bit hamstrung” by conservative playcalling, Pelini said, coaches would allow them to run.

    “It just gives them an opportunity to go out there and control the huddle, run the offense,and make the reads they’ve been coached to do,” Pelini said of the signal-callers.

    Don’t expect much to be settled by their performances, though. That goes for the rest of the team, too.

    Nebraska treated this spring as a month-long learning lab, trying to get younger players up to speed so they could provide the depth - especially on offense - that the Huskers were lacking toward the end of 2009. That meant a high-repetition, grueling, physical camp that left a number of players nursing minor injuries this final week.

    “It was a physical spring,” Pelini said. “A lot of live work. We got after it. It was all ‘good on good’ from start to finish. We got a lot of guys reps…very productive.”

    On top of players who have been sitting out most or all of spring practice - quarterback Zac Lee, offensive guard Ricky Henry and linebacker Mathew May - add offensive tackles Yoshi Hardrick and Mike Smith to players doubtful or out of the spring game.

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, bo pelini, kody spano, cody green, yoshi hardrick, mike smith

  6. 2010 Apr 12

    SPRING FB: Hands Off Cody (And Kody)


    By HuskerLocker

    A train reaching its spring game destination, the Nebraska football team Monday kicked on the brakes, slapping a green jersey on quarterback Cody Green and sitting a number of Huskers, including quarterback Kody Spano and offensive linemen Mike Smith and Yoshi Hardrick.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson told reporters Green wore the green “hands off” jersey as a precaution for an unspecified injury. Green is not giving interviews until after the Red/White Spring Game.

    “We’re just giving him a day not to get beat up,” Watson said. “Nothing serious.”

    Watson did not say whether Green would don the green for Saturday.

    Spano, recovering from two knee injuries, had been wearing a blue jersey, then switched to green. Hardrick broke his hand earlier in camp and had been wearing a giant cast for protection.

    NU practiced for two-and-a-half hours inside the Hawks Championship Center.

    “I think we’ve improved, but we haven’t done anything yet,” running back Rex Burkhead said. “We haven’t played one game, so you really can’t tell. I think we’re coming along really well in the passing game and the running game.”

    A Wednesday practice remains, followed by a short Thursday workout where the Red and White teams are chosen via player draft.

    Head coach Bo Pelini will give his final address to the media before the spring game on Wednesday.

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, cody green, shawn watson, yoshi hardrick, mike smith, kody spano

  7. 2010 Mar 27

    SPRING FB: The OC Speaks


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. 2010 Mar 23

    SPRINGTIME WITH BO: The "Adjuster" - and Other Presser Notes


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Quick hits from Tuesday’s presser:

    *Call Mike McNeill the “adjuster.” That’s what the 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior and head coach Bo Pelini called his new position on Tuesday. No, he won’t be reassessing property values. He will be on the field more often, in positions where he’ll be matched against linebackers and nickel backs in the slot, rather than trying to wend his way through traffic on third down.

    McNeill had the idea in his mind when offensive coordinator Shawn Watson pulled him aside.

    “He said exactly what I wanted to say to him,” McNeill said. “…if you the concepts and know our offense, you can play anywhere. After four years, I think I know most of the routes.”

    Pelini said Nebraska should have thrown the ball to McNeill more often. McNeill demurred to Pelini, adding “coach said it - I’ll just go with that.”

    McNeill said he was a 15-pound weight range that he must hit to play wide receiver.

    “The name sounds different, it doesn’t really change that much,” McNeill said. “It creates mismatches.”

    *Ben Martin and Cruz Barrett are no longer on the roster, having taking medical redshirts. Neither were significant contributors in the Pelini era; their absence opens up two scholarships for the 2010 season that could be filled by walk-ons, a potential transfer, or perhaps 2010 grayshirt Bronson Marsh.

    *Zac Lee is doubtful to return during spring practice, and redshirt freshman corner Andrew Green will be held out of the first week of spring practice with a “nagging injury,” according to Pelini.

    *Left tackle Yoshi Hardrick was expected to compete immediately for a starting job on the NU offensive line, but Pelini put the brakes on the hype:

    “He’s got a long way to go as far as getting up to speed on conditioning,” Pelini said. “He got a lot to learning to do…hopefully in the future Yoshi will be in there and get a chance to show what he can do and see how he progresses.

    In other words, current left tackle starter Mike Smith isn’t sampling guard and center because of Hardrick can step right in.

    *Nebraska might put a green jersey on quarterback Kody Spano, who suffered two torn ACLs last year. That’s more “to give me a little peace mind,” Pelini said, than anything else. Spano has full range and mobility back and doesn’t want to wear a knee brace in spring camp - a good sign.

    *Pelini was adamant about keeping Taylor Martinez at quarterback - and solely at quarterback - for the spring. During fall practice, Martinez had worked extensively at wide receiver.

    “He has a lot to bring to the table,” Pelini said. “He’s a quarterback. Period. End of story. Until further notice. This guy is a tremendous talent. We’re looking forward to getting him taught. It’s not the time and place to mess around with moving him here and moving him there…he needs all the reps he can get.”

    *Prince Amukamara briefly considered the NFL Draft after hearing he might be selected in the first round, “but my parents were in Nigeria at the time.”

    “They weren’t here to make the decision with me,” Amukamara said, “so I didn’t think it was right. It didn’t feel right.”

    *Some thought tight end Kyler Reed might play some fullback for Nebraska, but it appears Ryan Hill - who caught the touchdown vs. Oklahoma - may get the nod to compete with Tyler Legate, Mike Hays and C.J. Zimmerer. Hill’s hands are almost as good as Mike McNeill’s, who formerly played the position. Hill’s move opens the door more clearly for Dreu Young and Ben Cotton - who served as a captain during winter conditioning - to be NU’s top two tight ends on running downs - with JUCO import Chase Harper arriving in the fall.

    What's your take from the Nebraska press conference?

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, mike mcneill, taylor martinez, bronson marsh, ryan hill, yoshi hardrick, mike smith, prince amukamara, zac lee, shawn watson

  9. 2010 Mar 04

    50 Huskers to Know: No. 32


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    OT Mike Smith 6-6, 295, Sr.

    A superior athlete who nevertheless leaves something to be desired as Nebraska’s left tackle. His false start penalties are certainly part of the problem. He only generates so-so pile movement in the run game, too. NU’s right tackle situation was so porous last year that opposing teams often moved their best defensive end to line up over there, so Smith got a break, at times, in the pass-blocking game.

    Of course, heading into his third season as a starter, Smith will hold on to his job. But he’s low on the list because he has more to prove in his senior campaign. Well-liked on the offense, does he finally become a leader? Does it translate into fewer penalties?

    Want All 50 Huskers? Join Husker Locker for free!

    Tags: 50 huskers to know 2010, adi kunalic, mike smith

  10. 2010 Mar 02

    50 Huskers to Know: No. 33


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    OT Mike Smith 6-6, 295, Sr.

    A superior athlete who nevertheless leaves something to be desired as Nebraska’s left tackle. His false start penalties are certainly part of the problem. He only generates so-so pile movement in the run game, too. NU’s right tackle situation was so porous last year that opposing teams often moved their best defensive end to line up over there, so Smith got a break, at times, in the pass-blocking game.

    Of course, heading into his third season as a starter, Smith will hold on to his job. But he’s low on the list because he has more to prove in his senior campaign. Well-liked on the offense, does he finally become a leader? Does it translate into fewer penalties?

    Want All 50 Huskers? Join Husker Locker for free!

    Tags: 50 huskers to know 2010, mike smith

  11. 2010 Jan 18

    50 Huskers in Review: Nos. 20-16


    By HuskerLocker

    In the summer and fall, Husker Locker created its “50 Huskers to Know” list for the 2009 season. We now review our list by examining production, injuries and depth chart position.

    We’ll present these in five-player increments. Here we go!

    No. 20 Mike Smith: Battled all kinds of injuries after left, struggled with false start penalties for a second straight year, but generally protected Zac Lee’s backside through the last half of the year. Smith isn’t an elite left tackle right now. But he’s the best Nebraska’s got.

    No. 19 Terrence Moore: A bust in 2009 because of a turf toe injury, Moore better step up quickly in 2010, because his frame and speed is NU’s best fit for the nose tackle position. Moore cannot waste any more time on poor technique and fundamentals. He’ll be pushed fiercely in the spring.

    No. 18 Chris Brooks: Got hurt midway through the season late in the Texas Tech game, which derailed a promising year. Brooks probably had the best hands among NU’s receivers. He rarely got to show them off in five years. Chalk that up to whatever you want.

    No. 17 Will Compton: A little too much too soon for Compton, who started through the Texas Tech game, suffered some lumps and then watched Phillip Dillard take over in the dime defense and excel. Compton stuck his nose in there pretty well between the tackles; he could have been better on sideline-to-sideline pursuit. Compton has a bright future at NU, but there will be no Dillard in 2010.

    No. 16 Cody Green: A maddening season for fans, to some extent. And a maddening season for Green, to be sure. From the highs of terrific running plays in the Florida Atlantic and Lafayette games to the lows of bad passes thrown in Baylor, Oklahoma and Arizona games, Green was the epitome of a roller coaster on the field. Off it, he was humble, smart and humorous. He handled every press situation with intelligence and grace.

    Tags: 50 huskers in review, cody green, will compton, mike smith, terrence moore, chris brooks

  12. 2010 Jan 02

    7 Questions: Offense in the Offseason


    By HuskerLocker

    Shotgun to stay? Whether we or you or any Husker fans prefers an under center power game is immaterial to what offensive coordinator Shawn Watson’s players can actually execute. And the Huskers look better in a shotgun spread offense. They just do. It suits the quarterbacks, the running backs, the offensive line, the receivers and the Wildcat formation.

    How long does it take Zac Lee to recover - and is recovery successful? Funny that Nebraska fans would pin a potential national title run on the health of No. 5, but, after seeing Cody Green’s wobbly work in the Holiday Bowl, so be it. Lee is unquestionably the No. 1 guy going into spring practice - and he still isn’t very good. So not only does he have to rehab after surgery on his right torn flexor tendon, he has to find a way to improve without throwing the ball - possibly through all of spring camp.

    Can Cody Green capitalize on Lee’s absence to develop for 2010 and beyond? We can’t ignore his struggles during the last half of the season - but we also can’t take too much from them, either. Green hasn’t been allowed to grow into a starter - too much attention for a handful for a good plays, too short of a leash for a handful of bad ones - and he should make “the leap” in the spring. Well, he’d better, anyway.

    Whither Kody Spano? The things Spano reportedly did best - throwing those skinny slants and posts, and hanging in the pocket when bullets started flying - are attributes Watson appreciates most. Can he come back from two ACL tears? Can he trust his knee enough to make plays. It’s rare - but possible.

    Is there a No. 2 receiver in the building? Some Husker - Brandon Kinnie, Khiry Cooper, Antonio Bell, Curenski Gilleylen - has to take the heat off of Niles Paul. And receivers coach Ted Gilmore has to stop sampling every guy on the roster for the role. Find two or three complimentary receivers, stick with them, and develop chemistry with Lee - when he returns - Green and whoever else tries out at QB.

    How much can the redshirt freshmen - plus Jermarcus Hardrick - push the vets on he offensive line? Hardrick will push Marcel and D.J. Jones at right tackle - and potentially win the job. As for the redshirt freshmen, we’re talking about Brent Qvale (guard), Jeremiah Sirles (tackle), Jesse Coffey (guard) and Nick Ash(guard/center). At the very least, Qvale (huge, and nimble) and Sirles (looks the part) were slated for the two-deep before injuries tilted the risk/reward scale against burning their redshirt. Neither will likely start for NU in 2010, but they can provide important depth every third or fourth series, or serve as injury protection. At any rate - they sorely need experience for the future.

    Where does Taylor Martinez fit in? We dug around in the few weeks after the Big 12 Championship game about Martinez, and found he was more feared as a receiver than he was at quarterback. And yet he’ll start at QB - potentially as a Wildcat guy - and take a run at the backup job. Either way - the kid needs to see the field, and get the chance to make plays. He’s among the fastest players on NU’s roster and he’s big enough to take some licks. T Magic is more like T Mystery.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: holiday bowl, shawn watson, tim beck, barney cotton, ted gilmore, ron brown, bo pelini, zac lee, roy helu, mike mcneill, rex burkhead, niles paul, jeremiah sirles, brent qvale, jermarcus hardrick, nick ash, jesse coffey, keith williams, ricky henry, mike caputo, mike smith, marcel jones, d, j, jones

  13. 2010 Jan 02

    How Watson Makes Hay After Serving Crow


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The story of Nebraska’s offense in 2009 turns out to be a crackerjack courtroom drama, complete with compelling characters, riveting testimony and a twist ending - touched off by a surprising revelation - that has some Cornhusker fans sailing out of theater satisfied, and others wondering if all plot threads meet up.

    The men on trial - offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, his staff and quarterback Zac Lee - won acquittal in a 33-0 thumping of Arizona, returning to the shotgun, unveiling an effective version of the Wildcat - which running backs coach Tim Beck correctly described as an offense, not merely a play - and getting Lee to a point where he can run the zone read competently - if not beautifully - for yards and first downs.

    Everything you could have hoped to see vs. Arizona - third-down efficiency, big running plays, Niles Paul, Mike McNeill, a dominant offensive line - you saw. Roy Helu got hurt early, but Rex Burkhead capably replaced him.

    For the first time since the Kansas game, Lee looked like the solution instead of the problem. Afterward, when he revealed he’d been playing with a torn flexor tendon in his throwing arm, which requires surgery and nearly three months of rehab, it was like that beer glass in the novel “Presumed Innocent” that nobody could find - because nobody ever asked the guy who took it from the evidence room to return it.

    “It was them that (screwed) up,” Lipranzer tells defendant Rusty at the end of Scott Turow’s best book.

    In this case, the few left in Watson’s corner could say the same of his many naysayers. If you only you knew of all the injuries on the offensive line, at running back, in Lee’s right arm.

    You can see how the arguments set up.

    Credit where it’s deserved: Watson crafted a good plan, and called an even better game. He and Barney Cotton got their offensive line to fire off the ball. He trusted Lee on third-and-long to extend drives. Lee did. In short, Watson seemed to be returning to midseason 2008, when Nebraska sliced and diced Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State with a dizzying array of formations and plays.

    Lee was a poor man’s Joe Ganz, which, with Bo’s defense, was more than enough. He’s a tough kid who chooses to struggle with injuries and inconsistencies in relative silence. Commendable enough.

    But “Holiday Bowl scoreboard” isn’t a sufficient salve for every offensive problem in 2009.

    “Torn flexor tendon” isn’t a sufficient answer for why Watson had Lee throwing the ball in the Missouri rain, or why Watson couldn’t bear to call a trick play - just one! - vs. Texas in the Big 12 Championship.

    “O-line injuries” doesn’t explain why the wide receiver corps fell apart, with two starters apparently so unmotivated and disinterested that they spent two weeks on the scout team.

    No, Watson didn’t suddenly forget how to call plays.

    But we can’t suddenly gloss over real struggles, either.

    The offseason, beginning with Lee’s surgery and rehabilitation, will be a test of patience, creativity and coaching for Watson and his assembled crew. I look forward to watching skilled - but embattled - guys whittle away the problem, with a prominent chip on their shoulder, I suspect, and something to prove.

    *At quarterback, Watson will have to play it by doctor and trainer as to when Lee can return. Then he’ll have to develop quarterbacks Cody Green, Kody Spano and Taylor Martinez in three distinctly different places in their career. Will Ganz, a new graduate assistant, help? Sure. But even that’s a adjustment, for these Huskers know and respect Ganz quite a bit, and may initially see Lee - or any signal-caller - in stark relief of the former No. 12. When a former teammate suddenly becomes a mentor, it’s can be an interesting transition. Ganz isn’t going to sugarcoat anything, nor should he.

    *At running back, Tim Beck has to manage Roy Helu’s health, devise new ways to exploit Rex Burkhead’s skills and find a No. 3 running back between Traye Robinson, Lester Ward and Austin Jones.

    *At offensive line, Barney Cotton gets to integrate young pups Brent Qvale, Jeremiah Sirles, Jesse Coffey and Nick Ash, get JUCO signee Jermarcus Hardrick quickly up to speed, break in center Mike Caputo, wait out the recovery of Keith Williams - who has a torn pectoral muscle - and hone the games of Ricky Henry, Mike Smith, Marcel Jones and D.J. Jones. Cotton has the most important - and arguably toughest - job of the bunch. As goes the offensive line, so goes NU.

    *At wide receiver, Ted Gilmore needs to build around senior-to-be Niles Paul, with an emphasis on guys who can actually catch, run and keep their balance on a wet field. Gilmore has to put a better product on the field than NU offered up in 2009, when Menelik Holt’s drops cost the Huskers at Virginia Tech, and Paul’s midseason lapses in concentration contributed heavily to losses vs. Texas Tech and Iowa State.

    *At tight end, Ron Brown just needs to keep doing what he’s doing, juggling time and snaps for a gifted unit.

    Presuming he has enough healthy pieces, Watson then gets to play chemist. Which combination of formations, plays and players make the best brew? Injuries, execution and “inexperience” - plus Bo’s intervention right around the Oklahoma game - prevented him from figuring that out in 2009.

    What are the key questions for this offseason? Click here.

    Otherwise, continue the debate. Does the Holiday Bowl resolve your concerns? Does the end of the movie forgive its dull middle?

    In 2010 - a national-title contending season - we’ll have the sequel.

    Tags: holiday bowl, shawn watson, tim beck, barney cotton, ted gilmore, ron brown, bo pelini, zac lee, roy helu, mike mcneill, rex burkhead, niles paul, jeremiah sirles, brent qvale, jermarcus hardrick, nick ash, jesse coffey, keith williams, ricky henry, mike caputo, mike smith, marcel jones, d, j, jones

  14. 2009 Aug 18

    Leader on the Left


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Nebraskans can be a hearty-yet-worrisome lot, and in times of concern, they often turn to the timeless stress reliever known as hand-wringing. Or hand-clasping, if you prefer.

    It’s a tidy, discreet Midwestern gesture but fairly unmistakable at a Husker football game, when, in a big moment, you see a mass of hands drawn together, as if trying to rub off paint, to defuse the tension of the moment.

    I suspect that more than a few hands have been wrung over the state of Nebraska’s right guard position, and maybe even the right side as a whole. The money side in the running game, usually. Where you stick the maulers and the gate crashers, and watch them slug and push and cut and engulf defenders to part holes for running backs.

    But those same fans have looked past the strength of the left side of the line, where two returning junior starters –tackle Mike Smith and guard Keith Williams - are nice blend of athleticism and power.

    And to hear Williams talk about it, chemistry between he and Smith and center Jacob Hickman.

    “We show and lead by example,” he said. “If we’re not doing the job, then the others slack off. We’re not having that…it’s gonna be a war. We have our plays and we need to get the job done.”

    The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder caught my eye late last year, when he seemed to blossom into the physical player that Bill Callahan envisioned him being in 2007, when Williams played frequently as a redshirt freshman. But Williams didn’t start to play with more nasty until Barney Cotton got ahold of him. Williams started the last ten games in 2008, and steadily improved.

    On Quentin Castille’s 60-yard run in the Gator Bowl, Williams blocked/carried/tossed his Clemson defender ten yards to the side, creating a giant cutback crease for Castille to work through. In the Red/White Spring Game, the White team, with reserve running backs, repeatedly ran right behind the Florissant, Mo., native, as he generally controlled NU defensive tackle Jared Crick.

    You cut these moments of excellence splice them together with the penalties Williams has committed and missed blocks, and you get a picture of inconsistency. And Williams, though he wears a slight smile on this day – the offensive line got the better of the defensive line in a goal line scrimmage – knows it.

    “Can’t make mistakes anymore,” Williams said. “I’ve got to be mental error-free.”

    Position coach Barney Cotton sees a steadily improving, and more consistent, lineman through this fall camp. After Saturday’s scrimmage, Cotton said Williams’ best practices had been his last two. NU had two more practices Monday.

    “Keith has a chance to be a very, very physical guy for us,” Cotton said. “We just look for that continued development. I don’t worry about what his top end potential.”

    We’ll say this much: Williams has the potential to be NU’s best guard since, oh, Toniu Fonoti in 2001. That spans a lot of time and a lot of players – including recently drafted Matt Slauson – but Williams is nearly prototypical for the role.

    Now about that right side…

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: barney cotton, fall camp, keith williams, mike smith, jacob hickman

  15. 2009 Aug 10

    Commentary: Bold, Fresh and Fast


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    More speed. More weapons. A clearer vision. All the coaches on the same page. And a tight end corps that every team in the Big 12 not named Oklahoma would die for.

    If Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson can simply find a consistent, dependable right guard – and junior Ricky Henry will be given every chance to be that guy – NU’s offense could hum even more than it did in 2008 when, over the last eight games, Watson’s crew was an excellent balance of run and pass, explosiveness and possession.

    “They’re a great looking bunch,” Watson said of this 2009 version. “More explosive and faster than they’ve ever been.”

    You already the story of last year, of how Watson reassessed his offensive line and skill players practically in the middle of a 52-17 loss to Missouri, found that a simplified running game, based more on zone read principles, should be the Huskers’ identity, and promptly made adjustments before the Texas Tech game. It took about a quarter in Lubbock for the plan to click, but when it did, Nebraska kept the Red Raiders’ terrific offense off the field for most of the game.

    NU still lost in overtime, 38-31, but head coach Bo Pelini remembered that contest at the Big 12 Media Days as his favorite of 2008, the one where Nebraska began to forge its identity.

    In 2009, the plan will be, at times, more ambitious, taking advantage of an infusion of speed at the wide receiver position, and quarterback Zac Lee’s legitimate 70-yard arm. Wide receiver Menelik Holt talked about tempo, and the efficiency of Nebraska’s two-minute offense.

    Might we see some no-huddle in the middle of the second quarter? We might. The Huskers, physically, are in terrific condition. And Watson has talented enough tight ends – Mike McNeill, Ben Cotton, Kyler Reed – to operate as Oklahoma does, alternating power sets and spread sets in the same drive, with the same 11 players.

    OU’s no-huddle was so dynamic because it was equally explosive and punishing; opposing defenses couldn’t just run a nickel or dime against it, they had to keep linebackers on the field to stop the downhill running game. Those same defenses were then more vulnerable to covering a guy like tight end Jermaine Gresham, who habitually burned linebackers down the seam. Sub out a linebacker for a nickel corner, and Gresham would catch passes in front of the coverage. And OU’s running backs would make a killing on the outside zone play.

    Yes, Sam Bradford operated the no-huddle like Nicola Benedetti plays a Stradivarius, but it was Gresham – and that terrific offensive line – that routinely presented the overwhelming mismatches.

    Nebraska has McNeill, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior who had 32 catches for 442 yards and six touchdowns in 2008. And Cotton and Reed, who looks and runs like Gresham does. Reed has the fastest 10-yard dash time for a tight end in the history of the program. But all Husker fans needed to see was his catch and dash in the Red/White Spring Game.

    McNeill confirmed he’d line up occasionally as a wide receiver, or as tight end in a “flex” set, out of which a lot – toss plays, bunch routes, play action stuff – can be run.

    “As much as (Watson) wants to throw on us, at me, the better,” Lee said. “The more ways we can attack people, the better.”

    And then you throw in NU’s young-but-fast receivers. Marcus Mendoza. Antonio Bell. Niles Paul. Brandon Kinnie. Khiry Cooper, who’s already “flashed” in the first couple days, Watson said Sunday.

    Summer’s 7-on-7 drills were packed with big plays and daring tries from Lee for the deep ball.

    “With Zac’s arm strength and the speed of the receivers we’ve got? I can’t wait,” Paul said.

    But, simultaneously, the offense could be more old-fashioned, leaning on a experienced left side of the line – tackle Mike Smith and guard Keith Williams both return as starters – and two road-tested junior running backs – Roy Helu and Quentin Castille - north of 215 pounds.

    “Taking the pressure off Zac would be amazing,” Smith said. “If we run the ball, it takes so much pressure off him. People don’t think he needs to make every single play and throw the ball for 300-plus yards every game, so if we can start the year off running the ball, it’d be a big plus.”

    Smith stopped short of assuming Nebraska would emphasize the run, however. Last year, the Huskers seemed committed to trying, and it didn’t really work. Watson then stuck Joe Ganz in the shotgun more often, kicked the zone read into gear, and the offense took off.

    “We’re going to attack people the way they allow us to attack,” Lee added. “Not worry about experience or inexperience or anything like that.”

    That was a common theme among Husker offensive players. Watson’s more about strengths and weaknesses instead of time served.

    Whereas Missouri coach Gary Pinkel more or less declared the Tigers are returning to their 2006 offense to accommodate new quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Watson has divulged virtually nothing – in the spring game or in any of his comments – about how the plan might look in 2009. He hints at Lee’s “arm talent.” He likes his receivers. He likes the competition between Helu and Castille, but wants two more running backs ready to go.

    You hear comments like that, and think maybe Watson wants to head back to 2001 Colorado, when the Buffaloes shoved the ball down the collective throats of the Big 12. Some in the press corps seem to think that’s an option.

    I’m not so sure. The heavy sets didn’t work last year. And they often didn’t work when Bill Callahan, Watson’s mentor, tried them either. You recall the 2006 Big 12 Championship, when counter after counter, zone play after zone play, was stoned by Oklahoma’s defensive line. NU’s Zac Taylor was stuck out on an island that night, without much to help him beyond screen passes and the same medium-rare routes that hampered the Huskers through much of the Callahan era.

    In 2009, it’s a new Zac Attack, and although Lee may not be as efficient or savvy as Taylor once was, don’t expect the offense to slow down or regress in terms of sophistication. Instead, Lee will have to learn to live and adjust where Watson now gameplans: On the cutting edge.

    Tags: shawn watson, zac lee, mike mcneill, roy helu, quentin castille, menelik holt, mike smith, oklahoma, sam bradford, jermaine gresham

  16. 2009 Mar 10

    LP Position Spotlight: A Potentially Big Development at a Key Position


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Word out of winter conditioning is that Nebraska left tackle Jaivorio Burkes, who struggled last year to keep his blood pressure down during fall camp, has lost considerable bulk in doing so this...

    Tags: locker pass, position spotlight, jaivorio burkes, mike smith, brandon thompson, derek meyer

  17. 2008 Oct 14

    O-Linemen pay for penalties


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    It’s not a night in the box or eating 50 eggs, but Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson are adding a little deterrent for every penalty the o-line accrues in upcoming game.

    The gasser.

    “We had to do some conditioning yesterday,” senior guard Matt Slauson said. “We have to run a half gasser for every penalty in the game. So we had to run six. Down and back. Sideline to sideline.”

    For the 37-31 loss to Texas Tech, that’s three false starts and three holding calls for a little more than 600 yards, for those of you imagining at home.

    For penalties NU coaches see in practice, they will assign up-downs or push-ups. The Huskers’ offensive line had a couple of those to endure Tuesday night. The whole line.

    Slauson joked that he would prefer to do the practice punishment than the running that will come after game penalties.

    "I’m not good at running, especially long,” he said. “I’m good at between 0 and 10 yards. That’s really my cup of tea.

    “Really - all jokes aside, you just have to take the punishment the right way whether it’s easy or not, just because you can’t be having drive stoppers like that.”

    Said left tackle Mike Smith: “Coach Watson says he doesn’t know anything else to do except run us.”

    Smith was called for two consecutive holding penalties Saturday that killed Nebraska’s drive right before halftime. NU trailed 17-7 late in the second quarter, but Niles Paul returned a kickoff 70 yards to the Tech 30-yard-line. On two straight plays, quarterback Joe Ganz completed passes for easy first downs; both were called because of flags.

    The second holding penalty, Smith said, was probably called on him in error because he was never told he held on the play and “officials mess up numbers all the time.” Still, Smith said, he had been caught grabbing the defender’s jersey while Ganz was scrambling.

    The flags didn’t just earn Smith some calisthenics; they also led to a seat on the bench in the second half of the Tech game. Jaivorio Burkes replaced Smith, and was listed at the top guy at left tackle in this week’s depth chart.

    Head coach Bo Pelini cautioned reading too much into the change.

    “(Smith) wasn’t the only one who held,” Pelini said. “We had a number of holding penalties. That’s an area of concern and has been. It’s something we’ve stressed and talked about all week. They creep up. It’s just a matter of having enough discipline so when something breaks down or you start to get beat, you can’t reach out and grab. That’s the bottom line.”

    Aside from the penalties, Saturday’s game represented one of the better performances from Cotton’s unit, good enough to eat up 40 minutes of clock and draw ample praise from Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach. Credit fewer line calls and a bunch who continues to learn under Cotton, whose blocking methods and philosophy differ from the Bill Callahan regime.

    Slauson said he was a little disappointed in only 114 rushing yards; he thought the line had created better holes (it did, actually; backs Roy Helu and Marlon Lucky missed a couple of them). After watching the film, Slauson said that some holes were present on plays in which NU chose to throw swing passes to Lucky or screen passes to Nate Swift or Niles Paul.

    There was also a certain fourth-and-one play in which a hole was conspicuously absent.

    “I watched it on film, and I struggle to see what happened, but there definitely wasn’t a hole there,” Slauson said with a rueful smile. “(Tech) ran a great blitz at the right time. Not everybody on that side executed all the way.”

    No gassers for botched short yardage plays. Yet.

    Tags: eggs, paul newman, matt slauson, barney cotton, shawn watson, mike smith, gassers

Click here for our FREE daily podcast.


Great Husker Merchandise and Video. Best of Big Red. Osborne Family Enterprises
Husker Locker - Blogged Paperblog Web Directory

Home > Blogs > Official Husker Locker Blog > Search