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  1. 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

  2. 2011 Jul 07

    Husker Heartbeat 7/7: The Big 12 Will Miss Nebraska, NU Among Big Ten Scandals and Another Award Nominee


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Nebraska will miss (and be missed in) the Big 12

    - Have the Huskers joined a conference of cheaters?

    - Tight end Kyler Reed added to Mackey Award watch list

    - Is Nebraska's departure a sign of things to come?

    - ESPN Gameday's no stranger to Lincoln

    - Niles Paul's journal: Pre-draft stress

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

    Tags: big ten, big 10, kyler reed, big 12, niles paul, espn

  3. 2011 Jun 16

    Husker Heartbeat 6/16: Five Fantastic Freshmen, Niles Paul Wants to Play Ball and Coachless Practices


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Ex-Husker Paul: "I just want to play football"

    - Five Nebraska freshmen who will make an impact in 2011

    - Two former Buckeye players will be very close come October 8

    - Fellow Redskin/Husker Gomes adjusts to practices with no coaches

    - Where does Nebraska football fall in the new Big Ten?

    - Former Husker baseballer Asche signs with Phillies

    - Former Husker Ruiz named Greco-Roman wrestler of the year

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

    Tags: bo pelini, niles paul, dejon gomes, luke fickell, justin ruiz, cody asche

  4. 2011 Mar 11

    Podcast 3/11: Paul Blazes on Pro Day


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, niles paul, tennis, gymnastics, track and field, baseball, softball

  5. 2011 Feb 28

    Podcast 2/28: Roy and Niles at the Combine


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, roy helu, niles paul, baseball, softball, mens hoops, womens hoops, mens tennis, track and field

  6. 2011 Jan 25

    Husker Heartbeat 1/25: Roy, Niles, BJax and Star Rankings


    By HuskerLocker

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

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

    *Niles Paul making some waves at Senior Bowl practices. More mentions includes some positive talk of Roy Helu, who, as we've said before, pretty much has everything if he can hold on to the ball.

    *Former Husker I-back Brandon Jackson makes the Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.

    *Why star rankings in recruiting classes are a useful measure for success. The latest rankings from three different services.

    *A UConn booster wants his money back because the Huskies didn't hire the right football coach for him.

    *Will Colonel Reb live at Ole Miss after all?

    Tags: husker heartbeat, roy helu, niles paul, brandon jackson, recruiting

  7. 2011 Jan 24

    Husker Heartbeat 1/24: Zac, Niles and Hagg


    By HuskerLocker

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

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

    *Zac Lee talks about the 2011 season, the injury he sustained in the Missouri game and why he didn't play much during the year.

    Pretty safe, smart answers from Lee - what we've come to expect from him.

    *Husker Eric Hagg now headed to the Senior Bowl, too.

    *The LJS breaks down the remaining targets on Nebraska's recruiting radar.

    *Updated recruiting rankings from the three major services.

    *LJS Sip writes about Bo's full plate right now and all the trips he's been making on planes. That's a subtle reminder that, apparently, Bo needs a private plane. Sip also writes about Saturday's big basketball game vs. Texas A&M:

    "Why won't Nebraska-Texas A&M be televised? It's basically because NU partner FSN is prohibited contractually from showing games during ABC-ESPN's 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (CST) broadcast window on Saturdays. "We determined it's not worth it to have to get our fans to the game that late," said Marc Boehm, NU executive associate athletic director.

    Wise move."

    Two thoughts here:

    *Why isn't worth it to bring fans to a game late?
    *Why is it a wise move?

    Really late night games can be a lot of fun - especially in the arena. For the magnitude of the game, NU should have considered an 8 p.m. start and moved the women's basketball game to earlier in the day.

    *Niles Paul busts his tail to get ready for the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.

    *Stafon Johnson received the unanimous support of USC coaches and players for 16 months after his near-death in a weight training accident. So, naturally, an ambulance chaser got him to file a personal injury lawsuit against the school.

    *Mack Brown calls his QB race "wide open."

    Tags: husker heartbeat, zac lee, niles paul, eric hagg, steve sipple, texas, mens hoops

  8. 2011 Jan 14

    Husker Heartbeat 1/14: Niles, Rickey, Bowl TV Ratings, and Big Ten Big Boys


    By HuskerLocker

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

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

    *Niles Paul has to polish his game to play in the NFL - but once he gets there - he can play anywhere, says position coach Ted Gilmore.

    *How good are offensive linemen in the Big Ten? Try on Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi for size. Husker fans take close note: Line play is what defines teams in the Great Lakes league. NU had better buckle its chin strap.

    *Milt Tenopir - the real author of one of Nebraska's best plays in 2010 - has a few more ideas for the Husker coaching staff - if they want to listen. We suspect they will.

    *The Novak Trophy is the final jewel in an impressive careerfrom Rickey Thenarse.

    *Ex-Iowa running back Brandon Wegher will walk on at Oklahoma.

    *Michigan won't be losing Denard Robinson.

    Bowl Ratings drop 9 percent from last year - thanks, in large part, to the BCS move to ESPN. For example: The Outback Bowl - televised on ABC - had better ratings than the Orange and Fiesta Bowls.

    The Holiday Bowl did pretty well - a 3.48 rating, just behind the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl - considering it was a rematch of a blowout, and the game was so poorly played by Nebraska. The Insight Bowl received a paltry 2.24 rating, although it had the biggest jump in ratings because the NFL Network previously televised it. The Alamo Bowl received a 2.84. Both bowl games technically moved ahead of the Holiday this year in terms of Big 12 slotting.

    Look at that lovely rating for the Gator Bowl - a Jan. 1 Michigan/Mississippi State game on ESPN2: 1.71.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, niles paul, alex henery, rickey thenarse, milt tenopir, big ten

  9. 2011 Jan 13

    YEAR IN REVIEW: WR Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card for Nebraska's wide receivers and receiving tight ends, plus its position coach, Ted Gilmore and Ron Brown. Brandon Kinnie B+ Good year for NU's “No. 2” receiver, who...

    Tags: report card, year in review, brandon kinnie, niles paul, kyler reed, mike mcneill, khiry cooper, tim marlowe, quincy enunwa

  10. 2011 Jan 09

    Husker Monday Takes: Why Bo Stays Put


    By HuskerLocker

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    Six quick takes while you defrost in your cubicle or sled down the biggest hill in town:

    ***Bo Pelini stays on the Nebraska horse in this latest edition of the college football coaching carousel. That's my prediction – unless the NFL comes knocking. And if NU had won the Big 12 title and the Fiesta Bowl this year, there might have been a good chance that we're talking about the Denver Broncos instead of the LSU Tigers.

    But it didn't, and I suspect Bo feels a sense of unfinished business now. He'd be leaving the Nebraska rebuilding project before true completion. Plus, he's close to taking the Huskers back home to the Big Ten. The prospect of trolling his old stomping grounds for recruits and program-defining wins must be alluring. Bo's a Big Ten character at heart – all grit, no grease – and he has to dip a toe in those Great Lakes just once, doesn't he?

    Even if Michigan plucked Les Miles from LSU, I think the Tigers pursue an offensive mind. Florida State's Jimbo Fisher. Auburn offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn. Or – and wouldn't this be a hoot? – Oregon's Chip Kelly. There hasn't been anything too wrong with LSU's defense since coordinator John Chavis took it over; facing better offenses this year, the Tigers finished No. 8 in total defense. Nebraska is No. 12

    At any rate, LSU will have the money – and the promise of terrific, practically-ready-made recruiting classes – to attract just about anybody. Piles of cash can change a man. If they didn't, they wouldn't exist.

    But if Bo doesn't enjoy answering to the media up here, how would he enjoy a conclave of boosters down there? The halls of power are longer and more foreboding in the SEC than they ever have been at NU.

    Now, Michigan – why would it hire Miles, a head coach more lucky than good? Because the Wolverines want a splash after Jim Harbaugh spurned them for a big pile of money and one of the worst jobs in the NFL at San Francisco. Miles is a splash, all right – a big cannonball who would absorb tons of scrutiny and criticism from the minute he arrived in Ann Arbor. He'd have less of a grace period than the maladjusted human snit fit who just left the place, Rich Rodriguez.

    UM would be smarter to grab San Diego State's Brady Hoke, who'd come in, put his head down and get to work rebuilding a pro-style offense.

    ***Time and head coaching jobs are running out for offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. If he doesn't land one – and Bo doesn't fire him from his current post – one of his primary jobs for spring is to find some kind, any kind, of short passing game that can thwart a blitz.

    West Coast Offense guys usually rely on screen and shovel passes to the do trick. I never saw a shred of evidence that Taylor Martinez – or Cody Green, for that matter – could execute them. NU hardly tried to alleviate an opponent's blitz with anything other than a quick slant – which Oklahoma and Washington took away at the end of the year.

    Did you notice how many screen passes Green Bay and Philadelphia used in Sunday's NFL Playoff game? That Nebraska couldn't use the best play in Bill Callahan's book – ever – in 2010 is another indictment of Watson – or someone's – inability to teach guys basic staples, and have them execute accordingly. Martinez darn well should be able to sell a screen pass. If not him, Green. If not him, Kody Spano. Brion Carnes. Someone.

    Splitting reps with Marlon Lucky and Quentin Castille, Roy Helu caught 25 passes in 2008. He caught five this year – four fewer than Castille did two years ago. Or the same number Correll Buckhalter caught in 2000. This is not progress.

    ***Noticed the confident interviews from both NU quarterback recruits - Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling – last week. Neither were terribly shy about zeroing in on Martinez's struggles. The kids see chum in the water, in the form of all those awful sacks T-Magic took in Big 12 Championship and Holiday Bowl. They'll close their yaps once they hit the Husker weight room.

    Martinez, meanwhile, released an e-mail statement through his father, Casey, reiterating that he was returning to Lincoln for his sophomore year.

    Speaking of time, those 15 minutes of playing coy with the press is just about up.

    His on-field weaknesses exposed, Martinez will be in a furious battle for his starting job this spring, and if he chooses to conduct it under complete radio silence, that's his call. But he will have missed an opportunity to establish himself as a leader.

    Taylor be wise to look around. There aren't any “Bill Callahan” quarterback recruits in the program anymore. It's all Bo guys. And Carnes, Turner and Starling were recruited precisely for their dual-threat skills. Martinez will no longer corner the market on running talent. He can establish himself as a vocal presence, though. But to do it, he'll have to ditch the personal public relations officer.

    ***If Niles Paul runs a boffo 40-time at the NFL Combine he could zoom up the Draft charts. There's still NFL value in a one-gear deep threat who can stretch a defense. Paul isn't a particularly crafty receiver, but he's a good enough blocker to keep a corner honest.

    But he has to post the number. And we're talking sub 4.4. I've heard Paul is more than capable of it.

    As for Mike McNeill, watch how New England uses its tight ends in the Playoffs. McNeill isn't as good as Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez – who have combined for 86 catches and 16 touchdowns - but he's not too far from their class. Some team will take a chance on him.

    Husker junior-to-be Kyler Reed has more pro potential than either one of them.

    ***Ohio State is still the best of the Big Ten, the one league team with enough consistent playmakers – soon-to-be suspended or not – to beat an upper-tier SEC team, which Sugar Bowl foe Arkansas was.

    And for all the criticism heaped on quarterback Terrelle Pryor – much of it courtesy of ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who sets aside objectivity for this kid, playing for his alma mater – No. 2 is pretty darn dangerous. Maybe not the top overall prospect in college football – as recruiting services once tabbed him – but, well, he's a winner. He's been nails in three straight bowl games now. He's beaten Michigan three years straight. Led game-winning drives at Wisconsin in 2008 and Iowa in 2010. And that's in an offense that doesn't suit his talents.

    I still like Michigan State as the fave in the Big Ten next year.

    ***Auburn over Oregon Monday night. Why? Both offenses are predicated, to some extent, on the gimmick of their design, and both defenses have had a month to prepare for it. All things equal, give me the SEC athletes and a defensive head coach (Gene Chizik) over Kelly. The key to UO's attack is really its playaction passing game, which keeps safeties from cheating up to support the run, but AU has enough speed to combat it.

    Look for Cameron Newton to feast all night, followed by his declaration for the NFL Draft by week's end. The NCAA stuff aside, Newton could be another Big Ben in the League, or another Akili Smith. He certainly has the joy of a leader. Or is that naivete?

    *Two former standout football players – Caleb Walker and Lance Jeter – made the biggest difference for the Nebraska men's basketball team Saturday night in a 63-63 win over Iowa State. Athleticism translates to every sport; Walker and Jeter were the two best athletes on the floor – for either team – all night.

    Tags: husker monday takes, bo pelini, shawn watson, taylor martinez, big ten, mike mcneill, niles paul, bubba starling, jamal turner, brion carnes, kody spano, roy helu, mens hoops, lance jeter, caleb walker

  11. 2011 Jan 04

    YEAR IN REVIEW: The 5 Best Special Teams Plays


    By HuskerLocker

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    He gave us a pretty amazing ride, Alex Henery.

    The most accurate kicker in NCAA history was a self-taught tactician possessing ice-cold blood and a giant foot. We remember some of his best moments here – along with a couple of big returns and Adi's perfect day.

    The five best special teams plays of year:

    Boom-boom: Henery's best field goal of the year was a 53-yarder in the Big 12 Championship. He blasted the ball through the Cowboys' Stadium uprights with 10-15 yards to spare. A shame he never got that shot to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Henery finished 5-5 in Cowboys Stadium. He'll be back. Heck – maybe with the Cowboys.

    Henery in a Hurry: On 4th-and-8 from his own 22-yard line, Henery rolled out for a rugby kick and saw a big hole in Oklahoma State's punt return setup. So he took off for the first down, made it, and ran 27 yards before he was tackled. The play helped set up NU's first touchdown of the game.

    Adi is nails: On a day when Nebraska really needed it, Adi Kunalic delivered seven consecutive touchbacks against Missouri in a 31-17 win. The Tigers' dangerous kickoff return game never got a chance.

    A Hero in Hagg: The strangest – and possibly most spectacular – play of the year occurred at the end of the Nebraska-Texas game, as safety Eric Hagg, picked up a punt – kicked out of a field goal formation by the Longhorns – and raced 85 yards for a touchdown. Hagg wove his way through UT's traffic, got a couple key blocks and zoomed to the house for the score.

    Paul's Point and Martin's Mash: After enduring the worst game of his career vs. Texas, Niles Paul went to Stillwater needed to make a play. He did, returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. On the play, Eric Martin knocked out an Oklahoma State player with a high – but in our view legal – hit. He was subsequently suspended for it.

    More Year In Review Features
    The Best in Pictures, Part 1, Highlights and Lowlights, Ten Best Defensive Plays, Ten Best Offensive Plays

    Tags: year in review, eric hagg, alex henery, niles paul, adi kunalic

  12. 2010 Dec 28

    Husker Heartbeat 12/28: Wats, Cody, Taylor and Bo


    By HuskerLocker

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

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

    *As Shawn Watson waits to hear whether he's the head coach of Miami (Ohio), OWH's Tom Shatel thinks it could be time for Watson to move on, either way. He writes:

    Here's why a change might do everyone good: Watson still looks like he has one foot in the West Coast and another in the Pelini offense.

    One selling point to the West Coast offense is its versatility. But that, in this opinion, is the inherent problem with it: There's no bread-and-butter identity. It also tempts a play-caller to get too fancy and stray from the hammer that is currently working.

    Case in point: the Big 12 championship game.

    With a half-speed Martinez playing on two bad legs, and a tight game in the balance, NU's offense stalled because Watson continued to put Martinez back in pass plays. The Kid was sacked seven times. Thunderfoot Alex Henery was wasted on the sideline with a Big 12 title on the table.

    When I asked Watson on Monday if he would have run the ball more in those situations, he concurred.

    “To help out Taylor?'' Watson said. “Absolutely, I would.

    “Taylor was struggling. You needed to help him out the best way you could. Obviously, Rex was there. But I also think Taylor needed to look at it a little bit, take a breath away from it. He got caught up in a lot of stuff going on. He's hurt. It's hard for him.''

    Bottom line: In that situation, with a league title on the line, Watson went back into West Coast mode. The Sooners will expect NU to run, so let's fool 'em.

    With much respect to Shatel, I think he missed Watson's money quote in there. Let's recap:

    "But I also think Taylor needed to look at it a little bit, take a breath away from it. He got caught up in a lot of stuff going on. He's hurt. It's hard for him.''

    Translation: Martinez probably shouldn't have been in the game.

    But that's not Watson's call. It's Bo's.

    Beyond that, this romance of running the ball to daylight is bit much. What play is Watson supposed to call on 3rd-and-8? A counter trap?

    Understand, there are ways to protect a young QB with certain passing plays. Screens. Swing passes. Martinez can't execute them. Defenders knocked down four swing passes Martinez threw during the year. He gives away the route. That may change in 2011. But, for now, Martinez throws more difficult routes better than he throws the simpler ones.

    That's not to knock Martinez. He is who he is. We had no beef with him playing in the Big 12 title game. We had plenty of beef with his play, but chalk it up to a learning experience. Bo has his horse. He's going to ride Martinez. Live with it -or file a grievance with the guy calling the personnel shots. Bo.

    *Cody Green defends Watson in this particular story.

    Green said Watson isn’t the type to respond publicly to his critics.

    “And I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t want us to either,” Green said, “but there’s a time and a point where you’ve just got to stand up and say, ‘Hey, you know what? It’s time to back off a little bit.’”

    Meanwhile, the starter has declined interview requests all week. Again - not Martinez's fault. He's been led to believe he can do that. Only one guy can say "talk to the press."

    *Would Mark Mangino be a good fit as Nebraska's offensive coordinator? The Lawerence Journal-World's Tom Keegan thinks so.

    *Here's a look at NU's QB position from a Seattle perspective.

    *Washington's receivers wants to hit back at the Huskers' physical, aggressive secondary.

    *Niles Paul says that "trash talk" from the Huskies will motivate NU for the Holiday Bowl.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, bo pelini, shawn watson, taylor martinez, cody green, niles paul, holiday bowl

  13. 2010 Dec 27

    Podcast 12/27: Niles Good to Go?


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, holiday bowl, niles paul, bo pelini

  14. 2010 Dec 26

    HOLIDAY BOWL: NU Starts Practice in San Diego


    By HuskerLocker

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    Sign up Bo Pelini for another round of trips to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.

    “I do them all...I was at em, and I'm going again,” the Nebraska head coach said when asked which of the Holiday Bowl pregame events he'd attend for a second year in a row. A history and military buff, Bo will hit the tour of San Diego's impressive Naval fleet, too.

    “It'll be a different aircraft carrier,” he said. “We enjoy it. I'm glad we're back.”

    Nebraska's football team began on-site prep for the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl with a Sunday morning workout at UC San Diego. Pelini prefers the morning workout “during a bowl trip” so players can “enjoy the city” and maybe get to bed at a decent hour.

    “I've always operated like this,” Pelini said. “The schedule sets up good.”

    After a two-hour practice inside the Hawks Championship Center on Christmas, the Huskers landed in San Diego Saturday night and hit the soft, muddy turf at UCSD Sunday for a light 90-minute workout in shoulder pads and new adidas shorts. Rains pummeled Southern California late last week, briefly flooding Qualcomm Stadium and leaving the area practice fields waterlogged.

    “It got a little sloppy at the end,” Pelini said. “But we've been on worse. It'll only get better. It's dried out a lot. It's helps that we've got a lot of room out here.”

    Wide receiver Niles Paul, who suffered a broken foot two days before Thanksgiving, was “in and out” of practice Sunday and appears ready to contribute – if not start – when NU plays Washington Thursday.

    Also practicing: Safety Rickey Thenarse and tackle Baker Steinkuhler, both of whom are suspended for the game after getting arrested for alleged DUI offenses in December.

    “They're still part of the football team,” Pelini said. “They're just not part of the game.”

    NU returns to practice at UCSD Monday.

    Tags: holiday bowl, bo pelini, niles paul, baker steinkuhler, rickey thenarse

  15. 2010 Dec 15

    NU/NFL Draft Rumblings


    By HuskerLocker

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    Out the corner of his eye – or perhaps in the back of his mind – of course Prince Amukamara has to pay a little attention. The AP and Sports Illustrated first-team All-American knows that several NFL Draft scouting services – whether you put stock into them or not – have the 6-foot-1, 205 pounder listed as a certain first-round pick.

    CBS Sports' NFLDraftScout.com tabs Amukamara as its No. 1 overall prospect. Mel Kiper has Amukamara at fifth on his latest Big Board. NFLDraftDog.com puts him at No. 6. ESPN's Scouts, Inc. ranks him No. 8.

    Pick any “guru” you wish, and the Prince is coming up with a healthy chunk of change. Presuming a work stoppage doesn't gum up the negotiation process.

    “I still hear people say where I'm projected of going,” the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year said Wednesday. “But I am not focused on it.”

    There's a Holiday Bowl still to play. Finals to finish. And, once the January hits, training to begin.

    He has an invite to the Jan. 29 Senior Bowl - the ESPN-televised, post-grad pony show that NFL scouts prefer to attend - as do several other Huskers, according to Amukamara: Roy Helu, Mike McNeill, Keith Williams and Niles Paul.

    Amukamara is the highest-ranked the of 12 or so NU seniors who could have a shot at the NFL in 2011 – or short of that, the UFL. NFLDraftScout ranks ten Huskers in its top 250 prospects – guys likely to be taken in the seven rounds of the April draft:

    Wide receiver Niles Paul (No. 56)
    Wide receiver/tight end Mike McNeill (No. 73)
    Defensive end Pierre Allen (No. 88)
    Running back Roy Helu (No. 109)
    Kicker Alex Henery (No. 151 and the No. 1 kicker)
    Safety Eric Hagg (No. 202)
    Guard Keith Williams (No. 210)
    Guard Ricky Henry (No. 239)
    Safety Dejon Gomes (No. 247)

    Out of the bunch, Hagg and Henery could be the most intriguing prospects.

    Hagg, a hybrid linebacker/safety in Nebraska's Peso defense, has a long, slender build – 6-2, 210 - that most resembles a wide receiver. He covers well enough to play defensive back but tackles running backs and wide receivers aggressively, too. Defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders has said more than once that if he was building a defense, he'd begin with Hagg.

    He just may not fit easily into a NFL position.

    “I think it kinda hinders me but it can help me at the same time,” Hagg said.

    NU's Team MVP said he has “no clue” where he might land in the Draft, or which teams would be interested. He said he'd talk to Husker defensive coaches in the upcoming weeks to figure it out.

    “It can give you anxiety attacks so I try not to think about it,” said Hagg, who admitted he takes a look at projections every now and then.

    Henery appeared unconcerned about his draft slot. Scheduled to become the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, he's a dual kicker/punter prospect with a 60-yard leg and uncanny accuracy.

    “They love him,” head coach Bo Pelini said of NFL scout

    He's almost too good; the few kickers taken in the upper rounds of the draft rarely turn out to be the best, although the Oakland Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski – a former first-rounder - remains one of Al Davis' better picks during the last 15 years. Most teams prefer to try out a glut of kickers, find the right free agent fit, and ride that guy until he gets a case of the shanks.

    “I won't worry about that process until after the bowl game,” Henery said with his usual calm. “I'll push it all until after the end of the year and not wonder 'What if?' It'll take care of itself.”

    Tags: nfl draft, prince amukamara, niles paul, mike mcneill, pierre allen, roy helu, alex henery, eric hagg, keith williams, ricky henry, dejon gomes

  16. 2010 Nov 30

    Huskers Clean Up in Big 12 Awards


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Even if the Big 12 office seems primed to slight the Nebraska football team at every turn, the league coaches Tuesday more than took care of the Cornhuskers – with the noted exception of kicker/punter Alex Henery - with the release of the All-Big 12 awards.

    Six Huskers made the All-Big 12 first team: Defensive end Pierre Allen, cornerback Prince Amukamara, defensive tackle Jared Crick, linebacker LaVonte David, Peso Eric Hagg and offensive guard Ricky Henry. Five Huskers – including Henery – landed on the second team. Six more were named to the honorable-mention squad.

    In a nod to his sheer dominance - without the usual statistics to back it up - Amukamara won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year despite not catching an interception this year. Opposing teams only dared throw toward him 45 times this year, completing just seven passes. Amukamara had 13 pass break-ups, too. He's only the second cornerback to win the award – Kansas State's Terrence Newman won in 2002 – and the third Husker overall after defensive end Grant Wistrom (who won in 1996 and 1997) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (who won in 2009).

    Amukamara beat preseason favorite, Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, who finished the season leading the Big 12 in sacks.

    David won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. David finished with 128 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, six sacks and 10 pass break-ups. Quarterback Taylor Martinez won Offensive Freshman of the Year despite missing the equivalent of two league games. Martinez amassed 2,409 yards in just 297 plays.

    On the Big 12's second team, Henery was named both the punter and the kicker. OSU's Dan Bailey beat Henery for Special Teams Player of the Year and first-team kicker despite Henery having a better field-goal percentage for the season and his career. Henery is poised to become the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. Running back Roy Helu, defensive end Cameron Meredith, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, and wide receiver/kick returner Niles Paul joined Henery on the second team.

    Huskers named to the honorable-mention bunch were: Running back Rex Burkhead, center Mike Caputo, defensive back Dejon Gomes, Martinez, defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler and offensive lineman Keith Williams.

    Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy won Coach of the Year, while OSU receiver Justin Blackmon unsurprisingly won Offensive Player of the Year. Colorado's Nate Solder won Offensive Lineman of the Year while Oklahoma's Jeremy Beal won Defensive Lineman of the Year.

    Every Big 12 team was represented on the first or second team except Kansas, which had a scant three players named honorable mention.

    Tags: big 12, prince amukamara, lavonte david, taylor martinez, ricky henry, pierre allen, jared crick, alex henery, dejon gomes, alfonzo dennard, keith williams, mike caputo, rex burkhead, eric hagg, roy helu, niles paul

  17. 2010 Nov 24

    Niles Paul Out for CU Game


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini released a statement Wednesday morning confirming whispers that senior wide receiver Niles Paul hurt his foot in practice and will miss Friday's Colorado game.

    “Niles Paul suffered a foot injury in Tuesday afternoon’s practice," Pelini said. "He will be out for Friday’s game against Colorado. His status for the rest of the season will be evaluated."

    The impact:

    *WR: Nebraska has options, although not very many proven ones. The Huskers could slide Brandon Kinnie over to Paul's old spot, put Mike McNeill in Kinnie's and stick freshman Quincy Enunwa in the game. Or the Huskers could put Paul's backup, Will Henry, in the game. Henry, a senior, has played sparingly in his career. Other possibilities include Tim Marlowe, Khiry Cooper (who's virtually disappeared this season after a solid redshirt freshman campaign), and Curenski Gilleylen (who's also disappeared.).

    *KR: Marlowe and Kinnie probably become the top two guys, unless coaches want to protect Kinnie and take him off the unit. In that case, you could see another receiver acting as Marlowe's lead blocker.

    *PR: Rex Burkhead has already been filling this role in recent weeks. We don't expect it to change.

    Tags: niles paul, cu game

  18. 2010 Nov 15

    Practice Report 11/15: Bo Bemoans Quiet Husker Crowd


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    During his weekly TV show to review the Kansas game, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini made a small mention of the rather quiet Memorial Stadium crowd.

    Asked to expand Monday after practice, Pelini obliged.

    “I thought it was dead,” he said. “I thought it was disappointing. I felt like I was at a scrimmage.”

    Why was the crowd disengaged? Pelini nodded to reporters.

    “You guys would know better than I would,” he said. “Maybe they expect – I don't know what the deal is. You were all there – what did you think?”

    The press declined to comment.

    Oh yes – NU also practiced Monday for 90 minutes inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center, beginning its preparation for another big road game at Texas A&M.

    “They're a good football team,” Pelini said of the Aggies. “They're well-coached. They've got talent on both sides of the ball. It'll be a good test for us.”

    Much like 2006, Nebraska can clinch a berth in the Big 12 Championship game with a win in College Station. Pelini brushed off such talk.

    “All of our focus is on what we can do today to be better,” he said. “All the things that come with it, that'll take care of itself in time.”

    Pelini said redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez practiced on his ankle with “no problems” Monday after playing every offensive snap in the Kansas game.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a 90-minute practice inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    Coach Quote: "We call them when we see fit. I don't know that we blitzed any more or any less than we did in any game. It was effective. I thought it was a good package going in and the kids executed it well." Head coach Bo Pelini on creating pressure in the Kansas game. NU finished with six sacks.

    Player Quote: “We were a little surprised. We didn't understand what was going on. But that's the coach's decision. Whatever play he calls, we're going to run it.” Wide receiver Niles Paul on Nebraska continuing to throw the ball with 20 seconds left in the game.


    *Eric Martin is on track to contribute at defensive end, Pelini said. Coaches moved Martin from linebacker to end in recent weeks. Martin is close to 250 pounds and certainly packs enough of a wallop on special teams to hold up on the defensive line.

    “We're getting him prepared,” Pelini said. “He could get in there, especially on third down. He's a good football player. We just think he can do a lot for us. He's powerful. He has burst. He can do a lot of different things for us.”

    *Small world.

    From 2000-2002, Bo Pelini worked as a linebackers coach for then-Green Bay Packers coach – and current Texas A&M coach - Mike Sherman.

    And Sherman's been following Pelini's college career – first as a coordinator, and now as a head coach - ever since.

    “He has a great defensive mind, there's no question about that,” Sherman said during the Big 12 Coaches' Teleconference. “I've always considered him to be a smart, intelligent coach. And he always saw the big picture. And I always appreciated that. Sometimes a position coach doesn't always see the big picture, but Bo always did. He's done a phenomenal job. He's a great head coach.

    Pelini returned the compliment a few minutes later.

    “I learned a lot from him,” Pelini said. “He's an outstanding football coach. He's a good family man. You take something from everybody you've been around, Coach Sherman included. He was very detailed. Smart football coach. Has passion for what he does. I have a lot of respect for him.”

    Pelini said he hasn't talked to Sherman this season but he's maintained a “good relationship.”

    *Nebraska jumped all over recruiting JUCO safety Daimion Stafford early, gaining his commitment over the summer. Now Stafford, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, is opening back up the recruiting process, and will look hard at USC and Florida. He'll take official visits to all three schools, including NU for the Colorado game.

    What happened? The Trojans and Gators are playing pretty awful defense this year; that's part of it. Both schools have pretty ferocious recruiting staffs, too. That USC, with its limited number of scholarships, would want to spend one on a JUCO guy speaks to just how quickly Stafford has risen on the charts of game-ready safeties.

    The Huskers, should they lose Stafford's commitment, are still in the running – and perhaps in better position – for Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) safety Wayne Lyons. Word is, too, that NU coaches are very pleased with Corey Cooper, who is currently redshirting this year – and could be in the running to start in 2011.

    With Austin Cassidy expected to get a hard look at Peso, the safety competition would appear to be P.J. Smith, Courtney Osborne, Justin Blatchford and Cooper.

    Next Practice: Tuesday

    Tags: tamu game, practice report, bo pelini, daimion stafford, recruiting, niles paul, eric martin

  19. 2010 Nov 15

    Husker Monday Review - KU


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    We begin our review of Saturday's game with a more important scene – even for Nebraska football – from Sunday night. No, it wasn't from the NFL.

    It was freshman defensive end Donovan Vestal teaching a kid how to perfect a touchdown dance. Freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell kneeling down to a wheelchair to sign an autograph. Husker junior basketball player Andre Almeida – at 6-foot-11, 325 pounds, probably the biggest man ever to walk on campus – doing basketball drills with tykes decked in red and black. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers doing the stiff arm with his trophy, posing with any fan who wanted a picture.

    Roughly 200 NU athletes – most of them freshmen and newcomers to campus – showed up for the first annual Husker Heroes Outreach Event, put on by the Life Skills department in Nebraska's athletic department. The idea was simple but perfect: Invite kids and adults with disabilities to hang out, play tennis, take pictures, kick footballs and practice their dance moves with the Huskers. And smile and smile and smile. Lots of toothy grins from everybody involved. You can see pictures of the event here.

    Like Skills assistant Jackie Wallgren has been working on Husker Heroes since August, and mirrored it after a similar event put on by the Kansas City Chiefs. Only Nebraska made it bigger and better – with roughly 200 special-needs individuals and 600 family members packing the Hawks Center's practice field. A smashing success, with plans for another in 2011.

    Nebraska's athletic department excels at promoting community service for its student athletes – first-year Huskers take a mandatory life skills class – and it's part of a larger vision, too. And don't kid yourself: It's a value-added aspect of the Huskers' recruiting pitch, too. It seems, on face, like a small thing, two hours working the hula hoop stations. But it's music to parents' ears.

    On with the review.

    Five Players We Loved

    Defensive tackle Jared Crick: It took a half-season for Crick to adjust to life without Ndamukong Suh – and for defensive coaches to create one-on-one opportunities for him. The result is this: In the last three games, Crick has 21 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble.

    Linebacker LaVonte David: He's easily the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Just hand it to him. But could David actually grab the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year title, too? We say no – the Huskers' secondary makes No. 4's life so much easier than most linebackers have it – but David is a walking, tackling, hitting poster for recruiting more players out of Florida. Remember: He's a Miami native.

    Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard: If Eric Hagg is the most important cog in the wheel of the Blackshirts, Dennard is 1B. He locked down his half of the field, which meant NU's safeties could patrol the middle. That left Quinn Mecham absolutely zero open receivers for most of the night. Dennard's interception was a NFL-caliber play; he was beaten by KU receiver D.J. Beshears on a double move, but he recovered beautifully and swiped the underthrown ball from Beshears' mitts.

    Kicker/punter Alex Henery: Two more field goals and a lovely night as a punter with a 42.3-yard average. College football writers need to create a “best player using solely his foot” award and give it to this senior from Omaha Burke.

    Wide receiver Niles Paul: Seven solid grabs for 79 yards – including a 26-yard whopper of a catch on 3rd-and-25 – with two kickoff returns for 63 yards. No bobbles, no stumbles. Just what the football doctor order for No. 24. He'll be needed in College Station next week, so a good performance Saturday night should help his confidence.

    Three Concerns

    Fumbles: Nebraska's ball security is a disaster waiting to happen. You run that risk in a run-heavy offense. Oklahoma had some incredible, unstoppable wishbone offenses that averaged two lost fumbles per game. That doesn't make the sight of a ball rolling around harmlessly on the turf any more soothing, though, does it?

    Penalties: NU is 101st in penalty yards. Somehow, I don't think Bo Pelini thundering away at the zeebs for a good five minutes during the KU game helps that statistic get any better. He'll have a chance to start anew in the Big Ten, where the officiating is more consistent – and more lenient.

    Inconsistent offensive line play: As well as Nebraska has run the ball this year, you'd think that NU could line up and blow out Kansas' overmatched, smallish defensive front. But that didn't really happen. On the Huskers' first drive of the game, Roy Helu had two plays to gain two yards for a first down. He was stoned on both carries. Nebraska thus spent most of the night running wide and throwing the ball out of third-and-medium situations. Nothing wrong with that – but the Huskers' offensive front is still not quite the dominant, bulldozing unit I expected by now.

    Three Questions

    How much of a toll did Saturday's game take on Taylor Martinez's ankle? As sure as T-Magic's wheel started to hit the road in the second half vs. KU, it'll feel more like a bum again early this week. Martinez insisted Saturday night he felt 100 percent; offensive coordinator Shawn Watson put Martinez at 90-95 percent. To us, it looked more like 75 percent. Which is enough – if Martinez can throw the ball in Aggieland.

    How many questions can Bo dodge about A&M coach Mike Sherman this week? Remember that Pelini actually coached for Sherman for three years in Green Bay before he left for Nebraska in 2003. Bo brushed off the Turner Gill questions like he hardly knew the guy - which may be the case - but he absolutely worked closely with Sherman; we'll see if he goes with the standard “he's a good football coach” and tries to leave it at that.

    Can anybody make any sense out of the Big 12? Nebraska loses to Texas, which loses five in a row by fat margins. NU beats Iowa State by 1, the Cyclones turn around and get stomped in Boulder by a Colorado team with nothing to play for – other than the relief that Dan Hawkins was finally fired. Texas Tech beats Missouri, then loses by 38 at Oklahoma. Baylor takes a 30-14 lead on A&M, then falls apart as the Aggies storm back for a 42-30 win.

    You might as well close your eyes and roll some bones. About the only thing that seems likely is this: The Big 12 North is Nebraska's to lose, while the Big 12 South will probably boil down to Bedlam: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State.

    Tags: husker monday review, ku game, jared crick, alfonzo dennard, niles paul, alex henery, lavonte david

  20. 2010 Nov 05

    Five NU Players to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Five Nebraska players to watch in Saturday's game vs. Iowa State

    Linebacker Will Compton: After seeing spot duty in three games, Compton should remain on the field for most of Iowa State's offensive plays, so long as ISU keeps a tight end on the field. Compton earned his Blackshirt this week, and it wasn't by accident; expect him to play plenty on Saturday.

    Defensive tackle Jared Crick: After the best game of his 2010 season, Crick needs a big-time encore against an ISU line somewhat susceptible to a strong pass rush. Could NU line up Crick at defensive end again this week? It sure seemed effective vs. Missouri.

    Peso back Eric Hagg: He'll be busy Saturday, as Iowa State works a variety of combination routes and tries to isolate their tight end, Collin Franklin, on Husker linebackers. Expect Hagg to do a little bit of everything Saturday.

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez: Will he play? Is he healthy enough to make explosive plays? Can he withstand Iowa State's inevitable blitz? Is a banged-up Martinez better than a 100 percent Cody Green or Zac Lee.

    Wide receiver Niles Paul: Iowa State will try to limit NU's running game, which means Paul will get his chances to slip behind the Cyclones' defense. Also, ISU's kickoff and punt coverage teams are fairly awful, so Paul will get a few looks in the return game, too. Paul tends to play better on the road than he does at home.

    Tags: isu game, taylor martinez, eric hagg, niles paul, jared crick, will compton

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