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  1. 2010 Apr 24

    NFL DRAFT: Dillard's A Giant and Asante's a Brown.

    479 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Two more members of Nebraska's stellar 2009 defense were plucked in the 2010 NFL Draft Saturday - with Phillip Dillard capping a riches-to-rags-back-to-riches story when the New York Giants picked him in the fourth round with the 115th overall pick.

    One year ago, Dillard was buried on the depth chart at linebacker after showing up to spring camp overweight. He shaved the weight during the summer, won his starting job back by game three, and helped anchor one of the nation's best defense, often as the lone linebacker on the field.

    "So all I had to do was work and not complain and not moan, knock the attitude, show great character, be happy, and not be a cancer in the locker room," Dillard said. "And not be mad because things don't go my way because that is just how life goes."

    The Giants rewarded that attitude with the draft pick. After years of being one of the NFL's most intimidating, playmaking defenses, New York took a slide last year, missing the playoffs. Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, a centerpiece of the Giants' defense for years, was released in February, clearing the way for a pick like Dillard.

    "I expect to come in and make an impact on the team regardless of what they ask me to do," Dillard said. "Whether it is to play special teams, learn the playbook, master the playbook, get the playbook down, then earn a spot, that is what I am willing to do."

    Later in the day, the Cleveland Browns picked NU safety Larry Asante with the 160th overall pick in the sixth round. Asante slipped a bit in the Draft because of his lapses in pass coverage, but he's a top-flight defender against the run, and his hitting skills could come in handy on special teams. Asante's speed allows him to grow into the NFL safety role, or he could be moved down, conceivably, to linebacker.

    Tags: nfl draft, phillip dillard, larry asante

  2. 2010 Jan 18

    Husker Monday Takes: Hedging Against the Suh Backlash

    2,959 views

    By HuskerLocker

    A Pick Six Takes:

    *Ndamukong Suh tearfully accepted his Outland Trophy Thursday night in Omaha - Suh was particularly touching when he thanked defensive line coach Carl Pelini - and made the ESPN tour on Saturday. You can see video of both events here. The awards and media circuit, as its known, is almost complete.

    Now - prepare for the scrutiny, the negative press, and the doubts from so-called mock draft “experts.” Suh, almost a consensus No. 1 pick for April’s NFL Draft, will have to suffer many of the same slings and arrows other top picks, from Peyton Manning to Ricky Williams to Julius Peppers to Aaron Rodgers to Adrian Peterson to Warren Sapp to Reggie Bush.

    He’ll be the leader in the clubhouse for a stunningly long time by April. And, just to stir the pot, some idiot will insist the St. Louis Rams draft Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen with that first pick.

    Who knows? Maybe that idiot will work for the Rams.

    Suh won’t drop below No. 2, where the Detroit Lions have lined up 300 rosaries in their front office to pray for the Rams’ insanity. But the Rams have so many holes - and quarterback is certainly one of them - that you could envision them wasting the pick on a shot-in-the-dark, rather than sticking Suh at defensive tackle for the next decade.

    Even if the Rams stand pat and do the obvious, “Suh fatigue” will set in, especially at ESPN, which practically withers to death without some bit of conjured-up speculation to chew on. Suh’s body of work stands for itself, but some wonk will raise questions about his size, or his technique, or his knee injury from three years ago. Clausen, being from Notre Dame, will be a darling. ESPN’s Todd McShay will toot Eric Berry’s horn a little more.

    It’s all part of the spotlight. Suh just has to ignore the messenger. Nebraska fans should do the same - but I know some Husker fans. Never miss an opportunity to grind the axe. You hope, as NU makes a bid for top ten next year, some of that grinding stops.

    *Watch the walk-on list for Nebraska’s 2010 recruiting class over the next month. It’s not as heralded as the scholarship players, but it’s reasonably important for depth purposes. A handful of starters generally arise from the walk-on mold - center Mike Caputo and fullback Tyler Legate will fit that bill in 2010, and don’t count out Austin Cassidy for Matt O’Hanlon’s old spot - and, of course, there’s also an intrinsic value to their presence, too.

    But they’ll be harder to land as the cost of college rises. What’s more - high school coaches pay attention. Not all of them like it when the State U breezes in for the can’t-miss kid, but didn’t have a scholarship for the ham-and-egger. This doesn’t burn NU as much as it does other schools, but, in this era, it’s something to consider.

    Now, of course, recruitniks hate hearing such warnings, but they view football in a vacuum of stars and hypotheticals anyhow. Great recruiting -at any level - is more about relationships than it is cherry-picking, and a college coach has to sell loyalty to the high school coach as much he sells playing time to the kid. Especially when more and more of these kids live with single mothers. Coaches, parents, handlers, uncles, cousins, guardians - they’re more savvy than they used to be.

    Turner Gill will be making annual trips to Omaha from this point forward. And he’ll have a pretty good message. Just sayin.

    *I made a point of watching two women’s basketball games this weekend. One of them, of course, was No. 11 Nebraska’s ugly-but-so-pretty 65-56 win at No. 9 Baylor. Everything good about Connie Yori’s team - the depth, the timely shooting, the willingness of star Kelsey Griffin to do other things on an off shooting night - was on display Sunday afternoon. Great teams win the scrums as often as they win the gems. The Huskers just won, on consecutive weekends, their two toughest Big 12 road games at Iowa State and Baylor. It’s time to think seriously about 30 wins. And even more seriously about a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

    Which is why, on Saturday, I checked out the nation’s No. 1 team, period: Connecticut, which beat Notre Dame 70-46. The Huskies look like a semipro team, and play almost recklessly - up and down, quick passes, layups, three and four offensive rebounds. The relentless pace broke Notre Dame down, forced the Irish into the same kinds of shots and risks. Except ND couldn’t pull it off.

    UNLV in 1991. That’s the apt comparison. The game proved the notion: Recruiting is power. At least when you’re talented as Connecticut appears to be.

    If only Nebraska got one shot at that team and struck Goliath between the eyes…

    Dare to dream that one.

    *Ugly 56-53 loss for Doc and Gang Saturday night at the Bob. The crowd - which included a smattering of Iowa State fans - was pretty vocal, too. You wonder how many bites of the apple the Huskers get with that kind of noise if they keep blowing winnable games with gaffes of all varieties.

    You’ll see the woodwork now ripple with calls for Doc’s job, but he’s going to get two years with this crew of young players, and that’s what he deserves. But the Huskers continue to get thumped on the boards - losing rebounding margins of 12, 13 and 9 in the first three Big 12 games - and they’re no longer a bizarre matchup for league opponents. Sadler’s refusal to play forward Quincy Hankins-Cole - NU’s best rebounder per 30 minutes of playing time - seems tied to Hankins-Cole’s poor practice habits. This bye week would be a good time for the both of them to get on the same page.

    Even at 0-3, Nebraska’s not out of postseason contention. The NCAA berth doesn’t matter right now. Doc needs to put that talk away. Just push for 18 wins - the Huskers stand at 12-6 right now - and a shot at the NIT or CBI.

    *My late take on Lane Kiffin: I can’t help but root for him. He’s working for a tinpot dictator in USC’s Mike Garrett, he’s got his dad coaching the defense, some gumbo-voiced used car salesman as his recruiting coordinator, and a team of mercenaries who carry themselves like pro athletes and have the proverbial key to Mulholland Drive, Laurel Canyon, or y’know, wherever in the Southland. I like dramatic couplings. Especially when one half gets run out of town on a couple burning mattresses.

    Sixty years ago, Kiffin and Co. are trapped somewhere in Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood,” stumbling around the South, peddling faith not being sold before the established storefronts of Florida and Alabama. Now here they are back in SoCal, the head coach without pedigree, under an athletic director that gives Robert Duvall’s character in “Sling Blade” a run for his money on matters of credulity.

    Football as gothic grotesque. There’s a ring to it. (What? You wanted me to call it trainwreck?)

    On a note that you may appreciate: As a reporter, I should be cynical and hope Kiffin bumbles this unearned opportunity to lead the Men of Troy. But I’m not sure what that would profit me, college football, or even Nebraska, which, I’m sure, prefers to measure itself against a strong USC vs. a weak one. I foretold the Trojans’ struggles in 2009, and won’t be surprised if a trend begins; if you think you can simply keep turning over talent for 25 straight years, only two teams have since 1970 - Nebraska and Florida State - and even they went ashes to ashes.

    But here’s to a wild run with guy just a little older than me. His suits don’t fit and you get the sense that happiness, to him, is a day on a grass field in a long-sleeve t-shirt. I think we can relate.

    *Got a couple emails from readers who attended the Outland Trophy dinner, and weren’t too thrilled with the post-banquet autograph session, where a 30-minute time limit meant some in the back of the line - including kids - didn’t get their gear in front of Suh, Phillip Dillard and Matt O’Hanlon, although O’Hanlon stayed behind to sign beyond the deadline. Apparently, the front of the line - as fronts of lines are wont to do - hogged the time nabbing photos and multiple signatures.

    Well, anyway, that’s one side of the story, although I heard it from more than one source. If you have another side, post it in the comment section and shoot me an email at sam@ne.statepaper.com.

    My rules for stuff like this is simple: Kids first, youngest to 18. And, no, clever parents, that doesn’t include sleeping infants and toddlers with grubby fingers. (Don’t worry, I have one, she just had a bath, so lay off). The kid’s gotta walk up there and wait without doing the pee-pee dance or holding your hand.

    After those kids, OK, the infants and the toddlers.

    Then, if time remains, conversation with the kids.

    The adults get a handshake, a Coke and a smile. If they're really lucky, it's a RC Cola.

    See also: The 10 Best and Worst Fan Bases in College Sports.

    Tags: husker monday takes, ndamukong suh, wbb, mbb, lane kiffin, phillip dillard, matt ohanlon, carl pelini

  3. 2010 Jan 15

    CHALKTALK: The Pelini Defense Part 4: The Match Up Zone

    1,222 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    We delve even further into the genius of Bo Pelini's pass defense by examining the match-up zone approach that shut down Texas and Arizona at the end of the season. Check it out with a 14-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: chalktalk, bo pelini, carl pelini, dejon gomes, prince amukamara, alfonzo dennard, phillip dillard, anthony west, eric hagg

  4. 2010 Jan 12

    The NFL Combine Comes A-Callin

    777 views

    By HuskerLocker

    For the time being, four Nebraska players are among the initial wave of invitees who get to pick up that phone.

    Ndamukong Suh, natch. Larry Asante, Phillip Dillard and Jacob Hickman, too.

    Who didn't get a nod? Matt O'Hanlon and Barry Turner stand out. Don't expect Menelik Holt or Chris Brooks to get an invite.

    It wasn't a particularly giant senior class - and Prince Amukamara has chosen to stay in school.

    NU's four invites trails - for now - Texas (6) and Oklahoma (5) and is tied with Oklahom State (4). Across college football, LSU led the way with 11 invitees. Gives you a sense of the pro talent on that squad - and how the Tigers underachieved in 2009.

    Tags: nfl combine, ndamukong suh, larry asante, phillip dillard, jacob hickman

  5. 2010 Jan 12

    50 Huskers in Review: Nos. 30-26

    749 views

    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. 30 Marcus Mendoza: We thought he’d be Shawn Watson’s secret weapon. We were wrong. Mendoza switched away from wide receiver back to running back, never got involved in the offense and has an uncertain role for the future. The guy who tore up NU’s defense on scout team has simply never earned the on-field playing time to show his skills. Thus far, Mendoza, a likable kid who remains one of the fastest players on the team, is a bust.

    No. 29 Kody Spano: Tore his ACL again in fall camp and spend the season rehabbing - again. He was rushed back from the first ACL tear too quickly, in our estimation, and, as a result, was practicing when he shouldn’t have been. It’s to Spano’s credit that he never groused about it once. Of course, he can’t talk to the media, either.

    No. 28 Jared Crick: Exploded in 2009 with a year that would have been even more memorable had Ndamukong Suh not stolen some of Crick’s thunder. Still, it’s Crick - not Suh - who owns the school’s single-game sack record with five vs. Baylor. And what a day for Crick to have done it, in front of a giant posse of his family on hand in Waco.

    No. 27 Phillip Dillard: Sat out the first two games - wasn’t good enough, if you can actually buy that - before starting vs. Virginia Tech. He took over for Will Compton in the Missouri and Texas Tech games - and never sat the bench again. Dillard plowed through some differences with the coaching staff to become the most productive linebacker NU’s had since the 2005 season. Good against screens and draws, equally deft in pass coverage, Dillard is a testament to buying into the system - then biding your time as the coaches work out their own biases. It’s one heck of a success story that grew out of a cautionary tale.

    No. 26 Marcel Jones: By the time he finally began to play up to his athleticism and potential late in year, Marcel Jones got hurt and was replaced by D.J. Jones for the bulk of the Big 12 Championship and Holiday Bowl. Marcel Jones remains a work in progress who is overpowered by stronger ends and doesn’t always get out on the quicker ones. In the run game, he’s improving, but isn’t suited for an option attack that asks for his giant frame to crack block and cut block.

    Tags: 50 huskers in review, marcel jones, jared crick, phillip dillard, kody spano, marcus mendoza

  6. 2009 Dec 31

    HOLIDAY BOWL: 5 Best Defensive Plays

    1,529 views

    By HuskerLocker

    The Play You Didn’t See: Matt O’Hanlon picked off Nick Foles on the third play of the game - Foles made an awful pass - and returned it to the sweet spot for NU’s offense and an early, quick touchdown. Just Matty being Matty - at least over the last half of the season.

    Dillard Down the Field: NU linebacker Phillip Dillard probably earned himself a few slots in the NFL Draft when he aptly covered Arizona running back Nic Grigsby on a seam route down the field, breaking up what was probably Nick Foles best pass of the first half.

    Sack Party 1: Pierre Allen puts a nasty move on Arizona’s right tackle and hammers Foles, stripping him of the ball for a nine-yard loss. He and best friend Barry Turner engage in a celebratory dance.

    Sack Party 2: Allen, Turner and Ndamukong Suh all converge on Foles for the second sack of the game one drive after the first one.

    The Shutout Preserver: Bo Pelini calls a casino blitz with all the fixins, and backup safety P.J. Smith delivers on fourth down, batting down the Foles pass.

    Tags: holiday bowl, bo pelini, matt ohanlon, ndamukong suh, phillip dillard, pierre allen, barry turner

  7. 2009 Dec 09

    2009 IN REVIEW: Defense

    1,138 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The defining image of Nebraska's 2009 defense, if you want to get right down to it, isn't brute, spectacular play of Ndamukong Suh.

    He's the best player in college football, deserving of the Heisman. But his interception for a touchdown in last year's Colorado game – and subsequent violent celebration – was the image of 2008. Suh elevated his game in 2009, but that alone didn't make NU's defense one of the most potent in the nation.

    Rather, I think of the Oklahoma game. A crucial fourth down as the Cornhuskers clung to a 10-3 lead. OU quarterback Landry Jones tried to sneak a quick out pass to Ryan Broyles, but Broyles was swamped with Nebraska defenders. So Jones searched the middle of the field.

    Jared Crick tipped his subsequent pass. Phillip Dillard grabbed it for NU's fourth interception of the game. And then Dillard, as he arrived on the sidelines, received a massive bear hug from Carl Pelini.

    That hug, nine months ago, would have seemed inconceivable.

    Dillard was overweight heading into 2009 spring camp, his diet consisting in part, he admitted later, of rocky road ice cream. And Dillard was mad about his non-existent playing time in the Gator Bowl. That first day of spring ball, he was fourth in the middle linebacker line. Fourth.

    I won't lie: It seemed like a stunt. And it seemed like a stunt in fall camp, when Dillard, having lost the necessary weight, languished on the depth chart. Even more so when he didn't play in the season's first two games despite reports of significant progress.

    Then, suddenly, Dillard was switched to weakside linebacker for the Virginia Tech game. Early in the Missouri game, Pelini inserted him as the dime linebacker in a 27-12 win. After Will Compton blew an early assignment in the Texas Tech game, Dillard spelled him again, and never relinquished the job again.

    And so that night vs. Oklahoma – Dillard's home state team. The program his half-brother he attends. The program Dillard himself spurned. Early in the game, a sack. Another excellent play on a screen pass. Finally – the interception. And the bear hug.

    The 10-3 win is better remembered for Matt O'Hanlon's three-interception redemption. But Dillard, the ultimate lost cause, was located by Pelini, and embraced. And Dillard hugged him back. A pigskin prodigal son story, if there ever was one.

    That was Nebraska's defense in 2009. A leap in skill, conditioning, speed, smarts – and faith. Bo and Carl Pelini trusted an oft-burned secondary to change its ways; after a massive meltdown vs. Virginia Tech, it did just that. They asked for Barry Turner to get bigger and transform his game into that of a burly, physical end, and he did it. They asked Jared Crick to fill Ty Steinkuhler's shoes, and Crick busted the seams. They asked cornerback Dejon Gomes to learn on the fly and save Nebraska's hide with timely plays in several games, and the junior-college transfer did the trick.

    Talent + teaching = development. The Brothers Pelini worked that formula like a M.I.T professor.

    Their summary statement was a resounding performance in the Big 12 title game, well beyond any effort that I could have imagined. NU's defense was jaw-droppingly excellent. Its secondary was in lockdown mode. Dillard pursued and tackled with energy. And Suh, well, you saw the performance. Amazing.

    Here's the highlights – and the few lowlights – of the 2009 season defense.

    Player of the Year: Ndamukong Suh. He's the defensive player of the decade at Nebraska. Best defender ever? Let the debate begin. And he hasn't reached his ceiling as a player yet. Wait until Suh learns some NFL tricks – especially a more effective rip move.

    Most Improved: Phillip Dillard. Transformed himself from a Cosgrove casualty into a guy who will get a strong look from the NFL. Always played with heart, passion and toughness; in 2009, Dillard played faster and smarter, too.

    Newcomer of the Year: Dejon Gomes. Other than Suh, he's my favorite player on the defense. Doesn't say much. Doesn't strut or draw penalties. Just covers his tail off. He really knows how to strip the ball, too – his interception in the Texas game was as much a fumble recovery as it was a pick.

    Freshman of the Year: Cameron Meredith. Compton probably played more, but, with Meredith, there was no dropoff when he subbed for Barry Turner at defensive end. Size, speed, and a little nasty. Get used to his name and face. In two years..

    Best Game: Texas. In a hostile atmosphere, NU did everything but send UT quarterback Colt McCoy back to high school. Nine sacks, three picks, too many hurries to count. It was a defensive coordinator's dream.

    Worst Game: Texas Tech. The Brothers Pelini gambled early on some blitzes, and got burned by quarterback Steven Sheffield. Mike Leach had Nebraska off balance all day. If you need any evidence of Leach's game-planning prowess, here you go.

    Best Single Performance: Ndamukong Suh, Texas. Suh's play at Missouri and O'Hanlon's work vs. Oklahoma are the runners up. But nothing beats Suh in Dallas. Fathers will tell their kids about it one day.

    Biggest Plus in 2010: Secondary. The best in the nation – yes, even with new safeties. Expect nickel corner Eric Hagg to move O'Hanlon's spot, while P.J. Smith transitions to Larry Asante's role more smoothly than you might imagine.

    Biggest Question Mark: Defensive Line Depth. Meredith and Pierre Allen need backups to emerge at the end spots. Carl Pelini must decide if Terrence Moore can handle the nose, or Baker Steinkuhler, who's a little too lanky for the position, mans it instead.

    Tags: 2009 in review, bo pelini, carl pelini, dejon gomes, ndamukong suh, phillip dillard, barry turner, cameron meredith

  8. 2009 Dec 07

    Husker Monday Review: Texas

    1,373 views

    By HuskerLocker

    As we delve back into one of the more painful losses in Nebraska football history, I want to step away from the field of play for a minute. Let's head, instead, into the homes of interested viewers.

    What do you suppose Syracuse fans, mired in another ugly losing season, thought as they watched NU's defense thunder away at Texas? The Orange could have nabbed Bo Pelini in 2004, you know. Chose Greg Robinson instead. What do you suppose Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne was thinking? He could have taken a run at Pelini in 2006 or 2007. How about Arizona State, which recycled Dennis Erickson? Or UCLA, which tried the Skippy? Or even Michigan, which fixated on Les Miles and forgot to notice the defensive coordinator who delivered all of the crucial wins?

    How about Steve Pederson? What do you suppose his thoughts were, after Pittsburgh's miserable defense blew a 31-10 lead over undefeated Cincinnati in the snow? As he watched the Huskers grind down UT quarterback Colt McCoy, who surely is as good as Cincy's Tony Pike, and the Longhorns, who are, in many ways, a mirror image of the Bearcats' offense.

    What do you suppose Gary Pinkel, whose Missouri team has been repeatedly humiliated by Texas and Oklahoma, was thinking? Mike Gundy, whose OSU bunch got butt-thumped by both teams? What do you think Turner Gill, prepping for an interview at Kansas, was thinking?

    Maybe they were thinking what Alabama, the odds-on favorite to win the national title, already knows: If you can ever manage to acquire primo defensive mind – my goodness, hold onto him and pay him what he needs to succeed.

    Amidst all this offense in college football, the story of Championship Saturday was Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who finally stopped Florida's trickery-based attack, and Pelini, who reduced McCoy, quite frankly, to a child lost in a supermarket. It was akin to Kubrick and Spielberg directing movies on the fly, back-to-back. You couldn't slow down the action to appreciate all the tiny quirks, but you knew it was brilliant, and you knew you couldn't stop watching. Seven hours of guts and gamesmanship worthy of NFL playoff games.

    I have debated, with myself, the validity of Florida's offense; it is strangely and powerfully methodical, and yet couched in fakes and feints and funny business, too. Alabama exposed it Saturday night as an elaborate three-card monte, and Tim Tebow as more of an athlete than a quarterback. There are 10 or 15 Sabans in the NFL; I don't know Tebow survives at that level. The more motions and fakes and H-backs the Gators threw at the Tide, the more desperate and gimmicky it seemed, the more Tebow looked rudderless.

    Robbed of his dive-and-counter game, UF's Urban Meyer prowled the sidelines – frantically, it seemed - and kept dialing Tebow's number – to no avail. Tebow was given every chance to win the Heisman Saturday night, and he kept double-clutching most throws, second-guessing most decisions. He was initially defiant, then frustrated, further confused and, finally, broken. When Saban takes a player of Tebow's sheer, raw athleticism and turns him into the lead actor of a “Happy Feet” sequel, he's really done something.

    The Brothers Pelini produced an incredible encore. They dialed up aggressive blitzes, called for twists and stunts along the front four, and kept daring McCoy to throw it deep. The few times Texas did, it actually paid off with a nice gain or a pass interference penalty.

    Both defenses proved this truth: Most college quarterbacks, good as they may be, have been coached within an inch of their life to make the smart, safe throw. McCoy, Tebow, Sam Bradford, Tony Pike, Andrew Luck, Greg McElroy, any of them. It takes a lot of NFL experience, or foolish moxie, to play otherwise.

    If you take away that safety blanket - it you can get a 22-year-old to think in the pocket, instead of reacting – you have him dead to rights two downs out of three. So it went for Alabama and Nebraska.

    NU did more than that, though – at least in terms of the Big 12. The Huskers stood up to Texas and Oklahoma like no other league team has in the last decade.

    The secret is out. The gig could be up. The Russian is cut.

    Nebraska didn't knock him down or out – some fans (not I) would argue the Big 12 politburo made sure of that in the final seconds of Saturday night – but the Huskers blazed a path through a dark forest, and left some crumbs behind to consider.

    It's up to the rest of the league to wake up and smell the victories. The rest of college football, too.

    Defense is back. And Bo is in the vanguard.

    Now...about that offense...

    Five Players We Loved

    Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh: A performance we'll never forget. Worthy, by itself, of the Heisman.

    Now, this week, you're going to hear that Toby Gerhart, in a series of relatively meaningless games, getting the ball in every obvious goal-line situation, somehow earned it instead. Well, folks, he didn't. What he did do is beat Notre Dame on national television. And since the East Coast Heisman voters don't generally know their rear ends from their elbows when it comes to college football, they'll alight on the nearest relative of anything Fighting Irish.

    Just one question: If Gerhart is bounding through a hole, Suh is there to meet him and it's one yard for a first down – who wins?

    Cornerback Dejon Gomes: Twelve months ago, this kid wasn't even on NU's roster. Ted Gilmore recruited him. Marvin Sanders coached him. Some recruitniks like to bag on Gilmore and Sanders' efforts in this area, but they got this one right.

    Cornerback Prince Amukamara: He needs to come back for one more season, and polish off his considerable potential. But Amukamara has turned into everything Sanders hoped he would become.

    Defensive end Barry Turner: The quiet man of the Blackshirts – nary an interview during the 2009 season – looked strong and fast Saturday night, consistently collapsing the pocket on McCoy. In the last month of the season Turner finally seemed at full confidence.

    Safety Matt O'Hanlon: The back middle was closed for business, and he made some key open-field tackles. Does Matty O get a free agent look from an NFL club? We say yes. There's more than a little Scott Shanle – who starts at linebacker for the New Orleans Saints - in the kid. He could, at the very least, be a valuable special-teamer at the next level – if that's what he wants.

    Three Concerns We Have

    Quarterback Development: Hello? McFly? Where is it? Most Husker fans wouldn't trust Zac Lee to run a band saw in shop class right now. The coaches apparently don't trust Cody Green to do the same.

    Lee made one poor read after another Saturday night. He's entirely too skittish under pressure. Twice, he jumped and rifled screen passes to Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead, too hard for them to do anything with it. His second interception – to Niles Paul – was underthrown, off his back foot. A crossing route to Paul that would have gained big yards was thrown before Paul was looking.

    On Nebraska's best shot a touchdown – after Paul's punt return – Lee immediately tossed an ill-advised fade pass to Brandon Kinnie – who wasn't open – instead of waiting for Mike McNeill's slant route to clear over the middle. As Lee released the ball, McNeill broke open for six. One problem: Lee never looked at anyone but Kinnie.

    That's development. First – why is Kinnie is the isolation fade route – and not Paul? Second – did Lee have a hot read based on Texas blitzing (UT brought six, which is why McNeill was open). Third – why, if he didn't have a hot read, did Lee ignore McNeill? The QB has to wait for the route to clear. Has to. Even if you get knocked into next week.

    Against Missouri, you'll recall, Lee did just that on two touchdown passes. Against Texas, Lee chucked the ball at first sign of danger. And many of his throws were chucks – high, wobbly balloons without precision or placement. Green's lone pass – a bottle of gas thrown into a lake of fire – looked just the same: High, wide, uncertain.

    Who coaches those guys, anyway?

    No Push: Nebraska's offensive line may look very different in a month, when certain players have had a chance to heal and rest. For now, it's a broken pipeline, and no match for Texas' front seven. Most disappointing: The backside leaks, which eliminated any chance of Helu and Burkhead cutting their runs back to the field. With zone blocking, you have create a crease or a wall for a running back to read and attack. Helu and Burkhead were perpetually caught at the top of a Tetris stack, with pieces piling on faster and faster.

    Untimely errors: Adi Kunalic's kick out of bounds. Larry Asante's horse-collar tackle. Eric Hagg, failing to look back for the ball on a third down pass. Nebraska blowing a timeout because Roy Helu didn't know the audible. Blowing another one because Cam Meredith wasn't sure if he should be on the field. Little mental stuff that you can't afford.

    Reviewing the Five Keys

    Right Break, Right Time: Nebraska got them early. But not in the game's final seconds.

    Beyond the Comfort Zone: Oh, Nebraska and Texas' offenses were certainly in that stage of life on Saturday night. But not by their own choosing. NU and UT both stuck much too close to the offensive script when attacked by superior defenses.

    Stop Shipley: In relative terms, Shipley's catches – five for 50 – were absolutely huge. He got Texas out of the shadow of its own goal line once, and set up field position for the game-winning field goal, as well. The kid's gamer. I was more impressed with him than McCoy.

    The Stage: Nebraska more than embraced the moment. Texas shrunk from the pressure, but benefited from an awful NU offense.

    The Heisman Boys: Covered in depth, I believe.

    Three Questions We Still Have

    Cody for the Holidays? Green deserves at least a shot to start in San Diego. Nebraska has little to lose, and Lee's had plenty of chances. With three weeks to retool, you'd hope NU can shape a gameplan around its talented freshman.

    Does Nebraska have a No. 2 receiver? Is it Kinnie now? He played OK Saturday. Is it Khiry Cooper? Is it whomever Gilmore tabs as his best blocker during bowl preparation?

    Other than Suh, who leaves the biggest shoes to fill? I'd argue it's Phillip Dillard, who played linebacker with speed, spirit and toughness over the last ten games, collecting 76 tackles and three sacks. Will Compton played quite a bit this year – but, in terms of play recognition and sideline-to-sideline pursuit, he wasn't in Dillard league. Then again, one year ago, Dillard wasn't in Dillard's league. One player I'm not worried about: P.J. Smith, who takes for Larry Asante. Word is, Smith is a smooth, confident player who may lack Asante's thumping skills, but has a better nose for the ball.

    Tags: husker monday review, big 12 championship, ndamukong suh, dejon gomes, matt ohanlon, barry turner, prince amukamara, phillip dillard, larry asante, will compton, pj smith, brandon kinnie, zac lee, cody green, mike mcneill

  9. 2009 Nov 09

    Husker Monday Review: Oklahoma

    859 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Roy Helu jumped into the crowd. Matt O'Hanlon flipped the ball in the air. The Memorial Stadium faithful roared with vigor before, during and after every big play, and howled with delight at game's end.

    The look, sound and feel of joy in Nebraska's 10-3 win over the Sooners.

    It's been awhile around these parts. NU was close in 2006 vs. Texas. Close in 2002, as well. On Saturday night, the Huskers closed their hands on a signature win over a team that's much better than its 5-4 record suggests.

    Now it's a Sunflower two-step. The land of toll roads, hoopheads, Flint Hills and poor souls who root for the Chiefs also claim the duo – Kansas and Kansas State – that stand in the way of Nebraska's trip to Dallas for a personal conversation with juggernaut Texas. With more momentum than the program's had since the 2005 Alamo Bowl win, NU can't spend a second savoring the OU triumph. The head-scratching loss to Iowa State has left the Huskers little margin for error.

    Of course, we'll savor it a little, and ask some more tough questions. On with the review.

    Five Players We Loved

    Free safety Matt O'Hanlon: The three interceptions were nice, of course. They'll never be forgotten. But O'Hanlon really earned his bacon in run support, repeatedly tackling Sooner running back DeMarco Murray on those wide sweep plays that would have burned the Huskers in previous years. OU openly challenged NU's speed, and the Huskers were up to it. Kudos to strength and conditioning guru James Dobson for putting NU in the position.

    Linebacker Phillip Dillard: Another tackling gem. Dillard snuffed out a couple screen passes, sacked OU quarterback Landry Jones and had a crucial interception after a deflection. After that pick, Dillard, an Oklahoma native, ran to the sideline and gave defensive coordinator Carl Pelini a giant bear hug. That's redemption earned.

    Running back Roy Helu: He made a couple “only Roy” runs, a combination of vision and quickness that suddenly gets him into open space. Helu isn't a burner, but he busts long runs because he can evade, almost without effort, several defenders.

    Cornerback Prince Amukamara: The kid really knows how to jump a route and redirect wide receivers. Nebraska's defensive backs were consistently physical with OU's receivers, and it left Jones without many options in the passing game.

    Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh: He still had his game face on in the postgame press conference. Fine by me. Suh needs to treat this final three-game stretch like a personal offense to his talent. Everything is in front of NU, with a prize of Texas at the end of the rainbow. Know this: If Suh were to have a monster final month, culminating with a big showing in Big D, his Heisman hopes aren't over. People instinctively want to vote for this kid.

    Three Concerns We Have

    Dumb offensive penalties: Nebraska nearly self-destructed in its first two drives of the game with false starts and a personal foul for a cut block. Pelini looked like he was about ready to melt down over those minor mistakes. He should. They're getting old. And offensive line coach Barney Cotton needs to continue to answer for them.

    Nervous in the Service: That's offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's way of describing how uncomfortable Cody Green looked Saturday night. He's used it to describe Zac Lee, too. You can see the problem here.

    One Wrong Hit: On Helu or Alfonzo Dennard's shoulder, and they're back to half-speed. And these two guys are crucial to NU's success down the stretch. Nebraska needs a little luck here that they stay healthy.

    Reviewing the Five Keys

    Field Position: Nebraska lost this battle all night, really, except once – when it started a drive on OU's 1-yard line. That's field position.

    Haymakers: The Sooners tried to knock out Nebraska in the first quarter, but missed two field goals and withered under Bo Pelini's well-timed blitzes.

    O-Line Litmus Test: The Huskers' offensive line didn't exactly pass any exams, but it did open a few holes in the power running game.

    Little Things That Kill: Nebraska successfully took away OU's short passing game more often than not, but the Sooners kept trying and failing to capture it anyway. Oklahoma tried too hard to assert its advantage in the passing game when it had none.

    Gambles Not Worth the Risk: NU won this key. OU played recklessly after the first quarter, rolling the dice too often on fourth down or with risky passes. The Sooners took too many bad chances and didn't show much patience despite never trailing by more than seven points.

    Three Questions We Still Have

    Zac or Cody? Check out our longer commentary on this matter.

    Can the defense roll another 7/11 in Lawrence? Kansas' defense has improved, NU's offense really hasn't, and KU quarterback Todd Reesing is experiencing an unexpected late-career slump. Nebraska may have to turn in an encore to win.

    Where's the offensive creativity? Doesn't Shawn Watson have a few reverses in the toolbox? How can he better utilize the speed NU does have? What happened to the middle screen passes Helu ran so well last year? Conservative is one thing. Inert is another.

    Tags: husker monday review, oklahoma game, matt ohanlon, roy helu, ndamukong suh, phillip dillard, prince amukamara

  10. 2009 Oct 25

    Husker Monday Review: Iowa State

    1,119 views

    By HuskerLocker

    And so we've ranted, raved and roared, shook down the house, nailed the Big Red in our personal report cards, and ate dinner in a gloomy silence.

    Not even fantasy football – or your favorite NFL team – could rock you away from that long, cold sliver of disbelief that accompanied the morning rain or snow.

    Well, that's some of you, anyway.

    And so now, after we've tried to frame this season properly, as a litmus test for coaches and players – but most specifically for head coach Bo Pelini - we pour in the cream of common sense, to offset the acid of our pens, keystrokes, gestures and tongues.

    Calm down, Husker nation. It's a blue, low mood today, but opportunity, yet again, awaits.

    Nobody has run away with the Big 12 North title. And nobody is going to run away with it. But Nebraska can still get it, rescuing itself from a midseason slump. The Huskers' defense can play any offense, anywhere, anytime and hold its own. NU's offensive line does have some muscle, when given the chance to show it.

    There should be no calls for Bo Pelini to make midseason staff changes. Wrong play, wrong level of football. Personnel and schematic changes? Absolutely. But the fatalistic stuff – come on, people.

    No – the point is this: Bo's the head coach. He's not the “defensive expert,” while offensive coordinator Watson is the “offensive expert.” Colloquially, yeah, maybe they are, but Pelini – not Watson – is responsible for the entire product. Watson coaches quarterbacks and calls plays. But if it's fourth-and-one inside enemy territory – Pelini makes the executive decision. He's earned the right to make it.

    A good head coach doesn't micromanage every little aspect of practices and games. That's a recipe for disaster, mistrust and player revolt. Not even the biggest control freaks pull that off with any kind of success. Bo's too smart to do that. Guys who have tried – fail. You can't just “change” everything.

    But if he's got a hunch about the offense, he should play it. Maybe the Huskers really are just a few good practices away from hitting on all cylinders. Maybe not.

    Five Players We Loved

    Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle: He blocked a field goal, an extra point, ran down a receiver 15 yards upfield and generally imposed his physical will on the Iowa State interior offensive line. Afterward, he called his play “average.” That's accountability.

    Barry Turner, defensive end: The quiet man of Nebraska's defense – he hasn't done an interview since fall camp – is quietly having a pretty good season. Turner's work doesn't always show up in the stat sheet, but he's consistently collapsed the pocket toward Suh and Jared Crick. He did so again Saturday.

    Alfonzo Dennard, cornerback: The man can jump! A very late addition to the 2008 recruiting class, Dennard is well on his way to becoming one of the gems of that bunch. Tough-minded, quick to the ball, and a competitor.

    Phillip Dillard, linebacker: Never allowed ISU quarterback Jerome Tiller – who's a pretty good runner – to get loose for a 20-yard gain on the zone read. Dillard's making a late case for the NFL Draft. Good for him.

    Alex Henery, punter: A return to form for the junior – at least in the punting department, where he downed two boots inside ISU's 6-yard line.

    Three Concerns We Have

    Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: Try a -10 margin in the last two games. Nebraska's mistakes handling the ball are bad enough, but the Huskers haven't forced any turnovers, either. Jared Crick had a fumble all to himself, but slightly overshot his recovery attempt. Dennard had his hands on a potential pick. Those are plays that have to be made.

    An offensive system that doesn't fit the quarterback: Zac Lee does have some throwing skills,especially downfield. But he's not a natural runner. He just isn't. And that's OK. So stop trying to run a zone read play that doesn't command the respect of the defensive end, who crashes down, forcing Lee to the corner, where he isn't comfortable.

    Roy Helu's health: Yes, we know Helu played with a bum shoulder last week and didn't fumble. That doesn't mean he wouldn't fumble this week. Helu's not the type of guy who will beg out of a game. NU coaches have to tread carefully with their best offensive commodity.

    Reviewing the Five Keys

    Playing Harder and Smarter: Iowa State won this category with a gameplan that didn't ask too much of Tiller and a defensive tenacity that forced the Huskers into eight turnovers. ISU hustled just a little more than Nebraska did.

    Steep Incline: Nebraska's defense was indeed tougher on ISU in every area but one: Turnovers. Of course, the Cyclones were playing without Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson, which brings us to...

    Wounded Clones: They'll tell stories in Ames about this game for generations, you know. How ISU went into to Lincoln missing 80 percent of its offense and Paul Rhoads coached em up? If Rhoads becomes a legend at Iowa State, this the game that spawns it.

    Where's Mike? Nebraska tight end Mike McNeill made two catches for 22 yards, was the intended receiver on Zac Lee's first interception, and was overthrown by Lee on another third down play. NU tried locating him more often, but only connected twice.

    The Specials: Iowa State ran a key fake punt to perfection as Nebraska showed its hand too quickly on a return play and vacated the area.

    Three Questions We Still Have

    Can Bo rally the boys from such a mind-boggling loss? All is not lost for Nebraska. NU has to win out from here, and hope Iowa State gets clipped one more time by someone, anyone. Missouri and Kansas are laying out a red carpet for the Big 12 North. The Huskers would be wise to remember that.

    Is Traye Robinson ready for 15-20 carries per game? Talk about going 0-60 in one game, huh? Robinson may have fumbled and ran into the backs of some of his blockers, but he looked healthy – and tough. Nebraska has to use him, and hope he holds up.

    Does a road trip do this team some good? We say yes. Not only can Nebraska beat Baylor in Waco, it can get out of town for a couple days. The Husker fans in and around Waco don't get to see the team that often; they'll be more appreciative of the product – whatever it looks like.

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    Tags: husker monday review, bo pelini, shawn watson, roy helu, zac lee, ndamukong suh, phillip dillard, alfonzo dennard, barry turner, alex henery

  11. 2009 Oct 19

    NU-Tech Report Card

    1,034 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Our MVPs and Report Card after NU's 31-10 loss to Texas Tech:

    OFFENSIVE MVP: Roy Helu, Jr. Playing with a bum shoulder, Helu mostly maximized gains on what few holes there were. His effort on the 27-yard screen pass was easily the best individual offensive play of the game. Should Helu sit vs. Iowa State? Maybe. He needs to be truly healthy for the stretch run.

    DEFENSIVE MVP: Phillip Dillard. Arguably his best game. Dillard chased Tech's backs on passing plays, rendering them ineffective after the opening drive, and imposed his physical will on receivers and linemen. He's catching fire at just the right time in his career.

    GRADES

    QUARTERBACK: D Zac Lee played his worst game – because it was his most hesitant game. He didn't push the ball downfield. He ate two or three drive-killing sacks. And he didn't get deep enough on a couple of his drops. Playing to avoid mistakes is really no way to play quarterback unless you've got a top-grade running game. And Nebraska doesn't. And while Cody Green gave NU a spark, he could've easily thrown two or three more interceptions.

    RUNNING BACKS: B Helu played bravely, but he's not 100 percent, and he's not much of a pass-blocking option when he isn't. Marcus Mendoza caught a few passes, and played aggressively. The coaches erred in not playing him before the Texas Tech game. We'll see more of Tray Robinson next week.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: D Drops, drops, drops. NU's receivers might have been open, and Lee should have found them, but who's to say they would have caught the ball? Niles Paul's blunder is elementary stuff. Cover the ball! Chris Brooks and Khiry Cooper at least catch the ball consistently. Cooper needs to block better. Not a good game for Ted Gilmore's unit, and he's running out of motivation tactics. The tight ends were mostly a non-factor.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: D Marcel Jones and D.J. Jones get an F, while the rest of the unit gets, oh, a C or so. The Jones duo was awful, getting manhandled play after play, committing penalties, whiffing on blocks. Jacob Hickman and Keith Williams were fair, but not dominant. Ricky Henry played OK until his bonehead personal foul in the fourth quarter.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B+ The front four generated a terrific pass rush throughout the game, especially ends Pierre Allen and Barry Turner. But they got a little gashed late in the fourth quarter by Tech's quick running game.

    LINEBACKERS: B Will Compton had a bad first drive and was replaced by Dillard, who played one of his best. At times, Dillard was mismatched against Tech's speedy receivers. In spot duty, Sean Fisher and Compton were fine against Tech's running formations.

    SECONDARY: B- More than one of NU's sacks were thanks to the Huskers' coverage, but two pass interference penalties, plus a couple missed tackles by Prince Amukamara, bring the grade down. The good news: Only Kansas has better receivers, and no team has faster receivers.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: C Alex Henery had a poor game, missing a 51-yarder and shanking a punt. Nebraska gave up a big kickoff return at wrong time. The punt coverage units were OK, and Alfonzo Dennard had a nice kickoff return of his own. The snaps by PJ Mangieri were much better.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: D Before we even get to Shawn Watson, let's start with Bo Pelini. Stop deferring every won coin toss. Stop calling blitzes on third-and-long on the opponent's first drive of the game. Stop wasting two timeouts per game on the defense. Now Watson, who has a lot of work to do. He wasn't given a lot of options, but he needs to use his tight ends better, and more of them. He needs to have a sense of urgency in the third quarter, down 21 points. He needs to stop giving his quarterback so many options at the line of scrimmage.

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    Tags: report card, texas tech game, shawn watson, bo pelini, roy helu, phillip dillard

  12. 2009 Sep 29

    Non-Conference Report Card: Defense

    1,204 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Our non-conference report card for the defense:

    DEFENSIVE MVP: Ndamukong Suh Facing offenses that clearly mean to blunt his impact on the game, Suh still makes his presence known in the running game and with four pass deflections in the Virginia Tech game. We’d be lying if we didn’t think Suh couldn’t reach yet another level of play in 2009. But the level he’s at right now is All-American caliber.

    Special Mention: Strong safety Larry Asante, nickel back Eric Hagg, weakside linebacker Phillip Dillard, middle linebacker Will Compton.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B+ This unit was a little slow to anger in the opening games of the season, but they sufficiently pressured Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor and all of Louisiana-Lafayette’s signal callers. Suh is the anchor, obviously, but Pierre Allen, Barry Turner and Cameron Meredith have all been solid at the defensive end position. Meredith, in particular, is flashing some pass-rushing ability in the first month. Jared Crick continues to grow into his position; his technique can improve but his motor is top notch. Baker Steinkuhler flashes an impressive burst into the backfield, while Terrence Moore is finally recovering from a turf toe.

    Best Game: Virginia Tech. Excellent throughout
    Worst Game: Florida Atlantic. Played too high.

    LINEBACKERS B- A bit of a roller coaster so far, but they’re hanging in there, and the move of Phillip Dillard to weakside linebacker should prove to be a key catalyst. In two games, Dillard has been aggressive and physical the ball in ways Blake Lawrence was not. Middle linebacker Will Compton had a few lapses in the Arkansas State game, but he’s active, quick the ball and willing to mix it up. Strongside linebacker Sean Fisher could stand to play a little lower, but he’s generally caught as well as Compton has; by this time next year, it could really be some unit. Lawrence looked tentative at times but has been battling injuries, as has Mathew May, who has a nasty stinger. Colton Koehler and Eric Martin have been used in backup roles.

    Best game: Virginia Tech.
    Worst game: Arkansas State. Communication issues.

    SECONDARY: A- OK, so you can’t get that colossal breakdown out of your head. Well, get over it. Marvin Sanders’ unit has played well besides that play. Larry Asante, easily, is having his best year in run and pass coverage. In Prince Amukamara, Anthony West and Alfonzo Dennard, NU has three corners capable of starting, and Dejon Gomes is starting to heat up. Matt O’Hanlon, one play aside, has been sound and dependable by all accounts. Eric Hagg is a daring, successful wild card who can also cover. Lance Thorell has been fine in limited dime coverage and P.J. Smith, now filling in for the injured Ricky Thenarse, will be counted on back up Asante. This is a seriously strong unit – and it could be better in 2010 once Hagg moves back to safety.

    Best Game: Lafayette. Two fumbles and a Pick Six
    Worst Game: Virginia Tech.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PENALTIES: B- The penalties haven’t been too much of a problem since the first game, and the defensive calls seemed much smoother after the first two games. Bo Pelini wisely got some of his backups more playing time in the Lafayette game. NU continues to waste timeouts on defensive adjustments, however.
    Best Game: Lafayette.
    Worst Game: Florida Atlantic.

    PLAYCALLING: A- The plan to shut down Tyrod Taylor worked perfectly until the final minute of the game; Taylor was frustrated and penned in like he hasn’t been in his entire career at Tech. Otherwise, The Brothers Pelini did a nice job of relying on their front four to generate a pass rush while the back seven covered. Far too often in 2008, blitzes were dialed up as a matter of course. This year, we’re seeing a little more selectivity, which is a good thing.

    Best Game: Virginia Tech
    Worst Game: Florida Atlantic.

    See also: Offensive Report Card

    Tags: report card, eric hagg, ndamukong suh, barry turner, will compton, phillip dillard, bo pelini

  13. 2009 Sep 26

    ULL GAME: Five Best Defensive Plays

    703 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The five best defensive plays in Nebraska's 55-0 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

    Tags: larry asante, eric hagg, sean fisher, phillip dillard

  14. 2009 Sep 22

    LP Insider: A 9th Big 12 Game? Neutral Sites?

    1,689 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Are a ninth Big 12 game and a potential neutral site contest in the works? Husker Locker asked. The answers?

    Find out with a subscription to the Locker Pass, where, if you sign up, you'll get a free copy of Tom Osborne's "Beyond The Final Score."

    Tags: lp insider, locker pass, bo pelini, phillip dillard

  15. 2009 Sep 17

    Podcast 9/17: Watson Sizes Up Tech

    462 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: podcasts, shawn watson, carl pelini, phillip dillard, volleyball

  16. 2009 Sep 16

    VT WEEK: Third to First

    542 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini called senior Philip Dillard’s sudden move from MIKE to WILL linebacker on Tuesday “just creating competition.”

    “Fresh legs, healthy guy, give him a shot,” Pelini said after Wednesday’s nearly three-hour workout inside Memorial Stadium. “See what he can do.”

    Considering that Dillard was working with the first-team base defense Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech – and considering teammates were openly, vocally supportive of the move - it seemed like more than that.

    “He was very excited,” Pelini said of Dillard. “He was up here early and spent all day going over the gameplan, going over the schemes and adjustments… it’ll take all the calls off his plate and just let him kind of play football. MIKE and WILL are so similar. It’s nothing to make that move.”

    The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder hasn’t played in a game since last October, when he hurt his ankle vs. Baylor. Dillard was healthy for the Gator Bowl, but didn’t play. He arrived at spring camp 15 pounds overweight, and landed at the bottom of the depth chart.

    Though he lost that weight over the summer, and seemed in a battle for the starting MIKE job midway through fall camp, Dillard fell to third behind Will Compton and Colton Koehler. He saw no game action vs. Florida Atlantic or Arkansas State.

    “We have a depth chart,” Pelini said. “And we stick to it.”

    But Dillard handled not playing as well as could be expected.

    “He’s busted his tail at practice every day and has earned the opportunity,” Pelini said. “His leadership has been evident to our defense from the start of fall camp. That has never been an issue. He’s a great kid. He’s a great leader.”

    Pelini said Dillard, junior Blake Lawrence and sophomore Mathew May, who won the starting job in fall camp, should play vs. the Hokies. May’s been battling a back injury. Lawrence tweaked his ankle.

    Meanwhile, backup defensive tackle Terrence Moore continues to fight through a painful turf toe injury.

    “It’s not going to get worse,” Pelini said. “He’s just got to push through the pain. As much as he can handle.”

    Tags: phillip dillard, carl pelini

  17. 2009 Sep 16

    Podcast 9/16: No Nonsense from Bo

    566 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: podcasts, bo pelini, phillip dillard

  18. 2009 Sep 10

    LP Practice Report 9/10: The Key to Nebraska's Running Game

    487 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Why Tim Beck ignores the star ratings to look for one key element in his recruits.

    Plus: What was Will Compton doing the moment his redshirt almost go burned?

    Also: Why Cameron Meredith is pushing Barry Turner at defensive end.

    And: Ted Gilmore's high standards.


    Catch all of it with a 30-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass....take it all the way through the Missouri game! Full coverage of NU's earliest Big 12 test!

    Tags: locker pass, asu week, roy helu, rex burkhead, menelik holt, phillip dillard, cameron meredith, tim beck, will compton

  19. 2009 Aug 28

    LP Practice Report 8/27

    485 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Updates at defensive back, fullback and the running back depth chart. Check it out with a 30-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: locker pass, carl pelini, andrew green, will compton, phillip dillard, tyler legate, jason ankrah

  20. 2009 Aug 27

    FC DAY 16: Bouncing Back

    505 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Bo Pelini called out his Nebraska football team after Wednesday’s practice. After Thursday’s , Bo’s brother, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, said the Cornhuskers answered the bell.

    NU pushed through with more aggression and concentration, he said, as fall camp nears an end, and Nebraska begins prep for Sept. 5’s season-opener vs. Florida Atlantic.

    “You put in two hard weeks of camp, school starts, it’s not game week yet,” Carl Pelini said. “It’s always a week where, as a coach, you’ve got to anticipate you have to push them a little bit and they’ve got to find a way to motivate themselves. They’ve got to find a way to do it, and today they did.”

    The Huskers seem to be narrowing on the guys who play significant snaps at linebacker, Pelini said.

    Redshirt freshman Will Compton – a name heard more often last year than this camp – is currently No. 1 at the MIKE spot, while Phillip Dillard closely on his heels. Colton Koehler, who had been No. 1 at the start of camp, was not mentioned by Pelini.

    “Every day he just gets better,” Pelini said of Compton. “More aware of what his responsibilities are. He’s communicating better with the front four and the secondary. Still not perfect, but we’re happy with his progress.”

    Sophomore Mathew May and junior Blake Lawrence continue to have a “good battle” for the starting role at WILL. Pelini said May’s athleticism is impressive, but he needs to “slow down a little bit” in executing his assignments, while Lawrence knows the defense well.

    “Both guys will see significant playing time,” Pelini said.

    In the secondary, expect several cornerbacks and safeties to play – at least in the first couple of games. Pelini and secondary coach Marvin Sanders said Dejon Gomes and Alfonzo Dennard continue to press starters Anthony West and Prince Amukamara, whom Pelini said is “not quite 100 percent.” At safety, Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon should get the starting nods, but P.J. Smith and Rickey Thenarse should get some snaps, as well.

    Tags: bo pelini, carl pelini, phillip dillard, will compton, blake lawrence, mathew may, prince amukamara, anthony west

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