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  1. 2011 Mar 01

    Husker Heartbeat 3/1: Mixed NFL Combine Results


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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.

    *A minor calf injury keeps Pierre Allen out of the NFL Combine while Ricky Henry and Keith Williams struggle as well.

    This morning, Prince Amukamara ran a 4.37 in the 40 at the Combine while DeJon Gomes ran a 4.48 and Eric Hagg ran a 4.68.

    *Ahman Green will play in the CFL with Montreal.

    *Elmo - former Nebraska secondary coach Phil Elmassian - heads back to Purdue. Good for him. NU can roast his DBs now.

    *Denard Robinson makes Jeopardy!

    *And now a picture of Gene Chizik feeding bottled milk to a calf draped in a Cam Newton jersey.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, pierre allen, roy helu, prince amukamara, ricky henry, keith williams, eric hagg, dejon gomes

  2. 2011 Feb 09

    Podcast 2/9: Husker Classroom Standouts


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, austin cassidy, rickey thenarse, pierre allen, cj zimmerer, sean fisher, mens hoops, womens hoops

  3. 2011 Jan 24

    Husker Monday Takes: Big Ten Blackshirts


    By HuskerLocker

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    Six takes as we barrel toward the end of January:

    *Upon further review, Nebraska won't just have the best Big Ten defense heading into its first league season – it could have the best individual player at each of the three levels of defense.

    That's because almost all of the best Big Ten players during the 2010 season either graduated Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, Michigan State's Greg Jones, Ohio State's Cam Heyward, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn – or declared for the NFL Draft – Illinois' Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget, Wisconsin's J.J. Watt.

    The Big Ten's two best cornerbacks – Iowa's Shaun Prater and Wisconsin's Antonio Fenelus – both return, but neither one of them is as good as the Huskers' Alfonzo Dennard, who played more aggressively against better receivers last year. Dennard walks into the Big Ten having dueled with Justin Blackmon, Ryan Broyles and Jordan Shipley. Prater and Fenelus don't have those kinds of pelts on their walls.

    Jared Crick, a certain preseason All-America candidate, is easily the best returning Big Ten defensive lineman. Lavonte David makes the strongest case as the best returning linebacker. Cameron Meredith is among the three best returning defensive ends, too.

    On any level of the sport, stars win games. Nebraska will have as many on defense as any Big Ten team does on offense.

    *Looks like I'll be wrong on the size and media magnitude of Nebraska's 2011 recruiting class.

    After the decommit of La Mirada (Calif.) safety Aaryn Bouzos this weekend – not a huge loss, considering Bouzos' diminutive size – NU stands at 16 commits and probably won't go over 20 without taking a few in-state fallback options who ought to walk on.

    It'll be a solid haul – assuming it doesn't erode any further – but the Huskers appeared headed for a boffo class in September.

    In recent weeks, several targets – defensive end Lake Koa Ka'ai, safety Wayne Lyons, cornerback Frankie Williams – pledged elsewhere, while Arkansas continues to nip at the heels of Husker commit Charles Jackson, one of the nation's best cornerbacks. The Hogs already poached Tevin Mitchel.

    A late-season swoon probably doesn't help, but high school players are less affected by that than college coaches would have you believe. It hasn't hurt Clemson, Georgia or USC much. Rivals ranks each of those recruiting classes ahead of NU.

    It boils in part down to this: Nebraska's elite defense is more complex – which each part working in concert with the others – than the Huskers' execution of it would suggest. Bo Pelini's just that good at teaching it. And Bo had athletes that good to execute it.

    But it makes for tough sledding in recruiting at times. Especially when you're looking for a linebacker – and the kid can't meet his position coach, because Bo hasn't hired him yet.

    *On offense, NU has collected speed, versatility and explosion at the skill position. Setting aside Bubba Starling, NU should still bring in SEC-quality athleticism with Jamal Turner, Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green. And if Beatrice product Daniel Davie stays on offense, he could be the fastest of the bunch.

    I wouldn't think twice about putting all of them on the field next year. Hell, all at once, if need be. Nebraska needs a serious upgrade of explosiveness at running back and wide receiver now that Roy Helu and Niles Paul have graduated. Rex Burkhead is a steady, versatile workhorse – a terrific football player - but he only stretches a defense to a certain extent. Brandon Kinnie will no longer be the “other” receiver in 2011. That leaves tight end Kyler Reed, the mercurial, unpredictable Taylor Martinez and this lot.

    *Senior Bowl this Saturday. With five players, Nebraska will represent itself better than any other college team.

    Prince Amukamara pulled out of the game and defensive end Pierre Allen opted in. Interesting. Prince doesn't need the Senior Bowl week of practice for his NFL draft status; he's bound for the top ten of the first round, and that could become top five if he runs a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at the Combine. But Allen can use the extra exposure.

    One thing about No. 95: He breaks down a pocket. He doesn't have a blazing first step to zip around the edge, but he's strong, tough and knows how to set the edge. After watching Sunday two supposedly terrific NFL defenses – the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets – lose contain on quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger, a structurally sound pass rusher isn't the worst thing in the world.

    Allen's biggest strength is that he punches the clock, brings the pail, and doesn't miss snaps. Showing up every week – playing through what Lombardi called the “small hurts” - is crucial in keeping a NFL job. Don't get hurt. Even when you're hurt.

    *Well, the quick take format worked, didn't it? I dogged for a half-second on the spread – a critique the offense has earned, by the way – and Husker fans took me to the cleaners.

    So I'll take it up another notch: You just saw the pinnacle of the spread offense in college football with the 2011 BCS National title game. It recedes from here. Defensive coordinators are figuring it out, and populating their defenses with smaller, quicker athletes to take away the easy throws and runs created by the spread structure.

    The spread is a curious, grassroots phenomenon, borne of college football rogues like Hal Mumme, Mike Leach and Tony Franklin and high school coaches in the south – especially Texas – who combined elements of option football with a shotgun passing game. In a sense, it's pretty cool, that innovation could “trickle up” from the Friday Night Lights.

    But the wind has switched. The NFL is trickling back down. The quirk that became a movement in the 2007 BCS title game - when Florida ran Ohio State silly - shifts down starting next year. The teams behind the curve – Missouri among them – will find their attacks working to diminishing returns.

    Oregon won't change. Yet. But the Ducks filled a power vacuum in two fairly awful years for the Pac-10. And the non-conference schedule – with the exception of a trip to Boise State in 2009 – broke in the friendliest of terms. That 2011 season-opener vs. LSU in Dallas will be a smack in the face.

    *Watching the Nebraska men's basketball team frustrates me. I have this nagging hunch that head coach Doc Sadler ought to go small, use bigs Jorge Brian Diaz and Andre Almeida sparingly, and just win games the way he knows best – with small, swarming defenders who can play 30 minutes, wear out the foe and force the opposing coach to adjust to the speed and athleticism.

    I keep going back to Doc's original pledge when he arrived in Lincoln: Baseline-to-baseline basketball. There's a way to get there. Maybe “conventional wisdom” keeps getting in the way. Doc commendably stands behind Diaz and Almeida, but there's no easy way to defend two rebounds – in 38 combined minutes! - against a Texas Tech team that played two shooting guards, two small forwards and a slow, tired 6-10 power forward for the entire game.

    The 2008-2009 team was Doc's best – even if coaching a bunch of speedy runts wore him out. That team finished .500 in the Big 12 and came within two last-second losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State of making the NCAA tournament.

    Tags: husker monday takes, big ten, jared crick, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, pierre allen, recruiting, jamal turner

  4. 2011 Jan 20

    Husker Heartbeat 1/20: Recruiting, Senior Bowl, Slauson, The Vest and Doc's Boys


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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.

    The latest in Nebraska's recruiting rankings from the 3 major services, ESPN, Rivals and Scout.

    *NU lands commit No. 17 Ameer Abdullah.

    *How much talent did Nebraska have this year? How about a nation-leading five players to the Senior Bowl? Including Pierre Allen. That much.

    *Former Husker Matt Slauson loves playing with the rowdy Jets - for Bill Callahan, whom Slauson says is completely different in the NFL.

    Answering recruiting questions as Signing Day approaches.

    *The difference between this year's Nebraska basketball team and last year's bunch. Plus - why Doc's defense is working so well right now.

    *The vest knows his business at Ohio State.

    *Texas and ESPN will team up for a 24-hour Bevo Network.Our special comment.

    *You'll hear a lot more about oversigning in recruiting classes this winter - which is a good thing.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, matt slauson, pierre allen, recruiting, doc sadler, mens hoops

  5. 2011 Jan 18

    YEAR IN REVIEW: DL Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Sam starts on defense with the line. How was life without Ndamukong Suh? Find out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: year in review, report card, jared crick, pierre allen, cameron meredith, baker steinkuhler, thad randle, jason ankrah, terrence moore, kevin thomsen, josh williams, chase rome, jay guy

  6. 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

  7. 2010 Dec 11

    Helu, Henery, Hagg Nab Husker Honors


    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska's football team handed out its own awards Saturday at a banquet in Lincoln, with Roy Helu winning Offensive MVP, LaVonte David winning Defensive MVP, Alex Henery winning Special teams MVP and, in a bit of an upset, Eric Hagg winning overall Team MVP.

    The 2010 captains were Helu, Henery, Pierre Allen and Prince Amukamara.

    Henery won the Guy Chamberlain Award, presented annually to the Husker senior who exhibits the qualities of Nebraska All-American Guy Chamberlin. Safety Rickey Thenarse won the coveted Tom Novak award, presented to a Husker player who's had "had a successful Cornhusker career while overcoming odds and adversity."

    The full list of awards:

    Full List of Award Winners:
    2010 Team Captains— Roy Helu Jr. (Offensive), Prince Amukamara (Defensive), Pierre Allen (Defensive), Alex Henery (Special Teams)

    Team MVP – Eric Hagg
    Special Teams MVP – Alex Henery
    Offensive MVP – Roy Helu Jr.
    Defensive MVP – Lavonte David
    Guy Chamberlin Trophy- Alex Henery
    Tom Novak Trophy – Rickey Thenarse
    Fischer Native Son Award –Niles Paul
    Walk-on MVP – Joe Broekemeier
    Lifter of the Year – Rex Burkhead
    Character Award – Rex Burkhead, Eric Hagg, Thomas Grove
    Pat Clare Award – Ricky Henry
    Bobby Reynolds Award – Adi Kunalic
    Scout Team Offensive MVP – Kenny Bell, Yusef Wade
    Scout Team Defensive MVP – Colin McDermott
    Burnell Student Manager Scholarships – Tanner Dunbar and Paul Belz

    Get terrific deals for the Holiday Bowl!

    Tags: alex henery, roy helu, eric hagg, prince amukamara, pierre allen

  8. 2010 Nov 30

    Huskers Clean Up in Big 12 Awards


    By HuskerLocker

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    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

  9. 2010 Oct 14

    Husker Heartbeat 10/14: The Taylor Curve


    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.

    *Tom Shatel talks to Yahoo's Dan Wetzel, who presents a compelling case for the BCS being a cartel.

    *The Sporting News puts three Huskers in their top 25 after the first of the season.

    *Mobile quarterbacks like Taylor Martinez - Fad or Trend?

    *Burnt Orange Nation takes a detailed look at NU's offense.

    *LJS breaks down Texas.

    *Pierre Allen grows into a leadership role during his senior year.

    *Mountain West referees are suspended after blowing a call in the BYU-San Diego State game.

    *Boise State is expected to be No. 1 in the initial BCS rankings. That's because ESPN has crunched the numbers and determined that computer polls can't change enough by Sunday to put some other team on top. We'll see.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, bcs, taylor martinez, pierre allen, texas game

  10. 2010 Oct 06

    KSU GAME: 5 NU Players to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

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    Quarterback Taylor Martinez: The pressure is on T-Magic to grow from his poor last outing, and do it on national TV. There isn’t a result - spectacular or disappointing - that would surprise me. The kid is becoming a college quarterback before our eyes, and it’s on him to mature in the right way.

    Wide receiver Niles Paul: The senior has already expressed his displeasure over a lack of touches in the Washington and Idaho games. Does offensive coordinator Shawn Watson call his number Thursday, or Paul, once again, a blocker and a flashy decoy?

    Right tackle Marcel Jones: When healthy - which Jones finally appears to be - he’s a solid-to-strong pass blocker. But it’s his first game of the year, so NU will need to fold him into the line rotation with D.J. Jones carefully.

    Defensive end Pierre Allen: Big game for the senior, as Kansas State likes to run plays that bounce toward the defensive ends. Allen has to force Daniel Thomas back toward the NU linebackers and prevent him from getting loose on the edge.

    Linebacker LaVonte David: Those ten days of practice and film study could be the biggest benefit to the junior. David has to stay disciplined, smart and tough in the chute. Daniel Thomas is the best running back the Huskers will face in the 2010 regular season. This is a big moment for David.

    Want to Head to the Big Nebraska-Texas Game? Click here!

    See also: 5 Keys to KSU, 5 NU Players to Watch, 5 KSU Players to Watch, The Matchup Edge and Guess The Score

    Tags: lavonte david, pierre allen, taylor martinez, niles paul, marcel jones, kansas state game

  11. 2010 Sep 30

    Non-Conference Report Card - DL


    By HuskerLocker

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    HL's Samuel McKewon breaks down the defensive line player by player. Who's had the biggest season thus rar? Whose play best fits the Pelini scheme? Find out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: report card, pierre allen, jared crick, baker steinkuhler, cameron meredith, thad randle, terrence moore, josh williams

  12. 2010 Sep 29

    Non-Conference Report Card - Defense


    By HuskerLocker

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    We’re through the non-conference portion of the 2010 season; as Nebraska hurtles into the Big 12 campaign, we look back at the defensive performance through four games, select an early-season MVP, and give out grades to position groupings.

    For more specific, in-depth reviews and grades of players, click on DL, LB, or DB

    For the offensive report card, click here. And for more specific, in-depth reviews and grades of players, click onQB/RB, WR/TE and OL.

    The key defensive statistics to date:

    Total Defense: 265 yards per game
    Rushing Defense: 138.75/3.6
    Pass Efficiency Defense: 74.65
    Scoring Defense: 12.75 points per game
    Red Zone Defense: 80 percent (10 trips/8 scores/5 touchdowns)
    Third-Down Conversions: 28.81%
    Takeaways: 12 (3 per game)
    Sacks: 2.25 per game

    Early Defensive MVP: Alfonzo Dennard. With Prince Amukamara locking down one corner, teams have tried to test Alfonzo Dennard on the other side of the field. They’ve failed miserably. Dennard has three interceptions already - one for a touchdown - and created two more with pass deflections. The junior is a microcosm of what’s great about Nebraska’s secondary: Smart, aggressive and athletic enough to do something with that aggression.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B+ You’re shaking your head at this grade, which is your prerogative. But I think the NU defensive line has, to a great extent, done precisely what it’s been asked to do by defensive coordinator Carl Pelini: Clog up interior running lanes to make running backs hesitate as they go through holes, and collapse the pocket on quarterbacks with a sustained-yet-smart bull rush. It’s not flashy or dramatic. But it had, by and large, worked. And it’d be working a lot better if NU didn’t have its two top linebackers out with injury. Of the four, Pierre Allen has probably come the closest to have a great season. Jared Crick exploded for one game vs. Idaho, but he’s been just so-so in the previous two games. Baker Steinkuhler has shown surprising burst, and Cameron Meredith anchors his side the line pretty well against the run. This unit is playing the Pelini scheme quite well; don’t put run defense struggles squarely on their shoulders if they don’t belong there.

    LINEBACKER: C There have been a lot of rocky moments for LaVonte David, Eric Martin and Alonzo Whaley, some of which had to be expected, considering their incredible inexperience at running a defense and opponents’ strong commitment to the running game. David, who’s become NU’s leader tackler, is probably playing out of position in the middle, as he still misreads plays and doesn’t anchor down at the line of scrimmage and take on ball carriers. But he is certainly an active player who knows how to get around the ball. Whaley is a better run stopper than he’s given credit for, and probably should play more. He fills the hole well and can smack guys hard as they come through the chute. Martin has, let’s face it, tremendous upside if he can figure it all out. He’s fun - and frustrating - to watch.

    SECONDARY: A Where can you complain? A few breakdowns in four games? That’s nothing compared to the fear these guys invoke in opposing defenses. The unit is so good that it may be Nebraska’s best - ever. Amukamara has apparently earned the right to be untested, as teams rarely throw his way. Dennard has been nails. Dejon Gomes is a timely, smart playmaker. P.J. Smith has saved a few big plays already. Eric Hagg technically plays a Peso hybrid, but he’s spent most of his time in coverage and stuffing the run on stretch-to-the-sideline plays.

    PLAYCALLING/GAME MANAGEMENT: A- For our money, the Brothers Pelini do an incredible job of building complexity and rigor into two relatively simple concepts:

    *Don’t give up big plays.
    *Make the quarterback doubt his own talents and think harder than he wants.
    They’ve created a defense that often dials down the explicit pressure on an offense - the Huskers don’t blitz much unless they must - but ratchets up implicit or perceived pressure. Worried about the reduction in sacks from the defensive line? Don’t be. They create enough rush to make the quarterback think he’s running out of time. The QB makes a bad throw, and the secondary capitalizes on it. Think the run defense is a little soft? Well, it is a little. But that’s the personnel Nebraska has on the field. NU will give up 3.6 yards per carry if it means getting the occasional 3rd-and-6 and dialing up a big play.

    In short, things that seem a little broke aren’t really. Nebraska’s defense functions like a trap, a web to figure out. It infuriates teams because of its passive aggression. It’s a thinking man’s attack and no walk in the park.

    Tags: report card, carl pelini, bo pelini, alfonzo dennard, jared crick, lavonte david, pierre allen, alonzo whaley, eric martin, baker steinkuhler, cameron meredith, eric hagg, dejon gomes

  13. 2010 Sep 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Husker Monday Review: UW


    By HuskerLocker

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    Related video

    Cover photo for the Nebraska-Washington Highlights videoWatch video
    Nebraska-Washington Highlights
    Trophies: 0
    Washington fans weren’t the only ones barking at Nebraska’s football team Saturday. The Huskies themselves were chirpy and chippy while NU ran up and down the field in a 60-minute track meet and a 56-21 win. When execution and talent fails, hey - turn it into a punkfest.

    “Maybe it’s Pac-10,” running back Roy Helu said. “Maybe it’s California kids. I don’t know who it is. But they like talking.”

    The Huskers won’t see it again for several weeks, but girding for a verbally tumultuous Big 12 Conference road schedule would be a good idea. Teams - and their fans - will be getting in their parting shots. Most likely as Nebraska delivers a knockout blow.

    On with the review of a surprisingly easy, dominant win:

    Five Players We Loved

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez: I still question whether he can throw a go route or deep post route. But Martinez can throw a deep comeback route as well as most guys in college. And not only is that a hard throw to time up and make - it’s a hard pass route to defend. When a receiver drives a defensive back 18 yards upfield, the DB has to allow some cushion. With the Huskers’ big-bodied receivers, Martinez has large, healthy targets for delivery.

    Wide Receiver Brandon Kinnie: And here's one of them. A banner day for BK - as a blocker. His work on Washington’s defensive backs was exemplary. Throw in a nifty kickoff return and three catches for 90 yards, and you have Kinnie’s breakout game. Defenses have to account for him.

    Offensive guard Ricky Henry: After two poor games from the Omaha senior, Henry brought his work gloves to Seattle. He mashed and mauled all day, blowing open holes for Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu.

    Defensive back Alfonzo Dennard: The best cornerback in the country? Right now, Dennard - not touted teammate Prince Amukamara - is making the better case. Dennard’s instincts are off the charts, and he gets into receivers' pads without causing penalties. We’ll take Prince, too, of course.

    Defensive end Pierre Allen: NU’s front four did a sublime job of collapsing the pocket on Jake Locker without losing contain more than once. Allen was a big reason. He didn’t put up a bunch of flashy stats, but he anchored a line that consistently caved in on UW’s quarterbacks.

    Three Concerns

    Boneheaded plays: Nebraska had its share, from Cody Green’s first fumble - just go down! - to a misplayed coverage on the Washington’s final touchdown.

    The absence of the deep pass: NU will eventually need to burn defensive backs in tight, physical coverage. We still don’t know if Martinez can make that pass. He hasn’t had to yet.

    The lack of a challenge for Nebraska’s offense: The Huskers have played three straight games - and could very well play five straight - against opponents who lacked a clue on how to defend Martinez for four quarters. You’d like to see NU face some adversity - rather than its own mistakes - before the Oct. 16 Texas game. It may not be coming.

    Three Questions

    How does Nebraska approach South Dakota State week and the game itself? With a bye week beyond this Saturday, let’s see how the Huskers handle practice and game repetitions against a Jackrabbit team that’s 0-2 in Division 1-AA (sorry, never changing). NU wouldn’t disrespect an opponent, but Bo Pelini is gearing up for the Big 12 Conference - not scheming his heart out to stop SDSU.

    Has NU’s offense scratched the surface of its playbook? Just barely. Shawn Watson didn’t have to unpack much at Washington. Many of Nebraska’s most successful plays were the same ones that knocked over Idaho 10 days ago.

    Who gave the Huskers that first-place vote in the coaches poll? We’re guessing it’s UW’s Steve Sarkisian, who became a Boliever on Saturday - and continued to insist, somewhat mindlessly, that Washington isn’t that far behind Nebraska.

    Tags: husker monday review, washington game, taylor martinez, alfonzo dennard, ricky henry, brandon kinnie, pierre allen

  14. 2010 Sep 11

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Defense Sparkles, Offense Sloppy in 38-17 Win


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Taylor Martinez pulled the ball out of Rex Burkhead’s belly, sprinted hard to his right, and looked to be heading toward an easy 20-yard touchdown. Then he fumbled, the ball bounding dangerously toward the end zone. Martinez pounced on it, bobbled it, rolled over and landed beyond the goal line for his second touchdown of the day.

    Just how he drew it up, right?

    The play summed up Nebraska’s dominant-yet-sloppy 38-17 win over Idaho as well as any. NU (2-0) moved the ball at will against the Vandals’ defense - 471 yards in just 59 plays - and its secondary intercepted Nathan Enderle - in as bad of a homecoming as the North Platte native could have imagined - five times. Yet the Big Red hurt itself with four turnovers and 123 yards in penalties, several of them personal fouls.

    It was an impressive - but uneven - performance for the Huskers, as they beat a 2009 bowl team and now prepare for their only test of the non-conference season at Washington. Not precisely the error-free showing that head coach Bo Pelini might have been hoping for in preparation for Seattle.

    “Offensively, they just got a good you-know-what chewing,” Pelini said.

    “It falls on us,” Martinez said.

    Pelini had called his defense “an absolute embarrassment” after a 49-10 win over Western Kentucky. His words weren’t as strong for the offense this week, but his facial expressions and voice suggested more agitation.

    “We play with a high standard,” Pelini said. “You have to live up to the standard if you walk out on the field and you’re one of 11. If you’re not, it’s time to go find a different program.”

    Later: “We’ll get that fixed this week. We’ll be fully ready as a football team to go to Seattle. I can promise you that.”

    Said Martinez: “We’ll see how good we really are.”

    The defense hit on all cylinders, forcing six turnovers, notching seven sacks and putting Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle deep into the hurt locker. On five consecutive drives, the Huskers either sacked Enderle or picked him off, two of which went for Dejon Gomes and Rickey Thenarse touchdowns in the decisive second quarter.

    After Enderle threw his final interception in the fourth quarter - a duck thrown directly to NU safety Anthony West, the only player within 20 yards - Idaho coach Robb Akey replaced him.

    “That kid is as frustrated as can be,” Akey said.

    NU’s shotgun spread running game did a number on the Vandals. A big one. Try 360 yards and 8.8 yards per carry with jaunts of 67, 58, 34, 28 and 21 yards. Martinez had 157 on just 14 carries. Roy Helu had 107 on eight carries. Rex Burkhead rushed for 77 on nine totes. Martinez also threw for 106 yards - mostly short passes - and an interception.

    Martinez kicked off the Huskers’ second-quarter scoring frenzy with another trademark zone read. Right after converting a 3rd-and-2 with a short pass to Niles Paul, Martinez faked the ball to Roy Helu diving into the line. Memorial Stadium murmured at what appeared to be a short gain.

    But Martinez still had the ball, and had run 10 yards downfield - untouched - before Idaho defenders realized he had the ball. By then, Martinez had cut back across the field, away from the safeties, whom he outran to the short corner of the North end zone. NU led 10-0. It was the longest run by a freshman quarterback in Husker history.

    “He made a great read,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said.

    Said Akey: “I think that guy is pretty damn good.”

    Idaho drove into NU territory following the kickoff, but Prince Amukamara deflected a pass to safety P.J. Smith, who intercepted the pass and returned it to the Huskers’ 42-yard line. On Nebraska’s first play, Helu took a handoff from Cody Green, sprinted around left end, broke a tackle and hugged the sideline for a 58-yard score and a 17-0 lead.

    Then Nebraska’s defense took a double dip in the end zone.

    Under pressure, Enderle, who completed just 15-of-31 passes for 141 yards, tried to locate his tight end on a short pass over the middle. Gomes lurked behind, stepped in front just as the ball arrived, and sprinted to the end zone for an easy 40-yard touchdown.

    “This week in film was probably the most prepared we’d been,” Gomes said. “On top of that, (Enderle) just eyed down his targets a lot and we took advantage of it.”

    On the ensuing drive Enderle again rolled out of the pocket under pressure, uncorking a risky throw toward the sideline. Thenarse, sprinting to get there, dramatically jumped in front and used his momentum to outrun Idaho’s offensive linemen to the goal line. Thenarse later left with a cramp.

    A sleepy-to-rocking crowd of 85,732 moaned a little in the first quarter as the Huskers gained 137 total yards but only netted 3 points. A personal foul penalty against tight end Ben Cotton slowed one drive that resulted in an Alex Henery field goal. On the ensuing drive, Shawn Watson’s conservative playcalling in red zone forced a third-and-medium for Martinez, who failed to see a blind side blitz and fumbled the ball after being hit. The Vandals recovered.

    “We had a lot of momentum at first,” Martinez said. “We just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. It just wasn’t very good.”

    Two bad turnovers marred the third quarter for the Huskers. Paul lined up at quarterback and fumbled on an exchange with Burkhead. Idaho recovered.

    “Rex almost took my head off with his shoulder,” Paul joked. “I don’t know how Taylor does it.”

    Later Martinez tossed an interception as two defenders clung to his legs. Idaho was set up at the Huskers’ 12-yard line and scored its first touchdown of the game three plays later.

    “That was totally my fault,” Martinez said. “I should have thrown it away…I tried to make a big play out of it. Obviously it didn’t work very well.”

    Martinez quickly spearheaded a 9-play, 73-yard drive right back down the field capped by his adventuresome touchdown run.

    The Huskers had a chance to tack on two more touchdowns, but got stopped on downs inside Idaho’s 15-yard line - Pelini decided to eschew the chip-shot field goal - and fumbled at the Vandals’ 1-yard line on their ensuing drive. Idaho drove 98 yards for the game’s final points against NU’s second-and-third teamers.

    What's your take? Click here!

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    Tags: idaho game, taylor martinez, jared crick, dejon gomes, rickey thenarse, pierre allen, roy helu, niles paul, rex burkhead

  15. 2010 Sep 01

    Husker Heartbeat 9/1: Big Ten Divisions, Here We Come!


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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!

    *Here come the Big Ten Divisions!

    *Clever little piece on Husker player rituals before a game.

    *Bubba Starling is a top 25 prospect in the state of Kansas.

    *Steve Sipple and Tom Shatel have their quick takes on the quarterback race.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, big ten divisions, steve sipple, tom shatel, pj smith, pierre allen, bubba starling

  16. 2010 Aug 31

    50 HUSKERS TO KNOW: No. 11


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Our 50 Huskers to Know series returns for the fall, as we count down the key players on Nebraska’s 2010 team. Check back throughout fall camp for the countdown, and scroll to the bottom for links to the whole list.

    No. 11 Pierre Allen, 6-5, 265, DE, Sr.

    Bo Pelini sounded the siren toward the end of fall camp: Pierre Allen is poised to have a big season.

    Allen, truly healthy for the first time since early in the 2008 season, had a chance to improve his lower-body speed over the summer to go with his already-terrific power rush. Among the best pure athletes on the team - he was an all-star basketball player in high school - Allen is a decent pass rusher but better against the run. He was also smart enough to get his hands up and deflect five passes last year.

    We expect a nice season for the senior, even with improved depth across the defensive line. Look for 60-plus tackles, eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

    See all of the Huskers: No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16, No. 15, No. 14, No. 13, No. 12

    Tags: 50 huskers to know fall 2010, pierre allen

  17. 2010 Aug 30

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 8/30


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The clocks ticks for the Nebraska football team toward a game nobody suspects the Huskers will sweat, much less lose, and the questions accompanying NU’s preparation for Western Kentucky are appropriately few and threadbare.

    It’s suited Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini just fine, thank you, as he pleasantly met the press after Monday’s workout on the fields east of the Hawks Championship Center. Pelini, who faced even fewer queries during the Big 12 coaches teleconference, said the Huskers needed “better attention to detail” and a full week of practice before kicking off vs. the Hilltoppers.

    “There were some mental errors that weren’t up to our standard,” Pelini said. “I saw a lot of good things, too.”

    Players interviewed Monday focused on the process of improving - not a WKU team that’s lost 20 straight games dating back to September 2008, and is breaking new offensive and defensive schemes unseen by Nebraska.

    “We’re repping stuff over and over and over so it becomes reaction when we get out there,” linebacker Eric Martin. “So we can do it without thinking…I’m not thinking about the game. Just about practice.”

    Pelini’s tango with the media on the three-man quarterback race continued in its leaden manner, as reporters posed questions to which, at this point, they can nearly recite the answers.

    Are Zac Lee, Cody Green and Taylor Martinez still splitting reps three ways at quarterback?

    Bo: “We manage the reps at the quarterback position in a way that we think will enable us to play the best.”

    Will the competition extend into the season?

    Bo: “That’s how the culture of this program is built - ongoing competition. It’s a constant evaluation.”

    Do the quarterbacks know who’s starting?

    Bo: “No…I wouldn’t tell you if I did.”

    For you behavioral psych majors out there - Pelini was smiling during that last bit.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced Monday in full pads on the fields outside the Hawks Championship center in unseasonably hot weather. You could feel the storms a-comin in the humidity of the air.

    What’s New: Austin Cassidy received NU’s 85th scholarship. On the injury front, unknown. Reporters did not ask Monday and appear to be on a need-to-know basis.

    Coach Quote: “I know there are some other deserving guys and I think we’ll be able to reward some other guys down the line.” - Head coach Bo Pelini on awarding Austin Cassidy a scholarship

    Player Quote: “It’s possible. We’re more comfortable with the scheme this year. That’s a plus. We got a lot more depth. It’s not going to be a letdown if I have to go out of the game. - Senior defensive end Pierre Allen, on whether Nebraska’s defensive line can improve on 2009 without Ndamukong Suh


    ***Pelini announced that backup quarterback LaTravis Washington would play special teams this year. Washington, who moved from linebacker to quarterback in spring 2009, has played sparingly in mop-up duty.

    “He’s as good a guy in the locker room as you’re ever going to have,” Pelini said. “We love having him around. Great attitude. He’a a winner.”

    ***Pelini supported a potential college “exhibition game” or scrimmage during fall camp that helps teams work out kinks on some other team.

    “It’d break up the monotony of camp,” Pelini said. “I don’t think that will ever happen with the NCAA. I think that’s an advantage. It gives you a chance to get out there. Even if they let you practice against somebody else it would be good…I’d welcome it.”

    ***Center Mike Caputo has to work a little extra on snaps each day because he’s dealing with three different quarterbacks of three different sizes and three different styles, shall we say, of taking a snap from under center.

    “Everyone’s a little different underneath, but I kind of look at it as their job to adjust,” Caputo joked. “I just snap the ball. Just to be blunt.”

    Next Practice: Tuesday. Full pads again. Heavy install days. Coaches and players are typically very tired afterward.

    Tags: football, fall camp, practice report, bo pelini, austin cassidy, pierre allen, mike caputo, latravis washington

  18. 2010 Aug 28

    Practice Report 8/28


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Nebraska’s football team is down to a week before its season opener vs. Western Kentucky, and head coach Bo Pelini has budged as much on a three-man quarterback race as a turkey dinner lost to the permafrost of your garage freezer.

    But -

    “We have our plan,” Pelini said Saturday in his comments to end NU’s three-week training camp. “You’ll just have to wait and see what it is.”

    Get out your tea leaves and roll the bones on those two sentences.

    Anyway, don’t expect a depth chart - “I don’t really see any need to do that,” Pelini said - or a conventional answer to NU’s quarterback question. The coach offered up the “ten guy” solution to reporters Saturday. It only takes five to make a overpriced cheeseburger, while ten wouldn’t leave much in the way of offensive linemen on the field.

    “I don’t have a crystal ball,” Pelini said.

    Until next Saturday…

    That hot-button issue aside, Pelini declared the 2010 camp a success. Physical. Full of development and growth. NU players confirmed throughout camp that the Huskers’ workouts were more intense than in years past.

    “Guys are sick of hitting each other,” Pelini said. “They’re ready to play some football.”

    That means Western Kentucky, which Pelini called an “unusual opener” because of a brand-new coaching staff. WKU hasn’t won a game in almost two years.

    “It’s not the most ideal situation, but that doesn’t affect our players very much,” he said.

    The coach praised senior defensive end Pierre Allen, poised for a breakout year after fighting through a nasty and nagging turf toe injury in 2009.

    “He’s had a big-time camp,” Pelini said. “He’s playing really well…healthier, bigger, faster, stronger than he has been. He played at a pretty high level last year. But I think he’s pretty focused on taking it to another level this year.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a situational walkthrough Saturday morning instead of a fully-padded practice.

    What’s New: NU begins preparation for Western Kentucky. Fall camp ends. What’s been settled? At some positions - not much. The battles for playing time continue.

    Coach Quote: “I don’t think you can ever let yourself become comfortable. You’ve got to be on edge. There are certain ways you have to prepare and do things to put a quality product out on the field. That’s where my focus is.” - Head coach Bo Pelini

    Coach Quote II: My expectations are a lot higher than anybody else out here. I don’t worry about that. - Pelini, on preseason rankings


    ***Much remains to be seen, but here appear to the true freshman most likely to play in 2010:

    Left guard Andrew Rodriguez: Working with the two-deep after a season-ending injury to Mike Smith and some nagging injuries to Brandon Thompson. Rodriguez is raw, coaches and teammates, but possessing a lot of natural ability and talent.

    Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa: In the mix at wideout; where, exactly, is unclear. Likely behind the top three of Niles Paul, Brandon Kinnie and Mike McNeill. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said Enunwa is good at catching balls in traffic while Pelini called him “mature.”

    Defensive tackle Chase Rome: No surprise that the highly-touted freshman who enrolled early might see the field, even with the defensive tackle spot relatively well-stocked. He’s not exactly a lock to play because he necessarily have to. Carl Pelini said Rome needs to continue to “earn” that time.

    Other newcomers, juniors LaVonte David and Yoshi Hardrick, should play as well. Wide receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a sophomore, appears slightly out of the mix for now.

    Next Practice: Monday. Game week. Finally.

    Tags: football, fall camp, practice, pierre allen, quincy enunwa, chase rome, andrew rodriguez

  19. 2010 Jul 27

    BIG 12 MEDIA DAYS: Bo Aces the Presser


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Six strong ones after Nebraska’s Big 12 Media Days appearance Monday:

    *Excellent, thoroughly benign performance from Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini Monday as he nixed Big Ten questions at the top of his presser - smart, considering few of the media in attendance will actually be, you know, covering the Big Ten anytime soon - offered a quick, level-headed critique of NU’s “Red Out” video and properly set the stage for the quarterback race to come in August.

    He threw a little chum in the water for Husker pipeline junkies, too.

    “We have a heck of an offensive line,” Pelini said. “With some depth finally.”

    Bo betrayed little about that QB competition, but if he’s truly confident about Zac Lee being 100% - NU wide receiver Niles Paul praised Lee’s zip and delivery during a weekend a game of catch - then the San Francisco native is, in my mind, the frontrunner.

    “There’s going to be somebody who’s going to line up as that starter in the first game,” Pelini told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “Is that necessarily the guy who’s going to be the starter in game 3, 4 or 5? No, not necessarily. My goal is it’s all pretty much solidified by the time we get into Big 12 play, because that’s when it really starts to count.”

    My take: Cody Green would either have to move past Lee by becoming a more consistent passer, or Lee and Green would falter enough that Taylor Martinez’s sheer athleticism snags the job.

    And that’s no knock against Martinez. He’s simply a redshirt freshman with precious little time in the offense, an unorthodox throwing motion and a run-first skillset. If he wins the job, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is adjusting the offense - and not necessarily in a subtle fashion. And how often do you win ten games with a freshman quarterback? Eric Crouch didn’t. Tommie Frazier didn’t.

    Know this: Pelini, at times, seems nonchalant, when his plan is anything but. To reach its goals in 2010, Nebraska needs an offense that builds on its gameplan week after week - not assembling it from mismatched parts as it goes. Watson would love to name “the guy” heading out of fall camp. And a little motivational fire is one way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    *Can Nebraska win despite carrying a quarterback race into the season?

    NU managed it in 1999 during that Crouch/Bobby Newcombe soap opera. In 1991, Keithen McCant jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 by mid-September, and went on to become Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year. In 1985, McCathorn Clayton and Travis Turner shared the duties for most of the year; Turner did the same with Craig Sundberg in 1984. Turner Gill didn’t take over for Mark Mauer until game four of the 1981 season; he got hurt a month later and Mauer finished out the season.

    The common thread among all of those teams? None of their defenses gave up more than 345 yards per game. Throw out the 1991 defense, and none of them gave up more than 280 yards.

    *The Bo Culture installation is more or less complete, Pelini said Monday, and here’s proof: Notably few questions asked of Bo about Nebraska’s defense, which loses Ndamukong Suh and Phillip Dilllard, both of whom have a good shot of starting next year for the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, respectively.

    In three short years, NU is perceived as a team that can reload its Blackshirts. Billy C and the Gang largely recruited them; Bo and Co. turned them into a Husker hurricane. And the 2011 recruiting class is rounding into shape. What appeared to be utterly toxic in 2007 just needed to be shaken, not stirred into 260-pound hulks lumbering around the field.

    *In that same vein, there was just a hint of a confident edge from Husker players Niles Paul, Pierre Allen and Jared Crick Monday. The players taking on their coach’s attitude. If Pelini has the culture where he wants it, he can lean upon his team to handle more of the emotion and team dynamics. It was notable when Paul told HuskersIllustrated.com that, after his arrest this summer for a minor in possession charge, he requested a team meeting, then apologized. Impressive accountability.

    *If Nebraska’s players ever get lost in the sequel to “Inception,” they have their totem: A red bracelet with “Finish” on one side and “:01” on the other. No explanation of meaning seems necessary. Just one question: Do they do anything for your golf game?

    Props have a unifying quality to them, simple as they may be. A pigskin placebo. The Huskers got some mileage out of the “Unfinished Business” theme in 1994 and the “Restore the Order” shirts in 2004. NU volleyball coach John Cook could probably pen a thesis on motivation.

    The flip side of the coin: Those “NCAA Tournament” shirts ordered by the Husker hoops team for the 1993 Big Dance. Didn’t do much: Nebraska dropped its first-round game to New Mexico State.

    *The Big 12 hacked off a few Husker fans around the lunch hour. Not only did the Fox lose its TV feed of the Big 12 Media Days during Bo’s presser, the “live” online streaming at Big12Sports.com was literally 10-15 minutes behind and kept freezing for a second or two, putting it even further behind. While Big 12 host Wendell Barnhouse interviewed Omaha World-Herald reporter Lee Barfknecht in the computer world, the “live” Barnhouse and Barfknecht were, I’m sure, listening intently to Bo.

    That’s infuriating for a rabid Husker fan who, just an example, changed her lunch hour Monday just to catch a few minutes of the presser. Yes, of course, it’s a small, relatively unimportant thing. But it’s an example of what the Big Ten gets right while the Big 12 continues to work out the kinks.

    Another example? As the Big 12 Media Days kick off, here’s Texas coach Mack Brown doing the ESPN tour, his grinning mug splashed all over the Mouse House’s family of networks and talk shows. Did it occur to the Big 12 to perhaps suggest that Brown head to Bristol, oh, next week? Or last week? Any other week than this one?

    You may not think Brown is the best coach in the Big 12. But he is, unquestionably, the grad media poobah of the conference, and he stole at least part of the league’s thunder Monday. By design? No, of course not. That’s the point. You design it so that doesn’t happen. Again: the Big 12 can’t even manage to protect its own brand for three important days. Somewhere, there’s a disconnect in execution and communication.

    Tags: husker summer takes, bo pelini, niles paul, jared crick, pierre allen, big 12, big 12 media days

  20. 2010 Jul 21

    BIG 12 PREVIEW: Ranking the Big 12 Defensive Lines


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Big 12 has crafted its identity as an offensive league, but Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas produced memorable defensive lines in 2009 that, while hard to recreate, should again be the league’s best in 2010.

    Each line lost a significant star - Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Sergio Kindle - but recruiting and development should soften the impact of those losses.

    Here are the ranking for the Big 12 defensive lines:

    T1. Oklahoma
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Defensive Jeremy Beal is a powerful, dominant end against the run - and a pretty good pass rusher, too. Defensive tackle Adrian Taylor has the athleticism to a first-round NFL Draft pick, while Frank Alexander has experience at the other end spot. Again - OU has solid depth. The Sooners just keep coming. Weaknesses: Jarmarkus McFarland will be counted upon to replace Gerald McCoy. No easy task. Other than that - great bunch of players.

    T1. Texas
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Although UT runs a 3-4 defense, Buck linebacker Alex Okafor will spend probably half his time with a hand in the dirt, so he figures in as a defensive end for the Longhorns, and he’ll be a good one after a productive first year. Nose tackle Kheeston Randall had a terrific spring and should enjoy a breakout year, while undersized Sam Acho is a huge threat as a pass-rusher. The quality of depth is outstanding and this is one of the Big 12’s best-coached units. Weaknesses: It’s hard to replace a guy like Sergio Kindle as a decoy and a pass rusher. Teams no longer have to account for him.

    3. Nebraska
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Jared Crick is a superlative pass rusher with a terrific first step for a big defensive tackle. He’s hard for any one guy to block in the passing game. Pierre Allen is a solid bull rusher who’s recovered from a turf toe injury. The other defensive end, Cameron Meredith, has to the tools to be Nebraska’s best since Adam Carriker. Weaknesses: Replacing Ndamukong Suh is reasonably impossible, especially in the run game, where he could split double teams with regularity. Depth is a little iffy. Teams may be able to run the ball on NU.

    T4. Kansas State
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Undersized-but-quick, KSU is good against the run. Defensive Antonio Felder is disciplined and physical. After sitting out last year with an injury, end Brandon Harold returns; he is the Cats’ most gifted defensive player - period. The Wildcats collapse the pocket more than they seek to crash it, so sack numbers aren’t terribly high. Head coach Bill Snyder signed seven junior college linemen in his 2010 class, so you know there will be warm bodies. Weaknesses: Unless Harold goes 0-60 in just a few games, there’s not one dominant player on the line. It’s a smart, tough unit, but the pass rush leaves something to be desired.

    T4. Missouri
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Aldon Smith is one of the Big 12’s best defensive players, a long, athletic end who reminds us of a throwback end from the 1960s NFL. There isn’t a lot he can’t do. The whole front four has experience; each of the predicted starters had at least 15 tackles last year, including tackle Dominique Hamilton, who had 46. Weaknesses: Depth could be improved. A good running game can gash the Tigers at times.

    6. Colorado
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: This a tough bunch hardened by drive after drive after drive of having to stop the opposing team because CU’s offense stinks to high heaven. Marquez Herrod is a lunch-pail end at 6-2, 285. Experience and depth are there. Weaknesses: A bit undersized in weight but oversized in height, Colorado is prone to getting gashed in the running game if left out on the field long enough. Which the Buffaloes often were in 2010.

    7. Texas Tech
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: As the Red Raiders move to a 3-4, nose tackle Colby Whitlock will be a key after he finished with 45 tackles on a very good defensive line last year. Tennessee transfer Donald Langley should fit in nicely to Tommy Tuberville’s scheme. Weaknesses: Whitlock is the only down lineman with much experience. End Brian Duncan will move to linebacker, and we’ll consider him there.

    8. Oklahoma State
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Both defensive ends - Ugo Chinasa and Jamie Blatnick - return as starters; Chinasa was a solid pass rusher. OSU has good depth across the board, routinely using two waves of players on the line. Weaknesses: The Cowboys lack a difference-maker on the interior, and spread teams might wear out this short-but-hefty bunch. OSU is rebuilding here, to some extent.

    9. Kansas
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Senior end Jake Laptad had a fine year in 2009 and is solid against the run and pass. KU is finally starting to build some depth, even if it isn’t top-notch. Weaknesses: Other than Laptad, this group is pretty unspectacular. Kansas doesn’t rush the passer particularly well.

    10. Texas A&M
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Some experience comes back in Tony Jerod-Eddie and Lucas Patterson. There’s some young talent in the pipeline that’s probably a year or two away. Weaknesses: We don’t count Von Miller here because he’s more of a linebacker. At any rate, A&M’s rush defense was awful last year - second-worst in the league against the run - and it’s not likely to get much better in 2010. With a brand new defensive coordinator, the Aggies are one year away.

    11. Baylor
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: If Phil Taylor - at 6-4, 355 - decides to play like he did vs. Nebraska in every game, the Bears could have one heck of a defensive tackle. The line didn’t lose much in terms of good production. Weaknesses: BU’s line - aside from the Nebraska game - stunk to high heaven throughout 2009 against the pass. It wasn’t much better vs. the run.

    12. Iowa State
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: The Cyclones were experts at causing fumbles last year, often going for the strip rather than the clean tackle. Just ask Nebraska, right? Nose tackle Bailey Johnson is a pretty solid player. Weaknesses: the best interior tackle, Nate Frere, has graduated, as did the best pass rusher in Christopher Lyle. ISU’s front four could be relatively toothless in 2010.

    Check Out Our Full Big 12 Preview: Big 12 Coaches, Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Offensive Lines, Defensive LinesCommentary, 12 Best Players, Ten Overrated Players, Ten Underrated Players

    Tags: big 12 preview, big 12, jared crick, baker steinkuhler, pierre allen, cameron meredith

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