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  1. 2011 Apr 09

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/9

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini wasn't scheduled to talk after his team's Friday practice. That's probably a good thing; NU struggled enough with mistakes that it “took a step back.”

    I don't know whether they knew we were scrimmaging today or not,” Pelini said Saturday, “but I did not like yesterday's practice...hopefully they'll learn from it.”

    Execution improved during Saturday's 150-play scrimmage, said Pelini, who pulled out a small, folded piece of white paper to report that the Huskers had only two false starts and one “ball on the ground” during the two-hour workout.

    “That's not bad,” Pelini said of the penalties. “Most of it is with the young guys. It shows me the emphasis is working and there's progress, but one's too many as far I'm concerned.”

    Nebraska, completing its 11th practice, limited the reps of quarterback Taylor Martinez during Saturday's scrimmage; the sophomore “tweaked his toe a little bit” in a recent workout.

    “It gave us a chance to get a lot of the other quarterbacks reps and spread them out with the first team,” Pelini said.

    Redshirt freshman Brion Carnes, junior Cody Green and Kody Spano all had their moments, Pelini said. Spano, a junior who could get back another season after missing two thus far with knee injuries, is finally back to “full speed action.”

    “Tremendous character,” Pelini said. “He's overcome a lot. He's out there fighting.”

    Running back Rex Burkhead did scrimmage and “looked great,” Pelini said, although he, too, limited his carries. Nebraska continues to search for quality backups behind the junior from Plano, Texas.

    But depth and minor injuries problems haven't stopped Huskers from learning their new offense, Pelini said.. On Friday, Martinez expressed confidence in the scheme and his chemistry with Burkhead and the first team of receivers. Pelini said Saturday that he sees Nebraska grasping the concepts of offensive coordinator Tim Beck's new attack - with an eye on fine-tuning its performance before the Red/White Spring Game.

    “Their overall understanding of the offense is good,” Pelini said. “The execution isn't always there yet. Some of the details aren't there yet. But the further we come fundamentally, the better off we're going to be. Because the knowledge is there...it's the technique and fundamental aspect that has to keep coming.”

    Notes: As in previous years, the Huskers will choose teams for the Red/White Spring Game with a player-led draft...a number of NU boosters were allowed to attend Saturday's scrimmage on the grass fields east of Hawks Championship Center. The number appeared to be more than 300...linebacker Alonzo Whaley, left guard Andrew Rodriguez walked off the field without pads, seemingly held out of the scrimmage along with Huskers who were dinged up earlier in camp...Nebraska returns to the practice field Monday afternoon...

    Tags: spring football 2011, practice report, kody spano, cody green, brion carnes

  2. 2011 Apr 08

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/8

    514 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Eric Martin remembers his initial reaction last season when Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini asked him to switch from linebacker to defensive end.


    “More surprise than anything,” said Martin, who started two games at linebacker in 2010. “But I just wanted to play. Coach said that'd be the next best thing for me, so I made the move.”

    Some players approach a position change as a lark, as if dipping a toe in the trenches to see what life among giant linemen is really like.

    But Martin has “really taken it seriously,” Pelini said after NU's practice Friday. Of the many defensive ends vying to replace the recently-graduated Pierre Allen, it's Martin – his 6-foot-2 frame now carrying 255 pounds – who's seemingly made the biggest move.

    “It's been a great spring for Eric,” Pelini said. “He's really made that transition well. He's going to be a force for us next year.”

    With Allen gone and junior starter Cameron Meredith sitting out the spring after shoulder surgery, Martin has been battling with a group of contenders – including senior walk-on Kevin Thomsen, junior Josh Williams and sophomore Jason Ankrah – for more playing time. He doesn't necessarily look the part like Ankrah and Williams do. But Pelini said Martin brings “a little bit more speed and athleticism” to the position.

    “He's not quite the size but he's plenty strong enough,” said Pelini, who hinted that Martin's role may extend well beyond being a pass rush specialist.

    Pelini indicated he's pleased with the defensive line, too. Sophomore Thad Randle has been working with the No. 1 defense in the wake of Jared Crick's knee injury. Redshirt freshman Chase Rome, who worked with the No. 2 defense last fall despite not playing in a game, has improved his technique. True freshman Kevin Williams made a big impression on Pelini prior to a foot injury.

    “He looks like a veteran out there,” Pelini said. “It's shocking.”

    There's a good chance Williams won't have to play in 2011, though, because of NU's defensive line depth. Since the arrival of Bo and Carl Pelini at Nebraska in 2008, only one true defensive lineman has played – Meredith. And he took a medical redshirt after hurting his shoulder.

    “You don't have to push them into the fire,” Pelini said. “You've got a lot of good seniors and older guys ahead of them. They really have time to develop and you can coach them hard.”

    Pelini said the Huskers would again scrimmage Saturday afternoon – their last full scrimmage of camp before the Red/White Spring Game. The scrimmage should extend beyond 100 plays as it did last week.

    Notes: Quarterback Taylor Martinez talked at length Friday and told reporters the “offense is looking better every single day” with team chemistry “as close as it's ever been.” The biggest adjustment? “Learning the pace we'll be running at,” Martinez said...Martinez's ankle is generally 100 percent, he said, aside from certain cuts when he can feel a twinge of pain...Martinez said five receivers have emerged from the pack to work with the No. 1 unit: Senior Brandon Kinnie, junior hybrid Kyler Reed, sophomore Stanley Jean-Baptiste, redshirt freshman Kenny Bell and true freshman Jamal TurnerCurenski Gilleylen did not practice Friday and appeared to meeting with the wide receivers...future Nebraska running back Braylon Heard was on hand for the workout Friday, as was Nebraska governor Dave Heineman.

    Tags: spring football 2011, practice report, eric martin

  3. 2011 Apr 04

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/2

    2,761 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Halfway through its spring camp, Nebraska's football team is still “a little rough around the edges,” head coach Bo Pelini said, after Monday's nearly three-hour workout inside the Hawks Championship Center.

    “I'm seeing some progress,” said Pelini, who awkwardly conducted his post-practice presser in the doorway of the Hawks as his players ran a full compliment of wind sprints behind him. “It's about where you expect to be.”

    Several Huskers didn't suit up for Monday's practice, including running backs Senior Curenski Gilleylen – who just moved to the position last week – and sophomore Ty Kildow. Senior starter Rex Burkhead did return, however. Pelini said he had a “great day” even if the depth behind him is dwindling.

    True freshman defensive tackle Kevin Williams also missed practice, sporting a boot on his foot. Pelini said he wasn't sure if Williams would return for any part of spring ball.

    “But he's showed he's going to be a pretty good football player for us,” Pelini said.

    Pelini praised sophomore defensive lineman Thad Randle and junior end Eric Martin for “stepping up” in the wake of injuries to starters Jared Crick and Cameron Meredith.

    “We're seeing guys step up, and we've seen guys who, up to this point, haven't taken advantage of the opportunity,” he said. “Competition continues.”

    The studio talent of the Big Ten Network's Big Ten Football Saturday – host Dave Revsine and analyst Gerry DiNardo – watched practice. During warm-ups, DiNardo, the former head coach at Vanderbilt, Indiana and LSU, occasionally took notes with a pencil otherwise tucked behind his ear. As he entered the Hawks, Pelini greeted DiNardo warmly. They talked for ten minutes.

    “It was a very physical practice,” DiNardo said afterward. “Very physical team. Well-coached, well-drilled. It's typical of what I thought Nebraska's practice would look like.”

    Tags: spring football 2011, practice report, big ten network, thad randle, eric martin, rex burkhead, kevin williams, curenski gillylen

  4. 2010 Nov 23

    Practice Report 11/22: Diminishing Returns on Offense

    3,308 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    After he addressed many of the problems that occurred on Nebraska's sideline in Saturday night's loss to Texas A&M, NU head coach Bo Pelini looked at an equally-pressing concern on the field: The rapid disappearance of the Huskers' offense in the last two games.

    Nebraska mustered just 20 points against a Kansas team that hadn't given up less than 28 during the Big 12 season, and just six points to a Texas A&M squad that surrendered 30 points and more than 400 yards to Baylor the week before.

    What's wrong?

    “We left some plays out on the field,” Pelini said. “We left some situations out on the field. We need to play better and execute better more consistently.”

    Pretty vague stuff. And the remedy?

    “You play with confidence and you play fast,” Pelini said.

    After practice Monday, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson honed in on a more specific problem as NU prepares for Friday's game vs. Colorado.

    “You've got Taylor (Martinez) down and that's a big part of us,” Watson said. “Taylor's a big part of a run game, obviously...when that happens, it takes away a big chunk of you, so you've just got to find other creative ways to do your business.”

    The redshirt freshman quarterback didn't practice Monday because of a sprained right ankle and a stubbed left toe, housed in a walking boot. Both injuries occurred on the same play, as NU center Mike Caputo accidentally stepped on the ankle and the foot at the same time.

    Watson didn't know if Martinez would practice Tuesday; in his absence, sophomore Cody Green took snaps with the first team, while redshirt freshman walk-on Ron Kellogg III worked with the second team. Senior Zac Lee, recovering from a variety of injuries concerning his right arm, was throwing more Monday than he had in recent weeks, and could be ready to play Friday.

    Martinez's initial ankle injury, incurred in the first half of the Missouri game, has considerably slowed him down and Nebraska's running game along with it.

    Prior to the injury, NU averaged 295 yards per game and 6.77 yards per carry.

    After it – even with a hobbled Martinez in the lineup at times – the Huskers' averages drop to 214 and 4.57.

    NU gained 142 rushing yards vs. A&M Saturday on 37 carries. Take away two second-half runs of 33 and 31 yards, and the Huskers rushed 35 times for just 78 yards.

    Despite good field position throughout the first half, Nebraska made nothing of it with Green, who threw for 65 yards and one interception, at the helm.

    “(Green) can manage some of the same things in the run game,” Watson said. “It's just not the same impact that you would get out of Taylor.”

    As Green's relative lack of production has shown.

    “He continuing to grow,” Watson said. “There's nothing wrong with Cody.”

    A&M further complicated matters by running an aggressive, blitzing 3-4 scheme that didn't allow NU to run trick plays, Watson said.

    “We tried to keep it simple and fast for our guys,” Watson said. “Trick plays? It depends if you can manage the pressure. If you can manage the pressure, then yeah. You're talking about blitz. And that's the hard thing. In my opinion, no.”

    The Huskers also struggled to get off plays in times, having to burn several timeouts because the play clock was winding down. Crowd noise at Kyle Field messed up communication in the huddle.

    Asked if he'd consider coming down from the press box – as he did for a whole chunk of 2009 – Watson said no.

    “I would never do that,” he said.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a two-hour practice inside the Hawks Championship Center in shirts and shorts

    Coach Quote: ""It's been a good match up. I think both programs and states have taken (to it), because of the relationship, being side by side. The things that happened in the 90's with Coach Mac (Bill McCartney), and Colorado's resurgence on the national scene. It's a very significant game and it's been a very spirited rivalry for about 20 years, and probably beyond than that, I just haven't happened to be a part of it in that time during my coaching career. It has been a great rivalry and that's what happens when change happens." Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on the NU-CU rivalry.

    Player Quote: “I don't think there's anything wrong with us. We were moving the ball well on those drives and we just ended up shooting ourselves in the foot with those penalties, with missed assignments, stuff like. Our attitude isn't any different on offense. It just comes down to that attitude to finishing drives.” Tight end Ben Cotton on offensive woes

    Next Practice: Tuesday

    Win Tickets to the Nebraska-Colorado game!

    Tags: cu game, practice report, shawn watson, ben cotton, bo pelini, taylor martinez, cody green

  5. 2010 Nov 18

    Practice Report 11/17: Leaving the Lone Star State - But Still Recruiting Texas

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Even when Nebraska football moves to the Big Ten, Bo Pelini isn't really expecting a drop-off for NU's voracious appetite for recruiting in Texas.

    “There is a lot of talent down there, a lot of people, so there's more to choose from obviously when you're talking about a population base like you're dealing with in Texas," Pelini said Tuesday.

    But, after Saturday's game at Texas A&M – and a potential berth in the Big 12 Championship - the Huskers will be losing one of their selling points: Each year, 1996-2010, Nebraska coaches could guarantee any kid from the Lone Star State that they'd play at least one game in their home state. The rotation went as thus: Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas. With the Big 12 title game moving to Dallas, the chances of playing two games in Texas went up.

    It won't happen again soon. Nebraska will have to play a bowl game or schedule a home-and-home with some team in Texas willing to host the Huskers. Don't bet on any of the old Big 12 South programs biting on such an offer anytime soon.

    Is it hurting this year's recruiting effort? Hardly. NU is making perhaps its biggest killing ever in the state, first landing Arlington quarterback Jamal Turner last January. Since then Nebraska's received verbal commits from four more Texas players, including, most recently, San Antonio running back Aaron Green. Running backs coach Tim Beck, who's plugged into the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, has swiped many of the area's best-known players, including Plano running back Rex Burkhead, who turned down a scholarship offer to A&M, among other Big 12 South programs.

    Still, many factors played in NU's favor for 15 years. Regional ABC telecasts that featured Nebraska always played in Texas because it's Big 12 country. Brand recognition was easier because of NU's annual presence in the state. Players looking for that blend of going-away-from-home – but not too far – could find Lincoln as a nice fit.

    The Huskers are bound to see those advantages diminish to some extent. But not too much, Pelini said.

    “Most of the time families now travel,” Pelini said. “It's not that hard to get to Lincoln and to come to games here. Bottom line, you see Big Ten teams recruiting well in the state of Texas. It's not like we would be down there alone.”

    The Big Ten Network, which televises nearly every Big Ten game not picked up by ABC/ESPN, helps. Beck, who used to coach high school football in Texas, does, too. NU's made inroads as some of the state's strongest programs – Klein Collins, Euless Trinity, Southlake Carroll, Denton Guyer, Plano, and San Antonio Madison among them – and those connections don't disappear.

    “We've had good reception down in Texas,” Pelini said. “You hope to continue the relationships that you've had. You have to ask me that a couple of years down the road here, because I think there are a lot of unknowns as to how the move will affect you in a number of ways."

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a two-hour practice inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    Coach Quote: "Any chance we get to pass he just gets better at it...his pressure passing percentage is good. Throughout the whole season he's been really good on those pressure-throw situations, like third down. He's really grasping it. He's not a done project, there's still a ways to go, but he's really coming along " Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on the development of Taylor Martinez's passing game.

    Player Quote: “They're just a very physical team and that shows on film. Very physical front, very physical linebackers. That just definitely shows on film. Similar schemes, I'd say, to Texas, but they're very different.” Left tackle Jeremiah Sirles on Texas A&M's scheme

    Notes:

    *Watson said Nebraska communicates better during road games than at home. Rolling your eyes yet? After all, the Memorial Stadium crowd – dead quiet anyway, according to certain head coaches – is supposed to be dead quiet when the NU offense on the field. On the road, it's just the opposite.

    Here's Watson's rationale: When the Huskers pipe in that artificial noise during the week, he sees improved focus out of his players for practice. And that translates to a better performance in games.

    “There's detail in the mindset,” Watson said. “It heightens when you're away and the crowd can get loud.”

    *Watson also outlined in greater detail Nebraska's method for reducing fumbles and dropped passes:

    -A focus on quarterback/center and quarterback/running back exchanges.

    -A Monday-Wednesday circuit of drills “that emphasizes what can happen in the open field, what can happen in piles.”

    Tight ends coach Ron Brown oversees the ball security program.

    “He watches what's happening and we take what he finds as a focal and we address it in our fundamental work as a unit.”

    *Zac Taylor (graduate assistant) and Randy Jordan (running backs coach) are likely to get a hello from Watson Saturday. Taylor quarterbacked the 2006 NU team that Watson coached on. Jordan coached with Watson under Bill Callahan.

    Watson compared Taylor to another pupil in Joe Ganz. Tough, fiery, competitive and smart.

    “Those two might fight before the game,” Watson joked. “I saw Zac a lot like I see Joe: He's a natural. He was made to coach. He'll be a star in this business.”

    *The Wildcat offense worked efficiently vs. Iowa State. Not so much against Kansas, which seemed prepared for the reads that Wildcat quarterback Rex Burkhead was making. Watson said Nebraska continues to tweak its approach, formations and plays.

    “We're starting to see how people want to defend it,” Watson said. “We're evolving. There's really one way to defend it, and it's pretty universal across-the-board. And it forces a one-on-one with a back on a safety, so if your back is better than their safety you're going to have some chances for breakout runs or productive runs. So there's some things we're evolving with in our package with that. I don't give that away because it's top secret.”

    Next Practice: Thursday

    Win Tickets to the Nebraska-Colorado game!

    Tags: practice report, tamu game, bo pelini, tim beck, shawn watson, jeremiah sirles, taylor martinez, zac taylor, joe ganz, recruiting, aaron grea, jamal turner

  6. 2010 Nov 16

    Practice Report 11/16: Handling Kyle Field's Crowd

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    By HuskerLocker

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    To Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, the toughest offenses to defend are the most diverse – the ones that incorporate a running quarterback into the game plan.

    That's not exactly Texas A&M's style. Aggie head coach Mike Sherman's scheme doesn't include a lot of quarterback runs and probably most resembles the West Coast Offense that Bill Callahan used to run at NU. Which is plenty difficult enough.

    “What they do and what Coach Sherman did at the NFL level and at the college level is stress you with formations,” Pelini said. “It's very complex. It's simple for them, but it's complex defending it because every time they change the formation you have different guys doing things that another guy did on a previous play.”

    Much like Huskers' offensive coordinator Shawn Watson will alter personnal and alignment to run the same counter plays – think of his first-quarter adjustments from the Missouri game – Sherman will attempt to create mismatches with bunch formations, spread looks and heavy sets featuring tight ends and fullback.

    The goal: Shift the defense around, or make Pelini put different players on the field, then exploit what's left.

    “He'll study us,” Pelini said. “We'll have to make some changes. We'll have to do a few things a little bit different just to keep him guessing because he'll be doing some things to keep us guessing. It will be a good chess match."

    A&M (7-3) is 12th nationally in total offense and 8th in passing offense. The running game, ranked 52nd at 161 yards per game is steady enough to make defenses respect it.

    And the Aggies have earned that attention during a four-game win streak with a new quarterback, converted wide receiver Ryan Tannehill.

    Sherman gambled on his backup outperforming Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Jerrod Johnson, and he's been right. Tannehill has thrown for 1,109 yards and ten touchdowns in four games, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. A&M has averaged 41.25 points during the streak. More importantly, Tannehill's only thrown three interceptions. Johnson threw nine.

    "I think he's been decisive,” head coach Bo Pelini said of Tannehill. “He's playing well. They have done a good job of coaching him and getting him prepared. I don't think the offense has changed a whole heck of a lot, I just think they're executing at a little higher level right now."

    Tannehill's line keeps him relatively clean. His receivers – led by lanky Jeff Fuller – are a good combination of size and quickness. The running game, paced by Cyrus Gray – starter Christine Michael was lost for the season midway through a 45-27 win over Texas Tech – keeps the Aggies out of third-and-long situations.

    It may lack a dynamic running quarterback – but it has everything else. Including a top-shelf offensive coordinator in Sherman, who directed some of Green Bay's better offenses 2000-2005.

    It's a very well-thought out offense and they stretch you in a lot of different ways,” Bo Pelini said.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a two-hour practice inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    Coach Quote I : "We didn't want to sit him for two weeks. I thought it was important for him to get reps. That's one of the reasons he was in at the end of the football game was to continue to get him some more reps. He hasn't played a ton of football. This is only his first year, so you miss a week you're going to be a little rusty." Bo Pelini on Taylor Martinez playing the entire Kansas game.

    Coach Quote II: "I don't think any of them mean anything, except scoring defense honestly. Everyone has asked me about run defense, pass defense, and pass defense efficiency, all those things.  They don't mean anything. It's scoring defense and keeping your opponent to less points than you score, period. End of story. You give a little to get a little." Carl Pelini on defensive statistics.

    Player Quote: “This is the last stop for me on the Big 12 tour. This is the last place I haven't played at. You know, I'm excited....they're looking good right now. Four wins in a row is good.” Senior tight end Mike McNeill, on his final Big 12 road game

    Player Quote II: “I'm not sure about that one. Next question.” Senior offensive lineman D.J. Jones on Martinez's comments Saturday that it's “my team, no one else's team.”

    Player Quote III: “The funny thing is we work on it all the time. We have drills. We do them every week, every Monday, every Tuesday. We're working on ball security. Obviously, it's something we've got to fix. We haven't been very good at it. We rep it in practice. Strip drills. Contact drills. Punch from behind. You name it, we've tried to work on it. We've just got to lock up the rock.” McNeill, on NU leading the nation with 33 fumbles.”

    Notes:

    *A&M is known for the noise at Kyle Field.

    “I heard it's going to be the loudest place we've played,” McNeill said. “Virginia Tech, I thought, was pretty loud and pretty much the entire game. So it'll be fun to see.”

    How much does that noise affect opponents? We'll see. At Kyle, the fans actually never stop yelling, so, at some point, it becomes white noise and easier to adjust to. It's a bit like seeing in the dark vs. one's eyes trying to constantly adjust to flashing lights.

    Because the Huskers operate almost exclusively out of the shotgun, they have moved to a silence cadence that involves Martinez stomping his foot when ready, center Mike Caputo snapping the ball accordingly, and the team moving on the ball.

    “This year, crowd noise really hasn't bothered us with our silence cadence,” McNeill said.

    Nevertheless, NU would practice with piped-in noise Tuesday and again Wednesday.

    *Linebacker LaVonte David has two favorite players he likes to watch in the NFL. One is former Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, murdered nearly three years ago in a burglary. The other is current All-Pro Patrick Willis for the San Francisco 49ers.

    “He's just a freak,” David said. “I'd watch him at Ole Miss. I used to watch his highlight tapes, the way he'd just – he's just a dog – a nasty football player,” David said. “Aggressive guy. I just like that.”

    Why not Ray Lewis, who starred for the Miami Hurricanes – David's favorite team growing up.

    “Ray Lewis, he's above everything,” David said.

    Next Practice: Wednesday

    Tags: tamu game, practice report, bo pelini, carl pelini, lavonte david, mike sherman, dj jones, taylor martinez, mike mcneill

  7. 2010 Nov 15

    Practice Report 11/15: Bo Bemoans Quiet Husker Crowd

    1,078 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

    Asked to expand Monday after practice, Pelini obliged.

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

    Why was the crowd disengaged? Pelini nodded to reporters.

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

    The press declined to comment.

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

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

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

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

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

    On with the report:

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

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

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

    Notes:

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

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

    *Small world.

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

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

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

    Pelini returned the compliment a few minutes later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Next Practice: Tuesday

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

  8. 2010 Nov 08

    Practice Report 11/8: Dennard Returns

    3,361 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    More than a week after suffering a concussion from what he called the hardest hit of his career, starting Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard worked through half of the Huskers' Monday practice before the coaching staff backed him down.

    “He practiced about halfway through and then we pulled him out,” head coach Bo Pelini said. “He did great. He's doing fine. I think he'll be out here full-go tomorrow.”

    Said secondary coach Marvin Sanders: “He went through some drills today, so I'm pretty excited to see him out here. The doctors will have to give the final clearance but after watching him go today I feel pretty good.”

    In Dennard's absence, Iowa State repeatedly completed passes – including two touchdowns – against his replacements, freshman Ciante Evans and senior Anthony West. Evans started the game, but Sanders replaced him with West after the Cyclones started running plays with which Evans wasn't familiar.

    “That's kind of tough for a young guy,” Sanders said. “Because you don't know what you don't know.”

    Sanders pointed to a play that Evans struggled to defend, while opposite cornerback Prince Amukamara held the receiver to a 2-yard gain.

    “Prince immediately clicked in to the right defense,” Sanders said.

    With Dennard playing opposite of Amukamara, the Huskers have arguably the nation's best tandem at corner. The lack of that strength Saturday did make some of a difference, Pelini said.

    “You miss anytime a good football player's not going,” Pelini said.

    Quarterbacks Taylor Martinez and Zac Lee headed back to practice as well, Pelini said, although Lee was somewhat limited as a passer because of his bruised hand. Earlier Monday, Pelini said Martinez should start vs. Kansas Saturday so long as he's healthy.

    “Taylor looked good,” Pelini said.

    Tags: practice report, ku game, alfonzo dennard, taylor martinez, zac lee

  9. 2010 Nov 02

    Practice Report 11/3: Compton Earns Blackshirt

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska's football team has committed enough turnovers in its last two games vs. Iowa State to feed a small army - and fuel last year's dramatic 9-7 ISU upset.

    “Thirteen,” sophomore tight end Kyler Reed said Tuesday. “That definitely has to be in the back of your mind.”

    Five during a 35-7 win in Ames two years ago. And that crazy eight last year, courtesy of the Cyclones' penchant for attacking the ball – and Nebraska's occasional carelessness with the same.

    “We shot ourselves in the foot with four or five red zone turnovers,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said.

    Watson refused Tuesday to shy away from those ghastly numbers. NU addressed the issue head-on this week and reiterated the sermon with continued ball security drills in practice. After a sloppy performances in wins over Idaho and South Dakota State, coupled with myriad drops and fumbles in the 20-13 loss to Texas, the Huskers redoubled their efforts to prevent turnovers. Nebraska committed zero in a 31-17 win over Missouri.

    “It's helping,” Reed said of the increased emphasis. “It's in our bloodstream. We're starting to get used to it, locking the ball right when you catch it.”

    Iowa State ranks 9th nationally with a +9 turnover margin and 11th nationally with 20 turnovers gained – one behind Idaho and two behind Oklahoma State, previous Husker opponents. Nebraska is 38th in turnover margin.

    ISU coach Paul Rhoads preaches an aggressive style of tackling, Watson said, that creates turnovers.

    “They put their hats on the football, and they do a great job of stripping the football,” Watson said. “They're really active in their pursuit to the ball, and they do a great job of ripping and pulling and tugging.”

    The 5-4 Cyclones couple that style with a bend-don't-break defensive scheme that, in theory, gives up yards but not points. It worked in wins over Texas and Texas Tech; not so much in massive losses to Utah and Oklahoma.

    “You have to be patient,” Watson said. “You have to work your way down the field. When big plays present themselves – and they will – you have to take advantage of playaction.”

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a shorter, two-hour practice outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    What’s New: Quarterback Taylor Martinez dressed for practice and participated in some of the drills, but not many of the contact drills according to senior wide receiver Niles Paul. Cornerback Alfonso Dennard did not practice, nor did defensive end Pierre Allen, defensive tackle Jay Guy and defensive back Joshua Mitchell.

    Coach Quote: " They're not going to try and fool you a whole lot. They do give you a lot of different formations and whatnot. They just try to be physical at the point of attack, and they are patient in how they call the game. They eat up yardage, and they eat up clock. It's going to be a big challenge for us." Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on Iowa State offense

    Coach Quote II: "Anytime you have been together a long time, you complete things a bit more. Guys have a better understanding and respond a little bit with more ease. I think that was the case Saturday. It wasn't anything mind-boggling that we did. It was very similar conceptually, but our guys and coaches taught it well." Head coach Bo Pelini on the creativity of Nebraska's defense in the Missouri game

    Player Quote: “All the rumors are false. I am not going anywhere. I love the team. I love the fans. This state has really taken me in.” Quarterback Cody Green, on whether he's dissatisfied with his backup role

    Notes:

    *Nebraska has a new Blackshirt in linebacker Will Compton, who found the practice jersey hanging in his locker Tuesday afternoon. By Tuesday night it already had some flecks of red on it.

    “I don't know if I deserve it quite yet,” Compton said. “As far as playing time on the field but I'm excited to have one finally.”

    Compton, who out the season's first five games recovering from a broken foot, played only in goal-line situations vs. Missouri because of the Tigers' scheme. He still has not supplanted his replacement, LaVonte David, in the lineup; David is a clear favorite for Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

    But Iowa State's downhill running game should force NU to respond with an extra linebacker on the field, Compton said.

    “They run the ball a little bit more – especially in bigger personnel – than Missouri. They're closer to Oklahoma State. Not as much, but they do it. They came out and tried to do it to us last year, so who knows?”

    *Safeties Rickey Thenarse and P.J. Smith still have their Blackshirts despite Austin Cassidy and Courtney Osborne replacing them in the Missouri game. Carl Pelini said he expects a good battle for playing time throughout the week, with the game reps going to the guys who practice best.

    “They are trying to win their positions back,” Pelini said. “Maybe they will and then the other guys have to fight to get it back. That is what you want on a football team, competition. That is what depth gives you."

    Next Practice: Wednesday

    Tags: practice report, shawn watson, kyler reed, isu game, will compton, cody green, bo pelini, carl pelini

  10. 2010 Nov 01

    Practice Report 11/2: Martinez, Dennard Held Out

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Two of Nebraska's best players – quarterback Taylor Martinez and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard – are “day-to-day” after missing NU Monday practice for entirely different kinds of injuries.

    Martinez sustained an ankle sprain Saturday in the second quarter of the Huskers' 31-17 win over Missouri, head coach Bo Pelini told reporters Monday. Pelini initially called it a “bone bruise,” but revised his injury report after getting more information.

    Pelini said Martinez should practice Tuesday. Zac Lee and Cody Green split reps with the first-team offense in Martinez's absence. Lee replaced Martinez in the Texas and Missouri games.

    “There hasn't been a week where I've let up in my preparation because of the situation,” Lee said.

    Dennard is recovering from a concussion sustained in an accidental hit with teammate Courtney Osborne. Team doctors must OK Dennard's return to the field. Generally, concussed players take a battery of tests throughout the week and emerge symptom-free.

    True freshman Ciante Evans replaced Dennard and “did a great job,” Pelini said.

    “He really rose to the occasion and made some plays out there,” he said.

    Evans consistently covered his receivers despite frequently being tested downfield, but his best play may have been in run support; he stuffed Missouri quarterback 6-foot-5, 240-pound Blaine Gabbert on a third-down-and-goal play. Mizzou had to settle for a field goal.

    “He's not afraid to stick his nose in there,” secondary coach Marvin Sanders said. “You're not looking for your corners to be the Ronnie Lotts of the world, but if they're willing to stick their nose in there, they've got a chance.”

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a shorter, 90-minute practice outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    What’s New: Martinez and Dennard were held out of practice.

    Coach Quote: "The light's been on. I said this earlier in the year: There are five or six guys that I was comfortable with in playing...I had total confidence in them. Through the course of the season these guys earned their opportunities and this past game they've taken advantage of it. It's been happening all year" Secondary coach Marvin Sanders on the progression of Austin Cassidy and Courtney Osborne

    Player Quote: “With all the tradition that Coach Osborne and Coach Devaney built here, the running football, the smashmouth football, for a running back to get an accolade like that, it's amazing We're proud to be a part of it and for him and what he was capable of doing.” Tight end Ben Cotton on Roy Helu's school rushing record

    Notes:

    *Nebraska will have to explore pay-per-view one more time for the Nov. 13 game vs. Kansas. The contest was not picked up by any network. A traditional 1:00 p.m. start could be an option.

    *Roy Helu was named Big 12 Player of the Week.

    *Cotton said he knows several of the Iowa State players and routinely keeps in touch with ISU senior quarterback Austen Arnaud, who played at Ames High School as a senior when Cotton was a sophomore.

    Barney Cotton coached in Ames for three years as ISU's offensive coordinator.

    “It was a good experience,” Ben Cotton said of living in Ames. “They love their football just like we do here. We've got our work cut out for us.”

    *Sanders said Evans may be the first guy to replace Dennard, but Anthony West could get a look, too. Dejon Gomes and Eric Hagg can play the spot in a pinch. Anthony Blue is out for the season with his second torn ACL.

    Next Practice: Tuesday

    Tags: practice report, isu game, taylor martinez, alfonso dennard, ciante evans, marvin sanders, ben cotton, zac lee

  11. 2010 Oct 27

    Practice Report 10/26: Carl on Mizzou's Secret Weapon

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Carl Pelini didn't just say it with a straight face, but a serious one.

    Nebraska's defensive coordinator insisted Tuesday night that Missouri's offense was built around its running game – which averages half as many yards as the Tigers' passing attack.

    “They run the ball well,” he said. “They're a physical, offensive team. You can talk all you want about their throwing game, which is good. But I still think they're a team that wants to establish their running game...they're a run-first team. No question about it.”

    Mizzou gains 4.4 yards per carry and 138 yards per game with its running attack - 79th nationally. The Tigers use four backs – two of them freshmen – in a system that emphasizes reading cutback holes and following pulling guards up the alley toward the secondary.

    “It's even more confusing than the Oklahoma State running attack,” Pelini said.

    Against Oklahoma, Missouri rushed for 178 yards, and its success on the ground helped open up the playaction pass. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert frequently froze OU's linebackers and safeties with fakes and dropped the ball in between the two lines of defense to wide open slot receivers.

    “They did everything,” Pelini said. “They threw. They ran. They executed their offense well. They didn't make any mistakes.”

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two-and-a-half hours inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center in full pads.

    What’s New: Pierre Allen returned to practice. A good number of reporters from the Kansas City/St. Louis metro were in town to get the scoop, so to speak.

    Player Quote: "It's just always a big week because people from home like Mizzou and are always in my ear. The last seven weeks all I've heard about it how good they look each week. It's always a fun game." Tight end and Missouri native Mike McNeill on playing his home-state team.

    Coach Quote: “They wanted to get the record set straight. It was important for those guys to come and play a good game. There was a lot of purpose in their week of practice and a lot of purpose going into the game. There was just a great feeling of where those two were at, and really where all of our kids were, but those two in particular really took a lot of pride in their work and put it on film on Saturday." Shawn Watson on wide receivers Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie

    Next Practice: Wednesday

    Tags: mizzou game, carl pelini, mike mcneill, shawn watson, practice report

  12. 2010 Oct 20

    Practice Report 10/19: Moving Past Texas

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    By HuskerLocker

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    A quiet, ruminant Carl Pelini took the podium Tuesday just after his brother Bo, Nebraska's head football coach, had described the Huskers' defensive effort in 20-13 loss to Texas as the “worst tackling game I've been a part of.”

    NU missed 28 in all. Carl Pelini watched the tape and deemed his unit “overzealous” to make the big hit against the Longhorns instead of the basic tackle. Why?

    “I'm not a psychologist,” Pelini said, his voice failing to echo much through the microphone. “I have been through it 100 times in my head. Were we tight, were we not tight? I don't know. I can't answer that. It is stuff that we have talked about as a staff and talked about as team and creating awareness on their part.”

    It particularly stung, Pelini said, because Nebraska typically excels in that phase of defense.

    “We have been a pretty good tackling team over the last three years,” he said. “It is one thing I think we have always done well. It bit us on Saturday.”

    The challenge of tackling well grows Saturday when Oklahoma State – the nation's No. 2 total offense – presents NU with a variety of weapons to account for and cover. OSU likes to run quick screen passes that take advantage of receivers speed and strength, especially that of Justin Blackmon, who leads the country in receiving yards (955) and touchdowns(12).

    “They create matchup issues because they have a lot of speed to work with,” Pelini said.

    But OSU can run it, too. Senior Kendall Hunter is the nation's fifth-leading rusher, averaging 138 yards per game. The Cowboys, while operating out of the shotgun, often provide Hunter a lead blocker to get him rolling downhill.

    “They spread you out really well with the screen game and the inside runs and the deep balls,” Pelini said. “They always try to keep you off balance. I don't want to point at any one guy because they are all effective."

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two-and-a-half hours inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    What’s New: Not much. Nebraska players and coaches talked at length about Texas loss; not so much about the upcoming Oklahoma State game.

    Player Quote: “We lost. We were beat. And we gotta go on to Oklahoma State. We can't change it. If we dwell on it, it'll just bring us down. I've seen teams worry about a loss too much and it hasn't been good for them.” Tight end Mike McNeill, on moving forward

    Player Quote II: “The coaches have plans and rhymes and reasons for what they do. We do what's called. We block what's called, and we execute what's called. It doesn't matter if it's Taylor behind there calling the signals, Cody or Zac back there. If things aren't working because of a certain thing, it doesn't just fall on one person's shoulders.” Left tackle Jeremiah Sirles on blocking for different quarterbacks

    Coach Quote: “If you are a coach, and worth your salt, and you're going to do what you preach, you have got to dwell on what you did wrong. Whether you win or lose, you can't change that. You can't change a result. But whether we won that game or lost that game, we were poor tacklers. If we would have won the game, we still would have dwelled on that.” Carl Pelini on the missed tackles

    Next Practice: Wednesday

    Tags: oklahoma state game, practice report, carl pelini, jeremiah sirles, mike mcneill

  13. 2010 Oct 12

    Practice Report 10/12: UT Front Four An 'Exciting' Challenge

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Texas defensive end Sam Acho has a distant admirer in Nebraska left tackle Jeremiah Sirles, who's been watching film of the UT senior for three days.

    “He's a great player,” Sirles said. “He's got good moves. He's fast, he's quick, he's strong.”

    Acho is the physical and emotional anchor of a UT defensive line that might be statistically better than the 2008 or 2009 versions, which featured All-Americans Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle, respectively. The Longhorns are 2nd in the nation in tackles for loss and 9th in sacks. Acho has two sacks; bookend Eddie Jones has four more. Freshman Jackson Jeffcoat is a rush specialist who's given offensive lines fits on third down.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson explained the scheme of Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp: Pressure with the front seven in a way that isolates the defensive ends for one-on-one matchups against tackles. UT's opponents have converted just 33 percent of their third-down opportunities.

    “There's a lot of one-on-one opportunities that they create and they really force you to be good across the board with your blocking patterns at every position,” Watson said. “You can't have a weak link.”

    Said Sirles: “We have to execute our technique. We can't be giving free runners at the quarterback. That's the big thing. We have to know where everyone is and who we're responsible for and just use good technique.”

    Watson said UT's front four is the best Nebraska has faced this year. A quick glance at the remainder of the schedules reveals that Texas' defensive line might be the best NU faces, period.

    Sirles, a redshirt freshman, is excited.

    “Every player loves to test themselves against someone who's considered a top-notch, big-time player. It's like 'Bring it on. Test it,'” he said.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska worked out for two hours inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center.

    What’s New: NU appears to be about as healthy as it's been all season, with Will Compton and Marcel Jones returning to full speed in practice.

    Player Quote: “I got to pop a couple wheelies but I felt pretty (stupid) driving a scooter around in front of people.” Will Compton on rehabbing his injured foot.

    Coach Quote: “We haven't faced anybody like them. We've faced good receivers, but I don't know that we've faced as many as they can put out there. They do a good job protecting (Garrett Gilbert) and the quarterback makes good decisions. It'll be a good challenge for our secondary.” Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on Texas' passing game

    Notes:

    *Head coach Bo Pelini hinted there would be “personnel changes” on NU's kickoff coverage unit after the Huskers gave up several long kick returns to KSU's William Powell last week.

    *What might surprise some Nebraska fans was the Brothers Pelini's praise for quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Both Bo and Carl were impressed with Gilbert's accuracy and command in the pocket – somewhat rare for a classic dropback passer.

    “They don’t run this quarterback as much,” Bo Pelini said, “but I know one thing - he is capable of running. He showed that on film. We have to be prepared for anything.”

    Sophomore safety P.J. Smith wasn't quite as impressed.

    “That's the quarterback, huh?” Smith said when asked about Gilbert by name. “He's a quarterback, I don't know. He throws a lot of short passes...and at times, he just throws the ball deep, just up for grabs.”

    *Mike McNeill has seen Texas' secondary already – in practice. Every day.

    “A lot of speed, they play a lot of cover one, even cover zero, which obviously takes a lot of skill,” McNeill said of UT. “It takes a lot in the back-end to do that. That's what our guys do, so we've seen it a lot. We haven't seen it the past five weeks from our opponents, but going against our own defense, we see it all the time-a lot of press coverage, stuff like that.”

    *Both Carl Pelini and Bo Pelini said there's a chance that when NU runs a nickel package, both LaVonte David and Compton could be on the field at the same time.

    *NU is planning its biggest recruiting weekend in years, inviting several prospects in to take in the gameday atmosphere and tour the grounds, usually with a guardian or parent.

    “We always seem to get a number of recruits at this time of year, and it just so happened that Texas fell on this date,” Bo Pelini said. “You start getting into October when high school seasons are well into play and then before the playoffs start, this is the time of year when coaches are a little more comfortable with their players going to take visits.”

    Next Practice: Tuesday

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

    Tags: texas game, shawn watson, jeremiah sirles, practice report, bo pelini, carl pelini, will compton, mike mcneill

  14. 2010 Oct 11

    Practice Report 10/11: Compton Returns

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    By HuskerLocker

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    It’s about six weeks after Bo Pelini would have liked to have Will Compton preparing for a football game, but the head coach welcomed back the sophomore linebacker all the same Monday as Compton returned to practice after rehabbing his broken foot.

    “He did pretty good out there today,” Pelini said of Compton, who practiced in a limited role. “Will’s got some experience, he’s got a good understand of what we’re doing. It really depends on how he feels.”

    Compton returned as NU began preparation Monday for Texas. He rejoins a linebacking corps that had primarily relied upon junior LaVonte David – who leads the Big 12 in tackles per game and was just recently named the league’s Player of the Week for 16 tackles in a 48-13 win over Kansas State.

    “He’s a good tackler,” Pelini said of David, a transfer from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. He’s a good football player. He does a lot of good things. He’s not as small as people think he is. Sometimes he looks like he’s smaller because he runs so fast. He’s a 220, 225-pound guy. He’s very explosive.”

    Pelini called Monday’s workout “business as usual,” even if 3-2 Texas easily represents the most talented team the No. 4 Huskers have faced to date.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two hours inside the Hawks Championship Center in what Pelini termed a “regular practice.”

    What’s New: Texas week! Nebraska is officially downplaying it. Also – Compton is back at practice, if not necessarily doing that much.

    Coach Quote: “He’s the kid where, even though he’s been away, he’s stayed in meetings, he’s stayed working out. Mentally he’ll be ready. You wonder how he’ll respond physically.” Sanders on Compton.

    Player Quote: “We’re on the field more, I know that. As soon as we get off the field, we look up and Taylor’s taking it for 80 yards. As soon we get a cup of Gatorade and sit down and relax, Taylor’s going the other way.” Pierre Allen on Nebraska’s offense scoring so quickly

    Next Practice: Tuesday

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

    Tags: will compton, lavonte david, practice report, texas game

  15. 2010 Oct 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 10/4

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    By HuskerLocker

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    To hear Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson explain Kansas State’s defensive philosophy, a paradox emerges.

    The Wildcats are a fundamentally sound, structured defense that hates giving up the big play, and yet most of NU’s opponents in 2010 have been aggressively unsound in trying to take away Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez.

    Will KSU try to throw the kitchen sink at Martinez, a redshirt freshman making his second career road start?

    “We always expect that because of our running game,” Watson said Monday.

    Under normal circumstances, K-State’s 3-4 alignment produces a bend-but-don’t-break unit, Watson said, that forces offenses to drive the length of the field.

    “They play very good unit defense,” he said. “They get to the football…they make you earn your way down the field. Very assignment-sound. They don’t give up big plays.”

    Central Florida, which lost to Kansas State 17-13 but rushed 252 yards, provides some “good indicators” for Watson as to how KSU might defend Nebraska. The Golden Knights run a pistol offense out of a spread formation. It’s little different than NU’s spread option look, however, in running philosophy. The pistol is more of a downhill running game while the Huskers take advantage of lanes emerging in the zone blocking.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: NU finished up the bulk of its preparations for Kansas State. At this point, the Huskers are on the equivalent of a Wednesday practice, so it was just helmets and shoulder pads today.

    What’s New: Junior right tackle Marcel Jones has been practicing throughout the weekend and again on Monday. Bo Pelini and Watson said he is expected to play and rotate with senior D.J. Jones.

    “With Marcel back, we’ll evolve,” Watson said of a more consistent offensive line rotation. “We’ll see how much he’s able to go. He looks good in practice. This has been a plan to get him ready for the Big 12 season. You’ll probably see us have more of a rotation at both those tackle spots.”

    Coach Quote: “He manages that offense well. He plays within the scheme. I think he understands what his role is there. I call him a very accomplished game manager.” Carl Pelini on KSU quarterback Carson Coffman.

    Coach Quote II: “The fundamentals of defensive football, period, have to be, and have been a point of emphasis for us over the last week or so. Not that they aren't always, but this was a week that we felt like with the extra time we needed to keep improving just how we take on blockers, how we come out of our stances, how we tackle, just the little things that make you a great football team.” Carl Pelini on attacking Kansas State’s offense

    Player Quote: “Teams are going to start scheming our offense, and we're going to start opening up the playbook, and start passing the ball, taking more shots. Coach is going to give us an opportunity to make big plays.” Wide receiver Niles Paul

    Next Practice: Tuesday

    Tags: kansas state game, practice report, marcel jones, niles paul, carl pelini, shawn watson

  16. 2010 Oct 01

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 9/30

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    Two days of work against Nebraska’s Blackshirts has sharpened the Husker offense, coordinator Shawn Watson said after Thursday’s two-hour workout in the Hawks Championship Center.

    “It’s good to have the speed of the game,” he said. “You get the physicality and you get the speed that you need in a bye week.”

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez, off his first two-interception performance vs. South Dakota State, grew from the experience, Watson said. Nebraska looked again at the entire body of work during the non-conference season and walked Martinez through adjustments and tools to help him during the Big 12 season.

    “He puts things behind him real fast,” Watson said. “And he learns from it too.”

    Asked if the Huskers would alter their gameplan to suit Martinez’s abilities better, Watson said: “We’ll call our offense.”

    Watson also said wide receiver Niles Paul, who expressed frustration Wednesday over his lack of touches, remains a focal point of the attack.

    “We always listen to our guys,” Watson said. “We’ve had a lot of things dialed up to him. They’ll take him out sometimes. We’ll always try to get him deep.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: NU practiced “good on good” for a second straight day in a row.

    What’s New: Linebacker Will Compton is beginning to work on that foot he broke before the season in hopes of returning within the next month.

    “He’s running but he’s not running at full body weight,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. “It’s just a process. Every day is a test for him.”

    There’s been no talk of a medical redshirt for Compton, Pelini said.

    Coach Quote: “That’s always something that’s a wild card for us because you really don’t know what form of it they’re going to come out in. You try to school your guys up into all the different types they could see and there’s always one they haven’t that they’ll show up in.” Pelini on defending the Wildcat.

    Player Quote: “Each week I‘m getting better and better. I feel like I’m learning the defense more. I feel like I’m learning scheme and the right place I’m supposed to be at. ” Linebacker LaVonte David

    Notes:

    ***Kansas State’s offense isn’t necessarily what college football fans would call “dynamic,” but does have its wrinkles. KSU uses the Wildcat some, and can use as many as four quarterbacks in that offense, since many of the Wildcats’ skill players used to play the position.

    “You never know what they’re going to come up with,” Pelini said. “You don’t know. There’s going to be adjustments required as the game goes on, much like there was last year.”

    ***Pelini said NU’s ability to stop Kansas State running back Thomas will be “a big part” of stopping KSU’s offense. The Cats are 23rd in rushing offense and 100th in passing offense. Thomas is fourth in the country in yards per game with 157.

    “(Bill Snyder) has been very patient in his play calling this year,” Pelini said. “He’s controlled the clock. He’s been able to keep it close and win late with that approach. Why change that approach?”

    Next Practice: Saturday

    Tags: practice report, lavonte david, shawn watson, carl pelini, taylor martinez, niles paul

  17. 2010 Sep 29

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 9/29

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini almost brought his football team back one day early to correct the wealth of mistakes made vs. South Dakota State and begin preparing to play at Kansas State.

    He held off, preferring instead to give the Huskers “a mental and physical break” until Wednesday afternoon. With eight straight weeks of Big 12 football - and four of those games on the road - on the docket, “I just thought it was the right time.”

    Pelini’s hunch paid dividends.

    “That was a good, hard practice,” he said Wednesday night. “Much like we do in (fall) camp. It was a good day.”

    Said senior wide receiver Niles Paul: “We got after it today. Much needed break.”

    NU pitted the first team offense against the first team defense and stressed fundamentals. In the prior 48 hours, Pelini said, several Husker assistants were able to recruit on the road, while others reviewed the first four games of the non-conference campaign - with a special emphasis on the sluggish performance vs. the Jackrabbits.

    “Our guys are prideful guys,” Pelini said. “They didn’t play the way they wanted to play.”

    Paul and sophomore linebacker Eric Martin said NU conducted a team meeting to examine the SDSU struggles. Some of it was being leg-weary after a fierce fall camp waged in 100-degree temps, followed by four straight non-conference game. And part of it, they said, was wavering focus.

    “It didn’t seem we wanted to play,” Paul said. “That frustrated me.”

    Said Martin: “We took a break when we shouldn’t have.”

    But Martin said the Huskers put the game in the rear-view mirror after the meeting. They look now to a final season in the Big 12, and a difficult first assignment: Stopping KSU running back Daniel Thomas in his own backyard.

    “We want to go out with a bang,” Martin said.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two hours outside the Hawks Championship Center after a two-day break from practices. NU went in full pads.

    What’s New: Big 12 season. The Huskers cannot afford a letdown week from here on out.

    Coach Quote: “You’ve got to look at the whole body of work. It gave us the chance to self-scout ourselves and make some decisions on where we want to go going forward. Scheme-wise, personnel-wise, everything. ” Head coach Bo Pelini on reviewing the non-conference season

    Player Quote: “Everybody talked about Jake Locker and how he passed the ball, these great quarterbacks and how they passed the ball. It’s time to step up to a running back and show him what we‘re all about. We ain’t backing down. I’m not backing down. I’m looking forward to it.” Nebraska safety Rickey Thenarse on facing Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas

    Notes:

    *Scouts from several NFL teams were on hand Wednesday. It’s easier for those teams to gauge college players during a bye week because gameplan installation wasn’t necessarily occurring.

    ***Husker starting defenders weren’t in the mood to talk about getting their Blackshirts after Saturday’s game, so the topic naturally came up Wednesday. Twelve players in all received them; Martin was one.

    “My body went numb,” Martin said. “It made me feel like I accomplished something. That I came here for a reason. It was just a different kind of feeling.”

    Thenarse received his first Blackshirt after five up-and-down seasons of play. He admitted Wednesday to getting “teary-eyed” upon seeing it.

    “I’ve been here longer than most guys,” he said.

    Thenarse endorsed Pelini’s method of awarding the Blackshirts during the season, rather than handing them out before the year. Bill Callahan and his defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove played “politics,” Thenarse said, in how they handed out them. Thenarse said that former Husker Zackary Bowman, who handed in his Blackshirt after a poor game and saw limited playing time the rest of the season was “ahead of the curve” for believing they should be earned.

    “Zack was a standup guy,” Thenarse said.

    Next Practice: Thursday. There is media access, and both coordinators will speak.

    Tags: practice report, rickey thenarse, eric martin, niles paul, bo pelini

  18. 2010 Sep 21

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 9/21

    2,456 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Through two days of Nebraska’s preparation for Saturday’s 6 p.m. game with South Dakota State, not only have coaches not seen a practice letdown after a 56-21 win over Washington - they’ve witnessed a post-Seattle bounce.

    “They were intense today,” NU defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said after a two-hour workout inside the Hawks Championship Center. “They had interest. They had a good bounce in their steps, both sides of the ball…they’re as locked in now as they’ve been any week.”

    Said defensive tackle Jared Crick at the Tuesday presser: “This is just a motivated group. Doesn’t matter who the opponent is, we’re going to go in with the same mindset and the same emphasis of preparation.”

    While head coach Bo Pelini conceded Tuesday that Division 1-AA/FBS teams weren’t his first choice in opponent for future schedules, he wasn’t about to renege on any portion of Steve Pederson’s parting gift - either the Sun Belt Three in 2009 or the WKU/Idaho/SDSU trio in 2010 - unless those parties had approached Nebraska with the request.

    And Pelini’s not about to pull punches with his roster or back certain starters down to create playing time for backups.

    “You gotta have respect for the game, you gotta have respect for who you’re playing,” Pelini said. “We have to play hard. And we need to get better. Period. End of story.”

    Wide receiver Brandon Kinnie put it bluntly: "I like to play football regardless of who we play.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska practiced for two-and-a-half hours inside and outside the Hawks Championship Center in full pads. Tuesday is typically a heavy installation day, so practice usually runs a bit longer. Quarterback Taylor Martinez did not give interviews after the workouts.

    What’s New: NU is practicing for SDSU, a team with multiple looks on both offense and defense. The Jackrabbits are 0-2 with two losses to Division 1-AA/FBS schools.

    Coach Quote: “He wants to sling it around like any quarterback. And I’m telling you: he is a really good passer. He could be one of the better passers I've been around. He has such a fast trigger - very accurate passer.” -Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on Taylor Martinez

    Coach Quote II: “He’s a special guy. He really is. What I like about him is he’s an intense son of a gun. He’s very physical, uses his body well, but he’s got tremendous athleticism, too. He can jump out of the gym. He’s just so fast out of his break. He really shocks quarterbacks.” -Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on cornerback Alfonzo Dennard

    Player Quote: “We have guys who can come in and give us a blow if we need it. I'd rather play 100 reps as long as the offense is putting up points for us.” Defensive tackle Jared Crick, on the offense’s efficiency

    Notes:

    ***Watson said he studied a number of shotgun option offenses in the off-season - including Oregon’s - to incorporate the zone read and midline-option into NU’s attack. But he was bullish on keeping the West Coast Offense passing scheme, which empathizes timing and the usage of “check downs” when initial targets aren’t open. The combination, Watson said, makes Nebraska unique.

    “I still believe the West Coast passing attack is the best there is,” Watson said. “It is very simple for the quarterback. It's very fast. He doesn't get sacked. He spits the ball out on time. It's very multiple.”

    ***That said, Martinez has taken sacks in both the Idaho and Washington games. Watson said he’s coaching Martinez to run with the ball or utilize the check down.

    “He's having to learn some of those things like not waiting for those receivers to get open, throw on rhythm, throw on time, trust your read, and if it isn't there check it out of the back and run it,” Watson said. “It's that simple.”

    ***The Brothers Pelini don’t like to define their pass defense with any one word. They bristle at suggesting it’s a man-to-man coverage, and it’s much too aggressive to be considered a zone look. It’s a match-zone concept that requires Nebraska’s defensive backs to play man in certain patterns and default to zone in others.

    And, in year three of the defense, the Huskers are getting really good at executing it. And it does a number on opposing quarterbacks.

    “It’s different than what they’re used to,” Carl Pelini said. “Preparation time plays into it. It all ties in to how we play up front with two-gap and bull rushing.”

    NU’s defensive line, Pelini said, doesn’t have to get a sack to make an impact.

    “I don’t want open windows for that quarterback to see through,” he said. “Combine that with covering guys and getting bodies on guys and I think it creates an uncomfortable feeling for a quarterback. A lot of time it creates a sense of panic where there is none.

    Next Practice: Wednesday

    Tags: practice report, shawn watson, carl pelini, jared crick, alfonzo dennard, taylor martinez

  19. 2010 Sep 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 9/20

    4,098 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The tradition and history of South Dakota State’s football program - from its days in the North Central Conference with UNO and Morningside to a Division 1-AA program that heads to Nebraska for a money game this Saturday - was a bit lost on Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.

    “I don’t even know what FCS is,” he quipped after Monday’s workout inside the Hawks Championship Center. “That's the next opponent on our schedule and they're the next team we play, and we’re playing, so let's roll. We have to get better this week.”

    In the next breath, Pelini conceded that FCS/1-AA teams have spearheaded their share of upsets this season. South Dakota beat Minnesota. Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss. And James Madison shocked Virginia Tech, which could still contend for the ACC title.

    He’s not “big on” scheduling 1-AA teams - the SDSU contest is the last game of Steve Pederson’s parting gift - but securing home games - especially once the Big Ten rotates to a nine-game conference slate in 2014 - may require it.

    “I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about their program, what their values are, their traditions,” Pelini said during the Big 12 Coaches Teleconference.

    Pelini praised NU’s practice Monday, citing “good tempo” in all three phases. It was as upbeat as Pelini’s seemed in weeks.

    “I like the way we came out,” Pelini said. “Good practice. We got a lot out of it.”

    The 56-21 victory might have had something to do with it.

    “There was a lot of good stuff in all three phrases of the game,” he said. “…There were some little things you always see, technique issues, that you may not see in the course of the game, especially with the line. But the major things we already saw.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: NU practiced in helmets and shoulder pads for two hours in the Hawks Championship Center. Bo Pelini was pleased as were, clearly, many of the assistant coaches. Nebraska brought its lunch pail on Monday.

    What’s New: Left guard Keith Williams did not practice, and it appears he won’t be practicing on Monday for the foreseeable future to save on some of the wear and tear.

    “We kind of have a plan for him going forward,” Pelini said. “He’s actually feeling really good and he’s playing good football. We’re going to stick with the plan.”

    Linebacker Will Compton is no longer zipping around on a scooter, and he made the trip to Seattle. Pelini said Compton is still several weeks from returning after a broken foot.

    “To me he’s ahead of schedule, I think,” Pelini said “But time will tell. I’m not exactly sure.”

    Coach Quote: “The high point, at least for mem of the season, for me thus far is that the next time we got the ball we had a big answering touchdown. ” Offensive line coach Barney Cotton, on NU’s response after a Cody green fumble.

    Player Quote: “”


    Notes:

    ***Cotton said Brandon Thompson is progressing well and is the top backup left guard. Thompson was the first Husker backup lineman on the field Saturday. Could Nebraska be regretting burning the redshirt of Andrew Rodriguez because Thompson missed the first game with an injury?

    ***When asked to point out which part of the defense he thought played the best Saturday, Pelini picked out the defensive line.

    ***Wide receivers Ted Gilmore has high standards, so he had a small bone to pick with Brandon Kinnie’s 55-yard reception on Saturday: He got caught at the 1-yard line.

    “He got tracked down there,” Gilmore said. “He didn’t get the ball in the end zone….if we get that ball in the outside arm, we can stiff-arm that (defender) and get in. So there’s still things he can correct.”

    Next Practice: Tuesday. Full pads and a presser. Shawn Watson will be at the Tuesday podium.

    Tags: practice report, bo pelini, ted gilmore, barney cotton, keith williams, will compton, brandon kinnie, south dakota state game

  20. 2010 Sep 16

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Practice Report 9/15

    3,870 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Such a lovely day Wednesday afternoon in Lincoln. Warm temps, breeze, cotton ball clouds. Shame the Nebraska football team was stuck in the Hawks Championship Center, cargo doors slammed shut, having their brains blasted with artificial crowd noise.

    “You couldn’t even talk,” offensive line coach Barney Cotton told reporters after NU’s two-hour workout. The noise is designed to simulate - with extreme prejudice - the kind of reception that the Huskers may face Saturday at Washington’s Husky Stadium.

    “You could not coach your guys,” Cotton said. “You had to get somebody’s ear to coach them when they came out. There was no coaching between huddles. It was very game like. Very, very, very loud.”

    That’s by design, wide receivers coach Ron Brown said.

    You have to be pretty well organized,” Brown said. “Little things have to be taken care of. Logistics are huge in games like this - without a doubt…people stay up late at night trying to figure out how to get communication across the board.”

    Brown’s coached twice at Husky Stadium - 1992 and 1997 - while at NU. The 92 game, a 29-14 UW victory, is considered one of the loudest crowds in college football history. That night Nebraska quarterback Mike Grant - “kind of a soft-spoken guy” - struggled in the atmosphere, taking a safety in the end zone and throwing two interceptions.

    “We had a tough time getting it going,” Brown said. “We had a tough time communicating.”

    Brown said head coach Bo Pelini’s approach to the problem reflects his attention to detail.

    “Every drill is game-like,” he said. “Every meeting is game-like. You’re trying to replicate the scenario and the little nuances that go on game day.”

    On with the report:

    Particulars: NU practiced for two hours in the midst of major, artificial crowd noise, doing so in just shoulder pads and shorts. Wednesday has been a full pads day during some weeks.

    What’s New: Right tackle Marcel Jones appears to be practicing at full speed, though Cotton declined to say if he’d be starting Saturday.

    Coach Quote: “It’s the same blocking scheme. You have to do it just as physically. You do nothing differently. Tight zone is tight zone, wide zone is wide zone, power is power. It’s just happening out of the shotgun.” - Offensive line coach Barney Cotton on power football out of the shotgun.

    Coach Quote II: “Sometimes I have to realize he is a red shirt freshman. He’s done a good job since he’s been here. We expect an awful lot out of him…we quit classifying how old guys are once the season starts.” - Cotton on left tackle Jeremiah Sirles

    Notes:

    ***Cotton was pleased to get back sophomore guard Brandon Thompson for last week’s game vs. Idaho. Thompson missed game one with an injury, but played roughly 30 snaps against the Vandals. He can back up either guard slot - and potentially at tackle, as well.

    “It’s really nice to have that piece you can move around a bit,” Cotton said.

    Next Practice: Thursday.

    Tags: practice report, washington game, barney cotton, ron brown, jeremiah sirles, brandon thompson

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