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  1. 2010 Jan 22

    50 Huskers in Review: Nos. 15-11

    686 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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

    No. 15 Barry Turner: Great final year for Turner, who was a physical, dominant force off the edge and served as a great bookend to one of Nebraska’s best defensive lines ever. He got his “step” back in 2009 and chased down players all over the field.

    No. 14 Matt O’Hanlon: Goat to hero, all in the span of a few months. O’Hanlon busted a coverage against Virginia Tech that directly led to the Hokies’ dramatic 16-15 win, but salvaged an all-conference caliber season with three interceptions vs. Oklahoma, an interception return for a touchdown vs. Colorado and an interception that set up NU’s first touchdown in the Holiday Bowl, for which he was named the game’s MVP. Throughout the year, O’Hanlon was excellent in run support, especially in games vs. OU and Texas in the Big 12 title game.

    No. 13 Prince Amukamara: He arrived during the Big 12 Conference season, showing off that athleticism and skill Husker fans already knew he had, and coupling it with a better grasp of his role and the game in general. Amukamara won all-conference honors and positioned himself as a potential NFL first-round draft pick in 2011.

    No. 12 Quentin Castille: Bo Pelini kicked him off the team for violating team rules on multiple occasions. In the short term, this move hurt Nebraska - especially when the Huskers switched to a power-running style that perfectly suited Castille’s skills. NU was also forced to burn the redshirt of Traye Robinson. In the long run, Pelini hopes Castille’s dismissal - along with the recent dismissal of freshman Chris Williams for similar violations - sends a clear message to the Huskers.

    No. 11 Mathew May: Battled chronic back pain throughout the year, which limited his role to special teams, but it’s hard to say whether May’s potential, lauded consistently by coaches last spring, is hype or the real thing. We’ll know more a few months from now. There’s little question that May tests off the charts. But there’s more to playing football.

    Tags: 50 huskers in review, prince amukamara, barry turner, matt ohanlon, mathew may, quentin castille

  2. 2009 Aug 28

    FC Day 17: Progress Made

    659 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Befitting of the relative end to Nebraska’s fall camp, NU head coach Bo Pelini took on a low-key, reflective tone after Friday’s workout and scrimmage, held on the grass fields outside Hawks Center.

    Pelini described the final two practices of the week as “decent,” certainly better than the Cornhuskers’ weak offering of effort and execution on Wednesday, which left Pelini roiling afterward.

    “Our attention to detail still needs to get better,” Pelini said. “We’re sloppy at times. Seeing some penalties here and there. Not as crisp and as sharp as I’d like to see it. But I’m seeing some good things, too. The effort was good.

    “I always think we should be further ahead, but going into the game, I think we got a lot done through camp. We’ll hone in, obviously, from here on out on Florida Atlantic, and I think that’ll help some of the guys.”

    NU continues to learn a lesson, Pelini said, about “championship-caliber” practices. The Husker fell short of the standard, he said, on Wednesday, by “coming out to get through it, rather than get better.”

    “If you don’t compete, then other people will pass you by,” Pelini said. “That’s what we were last year. We didn’t always come out here with the right attitude, the right framework, the right focus. And it showed at times. Hopefully this year we’ll be a little more mature.”

    Although one presumes Pelini will release a depth chart at Tuesday’s press conference, Nebraska’s starting lineup “won’t be set until the end of next week.”

    Competition continues at receiver, where Pelini mentioned a number of players – including sophomore Curenski Gilleylen, seniors Menelik Holt and Chris Brooks, and freshmen Antonio Bell and Khiry Cooper – as guys vying for time behind alongside junior Niles Paul, who nailed the No. 1 receiver job during fall camp.

    “It’s a mix of guys,” Pelini said. “We’re not sure who’s gonna step out there and really take control of the position yet.”

    Cooper, who spent last fall on the scout team and last spring playing baseball for the Cornhuskers, isn’t a name that’s been thrown around much so far in camp.

    “He’s talented young man,” Pelini said. “I expect him to really step up and make some plays for us.”

    Pelini briefly dished on Florida Atlantic, saying the Owls had “a lot of talent, a Lot of speed and good skill guys.” He also confirmed that he recommended Quentin Castille – whom Pelini booted off the team last week – to Castille’s new school, Northwestern (La.) State, which is coached by one of Pelini’s former assistants at LSU, Bradley Dale Peveto.

    “I know that coach well, and he called me about ‘Q’ and I told him they’d be well-served to have him on their football team,” Pelini said.

    Tags: bo pelini, quentin castille, khiry cooper

  3. 2009 Aug 28

    Q Gets Bo's Endorsement, Transfers

    1,102 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Get the boot on a Saturday. Enroll at a new school six days later. Attempt to play for that team in two weeks.

    After getting thrown off Nebraska's football team, Quentin Castille didn't mess around, as he'll transfer to Northwestern State, a Division I-AA program, in the hopes of playing immediately for the Demons, who open their season Sept. 12 at Houston.

    The head coach at Northwestern State? One of Bo Pelini's former assistants at LSU, Bradley Dale Peveto, who was the defensive coordinator for the Tigers last year.

    So to recap: Bo boots Q, Q hoofs it new school, whose coach used to work for Bo.

    Pinch me, Epcot. The world just got a little smaller.

    (Update: We told you the world was small. That Pelini told Peveto Castille deserved a second chance says two things:

    1. It was a painful dismissal for Pelini to make.

    2. Castille must, to some extent, understand and/or agree with it. You don't go play for Bo's former linebackers coach, on Bo's endorsement otherwise. Not when Memphis, Purdue, Oregon and other schools might have been an option.

    Credit Castille. too, for knowing he has to play this year. The kid's a restless type anyway. Sitting a year wouldn't have done him much good.

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    Tags: bo pelini, quentin castille

  4. 2009 Aug 25

    RECRUITING: A RB for 2010?

    918 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Now that Quentin Castille has been thrown off the team, does Nebraska look harder at recruiting a running back for 2010? Also - who are the favored targets? Find out with a 30-day free trial to the Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: recruiting, quentin castille, locker pass

  5. 2009 Aug 24

    FC Day 14: A Year Later, Well Ahead

    554 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska’s football team handled practice on the first day of fall classes well, head coach Bo Pelini told the media Monday night after a two-hour workout on the grass fields just north of the Hawks Center.

    “Normally you come out the first day of school and it’s not a real good practice,” Pelini said. “They came out with real good energy today…we got a lot accomplished today.”

    That’s a far cry from Nebraska’s first-day-of-school practice in 2008, which Pelini, at the time, deemed “not nearly good enough.”

    Pelini said NU remains in camp mode. No prep on Florida Atlantic yet. Maybe later this week. But the Huskers did add 30-plus players who weren’t part of the original 105-man roster. Pelini said the total count was at 142. Lines for drills were longer, but the practice seemed just as logistically smooth as it was for the last two weeks.

    The Quentin Castille dismissal was address obliquely, as a couple question were posed to Pelini about running backs being aware of an opportunity.

    “I would hope so, unless they’re blind,” Pelini said. “But it shouldn’t change the way they’ve been competing…it’s pretty obvious. We let you guys beat a dead horse. We don’t need to. Our players know what’s in front of them.”

    Nebraska returns to the practice field Tuesday, same time, presumably same grass fields.

    Notes:

    *Pelini brushed aside the opportunity praise true freshman Rex Burkhead more than he already has for Burkhead’s quick move up the depth chart.

    “We’ve got a number of true freshmen who are in the mix for playing time,” Pelini said. “Nobody’s earned anything yet.”

    *Tight end Dreu Young continues to practice without pads. The doctors have to clear Young for more contact before he puts them on. Young had back surgery recently.

    *Freshman right guard Brent Qvale has a shoulder injury and will be out 3-4 months, Pelini. Qvale had been impressive during his brief time in fall camp.

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    Tags: bo pelini, quentin castille, rex burkhead, brent qvale, dreu young

  6. 2009 Aug 24

    Bo on Jim Rome

    935 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Just in case you thought Bo Pelini was the kind of guy to put a more positive spin on the Nebraska football program for national media outlet, the second-year head coach preached the same message Monday on the Jim Rome radio show that he has throughout fall camp.

    “We made some progress last year,” Pelini said on Rome’s program. “And that’s about it. Around here, we measure being back by championships…you’ve got to earn that respect on the field.”

    Asked if Nebraska could consistently compete for conference and national championships, Pelini said: “That’s why I came back here.”

    Pelini was asked specifically by Rome what running back Quentin Castille did to get dismissed from the team. The coach declined to name any.

    “When you’re setting up a program and you’re forming a culture, in my world it’s pretty black and white. There’s not a lot of gray. You’re going do what’s asked of you. There’s going to be repercussions when you screw up. Unfortunately for ‘Q,’ he made some mistakes and he made one too many…one thing our kids understand here is it’s not about any one person, it’s about the “N” on the side of your helmet…our players understand why the decision made.”

    Among Pelini’s other comments:

    On Zac Lee: “He’s a leader, he’s really talented, he can run, he can make all the throws. The only thing he’s lacking is game experience right now, and that’ll come with time.”

    On the state of NU when he took over: They had made some changes in the culture where the overall culture had changed dramatically. Probably for the first time in the history of program, there was some division with the fans. There was some unrest in the program…you also had to do everything you could – myself, Coach Osborne, everybody that came back - to help heal some of the wounds that had been created over the last few years. Not so much with the old coaching staff, but some of that was created by the old administration. It took some work.”

    Tags: bo pelini, zac lee, quentin castille, jim rome

  7. 2009 Aug 24

    Podcast 8/24: Q's Gone, But VB is Back

    582 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: podcasts, quentin castille, doc sadler, bo pelini, soccer, volleyball

  8. 2009 Aug 23

    Sunday Comment: The Law, West of the Missouri

    1,389 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    A special Sunday commentary from Samuel McKewon the Quentin Castille dismissal. Insight you don't want to miss. Check it out for a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass.

    Tags: locker pass, bo pelini, quentin castille, bill callahan

  9. 2009 Aug 22

    Bo Audio 8/22

    473 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Bo talks about the dismissal of Quentin Castille.

    Tags: bo pelini, locker pass, podcasts, quentin castille

  10. 2009 Aug 22

    INSTANT ANALYSIS: What Now at RB?

    722 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    How does the running back situation shape up now that Quentin Castille has been thrown off the team? Check it out with a free 30-day trial of Husker Locker Pass! Insight you need to have!

    Tags: fall camp, quentin castille, roy helu, rex burkhead, traye robinson

  11. 2009 Aug 22

    Pelini Boots Castille

    2,109 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska junior running back Quentin Castille, who rushed for 505 yards and six touchdowns – including 125 yards in the Gator Bowl – in 2008, has been kicked off the team for violation of team rules, head coach Bo Pelini announced after Saturday’s practice.

    “We have guidelines, we have policies set up here, we have a culture set up here,” Pelini said. “It’s pretty black and white, my expectations that we lay out as a staff, and if somebody doesn’t follow those policies and guidelines, they’re no longer going to be with the program. And that’s the case with Quentin.

    “I wish him luck. He’s a good kid. He’s just not going to be with our program any more.”

    Pelini did not elaborate on the team rules violated. He said he made the decision without the assistance of the Unity Council. Castille had been at practice the last two days watching in a t-shirt and shorts, but wasn’t at practice Saturday. He was spotted outside Memorial Stadium, however, wearing Husker gear.

    Castille’s dismissal likely means a bigger load to carry for junior Roy Helu, who rushed for 803 yards and seven touchdowns last year while splitting time with Castille and the now-graduated Marlon Lucky. On Friday, Helu said he believed Castille was being held out for the same reason Helu had been held out earlier in the week – “doing some recovery stuff like I was doing.”

    Receivers coach Ted Gilmore gave a “no comment” when asked Friday. Only Pelini typically addresses such issues, and he hasn’t spoken with the media as a group since Wednesday.

    Castille spent about three weeks training with his uncle in Atlanta. Pelini was asked about his status with the team at Big 12 Media Days; Pelini responded then that Castille had a “good summer.”

    On July 27, Castille pleaded no contest to an April charge that he had failed to deliver a state title on a vehicle he had purchased. He was ordered to pay a small fine. There was briefly a warrant out for Castille’s arrest in June, which was rescinded when Castille appeared in court.

    Discuss it right here!

    Tags: bo pelini, quentin castille, fall camp

  12. 2009 Aug 17

    Locker Pass Practice Report 8/17

    735 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Just how good does Zac Look? Also, breaking down the fierce, loaded competition at wide receiver. Check it all out with a 30-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: locker pass, bo pelini, niles paul, quentin castille, brandon kinnie, antonio bell, zac lee, phillip dillard

  13. 2009 Aug 17

    FC Day 9: Jobs On The Line

    1,138 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska began to bite into the meat of fall camp Monday, kicking off the second week with its second two-a-day. The morning practice left head coach Bo Pelini pleased enough, as the Cornhuskers worked on their two-minute offense and punt coverage unit.

    Pelini said the “tempo was pretty good,” and NU “got a lot done” in two hours. Nebraska, apparently, responded well after a day of rest.

    Competition for jobs because more intense in week two, Pelini said, as if wasn’t spirited already.

    “The big thing this week is to figure out who’s going be playing for us,” Pelini said. “The competition is fierce. We’re looking at a lot of different guys, but after this week, we’re going to have to start zeroing in on who’s winning jobs and where people are. We’re trying to find out specifically who fits in where, fit the puzzle together.”

    Said running back Quentin Castille: “Coach (James) Dobson and Coach Pelini always preach this: ‘Time and time again, week two and three of camp are the weeks that are going to help you out throughout the season.’”

    Castille said installing a two-minute offense - one of the more critical parts of the game – on Monday will “set the tone” for the rest of the week in practice.

    NU quarterback Zac Lee agreed.

    “Last week before school starts,” Lee said. “Last week to really, really get after it all day. It was good last week in intensity, but I expect it to be picked up this week.”

    Lee added that the offense is “clicking pretty well right now.”

    “The best thing about this offense is that no one knows where the ball’s going,” Lee said. “Hopefully we have six guys with, shoot, 35, 40 catches. That’d be awesome.”

    Lee said he hasn’t seen coaches try to scale down the playbook, or make it more protective of Lee, since backup Kody Spano was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

    “I don’t know that you can ever play football like that,” Lee said. “You’ve just got to go out and play. The game’s gonna happen no matter what plays are called.”

    Notes:

    *Offensive lineman Luke Lingenfelter was pulled up on the 105-man roster to replace Jesse Coffey, who is presumably out for the rest of fall camp with an MCL, Pelini said.

    *Starting left tackle Mike Smith was held out of practice but should return this week.

    *Right guard Ricky Henry, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard and tight end Dreu Young all returned to practice Monday. Young did not practice in pads.

    Tags: bo pelini, fall camp, zac lee, quentin castille

  14. 2009 Aug 14

    Podcast 8/14: The New Elder Statesmen

    898 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: podcasts, fall camp, roy hely quentin castille, rex burkhead, traye robinson, tim beck

  15. 2009 Aug 11

    Locker Pass Practice Report 8/11: Bo's New Game

    861 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Some more in-depth takes from practice on Tuesday:

    *Folks, this is a grueling fall camp. The real deal. It’s very intense, the practices are the full allotted length, and there is punishment in place for lack of effort or performance. And neither stars nor scrubs are spared. Pretty old-school stuff.

    *An example: Bo Pelini devised a game yesterday. A running back has to hold on to a football for a 24-hour period, and the rest of the team has to try and punch it out. But if they do…everybody gets a little punishment. And yet the whole defense tried to knock the ball away from Rex Burkhead over a 24-hour period. And they couldn’t do it.

    “He’s a tough kid,” defensive tackle Jared Crick said.

    Yeah, Rex is tough. The team is beginning to discover that.

    Now Quentin Castille has the ball.

    *Tom Osborne dropped by practice on Tuesday and was chatting with NU’s offensive linemen. Osborne certainly looked like he could still coach, and a number of the players were pleased, and a little awed, to chat with him.

    *Then the offensive linemen were pulled out of that reverie and immediately into some quick-twitch tandem drills led by offensive line coach Barney Cotton. Cotton doesn’t mess around, that’s for sure. He didn’t like his group’s attentiveness after a rep, and he told them so.

    And this, a day after the offensive line did quite well among the team.

    *Jacob Hickman is now, by his senior season, a very technically sound guy. Probably not the most vicious blocker on the planet, but he gets his hips around, and he reads defenders well. NU would do well to keep him at center, if at all possible.

    *Brandon Thompson has now gone to the mohawk look. He resembles someone who might be Ricky Henry’s bigger-yet-younger brother. Apparently, they’re both pretty tough guys, too.

    *Khiry Cooper is so naturally gifted that he does not appear to try hard sometimes. He makes tough catches look easy, and some of the easy catches look hard. He needs to go at every play with that same high gear.

    *Nebraska is going to be more diverse in its shotgun running game this, we think. And that’s all we’ll say until we confirm more.

    *Ben Cotton? Looking good through a couple days. Decent hands. Good speed. And physical. He wins the blocking drills against almost everyone.

    *Saw more of the ribbon boards and how they’ll organize scores. There will be a section for Big 12, national and other Husker sports scores (each denoted by their respective logos), an area for stats, and a big spot in the middle for the score itself. Plus three ads in between all the sections. A little cluttered, but, overall, a good effect.

    *Barry Turner isn’t talking much during this fall camp and, all in all, that’s probably a good thing. Turner is poised to have a big senior season, and, if he lives up to his potential, he’s an NFL guy – really.

    *Carl Pelini confirmed today what we sorta knew: Jared Crick was still adjusting to his weight in the spring, and it slowed him down some. This fall, Pelini said, Crick looks much better.

    Tags: bo pelini, locker pass, rex burkhead, quentin castille, jared crick, tom osborne, barney cotton

  16. 2009 Aug 10

    Locker Pass Practice Report 8/10

    867 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    20 fresh takes, observations and insights that nobody else has! check them out with a 30-day free trial to locker pass!

    Tags: fall camp, locker pass, bo pelini, ted gilmore, quentin castille, eric martin, mike ekeler

  17. 2009 Aug 10

    Commentary: Bold, Fresh and Fast

    1,843 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  18. 2009 Aug 09

    FC Day Two: Nailing Down the Timing

    716 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Heavy rains forced Nebraska’s football team inside the Hawks Center for part of its second practice Sunday, which offensive coordinator Shawn Watson deemed typical of a second practice.

    “Lot of work to do,” Watson said. “But we’ll be all right. It’s only the second day…there’s a lot of things that have to get accomplished in terms of timing, which we should be. But the kids are working hard. We’ve thrown a lot of install at them, which they’ve handled well.”

    Naturally Watson, who was speaking to the media for the first time this fall, was hit up for initial impressions of NU quarterback Zac Lee. Although Watson said NU’s top offense “was trying to get tied back up,” Lee was progressing well enough that he might be officially named the Huskers’ starting quarterback “soon.”

    “It’s gonna be hard to unseat Zac,” Watson said. “He’s playing really well. Once we feel like he’s got a grasp of everything and headed in a direction he wanted to go, we’ll name the guy. Sorting out 2-3-4…that’s the big thing.”

    Watson got his first glimpse at a number of newcomers, including true freshmen Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead.

    Both spent chunks of the first two practices in a “rookie camp” of sorts, Watson said, along with the rest of the true freshmen. Just getting into a huddle, lining up correctly – the things that college football players do thousands of times, once, of course, they get the routine down.

    Watson called Martinez a “very skilled athlete,” with a “pretty clean stroke,” but didn’t want to elaborate too much without seeing more film. Ditto on Burkhead, who nevertheless was moved up with the older players in 7-on-7 workouts this summer.

    “I think he’ll really show up here as we go down the pike,” Watson said.

    Watson said NU’s committed to finding “No. 3 and 4” running backs to back up Roy Helu and Quentin Castille, who pushed each other throughout the summer and now again in fall practice.

    Tags: shawn watson, taylor martinez, zac lee, rex burkhead, quentin castille, roy helu

  19. 2009 Aug 03

    5 Fall Camp Questions - Offense

    1,918 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The kids just keep back to school earlier and earlier it seems, doesn’t it? Strange that, right in the middle of the dog days of summer, you’ll have some 8-year-old trudging with his backpack into a hot school, hoping his lunch doesn’t melt in his metal lunchbox over on the food rack.

    It’s really no different for college football teams, either, as Nebraska enters fall camp this Saturday, conducting nearly a month’s worth of practice before the first game, vs. Florida Atlantic, on Sept. 5.

    Here’s five offensive questions as we enter the camp. For five more bonus questions, click here.

    We know quarterback Zac Lee has the physical tools. Now – can he lead?

    Lee presumably spent the summer cementing his relationship with Husker skill players and potentially treating his offensive linemen to a treat or two. In fall camp, does he emerge as a guy the offense looks to in tight spots, or does he defer to some of the more senior linemen? Clearly, the Husker offense no longer has Joe Ganz. But Lee has to leave his own imprint on the position.

    Is [url=http://www.huskerlocker.com/blogs/browse/t/search/official/y/tag/niles paul]Niles Paul[/url] ready to step up and break out?

    Our ears perked up a little when NU running back [url=http://www.huskerlocker.com/blogs/browse/t/search/official/y/tag/roy helu]Roy Helu[/url], Jr., mentioned at [url=http://www.huskerlocker.com/blogs/browse/t/search/official/y/tag/big 12 media days]Big 12 Media Days[/url] that Paul was Nebraska’s best receiverby far. Really? This wasn’t the guy we saw in 2008 running stop and curl routes, was it? Apparently, Paul’s going to be a deep threat this year, running the routes he wanted to run last year, and we’ll find out just how skilled and explosive a player he is.

    Paul also has the ability to be a gifted leader, if he so chooses. He’s well-liked and has a strong personality. Does he become a vocal guy in 2009, or does he let the play do the talking?

    Can Ricky Henry master the right guard position and win the job?
    For Lee’s sake – and Nebraska’s sake – you’d hope so, as Henry’s emergence would allow Jacob Hickman to stay at center. Hickman probably projects to guard at the next level, but he should be much improved as the center this year – if Henry can win the job. Word is Henry’s plenty tough and physical – it’s just a matter of getting the offense and techniques down pat.

    Two or three running backs?

    Position coach Tim Beck seems to prefer three, but Helu and [url=http://www.huskerlocker.com/blogs/browse/t/search/official/y/tag/quentin castille]Quentin Castille[/url] are hungry for carries and plenty capable of carrying the load themselves. Will Beck and [url=http://www.huskerlocker.com/blogs/browse/t/search/official/y/tag/shawn watson]Shawn Watson[/url] allow for that to happen, or will the third running back see 5-10 touches per game, as was the trend in 2008? If so, who is the third running back? Lester Ward? Austin Jones? Collins Okafor? One of the freshmen?

    Does the Wats Coast Offense change at all to fit the personnel?

    Lee’s a fast guy, and a good runner. Nebraska now has more speed at the wide receiver position with [url=http://www.huskerlocker.com/blogs/browse/t/search/official/y/tag/marcus mendoza]Marcus Mendoza[/url] and Tim Marlowe. Does Watson try some wide receiver sweeps, more option, more zone read with QB keeps? Or does he keep what was ultimately a pass-heavy offense under Ganz? We suspect Watson has a few tricks up his sleeve, and we won’t see all of them until the Missouri game that opens Big 12 play.

    Join today and get Husker updates every day throughout the fall!

    Tags: fall camp, zac lee, niles paul, marcus mendoza, roy helu, quentin castille, football, ricky henry, lester ward, collins okafor

  20. 2009 Jul 19

    Assessing NU's Fantasy Football Potential

    546 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    College football fantasy enthusiasts are starting to crop up all over America. While smaller conferences with awful defenses, such as WAC and the Sun Belt, are often loaded with players picked (along with the three Heisman Trophy contenders, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow) for picks, we decided to look at some potential value of Nebraska players.

    We examine presuming that a fantasy league starts one quarterback, two running backs, two-three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a defense.

    QB Zac Lee: Hard to say at this point. Lee is unlikely to produce the same number of yards as predecessor Joe Ganz, especially with a tougher schedule in the Big 12 North. But, given Lee’s running ability, he might match the touchdown count.

    Fantasy Verdict: It’s no shot to Lee, really, but there are better stat options out there. He might be a guy you pick up on a flyer vs. Iowa State or something.

    Best QB (overall): Tebow. Gotta be. Yeah, Bradford threw for a truckload of TDs last year, but Tebow is a threat to score 10-15 rushing touchdowns. You know, week in and week out, he’ll get the scores.

    Sleeper QB: Case Keenum, Houston. Threw for 5,011 yards and 44 touchdowns in 2008.

    RB Roy Helu: Because he’ll split carries with Quentin Castille, Helu isn’t going to gain as many yards and score as many touchdowns as, say, Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter. But he’s not a bad choice if your fantasy league has two or three slots for running back, or if it awards points for yards per carry.

    Fantasy Verdict: Roll the dice and spend a late pick on Helu.

    RB Quentin Castille: See Helu, although Castille may get more carries in the red zone, and thus may have a better shot at scoring touchdowns. Castille tends to get more carries in short yardage situations, where the goal is three or four yards, so his yardage count is bound to be a little lower than Helu’s.

    Fantasy Verdict: You may get touchdowns, but not as many yards. Castille is a gamble.

    Best RB (overall): Hunter. He rushed for 1,555 yards and 16 TDs last year.

    Sleeper RB: Charles Scott, LSU. Gained 1,174 yards but, more importantly the big man (5-11, 235) scored 18 TDs. He’s the Tigers’ short-yardage man.

    WR Niles Paul: We anticipate Paul having more total receptions than any other receiver on NU’s team, plus he gets the added value of kickoff and possibly punt returns. He could be a keeper as a No. 3 receiver, but nothing more.

    Fantasy Verdict: Not enough production at this time to take the plunge. Ditto for any other NU receivers.

    Best WR (overall): Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State. Yards and TD machine. He may be the first non-QB taken in most leagues.

    Sleeper WR: DeAndre Brown, Southern Mississippi. The spectacular freshman WR (1,117 yards, 12 TDs) who broke his leg late last season will not probably be drafted before the season. But what a midseason pick-me-up he could be.

    TE Mike McNeill: Excellent value pick here if the top Big 12 guy, Jermaine Gresham, isn’t available. There is good potential that McNeill will lead the team in yards, receptions and touchdowns. If your league has a tight end slot, McNeill is a great pick.

    Fantasy verdict: A top ten TE. Somebody in your league will get him; if the timing is right, go for it.

    Best TE (overall): Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma. He won’t catch the most passes as a tight end - that’ll be BYU’s Dennis Pitta – but we’re guessing he catches the most touchdowns.

    Sleeper TE: Rob Gronkowski, Arizona. Caught 10 TDs last year. Nice player.

    K Alex Henery: As good of a pick as there may be at this position. Not only because of his accuracy, but, if your league offers extra points for field goals over 50 yards (and it should) then Henery is your man.

    Fantasy verdict: The top returning pick, statistically, whenever you want to draft a kicker.

    Best K (overall): Henery

    Sleeper K: Oklahoma State’s Dan Bailey made 15 of 19 field goals, and you know he’ll kick a lot of extra points on that team.

    Defense: Nebraska has a potential for sacks, which most leagues tend to track. The turnover situation wasn’t so pretty. The Huskers failed to come through in a number of circumstances to cause fumbles and get interceptions. But NU did OK with the defensive touchdowns – thanks to Ndamukong Suh. Your call here.

    Fantasy verdict: Not in our top 20, but that may change after a few games.

    Best defense (overall): For sheer points, it has to be Oklahoma, which was +23 in turnover margin last year and recorded 42 sacks. Both numbers may go up in 2009.

    Sleeper defense: Virginia Tech. Three returner starters in the secondary and along the line for a bunch that was pretty darn good in 2008 with a +14 TO margin and 35 sacks.

    Tags: fans, mike mcneill, zac lee, roy helu, quentin castille, alex henery, blackshirts, niles paul

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