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  1. 2011 Mar 01

    Husker Heartbeat 3/1: Mixed NFL Combine Results


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

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

    *Ahman Green will play in the CFL with Montreal.

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

    *Denard Robinson makes Jeopardy!

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

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

  2. 2011 Jan 17

    YEAR IN REVIEW: OL Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Sam takes a long look at one of NU's most-criticized position groups, the offensive line. Is it earned for Barney Cotton? Yes and no. Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass

    Tags: report card, year in review, ricky henry, keith williams, mike caputo, jeremiah sirles, dj jones, andrew rodriguez, ben cotton, yoshi hardrick, barney cotton

  3. 2010 Dec 15

    NU/NFL Draft Rumblings


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He just may not fit easily into a NFL position.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  4. 2010 Dec 02

    Alex Gets His Due!


    By HuskerLocker

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    Finally, Nebraska kicker Alex Henery - poised to become the most accurate kicker in college football history - was acknowledged as the best kicker in the Big 12 Thursday by 20 sportswriters who cover the league and submitted their votes to the Associated Press.

    Henery made 15 of 16 field goals this year. He didn't miss an extra point. His other career stats:

    *He's made 89.2% of his career field goal attempts (66-of-74). The NCAA record is 87.8% by Florida’s Bobby Raymond.

    *He's made 77.4% of his career field goals from 40 yards or longer (24-of-31). The NCAA career record is 72.1% by Georgia’s Billy Bennet.

    *He's made 97.7% of his career field goals from inside 40 yards (42-of-43). The NCAA career record is 97.0% by Florida’s Bobby Raymond.

    *He's tied for the NCAA record with six career games with at least four field goals.

    *He's made 256 of his 265 career kicks (extra points and field goals), a 96.6% accuracy rate. The NCAA FBS career record is 94.9% set by Missouri’s Jeff Wolfert.

    (Huskers Gameday compiled this list here.)

    Despite those numbers, Henery was not a Groza finalist, nor did he make the Big 12 Coaches' first team. Both of those spots went to Oklahoma State's Dan Bailey, who only made 22-of-26 field goals this year.

    Other Huskers also making the AP's first-team All-Big 12 squad were: Cornerback Prince Amukamara, defensive tackle Jared Crick, linebacker LaVonte David, Peso Eric Hagg and guard Ricky Henry.

    NU and OSU led the way with six players each on the first teams. Wednesday, the AP announced that Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez and David were named Big 12 Offensive and Defensive Newcomers of the Year.

    See also: All-Time NU-OU Team

    Tags: alex henery, big 12, lavonte david, prince amukamara, jared crick, taylor martinez, eric hagg, ricky henry

  5. 2010 Nov 30

    Huskers Clean Up in Big 12 Awards


    By HuskerLocker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  6. 2010 Nov 29

    Husker Monday Review - CU


    By HuskerLocker

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    OK, so the next Husker fan who even thinks about threatening Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe or his family – or even emails the guy with a minor complaint – needs to understand the following:

    *Cops can and will find you, genius: Not so much fun in court, huh? You'd think people would learn from the Big Red doof who tried to smear Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Landry Jones a few years back.

    *If you're that guy impersonating a Husker fan to make Nebraska look bad: Your alter-ego called. You forget to cut the crusts of his tuna-fish sandwich and buy the Strawberry Quik.

    *Dan Beebe is not your Congressman: You can't vote on his job. He is not compelled to respond. His authority is limited to the edges of his creative intelligence – you know what I think of that – and minor pigskin-political decisions under his purview. He is, in short, a functionary. Not a particularly powerful one with extraordinary reach or vision, either.

    *Nor is he really the scapegoat: If you want to trace the real source of animosity for Nebraska football, it sure isn't some guy who hung out in the OVC for years and hails from Walla Walla. It's not even Texas, an appropriate, more-respectful-than-you-think adversary of NU. You can always trust Texas to be Texas, which is trust enough for me in the world of competitive sports and high-finance.

    The real scapegoats are the Huskers' “mates” in the Big 12 North - Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and, to a lesser extent, Colorado – who sided with Texas on key decisions in the genesis stage of the league and took Nebraska's brief decline in football as an opportunity to slag on the North's true cash cow team in the cash cow sport of college athletics.

    That doesn't mean you threaten or cajole the chancellors and athletic directors of those schools, either. But it might mean – and I stress “might” - that when your kids or grandkids reach a certain age, you think twice before sending your or their hard-earned money to an institution that, when the chips were down, didn't think twice about sticking it to Dear Old Nebraska U.

    Especially since NU will be gaining significant academic strength – and contacts - with its entrance into the Big Ten.

    And I'm not condoning Beebe's no-show in Lincoln. Part of leadership is showing some sense of equanimity and a sliver courage. Beebe blew it. It wasn't as if Husker fans would have been looking for the guy, either; of the hundreds of emails I received from Husker fans and critics last week, not a single one mentioned the Big 12 North trophy presentation.

    Enough of this. On to the review:

    Five Players We Loved

    Cornerback Prince Amukamara: Stuck like glue to his intended receivers. He still can't buy an interception, but his anticipation skills are the best in the nation – considering he plays for the best pass defense, bar none, in the nation.

    Running back Rex Burkhead: His only big mistake was a first-quarter drop. Otherwise, Burkhead filled his role of Wildcat extraordinaire perfectly. And his two touchdown passes were as good as any Taylor Martinez has thrown this season. Excellent job, Superman.

    Quarterback Cody Green: Let's not get too ahead of ourselves here. Green wasn't brilliant. But he was steady, smart and under control. A start in the Big 12 Championship would, of course, be a whole different animal than beating worn-out Colorado on Senior Day. Oklahoma's pass rush alone is more dangerous than CU's entire front seven.

    Safety Dejon Gomes: Kid just has a nose for the ball. One interception, one more fumble recovery, a slew of nice tackles. Nebraska will sorely miss his versatility.

    Guard Ricky Henry: Steamrolled one Buffalo after another with his pancake trap blocks. When Nebraska wants to run pure power, the Henry's ready to roll all day.

    Three Concerns

    Defending Oklahoma's no-huddle: The Blackshirts didn't fare so well against Oklahoma State and Iowa State's version of the offense. OU runs a quicker, more polished version of it than either team. Now, that said, NU stoned the Sooners last year in Lincoln. But Nebraska won't have the advantage of the best Memorial Stadium crowd in several years to throw off communication.

    Kick coverage: When Adi Kunalic doesn't blast one his kickoffs through the end zone, NU's coverage – for whatever reason – has been a little vulnerable this year. Oklahoma has the speed to exploit some of the Huskers' mistakes.

    Big-play outage: A half-speed Taylor Martinez and no Niles Paul means the Huskers have officially cut in half its number of big-play guys in half. Who remains? From our view: Roy Helu and Kyler Reed. Helu needs to fully recover from a gimpy calf while NU's quarterback – whoever he is – has to find Reed on those one or two plays per game when he gets a clean release and gets to beat a safety on a post route.

    Three Questions

    Who wins - young talent or senior experience? We'll explore this question again later in the week, but Oklahoma relies more on redshirt and true freshmen – at key skill positions – more than any team still in BCS contention. It's led to a share of breakdowns for the Sooners, yes – but OU creates big plays out of thin air. That's part of why Bob Stoops' bunch is so streaky. Nebraska has its strongest, deepest senior class in arguably a decade. You'd like to think, on the biggest stage, that experience counts for something?

    Can NU and the Big 12 kiss and play nice in this final week? If “NU” includes Husker fans, no we'd guess not. It'll be on Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini – Ice and Fire if there ever was a name for this duo – to set the right tone. They'll do it – but swallow hard and keep their tongues in the process. It helps that Oklahoma is the opponent. Puts a sunny spin on things.

    Could Nebraska really fall to the Insight Bowl – and play a better team than it would in the Fiesta Bowl? If NU lost the Big 12 title and played Michigan – a 30-10 winner over Big East leader and presumed Fiesta favorite Connecticut – then, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. What a system! Gotta love it!

    Tags: husker monday review, cu game, dan beebe, prince amukamara, ricky henry rex burkhead, cody green, taylor martinez, big 12 championship, dejon gomes

  7. 2010 Nov 28



    By HuskerLocker

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    It turns out that the defensive dominance of the 2009 season in the Big 12 was merely a one-year interlude of the same old story in this league: Offense rules. Here's Husker Locker's first team:

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State I'm not typically keen on giving this award to a wide receiver, but so many of Blackmon's catches were effectively jump balls, and he roasted two of the league's best cornerbacks – NU's Prince Amukamara and Texas' Curtis Brown – in the span of a month. Blackmon isn't as dominant as his predecessor, Dez Bryant – but he's close.

    OFFENSIVE FRESHMAN/NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Kenny Stills, Oklahoma Quickly became OU's No. 2 receiver in the season opener, and has never stopped being an impact player.

    OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR OF THE YEAR: Dana Holgerson, Oklahoma State Combined his “Air Raid” attack with Mike Gundy's emphasis on a power running game to create one Pistol-whipping offense, the nation's best.

    QUARTERBACK: Robert Griffin, Baylor Not only did he enjoy a terrific season, but he made a clear impact on his team, delivering the Bears to their first bowl game in more than a decade. He amassed 3,786 total yards and opened up his running back, Jay Finley, to easily top 1,000 yards rushing. A fine return from a devastating knee injury in 2009.

    RUNNING BACK: Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State Another great return from injury. Hunter won the league rushing crown and saved his best play for the Big 12, rushing for more than 900 yards in eight conference games. An effective receiver, too.

    RUNNING BACK: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State His numbers declined during Big 12 play as teams forced KSU to pass instead, but Thomas still averaged nearly 100 yards per conference game and scored 10 touchdowns in league action. His game nicely translates to the NFL. He was nearly unstoppable as KSU went 4-0 in non-conference play.

    WIDE RECEIVER: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State Also our offensive player of the year, Blackmon is the nation's finest deep threat – and he still has room to grow as an every down receiver.

    WIDE RECEIVER: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma Mr. Dependable. Broyles played a chunk of the year injured but hardly seemed to miss a beat. Though a little undersized, he gets in and out of his breaks with fluidity and rarely drops a pass. He has more than 110 grabs for the year. Those are WAC numbers.

    RB/WR: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma Instead of rewarding Missouri's Michael Egnew for technically playing tight end – he was really just a big slot receiver - we give the nod to Murray, the Big 12's best run/receive threat in many years.

    TACKLE: Nick Martinez, Oklahoma State Part of an underrated OSU line that's paved holes for Kendall Hunter and provided excellent protection for Brandon Weeden. Martinez had big shoes to fill in Russell Okung; he's done so.

    GUARD: Danny Watkins, Baylor The strongest of a Bear line that carved open holes for Griffin and Finley.

    CENTER: Tim Barnes, Missouri Edges out NU's Mike Caputo, Iowa State's Ben Lamaak and Oklahoma's Ben Habern in a competitive spot. Arguably the best lineman, play in and play out, in the whole league.

    GUARD: Ricky Henry, Nebraska For all his flaws – he still draws too many penalties – Henry is absolutely a guy you want in the trenches, and the toughest offensive lineman in the Big 12. He's a real mean dude on power counter and trap plays; he's blown open some of NU's biggest holes this year.

    TACKLE: Nate Solder, Colorado An athletic, occasionally dominant tackle who still has room to grow and polish in the NFL. CU's line was overrated throughout the year, but the Buffaloes consistently moved the ball.

    KICKER: Alex Henery, Nebraska The Big 12's best – ever. Should finish his career as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history.

    KICK RETURNER: William Powell, Kansas State Averaged more than 30 yards per return – the most in the Big 12 by a wide margin.

    UTILITY: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska In just 297 plays, Martinez averaged 8 yards per attempt. When healthy, HE struck more fear in opposing defenses than any other player in the Big 12 not named Blackmon.

    Join Husker Locker - it's free!

    Tags: big 12, taylor martinez, ricky henry

  8. 2010 Oct 14

    RECRUITING: When Being Picky Pays Off


    By HuskerLocker

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    If there's one area in recruiting where coaches don't want to miss, it's in targeting a junior college prospect who may have three or fewer years to play. The learning curve is steeper because the need to contribute immediately – and thus justify the scholarship – is greater.

    In his four short years at Nebraska, Bill Callahan recruited a glut of junior college players. He hit on his share – Zac Taylor, Larry Asante, Steve Octavien, Carl Nicks and Maurice Purify come to mind – and whiffed on guys like Victory Haines, Steve Allen, Brock Pasteur, Dontrell Moore and Tyrell Spain.

    Bo Pelini's recruiting plan has been distinctly different. He's recruited just seven in three recruiting classes – and one of them, tight end Tyson Hetzer, never made it to NU and wasn't Pelini's recruit in 2008.

    Four of them – wide receiver Brandon Kinnie, right guard Ricky Henry, linebacker LaVonte David and safety Dejon Gomes – start. One of them – left tackle Yoshi Hardrick – sees significant time. Only one – wide receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste who technically attended Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College without ever playing there – hasn't seen the field yet.

    Pelini said Tuesday his staff is “very picky” when it comes recruiting junior college players – and that choosiness is paying off.

    “We don’t spend a lot of time recruiting junior college guys, but when we do we’re very specific not only on the kid, but the situation, the type of kid he is,” Pelini said. “There are a lot of things that go into that. We really do our homework as far as that’s concerned.”

    More Recruiting Coverage
    . Here, too!

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

    Tags: recruiting, dejon gomes, brandon kinnie, lavonte david, ricky henry, yoshi hardrick

  9. 2010 Sep 28

    Non-Conference Report Card - OL


    By HuskerLocker

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    Samuel McKewon takes the Pipeline apart piece by piece. Who's making the grade? Who needs to move that lumber a little bit faster? Find out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: report card, brent qvale, mike caputo, keith williams, ricky henry, brandon thompson, yoshi hardrick, andrew rodriguez, cole pensick, dj jones

  10. 2010 Sep 21

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: A Classic Drive from a Rebuilding Pipeline


    By HuskerLocker

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    On one of the best days for Nebraska offensive line in years - where the memories of Wiegert, Taylor, Fonoti, Shields, Raiola, Young and Stai came flooding back, their brute strength punishing the opponent for having the temerity to exist - Barney Cotton had one embarrassing moment.

    As Roy Helu’s pretty-as-a-painting, 65-yard touchdown run during a 56-21 win over Washington unfolded, NU’s Pipeline coach tried to keep pace with him down the sideline. Don’t blame Cotton. When a sweep is blocked like that, you feel like skipping through the grass.

    “We had some great edge blocks pinning the defense,” Cotton said, “and then when we had two good pulls on the edge and then Roy pops through and he just beats the rest of the defense.”

    He too beat Cotton, who saw himself running on the Husky Stadium big screen.

    “I looked painfully slow compared to Roy,” Cotton joked. “I have to make sure I don’t run anymore.”

    But that moment paled in comparison to the enjoyment Cotton got out of watching NU’s offensive line work Saturday - and then again Sunday in film review.

    “The best thing about watching this film and there was a number of real physical plays,” he said.

    Cotton’s not going to heap too much praise. He reflexively reverts back to teaching points, growth patterns, the process. That’s the Pelini Way. NU’s coaches are like metronomes in this way. A lot of good things. Tick. A lot of things to work on. Tick. Bo wants to create an edge, a lack of fulfillment.

    And yet Saturday looked unmistakably like a statement game for Cotton’s unit, with a statement drive at its heart. You know the one. It answered Washington’s second touchdown, a gift handed to the Huskies when Cody Green fumbled at his own 6-yard line.

    After UW scored, Cotton gathered his guys on the sideline.

    “We owe them a touchdown back,” he told them.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson put it more bluntly: “We could drive it down and put it in and that’s what we were going to do. We told them that before they took the field.”

    Eight plays, 48 yards, all with two tight ends on the field, all but one with Taylor Martinez out of the shotgun, calmly handing the ball to Rex Burkhead or Roy Helu, right up the gut.

    “That was tiring,” Caputo said Tuesday. “But that was fun. It was really cool to pretty much tell the defense what we were doing. After the third time I think they figured out we were going to try to run it up the middle and we just kept running it.”

    Said head coach Bo Pelini: “I loved that drive.”

    It was power football with a simple, game-changing twist: By putting Martinez in the shotgun, Washington had to account for him. Just for a second. Which is all the NU offensive line needed to blast the Huskies off the ball.

    “The blocking schemes are exactly the same,“ Cotton said. “And we weren’t spread out in those runs. We were packed in.”

    Martinez scored on a one-yard sneak, riding a massive surge from Ricky Henry and Mike Caputo. He could have sneaked in from the 5.

    “At the end of the drive I could feel them tire out,” Caputo said “I could tell they were kind of done.”

    It’s a myth that halftime always rejuvenates a defense. Sometimes, with a little water in the belly and the adrenaline dialed down a notch, apathy sets in. Resignation. A faint hope that maybe the offense will botch a series, or hand the ball back on a fumble.

    Didn’t happen.

    In the second half, Nebraska ripped off two touchdowns in just five plays. Finished with 383 rushing yards. Threw the ball just a handful of times in the second stanza.

    And that’s how it used to be. And how it was, for one weekend, in Seattle.

    See also: Jackrabbit Fever!

    Tags: washington game, shawn watson, barney cotton, ricky henry, mike caputo

  11. 2010 Sep 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Husker Monday Review: UW


    By HuskerLocker

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    Related video

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

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

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

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

    Five Players We Loved

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

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

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

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

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

    Three Concerns

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

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

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

    Three Questions

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

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

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

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

  12. 2010 Sep 01

    50 HUSKERS TO KNOW: No. 10


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    No. 10 Ricky Henry, 6-4, 305, RG, Sr.

    Here’s one of those guys you didn’t know was severely banged up last year until Henry spent the entire offseason out because of shoulder surgery. Back healthy, Henry is probably the best fit for Nebraska’s new, tough attitude and downhill running game. He’s physical at the point of attack, nasty as a pulling guard and he plays to the whistle - and sometimes beyond.

    Henry will have to watch penalties - he incurred some costly one last season in the Virginia Tech and Texas Tech games - but we expect, so long as he stays healthy, that Henry will be among the Big 12’s best offensive linemen.

    See all of the Huskers: No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16, No. 15, No. 14, No. 13, No. 12, No. 11

    Tags: 50 huskers to know fall 2010, ricky henry

  13. 2010 Aug 24

    Husker Heartbeat 8/24: The QB Question


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

    *LJS: Sipple asks whether Nebraska wants a game manager or game changer?

    *OWH: Shatel doesn't think Taylor Martinez will start - but he will get time.

    *Missouri linebacker Will Ebner arrested for DWI.

    LJS: Doc Sadler likes Caleb Walker's athleticism.

    *Ricky Henry has his moments, but he's improved his ability to the control the fury.

    *What's in store for USC?

    *Only 14 schools profited from campus athletics in 2009. Nebraska was one. So was Missouri.

    *Tom Osborne opposes a 2 a.m. last call for alcohol in Lincoln.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, cody green, zac lee, taylor martinez, caleb walker, steve sipple, ricky henry, tom osborne

  14. 2010 Jul 19

    BIG 12 PREVIEW: Ranking the Big 12 Offensive Lines


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    In Big 12 football, the North Division can’t crow about much.

    But, at least from our vantage point, it can claim most of the league’s best offensive lines in 2010.

    Part of our rankings are merely a reflection of returning starters; it’s easier refine players who have game experience over those who haven’t yet made their mistakes. But our rankings also reflect an emphasis on improving the running game (Iowa State, Kansas State and Nebraska) two programs finally putting together a decent bunch (Colorado and Kansas) and perhaps the league’s most gifted collection of linemen in Missouri.

    The Big 12 South still represents well with Oklahoma and Texas in the top seven, but many of the schools are trying to replace a boatload of starters, alter their offensive philosophy, or, in the case of Oklahoma State, do both.

    1. Colorado
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: The best line in the Big 12 is huge - tackles Bryce Givens and Nate Solder are 6-foot-6 and 6-9, respectively - and athletic. It has also has a wealth of experience heading into 2010. Poor health decimated the line in 2009, but, when healthy, this bunch should be effective running the ball and protecting the quarterback’s flank. Weaknesses: Some stats - like giving up an astonishing 44 sacks - just can’t be prevented when CU’s quarterback situation is a mess, and the Buffaloes lack wide receivers good enough to get open. An improved running game should help, but this is not the Big 12's burliest bunch.

    T2. Missouri
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Center Tim Barnes is the Big 12’s best, while junior tackles Dan Hoch and Elvis Fisher combined to start 26 games last year. This bunch stayed healthy. That’s a terrific nucleus to help quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Weaknesses: Mizzou could use work in the running game. Some of the holes that were present in 2007 and 2008 weren’t there last year.

    T2. Nebraska
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Because of injuries, a variety of Huskers gained valuable experience in 2008 and 2009. Thanks to guards Keith Williams and Ricky Henry, NU is excellent on trap plays and screens - when the quarterback can see over the line. Some of the young depth - guard Brent Qvale, tackle Jeremiah Sirles - is impressive, not to mention junior college transfer Yoshi Hardrick. Weaknesses: Health has been a major factor with this bunch. False-start penalties, too. Mike Caputo takes over at center for Jacob Hickman; expect a transition there. Caputo played quite a bit, however, because of Hickman’s various injuries.

    4. Iowa State
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: ISU’s offensive line ran the ball with gusto for much of last year, as this bunch surprisingly moved a lot of defenses off the ball. Ben Lamaak and Alex Alvarez were one of the Big 12’s best guard tandems in 2009, although Lamaak is scheduled to slide inside to center this year. Kelechi Osemele is one of the Big 12’s best left tackles. Weaknesses: The departure of All-Big 12 center Reggie Stephens. Plus, ISU’s schedule is much more challenging in 2010.

    5. Oklahoma
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: The league’s best overall guard in Stephen Good and one of the best centers in Ben Habern. Good right tackle in Cory Brandon, while the new left tackle projects to be LSU transfer Jarvis Jones. Weaknesses: OU couldn’t run the ball last year, and its best lineman from 2009, Trent Williams, is now in the NFL. Better pass rushes were too quick for the Sooners’ interior, which led to a lot of quick passes and bad interceptions.

    T6. Kansas State
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: Huge, as is typical for a Bill Snyder, as every Wildcat weighs at least 300 pounds (and JUCO stud tackle Manase Foketi is 6-5, 330). KSU can trap and drive block well, getting a solid push off of the line of scrimmage. Weaknesses: The tackles aren’t the most athletic - unless Foketi is everything K-State fans hope he’ll be - and faster defensive lines ate up the Wildcats in 2009.

    T6. Kansas
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: After fielding two putrid offensive line in 2008 and 2009, KU will finally turn the corner with a big, experienced bunch in 2010. The best of them is Tanner Hawkinson at left tackle; although he has some growing and learning to do, he was pretty good for a freshman in 2010. Jeremiah Hatch is an oversized (6-3, 330) center, but effective anyway. Weaknesses: Tackle Jeff Spikes went down with a season-ending injury on July 13th; KU will struggle to find a replacement.

    8. Texas
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: While not combining a ton of starts, the Longhorns’ line is full of upperclassmen like Tray Allen and Britt Mitchell, a converted tight end. Kyle Hix is one of the league’s better left tackles and guard Michael Huey will be a centerpiece of UT’s improved running game. Weaknesses: This bunch was badly exposed vs. Nebraska and Alabama, which showed a blitz template for rattling Texas quarterbacks. Perhaps shifting to a pro-style offense - which offers more protection options - will help the Horns out.

    9. Texas A&M
    Returning Starters:
    Strengths: In short time, head coach Mike Sherman has recruited offensive linemen well, and 2010 ought to begin to bear some fruit. Guards Patrick Lewis and Evan Eike are a strong duo. Freshman left tackle Luke Joeckel appears ready to start from day one of his time in College Station. Weaknesses: Also breaking in a new right tackle and center. A&M will be hard-pressed to match last year’s bunch.

    10. Baylor
    Returning Starters: Three
    Strengths: Experience at the right spots: Center and tackle. It’s a big bunch, as each player weighs more than 300 pounds. It’s year three of the Art Briles system as well. Briles had recruited this position strongly and the Bears should field one of the Big 12’s best lines in 2011. Weaknesses: The Bears are a year away; too often BU’s line was a leaky mess in 2009, giving up at least three sacks in its last five games.

    11. Texas Tech
    Returning Starters: Two
    Strengths: The Red Raiders have big-time jaw-dropping size at tackle, as Terry McDaniel is 6-7, 335 and LaAdrian Waddle is 6-6, 350. Center Chris Olson is a returning starter with plenty of experience. Weaknesses: New scheme, a greater emphasis on running the ball, and not much experience overall.

    12. Oklahoma State
    Returning Starters: One
    Strengths: A good offensive line coach in Joe Wickline, who is paid handsomely for his expertise. Weaknesses: A great dearth of experience. It won’t be easy to replace the Big 12’s best left tackle, Russell Okung, or the other three starters lost to graduation.

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

    Tags: big 12 preview, big 12, keith williams, ricky henry, mike caputo

  15. 2010 Jul 01

    BIG 12 PREVIEW: Ten Underrated Players


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    This photo is from Big 12 Sports

    As good as some of players are, they’ve still managed to zoom under the radar of some Big 12 fans. Here’s our list of ten underrated players in the league.

    Baron Batch, Texas Tech running back
    Why he’s on the list: He compiled 1,279 total yards and 15 touchdowns rushing and receiving, yet is considered more of a “product” of the Red Raiders’ offense than an effective weapon. Batch, however, is the real deal - a dependable, quicker-than-you-think scatback who could enjoy a nice future in the NFL.

    Dejon Gomes, Nebraska cornerback
    Why he’s on the list: As Nebraska's Swiss Army Knife of sorts, Gomes does a little bit of everything. He can cover, he can play the run, he can blitz. With 46 tackles, 5 pass breakups and 4 interceptions on what amounted to just 2/3 of a season - as the team’s third cornerback - the guy clearly knows how to make plays. And Gomes isn’t much of a talker on or off the field. His play does that well enough.

    Brandon Harold, Kansas State defensive end
    Why he’s on the list: Spent 2009 on the injury shelf after notching 45 tackles as a freshman. Harold, at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, occasionally needs to get his motor going, but he’s still the most physically gifted defender the Wildcats have. Nebraska will get reacquainted in early October, we’re sure.

    Ricky Henry, Nebraska guard
    Why he’s on the list: Henry quietly put together a solid season as a junior, starting to dominate toward the end of the year. As NU moves to a downhill running game in 2010 that relies more power blocking and slightly less on finesse zone work, look for Henry to flourish. He’s a late-bloomer to the position - and better than you might think.

    Wes Kemp, Missouri wide receiver
    Why he’s on the list: Kemp, at 6-4, 225, should become a favorite downfield target for Blaine Gabbert, considering he averaged 18.2 yards per catch last year and Danario Alexander served in that role in 2009. Look for Kemp to at least triple his number of catches from 23 to 69 and potentially double his yardage total from 418 to 836.

    Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State linebacker
    Why he’s on the list: Lemon tore his ACL last year, but he’ll return in 2010 after notching 90 tackles in 2009. He’ll be part of what looks like a pretty awful defense, mind you, but Lemon should get his numbers and Big 12 recognition for it.

    Toben Opurum, Kansas running back
    Why he’s on the list: At 6-1, 240, Opurum is a hoss who gained 554 yards as a true freshman in 2009. In Turner Gill/Chuck Long’s revamped pro-style offense, look for the big dude to go over 1,000 yards so long as he stays healthy. There’s no subtlety in Opurum’s running style. We like that.

    David Sims, Iowa State safety
    Why he’s on the list: With 88 tackles and 5 interceptions, Sims was a key reason why ISU grabbed a surprise bowl berth in 2009. The schedule likely prevents a similar journey in 2010, but this undersized (5-9, 205) JUCO gem plays the game with instincts and toughness. He’s better, in our book, than the more highly-touted Blake Gideon at Texas.

    Sticks Sheffield, Texas Tech quarterback
    Why he’s on the list: He didn’t throw enough passes to make it on any Big 12 efficiency lists last year, but Sheffield was brilliant in his limited action, completing 74 percent of his passes for 1,219 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’ll battle Taylor Potts this fall for the starting job - and we think the former walk-on will win it. He’s more mobile than Potts, and the he was the only Big 12 quarterback to stand toe-to-toe with Nebraska’s defense and come out the other end better for it. Well sorta. He broke his foot in the NU game.

    Jimmy Smith, Colorado cornerback
    Why he’s on the list: Big-time size at 6-2, 210, Smith is a decent coverage guy and a strong tackler. His numbers -70 tackles and 10 pass break-ups - prove it. CU’s defense was constantly put in dire straights by the Buffs’ stalling offense, so if Colorado QB Tyler Hansen can figure it out in 2010, look for Smith to have another big season as a senior.

    Check Out Our Full Big 12 Preview: Commentary, 12 Best Players, Ten Overrated Players, Ten Underrated Players

    Tags: big 12 preview, big 12, dejon gomes, ricky henry

  16. 2010 Apr 21

    SPRING IN REVIEW: Offensive Line


    By HuskerLocker

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    Following the 2010 spring camp, Nebraska now looks back at the progress made by each position group - and what progress is yet to come.

    Position: Offensive line

    Spring Summary: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and offensive line coach Barney Cotton met with two groups in the offseason: Oregon’s staff and former Husker line legend Milt Tenopir. The result: A simpler scheme, more pulling, wider splits and a new aggressive mindset. Now Nebraska needs to stay healthy. Is that a sure thing? Frankly, no: Guard Ricky Henry sat out all of spring, and tackles Yoshi Hardrick and Mike Smith missed the spring game with injuries. Hardrick’s broken hand will take time to heal and it’ll affect how much lifting he can do in the offseason.

    But, overall, spirits are up. Brent Qvale and Jeremiah Sirles are terrific young talents, Mike Caputo looks like a capable heir apparent for Jacob Hickman at center - having Hickman as a volunteer coach probably helps - while the right tackle position seems more solidified with Marcel Jones and D.J. Jones. And left guard Keith Williams remains a solid NFL prospect.

    Big Mover: D.J. Jones, who re-sculpted his body for his senior season and might be the favorite to start at right tackle heading into the fall. If he were to solidify his starting job, Marcel Jones just might get a look at left tackle. Hardrick’s progress was slowed by a broken hand, but his work ethic is contagious.

    More to Prove: Brandon Thompson. A gifted, physical sophomore, Thompson needs to get in the mix for playing time soon before he’s overcome by redshirt freshmen.

    Wild Card: Hardrick, who’s raw, but willing to punish. He could be a weapon in a power running game. Yes, a weapon - he wears out defenders with his motor.

    Freshmen to Add: Mike Moudy and Andrew Rodriguez. Both look the part, and both will probably redshirt anyway. Moudy is a sleeper recruit.

    Injuries: Henry missed all of spring, and Hardrick will have a tough summer ahead of him in terms of upper-body lifting. Mike Smith struggled with injuries, which is nothing new for him.

    How to Spend Summer Vacation: Don’t get in freak weightlifting accidents?

    Spring Reviews on Quarterback, Offensive LineRunning Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, spring in review, mike smith, keith williams, brent qvale, jeremiah sirles, yoshi hardrick, ricky henry, mike caputo

  17. 2010 Mar 24

    SPRINGTIME WITH BO: As Spring Heats Up, Henry Held Out


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    On Tuesday Bo Pelini promised that his offensive line, riddled with injuries during the 2009 season, wouldn’t hold back in spring practice.

    As workouts kicked off Wednesday, Pelini added that he would limit starting right guard Ricky Henry for most - and potentially all - of camp as Henry recovers from shoulder surgery.

    “He’s doing real well,” Pelini said. “He might be out there later on for individual (workouts) and stuff like that. But more than likely he’s out for all spring. It’s nothing long-term.”

    That curveball aside, NU began spring camp with no hiccups, working out for close to three hours in jerseys and shorts inside Hawks Championship Center. Pelini described an afternoon of basics, individual work and needed reps for young players.

    “It was what you expect from a first day,” Pelini said. “Really liked the effort and intensity. Guys were flying around…it’s never as clean as you’d like it to be on the first day because there’s a lot to learn.”

    Nebraska will don pads later this week, and possibly scrimmage more this spring than last, Pelini said, to get its young stable of quarterbacks, including sophomore Cody Green, more work.

    “They’re under fire every day…the competition is on,” Pelini said.

    Green, mobbed by a dozen reporters, said “I’ve done a 180” in terms of preparation for the 2010 season, compared to his freshman season, when a severe groin injury limited him during spring camp. Green’s gained weight and tied former Husker Steve Taylor for NU’s fastest 10-yard dash time at quarterback.

    “During the winter conditioning, I was up here every day for multiple hours,” Green said. “I watched every play we ran at least three times. That’s just what the coaches wanted to do.”

    Green called the help of former Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz - now a NU intern - “amazing.”

    “You can actually get a player’s perspective,” Green said.


    *Other than Henry, redshirt freshman tight end J.T. Kerr, junior linebacker Mathew May and redshirt freshman cornerback Andrew Green all missed practice Wednesday; none appeared to be dramatically injured. Pierre Allen missed practice because of class. Among quarterbacks, only sophomore Kody Spano wore a green jersey. Senior quarterback Zac Lee, out for all of spring, watched drills and fetched cones while sticking close to the quarterbacks.

    *Former running back/wide receiver Marcus Mendoza was working at a third position Wednesday: cornerback. Mendoza donned the white jersey of Husker defenders and participated in all of position coach Marvin Sanders’ drills and stations.

    “He’s a great athlete,” Sanders said. “First day. Thinking a lot. We’ll get him on film then and get some things corrected. Marcus wanted to do it. He wanted to do anything he could to help.”

    *Former NU center Jacob Hickman was on site instructing some of the Nebraska linemen. Hickman chose not to pursue a professional career - he declined a preferred invite to the NFL Scouting Combine - but expressed some desire to get into coaching.

    *Starting left tackle Mike Smith indeed dabbled at center, where junior Mike Caputo is the presumed starter. Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles and JUCO transfer Yoshi Hardrick worked at left tackle. Former tackle Brandon Thompson, now a sophomore, slid down to the right guard spot with redshirt freshman Brent Qvale. Redshirt freshman Nick Ash worked at left guard. At right tackle - the usual duo of Marcel and D.J. Jones.

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, bo pelini, ricky henry, cody green, joe ganz, marcus mendoza, jacob hickman

  18. 2010 Mar 15

    50 Huskers to Know: No. 18


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    RG Ricky Henry, 6-4, 300, Sr.

    Most fans were expecting a snorting beast at right guard last year; what Ricky Henry provided, aside from a couple costly penalties - his holding call negated a NU touchdown in the Virginia Tech game and more or less cost the Huskers the win - a steady, healthy presence at right guard.

    A powerful, physical run blocker who led the team in pancakes, Henry became a better pass blocker as the season progressed. He still needs to get better at cut blocking should Nebraska choose to run more option in 2010 - which we suspect will be the case.

    Henry has put himself in position to potentially get picked in the NFL Draft - but it’s important he cut out mental mistakes and continue to develop his footwork. As a pulling guard on running plays, Henry can be devastating. Just ask Colorado’s defense.

    Want All 50 Huskers? Join Husker Locker for free!

    Tags: 50 huskers to know 2010, ricky henry

  19. 2010 Jan 13

    50 Huskers in Review: Nos. 25-21


    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. 25 Anthony West: Started at field cornerback to begin the year, then was replaced by Alfonzo Dennard. Since Dennard struggled with a shoulder injury, though, West was counted upon throughout the year - and rarely let NU down. He earned a Blackshirt, covered Kansas State’s Brandon Banks on some key pass patterns, and filled in where necessary. Quiet guy who’s quietly had a fine career at NU.

    No. 24 Rickey Thenarse: Got hurt just in time, so to speak, to earn a fifth year of eligibility. Thenarse tore his ACL in the Lafayette game on a special teams play, but should be back for action in 2010. He was always encouraging of his teammates for the rest of the year, and is one of those players who, given his background, feels fairly blessed to be in Lincoln. Now that NU’s secondary is so good, Bo Pelini can have some fun with an athlete like Thenarse and put him situations that allow for success. He’ll fight for the free safety job, as well.

    No. 23 Pierre Allen: A steady, solid year - 51 tackles, 5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss - played through more pain than Allen - who didn’t talk to the media but once during the year - obviously let on. He was a key member of NU’s front four for a second consecutive year, and one of Carl Pelini’s favorite players for picking up defensive concepts so quickly. Played brilliantly vs. Virginia Tech in containing Tyrod Taylor and did the same in the Big 12 Championship game vs. Texas. Allen will get a long look at Big 12 Conference honors in 2010.

    No. 22 Ricky Henry: He had his dumb penalties - a key holding call at Virginia Tech, a personal foul vs. Texas Tech, a couple cut block penalties throughout the year - but Henry exceeded expectations in other ways, rarely missing the play and often serving as NU’s most dominant run blocker on pulling plays. Intense as the day is long - but not out of control as some thought he’d be - Henry is one of the anchors of the 2010 line.

    No. 21 LaTravis Washington: What were we thinking here? Who knows. Well, we thought Shawn Watson might use Washington as a Wildcat quarterback - still think he should have - but Washington was nothing more than a mop-up late in a handful of games.

    Tags: 50 huskers in review, anthony west, rickey thenarse, ricky henry, pierre allen, latravis washington

  20. 2010 Jan 02

    7 Questions: Offense in the Offseason


    By HuskerLocker

    Shotgun to stay? Whether we or you or any Husker fans prefers an under center power game is immaterial to what offensive coordinator Shawn Watson’s players can actually execute. And the Huskers look better in a shotgun spread offense. They just do. It suits the quarterbacks, the running backs, the offensive line, the receivers and the Wildcat formation.

    How long does it take Zac Lee to recover - and is recovery successful? Funny that Nebraska fans would pin a potential national title run on the health of No. 5, but, after seeing Cody Green’s wobbly work in the Holiday Bowl, so be it. Lee is unquestionably the No. 1 guy going into spring practice - and he still isn’t very good. So not only does he have to rehab after surgery on his right torn flexor tendon, he has to find a way to improve without throwing the ball - possibly through all of spring camp.

    Can Cody Green capitalize on Lee’s absence to develop for 2010 and beyond? We can’t ignore his struggles during the last half of the season - but we also can’t take too much from them, either. Green hasn’t been allowed to grow into a starter - too much attention for a handful for a good plays, too short of a leash for a handful of bad ones - and he should make “the leap” in the spring. Well, he’d better, anyway.

    Whither Kody Spano? The things Spano reportedly did best - throwing those skinny slants and posts, and hanging in the pocket when bullets started flying - are attributes Watson appreciates most. Can he come back from two ACL tears? Can he trust his knee enough to make plays. It’s rare - but possible.

    Is there a No. 2 receiver in the building? Some Husker - Brandon Kinnie, Khiry Cooper, Antonio Bell, Curenski Gilleylen - has to take the heat off of Niles Paul. And receivers coach Ted Gilmore has to stop sampling every guy on the roster for the role. Find two or three complimentary receivers, stick with them, and develop chemistry with Lee - when he returns - Green and whoever else tries out at QB.

    How much can the redshirt freshmen - plus Jermarcus Hardrick - push the vets on he offensive line? Hardrick will push Marcel and D.J. Jones at right tackle - and potentially win the job. As for the redshirt freshmen, we’re talking about Brent Qvale (guard), Jeremiah Sirles (tackle), Jesse Coffey (guard) and Nick Ash(guard/center). At the very least, Qvale (huge, and nimble) and Sirles (looks the part) were slated for the two-deep before injuries tilted the risk/reward scale against burning their redshirt. Neither will likely start for NU in 2010, but they can provide important depth every third or fourth series, or serve as injury protection. At any rate - they sorely need experience for the future.

    Where does Taylor Martinez fit in? We dug around in the few weeks after the Big 12 Championship game about Martinez, and found he was more feared as a receiver than he was at quarterback. And yet he’ll start at QB - potentially as a Wildcat guy - and take a run at the backup job. Either way - the kid needs to see the field, and get the chance to make plays. He’s among the fastest players on NU’s roster and he’s big enough to take some licks. T Magic is more like T Mystery.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: holiday bowl, shawn watson, tim beck, barney cotton, ted gilmore, ron brown, bo pelini, zac lee, roy helu, mike mcneill, rex burkhead, niles paul, jeremiah sirles, brent qvale, jermarcus hardrick, nick ash, jesse coffey, keith williams, ricky henry, mike caputo, mike smith, marcel jones, d, j, jones

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