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  1. 2012 Apr 09

    Husker Heartbeat (4/9/2012): Cooper to Tulsa, Iowa Nipped on Walk-off and Big Red's 2012 Goals

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    By HuskerLocker

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    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Khiry Cooper will be joining former Nebraska quarterback Cody Green at Tulsa

    - Sean Fisher has gotten rave reviews from Bo Pelini this spring and looks to make a big rebound

    - Big Red Baseball sends Iowa packing with a walk-off homer

    - Some reasonable goals for Nebraska football in 2012

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    Tags: khiry cooper, sean fisher, baseball

  2. 2012 Apr 05

    Husker Heartbeat (4/5/2012): Smith Heads Secondary, Fisher Back for a Sixth and Video from Practice

    998 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - PJ Smith is putting in his time to ensure last year's secondary woes don't stick around for 2012

    - Will Compton is finding Bo Pelini's praise to be common these days

    - Sean Fisher may stick around for a sixth year due to medical reasons

    - A video breakdown of yesterday's football practice

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    Tags: pj smith, will compton, sean fisher

  3. 2011 Dec 09

    Husker Heartbeat 12/09: Burkhead Shines Again, Nebraska's New Linebacker, and Pelini's Exit Effects

    3,129 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Nebraska adds another linebacker after losing Deion Jones to LSU

    - Rex Burkhead, Sean Fisher and Austin Cassidy were named Academic All-Americans

    - Carl Pelini's departure is bittersweet for Husker players

    - Ladies' Nebrasketball takes down Creighton

    - We're giving away a flat screen TV and other great prizes when you sign up for FREE on the Husker Locker Forums

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    Tags: thomas brown, rex burkhead, sean fisher, austin cassidy, carl pelini, basketball

  4. 2011 Oct 02

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Wisconsin

    13,483 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Before the season began, I predicted that Brion Carnes would take over as Nebraska’s quarterback by halftime of the Wisconsin game. Not only was I wrong, but if Carnes isn’t a frequent contributor next week, expect Martinez to remain under center barring injury for better or worse.

    - Rex Burkhead deserved two more yards.

    - If you're Tim Beck and you decide to throw down at least two scores in the second half, why not make your primary receiver Jamal Turner? Out of all Nebraska receivers, he’s the most dynamic and that’s saying something.

    - You have to feel bad for Tyler Moore. A true freshman jumps once during his first game in a place like Camp Randall and now it feels like putting his face on a milk carton isn’t the worst idea.

    - Sean Fisher doesn’t appear to have the speed he had pre-injury. At this point, it’s hard to think that it’ll return. That’s not good for a thin linebacker corps.

    - Keeping Daimion Stafford at safety is a waste of both his time and the coaching staff’s.

    - According to Erin Andrews, Bo accused the secondary of quitting on him during the first half. Whether this was a motivational tactic or legitimate claim seems up in the air.

    - How ‘bout that Brett Maher kid?

    - The head coach most sick over Nebraska’s loss to Wisconsin: North Carolina State’s Tom O’Brien

    - Wisconsin gashed this Nebraska team. Ohio State will either be salve to begin the healing or salt for the wounds.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, brion carnes, rex burkhead, jamal turner, tyler moore, sean fisher, daimion stafford, brett maher, tom obrien, erin andrews

  5. 2011 Sep 12

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Winning Covered Up a Game That Still Stinks

    5,250 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brian Towle

    John Madden once said, “Winning is a great deodorant.” If that’s the case, then Nebraska used up a lot of Right Guard last Saturday night. The Fresno State Bulldogs should have a decent season. Derek Carr is going to be a player that the Cornhuskers won’t look forward to playing in the coming years, especially in the Silicon Valley.

    Pat Hill had his bunch ready to go and it showed early on. However, the second half showed that this Nebraska team can come out and answer the call on both sides of the ball. Granted, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out for this team to head to Indianapolis in December, much less win the Big Ten’s first championship game.

    Husker fans knew that there were going to be offensive growing pains this year. Regardless of the redundancy in Tim Beck’s first half play calling, the second half showcased several playmakers. Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, Kyler Reed and Quincy Enunwa demonstrated that they’re all studs.

    Ameer Abdullah likely saved the day with his 100-yard kickoff return. Many fans wanted to give this offense an identity off a 20-play script from the spring. Martinez is learning and continues to slowly improve. There were moments of clarity in the first half, but by game’s end, he had statistics that mirrored a performance from the first half of 2010.

    There needs to be trust in Tim Beck’s system. He did something that hasn’t happened in three years in Lincoln. He opened up the playbook and allowed the offense to create its own opportunities. Martinez always has and needs to be an option, not the only option for this offense. Burkhead’s a rock Ameer Abdullah’s stock is rising.

    Kenny Bell displayed a deep threat ability to compliment Kyler Reed and Quincy Enunwa. Jamal Turner is going to be electric if he doesn’t lose the ball in the lights. Those alone represents six other options that are available to help this offense. That doesn’t count Brandon Kinnie, who is certain to get back to his 2010 ways.



    The defense will improve. This season resembles 2008, when the staff and schemes were new. Sure enough, there were growing pains. Losing Alfonzo Dennard hasn’t helped, but the experience for Ciante Evans and Andrew Green will pay dividends. Derek Carr was a good test for this secondary, because Dan Persa and Russell Wilson are both accurate and are quick on their feet. Let’s not forget that Denard Robinson will likely be watching tape of last Saturday’s game.

    Some players need to improve, of course. Justin Blatchford needs to step his game up as does Damian Stafford. Stafford had flashes of brilliance, but needs to be more consistent, like former Huskers Dejon Gomes and Eric Hagg. Austin Cassidy had a few mental breakdowns, but he’ll rebound. Will Compton and Sean Fisher both played well, but not spectacularly.

    The defensive line also played at an average level. If Fresno State was a bad game by Pelini brothers’ standards, is the line in Vegas looking temping with a revenge game against Washington coming up? History encourages betting on Nebraska following a poor defensive performance from Pelini’s bunch. (Of course, this article mentions it for entertainment purposes only)

    Offensively, going against defenses that stack the line of scrimmage seems to be the main problem for this team, so why not use formations that take people out of the box? Perhaps installing play-action for Taylor or using misdirection? Regardless, the bottom line is that when the game clock read all zeroes, Nebraska won.

    It was a victory sparked by a stud named Ameer Abdullah, great second half work by Beck, and a Nebraska team’s realization that this they can’t look forward to anything other than the next play. A triumph that, while not 60 minutes of a Picasso, was better than Monet. Once the pads came off, a 2-0 record is all that mattered.

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    Tags: fresno state, derek carr, pat hill, tim beck, kenny bell, jamal turner, kyler reed, quincy enunwa, ameer abdullah, taylor martinez, brandon kinnie, ciante evans, andrew green, alfonzo dennard, justin blatchford, daimion stafford, austin cassidy, will compton, sean fisher

  6. 2011 Jul 25

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Predicting the Blackshirts – BUCK Linebacker

    9,546 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    A Bo Pelini-led defense is salty and vicious. Only a select few can call themselves starters and are rewarded by being part of a Nebraska tradition that spans over four decades. A simple black practice jersey denotes some of the nastiest young men in the country. We look into the crystal ball and see what's to come for the 2011 Blackshirt unit.

    BUCK Linebacker

    After four years of hiding in the back pages of the Pelini defensive playbook, the BUCK a.k.a. strongside linebacker position is looking to make a comeback. With the necessity to slow down powerful runners like Wisconsin’s Montee Ball and James White, Michigan State’s Edwin Baker and Ohio State’s Dan “Boom” Herron, another big body will be required to ensure that two-yard gains don’t increase into eight-yard ones.

    Three candidates lead for the starting BUCK position with the first being junior Sean Fisher. His career has been derailed by injuries, so there hasn’t been much opportunity to get a read on what the Omaha, Nebraska native is capable of. If he holds up through the non-conference slate and Wisconsin game, that should be looked upon as an excellent sign and give a general forecast for the remainder of his 2011 success.

    Another individual vying for playing time is junior Graham Stoddard. He played in all 14 games last season primarily in a special teams role, but gained more experience in actual defensive schemes towards the end of the year. At 6’2” 235, Stoddard possesses the perfect size to seal off attacks with the assistance of the MIKE linebacker and safety support from the likes of Courtney Osborne if need be.

    Finally, walk-on redshirt freshman Trevor Roach has been showing some impressive maneuverability for a 6’2” 240-pounder. Nebraska may have inherited an excellent athlete in Roach as he could very well challenge Stoddard and Fisher for playing time in 2011, though it’s doubtful that he takes over the starting role.

    While Fisher was taken out of action for the entire 2010 season, his athletic gifts and familiarity with running against an opposing team’s best helps him immensely in this race. If he’s injured again, look for Stoddard and Roach to battle for the coveted black jersey, but as long as Fisher’s in one piece, he has the rightful claim to it.


    Projected Blackshirt: Sean Fisher

    Other Predicted Starters: Strongside Defensive End, Strongside Defensive Tackle, Weakside Defensive Tackle, WILL Linebacker, MIKE Linebacker

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    Tags: sean fisher, graham stoddard, trevor roach

  7. 2011 Apr 14

    SPRING GAME: 5 Things to Watch

    1,319 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Glorified scrimmage? You bet. An opportunity for little-used walk-ons to get their 15 seconds of of fame in a relatively-full Memorial Stadium? That, too.

    It won't be flashy. It won't be revealing schematically. But that doesn't mean Nebraska's Red/White Spring Game is bereft of stories. Coaches absolutely want to accomplish something in the three hours they're prowling around Tom Osborne Field looking for players to praise and critique.

    Five things to watch for as Huskers put on their spring show and prepare for their inaugural Big Ten season:

    Trench skirmishes: Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini and defensive line coach John Papuchis haven't sweated too much the absence of end Cameron Meredith and tackle Jared Crick for spring camp. Why? They like the talent and depth behind those two. Along with returning starter Baker Steinkuhler, Thad Randle's made a move to the No. 1s this spring. Eric Martin, by all reports, is wreaking havoc as an undersized defensive end. Chase Rome and Jay Guy have flashed some potential to play next year at tackle. Terrence Moore is working his way back into shape after he suffered an injury in the Holiday Bowl, but he'd start at many Big Ten programs. True freshman Kevin Williams missed a week of spring camp with a foot injury, but he returned Wednesday. Could he get a play or two Saturday?

    The offensive line, meanwhile, is in transition. Position coaches Barney Cotton and John Garrison emphasized physicality and effort with a young, unproven bunch whose forebearers were manhandled at the end of 2010. Starting tackle Jeremiah Sirles missed spring, too – but his loss is felt more acutely than Meredith and Crick's absence. Young pups Tyler Moore (a true freshman) and Jake Cotton (redshirt freshman) made strong moves this spring up the depth chart.

    So what happens when factions of these units match up against each other? The defensive line should have the edge. But watch guards Andrew Rodriguez and Brent Qvale closely. They're supposed to be the starters next year. Can they hold their own against guys like Randle, Moore and Steinkuhler? Also: Can the young pups – or Marcel Jones and Yoshi Hardrick – block Martin?

    Tempo: Nebraska won't reveal many of its offensive wrinkles – or, as wide receiver Brandon Kinnie called it, “hoo ha” - that it installed over the last week. No stunner. But there's a good chance you'll see the Huskers' new no-huddle tempo. It's been around long enough in college football not to be considered secret or revolutionary. NU wouldn't want to waste the opportunity, either, to see how its quarterbacks handle play calls and game management in front of a large crowd.

    So what to watch? First, see how the offensive line is handling the speed of the game. They have to be in terrific shape for a no-huddle to be truly effective. Second, watch for which quarterback best embodies the “quick, but not in a hurry” manner that you need to run the no-huddle effectively. The worst thing a quarterback can do is waste a down because he rushed his pre-snap setup and reads. Third, look at the passes thrown out of this tempo. While they'll be vanilla in design, fans should still get a decent flavor for how a rhythm-based passing game relies on timing and placement of throws.

    Playmakers: Reporters and fans have heard nothing but praise for receivers Jamal Turner, Kenny Bell and Stanley Jean-Baptiste and their playmaking skills. Last year, NU lacked a “something out of nothing” threat at wide receiver, a guy who could turn a two-yard swing pass into a 25-yard gain. Outside of a few big plays to tight end Kyler Reed, Nebraska also lacked a consistent deep threat.

    Senior Brandon Kinnie is a solid anchor on the field side, a tough-minded, possession receiver who should be the go-to guy near the goal line. But when defenses roll a two-man “bracket” coverage his way, or force his routes back toward traffic – as Oklahoma did in the Big 12 Championship – somebody on the other side has to make the defense pay. And Niles Paul isn't over there anymore. A big play or two out of the above trio would be a confidence boost heading into the summer.

    Carnes vs. Green: With quarterback Taylor Martinez getting limited action in the Spring Game because of lingering ankle and toe injuries – those need to heal up over the summer, as reports out of practice suggested Martinez still wasn't quite “right” - and Kody Spano out too, Saturday boils down to an intriguing battle between junior Cody Green and redshirt freshman Brion Carnes. Last Saturday, Carnes had his best scrimmage yet, while Green has turned some heads in camp with improved passing mechanics. How do they perform with a crowd watching?

    Green had a perfunctory-at-best Spring Game last year, as his attempt to snatch the job from Zac Lee passed by the boards. What about this year? As much as coaches want to play down the Spring Game, Green can make a statement with a strong performance.

    Carnes has the tools – he just needs the polish. Watch his passing motion for efficiency and enjoy his playmaking abilities outside of the pocket. Odds are he does one thing Saturday that neither Green or Martinez don't do well: Throw on the run.

    Hustle and Flow: More than ever in the Bo Pelini era, Nebraska's defense will need its linebackers to do many of things linebackers traditionally do. Fit the interior the run. Man up against a lead blocker or a pulling guard. Take a smart drop on a tight end bolting up the seam and make a play downfield. Although the Huskers have generally hung their hat on an elite front four and even more dominant secondary, Bo and Carl's defense is actually designed to free up the linebackers – that is, LaVonte David, Sean Fisher and Will Compton – to make most of the plays.

    While all three probably won't play together Saturday, watch for their chemistry when two of them are out there. How do they communicate? How do they flow to the ball on running plays? Big Ten teams like Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State force defenses to stay really sound in how they fill gaps and cover all bases. When there's a “break” in the fit, power running teams have a field day on it.

    Nebraska's defense is considerably ahead of the offense. In playmakers. In grasp of scheme. Probably in confidence, too. But watch for those little things anyway. How do Compton and David take on blocks? Does Fisher get low enough when he sweeps around the strong side and tries to force a play back to the middle?

    Tags: spring football 2011, spring game 2011, sean fisher, will compton, lavonte david, kenny bell, jamal turner, stanley jeanbaptiste, cody green, brion carnes, brandon kinnie, andrew rodriguez, carl pelini, john papuchis, brent qvale, thad randle, eric martin

  8. 2011 Apr 12

    NEBRASKA BIG TEN: New Guys in Town

    931 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Kirk Cousins considered himself a college football nut growing up. And the Michigan State quarterback answers questions like an TV analyst already. So maybe it's a little easier for him to spit out a generous opinion of Nebraska football.

    But when asked what the words “Nebraska football” meant to him during Tuesday's Big Ten Teleconference, Cousins was a little bit more than generous.

    First, without hesitating, he said “the Blackshirts.” Then Cousins name-dropped Carlos Polk, the gigantic, brash Husker middle linebacker who led the Blackshirts in 1999 and 2000. Eric Crouch, Tommie Frazier and Grant Wistrom, too.

    The new kids on the Big Ten block come with a flashy reputation for winning and tradition. Not that head coach Bo Pelini and linebacker Sean Fisher – who represented NU during the “Legends Division” portion of the presser Tuesday – were flaunting it.

    Just the opposite: Both heaped their own praise on Nebraska's new conference.

    “The coaching is excellent,” Pelini said. “The teams are very fundamentally sound...we think it's going to be a great move for our university in all regards. Not just athletically, but everything the Big Ten represents.”

    Fisher pointed to the rare opportunity that he and other current Huskers will have to play in two BCS-auto bid leagues during their careers.

    “It's an extremely fortunate thing for us,” he said. “There's not a lot of kids who get the opportunity to do this, obviously. Most kids get into school and you're in the conference that you're in for the four or five years that you're here.

    “To be able to go to places like Texas and Oklahoma and then to be able to go to places like Ohio State and Penn State, it just gives you an opportunity to see some really cool places and play some good opponents.”

    Said Pelini: “They've played in most if not all the Big 12 stadiums, and they'll get a chance to make their rounds through the Big Ten. That's a fun thing for a kid, to experience all those different venues and different traditions that represent college football.”

    One reporter posed Pelini a version of the “Ohio State” question. The one where Pelini tactfully sidesteps any real comparisons of his alma mater, where he played in the Horseshoe for four seasons, and his current coaching job, Nebraska.

    Pelini, who faced Ohio State for the national title while serving as LSU's defensive coordinator in 2007, played the artful dodger again.

    “Obviously, having played there and understanding the tradition and what that all entails, it's going to be a heck of a challenge,” Pelini said. “Our team looks forward that challenge. Ohio State included – there's a tremendous amount of tradition in the Big Ten Conference. A lot of great football.”

    New Michigan football coach Brady Hoke, who nearly led Ball State to an unlikely upset of the Huskers in 2007, returned the compliment.

    “It's made our league much stronger,” Hoke said. “Bo has done a tremendous job there. It's obvious. Their records and accomplishments speak for themselves.”

    The Big Ten did the Huskers few scheduling favors for its first two seasons, loading up the conference slate with traditional “Leader” divisional powers Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State to go with Legends rivals Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State.

    Prior to spring camp, Pelini said he and his staff began to compile notes on NU's new opponents. They'll kick the process back into gear “full throttle” after the spring recruiting evaluation period ends in May.

    “By the time summer comes around, by the time we take a bit of a break as a staff, we'll have seen each of our opponents and have some preliminary thoughts on each and every one of them,” Pelini said.

    Tags: spring football 2011, sean fisher, bo pelini, big ten, kirk cousins

  9. 2011 Apr 08

    SPRING FOOTBALL: LBs Building Bonds

    422 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    In the two months between the end of last season and start of spring camp, Nebraska linebacker Will Compton usually knew where to find friend, teammate and Big 12 Newcomer of the Year LaVonte David. And David knew where to find Compton. And they just might find Sean Fisher there, too.

    The film room.

    “We're around each other all day,” Compton said.

    Because of injuries – Fisher missed the whole season because of a broken leg while Compton missed five with a broken foot - the on-field chemistry is still a work in progress, although Compton said it's “pretty strong” already and getting stronger with each spring practice.

    But they've forged a bond off the field by analyzing every DVD and tape they can find. A steady diet of plays from last year. Ways to baffle and punish opposing offenses this year. As self-described “students of the game,” they talk shop and the near future – which will include several run-heavy Big Ten offenses - whenever they can.

    David on Compton: “He knows the defense inside and out. If I don't know something, I ask Will. He'll tell me right away. Sometimes I'll get mixed up on an assignment, and I get confused, and he'll let me know. It'll snap back in my head.”

    Compton on David: “It's incredible the way he approaches things and prepares every day. He's never talking about those plays that you talk about. Nobody does. He never talks about that stuff. It's always what we could've done better.”

    Those “plays” Compton referenced are the among the 152 school-record tackles David made in 2010. Six of them were sacks, while 15 went for a loss. He broke up ten passes and hurried the quarterback seven more times, to boot.

    It's one of the best seasons for a linebacker in NU history, from a guy who was forced to learn on the fly last year, who fixates on mistakes he made in communication and alignment, who's so “analytical,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said, that he'll break down every play from last season, looking for errors to correct.

    “His understanding of what we're doing will double between now and camp from what it was last fall,” Pelini said, creating “an opportunity for him to make even more plays at a greater speed.”

    That's part of why, Pelini said, he wouldn't dare move David to Eric Hagg's old Peso spot even if he'd be “really good at it.”

    Instead, Pelini and the weight training staff instructed the senior to bulk up, adding ten pounds to his 6-foot-1 frame. David now weighs 220. He'd like to reach 225. Compton is 6-2, 230. Fisher is 6-6, 235. This is a bigger, sturdier unit that the fleet of defensive backs and smallish middle linebackers who populated the Blackshirts for the last two seasons.

    Nebraska's grueling entrance into the Big Ten is the driving force behind that change. Foes like Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State – all on NU's 2011 schedule - typically deploy a tight end for most of their running plays. Sometimes they'll use a fullback, too. The Badgers – connoisseurs of a power running game like few other college programs – aren't afraid to frequently use “12” personnel - that's one running back and two tight ends – for an entire drive.

    In their three years at NU, Bo and Carl Pelini have tried to “match” offensive personnel with corresponding defensive personnel. The tight end is one of the key personnel markers. Against two tight ends, the Huskers will probably have to counter with at least two – and perhaps three – linebackers. NU also has a revamped “50” scheme in its arsenal, too.

    Compton, who finished with 15 tackles last year, figures to benefit most with more playing time and is “jacked” about the Big Ten. He wants the pressure. He's waited through three seasons, a redshirt year and an injury for it. Fisher's waited through more injuries than that.

    “Knowing we'll have more of the load on us – it's fun,” Compton said.

    While Nebraska struggles to find consistent depth at linebacker – head coach Bo Pelini said he's looking for second-stringers to “step up” during the last half of spring camp – the starting trio is settling in, Compton said, with confidence.

    New position coach Ross Els is a teacher of technique who wants to gird his players for a tougher style of football. Bo and Carl Pelini are installing more aggressive, detailed defensive packages designed to take Big Ten opponents off guard. The attacking attitude is running off on the linebackers.

    “We're mixing things up out there – sometimes even without the coaches saying anything,” Compton said. “Just playing around and starting to move around and just have fun. We're confident in the scheme.”

    Tags: spring football 2011, will compton, lavonte david, sean fisher, ross els, bo pelini, carl pelini

  10. 2011 Mar 23

    SPRING FOOTBALL: 5 Players On the Mend

    5,760 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    We've reviewed 10 “Prove-It” Players and Five Sleepers for spring camp. Here's five players on the mend who missed significant chunks of the 2010 season because of injuries and can play a big role for the 2011 Huskers:

    Linebacker Sean Fisher: He suffered a left broken leg/torn left ankle tendon midway through fall camp, which forced LaVonte David into service and left the Husker run defense a bit light against some of the more power-based teams. David fit in nicely, of course, but Fisher's 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame and lateral speed makes him a nice weapon for a versatile Brothers Pelini defense.

    Defensive back Andrew Green: Bo and Carl Pelini like this sophomore's length and versatility, but he's never really been healthy since he arrived on campus. The 6-foot, 190-pounder could play Peso, corner, or even safety, but he's expected to make his move this spring – now that he's back at full speed.

    Right tackle Marcel Jones: Back troubles repeatedly sidelined the 6-foot-7, 320-pounder last year, as he missed most of his junior season trying to get back to a place where he could physically contribute. As a senior, his health is crucial to the depth of an offensive line that's never really been able to play a large number of guys because of recurring injuries. Jones probably isn't an elite tackle, but he's steady enough.

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez: No-brainer, right? Martinez was one kind of runner – explosive, electric, hard to catch – before his ankle injury, and another kind – indecisive, fragile, slow – after it. Throw in a nasty turf toe injury suffered in the Texas A&M game, and Martinez had holes in both of his tires. A blazing 10-yard dash time recorded in conditioning suggests he back. He needs to be. Martinez wasn't savvy enough to make plays with his arm last year.

    Right guard Brandon Thompson: Like Jones, another offensive lineman dogged by injuries since his arrival in Lincoln. Thompson hasn't seen much playing time in two years because of a variety of ailments – including hernia surgery – but he's in the mix for the starting job at guard. He'll be one to watch – and hope stays healthy for depth purposes.

    Tags: spring football 2011, taylor martinez, sean fisher, brandon thompson, marcel jones, andrew green

  11. 2011 Mar 21

    Husker Monday Takes: Barney's New View

    1,691 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Six takes for your spring break. (As a side note, did you notice that scent in the air Sunday? The aroma of fresh earth. Smells like golf, fishing, picnics, outdoor concerts and those field trips you used to take in grade school):

    ***Throughout his career, Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton had a graduate assistant helping him with individual line drills. Makes sense. Cotton had five guys to manage. Lil help gets everything done faster.

    Until Cotton's return to NU, anyway. In three years, Cotton didn't have the GA. That guy, Curt Baldus, assisted with the skill positions.

    “He was never involved with us up front,” Cotton said.

    Cotton didn't lobby for an assistant coach to help him. He even seemed to take a little pride in flying solo. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck had the idea to add John Garrison this year. But Cotton didn't turn down the help. With the Garrison coaching the tackles and new GA Vince Morrow assisting with tight ends, Cotton said the Huskers are now producing “25-30-35” percent more reps.

    “We can do more in five minutes now that sometimes I can get done in ten or 12 minutes, just because I had to keep flopping back and forth,” Cotton said. “Go over here. Go over there. Now I just take my half of the line.”

    Maybe Cotton will develop the depth that - when it counted last year - once again did not seem to exist. Nebraska had two offensive linemen pretty banged up toward the end of 2010 – center Mike Caputo and guard Keith Williams - and neither got much of a rest. That set an unfortunate stage for their work in losses Oklahoma and Washington in December. When Williams severely rolled his ankle in the Big 12 Championship, he spent the rest of night hobbling around, doing his best, getting knocked back – but still playing.

    Standing next to a blocking dummy, surrounded by reporters, Cotton recalled the night. He talked on the phone with Beck and then-offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, assessing whether to replace Williams with true freshman Andrew Rodriguez. Should we make a change, Cotton asked Watson/Beck several times, because their eye-in-the-sky vantage point gave them a better handle on Williams' play.

    “We decided not to make a change,” Cotton said. “We talked about it. But we still thought Keith gave us our best chance.”

    Was that, perhaps, because young offensive linemen were getting fewer practice reps?

    The Washington game was far uglier. On one Taylor Martinez sack, four guys couldn't block one fat Husky nose tackle. UW sold out to stop the run, NU had no counter, so the black-clad Dubs painted the Qualcomm Stadium field with scarlet.

    “Do we like the way we finished? Absolutely not,” Cotton said. “You're kinda measured on how you finish, right? I accept that wholeheartedly.”

    Beck's offense could have a Cottony touch to it. Remember that Cotton coordinated offenses for three different teams: New Mexy State, Nebraska and Iowa State. While at ISU, he also recruited a few of Beck's high school players.

    “We've gotten to be good friends – not just coaching mates,” Cotton said of Beck. “We have very similar philosophies. Even schematically, we're eerily close.”

    Said Beck: “Bottom line: You're going to win with your guys up front. Nobody knows them better than their position coach. If he tells me we can't run that play, I'm going to listen to him. He's a veteran coach. He's been very successful. I have a lot of respect for him and listen to him as well.”

    As Watson had his Professor Gilmore, so too will Beck have a consigliere.

    ***Hunch No. 1: If NU's offense is really to improve, the passing game has to change, which means it must adapt better to the coverage of the defense. Getting just brief glimpses of what wide receivers coach Rich Fisher is teaching, I see that. Nebraska needs to get receivers open quicker in the play. Watson designed a system that eventually left one mismatch on the field, but it was often a shallow crossing route that needed to “clear,” and by that point in the progression Taylor Martinez was often rattled to hell.

    I've made no secret of loving Oregon's fairly basic passing game. The Ducks attack seams in defenses with gusto, gobbling up big chunks of yards. An UO's receivers aren't really NFL guys. They're fast, fairly skinny and efficient. They find gaps. They don't waste routes. It's not classical music so much as jazz with the right amount of improvisation.

    ***Hunch No. 2: The Brothers Pelini want to try to find a spot on the field for Sean Fisher. Whether that's at a strongside linebacker spot or a hybrid, Fisher has a kind of unique skillset, like Eric Hagg did at Peso. Fisher – now 6-foot-6 , 235 pounds – doesn't exactly have the same talents as Hagg, but he's a matchup problem for offenses because of his lateral speed. Or, at least, the speed he had before breaking his left fibula and tearing left ankle tendons. Just before the 2010 season-opener, a wide receiver threw a vicious crackback at a safety, who fell into Fisher's leg.

    “I was at my house a lot just sitting on the couch with my leg up,” Fisher said. “It wasn't really what I envisioned.”

    The ankle injury was more serious than the broken leg. He ices it after every practice; he's not yet 100 percent. He expects the full mental recovery – just as important as the physical one – to be complete by summer.

    Back to Fisher's strengths: If he regains his speed, it's hard for backs to go wide on him. His pursuit speed is just as good as LaVonte David's – and David routinely meets running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Doing that on a run blitz is one thing; David can do it while “fitting” his regular assignment. So can Fisher.

    If you want to know why that matters, chew on it: Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State all want to run wide “stretch,” “counter” and “toss” plays. Like these from the Badgers. Or these from the Hawkeyes. The cutback lanes needed to make those plays really hum exist when the middle linebacker overplays the stretch and gets caught in the backwash. If you have a sleek strongside guy who can gum up the play at or before the line of scrimmage, the play's dead in the water because the Mike keeps in the box.

    The key for Fisher: Can he take on a Big Ten tight end or tackle at the point of contact and hold up? We were about to find out more about the kid last year – until he got hurt.

    ***He tries to hide it sometimes, but Jared Crick is a funny guy, a blend of jock humor and irony that'll come in handy for his second year of leading the Blackshirts. To (literal) wit:

    On new defensive line coach John Papuchis: “He's such a good teacher. That's the biggest compliment anybody could give a coach. He knows how to translate what he wants done to us. It's very easy. If JP could follow all my classes, I'd be an academic All-American.”

    On his nickname: “White Mamba. (Ndamukong) Suh gave it to me. Kobe Bryant – he's the Black Mamba. It was a name Suh or (defensive end) David Harvey gave me my sophomore year. 'The' White Mamba. I've kept it. I love it. It's really one that's unique.”

    White Mamba turned down a chance to turn pro after last season. Crick's size and speed would have put him on the NFL Draft's first-round radar. The fifth-year senior ultimately came back to graduate.

    “My parents wanted me to get my degree,” the history major said.

    Consider Crick fortunate: He avoided what could be a long, spiteful NFL labor fight. If TV interests like ESPN weren't leaning so hard on the league to get a deal done – the Mouse House must have some internal manifesto that stipulates updates “on the 8s” like the Weather Channel – the stakes and rhetoric might be lower. As it is, projected high picks – Prince Amukamara among them – are being asked not to appear at the NFL Draft in New York as a sign of, oh, hazing if you ask me. Solidarity if you ask the union-that-no-longer-technically-exists.

    “I'm glad I'm not mixed up in that,” Crick said.

    ***Not quite ready yet to fully weigh in on Doc Sadler's vision – and two-year extended warranty - after his Nebraska basketball team appeared to mope its way through a 76-49 beatdown at Wichita State. Just two quick points that I'll return to later:

    *Once it became clear that the Shockers were going to hit their 3-pointers, what chance did the Huskers have? Sadler is reluctant to call off his usual double-team-the-post strategy because he doesn't appear to trust his interior guys to defend such luminaries as J.T. Durley straight up. A bigger, slower Husker team tends to rotate late to the double team, which gives the opposing big man time to find the open shooter. Durley did it again and again last week. Nebraska only gave up 60 points per game this year, but there were more defensive breakdowns this year than in 2009 or 2008.

    *Sadler has 89 wins in five years. Chew on this: According to realtimerpi.com, 27 of them – a full 30 percent – are against the three worst conferences in college basketball: The SWAC, MEAC, and transitional Independents/Division II teams. And that list doesn't include gems like South Carolina-Upstate, Southern Utah, IPFW and Eastern Washington. Most of these programs play 5-10 road games in a row, sometimes just hopping from town to town thousands of miles away from campus, collecting a paycheck to serve as sacrificial lambs.

    Yeah, every major conference college basketball team feasts on a few. Not many are devouring five per year, though. Or playing an average of three teams per year with a RPI above 300 – NU has played 15 since Sadler's arrival. Colorado, in the same timeframe, played 15 teams from the SWAC/MEAC/Independents and 13 teams with RPI ratings above 300. Oklahoma played nine 300+ RPI teams. Texas Tech played seven. Only Iowa State (17) played more 300+RPI teams in that timeframe – and Greg McDermott hit the escape hatch on his short-lived tenure to coach at Creighton.

    It's all just a bit...miserly. Sadler is a shrewd manager, massaging 18 wins per year. The raw numbers aren't bad. But when you peek at some of those opponents – and the meager crowds they draw to the Bob Devaney Sports Center – you must ask: Does Sadler do a better job of framing the debate for his supporters – or moving the program toward consistent berths in the NCAA Tournament?

    ***After he won his second national title – completing his second undefeated season – Saturday night at the NCAA Championships, Nebraska wrestler Jordan Burroughs vaulted into the top ten of NU's best all-time male athletes. Ahead of every basketball player, for certain. Every baseball player not named Alex Gordon. Among the football giants, right there with former Husker sprinter Charlie Greene.

    Define tough: Here's a kid who wins the national crown in 2009 without a loss and has every expectation to do it again in 2010. Except he shreds his knee. Snaps the PCL.

    Remember Bobby Newcombe in the first half of his first start at quarterback? Remember him after that? Good – but not the same? That could've happened to Burroughs.

    But he rehabbed the left knee and regained his speed, a thwoop of a first step that makes his double leg shot almost impossible to block for a whole period. He's craftier now, too; he can set up that shot more effectively. And like the dip of the Jet's shoulder on a punt return or that effortless kick of Merlene Ottey in just about any collegiate race she ever ran, it's a signature move of a great artist – whose canvas happens to be a mat cured by years of tension and sweat.

    If you've been to the Nebraska High School Wrestling Championships – especially at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, where they'd open the doors and kids would sprint in to corral seats for their family, or half their town – you know the sport has a blooming culture in this state like a freshly-irritated cauliflower ear. That's why UNO wrestling – about to be gutted and cast aside by the Nebraska Board of Regents – is what it is. That's why half of Howells still comes down for Husker duals even though native son Craig Brester graduated last year. That's why the 2009 Big 12 Championships, held in NU Coliseum, was packed to the gills and roared when Nebraska “beat” Iowa State by tying the Cyclones for the conference crown. This stuff matters here, and Burroughs is best many have ever seen around these parts.

    The official hotbed of college wrestling – the Big Ten – awaits. Nebraska goes without Burroughs, but with considerable momentum from his achievement.

    Tags: husker monday takes, spring football 2011, tim beck, barney cotton, john garrison, vince morrow, sean fisher, jordan burroughs, doc sadler

  12. 2011 Mar 11

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Five Questions

    1,611 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The top questions and concerns for Nebraska football heading into spring camp are focused on a familiar spot: The offense. No shocker there – the Huskers wouldn't be shaking the Etch-A-Sketch clean if the spread-zone-read attack hadn't went kaput at all the wrong times in 2010.

    Bo and Carl Pelini's defense seems relatively set and confident, given they have potential All-American candidates at all three levels of the unit. Even losses in the secondary – Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes and Eric Hagg – can be reasonably covered by the quality depth created there by solid recruiting classes. More than anything, the relative stability of the defense allows the Pelini's to take a good, hard look at subtle adjustments – personnel packages, pass rushing schemes – that could help NU capture a Legends Division title in its first year.

    Five big questions for spring camp:

    Does Taylor Martinez break from the pack in the quarterback race, or can Cody Green and others keep the race interesting through fall?

    Offensive coordinator Tim Beck wasn't anointing Martinez as the defined starter during his presser Tuesday, but he said he sees greater confidence and better leadership from the sophomore, who clearly struggled with both toward the end of the 2010 season. And it's almost always a good sign when your new boss can crack a joke at the podium:

    “All them California guys are a little weird, right?” Beck joked of Martinez, a native of the Los Angeles area. “West Coast? I'll probably hear it from them now.”

    With Beck overhauling the entire offense, each quarterback is starting at the same learning level. But Martinez's skillset gives him a leg up in a spread attack over Green, who possesses leadership skills but lacks Martinez's speed and agility as a runner. Redshirt freshman Brion Carnes begins essentially where Martinez did one year ago, while true freshman Jamal Turner might get a long look at wide receiver, too. Junior Kody Spano is on the periphery of the conversation until we can see his knees are healthy enough to scramble around.

    When will the offensive line get some depth?

    In both the Big 12 Championship game and Holiday Bowl, left guard Keith Williams, because of a severe ankle injury, was operating, at times, on one leg. And yet he didn't get a spot on the bench because there wasn't, apparently, any backup suitable enough for extended minutes in a big postseason game. NU essentially employed six offensive linemen for most of the Big 12 campaign, with tackle Yoshi Hardrick occasionally rotating with Jeremiah Sirles on the left side. But that was it. And that needs to change.

    Three starters - Williams, right guard Ricky Henry and right tackle D.J. Jones – graduated. Marcel Jones is apparently healthy enough from a nagging back injury to resume starting duties at right tackles, but the two guard spots – where Williams and Henry logged more than 90 percent of the reps in conference – are wide open. It'd be wrong to simply anoint those jobs to sophomores Andrew Rodriguez and Brent Qvale, but Barney Cotton's job would be easier if both took control of those spots in the spring. Center Mike Caputo needs a solid backup at center, too. At tackle, Sirles will miss the spring – there's that nagging injury problem again – while a slimmer, more experienced Hardrick gets a crack at the starting left tackle job for the next month. Barney's son, Jake, moved from the defensive line to tackle, too – and it probably wasn't so Jake could guard a Taco Bell. He'll get a look.

    After Brandon Kinnie and Kyler Reed, who catches passes on the perimeter?

    New position coach Rich Fisher has options. But few of them are proven. Curenski Gilleylen disappeared after a decent sophomore season in 2009. Tim Marlowe hasn't been much of a factor. Quincy Enunwa dropped the only key passes thrown his way last year. The speedy duo of Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Kenny Bell redshirted last year. Jamal Turner just showed up on campus. Khiry Cooper's playing baseball. Walk-on KC Hyland always get raves for his hands – but he doesn't get playing time. If one of those three young running backs enrolling in the fall show immediate promise, perhaps Rex Burkhead can occasionally move out wide. Fisher, with little experience coaching at the college level, has one of the most daunting tasks among his peers.

    Who joins LaVonte David at linebacker?

    Nebraska will play eight teams in 2011 that require the Huskers to employ at least two linebackers as the base personnel; Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State might require three. Yes, the Big Ten has its share of spread offense and speedy players. But it's nothing compared to the Big 12, where teams flood their rosters with players from the spread-mad world of Texas high school football. Only one team in the Big Ten – Northwestern - employs what could be termed “basketball on grass,” and many of NU's new opponents can go big pretty quickly if the Huskers try to put four safeties on the field in a dime package.

    All that to say this: David, a senior, can't do it by himself. He'll need junior Will Compton and the oft-injured junior Sean Fisher – whom the coaches still seem to love – to make plays alongside the All-American candidate.

    Even if Bo and Carl Pelini find a suitable replacement for Eric Hagg by kickoff in 2011, it seems pretty unlikely that a player of Dejon Gomes' size could seriously match up against a tight end or a fullback in the Big Ten.

    Does NU stay the course with its four-man-collapse-the-pocket pass rush or attack off the edge more? And who does the attacking?

    Over three years, the Brothers Pelini created a specific, excellent scheme to slow down and frustrate the best Big 12 offenses: A match-zone read pass defense coupled with a pass rush that felt to quarterbacks like the walls closing in. Defensive ends Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith set a hard edge and didn't let quarterbacks get outside the pocket while Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler provided the bulk of the pressure up the middle. NU unveiled it in earnest during the 2009 Virginia Tech game; until the Hokies' final, miraculous drive, the scheme worked beautifully that day. It did a real number on several more Big 12 QBs too.

    But Big Ten quarterbacks are more comfy in pockets. And the routes they're throwing aren't always of the four-yard-out variety. Do the Brothers Pelini keep their pass rush structure from last year, or endeavor to find somebody who can tear off the edge and take over a game by himself?

    In 2003, Bo Pelini used a linebacker, Demorrio Williams, to fill that role; could Eric Martin – the talented-but-inconsistent torpedo on special teams – be the guy after a switch from linebacker? Is it Josh Williams, who has the frame but none of the production yet to go along with it?

    See more spring football coverage!

    Tags: spring football 2011, taylor martinez, tim beck, lavonte david, sean fisher, will compton, brandon kinnie, kenny bell, brion carnes, cody green, stanley jean baptiste, curenski gilleylen, carl pelini, bo pelini, rich fisher, barney cotton, andrew rodriguez, brent qvale

  13. 2011 Feb 09

    Podcast 2/9: Husker Classroom Standouts

    1,437 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

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

  14. 2010 Aug 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: 7 'Prove It' Players on Defense

    5,508 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The Blackshirts don’t have many questions, and thus fewer players have less to prove. But we still pinpointed a few, with an emphasis on a certain position in between the defensive line and secondary.

    Cornerback Anthony Blue: He’s more than two years removed from a serious knee injury. It’s time for Blue, as fast as any corner on the team, to trust his knee and get more aggressive in Bo Pelini’s scheme.

    Linebacker Sean Fisher: He’s more athletic than fans realize and plenty sharp about his assignments, but Fisher needs to sit in the hole better, take on blockers, get lower and attack the ball carriers. He’s better sideline-to-sideline right now than he is in the box.

    Linebacker Eric Martin: This exciting, physical player is deadly in an isolated spot, but to play consistently he’ll have to refine his technique and better read his keys at the position.

    Defensive tackle Terrence Moore: This tank of a nose tackle needs to produce, big time, in 2010. He’s a better fit for that nose role than lanky Baker Steinkuhler, and if Moore is healthy - and ready to do some damage against the run, Nebraska’s defensive line actually can be better than last year’s bunch. Because Moore is a good pass rusher.

    Strong safety P.J. Smith: By all accounts, Smith is expected to roll right into Larry Asante’s old role without much of a hiccup. But Smith also had to bring that “enforcer” aspect that Asante was known for in 2009. The secondary needs a thumper; Smith is the biggest, best candidate.

    Free safety Rickey Thenarse: Count on him to make his share of big plays for the Blackshirts. Now he needs to eliminate the mental errors that open the door for the opponent. Last time around for this senior.

    Linebacker Alonzo Whaley: The sophomore made a big move in spring and is poised to challenge Fisher for playing time. Whaley arguably has the most athleticism of any Husker ‘backer; it’s about nailing down the finer points of the defense and staying in position.

    See also: 8 Prove It Players on Offense

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

    Tags: football, fall camp, sean fisher, anthony blue, eric martin, terrence moore, pj smith, rickey thenarse, alonzo whaley

  15. 2010 Jul 23

    BIG 12 PREVIEW: Ranking the Big 12 Linebackers

    969 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Photo from Life.com

    The Big 12 South continues is dominance in the defensive rankings at the linebacker position, where the league’s most dynamic players make their homes south of the Arkansas River.

    Here are the league rankings for linebacker:

    1. Texas
    Returning Starters:
    Two
    Strengths: Size and speed, as you’d expect in Will Muschamp’s 3-4 defense. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are big, active players who can run downhill and tackle with authority. While Jared Norton is a new starter at one of the inside linebacker positions; he’s a senior with several years of experience who redshirted last year because of injury. Weaknesses: So-so in pass conference, but with UT’s secondary, it doesn’t matter. UT’s group does well what it’s asked to do.

    2. Texas A&M
    Returning Starters:
    Four
    Strengths: Von Miller is the Big 12’s most exciting defensive playmaker, a relentless, high-energy pass rusher who finished with 17 sacks. The Aggies have a ton of experience otherwise; this is the lone strength of A&M’s leaky defense. Five guys totaled more than 40 tackles. Weaknesses: Toughness against the run. There hasn’t been much.

    3. Oklahoma
    Returning Starters:
    One
    Strengths: Travis Lewis runs as well for his size as just about any linebacker in the Big 12. By the end of his freshman year, Ronnell Lewis had become one of OU’s best backers. Brent Venables often coaches up the players here beyond their actual physical talent. Weaknesses: Lewis sometimes runs around blockers instead of taking them on. The middle linebacker job is wide open, with Austin Box and Tom Wort battling it out for the role.

    4. Texas Tech
    Returning Starters: Two
    Strengths: Brian Duncan and Bront Bird are opportunistic playmakers who usually make the tackle right in front of them. This is one area where Mike Leach recruited well on defense, so there’s depth and talent. Weaknesses: Sam Fehoko and Julius Howard have some experience, but lack the down-to-down exposure they’ll get this year. The whole bunch is learning a new defensive scheme, as well.

    5. Missouri
    Returning Starters:
    Two
    Strengths: Andrew Gachkar and Will Ebner are dependable run-stoppers, combining for 158 tackles and 6.5 sacks last year. Mizzou is working on a more aggressive scheme that should benefit these guys in pass coverage. Weaknesses: The Tigers have to replace Sean Weatherspoon, one of the best linebackers in school history. The replacement, Xavier Gooden, is talented, but obviously not yet in Weatherspoon’s class. Missouri’s linebackers are decent pass rushers, but not terrific in pass coverage.

    6. Nebraska
    Returning Starters:
    One
    Strengths: Will Compton can do some damage when he diagnoses a play quickly. For his size - 6-6, 225 - Sean Fisher is surprisingly fast sideline-to-sideline; he almost runs like a defensive back. Junior college transfer LaVonte David was the nation’s best JUCO linebacker last year. Weaknesses: Compton was often a step slow before Phillip Dillard took his job. Then again, he was only a redshirt freshman. Fisher needs to get lower and more physical on traps and short-yardage plays.

    7. Oklahoma State
    Returning Starters:
    One
    Strengths: Orie Lemon, recovering from a torn ACL that kept him out in 2009, is OSU’s best defensive player. The Cowboys are young, but talented. Some of Mike Gundy’s better recruiting classes are about to kick in. Weaknesses: Justin Gent and James Thomas haven’t produced much for their talent level and experience. Lemon has to show he’s recovered from the injury.

    8. Kansas
    Returning Starters:
    Two
    Strengths: Just a sophomore, Huldon Tharp had 59 tackles last year and is on his way to becoming one of the league’s best linebackers. Drew Dudley is a capable pass rusher and is serviceable against the run, as well. Weaknesses: Depth and talent is lacking behind Tharp. KU’s recruiting under Mark Mangino was spotty at best, and he didn’t do much work here.

    T9. Kansas State
    Returning Starters:
    One
    Strengths: Like Nebraska, KSU typically plays only one or two linebackers; Alex Hrebec is the best of that bunch. He’s played a bunch in his first two seasons. Weaknesses: A lack of talent and depth. Size is an issue; K-State’s backers aren’t terrific in pass coverage.

    T9. Colorado
    Returning Starters:
    One
    Strengths: Hefty bunch - all three projected starters are north of 230 - who will play well against the run. Brian Cabral is a long-time, well-considered position coach. Jon Major is poised for a big year. Weaknesses: Outside of CU’s secondary, the Buffaloes aren’t terribly fast, which affects play vs. spread and passing offenses.

    11. Baylor
    Returning Starters:
    One
    Strengths: Antonio Johnson is a small, active player (77 tackles, 2 sacks) that can be used as a weapon as a pass rusher. He’s an adequate coverage guy, as well. Weaknesses: Baylor must replace two very good linebackers in Joe Pawelek and Antonio Jones, and the Bears don’t have anybody right now who can do it. This is the Bears’ biggest defensive weakness.

    12. Iowa State
    Returning Starters:
    Zero
    Strengths: Youth? ISU’s bunch could be pretty good in two years and Paul Rhoads is the right coach to spearhead the development. Weaknesses: Experience, depth, speed. ISU is starting over on defense. Here especially.

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

    Tags: big 12, big 12 preview, sean fisher, lavonte david, will compton

  16. 2010 Apr 23

    SPRING IN REVIEW: Linebacker

    6,231 views

    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: Linebacker

    Spring Summary: One linebacker position was taken away and turned into a safety/Peso back role, so that leaves four major contenders - Will Compton, Sean Fisher, Alonzo Whaley, Eric Martin - for the middle and weak side spots. While each had good springs, Fisher and Whaley took the best foot forward - Whaley had to, or else risk being lost in the depth chart. Fisher was reportedly quicker and more aggressive. Compton was told to trust his instincts better, but he was uneven in the spring game. Martin flew around as expected but was out of position at times while Whaley played fast, determined and downhill. Those four will battle throughout fall camp for playing time. Behind them juniors Matt Holt and Mathew May battle injuries that keep back their athleticism, while Micah Kreikemeier still hunts for a true position now that the strong side linebacker role is gone.


    Big Mover: Whaley. Tremendous agility and above-average speed, Whaley worked on his upper-body strength in the offseason to better defend against the run.


    More to Prove: In our book, Martin, who is the most gifted of the four linebacker, and the most honest about his shortcomings in the film room. If Martin holes up in North Stadium this summer, NU may have its heir apparent to Phillip Dillard.

    Wild Card: May. If he can ever get healthy, he brings beaucoup speed to the role.


    Freshmen to Add: Lavonte David is a JUCO transfer who spent a few days at spring camp to learn the defense. He’s almost too small - but he’s expected to contribute right away.


    Injuries: May and Holt, and Kreikemeier missed the spring game with a locked-up elbow.


    How to Spend Summer Vacation: Get in that film room, Martin. For Whaley, keep lifting. For Compton and Fisher, don’t stop believin’.

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

    Tags: spring game 2010, springtime with bo 2010, spring in review, alonzo whaley, will compton, sean fisher, eric martin, mathew may, matt holt, micah kreikemeier, lavonte david

  17. 2010 Apr 18

    Commentary: About Those Blackshirts...

    4,899 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Stop worrying about the defense.

    (How’s that for starting a column in midstream?)

    I know you, Husker fan. You drank in the gorgeous afternoon along with the Kool-Aid, high-fived somebody when Niles Paul made his great grab, exclaimed “that’s Osborne’s play!” after the bouncearooski, texted your buddy that Taylor Martinez is the next flavor of the month, and then, in the bar or on the drive home, you began to chew on the inside of your cheek.

    Wonder. Think. Worry.

    And in the coming days, sure as garbage companies heinously overcharge to throw your grass clippings in a truck, some scribe or talking head will pick through the scraps of Saturday’s Red/White Spring Game, walk to the microphone, tap it for clarity, and construct a counter-argument that will linger through summer:

    That NU’s defense, giving up 677 yards Saturday - and getting its share of tread marks in two scrimmages - is a potential weakness. Or, at the very least, nowhere near as strong as last year’s version, as Bo Pelini so confidently stated during the winter.

    To quote the TBS-bound Conan O’Brien: Keep cool, my babies. Thrice.

    1. NU didn’t field a first-team defense on Saturday. At best, it was half of a first team. The chemistry of the two-deep is good - but it’s not that good. Especially after 15 practices.

    “Communication is a big part of our defense,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “Without that, you see a lot of open plays.”

    Said safety Dejon Gomes: “The offense did a heck of a job, but the Spring Game is kinda different. Half the guys you’re playing with is on the other team. The chemistry’s a little off.

    2. Carl and Bo Pelini rarely dialed up blitzes. When they did, the Red or White offense, save a few examples, didn’t handle it well. The Brothers Pelini weren’t looking for sacks; they wanted to see how quarterbacks Cody Green and Taylor Martinez handled basic coverages.

    3. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson overhauled the offense for this spring. And some of the stuff he installed isn’t easy to stop on the first drive.

    That’s probably why Nebraska’s running it.

    In Bo Pelini’s many years as defensive coordinator, he’s probably figured out what he doesn’t like to defend, and it involves a running quarterback, power football, a downfield passing game, multiple running backs, and a dash of the Wildcat.

    In short - a mish-mash of the offenses that gave Bo the most heartache when he was at LSU in 2007: Florida, Kentucky and Arkansas.

    Watson - with Bo’s input - appears to have given the offense a run-first identity. And NU’s smallish defense - a Cosgrove collection it isn’t - is a bit prone to a quick-hitting, downhill running game.

    Do the Huskers have to address that by continuing to build its defensive line? Absolutely. It’s not there yet. Neither Baker Steinkuhler nor Terrence Moore were exactly dominating Saturday - although Steinkuhler fought off blocks pretty well for a man of his length.

    But ends Cameron Meredith and Pierre Allen were in fine form. Meredith screamed off the edge once; another time he bulled his way to the quarterback on an inside twist. Allen, hobbled for much of 2009 with the mysterious-yet-debilitating turf toe, looked stronger and quicker. Josh Williams had a sack, too.

    And an opposing quarterback isn’t going to enjoy throwing against Nebraska. Expect blitzes from all angles - with a variety of terrific athletes - to account for the loss of Ndamukong Suh.

    Safety Matt O’Hanlon once told me Bo and Carl were an encyclopedia of blitzes. It made his head - and those of his teammates - spin, how quickly they rattled them off. O’Hanlon recounted how, in 2008, Bo called a timeout to keep New Mexico State from scoring a late touchdown, walked out on the field, and modified one his classic “Casino” blitzes right on the spot, pointing at players and giving them their assignments, sandlot-style.

    On the next play, O’Hanlon grabbed an interception. Just like Bo told him he would.

    And NU’s secondary - Rickey Thenarse, Gomes, Amukamara, Eric Hagg, Anthony West - is a perfect army to deploy to in 2010

    Hagg - one of the Huskers’ best blitzers - said the defense hardly concentrated on those schemes this spring. That’s for fall, when the two-deep becomes more clear, and there’s only, say, 30 players - instead of 60 - to refine and hone for the season.

    Where Nebraska coaches imagined themselves weak - linebacker - may account for the most growth in the spring. The light went on for Sean Fisher and doubly so for Alonzo Whaley, who played fast and downhill in the Spring Game. Will Compton had a nice pass break-up, and Eric Martin, well, flew around. If he puts all the keys and schemes together - watch out.

    Beyond that - there’s a track record with the defense. From the end of that 2008 Oklahoma game until this moment, you’d be hard-pressed to locate a more dangerous, predatory defense outside of Alabama. Since that awful night in Norman, NU’s has been a sack and turnover machine, regardless of the yards allowed. Fissures and cracks have been papered over by Suh and an opportunistic secondary.

    Suh may be gone. But the secondary remains. And Bo and Carl have only scratched the surface of their creativity.

    SPRING GAME COVERAGE: 5 Questions for Summer, Game Story, QB Commentary, Red Team Standouts, White Team Standouts, Photos

    Tags: spring game 2010, springtime with bo 2010, bo pelini, carl pelini, prince amukamara, dejon gomes, eric hagg, cameron meredith, pierre allen, will compton, alonzo whaley, sean fisher, eric martin, josh williams, terrence moore, baker steinkuhler

  18. 2010 Apr 16

    SPRING GAME: 5 Burning Questions

    751 views

    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Five questions worth asking - in hopes of an answer - heading into Saturday’s Red/White Spring Game:

    Just how vanilla? Is there a hint of flavor in Nebraska’s offensive plays, or does NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson rest on what the Huskers were able to accomplish in a couple scrimmages. The blocking schemes and philosophy have changed since we last saw this team. Nebraska can’t simply ignore all of what it’s been working on for the sake of privacy. Or can it?

    Does the empire strike back? NU’s defense took its licks in the spring scrimmages; does a dialed-down offensive package allow Carl Pelini’s bunch to deliver a few licks of their own? Nebraska’s new-look offensive line is bigger, stronger and more athletic than the 2009 version, so it may not be so simple.

    Which quarterback makes a statement? And by “which” we mean Cody Green or Taylor Martinez. There is a chance - remote, but plausible - that Martinez blows the doors off with some spectacular run, but our money is on Green having the best chance to step forward - or fail to close the gap on Zac Lee, who, in our eyes, is still the starter of this team.

    Does Nebraska have two starting linebackers worthy of Phillip Dillard’s one-year legacy? Yes, two. NU plays enough pro-style teams on the road in 2010 (Washington, Texas A&M, Kansas) that it can’t just rely on its dime defense. With Texas reconsidering a power game and Colorado building what could be a very potent offense, the play of Will Compton, Eric Martin, Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley should be of some interest to Husker fans.

    Is the Peso a pretty picture? Moreover: Will you even notice if it isn’t? Count on Eric Hagg to get the job done. We’ll see about Austin Cassidy.

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, bo pelini, spring game 2010, taylor martinez, cody green, eric martin, alonzo whaley, sean fisher, will compton, shawn watson, zac lee

  19. 2010 Apr 14

    Husker Heartbeat 4/14: Barney, Fisher, Rich Rod and More Strange Urban

    420 views

    By HuskerLocker

    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.

    Cool? Cool!


    *Barney Cotton gives Husker fans six things to watch for Saturday.

    *Sean Fisher wanted to get stronger and more fundamentally soundon the field.

    *Another chat with OWH’s Lee B talks about Doc Sadler (some more) and whether Gary Pinkel needs to find a new defensive coordinator.

    *RichRod’s life just gets harder. Now the NCAA wants to see if he was working the kids at West Virginia too long. What do you want to be the answer is…absolutely?

    *Mitch Albom himself descends from his lofty perch to break down the spring break death of a Notre Dame recruit.

    *Urban Meyer dips another toe in Strange.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, barney cotton, sean fisher, urban meyer, lee b, rich rodriguez, mitch albom, doc sadler

  20. 2010 Apr 01

    SPRING FB: Competitive Heat at LB

    4,396 views

    By HuskerLocker

    The few seconds it takes for you to read this paragraph is all the time a linebacker gets to trust his instincts.

    Any longer, and a running back might have that crucial extra step on a wheel route. A pulling guard gets a cleaner look at a crushing block. Or a tight end is breaking free in the secondary.

    Will Compton knows all that. And yet, when he watched film of his redshirt freshman season at Nebraska, he and his defensive coaches both saw the same thing.

    “I was being hesitant,” Compton said. “Not pulling my trigger.”

    In fall camp last year, the sophomore from Bonne Terre, Mo., earned raves from position coach Mike Ekeler and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini. Before the season opener, Ekeler symbolically handed Compton “the keys” to the Huskers’ defense.

    By the second half of the Missouri game, Compton was replaced by senior Phillip Dillard in NU’s dominant dime alignment. Compton started again vs. Texas Tech, but was badly burned in the first quarter by Red Raider running back Baron Batch on a 16-yard swing pass for a touchdown.

    Dillard took over on the following drive, and never relinquished the dime linebacker job again.

    “I feel like I was second-guessing myself and that’s what (the coaches) believed,” Compton said. “They said: Just go with my instinct the first time and pull the trigger. Trust myself. Be confident.”

    Husker fans who mistakenly presume Compton disappeared during the last half of 2009 are wrong: He still played in base, nickel and goal line defenses, tallying 40 tackles.

    But-

    “You don’t really look at the good stuff,” Compton said. “There’s always flashes and things. Coaches tell me I did a good job and they saw flashes for the future.”

    Which is now.

    “There are a lot of open spots,” sophomore Eric Martin said. “It’s just time to step up. Everybody’s expecting our defense to be at the top and that’s a lot of weight for football players who are still young…especially guys who only have three years of eligibility left. That’s something I have to pick up now.”

    In Nebraska’s new “peso” base defense, there are just two starting jobs, and their responsibilities are interchangeable based on how the offense’s formation. Compton and fellow sophomores Sean Fisher, Martin and Alonzo Whaley are the four primary competitors for the two spots as two Huskers - Matt Holt and Micah Kreikemeier - come back from injuries, Mathew May is currently out with an injury and 2010 recruit Lavonte David awaits to enroll in the fall.

    Thus far, Compton has been paired with Martin. Fisher has been paired with Whaley. That’s so the less experienced Martin and Whaley can get some quick on-field advice from Fisher and Compton.

    Martin said he spent “two or three hours” per day in the film room during the offseason with Ekeler. Even then, Martin has to take a two-dimensional lesson on the screen and turn it into a three-dimensional application on the field.

    “I can guarantee you I’ll make mistakes,” Martin said. “It’s about not making the mistake again.”

    And when he does mess up, Martin said he’ll at least do it “going 100 miles per hour.”

    “If you mess up - don’t stop,” Martin said. “Go make the play, the tackle.”

    Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini isn’t about to handicap the race between the four.

    “As far as who’s going to be on the field, on the first snap, really doesn’t matter,” Pelini said. “They’re all going to play. They’re all proving they can play.”

    Tags: springtime with bo 2010, will compton, sean fisher, alonzo whaley, eric martin

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