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  1. 2011 Sep 11

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Fresno State

    5,764 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - For those of you making Tim Beck/Shawn Watson comparisons, knock it off. Watson would’ve had Martinez throwing slant routes across the middle and handing the ball off to Burkhead in the second half as Nebraska either won by a point or lost.

    - Martinez clearly had his software from OSU 2010 reloaded at halftime, though.

    - Ameer Abdullah: So fast that he can cramp up at the opponent's 45 yard line and still can't be caught.

    - 41 tackles by Will Compton, Lavonte David and Daimion Stafford sounds impressive. Not so much when noted that none caused Fresno State to lose yardage.

    - Anxiously waiting for someone to argue why Jamal Turner, Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and Kyler Reed shouldn’t be Nebraska’s main receivers. Kinnie’s close, but he’s battling his quarterback’s mechanics.

    - Guessing no Heard or Green was because of shift in offensive philosophy in the second half.

    - Derek Carr is much more talented than his brother and was good prep for Dan Persa/Northwestern.

    - Fresno gained almost five yards per rush. Forget Wisky for a moment and remember Washington’s Chris Polk.

    - Brett Maher nailed a 57-yarder in warm-ups. Was somewhat disappointed he didn’t kick that 62-yarder. Also wondering if Alex Henery wasn’t.

    - Burkhead leaping over a goal line pile only lends more credence to his "Superman" nickname. That and his Kryptonian birth certificate.

    - A 33-percent third down conversion rate doesn’t speak well about the entire offensive staff.

    - On the next episode of Ghost Hunters: Courtney Osborne and P.J. Smith.

    - Daimion Stafford's going to be absolutely beastly once he hits midseason form.

    - Filed under “Kinda Funny”: Memorial Stadium erupting in cheers for Bo Pelini chewing a ref out.

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    Tags: tim beck, shawn watson, ameer abdullah, taylor martinez, will compton, lavonte david, daimion stafford, jamal turner, kenny bell, quincy enunwa, kyler reed, brandon kinnie, braylon heard, aaron green, derek carr, chris polk, brett maher, alex henery, rex burkhead, p, j, smith, courtey osborne, bo pelini

  2. 2011 Apr 08

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Tidbits from Taylor

    1,420 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    For two years, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez essentially learned one kind of language for Shawn Watson's West Coast/spread hybrid offense.

    So while he might be barking out calls and checks in Tim Beck's no-huddle, simplified attack, he occasionally has that Watsonian terminology or pre-snap routine rattling around in his head.

    “You have to deprogram that whole offense in a three-month period,” Martinez said Friday echoing a term Beck has used several times. “You pretty much have to forget last year. Sometimes I'll try to put one of this year's plays to last year's plays but I try not to do that. The longer it goes on, it gets less and less.”

    Now three weeks into spring camp, Martinez, the frontrunner to win the starting job at quarterback, said the offense is “getting better every day.” The biggest challenge now, he said, is knowing the pace at which the Huskers will operate for a given play, and the wide receiver/running back motions for those plays.

    Running a no huddle attack hasn't been much a problem, Martinez said. NU practiced it each day last fall, and Martinez ran plenty of it in high school.

    “I'm very comfortable with it,” he said.

    When Martinez said last week he'd talk more to the media, he wasn't kidding. He spent more than 20 minutes with reporters Friday in two different sessions, joking and laughing with several. It created a sharp contrast to fan's perception of a remote, diffident Martinez who chose to address the press very much last season.

    Among the tidbits from T-Mart:

    ***His ankle is close to 100 percent, but he feels the occasional twinge on certain cuts.

    ***Five receivers have emerged from the pack to work with the No. 1 unit: Senior Brandon Kinnie, junior hybrid Kyler Reed, sophomore Stanley Jean-Baptiste, redshirt freshman Kenny Bell and true freshman Jamal Turner.

    ***Team chemistry is “closer than it's ever been.”

    “You'll probably hear that from a lot of players,” Martinez said. “It's very important throughout a team – how each other likes one another.”

    ***He said he had “no clue” that Watson was leaving the program until he saw it in the newspaper. He did get to say goodbye.

    Watson's final advice?

    “Stay confident and keep doing what I'm doing,” he said.

    ***Martinez worked a little with Beck prior to the Holiday Bowl on improving his zone reads with running backs. NU's awful offensive line play never allowed that extra work to pay off, but it did give Martinez more of a flavor of what it'd be like to work with Beck.

    “I used to talk to him a lot in practice,” Martinez said. “We were pretty close.”

    Tags: spring football 2011, taylor martinez, shawn watson, tim beck, brandon kinnie, kyler reed, stanley jeanbaptiste, kenny bell, jamal turner

  3. 2011 Mar 09

    Beck Gets Big Raise

    5,481 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Unsurprisingly, Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck got a huge raise as part of his recent promotion – but he won't be paid as much as former OC Shawn Watson.

    The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Beck would make $345,000 per year – or $30,000 less than Watson made in his final season at NU. Beck made $220,000 last year.

    Other new coaches' salaries: Defensive backs coach Corey Raymond will make $200,000, linebackers coach Ross Els will make $170,000, wide receivers coach Rich Fisher will make $160,000 and offensive line/tight ends coach John Garrison will make $140,000.

    Defensive line coach John Papuchis – who added recruiting coordinator to his duties – gets a raise to $200,000 as well. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini still makes $375,000 while Barney Cotton and Ron Brown will both make $220,000.

    See also: Beck's Boys

    Tags: spring football 2011, tim beck, shawn watson, rich fisher, corey raymond, ross els, john garrison

  4. 2011 Mar 09

    Husker Heartbeat 3/9: Bo, Beck, Doc, Logan Tressel and the Big Ten

    1,286 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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


    We got a big one today...enjoy!

    *Early reactions from Nebraska's stuffed spring football presser are in from Sam McKewon, LJS Sipple and Tom Shatel.

    We start with Tom, who gets a fireside chat with Bo Pelini after Bo's formal presser, allowing the head coach a considerably wide berth to explain his odd hiring and firing/parting ways/finding guys other jobs practices over the last two months.

    To the column!

    You want to know Bo? Don’t pay attention to the words. Pay attention to the actions.

    Pelini offered a peek into his soul this winter. Even as people were railing on about how he delayed the announcement of firings and hirings, Pelini was showing his wares.

    He didn’t want Watson or Gilmore on the streets until he had helped them find a job. Watson landed a quarterbacks coaching job at Louisville, without Pelini’s help. Gilmore landed at USC with Pelini’s assistance.

    “I had a plan the whole way,’’ Pelini said. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do, how I wanted to get there. I wanted to do it the right way for me, and for the guys. People may not agree with how I did it, but I have to do it the way I see fit.’’

    Would you do it the same way again?

    “Absolutely,’’ he said.

    “If I start making decisions based on what the fans want or what the media want ... I have to do it the way I feel is the right way. It may not be the right way for everybody. But at the end of the day, that’s how I had to do it. I stuck with it, and I’m happy I did.’’

    An ironic twist: Pelini said Watson wanted to leave. It was an amicable parting.

    “I consider Shawn a friend,’’ Pelini said. “He’s a tremendous coach. It got to the point where he couldn’t be right no matter what ...

    “There was such a negative air around everything ... It was his decision as much as anything. He had said, ‘I’ve got to move on.’ You get to the point where you get beat up the way he was getting beat up, I mean, he has goals. He’s done a lot in his career. It had become like the snowball was running so fast, it was out of control. He wanted to remove himself from the situation as much as anything else.’’


    Bo appears to be putting Watson's "parting of ways" on the fans and media. We're the source of negativity.

    To which we shrug. The recent past is still the past, but Watson was given parameters last year that made it very difficult for him to be right in the ways he wanted to be. Negativity wasn't that high on Watson through the first half of the year. Not even after the Iowa State game, when his Wildcat attack saved the Huskers' hide. But when Taylor Martinez returned as a starter considerably less than 100 percent, and Watson's up there using his usual "man, he's great" one-liners, it creates the wrong impression.

    LJS Sipple focuses on the potential strength of the defense and Carl Pelini's ascension to full-time defensive coordinator.

    *Ohio State's Jim Tressel gets atwo-game suspension and $250,000 fine after OSU self-reports a major NCAA violation. To hear Buckeye AD Gene Smith say it, a Yahoo report detailing that Tressel knew about a couple of his players selling bowl swag to a tattoo parlor dude eight months before his superiors did had nothing to do with the punishment. tOSU knew about Tressel's transgressions before the story hit the Interwebs.

    We buy that. What we don't buy were some of Tressel's ludicrous assertions about why he didn't alert his bosses to potential eligibility issues the minute he realized that two of his players were part of a relatively-unrelated federal investigation.

    ESPN's Mark Schlabach, who usually does a pretty middling job of writing anything, found a little anger for this one, and wrote perhaps the best of the national columns on the matter.

    Facing the biggest crisis of his career, Tressel never once apologized for knowingly breaking NCAA rules during a news conference on the Ohio State campus on Tuesday night. Worse, Tressel never owned up to not telling his bosses or NCAA investigators that he was aware that at least two of his players might have accepted improper benefits from the owner of a tattoo parlor in Columbus, Ohio.

    When Tressel was asked if he was worried the scandal would tarnish his reputation, he said he's always been his biggest critic.

    "I don't think less of myself at this moment," Tressel said.

    How's that for looking in the mirror?


    Here's another take from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

    We'll have our own take later in the week.

    *Speaking of the NCAA, it ruled that Nebraska pitcher Logan Ehlers must sit out 60 percent of this regular season because, the NCAA ruled, Ehlers hired an advisor to figure out whether he should turn pro or not. That advisor could have been construed as an agent. NU is appealing the decision.

    *Memorial Stadium is getting bigger and biggerby the day thanks to greater demand.

    *With his name being thrown around as a potential candidate for the Texas Tech job while he prepares the Nebraska men's basketball team for the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Doc Sadler says he's the coach at Nebraska so long as Tom Osborne still wants him to be.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, ljs sipple, tom shatel, shawn watson, big ten, ohio state, jim tressel, baseball, mens hoops, logan ehlers, doc sadler

  5. 2011 Mar 03

    Husker Heartbeat 3/3: The Two-Sport Question

    2,681 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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


    *Khiry Cooper - starting to turn the corner as a hitter with the Husker baseball team - talks about playing two sports at NU.

    *In a SI/CBS Report on College Football and Crime, Nebraska appears to be keeping its nose fairly clean. Pittsburgh and Iowa, on the other hand...

    Here's a question: Are you OK with SI conducting criminal background checks on 7,000 individual records? Seems like a lot of work to make a relatively minor and obvious point: That some college football players break the law.

    *Here's our 10 "prove-it" players for spring football.

    *Louisville, which just hired former NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson as its quarterbacks coach, is looking to make the next step.

    *The NCAA is more than happy to run a college football playoff. Of course they are. If they did, the NCAA would likely reap the rewards of a TV contract.

    *BYU basketball dismissed one of its best players for violating its honor code.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, khiry cooper, shawn watson

  6. 2011 Feb 23

    Commentary: Beck and Taylor

    4,434 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    If Tim Beck aces his first interview as Nebraska's offensive coordinator, but few NU fans are listening to their radios at 7:10 p.m. on a Tuesday night - did he actually make a terrific first impression?

    Oh, you betcha. Beck spoke the words - “junk everything” - that sound like Beethoven's 5th to Husker fans. Or maybe they sound like Lady Antebellum. Or New Order. Or Metric. Or whatever it is Nebraskans like these days.

    Point is, the Big Red Nation didn't just want to turn the page from the Bill Callahan/Jay Norvell/Shawn Watson/God Only Knows What It Was In the Holiday Bowl Era. Fans wanted to tear out the page, ball it up, toss it in the fireplace and watch it burn, crinkle and evaporate into chimney smoke.

    And Beck appears to be the guy with the proverbial (and literal) staff, right in the middle of the Red Sea.

    “You can't be afraid to start over,” Beck told “Sports Nightly.” “Even though there may be things your guys know, change is good. And you've got to make those changes and live through those early times, because once the foundation is laid on what you plan on doing, you're going to be set for years to come with it.”

    It can be run. It can be pass. But it needs to make sense. To players. To coaches. To fans. The final two years of the Watson-led offense, when an accommodating OC tried to be too many things to too many members of his team and staff – and perhaps he had no other choice - the attack often plummeted into confusion. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. But even a layperson could see parts of the whole working against each other.

    “It's a mistake of a lot of football coaches,” Beck said, not precisely referring to Watson – but unintentionally making the argument against him anyway. “They tie in so many different philosophies, techniques and verbiage that it becomes a whole bunch of stuff. And it becomes 'What am I supposed to do on these plays?' as opposed to 'How we do run these plays and why do we run these plays?'

    Bo Pelini had to pull the trigger on a change. He finally did – took him practically all winter to officially do it, but whatever – and handed the keys to Beck, who seems intent on making NU's offense his own, yet borrowing the conceptual teaching paradigm Bo uses with the defense.

    That means knowing the offense will be just as important – and perhaps more so – than playmaking ability within it. Which puts the onus on quarterback Taylor Martinez, whose inability to grasp whole chunks of a big playbook last year hampered him – and NU - after an ankle injury slowed down his prodigious speed. We watched as Watson rung up perfectly elaborate passing plays – replete with check downs and lovely shallow crossing patterns – only to see Martinez pat down the ball as if it were a burping baby. That can't happen again. Defenses have a whole year of Martinez's wheels on tape. They'll scheme to stop him. He, too, has to evolve.

    Beck will simplify the playbook, but his interview Tuesday night suggested his quarterback – whoever it is – will have to master it conceptually. Beck spoke of former Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing – a sophomore in 2007 – communicating effectively with Beck on the sideline, which helped KU adjust on the fly. Reesing was a smart cat, but he'll serve Beck's template – the guy who “got it.” Beck may not find a player with as much savvy and natural intelligence, but he won't settle for a QB knowing half the playbook, either.

    That's good. Even better: Beck spoke of QB leadership as if he wanted more out of it – much more – than Watson ever seemed to demand.

    “He's got to be a great leader,” Beck said. “He stands in front of the huddle, talking to the guys and telling them we believe in our system and convincing those guys that, no matter what, we're going to have success. And that comes through leadership. That comes through work. It's a tedious position because of the film study. We have to be sharing the same thoughts. That's going to be important for both of us.”

    Watson had that with Joe Ganz, no question. He wasn't a shabby QB coach. But after Ganz, I'm not sure Wats had “his guy” - in a different world, it would have been Blaine Gabbert – to whom he could completely relate. I'm not sure Watson managed the immaturity and inexperience of his guys very well. I'm not sure he always had final say on who started and who got benched. I think Beck will have Bo's trust and ear more than Watson did by 2010.

    Why did it take so long for Bo to remake the offense in his image? I suspect he had this offseason in mind all along. The 2010 season was supposed to be, as I've written before, a rising tide that lifts all boats kind of thing, where Watson rode a Big 12 Championship and 12-win season to a head coaching job somewhere. The marriage was mutually beneficial – even through the 2009 season, when Watson the good soldier refused to make perfectly-acceptable excuses for rotten performances – until, perhaps, that night in Aggieland. Or that night in Dallas, when the offense couldn't hold a 17-0 lead. And certainly that night in San Diego, when the offense seemed confused, frustrated and completely out of sync despite a good week of practice and a rousing pregame speech from Watson. The players just couldn't make it work anymore.

    I'm still not sold on the system Beck might install – especially if it has a lot of no-huddle components to it – but the Kansas 2007 offense was effectively adaptive. It had a little of everything – quick throws, deep posts, speed option game, zone read, some power – and most of it worked. It helped to have Reesing – the best QB in recent KU history – running it, of course. But it kept defenses guessing. And it wasn't bad at all in the red zone. The Jayhawks also didn't turn over the ball much.

    When Kansas' offense started to fall apart in 2009, some of it traced back to an awful offensive line, and some of it to simple Mark Mangino fatigue. And yet KU schemed up the Brothers Pelini pretty good that year, using QB draws and quick wide receiver screens to keep the Huskers' excellent defense on its heels. Only a DeJon Gomes forced fumble at the NU goal-line probably saved the Huskers from losing that day.

    Beck, of course, has advantages Mangino did not create for himself. Nebraska should have another elite defense. The offensive line talent is much better. NU's running backs – Rex Burkhead and a couple true freshmen – are more talented options than Jake Sharp.

    So even if the new OC talked a terrific game on Tuesday – and he sure did – he still has to scheme it, develop it and coach it. And NU fans are harsh graders of offensive coordinators. They'll give Beck all the leash he wants. And they'll jerk it back quick if 300-yard and 17-point performances become the norm in the Big Ten Conference.

    Start over? Do it. But don't expect much of a grace period. Not in the fourth year of the Boreaucracy. Not with that Big Ten schedule. Not with this kind of young talent on offense. Beck has a bold plan. I like that kind of confidence. He's a Youngstown guy, through and through. Now – the key to Lincoln awaits. If Beck can find a quarterback. And if he can consistently, in his words, “go where the defenses aren't.”

    Grade the Revamped Coaching Staff

    Tags: tim beck, taylor martinez, shawn watson

  7. 2011 Feb 16

    Wats to the 'Ville

    4,615 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Former Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson appears headed to Louisville as quarterbacks coach, Rivals.com's Tom Dienhart reported Wednesday afternoon.

    This, after Watson applied for several head coaching jobs - he didn't get them - and reportedly looked at NFL jobs - he may not have wanted those.

    Earlier Wednesday, NU head coach Bo Pelini wouldn't confirm whether he fired Watson or Watson quit. That faint line of distinction may never be drawn now that the Callahan-era hire has landed in the Big East.

    Watson has been replaced at NU by former running backs coach Tim Beck.

    Tags: shawn watson

  8. 2011 Feb 14

    Husker Heartbeat 2/14: The Legacy of Watson

    7,896 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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


    *Now that Bo Pelini's put his stamp on this coaching staff, the various scribes are beginning to weigh in with solid perspectives.

    ^Our Husker Monday Takes

    ^OWH's Mitch Sherman interviews Barry Switzer and Pat Jones about why coaches need to hire their guys.

    ^LJS Sipple chats up Frank Solich to unearth some praise for Ross Els. Sipple also suggests Bo might simply announce his coaching hires with a press release. That'd be just like Bo - but a mistake.

    ^Tom Shatel, meanwhile talks to Tom Osborne about his first major staff turnover in the 1970s. After a slew of ugly losses to Oklahoma and some other disappointing setbacks in the mid-1970s, Osborne began to alter his coaching staff to fit his own identity.

    Interestingly enough, when Osborne hired Bo Pelini to return to NU, he didn't let Bo exactly bring his own offensive staff. He suggested Bo retain Shawn Watson. A good idea for exactly one year.

    Shatel seems to think that was OK. We don't. Again: You hire a guy for the job, he's gotta hire his guys, whoever those guys might be. Bo could have hired Rich Fisher three years ago; folks might have batted an eye, but he would have been here. Ditto for Tim Beck being offensive coordinator. He's really no more qualified for the role now than he was in 2008, is he? If that was Bo's guy back then - why retain Watson?

    It goes back the complex nature of NU's program. And it's a tough ending for Watson. Here's a guy who could have gone to Alabama, coached a true passing quarterback (Greg McElroy) and probably won a national title. He stayed loyal, however, to a school that seemed loyal to him. It was supposed to pay off in 2010. It didn't. He's gone, probably off to the NFL. Which isn't where Watson belongs.

    ^Finally John Bishop's puts in his two cents with a Special Sunday School. Any chance Bishop can find his way back on Sports Nightly to replace the two mouthpieces who currently host the show?

    *Five-year recruiting ranking average for Big Ten teams. Ohio State and Michigan are on top.

    *2011 recruit Todd Peat Jr. had plenty of preparation for college football - his dad, Todd, Sr., played in the NFL. As for Todd's brother Andrus, another highly-touted recruit...NU will have start all over to recruit him.

    *Even Hollywood doesn't want Sam Keller to win his lawsuit against the NCAA.

    *OWH's Mitch Sherman interviews Barry Switzer and Pat Jones about why coaches need to hire their guys.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, bo pelini, shawn watson, tim beck, rich fisher, mitch sherman, tom shatel, steve sipple, recruiting, todd peat, sam keller

  9. 2011 Feb 09

    Husker Heartbeat 2/9: Ready to Lift the Coaching Curtain?

    7,862 views

    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 source close to Bo - who knows, maybe it's Bo himself? - tells the OWH's Tom Shatel that the coaching staff is complete. It is presumed that Tim Beck is perhaps the sole offensive coordinator. Dirk C writes:

    If Pelini hands the offense to Beck, Nebraska is likely to embrace the no-huddle, spread principles that swept through the Big 12 the past five years.

    “It’s high-speed football,” Warinner said.

    At Kansas, the system worked like this: Warinner surveyed the field from the press box. Beck stood on the sideline.
    Warinner called a play, and the Jayhawks lined up. He waited to see the defensive formation. Quarterback Todd Reesing looked at Beck on the sideline.

    If Warinner liked the original play, he told Beck via headset, who signaled to Reesing to run it. If Warinner wanted to audible, Beck signaled the change to Reesing.

    “That son of a gun, when he left (for Nebraska), we had to change the whole thing,” Warinner said. “We didn’t change any of the concepts, we just changed our signals and all our verbiage.”

    Kansas didn’t want an NU assistant knowing the secret signals.


    Well, only Bill Callahan in the Super Bowl thinks he doesn't need to change his signals, right?

    We know this: Beck was a huge assist in helping NU take down Kansas 45-35 in that big 2008 game - Bo's first truly solid win that year.

    *Meanwhile, Shawn Watson could be in line for a NFL job, Shatel writes.

    "A source close to Nebraska football says head coach Bo Pelini is working the phones with his NFL friends to land Watson a job in the league. And something could happen soon."

    That's nice of Bo, but, again - doesn't Watson have, like, lifelong friends coaching in the NFL? Like Bill Callahan? And others? It just seems odd that it's Bo working his contacts to get Wats a job when Wats could probably land one of those on his own.

    That's not to diminish Bo's effort here. But still...

    *Spring football dates for all 12 Big Ten teams.

    *LJS Sipple and Brian Christopherson make an early prediction that Taylor Martinez remains the No. 1 guy at quarterback. We think Cody Green will get a long, good look at the starting job. And he just might take it from Martinez.

    *Purdue has the Big Ten's worst recruiting class. For good reason.

    *Former Husker running back Kenny Wilson will play indoor football in Grand Island. Meanwhile, the guy whom Wilson was ahead of on the depth chart early in the 2006 season, Brandon Jackson, won a Super Bowl.

    *Arizona State: Your first Pac-12 South fave.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, bo pelini, shawn watson, ljs sipple, tom shatel, dirk chatelain, bill callahan, kenny wilson, brandon jackson, pac 12, tim beck, coaching search 2011

  10. 2011 Feb 07

    Husker Monday Takes: On Bo and the Media

    1,286 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Six quick takes as we await word from Bo Pelini on his new assistant coaching staff:

    ***The media doesn't root for Bo to make mistakes just so it can skewer him and extract some kind of revenge for his brusque manner during the season. That's absurd. It's still a money business, the press, and there isn't a whole helluva lot of future in raking Bo over the coals ad infinitum. If Bo played the PR game like a Stradivarius, we'd say it. But he makes multiple gaffes, so, well, we say that instead.

    When Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore fail to appear at two recruiting dinners, conspicuously absent like a couple cabinet members of the Russian Politburo, we're going to point out how awkward that seems.

    When Nebraska's best position coach resigns for personal reasons – notice that none of us are trying to plumb those depths - of course the state's largest newspaper is going to call former and future Huskers for reactions. Bo had 30 hours to reach out to cornerback Charles Jackson before he did – 24 hours before he announced Sanders' resignation and Jackson found out via Facebook.

    When some back-office techie posts a job opening for an offensive assistant coach on UNL's Web site, yeah, we're going to notice. And Bo claims to knows less than the columnist who asks him about it – how is that on the press?

    What fans see is a Husker administration that kept things quiet for a full month after the Holiday Bowl with a somewhat tacit, no-pressure vibe from the media. The Sanders scuttlebutt wasn't new. Speculation about Watson and Gilmore's departure has been rampant since the last ugly sack Taylor Martinez took in San Diego.

    But that hibernation period more or less expired on Signing Day. Bo might want to beg off any pertinent questions about the state of the program, but he begged off for five weeks. And I don't recall any of the reporters around here screaming too loudly. Bo had time to craft a departure plan for Watson and Gilmore. If Corey Raymond's move to NU was in the works since late January – as Indiana coach Kevin Wilson seemed to suggest – then Bo had time to plan a roll out for Sanders' resignation, too. And Ross Els, last I checked, has been available to join Nebraska since, oh, the very second Mike Ekeler joined Indiana.

    Bo said he doesn't live on a timetable. Well, fine.

    But sometimes, timetables impress themselves upon you. And it's not the media's fault if you're still in the dressing room when the bell rings.

    ***Bo's earned the trust of Husker fans to hire whatever defensive staff he pleases, and if that includes a mid-major guy like Els as linebacker, then so be it.

    Els has a reputation of being a solid teacher who can develop raw talent; at Ohio, he's had plenty of that. And you knock the MAC at your own risk; a lot of BCS-caliber coaches cut their teeth in that league, several pro-caliber quarterbacks did the same. The MAC isn't to be confused with the Sun Belt; top to bottom, it's nearly as competitive as the Mountain West.

    Can Els recruit? We'll see. At least he knows Big Ten country. But if Corey Raymond can pick up in recruiting where Ekeler left off – or even improve upon it – Els may not have to be a top-flight closer.

    At any rate – Bo has a clear vision on defense.

    ***Since I posted my Case for Scott Frost on Friday afternoon, I *think* Bo and the former Nebraska quarterback have ventured a bit closer on terms. Whether it blooms into Frost wearing one of those sharp adidas pullovers this fall instead of a white Nike polo remains to be seen. It'll take, as I wrote Friday, an offensive coordinator offer. The rewards of offering Frost that role outweigh the risks. In fact, if Bo goes in a different direction than Frost - and the hire is viewed more as a “who Bo knows” play than a home run – the image of Frost, helping coach the nation's most explosive offense in Eugene, will linger over the Huskers as they trudge through a brutal schedule in 2011.

    I get why Bo would tab current running backs coach Tim Beck as a co-offensive coordinator and playcaller. Beck's put in the time, he knows one version of the spread, and he's aces with the press. I still think NU's offense needs some edge, energy and fresh spread ideas. Oregon unveiled some nifty, three-back/triple option sets for the BCS Championship game that the Huskers could use. Beck and Frost could make for a dynamic duo.

    ***Now for some belated-but-deserved praise: Bo's 2011 recruiting class is the kind of group that wins Big Ten Championships. If you're examining the “Legends” Division, Nebraska vaulted past rival Iowa in the last month to land the No. 2 class in the conference. Ohio State nabbed the top class, thanks to an awesome defensive class and landing the nation's best dual-threat quarterback, Braxton Miller, and linebacker, Curtis Grant.

    Breaking down the Big Ten's best by position – according to this guy, anyway.

    Quarterback: Miller, Ohio State
    Running back: Mikail McCall, Iowa
    Tight end: Ray Hamilton, Iowa
    Offensive tackle: Tyler Moore, Nebraska
    Offensive guard: Austin Blythe, Iowa
    Center: Ryne Reeves, Nebraska
    Big wide receiver: Devin Smith, Ohio State
    Small wide receiver: Andre Sims, Jr. Michigan State
    Defensive End: Deion Barnes, Penn State
    Defensive Tackle: Todd Peat, Jr. Nebraska
    Linebacker: Curtis Grant, Ohio State
    Cornerback: Charles Jackson, Nebraska
    Safety: Daimion Stafford, Nebraska
    Kicker: Justin Duvernois, Illinois

    Iowa held its own, as you see. The Hawkeyes bagged their best class under Kirk Ferentz. Herky will take a one-year step back before surging in 2012. I just don't see Iowa's defense holding up very well next year against the explosive offenses in the Legends Division.

    ***Just one note about Doc Sadler's Nebraska men's basketball team: A front line of 6-10, 6-11 and 6-11 ought to be able to slow down The Morris Twins of Kansas without automatically requiring a guard to sink down and create a double team. That Brandon Ubel, Andre Almeida and Jorge Brian Diaz weren't even allowed to try says volumes about Doc's confidence in their defense.

    NU is better than its 2010 version, but let's be honest: The Big 12 is a little worse.

    Twenty wins remain in reach, but it's time for the Huskers to steal one on the road against a more talented team. Like Baylor, which sports two NBA talents (guard Lace Dunn and forward Perry Jones).

    ***The Super Bowl commercials were unfunny and worse than ever, the Black Eyed Peas halftime concert consistent of yelling, lights and noisy dance and the game itself – Green Bay beat Pittsburgh 31-25 – was sloppy, but fittingly violent and intense.

    I was struck by the Packers' defense, which gave up some yards on the ground but refused to let Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (my wife Molly prefers Rottenburger) work his magic outside of the pocket. GB's offbeat-but-effective pass rushing scheme forced two Big Ben picks – both of them led to touchdowns – and a number of errant throws.

    It reminded me, a little bit, of The Brothers Pelini and their strategy to hem in Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor.

    Tags: husker monday takes, coaching search 2011, bo pelini, mens hoops, doc sadler, kirk ferentz, shawn watson, ted gilmore, ross els, corey raymond, big ten, recruiting, scott frost

  11. 2011 Feb 05

    COACH SEARCH 2011: 2/5 Update

    10,165 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    OK, so we're giving it a name and shoving out updates - including some of our own - until this matter of Nebraska's coaches is resolved.

    As they love to say in the movie review business, here's where we came in:

    OFFENSE

    Latest Official Update: *Some enterprising sort at UNL decided to post a job for an offensive coach on the school's Web site. It sure reads like an offensive coordinator job. Every major news agency jumped all over it, of course, until head coach Bo Pelini told the OWH's Tom Shatel he didn't know about the job opening and theorized that director of football operations Jeff Jamrog may have posted it for an intern. Later, when the OWH attempted to press director of media relations Keith Mann on who made the job posting, Mann hung up on them. Gonna be a good weekend in Huskerville!

    Potential Candidates: NU running backs coach Tim Beck could be in line for a nice promotion - he's NU's best recruiter and an above-average position coach. Both the LJS and OWH have mentioned Kansas' Ed Warinner - who worked with Beck in 2007 - as a possibility for offensive coordinator but we think he's down the list, perhaps. Oregon's Scott Frost - a former NU quarterback - would likely accept a promotion from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator if Pelini were to offer it. We already knew this; hence, our Case for Scott Frost, which argues that Bo Pelini should pull the trigger and make the offer unless a top name is floating around.

    We think there may be another name - better than Warinner, in our estimation - and we're working on solid confirmation.

    At wide receivers, where Ted Gilmore can't possibly survive Watson's firing, you *may* a shuffling of duties that brings a current Husker assistant in to coach them. Ron Brown seems like the right fit. Brown should have been the WR coach in 2008, when Gilmore should have been relieved of his duties. Brown is an elite WR coach, coveted by at least two NFL teams and Florida State during his stint at Nebraska; why he was merely a tight ends coach for three years baffles us.

    The biggest question on offense seems to be quarterbacks. Shawn Watson was a long-term, solid QB coach. He knew that job well. He developed a variety of mediocre talents into above-average college signal-callers. It's the job for which he is best suited.

    There's no "Watson" on the staff now, and only Frost, a former quarterback, seems to fit inside the parameters of what makes a good QB coach. Beck worked with Taylor Martinez some during Holiday Bowl preparation. But, as Martinez's Holiday Bowl performance showed - it didn't exactly pay off. Cotton can coach QBs - he worked a little bit with Watson in spring and fall camp of 2009 teaching the finer points to Cody Green after practices. But we think offensive line is more natural fit for him.

    Could an intern like Joe Ganz really take that job now? No. Ganz is really smart - an assistant coaching candidate within five years - but not ready to tackle that without Watson working with him.

    So who coaches quarterbacks? That's a bigger question than "Who coaches wide receivers?"

    DEFENSE

    Latest Official Update: NU has two openings after the resignation of Marvin Sanders. Sanders' opening will be filled within the next week by Corey Raymond. The open linebackers jobs appears headed to Ohio position coach Ross Els. Pelini confirmed both to Tom Shatel Friday night.

    Els is not a terribly sexy name. But - he's a Lincoln native, he's purported to be a good teacher of the game, he fits in well with defensive coordinator Carl Pelini and he may get a crack at coaching special teams. At any job short of coordinator, we're less likely to play the resume game. If Els can coach, he can coach, and if Bo thinks he's the guy over Doug Colman, so be it. Since Raymond probably assumes some pretty aggressive recruiting duties - Sanders was nonchalant at best on the recruiting trail despite excellent communication skills - then Els can probably worry less about locking down a bunch of prospects. He'll also probably work the JUCO routes with Carl Pelini, who has strong contacts throughout Kansas.

    Tags: coach search 2011, scott frost, marvin sanders, shawn watson, ted gilmore, ed warinner

  12. 2011 Feb 03

    SIGNING DAY: As Changes Loom, Bo Stalls

    13,630 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    BREAKING NEWS: Marvin Sanders Resigns


    Imagine a house with a paranoid guy inside it. He locks down everything. Bars on the windows. He buys a security system. He learns the finest self-defense techniques. Occasionally peeks out through the blinds just for good measure.

    Then he gives a key to his good friend and that guy leaves the back door wide open.

    And so it went Wednesday for Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who carefully worked to keep this bubbling pot of intrigue hidden deep in his administrative kitchen. He hasn't granted an interview in five weeks. He held a Signing Day press conference by phone. Running silent and stoic. Although he was upbeat as he took the phone. Chipper, almost. For him, at least. Hey – it's still one hell of a recruiting class. Even if Bo declines to talk about individual players.

    Just one problem. Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson – a Bo friend - announced Wednesday that his secondary coach, Corey Raymond, was leaving the Hoosiers after two months to fill the same role at Nebraska.

    The Hunt for Bo October began.

    Pelini denied he had hired any new coaches, much less Raymond, but he wasn't saying much more than that. Pressed repeatedly by two reporters from the Omaha World-Herald – Mitch Sherman and Dirk Chatelain – Bo ducked and dodged and jabbed like fellow Youngstown native Kelly Pavlik. He avoided the knockout over the last nine minutes of his presser. But he's behind on points, protecting a bruised reputation and in serious need of some offense – in PR.

    “I have not hired any coaches up to this point,” he said first. “But it's been obvious that a defensive position has been open for awhile now.”

    Yes, it is. That's a legally safe answer because it's true, and Bo merely inferred the connection. Although I don't think – nobody does – that Raymond's about to fill the linebackers job.

    Is Marvin Sanders – one of NU's best position coaches – still on the staff? “I'll address any staff questions at another time. This is not the time or the place.”

    When will it be? “I don't really live on timetables...I'll address staff or anything when the time is right. When I feel the time is right. When I think you need to know. Fair enough?”

    Bo's only question of the session was met with a fitting four-second silence, as if every Husker fan listening online or in their car had a chance to answer that question themselves. Just a voice in space, existential, pitching three pennies to its adoring public and calling it a nickel.

    I wonder, if you could have polled all those Husker fans right then, what their answer would have been?

    ***

    On his Twitter Page, Bo says the secret to success is “constancy of purpose.” He will stay this course, a lonely throwback on the sea of words, telling the press and NU fans and even new recruits what they need to know when he thinks they need to know it. His journey is being silently underwritten by athletic director Tom Osborne, a kind man and even kinder leader whom, I suspect, values his employee's freedom over micromanagement. Even if his star pupil could use it.

    Is this how Tom would have handled it, staying away from a Big Red Recruiting Dinner in Omaha where three assistants – Sanders, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore – also didn't show up, their collective absence looming larger than an Aaron Green 80-yard run? Would he have allowed rumors about Sanders to fester? The guy who just coached three All-Big 12 players – and an All-American - in the span of two years?

    All Bo had to do Wednesday is hit a single with these questions. To think it out ahead of time and comb over the bald spots. Now, he'd better be prepared to hit a home run whenever he does officially decide the time and place is right to make the first major changes to his staff in four years.

    He just might. I won't underestimate him. Bo sometimes puts himself in a hole, but he's pretty adept at crawling out. And he can still run this town – and the press with it – if he committed to winning them over.

    As it is, the media is slowly tiring of Bo's routine, pressed as they are by readers, listeners and viewers for more answers. The insatiable appetite is out there, in the masses, in the pizza shops and bars and office complexes and churches and cafes and video stores. Maybe it shouldn't be. In fact, I damn well know it shouldn't. I've written it: Pain's in store for Nebraska. We'd best pay closer attention to an exploding budget deficit and a potentially-divisive immigration law than who Bo hires to run his secondary.

    I've also written: Bo can do fans – and the state – a favor with more transparency, access and clarity.

    On Signing Day he gets dragged into a line of questioning for which he seemed unprepared. Why? Who would better know how to manage questions about the coaching staff other than the guy managing it? Is there no clear plan of attack? Did Bo not realize that Wilson would announce staff changes – like most other head coaches do – at his Signing Day press conference? Can he really blame Wilson for managing his program while Bo dawdles to manage a much bigger one?

    Contracts are sensitive. New ones. Potentially terminated ones. Whatever. Fine. Noted. The world marches these days to a beat of legalese. There are ways to talk around these issues without pretending as if they aren't to be discussed in the first place.

    ***

    Everyone figured Bo could create a defense out of thin air and some pretty good prospects; and he's done it. He is, for my money, the best defensive coordinator in America. (If Sanders is out – and Bo left the matter dangling in the air, a rabbit for media greyhounds to chase – I won't question the decision. On that side of the ball, Bo knows. The secondary might have been Marvin's Garden – but it was Bo's magical seeds that did the trick.) But he's more than a DC. He is, for the 169th time, a fabulously-well-paid steward serving at the leisure of his boss, Osborne, who serves at the leisure of Harvey Perlman, who serves at the leisure of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's faculty, who work, more or less, for the state of Nebraska. You.

    That inefficient chain-of-command is, in part, to blame. Osborne doesn't meddle. Perlman's like a mamba, and he already had his one poisonous bite after the Texas A&M game. The faculty, I mean, God bless em. And you...you're in the middle. You have the biggest stake, but the smallest part to play. You are actually driving the truck. From the trunk.

    And the beater is beginning to travel into uncomfortable, theoretical territory, where a coach pits his obstinacy of purpose and oblivious-to-culture personality against the news media, which will, as the media tends to do, eventually fracture into differing opinions, agendas, angles and voices. To serve the needs of the people who create those differences.

    It starts with the “if only it were 1973 and three people like me covered the team” faction. It's fueled by local radio rock stars and their cleverly-turned phrases. It continues with the new guard, arrows in their Twitter quiver. The battle is tracked and mediated by a universe of Internet poets, larks and trolls. Message board mavens. Talkback tough guys. Hacks like me, trying spin it into a grander narrative of society, something worthy of Wharton on her worst day. Personally, I like the whole rollicking, rumbling apple cart, gaining speed, pitched forward into the cold, wintery night, with God only knows round the bend.

    But you will know when you get there. That rushing sound you will hear is white noise inside a Big Red vacuum, strangely and hermetically sealed by the one consistent passion of this state: Nebraska football.

    The right words, the right hires, the right time, the right place. All in a red duck's row. Good luck, Bo.

    Tags: signing day, shawn watson, ted gilmore, marvin sanders, bo pelini, football, recruiting

  13. 2011 Jan 17

    Husker Monday Takes: Scheme, Structure and Personnel

    1,169 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Six takes as it gets even colder around here this week. Ugh!


    *If Gering's Teresa Scanlan can win a national title as a 17-year-old in Las Vegas, well, shoot, get Miss America and her tiara down to North Stadium. Maybe she can figure out Nebraska's offense. Power O or zone read, Teresa?

    If the scheme actually fits NU's personnel, call it good.

    But do all of the Husker players all fit into the same kind of attack?

    Should Nebraska edge toward the same structure offensive coordinator Shawn Watson used in 2008 with Joe Ganz, Wats only has one quarterback on the roster with the skillset, knowledge and health who fits: Cody Green. And we still don't know if Green is the kind of playmaker who can change a game with his arm or legs. He hasn't shown yet that he is.

    *Tray Robinson's transfer to Montana State – coupled with Braylon Heard's continued struggle to academically qualify – leaves the backup job behind Rex Burkhead wide open to a stable of unproven guys. NU is still in the running for Alabama athlete Ameer Abdullah – say that five times fast – but the smart money is on incoming freshman Aaron Green, the explosive-but-slight San Antonio scatback whom the Huskers have been recruiting for two years.

    But don't count out redshirt freshman walk-on Yusef Wade, a Lincoln North Star product who held his own on the scout team this year.

    Two different Blackshirts told me in December they were impressed with Wade's toughness, hands and moves. Just 5-10, 175, Wade was a late-bloomer in high school, rushing for 1,580 yards his senior season. He could easily be No. 3 – or No. 2 in August if Heard can't make it to NU without first enrolling in junior college.

    What's missing, of course, is the true power back. The biggest of the bunch, Lester Ward, runs too upright to be a classic, behind-the-pads runner. Burkhead is plenty tough in traffic, but he may not hold up under a full night in the trenches.

    *Bo should set aside hiring a linebackers coach, let Carl Pelini manage that job, and think seriously about a full-time special teams coordinator who demands Nebraska win the third phase – especially on the return and coverage units. Kicker Alex Henery and specialist Adi Kunalic papered over some of the Huskers' weaknesses on special teams for several years. NU didn't play enough of its best athletes on the units last year, didn't block any kicks and hurt itself with poor – and times bizarre – punt returns.

    *It doesn't make much impact in the world of a recruitnik, but take notice of Iowa's 2011 recruiting class – the best in years for the Hawkeyes. It probably has fewer “flash” players than Nebraska's, but it's full of solid guys that Iowa's staff usually coaches up, buffeted by a few star prospects. It's currently ranked at No. 24 by Rivals.

    NU's is 17th, a good chunk of its ranking tied up in the right position – one of the nation's finest offensive line classes. The Huskers probably need two of them – tackle Tyler Moore, who just enrolled, and center Ryne Reeves, who has the size and strength to play immediately – because of a consistent lack of depth – and too many injuries - in Barney Cotton's bunch.

    *The final AP and Coaches polls were kinder to Nebraska than I expected. That speaks to voters' relative respect for Bo and NU's historical pedigree.

    But I'd be leery of ranking the Huskers inside the top 20 to start next year.

    An awful New Year's Day showing from the Big Ten doesn't change this reality: It's one thing to beat a single Big Ten team after 30 days of rest and three weeks of practice in a warm locale. It's entirely another to win a Big Ten title, withstanding physical punishment for nine straight weeks in college football's most physical conference, if not its best. And to do it right out of the box seems unlikely, especially when coupled with a tough non-conference schedule.

    *One of the biggest games of the Doc Sadler era arrives Tuesday night when Nebraska – fresh off two competitive road losses at Missouri and Kansas – hosts a suddenly-hot Colorado team that's already beaten Mizzou, Kansas State and Oklahoma to start the Big 12 schedule. In guard Alec Burks, the Buffaloes have that “one guy” Sadler's been looking for since he arrived in Lincoln; but Sadler also possesses his most balanced, best rebounding team, too. NU can stop any team, but it stuggles to put points on the board.

    Sounds familiar? If Doc and Bo Pelini – two of the best defensive minds in their respective sports – could ever cobble together a way to consistent way to score, man, it'd be something.

    Meanwhile, Lance Jeter is Nebraska's best point guard since, well, Tyronn Lue in 1998. Sadler gets slagged pretty good for some of his recruiting mistakes – but he took what many folks considered a risk on an overweight, former college football player. And Doc nailed it.

    Tags: husker monday takes, bo pelini, shawn watson, cody green, lance jeter mens hoops, rex burkhead, yusef wade

  14. 2011 Jan 11

    Bo Watch Finally Over? Wats Watch, Too?

    10,804 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    LSU athletic director Joe Alleva confirmed late Tuesday morning that Tiger coach Les Miles will stay in Baton Rouge - likely with a hefty salary increase - and not pursue a job at Michigan.

    So Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini isn't going to be headed down Louisiana Way. There won't be many more head coaching jobs open during this particular ride of the college football coaching carousel. Certainly none that would suit Bo. The NFL looms out there, but so does a lockout.

    It would appear that Pelini is firmly rooted at NU for the 2011 season. Not that we ever thought otherwise, as we've repeatedly written over the last week. But this sorta makes it pretty official, in our book.

    There's been whispers of a greater commitment from Nebraska to Pelini as it pertains to football budget spending. Frankly, those comments, in the face of a $1 billion shortfall in the state's budget, kind of concern us. We've said before: Private planes are mostly used to have in-home visits with kids during the month of December and January. That's really it. By then, most good teams not named Penn State have their recruiting classes pretty well put in place. There are better times to ask to keeps a private jet.

    Beyond that: We're aware of a spending gap between Nebraska's football program and Ohio State of $14 million. Be careful there. You never know how accounting works at a given school; it would be wrong to assume that OSU and NU are including the same things in their budget.

    Years ago, we did a story on the Huskers' budget, and found that, indeed, Ohio State had by far the largest athletic department at that time. Why? Because OSU runs a couple of golf courses near campus, and had another 50-100 employees on the payroll because of it, plus the golf maintenance budget. That's millions of dollars in cost. (And millions more in revenue!).

    The point is: Be wary of comparisons, because they're rarely apples to apples.

    Pelini should, in fact, take the high road here. He should ask for no raise; his team won the same number of games as last year and no Big 12 title. He should be patient on matters of "commitment" as fans, and athletic director Tom Osborne, have been patient with him on learning some of the finer points of being a head coach.

    Now Bo must turn his attention to the offense and coordinator Shawn Watson. How many good jobs are out there left for Wats to take? Few. Maybe he gets a look at San Diego State if Brady Hoke leaves for Michigan. Maybe Hoke tabs Watson as an OC candidate at UM. Maybe Watson looks to his many NFL friends and tries to land there for a couple years.

    Or maybe he stays at NU - because Bo wants him here.

    2010 wasn't supposed to look this way for Wats. NU had a national title caliber squad this season, and the OC appeared to have crafted a workable offense in 2009 Holiday Bowl to achieve those wins in 2010. But the plan was scrapped - by Watson or Bo, I'm not sure it matters - at the beginning of the year, and Taylor Martinez took over as QB.

    It only became clear after Martinez's injury how risky a gamble that was - and why it probably wasn't worth taking. But it sunk Watson's chances at a good head coaching job, and left him bridesmaid in the Vanderbilt and Miami (Ohio) job searches.

    If Watson returns to NU, Bo would be wise to let his OC play the personnel and run the plays he thinks will win games. Period. Obviously, Watson doesn't have an Andrew Luck at QB to work with. But he may have better game-manager options than T-Magic if No. 3 doesn't make significant strides in the spring. And if a game manager is what Watson wants, it's what he should get - regardless of how Martinez feels about it.

    See also: The Plain Truth About Nebraska's Offense and 2010 Offensive Report Card and The Ten Best Offensive Plays of 2010.

    Tags: bo pelini, shawn watson, taylor martinez

  15. 2011 Jan 11

    YEAR IN REVIEW: QB Report Card

    511 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    HL's Samuel McKewon breaks down individual grades for each of NU's quarterbacks, explains Shawn Watson's one big mistake and predicts a depth chart for next year. Check out a 30-day free pass of HLP!

    Tags: year in review, report card, taylor martinez, cody green, zac lee, shawn watson

  16. 2011 Jan 09

    Husker Monday Takes: Why Bo Stays Put

    1,485 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Six quick takes while you defrost in your cubicle or sled down the biggest hill in town:

    ***Bo Pelini stays on the Nebraska horse in this latest edition of the college football coaching carousel. That's my prediction – unless the NFL comes knocking. And if NU had won the Big 12 title and the Fiesta Bowl this year, there might have been a good chance that we're talking about the Denver Broncos instead of the LSU Tigers.

    But it didn't, and I suspect Bo feels a sense of unfinished business now. He'd be leaving the Nebraska rebuilding project before true completion. Plus, he's close to taking the Huskers back home to the Big Ten. The prospect of trolling his old stomping grounds for recruits and program-defining wins must be alluring. Bo's a Big Ten character at heart – all grit, no grease – and he has to dip a toe in those Great Lakes just once, doesn't he?

    Even if Michigan plucked Les Miles from LSU, I think the Tigers pursue an offensive mind. Florida State's Jimbo Fisher. Auburn offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn. Or – and wouldn't this be a hoot? – Oregon's Chip Kelly. There hasn't been anything too wrong with LSU's defense since coordinator John Chavis took it over; facing better offenses this year, the Tigers finished No. 8 in total defense. Nebraska is No. 12

    At any rate, LSU will have the money – and the promise of terrific, practically-ready-made recruiting classes – to attract just about anybody. Piles of cash can change a man. If they didn't, they wouldn't exist.

    But if Bo doesn't enjoy answering to the media up here, how would he enjoy a conclave of boosters down there? The halls of power are longer and more foreboding in the SEC than they ever have been at NU.

    Now, Michigan – why would it hire Miles, a head coach more lucky than good? Because the Wolverines want a splash after Jim Harbaugh spurned them for a big pile of money and one of the worst jobs in the NFL at San Francisco. Miles is a splash, all right – a big cannonball who would absorb tons of scrutiny and criticism from the minute he arrived in Ann Arbor. He'd have less of a grace period than the maladjusted human snit fit who just left the place, Rich Rodriguez.

    UM would be smarter to grab San Diego State's Brady Hoke, who'd come in, put his head down and get to work rebuilding a pro-style offense.

    ***Time and head coaching jobs are running out for offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. If he doesn't land one – and Bo doesn't fire him from his current post – one of his primary jobs for spring is to find some kind, any kind, of short passing game that can thwart a blitz.

    West Coast Offense guys usually rely on screen and shovel passes to the do trick. I never saw a shred of evidence that Taylor Martinez – or Cody Green, for that matter – could execute them. NU hardly tried to alleviate an opponent's blitz with anything other than a quick slant – which Oklahoma and Washington took away at the end of the year.

    Did you notice how many screen passes Green Bay and Philadelphia used in Sunday's NFL Playoff game? That Nebraska couldn't use the best play in Bill Callahan's book – ever – in 2010 is another indictment of Watson – or someone's – inability to teach guys basic staples, and have them execute accordingly. Martinez darn well should be able to sell a screen pass. If not him, Green. If not him, Kody Spano. Brion Carnes. Someone.

    Splitting reps with Marlon Lucky and Quentin Castille, Roy Helu caught 25 passes in 2008. He caught five this year – four fewer than Castille did two years ago. Or the same number Correll Buckhalter caught in 2000. This is not progress.

    ***Noticed the confident interviews from both NU quarterback recruits - Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling – last week. Neither were terribly shy about zeroing in on Martinez's struggles. The kids see chum in the water, in the form of all those awful sacks T-Magic took in Big 12 Championship and Holiday Bowl. They'll close their yaps once they hit the Husker weight room.

    Martinez, meanwhile, released an e-mail statement through his father, Casey, reiterating that he was returning to Lincoln for his sophomore year.

    Speaking of time, those 15 minutes of playing coy with the press is just about up.

    His on-field weaknesses exposed, Martinez will be in a furious battle for his starting job this spring, and if he chooses to conduct it under complete radio silence, that's his call. But he will have missed an opportunity to establish himself as a leader.

    Taylor be wise to look around. There aren't any “Bill Callahan” quarterback recruits in the program anymore. It's all Bo guys. And Carnes, Turner and Starling were recruited precisely for their dual-threat skills. Martinez will no longer corner the market on running talent. He can establish himself as a vocal presence, though. But to do it, he'll have to ditch the personal public relations officer.

    ***If Niles Paul runs a boffo 40-time at the NFL Combine he could zoom up the Draft charts. There's still NFL value in a one-gear deep threat who can stretch a defense. Paul isn't a particularly crafty receiver, but he's a good enough blocker to keep a corner honest.

    But he has to post the number. And we're talking sub 4.4. I've heard Paul is more than capable of it.

    As for Mike McNeill, watch how New England uses its tight ends in the Playoffs. McNeill isn't as good as Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez – who have combined for 86 catches and 16 touchdowns - but he's not too far from their class. Some team will take a chance on him.

    Husker junior-to-be Kyler Reed has more pro potential than either one of them.

    ***Ohio State is still the best of the Big Ten, the one league team with enough consistent playmakers – soon-to-be suspended or not – to beat an upper-tier SEC team, which Sugar Bowl foe Arkansas was.

    And for all the criticism heaped on quarterback Terrelle Pryor – much of it courtesy of ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who sets aside objectivity for this kid, playing for his alma mater – No. 2 is pretty darn dangerous. Maybe not the top overall prospect in college football – as recruiting services once tabbed him – but, well, he's a winner. He's been nails in three straight bowl games now. He's beaten Michigan three years straight. Led game-winning drives at Wisconsin in 2008 and Iowa in 2010. And that's in an offense that doesn't suit his talents.

    I still like Michigan State as the fave in the Big Ten next year.

    ***Auburn over Oregon Monday night. Why? Both offenses are predicated, to some extent, on the gimmick of their design, and both defenses have had a month to prepare for it. All things equal, give me the SEC athletes and a defensive head coach (Gene Chizik) over Kelly. The key to UO's attack is really its playaction passing game, which keeps safeties from cheating up to support the run, but AU has enough speed to combat it.

    Look for Cameron Newton to feast all night, followed by his declaration for the NFL Draft by week's end. The NCAA stuff aside, Newton could be another Big Ben in the League, or another Akili Smith. He certainly has the joy of a leader. Or is that naivete?

    *Two former standout football players – Caleb Walker and Lance Jeter – made the biggest difference for the Nebraska men's basketball team Saturday night in a 63-63 win over Iowa State. Athleticism translates to every sport; Walker and Jeter were the two best athletes on the floor – for either team – all night.

    Tags: husker monday takes, bo pelini, shawn watson, taylor martinez, big ten, mike mcneill, niles paul, bubba starling, jamal turner, brion carnes, kody spano, roy helu, mens hoops, lance jeter, caleb walker

  17. 2011 Jan 06

    Husker Heartbeat 1/6: Rehab for the Offense

    7,554 views

    By HuskerLocker

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

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


    *Provocative, strong column this morning from OWH's Dirk Chatelain on whether Tom Osborne's decision to go for the offensive quick fix in 2008 by persuading Bo Pelini to keep Shawn Watson has hurt the Huskers in the long-term.

    It's a long read, but worth it...here's the powerful close for which Chatelain can almost always be counted upon to deliver:

    Watson can’t let go of his West Coast passing game, built upon timing and precision. Pelini really wants a quarterback with quick feet. The result? A running quarterback — coaches didn’t even decide that Martinez would play quarterback until a year ago — standing in the pocket, trying to pick apart Oklahoma’s secondary.

    Are the Huskers better off spreading the field and running laterally? Or do they want to bring in tight ends and punch defenses in the mouth? Players don’t seem to know, either.

    Who’s to blame?

    Maybe Osborne, who declined an interview request, should’ve recognized that a quick fix might stunt the long-term growth of the program. He should’ve encouraged Bo to start fresh on both sides of the ball.

    Maybe Pelini was so focused on recharging a downtrodden defense that he neglected the offense. If he wanted to ease the transition, he should’ve kept Watson for one year, then parted ways when Ganz departed.

    Or maybe Bo should’ve gone the other way and given Watson freedom to implement the West Coast offense he knew best. A 48-year-old coordinator can’t just flip a switch and change what he teaches.

    Either way, Bo hasn’t held the offense to the same standard of execution he holds the defense.


    Good stuff here. Our thoughts about the entire column:

    1. Bo Pelini didn't know an offensive coordinator better than Shawn Watson in 2008 that he could hire. Jimbo Fisher wasn't going to take that job. Kevin Wilson at Oklahoma wasn't. Who did Bo know? No one of the caliber and training of Shawn Watson, who was sought after by Alabama's Nick Saban. There was a reason for that.

    2. Watson hasn't been able to run "his" offense since, probably, the 2008 Missouri game. After that 52-17 debacle, in which NU really struggled to run the ball against Mizzou's defensive front, Watson began to shift to a shotgun-based, zone read attack that worked quite well - aside from the 2008 Oklahoma game - for the rest of that year.

    3. Despite having an awful end to the 2010 season, Watson has still managed to be finalist for two head coaching jobs at Vandy and Miami(Ohio) and appears to be a solid candidate at Texas State. That's telling, isn't it?

    There's more afoot here than there seems to be. But Dirk's column is a terrific jumping off point.

    *The Navy sailor who didn't get to call a play, Morgan Ryan, didn't feel snubbed at all by Bo Pelini, says the OWH.

    *No Pro Bowl for Ndamukong Suh, who will undergo offseason shoulder surgery.

    *25 reasons why the Michigan job is a bona fide pain in the rear.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, shawn watson, bo pelini, dirk chatelain, michigan, big ten

  18. 2011 Jan 06

    Podcast 1/6: Robinson Set to Transfer

    1,352 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, tray robinson, shawn watson, taylor martinez, mens hoops

  19. 2011 Jan 01

    The Plain Truth about Nebraska's Offense

    13,864 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    At the Hall of Fame of sportswriting cliches, in the “What a difference a year makes” wing, is the old line about a “tale of twos.” Two quartes. Two halves. Two seasons. Whatever.

    As much as anyone loathes dialing one of these up, these lines are cliches for a reason.

    At some point, they were true.

    And in the case of Nebraska's offense in 2010, it really was a case of two seasons.

    The one with a healthy Taylor Martinez.

    And the one with an injured Martinez and Cody Green.

    That's not exactly surprising to NU football fans who watched the Huskers lose three of their last four games.

    But just the sheer division of attempts truly does break the season in half.

    I distinctly remember Martinez's injury just before halftime of the Missouri game. He tried to beat a Tiger defender to the sideline for the big play instead of darting back inside for the first down. It's what Martinez always did. What he does even now. He got hit hard in the leg. It looked like his knee, frankly, but as he fell to the turf, his ankle rolled and twisted.

    At that moment in time, here were NU's offensive season statistics. That's roughly 7 ½ games.

    Total: 467 plays, 3,495 yards, 7.48 yards per play
    Rushing: 323 for 2,196 yards, 6.79 yards per carry
    Passing: 86-144 (59%) for 1,299 yards,15 yards per completion
    Avg NCAA Rank of Opponent Defense: 81st

    And the stats after Martinez got hurt, or 6½ games, plus five plays at the end of the Missouri first half:

    Total: 449 plays, 2,079 yards, 4.63 yards per play
    Rushing: 311 carries for 1180 yards, 3.79 yards per carry
    Passing: 77-138 (55%) for 809 yards, 10.5 yards per completion
    Avg NCAA Rank of Opponent Defense: 71st

    Stunning, yes? It's literally a season split in two.

    Now, for something disturbing.

    Here are the stats for the last 6½ games of the 2009 season, when NU's admittedly offense retreated into a candy-coated shell and let its otherworldly defense win games. Shawn Watson called it the “Apollo 13” offense because, just as astronauts were on the dark side of the moon, NU was riddled with injuries at every position except receiver.

    Total: 397 plays, 1,675 yards, 4.21 yards per play
    Rushing: 272 carries for 970 yards, 3.56 yards per carry
    Passing: 67-125 (53%) for 729 yards, 10.8 yards per completion
    Avg NCAA Rank of Opponent Defense: 43rd

    When you consider the caliber of defenses NU played in 2009 vs. 2010, folks, that's the same offense. The offense Husker coaches assured Nebraska fans would never see again.

    But NU was 6-1 over its last seven games in 2009. Just 4-3 this year.

    What changed?

    Nebraska's defense. Just barely. But just enough.

    Remember how small the defensive margin of error was last year in several games?

    It was just as small this year. And the defense wasn't quite as good.

    To the numbers:

    The last 6 ½ games of 2009:

    Total: 457 plays, 1840 yards, 4.02 yards per play
    Rushing: 173 carries for 576 yards, 3.32 yards per carry
    Passing: 118-264 (44%) for 1,288 yards, 10.9 yards per completion

    Now the last 6 ½ games of 2010:

    Total: 431 plays, 1,948 yards, 4.51 yards per play
    Rushing: 254 carries for 919 yards, 3.6 yards per carry
    Passing: 92-187 (49%) for 1,062 yards, 11.5 yards per completion

    Subtle changes. But enough to make for two more losses.

    What a difference a year makes.

    Worth noting, of course, is that Nebraska's three best defensive performances in 2009 were vs. Oklahoma (No. 23 offense nationally), Texas (No. 29) and Arizona (No. 58).

    In 2010, NU's bottom line greatly benefited from giving up 87 total yards to Kansas (No. 113) and 262 yards to Colorado (No. 78).

    The opponents in 2010 were softer. The defenses were weaker. Aside from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Philip Dillard, NU didn't really lose any impact players. And one could argue Lavonte David filled Dillard's shoes – and then some.

    What happened?

    Martinez's injury did. But how could a single injury to a redshirt freshman who had started all of seven games – and would start several more – make such a difference?

    Just a few thoughts:

    *A 70/30 run/pass split before the injury more or less continued after it – without the dynamic, explosive speed from Martinez. Watson attempted to substitute in the Rexcat for Martinez's running game, and while the formation worked well in the Iowa State game, it played to diminishing returns as the season wore on. It was wholly ineffective – and directly led to Washington's first touchdown – in the Holiday Bowl.

    *The absence of a consistent passer. Martinez lacks polish, Cody Green lacks accuracy, Zac Lee lacks health – led to the waste of one of NU's strongest position groupings, wide receiver and tight end. Nebraska four potential NFL talents - Niles Paul, Mike McNeill, Brandon Kinnie and Kyler Reed – and only Reed's talent was used to its full extent. Kinnie approached his potential, while Paul and McNeill weren't used often enough.

    *The offense only worked with Martinez. Green rushed just 26 times for 96 yards. Lee was better running the zone read than Green, who frequently held his reads so long it invited the defense to converge on both Green and the running back.

    It's possible that Brion Carnes would fit this attack. Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling certainly do. But Green does not.

    *Feast or famine. Nebraska had just 15 drives of 10 plays or longer in 2010 – and 9 of those ended in field goals. Think about that for a second.

    After Martinez's injury, NU had just 5 plays of 30 yards or longer. Roy Helu accounted for three of them – long touchdown runs in the Missouri and Oklahoma games, plus a 31-yarder vs. Texas A&M. Martinez had just one – and it was a 34-yard pass to Mike McNeill in the Big 12 title game.

    I've talked quite a bit about the subplots. But those are the raw numbers. Sometimes stats lie. I don't think those do.

    Join Husker Locker now! It's free!

    Tags: shawn watson, taylor martinez, cody green, bo pelini, zac lee, roy helu, rex burkhead

  20. 2011 Jan 01

    Husker Heartbeat 1/1: The Road Ahead

    7,997 views

    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 writes one of his best columns in some time on NU's offense while getting additional (damning?) comments from offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.

    *OWH's Dirk Chatelain continues his incisive look at the program, calling for Watson's dismissal.

    *OWH's Tom Shatel goes a little softer and suggests putting the offense under a microscope.

    *KLIN's John Bishop has tough talk for the Huskers after an apparent failure to prepare.

    *Rampant inconsistency hurt the Big Red in 2010.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, holiday bowl, shawn watson, bo pelini, barney cotton

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