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  1. 2011 Apr 16

    SPRING GAME: Still Under Wraps


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    In the CIA, DEA, FBI, NATO, UN and even the PTA, secrecy has its comforting virtues. A purpose.

    But it didn't do Nebraska's football team many favors in Saturday's Red/White Spring Game. Especially NU's top two quarterbacks, Taylor Martinez and Cody Green, who sputtered in an bland-as-a-plain-bagel offense specifically designed to limit them so Big Ten opponents next fall couldn't ferret out any clues of coordinator Tim Beck's top-secret attack.

    While third-stringer Brion Carnes steadied himself in the pocket and fired at will to relatively wide-open targets that included the electric Jamal Turner, Martinez and Green were seemingly stuck in the Shawn Watson era. Mini-slants to Brandon Kinnie. Tight end curl and flat routes run by Ben Cotton, J.T Kerr and the stupendously tall Robert Barry. These routes, and others, were slow to emerge. Same stuff from last year. None of the verve and energy Beck and his players have crowed about.

    Kyler Reed – arguably the Huskers' best receiving weapon – ran his usual seam routes with a shadow tailing his every move. Once, Martinez flung it into triple coverage just to give Reed a chance. The pass should have been intercepted. It wasn't a good decision or throw. It was, in short, a Martinez Moment from late 2010. But he's out there, in a glorified scrimmage, taking blind-side corner blitzes, and he's not allowed the slightest passing wrinkle? No quick throws? Not a shovel pass? Nothing that gets the defense moving?

    Basic is one thing. Beck's puny allowance of plays bordered on crippling against the top defensive players, who are generally better and more athletic than their offensive counterparts anyway.

    “It was a lot harder than I thought it'd be, having a small playlist and a couple formations,” Beck said. “It was a bit harder. There's situations where you wanted to do something and I just didn't want to do it. Didn't want to show what we were doing.”

    The Husker spent roughly half the game in the I-formation. The other half out of the Pistol, although it looked like a long Pistol. Tight ends all over the place, running what appeared to be variations of West Coast routes. NU never went empty with five wide receivers. Never had Turner and the equally-electric Kenny Bell on the field at the same time.

    Spread game? Only a bit. Bubble screens? Not many. Any semblance of the pressuring, attacking no-huddle tempo we're heard so much about? Of course not. Who knew the no-huddle was such a revolutionary thing? Half of college football runs it. Big Ten teams, too. There are only so many ways to run it.

    So why miss an opportunity to practice the no-huddle tempo in front of a big Memorial Stadium crowd? Why not work out those jitters and kinks now? Why wait for the live bullets against the Choo Choos next fall? Because that's a glorified scrimmage, too?

    Because that's Bo. He perceives an edge to be gained by keeping the whole thing a mystery. He's the veteran and the guy girding for a new league. His team. His rules.

    That disclaimer declared, here's what I saw: A haphazard three-hour practice with parameters that seemed to clash with each other.

    By the time Beck admittedly opened up the playbook just a little bit later in the game, Martinez and Green had already taken most of their snaps. The game is viewed as a laboratory, and yet Martinez spent most of the first half in “unique” situations, Beck said. Third-and-ten. Third-and-23. Third-and-16. Try working out of those situations with three-quarters of your playbook housed in Area 51.

    “Those aren't good for anybody,” Beck said.

    So why put Martinez in them? If the field-goal holder can literally “throw” the game for his team – and, in a rather inspired moment, Austin Cassidy cleverly did just that – can't your returning starting quarterback be spared the third-and-forever? The backside corner blow-up blitzes?

    Beck added, too, that with No. 1 and No. 2 units all jumbled up, timing might have been a little off.

    “It's a minute detail – but it's a still a detail,” he said. “That's why you play 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s and you have a depth chart. Guys try to work together as much as they can.”

    On Saturday, Pelini said, NU was “running people in and out.” It made for a lot of big offensive and defensive plays borne out of chaos - guys who never play together making mistakes. Walk-on running backs consistently busted contain, roaming free outside the hash marks. Carnes made some good throws – but he also enjoyed wide open targets. Carnes' best play was a 24-yard scramble. He stayed in the pocket, let the routes clear over the middle, then took off into a wide patch of green left open by some guy presumably missing his assignment.

    Martinez and Green rarely had such luxuries. They looked best on designed “waggle” rollouts – a staple of the Tom Osborne era – that changed their sight lines and protected them from the pass rush. When they stayed in the pocket, the pickings were slim.

    Their combined subpar performance – completing just 8-of-23 passes – creates room for a Carnes Conversation. But where can it go, really, if fans didn't even see Carnes run the meat of Nebraska's offense - a no-huddle tempo that demands precision? Where can it go when leaked practice reports from the Internet Illuminati often conflict or are generated through a predetermined prism of favoring one guy over another?

    Pelini seems to use the Spring Game as a reward, to some extent, for a hard, tough camp. Drafting teams, jumbling up rosters, it's fun. It creates a sense of competition and camaraderie. His players – especially some of the older guys – love it. Cassidy's gamesmanship in the fourth quarter is a memorable little footnote.

    But I can't help but think of a guy like Green, a hard-working, positive-minded kid who could have used Saturday as an opportunity to make a statement in the quarterback race. He seemed tentative, again, and out of rhythm, completing just 4 of 10 passes and losing a fumble. Afterward, he talked about running to the sideline after one drive and suggesting a variety of plays he could run to get the defense off-balance.

    “No, no, no,” Green said he was told. “'Let's just go out there and just play.'”

    With a sliver of the playbook and the pressure to perform in front of 67,000, with a quarterback competition apparently still in full bloom - well, you try it.

    Tags: spring game 2011, spring football 2011, tim beck, brion carnes, cody green, taylor martinez

  2. 2011 Apr 14

    SPRING GAME: Walk-On Watch


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Six walk-ons – aside from starting kicker Brett Maher and long-snapper P.J. Mangieri – who could make a little noise in Saturday's Red/White Spring Game

    Quarterback Ron Kellogg III: He's still a sophomore, and reports about his play in practice has almost always been positive. Kellogg's a pretty good passer. He won't wow anybody with his speed, but he's better than the average walk-on QB in his sophomore year.

    Tight end Jake Long: No. 3 guy at the position and the probably the No. 2 man when Kyler Reed spilts out wide. He plays smart and has some soft hands, as evidenced by his catch last year in the Colorado game.

    Linebacker Mathew May: Poised to start before the 2009 season began, injuries have kept May from realizing his full potential. He's healthy enough now to be the Huskers' fourth linebacker and a consistent force on special teams. Very athletic guy who can also blitz on occasion.

    Running back Zach Taylor: This redshirt freshman Lincoln Southeast product enjoyed some productive moments this spring. At 6-foot-1, 210 pound, Taylor isn't fancy, but he gets behind his pads and runs hard. Nebraska's struggled to find somebody who could consistently do that.

    Defensive end Kevin Thomsen: The senior from Elkhorn notched a sack in last year's Missouri game; he's a hybrid end/linebacker who can be used in a couple different packages. He's probably not an every-down end, but he's strong at the point of contact and doesn't get fooled easily.

    Defensive back Lance Thorell: One-time starter at dime corner could again vie for time this fall if one of the young pups don't step into the role. Thorell knows the defense as well as any Husker on the team, and he's an asset on special teams, as well.

    Tags: spring football 2011, spring game 2011

  3. 2011 Apr 14

    SPRING GAME: 6 Red Roster Players to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

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    Defensive end Jason Ankrah: At 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, he's already part of the “off the bus” team. Now this sophomore from Maryland eyes a shot at the first team. He faces stiff competition from Eric Martin and Josh Williams, but if you had to pick one prototypically-built player out of the bunch, it would be Ankrah by a landslide. Looks aren't much on the football field, though.

    Safety Corey Cooper: Is there a more competitive position at Nebraska right now than safety? Not really – because Cooper, a stout redshirt freshman, would be starting at a lot of schools by this spring. At NU, he has to fight for time with veterans Corey Osborne, Austin Cassidy and P.J. Smith. Not easy, even when Cooper's made a strong impression on coaches and teammates with his practice work.

    Linebacker Sean Fisher: Time for his junior from Millard North to stay healthy for a whole season. If he can, he's a valuable defensive quarterback on the field for Bo and Carl Pelini. Watch for how Fisher plays the interior running plays, and whether he gets low enough on lead blockers and pulling guards.

    Kicker/punter Brett Maher: This mild-mannered, friendly junior strikes an eerily similar tone to the preternaturally calm Alex Henery, who left gigantic kicking cleats to fill. Maher will have to battle true freshman Mauro Bondi in fall camp for both jobs, but he can head to the back nine with a healthy lead if he kicks well Saturday.

    Defensive end Eric Martin: Each spring camp seems to include a few big splashes, and Martin – who converted from linebacker midway through the 2010 season – is one of them. Don't let the 6-foot-2, 255-pound frame fool you – the junior has plenty of natural, raw strength, and what he lacks, a hot motor can make up for it. Coming to a blind side near you. He should be one of the standouts of Saturday's game.

    Wide receiver Kenny Bell: The minute this speedy, smart kid starts making plays and filling up reporter's notebooks, he'll become an instant fan favorite. Whenever you see him, Bell and his mushroom cloud of hair just seems to have “it.” He's been billed thus far as a natural playmaker blowing up the No. 1 defense last fall and camp in general this spring. We'll see what he's got.

    Tags: spring football 2011, spring game 2011

  4. 2011 Apr 14

    SPRING GAME: 6 White Roster Players to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Quarterback Brion Carnes: Nebraska fans will get their first look at the redshirt freshman nephew of former Husker great Tommie Frazier. Carnes proved himself to be as a agile, heady playmaker at Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee High School; watch for his ability to keep passing plays alive with his feet. Also see how handles the stage of a relatively-full Memorial Stadium.

    Offensive tackle Jake Cotton: Son of position coach Barney, youunger brother of Ben, this mountain of a kid worked on the defensive scout team last year. A switch to offensive tackle came at the right time, and Jake's taken to it quickly. Reports are that he's still a little raw, but his 6-foot-6 frame seems to be carrying a little more than his listed 285 pounds. Which is a good thing.

    Quarterback Cody Green: He enrolled early as a true freshman to get a jump on an offense Nebraska no longer runs. The stars have never quite aligned for the junior from Dayton, Texas, but it hasn't dimmed that megawatt smile and friendly demeanor. Green's reportedly made stride this spring with his passing skills; he'll have to show that Saturday. It could be his last, best chance to secure significant playing time at NU.

    Offensive tackle Tyler Moore: He didn't enroll early to push a mop around, let's put it that way. Nebraska's depth at every offensive line position is thin, and tackle is hardly an exception. Moore has the frame and the want-to; if the details of the tackle job click into place Saturday and over the summer, he'll be in the two-deep or very close.

    Wide receiver Jamal Turner: Speed to burn. It's not easy for a true freshman to so quickly ingratiate himself with his teammates, but Turner's positive outlook and competitive spirit has done just that.

    Defensive tackle Kevin Williams: This true freshman early enrollee from the Toledo area wowed defensive coaches early in camp with his instinctive feel for the game. Then he hurt his foot and watched practice for more than a week. He's on the roster now, however; expect him to get a few snaps. Williams is likely a redshirt candidate for 2011, so this may be your last peek at him for awhile.

    Tags: spring football 2011, spring game 2011

  5. 2011 Apr 14

    SPRING GAME: 5 Things to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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

  6. 2011 Apr 12

    NEBRASKA BIG TEN: New Guys in Town


    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

  7. 2011 Apr 12

    Podcast 4/12: That Last 10 Percent


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, tim beck, spring football 2011, mens hoops, baseball

  8. 2011 Apr 11

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Hello, Rich Fisher!


    By HuskerLocker

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    Hands clasped behind his back, Rich Fisher stands against a brick wall to answer the questions of inquiring media minds in a measured, soft voice. The bill of his cap is relatively flat and clean like a baseball pitcher's. A play sheet stuffed into the front of his shorts is the only thing to suggest he is Nebraska's newest wide receivers coach.

    Here is the mystery man of Bo Pelini's revamped coaching staff, the “Who? From where?” of the bunch. After just missing out on a linebackers job during Pelini's first stint at NU in 2003, Fisher walked away from college football to spend more time with his family, teach golf in Boston and run offseason football camps.

    He's your neighbor in the backyard grilling steaks.

    He's the coach to stridently push the Huskers' young, unproven wide receiver corps, too.

    “Don't take niceness for weakness,” Fisher said. “I consider myself a nice person, but at the end of the day, when you've gotta get on them, you gotta get on them. I think there's a fine line. You gotta make sure those players know that you care about them, and when they know that, I think you can coach them as hard as you need to.”

    Is the seemingly mild-mannered Fisher as intense as the man who hired him?

    “I can be,” he said.


    He is a man, at this point, with a well-traveled accent.

    The 40-year-old Fisher grew up in Texas. Played linebacker at Colorado during Boulder's glory years, 1988-1992, when head coach Bill McCartney banned red and briefly tilted the Big Eight in his favor. Then coaching stints at Oklahoma State (two years), Colorado (two) and Idaho (five), where Fisher worked under former Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable.

    For most of that time, whenever he wanted to bounce a football thought off a friend, he'd call Pelini, whom he had met in the late 1990s through friend and former CU teammate Ted Johnson, who played for Pelini at the New England Patriots.

    “We just kind of hit it off when we first met,” Fisher said of Pelini. “We've talked a lot of football, spent a lot of time together. Our families are pretty close.”

    Pelini nearly hired Fisher for a linebackers job in 2003. The interview went well, Fisher remembered. Former Husker Jimmy Williams got the job instead.

    Fisher took it as a sign. He had three young children, all under seven years old, that he wanted to see grow up. So he left the college coaching business. Moved to the Boston area. Became a golf instructor at the Southborough Gold Practice and Learning Center. Coached his son in Pop Warner.

    “I kinda went backwards,” Fisher joked.

    In 2009, his wife, Tori, told him to take a chance on a job at The Rivers School, a private high school with no football tradition or visible promise whatsoever. Three winning seasons in 25 years. No undefeated seasons since its founding in 1915.

    Within two years, Rivers was among the best teams in Massachusetts.

    One big reason: As the coach of a private school, Fisher could recruit players to his program. He knew where to find them. He did find them; one, wide receiver Taariq Allen, will be playing at Nebraska. And his recruits bought in. He rebuilt the team. Rivers had no strength and conditioning program, so Fisher created one. He sold players on a big playbook.

    “The lifeblood of any program is recruiting,” Fisher said. “We're only as good as the players we get into the program. Recruiting is about relationships.”

    In 2010, Rivers finished 8-0 in the regular season.


    The job at Nebraska was not some slam dunk. Fisher kept up his friendship with Pelini, obviously, but he also interviewed with NU offensive coordinator Tim Beck. It was Beck with whom Fisher had to click. They did immediately.

    “I see a lot of myself in him and he in me,” Beck said. “...he's able to deal with these kids and relate to them.”

    Fisher said he was at home when he got the call from Pelini. He offers few details of the moment. The smile says a lot.

    “You never want to get your hopes up, and you never really know,” Fisher said. “If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.”

    Fisher didn't watch 2010 tape of the Husker receivers. Most of the main contributors – aside from senior Brandon Kinnie – aren't around anyway. At the outset of spring camp, he gathered his pupils and told them he wouldn't coach them like his predecessor, Ted Gilmore, had.

    He explained that his experience playing and coaching defense gave him a fresh perspective to share. If they could understand what the defense was trying to take away, they could develop counter moves to get open. They could read coverages and stem their routes into open spots in the defense. These little nicks in a defense's armor – small-but-pertinent gains – are the lifeblood of a no-huddle offense. Probing taps designed to create eventual exhaustion.

    “Wear em out, wear em out, wear em out,” Fisher said. “Run where they're not. Throw where they're not. I know that sounds simple, but that's kind of the gist of the offense.”

    In practice drills, Fisher holds true to this pledge, consistently asking his wide receivers to move quickly and to think about coverage and defensive back technique. He's active in these drills, right in the middle of them, moving and pointing and yelling. He wants a “tough group.” He demands no less – and probably more – than the professorial Gilmore did, but he demands a kind of active, on-the-fly learning.

    “It's like a love-hate relationship,” Kinnie said, “because if we mess up, he's going to coach us, of course. He's not going to just let it stand. I like it.”


    Asked if he'd carry over any of his golf instruction techniques to the football field, Fisher chuckled and said “No. Absolutely not.”

    Then he corrected himself.

    “When you teach football, you teach progression,” Fisher said. “You start with a stance, you start with a release, you start with fundamentals in catching a ball. Same thing in golf, you know? Teach them how to hold a club, teach them how to stand.”

    Other than that, not much.

    “I know this man: I'm not screaming at any golfers,” Fisher said.

    Don't take niceness for weakness.

    Tags: spring football 2011, rich fisher, tim beck, brandon kinnie

  9. 2011 Apr 11

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/11


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    At the outset of spring football camp, a reporter asked Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck how he'd address the fumbles and false start penalties that dogged NU throughout 2010.

    “I've got a plan in place,” Beck said in mid-March. “The team's accountable for it. Penalties and turnovers both. We have a plan.”

    The Husker offense bore the full brunt of that plan Monday night in post-practice wind sprints – penance for errors made during the no-huddle portion of Nebraska's two-hour workout inside Hawks Championship Center.

    As offensive players ran, their defensive counterparts – plus head coach Bo Pelini – walked back to the locker room. This was Beck, dressed in all black, and his guys. As they ran, he paced behind their wake, arms crossed, occasionally nodding his head. He didn't have to say much.

    “We've run before,” running back Rex Burkhead said. “Not that much."

    Beck said his unit gave him 90 percent Monday while “just battling through” soreness and fatigue related to the grind of camp and Saturday's 150-play scrimmage. He wanted the rest of what they had left in the tank.

    “I'm never going to feel sorry for the guys,” Beck said. “I'm going to push them and challenge them. I expect their best. That's the ten percent. That's the difference between a good football team and a great football team.

    “I told the guys: I'm tired of being just good. I want to be great. They feel that same way. So we gotta push them past that ten percent.”

    In the 12th practice of spring camp – just five days before the Red/White Spring Game, Beck said he threw some “new wrinkles” at the offense, which he forced to adjust on the fly against the Huskers' defensive units. He pointed to “confusion” and “uncertainty” in the face of that adversity.

    “That's OK,” Beck said. “That's part of practice. But we gotta fix those things. It's OK that, maybe assignment-wise, they're not perfect after 12 practices. But it's not OK to put the ball on the ground. It's not OK to jump offsides.”

    After Saturday's scrimmage, Pelini said he had been pleased with just two false starts and one fumble in 150 plays. Talking to players and coaches, there seemed to more of both Monday. Hence the gassers.

    “It just shows the mental toughness of the team,” Burkhead said. “It shows when the going gets tough - who's going to push through it? It's not fun, you know? But at the same time, you develop (mental toughness) because you've been through it with each other.”

    Notes: Quarterback Kody Spano did not practice Monday, held out because of injury. Beck said Spano would see a doctor in the next couple days, but the injury was not related to either of knees, both of which have suffered a torn ACL...defensive tackle Chase Rome was also seen walking off the field in street clothes, as was wide receiver/running back Curenski Gilleylen, who hasn't practiced in a week...athletic director Tom Osborne took in practice Monday...the Huskers return to practice Wednesday.

    Tags: spring football 2011, tim beck, rex burkhead, kody spano

  10. 2011 Apr 09

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/9


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  11. 2011 Apr 08

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Tidbits from Taylor


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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

  12. 2011 Apr 08

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/8


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tags: spring football 2011, practice report, eric martin

  13. 2011 Apr 08

    Husker Heartbeat 4/8: Big Red/Big Ten Weekend Buffet


    By HuskerLocker

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    *The Nebraska linebackers are building bonds in prep for the Big Ten where bigger, sturdier defenses are needed.

    *Michigan's hockey team is on the cusp of a national title after upsetting the believed-to-be-unstoppable North Dakota.

    *Another installment of Prince Amukamara's NFL Draft diary.

    *Anthony Blue just wants to see the field in some way - any way - after suffering a second severe knee injury last year.

    *Ohio State's true freshman QB, Braxton Miller, seems to be settling in as spring practice progresses.

    *The Penn State quarterback race is heating up with Rob Bolden taking a more vocal role with the offense.

    *An Auburn gymnast weaves Cam Newton's Heisman Trophy pose in her routine...during a meet at Alabama.

    *TCU got its Rose Bowl rings. They're fairly gaudy and ridiculous. In two years' time, we're sure, you'll see a few on EBay or Craigslist. They always land there.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, big ten, spring football 2011, will compton, anthony blue

  14. 2011 Apr 08

    SPRING FOOTBALL: LBs Building Bonds


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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

  15. 2011 Apr 07

    Podcast 4/7: Back to Practice


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, spring football 2011, big ten, womens hoops, mens hoops

  16. 2011 Apr 05

    Podcast 4/5: Bo talks defense


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, bo pelini, thad randle, eric martin, baseball, spring football 2011

  17. 2011 Apr 04

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/2


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  18. 2011 Apr 04

    SPRING FOOTBALL: New Twists on Defense


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    A variation of the “spinner” scheme used to throttle Missouri's high-octane spread offense last season should be a staple of the Nebraska's football team's defensive repertoire in 2011.

    Several NU defenders said the Brothers Pelini – head coach Bo and defensive coordinator Carl – have been tinkering with a “50” look that features three defensive tackles, two ends and two linebackers. Although it resembles the three-man front the Huskers employed to baffle the Tigers in 2010, it's now designed to be equally effective against conventional, pro-style offenses in the Big Ten.

    “We'll use it more and be more versatile in it,” said senior defensive end Kevin Thomsen, who played the stand-up“spinner” end and recorded a sack in the 31-17 victory over Mizzou. “We've adjusted it, changed some calls around with it and we're working it in to our normal defense now instead of just using it to gameplan against one team.”

    Nebraska's offense also struggled against versions of the “50” - the scheme most college football teams preferred until the late 1980s - in losses to Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Washington in the Holiday Bowl. All three foes stuffed the Huskers' mid-line zone read play that had wreaked so much havoc on defenses earlier in the year.

    This classic take on a 3-4 formation generally puts a nose tackle right over the center, two defensive tackles over the offensive tackles, and two hybrid ends/linebackers outside of the tackles, crouched and pointed in toward the backfield. Two middle linebackers – most likely LaVonte David and Will Compton – then patrol the second level of the defense.

    Thomsen said the scheme is designed to “disrupt” and gum up opposing running games and force ball carriers to flow to Compton and David, who are responsible for plays bounced outside the tackles.

    Count the Huskers' All-American candidate at linebacker as a big fan.

    “It's the real deal,” David said. “There's not a lot to think about. Everybody's playing their gap, everybody's got their own assignments. More attacking-style defense. It's real comfortable. It gives those inside linebackers to ability to roam the field and make plays.”

    David's instincts, play recognition and swift lateral speed often allow him to attack running backs and mobile quarterbacks at or behind the line of scrimmage – like his 16-tackle performance at Kansas State in 2010, when he repeatedly thwarted the Wildcats' Daniel Thomas, the All-Big 12 back who gained just 63 yards on 22 carries.

    Power running teams like Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State often thrive on counter sweeps and outside stretch plays to extend defenses and create big cutback lanes; David's speed to the perimeter of plays allows Nebraska's defensive linemen to control their gaps and trust the senior from Miami to clean up any spills.

    Test drives against the Husker offense have been fruitful.

    “Will Compton and LaVonte David – those guys can fly,” wide receiver Tim Marlowe said. “There's just a lot of speed out there on defense.”

    And more innovation. In an interview with ESPN, defensive tackle Jared Crick said the Huskers are experimenting with more exotic and confusing third-down blitzes packages that, by the sound of it, resemble the whack-a-mole, zone blitz chaos employed by NFL teams like Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

    "We're calling a lot more blitzes, a lot more movements and definitely trying some different techniques," Crick told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg. "We're not always in run stances on short down-and-distances. We're in pass stances to give the offense a different look that they haven't seen from us before.”

    While NU keeps its original 4-3 base defense – Thomsen said the Huskers will be able to move from one to the other with ease – the retooling is part of Bo Pelini's annual spring ritual. He and Carl installed the “spinner” package last spring, for example, with the intent of confusing Missouri with it. Six months later, the Tigers gained just 53 yards on their first five drives of that game, punting four times. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw an interception on the other.

    “We always do that defensively,” Bo Pelini said. “And we're continuing to do that right now. I think we're pretty multiple. We've become more multiple through this offseason and this spring. We're doing a lot of things that are going to create problems for teams in the Big Ten. That's the whole purpose of what we're trying to do.”

    Tags: spring football 2011, bo pelini, kevin thomsen, lavonte david, will compton

  19. 2011 Apr 04

    Husker Heartbeat 4/4: Kenny, Cody, Khiry, Case, Beebe and Zou Zou


    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.

    *Because of his speed and competitiveness, Kenny Bell has the full attention of his teammates. So is Jamal Turner.

    *Nice story about three NFL-caliber players - Jared Crick, LaVonte David and Alfonzo Dennard - choosing to play one more year of college football.

    *The Longhorn Network is officially here, sporting black in its logo for some bizarre reason. Because UT has a lot of black in its team colors. In Texas' spring game, Case McCoy - Colt's younger brother - appears ready to challenge Garrett Gilbert for the starting QB job.

    *Khiry Cooper is content to play two sports even if slows his progress at either one.

    *Andrew Green, finally healthy after two years of struggling with a variety of injuries, has moved to cornerback where new coach Corey Raymond is helping him with technique.

    *Always willing for a chat, Cody Green says again: He won't transfer. He'll also change positions if it will help the team.

    *Dan Beebe backs the Fiesta Bowl in the wake of the stupendous corruption revealed in a fraud probe.

    "I feel good about their commitment to do the right thing," Beebe told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. "There hasn't been a reluctance or pushback [from Fiesta officials] at all."

    Beebe said he has been in contact with Fiesta Bowl officials often in recent weeks and they have asked for help and suggestions for how to reform the organization's leadership structure to ensure similar mistakes won't be made again.

    "I don't feel good about what happened," Beebe said. "I'm saddened by what occurred."

    Of course there's no pushback now.

    *After getting shot down by Purdue's Matt Painter, Missouri more or less settles for Miami's Frank Haith, who has been to one NCAA Tournament in his tenure in the ACC.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, spring football 2011, cody green, andrew green, big 12, texas, missouri, fiesta bowl

  20. 2011 Apr 02

    SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/2


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    An upbeat Bo Pelini Saturday described the Nebraska football team's 120-play, two-hour scrimmage inside Memorial Stadium as a basic-yet-useful barometer of the Huskers' progress through seven practices.

    “We got a pretty good evaluation of where we are and what we have to do over the next few weeks,” NU's head coach said.

    On a warm, sun-drenched day, Pelini said he saw “explosive” plays mixed with “sloppy” ones. Some mistakes made during Friday's practice seemed to carry over to Saturday, as Pelini pointed to fumbles and a couple of painful penalties.

    “We've had a few exchange issues,” he said. “Really more technique, fundamental things than really what we're doing offensively. Until you don't have any fumbling – you don't have the ball on the ground at all – you have issues. It's something we're emphasizing.”

    Other topics covered by Pelini:

    *New running back Curenski Gilleylen's performance: “When he sees this film, I think he'll see plays he wished he had back,” Pelini said. I think he'll develop a better understanding of what we're doing and what kinds of cuts he needs to make.”

    NU held starter Rex Burkhead out of the scrimmage although he dressed in pads and appeared 100 percent. Pelini wanted to see a group of unproven backups – including Gilleylen – get more chances.

    “You're always looking for guys to emerge,” Pelini said. “That's up to them.”

    *Managing injuries on the defensive line: Pelini said sophomore Thad Randle works with the No. 1 group now that tackle Jared Crick will miss the rest of spring camp with a strained knee. At 6-1, 300, Randle has gained 55 pounds since his arrival at NU.

    “He's getting better every day,” Pelini said. “I'm real excited about how he's played.”

    Pelini described spring camp as “physical” with some “bumps and bruises.” Aside from Crick's knee strain and an injury Saturday to backup defensive back Jase Dean, Pelini said Nebraska's players are healthy.

    *Depth problems at linebacker: NU has three solid starters in Will Compton, LaVonte David and Sean Fisher, Pelini said, but production behind them is currently lacking.

    “We need depth,” Pelini said. “We don't have that right now. It's a little bit of a concern. We need some guys to come along in the second group. Guys gotta step up. We feel good about our first group, but after that, we have a drop-off right now. Our guys gotta practice with a sense of urgency and get better.”

    *Quarterback Taylor Martinez's progress: “I've seen a lot of good things from him,” Pelini said of the sophomore. “He's improved in a lot of areas. His leadership – how he's running the team.”

    Pelini said junior Cody Green, junior Kody Spano and redshirt freshman Brion Carnes have also made strides with the offense.

    “It's a new offense and it's something they're trying to gain 'comfortability' with it,” Pelini said. “As that happens, I think you'll see them make more steady improvement.”

    Notes: Saturday marked the final afternoon of Nebraska's high school coaches' clinic. More than 800 of them watched the scrimmage from the sidelines and the Memorial Stadium bleachers...Martinez and Burkhead both signed autographs for roughly ten minutes after practice...Pelini not only wouldn't confirm the transfer of fullback Mike Marrow to Nebraska, he said after Saturday's practice “that's news to me.” Mike Marrow, the son of NU graduate assistant Vince Marrow, told a Toledo TV station last week he was headed from Eastern Michigan to Lincoln for the 2011 season.

    Tags: spring football 2011, bo pelini, curenski gilleylen, jamal turner, taylor martinez, jared crick, thad randle, mike marrow

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