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  1. 2012 Apr 04

    How Bo Pelini can Break the Four-Loss Curse


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Chris Labenz

    There’s no question that Bo Pelini has had a positive influence on Nebraska football since taking over prior to the 2008 season.

    Since his hiring, Pelini has led the Huskers to four nine-win seasons, making Nebraska one of only seven teams to win at least nine games during that period.

    Digging further into Pelini’s record, you'll find that Nebraska has also lost four games each year, usually falling against ranked opponents.

    2011: 9-4 (5-3 Big 10) 1-3 vs. Top 25 (Best win: No. 11 Michigan State)
    2010: 10-4 (6-3 Big 12) 2-2 vs. Top 25 (Best win @ No. 13 Oklahoma St.)
    2009: 10-4 (6-3 Big 12) 0-3 vs. Top 25 (Best win @ Missouri)
    2008: 9-4 (5-3 Big 12) 0-4 vs. Top 25 (Best win: Clemson)

    How does Nebraska break this “Four Loss Curse” in 2012? There’s no simple response to this question, and it’s likely caused the Husker head coach to put in some late hours trying to solve the riddle.

    Despite the many reasons for Nebraska’s struggles, all discussed ad nauseum in newspapers and on message boards, let’s examine some specific components of Pelini’s team that must be fixed in order for the Big Red to overcome potential roadblocks set.

    While obvious, it’s critical that Taylor Martinez make strides in the passing game for the Husker offense to put up points against quality opponents.

    In the four games Nebraska played against AP Top 25 teams last year, the Huskers were only able to put up 17.8 points per game, 12 below their season average.

    A big reason for this meager output was that Martinez struggled mightily when throwing the ball against ranked teams, averaging a pedestrian 123 yards passing per game.

    This was partially due to Tim Beck allowing (and trusting) T-Mart to throw the ball only 18 times per game, of which No. 3 completed only half on average. In those same games, the then-sophomore signal-caller threw just three touchdowns to six interceptions.

    Since these teams were able to force Beck’s offense to be so one-dimensional, the Nebraska rushing attack struggled to consistently move the ball against eight-man fronts that could play with reckless abandon knowing there was such a limited threat through the air.

    It’s clear Pelini and Beck want the offense’s main course to be the rushing attack, but success demands a more balanced passing game as a side dish.

    If this can't happen, Big Red opponents will continue to feast on the Husker offense, constantly asking head chef Tim Beck for more helpings of Rex Burkhead draw plays and Martinez read-options smothered in three and outs and field goals.

    In that same vein, wide receivers coach Ross Fisher has a lot of work to do this summer in terms of developing the current group of Husker pass-catchers.

    While a good portion of of the blame for Nebraska’s passing woes falls on the shoulders of Martinez, he didn’t always get the best assistance from his receivers in 2011.

    Catching Martinez-thrown balls half the time produced a mind-numbing three touchdown catches. The leading receiver was Kenny Bell, who was good for 35 yards per game.

    These numbers have to improve noticeably in 2012 if Beck’s group is to average more than 18 points against their best competition.

    While Martinez doesn’t throw the prettiest or most catchable ball, Husker receivers have to help him out by eliminating the high number of frustrating drops and hauling in those throws even when they are catchable, but not on target.

    While improving the passing game will be a tremendous challenge, Beck and Fisher won’t be lacking the talent to do so. Along with Bell, Nebraska has assembled perhaps its most talented group of receivers in team history.

    Sophomore Jamal Turner has elite athletic ability and we should see his route running and pass-catching technique develop in only his second year as a full-time wideout.

    Quincy Enunwa is a wrecking ball out wide when he’s asked to run block, and has enough speed and size to be a solid weapon over the middle, giving Martinez a safety valve when things get hectic around or in the pocket.

    Tim Marlowe was reliable in 2011, if not spectacular at times. While it’s unlikely they'll make a huge impact in 2012, redshirt freshman Taariq Allen and incoming freshman Jordan Westerkamp have the skills to be All-Big Ten receivers once they have a total understanding of Beck’s system.

    I expect the first group to be on a short leash this year. If the drops and errors pile up, don’t be shocked if Bo tells Beck to throw Allen and Westerkamp into the fire.

    On the other side of the ball, Pelini must remold his Blackshirts if he wants to achieve the sort of success he became accustomed to while he was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma and LSU.

    Nebraska allowed a disastrous 173 rushing yards per game (3.8 yards per carry) against Top 25 opposition last year.

    In these same games, the Huskers gave up 11 rushing touchdowns, five more than the Big Red offense produced.

    Opposing quarterbacks had a field day through the air against the Blackshirts in these four games throwing for 188 yards per game and averaging a shocking 9 yards per attempt.

    Nebraska’s secondary, one year removed from being considered the best in the nation, gave up six touchdowns and only grabbed two interceptions against these teams.

    While Bo Pelini is considered by many to be one of the brightest defensive minds in football, the former All-Conference safety was unable to brainstorm ways to stop opponents on a week-to-week basis.

    Carl Pelini’s departure is potentially good news for Pelini’s stress level and for Nebraska’s defense as a good friend of the head man taking his brother’s spot in John Papuchis.

    The two go back several years to when Bo was making the calls in Baton Rouge, and there is definitely a level of trust between the two fiery coaches which will aid Pelini in handing off the reigns.

    New secondary coach Terry Joseph will have to learn Pelini’s famed pattern-matching scheme on the fly as he works to rebuild the confidence of a back seven who looked confused and out of place all too often in 2011.

    If this new-look coaching staff can get back to basics and teach the Huskers to play fast, smart, and mistake free (all characteristics of Pelini’s best defenses), then Nebraska should get the stops it needs to win close games in 2012 and break the Four-Loss Curse.

    Follow Chris on Twitter: @chris_labenz
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    Tags: bo pelini, tim beck, taylor martinez, quincy enunwa, jamal turner, taariq allen, jordan westerkamp, kenny bell, rex burkhead, carl pelini, terry joseph, john papuchis

  2. 2012 Apr 03

    Calhoun Works to put the "Magic" Back in T-Magic


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    It’s no secret that while some partied or visited their stomping grounds during spring break, Taylor Martinez was out in California working on improving his skills for the upcoming season.

    What isn’t as well-known is what the major points of emphasis were during the Corona native's return to his home state.

    Martinez stopped by to work with Steve Calhoun who runs the Armed & Dangerous Football Camp, a program designed to help quarterbacks and wide receivers tap into their full potential.

    Calhoun evaluates his pupils before devising workouts specific to each player’s needs and the offense they run. This was his first opportunity to work with Martinez, but he’s not unfamiliar with the Nebraska quarterback's career.

    “I’ve been following Taylor since he was in high school, playing in Southern California. I was familiar with some of his weaknesses.”

    The skill position guru stated that Martinez’s biggest flaws on day one were, “his weight transfer and not being balanced when throwing the football.”

    There wasn’t much time to work with No. 3, so Calhoun identified the most significant issues and immediately got to work correcting weight exchange from Taylor’s back foot to the front while Martinez was sure to keep his front shoulder down.

    “When he starts to throw, he tilts his front shoulder. His elbow starts low and if your elbow starts low in your delivery, then your hand position’s high. That’s why a lot of his footballs were sailing,” Calhoun explained.

    The Cornhusker quarterback and his mentor only had three workouts to cram in a load of information, so a few key areas were underlined. “As far as his shoulders being level, I said ‘You have to readjust your release point.’”

    Calhoun explained that he tells quarterbacks to imagine that they’re throwing to themselves with a release point at about eye-level.

    “Since Taylor’s shoulder’s up so high, I was talking to him about lowering his release point to about off of his chin.”

    One trademark of Martinez’s drop back in 2011 was that he would usually start hopping once he moved back into the pocket. Calhoun was asked if he could pinpoint a possible reason for this.

    “I’m not sure. A lot of Taylor’s problems arise from the ankle injury and the toe injury he had. To his credit, he’s stayed in and played every game, but he started making adjustments with his throw to where he was stepping to not feel that pain.

    (Taylor) started not stepping directly towards his target. He steps laterally to get his hips open and then tries to muscle the football because of that ankle injury,” Calhoun explained.

    Since he was correcting some of Martinez’s most significant flaws, Calhoun was only able to impart about 50 percent of what he wanted to teach.

    To ensure improvement continued, he had a conversation with Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck regarding his discoveries about Martinez.

    "(Beck) asked me, 'What are some of the problems that you see?" and we compared notes. It was identical. He’s throwing off his back foot, his back shoulder’s dipping, he’s stepping laterally. We were on the same page.”

    As Calhoun prepared to send Martinez on his way, he made sure the junior quarterback knew what was vital to his growth. “Working on the detail, the fundamentals and always have a plan.”

    Finally, he gave Nebraska's two-year starter a mental checklist for when it’s time to perform: Balance when setting up, step towards the target and adjust your release point.

    “I want you think about these three things even before you begin your setup,” Calhoun told Martinez. In footage recently reviewed by Beck and BTN’s Gerry DiNardo, it appears that the knowledge imparted on Martinez may be sticking.

    The final test begins September 1 when the Cornhuskers go up against opposition using live ammunition instead of the standard friendly springtime blanks.

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    Tags: taylor martinez

  3. 2012 Apr 03

    Husker Heartbeat (4/3/12): Alternate Uniform Frenzy, Breaking Down T-Magic and NU's Greatest Controversies


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Nebraskans prepare for their toe-dip into the alternate uniform universe

    - Year two in Tim Beck's offensive system has the offense feeling in a groove

    - Taylor Martinez's strengths and weaknesses are summarized

    - The top five controversies that have graced the pages of Husker history

    Official Twitter Feed: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: uniforms, tim beck, taylor martinez

  4. 2012 Mar 31

    WEEKEND PANEL: Inter-Squad Scrimmages, Taylor Martinez and Miles' Hire a Week Later


    By HuskerLocker

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    Every week, the Husker Locker staff sits down and is presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of Nebraska Cornhuskers sports.

    This week:

    ESPN.com's Brian Bennett recently threw out the idea of schools scrimmaging against others instead of each other. Would you be interested in seeing this?

    Brian: I wouldn’t mind this. It’s a common thing to have NCAA basketball teams scrimmage against each other in the preseason.

    Score isn’t kept and it’s mostly only for stats, but I wouldn’t think that one scrimmage against a team you’re not scheduled to see in the season wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

    James: Obviously it would be much more interesting to send your ones against another team's, and actually coach like a game.

    The downside is this needs to be considered to be a "pre-season" game. Do you play another power program (Nebraska/Michigan) or maybe a non conference team (Nebraska/Oklahoma as a spring tradition)? You also may only have a spring game every other year.

    If you work it where Nebraska pays a team to come in, say Kansas or South Dakota State, you don't really get the level of competition you're looking for.

    Plus, you might have a coach from a smaller school try to beat Nebraska during a spring game and use it as a motivational tool.

    No one really thinks pre-season games in the NFL mean anything, but most early regular season games don't mean much either. College football fans aren't trained that way.

    One way or another, spring scrimmages would ultimately effect the polls, which would then cause coaches to take them more seriously, potentially diluting their "practice" usage.

    I think if you could do it with a friendly program, ensure Nebraska still has a spring game annually at home. One away and one at home could be cool, but you must have strict rules are in place (talking Pro Bowl type stuff here) to ensure the result is ultimately meaningless beyond being good practice.

    Chris: While I think this would be a fun idea, I also don’t know how practical it is. However, they do make it work in basketball.

    It just seems like your risks for injuries would be higher in a less controlled environment, but quarterbacks could still wear the green jerseys. Also, it’d be a lot more expensive for most schools who are already struggling to keep up with travel costs during the season.

    You’d think some schools would call this an unfair advantage.

    Greg: Personally, I don't see the sense in doing this. First, if it's in place of the Spring Game, not all athletes will be on campus. If it's in August, you risk injury that could sideline an athlete for months. My two cents: it's not worth it.

    Brandon: Honestly, I would. Naturally, there’s a risk factor to be taken into account, but the idea of Nebraska versus Iowa or Kansas sounds like a cool idea.

    If the schools wanted to run with it, there seems to be not only a bump in earning potential, but exposure on larger television networks seems to be a given.

    That said, I enjoy the controlled aspect of the current “major” spring scrimmage along with the environment provided for visiting recruits. You could make the argument for a scrimmage versus another team and having Nebraska’s original spring game, though.

    This idea has profit potential, but I’m not sure all coaches would find the risk acceptable. Brady Hoke sure does. I doubt Bo would, but if someone wants to ask…

    Do you think Taylor Martinez's recent work in California and the staff's continuous focus on his footwork this offseason pays dividends this fall?

    Brian: Well...no?

    We were told last year how better Taylor was getting in the pocket and how much more comfortable he looked. While he didn’t lose more games for Nebraska per se, he sure didn’t go out and win anything with his legs.

    The arm was better at times through the year, but I will hold judgement till December at best to see what kind of improvement Taylor has.

    One other point about this: if Nebraska was serious about Taylor getting better, not to mention Brion, there should be a quarterback coach on this staff.

    Whether you give the job to Tim Beck or hire someone like Joe Ganz, if you’re that serious about it, don’t pay an outsider to assist a player who touches the ball every single offensive play. Rex is probably the only exception to that rule.

    James: We'll see, it's one thing to do it in practice, it's another thing when the game is on.

    Fortunately, Taylor is a third-year starter, so hopefully all of the training won't go right out the window. I will say this: in the spring practice footage I've seen, he looks like an actual quarterback.

    Maybe not a great one, but much more like a one than last in season's highlights which get cut up to mock his throwing motion and footwork.

    Chris: To some degree, it has to.

    Taylor’s footwork has been awful his first two seasons, so any improvement should help. I get leery of reports about how much a guy has changed his mechanics, worked all off season, etc. during the spring as it seems like we hear it every year to no avail.

    However, Beck did seem very confident in Taylor on BTN, and was critical of Taylor’s footwork from last season, so that is a good sign.

    Until T-Mart can do it in front of live bullets, my concerns about the passing game remain in place.

    Greg: What about the work on his throwing motion, as it's bowling-shoe ugly? (Editor's note: Expect an angry e-mail from Brian)

    Any improvement from Taylor will be welcomed. As this is his third year as starter, he should have a strong enough grasp on what it takes to succeed at Nebraska.

    To answer your question with a question, will Tim Beck open the playbook and show us the T-Magic of two years ago to make Taylor a true dual-threat QB?

    Brandon: Practice doesn’t need to make perfect for Taylor, it simply needs to help him continue to improve.

    He’s to the point where baby steps aren’t acceptable anymore, though. There needs to be obvious improvement from last year to his junior season and beyond.

    It’s encouraging to see him spending time with specialists and for the offensive staff to be drilling home better footwork. If he can drops back further and curtail his hopping in the pocket, there are strides to be made in the passing game based on those changes alone.

    At this point, who/what are you looking forward to watching most during the Spring Game?

    Brian: Who the leaders are on both sides of the ball. We all know it’s Rex’s show on the offense, and now Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa have stepped into that role somewhat or so we've been told.

    Defensively, it’s time that someone who has been around like a Will Compton or a PJ Smith to step up and be the chief among the indians. That could be the role that a guy like Mo Seisay could step into, but for now the BMOCs have to show themselves.

    James: Martinez's throwing motion, the offensive line, David Santos, Jamal Turner and Aaron Green.

    Chris: 1. Mohammed Seisay – Can he lock down a corner spot and replace Dennard?

    2. Aaron Green – I loved this kid’s film. I want to see him with that sort of confidence at this level.

    3. Jamal Turner – I believe he is our best offensive weapon and I’d like to see him used as such this season. It all starts in the spring again.

    4. Taylor Martinez – is all of the hype true? Did he really improve his mechanics?

    Greg: How about that defense? Let's see how they work, how those hips move, and how much of an understanding they have of the schemes.

    Brandon: It’s tied between the offensive line and quarterbacks. I’m interested in seeing if the left hand knows what the right’s doing under Cotton/Garrison this year, and it’s hard to not be at least somewhat curious to see if quarterbacks have improved, plateaued or regressed at this stage.

    One week removed, how do you feel about the Tim Miles hire?

    Brian: I’m a little more open to it, then I read that John Groce went for the same price as Miles. Does it mean that he said no to Nebraska? No one knows.

    He could have been thinking about it, he could have said no to the same amount of money or even more. The fact that non-basketball people told Tom Osborne that it was a good hire combined with the fact that the only good thing I have been told about it “just give him a chance” is making me leery.

    Miles is off to a good start with a big PR push. To keep the fire going, he’s going to have to get some momentum that will take him through a possible 10 win max first year. Getting Akoy Agau from Omaha will help, too.

    Is Agau a great get? If you’re in Lincoln, and these are the kids you have been losing to Creighton and Minnesota, he sure is.

    James: Probably the best Nebraska could've done.

    Groce wasn't going to pick us over the Illini. I like that Miles is a salesman. I think he'll have lots of fun press conferences and interviews here. If he can recruit, that will be a huge win.

    The Big Ten is a tough, tough conference, and Nebraska has been a bottom-dwelling team for too long. Even if he doesn't win here, I'm hopeful he could stock the cabinets and make some progress to help set up a new staff if it doesn't work out. Leaving Nebraska better than he found it, essentially.

    Chris: I’m already very impressed with coach Miles.

    He cut the fat from Doc’s latest mess of a recruiting class, and has hit the trail/phones hard. He has a certain energy about him that reminds me of John Calipari – like he never sleeps.

    Granted, it’s all VERY early, but he seems to have a passion and presence that will pay off down the road. Recruits seem to have responded well in the short term too, always a positive factor.

    Greg: I'm even keel. I look forward to what he will bring to the men's basketball department while knowing that it will take some time to turn the program around.

    Brandon: After putting in quite a bit of research, I dig it.

    Miles wasn’t the name hire, and that seemed to be the issue with a number of fans. So many viewed the signing as the biggest in program history, so when Nebraska didn’t bring in John Groce, let alone Shaka Smart, it was going to be hard to satiate those looking for the “name.”

    Miles understands the necessity for nation-wide recruiting with an emphasis on locking down Nebraska talent. He’s been doing that for years, so it should be second nature.

    I want to see who his remaining assistants are and what his philosophies are like, but I’ve remained cautiously optimistic, and am finding it harder to dislike Tom Osborne’s choice.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @eightlaces
    Brian: @btbowling
    James: @JamesStevenson
    Greg: @thehooch36
    Chris: @chriz_labenz

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    Tags: spring game, taylor martinez, tim miles

  5. 2012 Mar 31

    The OFFICIAL Husker Locker Podcast (3/31/12) feat. ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


    By HuskerLocker

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    Explore the Archives

    On the docket:

    A podcast featuring questions and topics submitted by you, fans of the Big Red:

    - Nebraska’s QB recruiting situation
    - The importance of the Husker women’s gymnastics title
    - Can Erstad’s crew keep on keeping on at this pace?
    - The Spring Game on BTN: Good thing or great thing?

    ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg stops by and talks:

    - Taylor Martinez's recently hard work in and out-of-state
    - School vs. school scrimmages
    - Nebraska/Northwestern II
    - Will Nebraska have a better/performance in the B1G this season?
    - Rick Kaczenski and Terry Joseph's impact in 2012
    - Nebraska defensive line play
    - Cam Meredith's upcoming season

    Have a topic or question that you'd like to hear discussed? Send us an e-mail or shoot us a tweet.

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    More info on the Husker Locker intro voice: Rob Kugler's Profile

    Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces
    Follow Adam Rittenberg on Twitter: @ESPN_BigTen
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    Tags: recruiting, gymnastics, baseball, spring game, taylor martinez, cam meredith, northwestern, rick kaczenski, terry joseph, podcast, podcasts, adam rittenberg

  6. 2012 Mar 28

    Husker Heartbeat (3/28/12): Lite Martinez Film Session, D-Linemen at Center and Past Recruiting Classes Today


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Sit back with Tim Beck and BTN's Gerry DiNardo as they go over Taylor Martinez's footwork progression with a short film session

    - What did the Huskers do during their spring break?

    - Former defensive linemen can make the best centers, or so Nebraska hopes

    - Safety Daimion Stafford gives the Nebraska secondary opportunities for hit after hit

    - 20/20 Hindsight: Power ranking the last five recruiting classes

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    Tags: taylor martinez, daimion stafford

  7. 2012 Mar 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The 2012 Numbers Game


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Chris Labenz

    Statistics don’t always tell the whole story of why a team wins or loses, but the old adage remains true – the numbers don’t lie.

    During the course of the 2011 season, Nebraska struggled in key areas, and statistics help underline why Bo Pelini’s squad failed to capture the Big Ten Title.

    Let’s have a look at the areas where Nebraska must improve in order to have any hope of getting to Indianapolis for a chance at the conference crown this season.


    - Scoring Offense: 29.2 points per game (fourth in the Big Ten); Wisconsin led the conference in scoring with 44.1 points per game.

    - Completion Percentage: 56 percent (seventh in the Big Ten)

    - Yards per attempt (passing): 7.2 yards (sixth in the Big Ten)

    - Passing touchdowns: 13 (ninth in the Big Ten)

    - Passing yards/game: 162.7 (tenth in the Big Ten)

    “Long” Plays from Scrimmage:

    - Total plays where 10-plus yards were gained - 162 (seventh in Big Ten)

    - Total plays where 20-plus yards were gained - 51 (sixth in Big Ten)

    What the Numbers Say -

    During Tim Beck’s first season as the Huskers’ offensive coordinator, Nebraska showed flashes of quick strike ability.

    The Huskers also continued to lack consistency against the Big Ten big dogs when it came to sustaining drives and converting on crucial third downs.

    The Taylor Martinez-led passing game went stagnant far too often, allowing opposing defenses to play eight or nine defenders close to the line of scrimmage. This boxed Rex Burkhead in, and removed the threat of Martinez's big runs, perhaps his best asset.

    If the Huskers can’t find ways to be more effective in competing passes, especially downfield the offense will again struggle.

    To make matters worse, athletic defenses that can keep Martinez’s running threat in check, and force Beck into making risky calls on third and long will have a field day.

    Nebraska has the talent at wide receiver to complement a solid running game, but only if No. 3 becomes a true dual-threat quarterback on a weekly basis.


    Passing Defense:

    - Yards per attempt allowed - 6.9 yards (seventh in the Big Ten)

    - "Long" pass plays (20-plus yards) allowed - 38 (ninth in the Big Ten)

    Rushing Defense:

    - Yards per carry allowed - 4.00 (seventh in Big Ten)

    - Rushing yards allowed per game - 158.46 (eighth in Big Ten)

    Other Key Defensive Stats:

    - Opponent’s third down conversion percentage - 40.21 percent (sixth in Big Ten)

    - Tackles for loss per game - 4.31 (last in Big Ten)

    - Opponent’s red zone conversion percentage - 69.23% (eleventh in the Big Ten)

    What the Numbers Say –

    Again, the stats mirror what Husker fans witnessed. Nebraska allowed opponents to easily move the ball on the ground, giving up four yards per carry. This led to easily-converted third downs.

    Since opponents had confidence in being able to run right at the Husker defensive line, deep passing lanes opened up against an inexperienced secondary that had little confidence due to poor run support

    On third down, the Blackshirts were forced to gamble in hopes of making a big play since they struggled against both the run and pass, leading to broken assignments and far too many easy conversions.

    This problem only became amplified in the red zone, where opponents could essentially pick and choose how to score. Because of this overall uncertainty, neither Bo nor Carl Pelini could draw up many blitzes and expose the Husker back seven, thus leading to such a small number of tackles for loss.

    Other Notable Statistics:

    - Turnover margin: On defense, Nebraska forced 18 turnovers, including eight fumbles and ten interceptions. On offense, the Huskers lost 11 fumbles and threw eight interceptions, for a total of 19 turnovers lost.

    Nebraska’s -1 turnover margin was good for ninth in the Big Ten. If the Huskers want a legitimate shot at winning the conference, they must win the turnover battle and stop opponents from gaining momentum as seen against Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina in 2011.

    - Penalties per game: Nebraska committed an average of 6.6 penalties per game in 2011 (ninth in the Big Ten). The Huskers have been known to draw a handful of yellow flags per game during Pelini’s tenure, and this trend continued in the Huskers’ first year of Big Ten play.

    While there weren't many sideline outbursts, this didn’t stop Nebraska from making costly mental errors, stalling offensive drives, and allowing opponents an extra down which they often turned into six points.

    Overall, the Huskers obviously have several areas that demand improvement entering 2012. If they can turn the passing game into a legitimate threat across the field, and shore up the defensive line, the Huskers can easily top last season’s results.

    However, to return to elite status, Nebraska must learn to focus by limiting turnovers and penalties, which is the tell-tale sign of a disciplined and well-coached football team.

    Follow Chris on Twitter: @chris_labenz
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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, tim beck, bo pelini

  8. 2012 Mar 16

    TAYLOR MARTINEZ: Hate the Game, Not the Player


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    There’s been some confusion over the past several years as to my stance on Taylor Martinez. The predominant thought is that I hate T-Magic. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    To hate someone takes both a reason and effort. Martinez has his own interests, his significant others (or not, I don’t keep tabs), and lives his life the way he sees fit to which I say, “Do your thing.”

    When he puts on a helmet and pads, we switch over into another realm that many confuse as hatred: critical analysis. It’s easy to confuse the two, especially when a player performs badly.

    Using Martinez as an example, when he throws poorly, makes awful reads or other mind-numbingly frustrating mistakes ad nauseum, as the starting quarterback of a major FBS program, that performance should get you called out.

    The problem is there’s no other option. The next best quarterback, if I am to believe what I’m told from various sources in print, verbal and audio form, is Nebraska’s starting running back.

    Program A’s second best option under center or taking snaps is the guy getting handoffs? That’s comical. It’s a true testament to Burkhead’s abilities, don’t get me wrong, but he shouldn’t have to be No. 2.

    If Taylor is the answer, the mental struggles that Brion Carnes allegedly suffers from must be of a monumental scale. Ron Kellogg’s knees aren’t in the best condition, so I accept that he’s not the best candidate to take over should Martinez bust his collarbone. Tyson Broekemeier, while not having an opportunity to show much falls under the “Why Not?” category.

    I don’t hate Taylor Martinez. I dislike the way he’s being handled. The pressure’s entirely on him to succeed, because if he doesn’t, there’s no one behind him with enough FBS-level experience to look smooth.

    Sitting in the stands almost one year ago watching Brion Carnes put on a clinic, I didn’t care that it was against Nebraska’s scrubs. He made dynamic plays.

    When Taylor Martinez pulled off runs that had fans and media across the nation uttering “Heisman,” he made dynamic plays. If Carnes struggles so badly with Tim Beck's system, why not prove it? If he truly doesn’t deserve that No. 2 spot, why not give the nation visual evidence?

    Against both Wisconsin and Michigan, Carnes could’ve been put in and given the opportunity to either prove his inability to make the simplest of decisions, or excel and cause doubt.

    If he does that in two games where losing by 47 instead of 40 doesn’t matter, coaches have their proof and can say, “Look at the tape” in either case.

    Martinez isn’t worth hating, and do you know why? If he excels, Nebraska does, and it’s much more enjoyable to celebrate than hang your head. As a competitor, what do I want? Conference championships, BCS bowls and national titles. I like hardware. I'd wager you do, too.

    If Taylor Martinez can take Nebraska to the Promised Land, I will buy a No. 3 jersey at the 200 percent markup and shout his praises from the rooftops, but I won’t have to.

    Is he a great athlete? Yes. Does he deserve an FBS scholarship? You bet. Is he a quarterback that will win Nebraska a BCS bowl game if Rex Burkhead goes down and the entire team looks to him for leadership? No, he is not.

    Football is only kind to the winners, to those who go above and beyond, to those who win game after game, and title after title. Martinez’s best game in 2011 was in a loss.

    I could accept that if he had performances against non-conference patsies or even Big Ten mid-level teams, but he still struggled. Texas showed the world how to knock him off his game in 2010. If you can do that, you can beat Nebraska.

    In just under a month, Taylor will have the opportunity to take the field again and wipe away memories from last year where he tanked. Can he do it? Sure. Will he? The jury’s out.

    I’d like to think he will. That his stat line will read seven carries for 95 yards, 12-of-15 for 185 yards and two touchdowns with no picks to his name. That would prove that he’s progressed, something he’s yet to show that he can do quickly.

    It'd be a start. We can talk summer and fall if and when such a performance happens. Until that point, no offense to coach Pelini, but call me skeptical that Taylor’s footwork has improved.

    What? Did you expect him to tell 30 reporters that his starting quarterback looks like crap to being spring ball?

    With Bo’s recent hires and decisions in recruiting, he’s showing growth as a head coach. The next step is knowing when to pull out the hook.

    He’s done it in the past with other positions. If things spiral out of control with Martinez, not only does it need to happen at the quarterback spot, but there needs to be someone ready to take over and produce.

    I don’t hate Taylor Martinez. I don’t have the reason, time or energy. I’m not a fan of constantly rewarding mediocrity and right now, that’s what's taking snaps at quarterback for Nebraska.

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    Tags: taylor martinez

  9. 2012 Mar 13

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Audible Audibles Feat. Ty Hildebrandt - Co-Host of ESPN Grantland Network's Solid Verbal


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Husker Locker's Brandon Cavanaugh sits down with some of the best and brightest minds in college football as a part of Audible Audibles.

    This week, co-host of ESPN's Grantland Network podcast The Solid Verbal, Ty Hildebrandt returns from Austin, Texas just in time to talk Big Red football.

    Topics include:

    - What Nebraska needs to take care of during spring football
    - Ways to use Taylor Martinez in Nebraska's 2012 offense
    - Can the Huskers do better than third behind Ohio State and Michigan now and in the future?
    - Replacing Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard
    - Terry Joseph's impact at Nebraska as a coach and recruiter
    - Lavonte David in the NFL Draft

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Follow Ty on Twitter: @tyhildenbrandt
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    Tags: spring football, taylor martinez, terry joseph, lavonte david

  10. 2012 Mar 10

    NEBRASKA SPRING FOOTBALL: Five Make or Break Players


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Chris Labenz

    With the departures of key starters such as Lavonte David, Alfonzo Dennard, Jared Crick, Austin Cassidy, Marcel Jones and Yoshi Hardrick, Nebraska’s football team looks very different this spring.

    The absence of these veterans forces other Huskers to step up to keep the team goal of winning the Big Ten Championship in tact.

    As Bo Pelini continues executing the “process”, the following five players are on the verge of falling so far behind their peers, they won't be able to catch up.

    Guard Andrew Rodriguez - “A-Rod” came to Nebraska with high praise from recruiting services and scouts who touted the big man from Aurora, Nebraska as future All-Conference lineman.

    However, there was also rumor among the locals that Rodriguez lacked the necessary work ethic and passion to become of one college football’s elite.

    His play has mirrored these claims, being dominant at times, and sluggish at others. Given his incredible natural talent, there was no reason for the one-time New Yorker to get beat out midseason by former walk-on Seung Hoon Choi, no offense to the plucky South Korean.

    While coaches have stated that Rodriguez was suffering from lingering injuries, he didn’t seem to have the fire necessary keep a full-time starting gig.

    It’s time for this enigmatic player to make a decision between being great or fading into the background. If he chooses the latter, Nebraska has ample depth at the guard position to fill his absence with other highly-talented players chomping at the bit for playing time.

    Tight end Kyler Reed – No. 25 has had one of the most frustrating careers to follow. Flash back to the Oklahoma State and Missouri games of two years ago, and you see a tight end that can fly past safeties for long touchdowns and constantly create mismatches.

    Reed was non-existent last season, battling injuries and toughness issues only magnified by Ron Brown’s move to running backs coach.

    While part of the blame must be placed on Taylor Martinez for failing to find an often open Reed, there was no reason for the preseason star to experience such a dramatic drop-off in play.

    He faces his senior season, and it’s crucial to Nebraska’s success that he finds a way to play at a high level for the entire season. If not, expect the Husker offense to continue to be boxed in by safeties playing near the line of scrimmage. There's no fear of being burned deep by Ben Cotton.

    MIKE linebacker Will Compton – Lavonte David is not a player that can be replaced with one guy. No. 4’s ability to make plays across the field was the biggest reason the Husker defense had a fighting chance at stopping the better teams faced during the past two seasons.

    Nobody on the roster possesses his combination of speed, agility, sure tackling, and instincts. However, if the Blackshirts are to survive without the future NFL linebacker, Compton must step up his game this season and become the player many thought he could be when he signed his letter of intent.

    He has expressed desire to become the vocal leader of the Blackshirts, but fans have to wonder whether No. 51’s bite will match his bark.

    Against Michigan State, the Missouri native showed flashes of his why he was rated a four-star prospect, stopping running backs in their tracks and chasing the opposition down at every turn. While this performance was impressive, it still appeared to be the exception instead of the rule for Comtpon.

    In 2012, the senior linebacker must perform like he did against the Spartans every week if the Blackshirts are to regain the form that has become expected of a Bo Pelini-coached defense.

    If Compton can’t handle the load, expect young guns David Santos and Trevor Roach to garner serious playing time while all Husker fans simultaneously shake their heads and mutter, “David would’ve made that play.”

    Safety P.J. Smith – No. 13 is another Husker whose playing time has risen and fallen like the temperature of so many Nebraska seasons. With Austin Cassidy's graduation, there is a wide open spot next to Daimion Stafford at the back-end of the defense.

    While Pelini and company have accumulated above average depth at the position, nobody seems to stand out as a clear favorite this spring.

    Due to Smith’s knowledge and experience, along with the demands Pelini places on his safeties, it’s fair to guess that he could have a leg up on players like Corey Cooper. Cooper is one of many secondary members full of potential, but very green.

    Additionally, Courtney Osborne will be anxious to get back on the field after mysteriously disappearing in 2011. Smith has played well when given the chance, showing a great knack for finding the football, but injuries and a lack of top-shelf athletic ability have kept him from permanently needing an extra hanger in his locker for the a black practice jersey.

    If Smith can’t take his play to the next level this spring, don’t be surprised if new secondary coach Terry Joseph decides to roll the dice and go with the inexperienced, more athletic Cooper as his other starting safety.

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez – Martinez’s weaknesses in the passing game have been well-documented over the past two seasons. Heading into spring ball, T-Magic still has the keys to the Husker offense. One that was often very good, but maddeningly inconsistent.

    Opposing defenses were able to force Tim Beck to call plays that the dual-threat quarterback was clearly not comfortable executing, while containing opportunities for Martinez’s trademark long runs.

    If No. 3 can’t find a way to consistency complete more 10-plus yard passes downfield, Nebraska’s offense will again struggle to put up enough points to win games against the likes of Michigan and Ohio State.

    Should his struggles continue, the great unknown remains about whether Beck and Pelini will finally give another quarterback a chance to lead the first team offense against live ammunition.

    Expect fans to become restless if the staff isn't willing to make a change in the face of even more disappointing offensive performances, especially with Carnes and incoming signal-caller Tommy Armstrong itching for the chance to make people forget about Martinez.

    Can these five embrace the challenge of becoming the vital cogs to the Big Red’s success? If not, there are players below them on the depth chart happy to take their place.

    Follow Chris on Twitter: @chris_labenz
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    Tags: spring football, andrew rodriguez, kyler reed, will compton, pj smith, taylor martinez

  11. 2012 Mar 08

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Will Martinez Spring Forward or Fall Back?


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    Saturday marks the return of College Football Lite a.k.a. spring practice. Regardless, it is football all the same. What is unique about this period is the opportunity for early competition that carries over into the summer and fall.

    Nebraska has several positions up in the air, such as at linebacker. David Santos and Alfonzo Whaley will both have the first shot at replacing Lavonte David.

    While there are many positions worth keeping their eye on, there is one that may stand out more than the rest – quarterback.

    Taylor Martinez will enter the 2012 football season as a legitimate veteran, a junior with two starting seasons under his belt. Spring football is exactly what the quarterback needs to cement his place as No. 1 on the depth chart.

    During Tuesday’s press conference, head coach Bo Pelini said he feels good about the quarterback position as a whole and where it stands as of now.

    He was also not shy to say that Brion Carnes will bring ample competition to the table. “He’s going to be fun to watch,” Pelini said.

    While Carnes may bring athleticism to the field, the question remains whether he will actually have a legitimate shot at the starting position.

    Over the past two years, Martinez has won his spot over the likes of Zac Lee and Cody Green. Pelini has clearly always had an immense amount of faith in the California native.

    By fall, Martinez may find himself in a quarterback controversy thanks to incoming freshman Tommy Armstrong. Until then, Carnes will be the primary threat for Martinez’s starting role. Former safety Bronson Marsh will also take snaps, but his chances of replacing T-Magic are remote.

    If fans should be grateful for anything, it should be that the rumors of Carnes transferring before spring practice were false. Martinez needs to be pushed now more than ever if he is to truly improve.

    Fans want to see more of the rarely-seen Carnes, who gained immense popularity after the 2011 spring game. Pelini speaks higher of Tommie Frazier’s cousin these days than he ever has.

    It appears that maybe, just maybe, he has a shot at leveling the playing field. However, it is what Pelini says between the votes of confidence that are important to note.

    "We have a lot more confidence in Brion than people think," Pelini said last week to the Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple. "I sometimes get the feeling that people think we don't have confidence in him. That isn't the case.

    I think Brion's going to be a good player. But he's a young guy. He's still learning, still developing. He was in a new offense last year. Didn't have the experience Taylor had. I think this spring will be big for Brion."

    The most notable theme from Pelini’s comments is that Carnes’ is “a young guy.”

    Pelini and his staff clearly do have faith in Carnes. However, actions speak louder than words. For every positive message about the athletic Floridian, there is the visual reminder that Martinez plays the vast majority of actual minutes.

    The 2011 season was a challenging one for Martinez. A new offensive coordinator and a new system put the second-year starter in unfamiliar territory.

    His opportunities for break-out runs were limited, while his decision-making improved. He continues to add to his experience, which both Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck are excited about.

    From what Pelini and Beck say, the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is smaller than fans think. Is that statement true? Only time will tell.

    If anyone were to hedge their bets on the starter coming out of spring, put your money on Taylor Martinez. An improved Carnes will help all involved, but Martinez will hold onto the lead role. Truthfully, the veteran’s biggest threat wears no jersey.

    The biggest obstacle standing between Martinez and immense improvement is the person that stares back at him in the mirror.

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    Tags: spring practice, taylor martinez, brion carnes, david santos, alfonzo whaley, jamal turner, bronson marsh

  12. 2012 Mar 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Spring Practice Position Primer


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Quarterback: Without Tommy Armstrong in camp, Martinez has no threat to his starting spot. He’s showed tremendous athletic potential last spring.

    If Carnes continues to improve athletically, and the mental aspect of the game can be reinforced, while the gap between he and Martinez isn’t likely to shrink that much, a legitimate backup candidate could be crowned.

    Running back: Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green start on equal footing heading into Saturday and could very well end up where they started following April’s spring game.

    Thanks to Abdullah’s edge in experience during actual FBS play, one has to think he has a leg up on Green. His fumbling problems may level the playing field, however.

    Wide receiver: Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Tim Marlowe and Jamal Turner will all have the opportunity to solidify their starting roles.

    With the departure of Khiry Cooper, look for Taariq Allen, who followed wide receivers coach Rich Fisher from Weston, Massachusetts, to vie for the fifth spot. KC Hyland and Tyler Evans are two other talents with an opportunity to shine.

    Tight End: Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed aren’t going anywhere, but David Sutton and Eddie Ridder have the opportunity to showcase their potential.

    Offensive Line: Departed center Mike Caputo’s replacement could come from a number of candidates including Cole Pensick, Nick Ash and Ryan Klachko. Pensick and Ash may have seniority, but Klachko sticks out as the prospect with a higher ceiling.

    Brandon Thompson, Andrew Rodriguez, Mike Moudy and Ryne Reeves look to be the favorites to hold down the guard spots. Rodriguez’s attitude has reportedly been lackadaisical, but Moudy and Reeves have the tenacity to step up should he slack off.

    Sirles and Qvale will start out spring at the tackle spots with Tyler Moore giving them all they can handle in an attempt to take one of their spots. Zach Sterup is a likely backup candidate with Givens Price needing a strong spring to assert himself as a legitimate threat for playing time.

    Defensive Line: Cameron Meredith, Jason Ankrah, Eric Martin and Joseph Cater have the end positions on lockdown barring injury. Donovan Vestal and Walker Ashburn need huge springs to hold off the incoming Avery Moss and Greg McMullen come the fall.

    The interior’s been decimated by injury with Chase Rome and Todd Peat, Jr. now out for the entirety of spring ball. Once Kevin Williams and Thad Randle return from injury, they’ll be plugged in next to Baker Steinkuhler in an attempt to hone their abilities, and find a suitable replacement for Rome’s spring absence.

    Having a deeper interior for rotation’s sake won’t hurt heading into Big Ten play. Jay Guy and newly-placed Tobi Okuyemi will have the opportunity to show that their work ethic has improved.

    Linebackers: Will Compton has the MIKE slot on lockdown while Sean Fisher will spend most of his time trying to cement the BUCK slot by the end of spring. Max Pirman could find himself trying to work into rotation behind him.

    Pelini mentioned to look for David Santos and Alonzo Whaley to work at the WILL position to begin the essentially-impossible task of taking over for Lavonte David. Don’t be surprised to see Santos win that battle by mid-April.

    Defensive back: Mohammed Seisay will be one of the most-watched players on the entire team this spring. Not only will he be wearing the departed David’s No. 4, but he looks to lock down the title of Nebraska’s elite cornerback.

    Andrew Green, Cinate Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and recently-switched Braylon Heard will likely get the opportunity to lock down the opposite end.

    Safety: Daimion Stafford, Courtney Osborne and P.J. Smith are the likely candidates to lock down starting role. Osborne’s recent concussion issues may cause Pelini and company to take things slow with him.

    Kicker/Punter: Brett Maher is light years ahead of Mauro Bondi, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Boca Raton native can narrow the gap in the slightest.

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    Tags: spring practice, taylor martinez, brion carnes, ameer abdullah, aaron green, kenny bell, quincy enunwa, tim marlowe, jamal turner, taariq allen, ben cotton, kyler reed, cole pensick, nick ash, ryan klachko, brandon thompson, andrew rodriguez, mike moudy, ryne reeves, cameron meredith, eric martin, chase rome, todd peat, baker steinkuhler, will compton, david santos, mohammed seisay, brett maher

  13. 2012 Mar 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Spring Practice Opening Press Conference Notes


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    - Bo Pelini announced that he will be opening up Pro Day and first day of practice to media.

    - Pelini is anxious to start spring football, saying, “I like the potential of what we have coming back on defense.”

    - He also added, “I like the leadership, I like the potential.”

    - When asked about Taylor Martinez: “We watch a lot of film and watch all the things from last year. Last year, he was putting in a new offense.

    There were a lot of new things for him to learn. You put a quarterback in the type of system we run, he had a lot of things on his plate and had to learn what to do. Now it’s refining that.”

    - The status of Jamal Turner was brought up. Pelini said he knows they can move Turner to quarterback if needed to take a few snaps, but that he feels good about the quarterback position as it stands right now.

    - Pelini believes Brion Carnes will have an important spring. He also believes he will bring a lot of competition to the table. “He’s going to be fun to watch.”

    - He would not comment on defensive backs coach Terry Joseph, but did offer up one thing: “He’s about as perfect a fit as you can have.”

    - When it comes to replacing Lavonte David, David Santos and Alonzo Whaley will get the first shot.

    - On Rex Burkhead: “He’s his toughest critic. I think he’s anxious.”

    - Pelini believes the team is ready for spring football: “I like the attitude. I think our guys are hungry. I think they understand that this spring practice is important.”

    - “You have to be ready to live it, and that’s a challenge to do it day in and day out,” Pelini said.

    - On his coaching style: “Every coach is different. Everybody has a different personality. I’m different than JP, I’m different than Tim (Beck). You have to coach within your personality. You have to play to your strengths and continue to work on your weaknesses.”

    “I don’t want to surround myself with a bunch of people who are going to tell me I’m right all the time, because I’m not right all the time,” Pelini said about his staff.

    - Pelini confirmed that Khiry Cooper is no longer with the team and that the decision was Cooper’s. He is set to graduate in May. Pelini also made it clear that the door is open if he ever wants to come back.

    - Jake Cotton, Chase Rome, and Todd Peat, Jr. will most likely miss all of spring practice.

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    Tags: spring practice, bo pelini, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, jamal turner, brion carnes, terry joseph, lavonte david, david santos, alonzo whaley, john papuchis, tim beck, khiry cooper, jake cotton, chase rome, todd peat

  14. 2012 Mar 07

    Husker Heartbeat (3/07/12): Abdullah and Green's Future, Pelini says No to Yes and Williams Released


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    - Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green will be getting plenty of opportunities to hone their skills to help Burkhead in 2012

    - Bo Pelini isn't interested in being surrounded by "yes men"

    - Taylor Martinez is looking forward to taking the next step in his collegiate career

    - Nebraska's anxious to see if Big Red bonding pays off

    - The Kansas City Chiefs release former Husker Demorrio Williams

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    Tags: ameer abdullah, aaron green, bo pelini, taylor martinez, demorrio williams

  15. 2012 Feb 18

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: The Husker Locker Crew's Weekend Thoughts (2/18/2012)


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Every week, the Husker Locker staff sits down and is presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of Nebraska Cornhuskers sports.

    This week:

    What Husker football player do you feel has to improve the most this offseason?

    Brian: It’s not so much a player, as an entire group - the offensive line. Guys like Tyler Moore, Spencer Long and Ryan Klatchko need to step up and not only give people like Andrew Rodriguez and Seung Hoon Choi competition for starting roles, but also build depth that the line seemed to lack as 2011 progressed.

    Chris: It’s hard to gauge “improvement” for new guys that will be filling voids this season since we don’t have a lot of evidence of how good they can be in order to make such a conclusion (Zaire Anderson obviously has to play well to fill in for Lavonte David, Mohammed Seisay needs to lock-down one of the corner spots, etc.).

    Looking at players who logged significant time last season, it’s safe to say that Taylor Martinez must take a large step forward in order for Nebraska to have a chance at a Big Ten crown. He was an enigma last year, playing extremely well at some points (Ohio State, Northwestern) and looking completely lost at others (Wisconsin and Michigan ).

    T-Magic is a redshirt junior now with plenty of experience under his belt. Can he overcome his poor decision-making, cut down on turnovers, break the big runs he had in his freshman campaign and improve his completion percentage on longer throws? If so, Nebraska’s offense can be deadly with the skill at running back, tight end and wide receiver, especially with the addition of Jordan Westerkamp.

    On defense, Cameron Meredith needs to improve significantly for Bo’s front four to work properly. Meredith played very well during his sophomore season, but regressed significantly last year. He looked slow and winded by the third quarter of most games which may be due to the staff’s emphasis on bulking up for the rigors of Big Ten play. Whatever the reason, No. 34 needs to be a leader on the defensive line.

    Greg: As far as individual improvement, I'd like to see Chase Rome. He has a ton of potential and he needs to display marked improvement next year.

    Brandon: Ryan Klachko as I feel he’s the next big thing at center, even as a redshirt freshman. At 6’4” 285, he has plenty of time to pack on 5-10 pounds of muscle while keeping his speed.

    I don’t see PJ Mangieri, Cole Pensick or Nick Ash as permanent solutions in the middle of the offensive line. Klachko’s got the physicality, the smarts and the desire to be a great interior lineman for Nebraska. I’m not going to say he’ll be a Rimington Award winner, but he has that level of potential.

    Who comprises your starting 2012 defensive backfield (CB and S)?

    Brian: Mohammad Seisay isn’t coming here to sit on the pine, folks. He’s starting from the first snap of the season on. The other three? Good question.

    PJ Smith should be out there, however the word is that he didn’t quite know what he was doing last year which makes it tough to project him seeing much time. Daimion Stafford has to be considered a lock for a safety.

    To start the season, a combination of Ciante Evans and Andrew Green will be out there. Snaps and experience will dictate who takes the spots by the time Arkansas State comes around.

    Chris: There are so many variables heading into the spring and summer that it's hard to nail down anything definitive. Braylon Heard has been moved to cornerback and brings plenty of athleticism. Mohammed Seisay was one of the most coveted JUCO players last year and should be able to make an impact right away.

    Stanley Jean-Baptiste showed flashes of brilliance when he was healthy. Additionally, Charles Jackson is rumored to have become eligible to enroll at Nebraska after the highly-coveted corner was unable to qualify last season. At safety, only Daimion Stafford played significant minutes last year.

    With all of that in mind, the starters come the first kickoff will likely be Andrew Green and Mohammed Seisay at cornerback with Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith at safety.

    By the time conference play rolls around, look for a starting group of Heard and Seisay at the cornerback spots with Stafford and Corey Cooper at safety.

    Greg: Seisay and Green at cornerback, Stafford and Heard (who knows?) at safety.

    Brandon: I’ll stick Mohammed Seisay and Andrew Green at cornerback with PJ Smith and Courtney Osborne at safety for now. Green’s spot is up for grabs until the first kickoff and it may not be solidified even then.

    Stanley Jean-Baptiste has an awesome frame for a cornerback and Braylon Heard’s move is intriguing. Everyone and their brother wanted him as a defensive back, including Ohio State. Green did improve as 2011 went along, so he’s getting the spot opposite arguable the roster’s best defensive back.

    At safety, Smith’s not as cerebral as Austin Cassidy was, but he’s a far better athlete and will make more plays resulting in offensive possession, good field position or points. Osborne gets the nod over Daimion Stafford right now simply due to his time in the system.

    Stafford struggled in coverage at times in 2011, but he has an entire offseason to work on his deficiencies. I’d imagine we’ll likely see a mixture of Osborne, Smith and Stafford during the 2012 non-conference schedule.

    Considering the difficulties Connie Yori's team has been facing, how do you see the Lady Huskers' regular season ending?

    Brian: Hopefully this team isn’t hitting a wall. However, after the triple overtime thriller in West Lafayette, it seems that this team has slammed head first into one. Wisconsin comes into Devaney on Sunday. Let's hope the kinks get worked out. If not, keep them away from Doc, at least.

    Chris: In ESPN’s latest projections, Nebraska is listed as a potential No. 6 seed in the women’s NCAA tournament. Three losses in a row spells trouble for the Huskers' chances of making the dance, though.

    The committee likes to take teams that are on a hot streak come tournament time, and while the Huskers have some decent wins to hang their hat on, they’ve struggled at times against top competition.

    Three games remain to finish the year. The Huskers need to win two of these games to feel good about their chances.

    Greg: They'll bounce back and finish strong, complete with a decent showing in the Big Ten tournament.

    Brandon: I wasn't anticipating a three-loss skid out of Yori’s team this year, even in Big Ten play. Must be something in the Gatorade down in Lincoln. Regardless, this team can finish the season strong.

    They’re set up for a potential 2-1 or 3-0 end to the regular season with games against Wisconsin and Ohio State at home with Michigan State on the road bringing them to either 21 or 22 wins.

    Any initial thoughts as Nebraska baseball's season gets underway?

    Brian: All the talk has been wonderful, but eventually you have to walk the walk. Let's see how this team is sitting after their trip to Corpus Christi next weekend.

    Chris: Very excited to start the Erstad era and see how this team stacks up in out of conference play. I’m going out on a limb and saying Nebraska wins the Big Ten in Erstad’s first year through a combination of solid pitching, defense, and small ball.

    Erstad appears to be making all the right moves and saying the right things. However, he has no prior Division 1 coaching experience, so it will be vital for him to rely on his top assistants, and great hires, Will Bolt and Ted Silva.

    As the team takes the mold of its coach, expect a hard-nosed group who plays smart baseball and accomplishes the little things very well which means plenty of wins in the long run.

    Greg: I'm disappointed in the loss to Gonzaga. If this team is going to be successful, they will have to close out games. It'll come together. Baseball is great that way. Go Big Red!

    Brandon: Last night’s loss to the Zags stunk as you always like to see a new coach get his first win right off the bat, pardon the pun, but I think a 2-1 series win would sit with just fine with Erstad. Gonzaga’s no scrub club and it’s going to be beneficial for the Huskers to play a squad of this caliber coming out of the gate as they head down the road.

    Regardless of the loss, I’m excited to see what this team can do. One loss isn’t going to damper that enthusiasm.

    Brandon: @huskerlocker
    Brian: @btbowling
    Greg: @thehooch36
    Chris: @chris_labenz

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    Tags: ryan klachko, tyler moore, spencer long, taylor martinez, chase rome, mohammed seisay, andrew green, daimion stafford, baseball, basketball

  16. 2012 Jan 26

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Mid-Day Mailbag (1/26)


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Bo's defense seems to rely on a shutdown corner for it to work at its best, why do you think we haven't recruited it more this year and/or do you think we have the talent at that position to be successful? – Matt Hanson

    Shutdown corners are a great thing for Pelini to have at his disposal, but they’re not essential. What’s more important is that the interior defensive linemen can occupy their men allowing for havoc at the point of attack. If Pelini’s cornerbacks can simply stick to their men like glue, this creates opportunities for coverage sacks or interceptions…in theory.

    At this point, the only guy that sticks out with the ability to be your standard “lockdown” guy is incoming JUCO transfer Mohammed Seisay. I doubt we see the output of Amukamara or Dennard, but he should be more than serviceable. Pelini knows how to pick his JUCOs.

    In terms of recruiting these guys, Nebraska has. It's just that others have done a far better job. If the Huskers grab Devian Shelton and Raymond Ford on Signing Day, that'll be a step in the right direction.

    Could Martinez actually be transplanted or are we stuck with him for the long haul? – Dan Gibson

    Despite the severe skeptics, Martinez can be jimmied from the starting spot under center. I felt the same way as those who don’t believe me now not that long ago. When Carnes was inserted as little as he was in 2011, that said, “Taylor’s the captain of this ship.”

    The thing is, Pelini wants to win, not lose four games every year. Have a look back and see why Armstrong (and maybe now Fuller?) have a legit shot: Recruiting Shows Martinez’s Spot Far From Safe

    With Greg Schiano headed to Tampa Bay, will Nebraska be able to get Devin Fuller and Quanzell Lambert? – Corey Demmings

    Like many things in recruiting, this gets a great big “maybe.” As of now, Lambert’s coach has confirmed he’s still a commit. Even if he does switch, Iowa appears to have the inside track as they were believed to be at the No. 2 spot when he selected Rutgers.

    Fuller’s more likely, but far from a lock. His commitment to the Scarlet Knights seemed like a sure thing a few hours ago. He may select Nebraska, but I can also see him getting talked down off the ledge and staying close to home. Honestly, if I were Fuller, I’d push my decision back to Signing Day and think.

    Who’s been the staff’s best recruiter this year? – Toby Adams

    John Garrison, bar none. He was incredibly meticulous and hard-working as an intern, so it doesn’t shock me that he’s a guy that may very well end up with new recruiting coordinator duties. Combine his recruiting prowess with his ability to help cobble together an overall effective offensive line and you’ve got an impressive hire.

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    Tags: bo pelini, devin fuller, quanzell lambert, mohammed seisay, taylor martinez, brion carnes, tommy armstrong, john garrison

  17. 2012 Jan 19

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Recruiting Shows Martinez’s Spot is Far From Safe


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Over the course of Nebraska’s 2011 season, the enigma that was Tim Beck’s offense eventually showcased a desire to spread the ball around.

    This was likely meant to take pressure off of quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead, allowing other talented skill players a chance to excel. As the year went on, it was apparent that there was only one quarterback Beck’s offense belonged to for better or worse.

    When Martinez’s decision-making began to slip during the Cornhuskers’ loss to Wisconsin, a number of fans wondered why backup Brion Carnes didn’t get an opportunity to shine. He rarely saw the field and those behind him on the depth chart never did. Nebraska’s current commitment list for the 2011-2012 recruiting cycle suggests that this may not be the case moving forward.

    Cibolo, Texas’ Tommy Armstrong wasn’t wooed with the idea of sitting on the bench. His only loss and interception as a senior coming in the Texas 5A Division II final, Armstrong shows plenty of what Martinez lacks. The Lone Star State native doesn’t have Martinez’s first step or overall speed, but another Husker quarterback target does: Old Tappan, New Jersey’s Devin Fuller.

    Fuller’s speed mirrors Martinez’s and while his passing mechanics aren’t as refined as Armstrong’s, the ball flicks out of his hand following a far more fluid motion than Nebraska's current starter. Fuller's commitment is far from locked up, but Armstrong’s presence alone should be a warning sign for Martinez.

    Against some of the best competition in the state of Texas, Armstrong finished his senior year going 83 of 139 (59.7%) for 1,475 yards and 23 touchdowns with his lone pick the result of a tipped ball. He ran for 1,052 yards on 121 carries (8.69 YPC) tallying 11 touchdowns on the ground. More importantly, he already has a good throwing motion to build off of.

    Fuller’s numbers come against lesser competition, but they adjust accordingly. During his senior season, Fuller went 127 of 195 (65.1%) for 2,247 yards and 20 touchdowns. He ran the ball 120 times for 1,326 yards (11.1 YPC) scoring 17 times on the ground.

    Two years of FBS experience favors the junior from Corona, California, but new Cornhusker signal-callers in Beck’s offense may shake his current rock solid status as Nebraska’s starter.

    Last season, the quarterback position became less about 2010’s foundation of a running quarterback and revolved more on proper reads and judgment by those under center. Martinez found relief in this. Armstrong and Fuller would likely find extreme comfort.

    A number of Martinez’s passes hit receivers in favorable, if not ideal spots and while Nebraska’s overall young receiving corps struggled catching at times, one has to wonder how many of those drops were aided by the quarterback. The game did seem to slow down for Martinez, especially against Northwestern despite a losing effort.

    For those who brush off any threat to Martinez’s throne, don’t forget about the quarterback battle that never was last fall. Bubba Starling took the money and ran to play for the Kansas City Royals to few’s surprise, but had he stayed, Bo Pelini was clearly ready to board the Bubba Bus.

    The Cornhuskers offered the two-sport superstar a chance to play on both FieldTurf and the diamond. He had negotiated his way into the perfect collegiate career, but history still stings for the Big Red.

    Skepticism surrounds the idea of Martinez being unseated by fans who wouldn’t mind a change should his production plateau or head south in 2012. If he wasn’t going to be yanked after throwing his third interception of the night directly into the numbers of a Wisconsin defender last year, why would he be before next season even begins?

    Bo Pelini’s “process” isn’t just a talking point. There’s a legitimate end to that road - hoisting a Big Ten Championship trophy, at the very least. Pelini’s headstrong, but he’s not stupid. While Martinez has slowly matured, if Armstrong comes in looking just as polished as in some areas, if not more so in others, T-Magic had best brace himself for a long offseason.

    If Devin Fuller commits as well, the heat gets turned up even more and should Brion Carnes grasp whatever kept him bench-ridden in 2011, a genuine four-man race for the starting job is more than believable.

    Pelini has shown a stubborn desire to be correct early in his head coaching career, but the best can swallow their pride, no matter how large. Putting Martinez under center as a redshirt freshman in 2010 took extreme confidence. Removing him should he prove less effective than a newbie will do the same and would show a big step in Pelini’s own development.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, tommy armstrong, devin fuller, recruiting

  18. 2012 Jan 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Behind the Scenes at the Capital One Bowl


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Matt Repchak is one of the Capital One Bowl’s star offensive linemen as the Assistant Director of Marketing Communications and Digital Media. The less you hear about him, the better he’s doing his job as he’s behind the scenes doing everything he can to make sure things go off without a hitch.

    Nebraska’s tilt with South Carolina’s nearly a week old, but planning for the event’s 2013 edition is about to get underway as Repchak reports for conditioning on Monday.

    That’s when he and his colleagues begin shuffling through surveys sent back from the universities and representatives in regards to whether or not he and the other staffers paved the way for success. They’ll then take every note and criticism into consideration as they look to the future.

    Since joining Florida Citrus Sports, the organization that oversees the Capital One and Champs Sports Bowls in 2005, he’s been astounded by how the event has evolved. “The bowl game that we just put on compared to the one we put on in my first year, it’s unrecognizable.”

    The Capital One Bowl has implemented large “fanfests”, started having teams unload at one end of the stadium before walking into it, offering VIP climate-controlled tent next to the stadium and a $200 ticket for those who want to experience the game in field-level suite surroundings. The luncheon events are one thing that have expanded the most and introduced perhaps one of the most enjoyed pre-game events - The Capital One Minute Challenge.

    “The thing that made it awesome for me was when we did Rock Band last year with Michigan State and Alabama, it was one player that people knew and then two or three were backups or guys that just didn’t get much time. The main players stayed in the front row and laughed it off. Nebraska sent their captains up to play these games. South Carolina sent up Kenny Miles and Melvin Ingram, an All-American. Both teams clearly bought into it and were having fun.”

    During this event, members of both Nebraska and South Carolina faced off in events such as cup stacking and Oreo sliding/eating. The Cornhuskers took this year’s competition and Yoshi Hardrick proudly wore the trophy – a Flavor Flav-style clock necklace.

    As he dashed around one of the events specifically set up for kids, Repchak was yanked aside by a co-worker to go on one of the rides. It was here that he had his only interaction with a Cornhusker player. He admits he’s rather embarrassed with how it went down.

    “I was waiting in line and I was chatting a little bit with a Nebraska player in front of me. He was asking me questions about their Best Buy gift card and one of the events, just regular small talk. Eight hours later, I’m sitting at my computer doing something totally unrelated and it hit me I was talking to Taylor Martinez the whole time,” he said.

    The day of the game, Repchak isn't afforded much time to watch the entire game. That went double this year as he’s the friendly face behind the Capital One Bowl’s Twitter account that thousands have been interacting with before, during and after the game. He did get to hear about the highlights, one of those being the infamous Jeffery-Dennard ejection.

    When asked if this sort of behavior has a negative effect, Repchak pointed out that his organization was more concerned with how everything looked, operated and if the fans were having a good time. What about the fight? “What’s actually happening on the field is actually entertainment for us and that point,” he said with a laugh. “That’s the furthest cry from anything we need to be concerned about. It’s such an isolated incident. It’s two players, so it’s hard to look poorly on either team.”

    The idea of an escalated event didn’t seem to faze him much, either. “Say they got into some bare-knuckle brawl out on the middle of the field. We could set up an octagon and let them fight it out. It still doesn’t reflect poorly on the team because it’s two players that’ll be gone,” he said referencing Jeffery’s entry into the NFL and Dennard’s end of eligibility as a player. Repchak also pointed out that the two players going at it were perhaps the duo that would least likely be picked to do so pre-game.

    He received a tweet from a South Carolina fan commenting on how Jeffery’s one of the few people on his Twitter timeline that quotes Bible verses. Dennard’s well-known for ending several evenings by dipping into the same book before counting sheep. “It’s just one heated moment in a game, they both got a little carried away, it is what it is.”

    A few Cornhusker fans had the opportunity to chat with Repchak and a distinct impression stuck. “I had a couple of brief interactions with some Nebraska fans before, during or right after events. They were awesome. Press box side was the Nebraska sideline and it was loud. They lived up to their reputation of being Nebraska fans, being passionate, great people and appreciative of the whole experience.”

    For now, it’s back to the grind for Repchak. He’ll eventually be part of making sure 100-150 members of the Capital One Bowl’s committee are properly trained before their road trips and will still be tweeting away. You can never start too early. After all, there’s only roughly 360 days until next year’s bowl.

    Follow Matt/The Capital One Bowl on Twitter: @CapitalOneBowl
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    Tags: capital one bowl, alfonzo dennard, taylor martinez

  19. 2012 Jan 05

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Husker Nation's MVPs of 2011


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    We asked and you answered, Husker Nation. Who is your 2011 Husker MVP? After polling the masses, three MVPs were selected with two honorable mentions:

    Lavonte David

    Andrew Ritta (@AndrewRitta): Lavonte is MVP. Made EVERY big play on defense after Crick injury, singlehandedly won Ohio State game.

    Old Gold Knights (@OldGoldKnights): @BRASKA_4's the most deserving #Huskers MVP. His determination, focus & consistently high level of play were unmatched.

    David was the clear winner here. The amount of tweets received mentioning No. 4 was overwhelming. His season's stats justify the response with 123 total tackes, 5.5 sacks and two interceptions. Arguably the Big Ten's best linebacker, David should be an early pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

    Rex Burkhead

    Lanny Holstein (@Lanny_Holstein): Rex Burkhead. Season would have been an epic failure without the workhorse. His intensity kept us in games.

    This is an obvious as Burkhead became known this season as “Superman” to Nebraska fans. With 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season, he clearly sealed himself as the third best running back in the Big Ten. His legs never stopped moving and the 2012 season seems nothing short of promising for the workhorse.

    Taylor Martinez

    Dean Dougie (@TheRealM****): Taylor Martinez the soph QB had less to work with then previous years. Solid productivity. 20+ combined TD's.

    The second year veteran grew up a lot this season. The once famously known “ball hog” became a team player, opting to hand the ball off more often than not. His numbers were down, but the team’s production was up. With 2,089 yards on the season and a combined 22 touchdowns, Martinez made his mark.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Brett Maher

    Doug Belsaas (@belsaas26): Unorthodox - Maher. Biggest ?mark b4 season. Expected drop off. Ability to count on him impacted how NU could call a game.

    Forget the Capital One Bowl because that miss was a freak accident. Maher’s leg is near perfect. And don’t call him the next Alex Henery because Maher stands on his own. With 59 punts on the season averaging 44.5 yard/punt and nailing 19 of 23 field goal attempts, Maher proved that Nebraska knows its kickers.

    Alfonzo Dennard

    I was completely floored that no one mentioned Dennard. His 31 tackles on the season was not bad. A career total of 93 tackles and four interceptions were even better. When in the game, Dennard was a force to be reckoned with. He was sorely missed at the start of the season when he was out with an injury. He will be sorely missed now that he’s gone.

    Do you agree with the 2011 MVPs as selected by Husker Nation? Head over to the Official Husker Locker Page and vote now for who you think deserves the title.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: huskers, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, brett maher, rex burkhead, taylor martinez

  20. 2012 Jan 05

    Husker Heartbeat 1/5: Martinez's Consistency, Offensive Line's Current Struggle and Nebraska's Amazing Hooper


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    - Taylor Martinez can't seem to find consistency, but will he ever?

    - Carey: It's time for the Huskers' expectations to change

    - Nebraska's offensive line is in the process of trying to find a true identity across the board

    - Women's roundballer Jordan Hooper is taking the court by storm

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: taylor martinez, jordan hooper

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