Cornhuskers

Another Bad(ger) Break

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Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

Take it on the Run

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Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

Near (Southern) Miss

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Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

Hurri-Can’t Believe They Broke My Heart Again

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Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

South Alabama Slamma Jamma

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Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

B. Y. (is it always one second) U.

Thanks for stopping by!  While I am very grateful for those who take the time to read my work, I would greatly it if you read this one on HuskerMax.com.  

Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

2015 Husker Preview – Unanswered Questions

In taking an in-depth look at what to expect for the 2015 season, we’ve covered some reasons to be optimistic and reasons to be pessimistic.  Between them, you’d think we have a pretty good gauge on how things will go this fall.

But yet, lingering questions remain.

Some of these may be evident by the end of the BYU game, while others may not be known until January.  Here are some lingering questions, along with my best guess on how they’ll be answered:

Does Mike Riley fully understand what he’s gotten himself into?  This is a question that I’ve thought about many times this off-season.  As you and I know, Nebraska is a unique place* and our singular focus and passion for the football team can catch outsiders by surprise.  For an example, consider the two previous head coaches.  I’m guessing each of them had a moment when they thought “Holy crap, what have I done?”.

*Some say there’s no place like it.

I thought about this during his introductory press conference (broadcast live on multiple TV and radio stations across the state).  Or when 60,000 people showed up for a scrimmage in April.  Or last month at Fan Day when the line for his autograph stretched over 100 yards and he was mobbed by fans as he tried to leave the field.

For his part, Riley has said all the right things in every interview.  He truly appears to appreciate our particular brand of football fervor and seems genuinely appreciative and excited to be a part of it.  There’s a part of me that thinks he “Gets It”.

But there is a part of me that knows Mike Riley has never come out of the tunnel on Football Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska with 90,000 fans in red going crazy.  When he does, will he say “Holy crap” or “Here we go”?

Will Tommy Armstrong be Joe Dailey 2.0?  For those who have repressed memories of  2004, here is the short version:  Joe Dailey was a good quarterback recruited to play in an option based offense.  When Frank Solich was replaced by Bill Callahan, they tried to make Dailey into Rich Gannon.  Dailey looked amazing in the Spring Game, and showed some flashes during the 2004 season.  But mostly, Dailey looked a square peg being pounded into a round hole, and his numbers (17 TD, 19 INT, 49% completion) reflected that.  More importantly, Callahan and company navigated Dailey and the Huskers to a 5-6 record, losing multiple games by trying to win them through the air (see also: Iowa State, 2004).

Despite Riley’s reputation for running “pro style”, pass heavy offenses, I don’t see Armstrong being asked to throw it 40+ times a game or Riley and Langsdorf trying to implement their system completely in Year 1.  Instead, they understand that Nebraska is a “win now” job and Riley has said he wants Armstrong running plays he feels confident that he can execute.  That said, keep an eye on the passes that Armstrong struggles with – are they being removed from the playbook or will Langsdorf keep calling them?

Is completion percentage the stat to track if you want to gauge Armstrong’s success?  Nope, forget completion percentage.  While Armstrong will certainly need to improve upon his 53% completion rate from 2014, that stat can be misleading.  With the combination of another year of experience, an actual quarterback coach, and an increased use of screen passes and short throws to backs and tight ends, a jump in completion percentage is all but guaranteed.

Instead, the stat to watch is touchdown to interception ratio.  To me, TD:INT speaks to Armstrong’s accuracy as a passer, as well as the offense’s success.  Is Armstrong leading the team on scoring drives or is he making bad decisions and forcing throws?  In 2014, Armstrong had a TD:INT ratio of 1.83 (22 TDs to 12 INTs).  That ranked him 56th in the nation (tied with Rutgers QB Gary Nova).  In the Big Ten, Armstrong and Nova were tied for fourth – which really says how poor the quarterbacking in the B1G was last year (four quarterbacks, including three from the West, had more interceptions than touchdowns).

Where should Armstrong end up?  Well for comparison, check out the numbers put up by some other QBs last season:

  • Marcus Mariota:  10.5
  • Cody Kessler:  7.8
  • Brett Hundley:  4.4
  • J.T. Barrett:  3.4 (led the Big 10)
  • Jake Rudock:  3.2
  • Connor Cook:  3.0
  • Dak Prescott:  2.5
  • Brad Kaaya:  2.2
  • Sean Mannion:  1.9
  • Christian Hackenberg:  0.8
  • Trevor Siemian:  0.6 (last of the 12 B1G QBs with enough attempts to qualify)

With the first year in a new offense, I think 2.0 – 2.5 is a good target.  If Armstrong can get above 3.0, Nebraska probably wins the West and Danny Langsdorf earns every penny of his salary.

Who will be the breakout players on offense and defense?  There are lots of young guys getting their first big taste of playing time.  And there are existing guys who may blossom with new schemes and coaching (think Ndamukong Suh after Bo and Carl Pelini came to town).

On offense, I think of guys like Nick Gates, freshmen phenoms Stanley Morgan and Mikale Wilbon, or former walk-ons Lane Hovey and Trey Foster.  However, I’m going with tight end Cethan Carter.  He has the physical traits of the new breed tight ends playing on Sundays and has shown that he can get open.  Unlike Beck who thought the tight end was antiquated, Riley and Langsdorf seem willing to make them viable weapons in the offense.  I know there have been some questions about Carter’s work ethic in camp, along with his suspension for the BYU game, but I’m hoping that serves as a wake-up call.

Defensively, there are a bunch of options.  I like the raw talent of Josh Kalu and Kieron Willams.  I’ve heard great things about Luke Gifford and Dedrick Young.  I’m planning on waving the Jack Gangwish flag at every opportunity.  But I’m going with Josh Banderas.  You can see the athletic ability dripping off of him, and even in the graduate level calculus of Bo Pelini’s defense, you could see the potential.  I’m thinking that in a “high school” defense that encourages him to make plays, Bando could be all conference.

Who takes a step back?  The flip side of talented underclassmen and a coaching change is that sometimes guys who were contributors last year are lost in the depth chart this year.  On offense, I reluctantly look to Imani Cross.  There are too many guys splitting too many carries for Cross to show what he could do as an every down back.  I like Cross a lot and think he could be a great every down back in the right system – I just don’t think Nebraska is going to run that system.

On defense, I’m leaning towards Charles Jackson.  A year ago in fall camp, he was being hyped as physical freak and a star in waiting. Now after being hurt all last year and a coaching change, he is somewhat without a defined position or role.

Of all of the questions, I’m hoping I’m wrong about this one.

Is Mike Cavanaugh’s plan to only play a starting five on the offensive line a smart idea?  In interviews, I have seen Coach Cav say that he prefers to name a starting five who get the vast majority of snaps.  Players have said that if you’re on the starting five, you may not see the field.  The idea is that by having the same five guys out there series after series, game after game, the line will play more as a cohesive unit than a revolving door of linemen (which, by the way, is an amusing mental image).

I understand the concept, but I wonder if there isn’t value in bringing in a “swing” player once or twice a quarter to give a guy a rest, provide some extra coaching, or allow them to kick start a rushing game that may struggle at times.  It’s often said that Nebraska has more fans interested in the intricacies of offensive line play than any other fan base.  If that’s true, consider this something else to keep an eye on.

How many touches will the fullback get?  Speaking of things that are unique to the Nebraska fan base, there is the obsession that some of us have with getting the fullbacks involved in the offense.  I’m definitely a member of the Fullback Cult (give me a couple of minutes and I probably could name every starting fullback for the last 20 years), but my fullback fanaticism is multiplied by the senior season of Andy Janovich, from my hometown (Gretna, NE).  To the best of my knowledge, nobody from my alma mater has scored a touchdown for Nebraska.  Heck, I think Janovich’s career yardage total (35) is 35 yards more than all of the other Gretna Dragons combined.  So yeah, I’m invested in this one.

The good news is I think Janovich could see the ball once or twice a game, if not more.  If he gets into the end zone, the guy losing his mind in North stadium will probably be me.

Will the “tap out” rate be lower than it was in years past?  I’m not referring to MMA here.  Instead, I’m talking about how players signal that they need to come off the field by tapping their helmet.  In the past few years, there were several players a game who would tap out.  Some were injured, and some just needed a breather on the sideline before coming back in.

I respect players for knowing when they are not able to give 100% – I’d rather have a back up get beat for a touchdown than a starter who is gassed.  But in a perfect world, the player would be in good enough shape to not need a blow during an eight-play drive.  I never bought into blaming former Strength & Conditioning coach James Dobson for knee injuries, but players tapping out because they’re tired definitely goes on his tab.  The reviews on new S&C coach Mark Philipp have been very positive.  I’m hopeful that translates to the field.  We should find out during an unseasonably warm September Saturday afternoon.

What is the statute of limitations for comparisons between Bo Pelini and Mike Riley?  You know it is going to happen.  A lot.  Somebody talking or writing about Nebraska will make some type of comparison between how things are under Riley and how they were under Bo.  The odds are good that most will – innocently or otherwise – imply that Bo’s way was wrong.

But when should these compare and contrast sessions cease and desist?  When the ball is kicked off on Saturday?  At the end of the season?  When conference play starts?  At some point in the last nine months?  Never?

We all know Riley will appear in a lot of comparisons to Pelini this year.  The one word overview of each coach (fiery versus nice) makes for an easy target – especially for national media who are not around the program every day. As for the local guys and gals, I’d like to see everybody get start the season with four* Coaching Comparison cards where you can analyze how “Riley is doing X different from how Bo did it” without upsetting the masses.

*Technically, everybody started with five Coaching Comparison cards, but everybody used one when the Blackshirts came out before a game was played.

Use them all on the BYU game or horde them for the next four seasons.  The choice is yours, but when they’re gone you’re done using Pelini to illustrate a point about how Riley is running his program.

I’ll try to abide by this too, so feel free to call me out when I use up my cards.

How should we gauge success / progress?  This is the million dollar question for the season.  The simple answers you’ll hear are “meet or exceed Bo’s 9-4 record” or “avoid blowouts”.  But I’m not sure that tells the whole story.

Admittedly, this is a loaded question as “success” tends to refer to wins and losses while “progress” deals more with how the program has changed with Mike Riley at the helm.  Those are not necessarily the same thing.

As far as wins and losses go, yes, I think that the season will be declared a success if the 2015 Huskers win nine (or more) games.  It doesn’t matter if you consider nine wins to be the standard, a minimum expectation, or irrelevant.  When a national pundit does a two sentence summary on if Nebraska is trending up or down, the number of wins will be something they look closely at.  Without getting into the whole nine win debate, it will be likely be tough to make an argument that an 8-5 season under Riley was better than any of Bo’s 9-4 seasons.

As for “progress”, it is tougher to set trackable metrics around that.  Is “avoiding blowouts” not losing a game by 20+ points?  Is it having a higher ranked recruiting class?  Moving the team GPA and arrest numbers in the appropriate directions?

2015 Husker Preview: Reasons for Pessimism

Yesterday, the 2015 glass of Big Red Kool Aid was half full.  Today, it is half empty.

Let’s face it, there is a lot of positive spin thrown at you during the off-season.  Players are healthy and in the best shape of their lives.  Coaches have the complete respect and command of their players.  The team chemistry is so much better than it was last year.  Leaders have emerged and the seniors want to go out on a winning note.  The offensive line is poised to play like the Pipeline again.

It happens each and every year.  You read the articles and posts, listen to the radio shows, and talk with your friends and co-workers.  Like one of those Magic Eye pictures, if you squint and examine the schedule just right, you can see an undefeated season.

Then the season starts.  Suddenly, the second coming of the 1995 team looks more like the 2002 squad, with flashes of 2007.

 

That’s our purpose today.  We want to avoid the painful sting that occurs when a harsh reality slaps you in the face.  The first edition of Mike Riley’s Nebraska Cornhuskers will be a flawed product.  That’s not a knock on Riley or the players – it’s a reality.  The program hasn’t magically gone from a perennial 9-4 team to a 12-0 squad in nine months.

So what are the areas of greatest concern?  In no particular order:

1.  The schedule is deceptively tough.  I know, I know – yesterday, I said the schedule shapes up favorably for Nebraska.  I stand by my comment that there are no automatic losses on the slate:  Nebraska should be able to compete with anybody.

But what about the flip side?  Where are the automatic wins?  I think you can safely assume victories over South Alabama, Southern Mississippi, Illinois, and Purdue.  Nebraska will likely be a touchdown favorite against Northwestern, Rutgers, and Iowa.  BYU will probably be too hampered by injuries and suspensions to last with NU for four quarters.  But after that, it’s anybody’s guess.

2.  The depth is wafer thin at some spots, and unproven at others.  Through a combination of injuries, recruiting misses, and dismissed players Nebraska is very thin at wide receiver, defensive end, and linebacker.  I like the starters at these positions a lot.  Guys like Michael Rose-Ivey, Jordan Westerkamp, and Jack Gangwish are leaders poised for big seasons.  Nebraska likes to talk about a “next man up” attitude, but it’s unlikely that the next man will be nearly as good as the starter.

Now, consider two positions that appear to be very deep:  safety and running back.  Both positions have strong starters (and yes, I consider Terrell Newby a clear-cut starter).  And both positions have a bunch of touted guys waiting in the wings.  But a lot of those guys (Adam Taylor, Mikale Wilbon, Devine Ozigbo, Aaron Williams, and Antonio Reed) have not played a down of college football.  They may be great – or they may be another example of a guy who excels in practices/Spring Games but is unproductive in the fall.  We don’t know.

3.  The O Line may be the weakest link on the offense, if not the entire team.  That is a painful sentence to type.  I think that in many games over the last two years, the vision and cutting ability of Ameer Abdullah made his line look better than they really were.  There were several games last year where Tommy Armstrong was running for his life as the line struggled to block basic pass rushes.

A mediocre to bad offensive line means added pressure on unproven running backs to make something out of nothing.  It can often lead to penalties as linemen try to get a jump on the snap count or hold a defender who has beaten them.  It can throw off the timing between a quarterback and his receivers.  It can lead to multiple three-and-outs, which puts a strain on the defense.

But most importantly, a bad line means your quarterback is at greater risk for injury.  Which leads us to…

4.  What happens if Armstrong gets hurt?  Feel free to pause for a minute if you need to find some wood to knock or salt to throw over your shoulder.  Ryker Fyfe appears to be the backup quarterback, and while he’s looked serviceable in his game experience, he’s a long shot to lead Nebraska to the Big Ten Championship game.  If that comes across harsh, the good news is Fyfe has taken collegiate snaps, unlike backups A.J. Bush and Zack Darlington.

Memo to Tommy Armstrong:  Get out of bounds or slide, slide, slide.  And the only time you are allowed to try to hurdle a defender is the aforementioned Big Ten Championship game, if it’s 4th and goal in the fourth quarter.  Otherwise, no jumping over defenders.

5.  De’Mornay Pierson-El will likely miss half of the season.  When Pierson-El was injured, I refused to buy into the doomsday folks predicting a 6-6 season without the elite punt returner and blossoming receiver.  But make no mistake, his injury will impact the season.

His biggest contribution is in punt return where his presence and reputation changes how teams punt.  That leads to better field position or more opportunities for a punt block.  I’m curious to see what Westerkamp can do with actual blocking (instead of the one against 11 scheme NU employed in 2013), but teams won’t game plan ways to keep the ball out of his hands.

On offense, it will be interesting to see how much the jet or fly sweep is utilized with DPE on the sidelines.  With Pierson-El healthy, I got the impression that he would get four or five carries a game, with multiple fakes designed to freeze defenders.  Without his open field running threat, I don’t know if that play will be shelved, reduced, or if it will remain in full rotation with Jamal Turner and others running it.

Even when he does return to the field, this is likely an injury that impacts his entire season.

6.  Nebraska will play 11 games before they get a bye week.  Yep, you read that right.  The only break in Nebraska’s schedule is Saturday, November 21.  By that time, Nebraska will have played six home games and all five of their road games before getting a Saturday off.  You’ll probably spent part of that bye weekend getting groceries for Thanksgiving dinner.  By that point, the Huskers will either be limping towards the finish line or getting ready to clinch a trip to Indianapolis with a win over Iowa.

On a team that may have depth issues, the late bye week could be an unexpected story line.

7.  A team that struggles with tackling won’t do any contact work during the season.  If you watched Nebraska over the past few seasons, you know that one of their biggest weaknesses was in tackling.  This summer, Sam McKewon had a strong column with quotes from ABC/ESPN analyst Chris Spielman that laid out Nebraska’s deficiencies and how they could be corrected.

But this weekend, Mike Riley told the Omaha World-Herald “We will rarely be tackling full speed on any part during the season”.

On most levels, I get it.  The season is long (especially with the 11 straight games before a bye that we just discussed), depth is a concern, and schools and conferences want to limit the amount of contact players get.  It’s not the 90’s where you can have a full contact scrimmage mid-week and still have guys play the following Saturday.

But until the Blackshirts can prove otherwise, tackling will be a concern.

9.  What will the offense do if the passing game is struggling?  I believe that Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf will try to cater the offense to the things that Armstrong does well and the throws he can consistently make.  But accuracy has been an issue throughout Armstrong’s career.  Several receivers not named Westerkamp have had their share of dropped passes over the years.  And as previously mentioned, Armstrong may not always have a fully protected pocket to operate in.  Finally, let’s not forget that Nebraska weather can be unpredictable in October and November.

Will Nebraska have a rushing attack that they can rely on if the pass is not there?  Or will Nebraska use a short passing game to simulate a running game?

10.  Can this team handle adversity?  Will chemistry and unity be an issue after (or during) a loss?  Without rehashing too much of years gone by, an all too common trait of Pelini teams was the “us against the world” bunker mentality as well as difficulty in rebounding when things didn’t go as planned.  Far too often, things snowballed out of control into embarrassing losses.

From all appearances, Riley and his staff have done a great job of imparting their culture on the program.  They seem to have buy-in from all of the returning players, many of whom were shocked and defiant when Bo Pelini was fired.  But is everybody on board?  Surely on a 120 man roster, there are some guys who remain loyal to Bo.  Will riffs in chemistry appear when things get hard?

Remember, a large chunk of this team is familiar with experiencing an ugly blowout loss at least once a year.  It may take time to undo that damage and get replace the “here we go again” feeling of helplessness with a mentality of “okay, we got this.”

*   *   *

Again, I’m not predicting a doom and gloom season for the Big Red.  I’m merely trying to point out some of the areas where there is a cause for concern in the hope that fans will be realistic when they set their expectations for Mike Riley’s first season.

2015 Nebraska Alternates Reviewed

Today is the day that some of us look forward to and others dread:  alternate uniform reveal day.  Nebraska will wear these October 24th against Northwestern.*

*Apparently, Nebraska is telling Northwestern “we’ll see your ugly black uniforms, and raise you one.”

Let’s dive in, piece by piece.

Helmet:

helmet

Like last year, the lid was easily the highlight of the ensemble.  When a picture of the matte black helmet with the classic sans-serif “N” was released late Wednesday night, I was cautiously optimistic that I would like this year’s uniforms.

In my opinion, this helmet represents what a Nebraska alternate uniform should strive to be:  different, yet recognizable.  Trendy, yet classic.  Without question, this is my favorite component of any Husker alternate to date.

Could this be the year that I go from grudging acceptance to full-on love?  Could adidas redeem their battered reputation with Husker fans with a grand slam design?

Grade:  A

Jersey:

jersey

 

Nope.

Goodness…where to even begin with this thing?  Let’s start with the pattern in the jersey.  The adidas press release says “the jersey’s padlock system secures tension over the shoulder pads, while the bodymap fit adheres to the player, making it difficult for opponents to grab, hold or tackle.”

Uh-huh.  Sure.  Bummer about not being able to tackle us Northwestern.

You can call it whatever you want.  I say it looks like tire treads, which when combined with the diagonal slits going through the numbers, makes it look like the uniforms were run over by a truck (Wisconsin fans, feel free to insert a Melvin Gordon joke here).

Speaking of the numerals, they are rather reminiscent of the duct tape numbers from last year’s jersey.  Hopefully, the addition of the silver – sorry, “forged steel” – outline will make them easier to read from row 47.  I’m not optimistic.

One of my biggest criticisms of adidas is how they put all of their schools through a generic template and fail to do anything unique – even for a once-a-year special jersey.  For the most part, that holds true:  compare these to the new adidas uniforms for UCLA, Miami, and others.  Lots of similarities, especially the tire tread pattern.  However, I will acknowledge that adidas has finally done something unique for the Huskers, adding the word “HUSKERS” along the side of the jersey.

sideview

I appreciate the gesture, but all it does is clutter up a jersey that is already too busy.  Next time, replace your tire treads with the outline of the state.

Grade:  C

Pants

pants

Putting an “N” in the stripe is interesting.  I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.

Oh wait, that’s what I wrote a year ago when adidas made the same pants in red.

C’mon adidas.  Make an effort to do something new.  I understand the monochromatic looks are the big thing now, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this with red pants or even the silver – er, “forged steel” – from the outline of the numbers.

Points are deducted for the needless slashes through the stripes and the tire tread pattern.

Grade:  C-

Accessories

Let’s start with the cleats.

shoes

I love them.  Simple, clean, and a dramatic improvement over the 2014 version that looked orange under the lights.  Plus, they have ” a SPRINTSKIN upper with SHOCKWEB reinforcement and a SPRINTFRAME plate that provides maximum acceleration and multi-directional traction”*, which has to be good.

*Anybody else find it ironic that a company whose name does not have any capital letters creates products with the CAPS LOCK glued down?  Just me?

I have a seen a picture that suggests these will reflect very silver on the field, but I’m optimistic that will be okay.  If nothing else, they should take focus away from the ugly patterned dress socks.

Next up is the undershirt – I mean, “TECHFIT gun show baselayer”*.

undershirt

 

*You wish I was making that up.

As noted uniform critic Paul Lukas tweeted, “I think the red ‘N’ stands for ‘No.'”  I’m not a fan of the tire tread meets camouflage look on the sleeves, but it’s better than the “Z” that was on the arm last year.

Its interesting – at least as far as a discussion on alternate uniform accessories goes – that there are no close up pictures of the gloves.  All of the previous uniforms have had fancy gloves that make an “N” when the palms are placed side by side.  Surely, the new gloves do that – unless there wasn’t room after adidas put in “4-way stretch mesh for compression fit and GripTack 2.0 for consistent control in all weather conditions.”

Grade:  B

Overall

In what will be a surprise to nobody, I’m not a fan of these.  One last time, let’s go back to what I said a year ago:

I think for 2015, I will need to greatly lower my expectations.  I should expect adidas to provide Nebraska something that is on the line separating flashy and gaudy.  Something that looks like it came off a generic corporate template, instead of being inspired by Nebraska’s rich history.  I should expect a mediocre alternate from adidas, because that is all they have ever given us.

By those standards, adidas delivered 100%.  As you hopefully gathered by the corporate buzz speak that I sprinkled in from the press release, these uniforms are much more about adidas than they are about Nebraska.  Let’s take a look at the whole ensemble from head to toe.

headtotoe

There is very good potential here.  There really is.  I can’t believe my traditionalist fingers are going to type this, but that black helmet may be a keeper.  Silver shoes are silly, but no worse than the neon highlighter shoes many basketball teams wear.

Until Jason Peter says otherwise, I’m still of the opinion that black jerseys should not be worn by 4th string receivers.  That said, I could get on-board with an all-black get up similar to this.  Just simplify the look.  Lose the tire treads, the reflective numbers, the stripes that look like they survived an attack from Freddy Krueger, and you’d really have something nice.

It may not be as #HuskerBold as adidas would like, but I’d wager it would be better received.

Grade: C+

Husker Hot Takes – 2/5/15

Come bask in the warmth of the hot takes…

Mike Riley and friends can recruit a little bit.

I’ll preface this with a big disclaimer:  I don’t follow recruiting very closely.  I understand the importance, but watching highlight films and tracking the whims of 17-year-old kids doesn’t do it for me.  That said, it certainly looks to me like Mike Riley and his staff will be a recruiting force.  For a new staff coming in with less than two months to go in the recruiting season, they did an excellent job of keeping almost all of the recruits the previous staff assembled as well as filling the remaining spots with guys heavy on talent and upside.

There is a lot to like about how Riley’s staff is going to handle recruiting.  Notably, I’m a big fan of having the recruiting process led by guys who do not have on-field coaching duties.  That should really help with in-season recruiting, which tended to tail off in most years.  The use of social media with the “Paint the Nation Red” maps and tweets by the entire coaching staff is big not only for recruits, but for Husker fans who passionately follow the program 24/7/365.  It’s reassuring to know the coaches are out there working hard to ensure the #HuskersJustGotBetter.

But mostly, I’m very impressed by the final weekend before Signing Day.  The Huskers received verbal commitments from four prospects who live in Florida, Mississippi, Southern California, and Las Vegas on a weekend with a winter storm that dumped over six inches of snow.  If they can pull that off, I’m excited to see what they can do with a full recruiting cycle.

Long snappers are people too.

One of the last recruits in this class was long snapper Jordan Ober.  During his official visit, I heard a couple of local radio hosts questioning if Nebraska should “waste” a scholarship on a long snapper.  Their argument centered on the idea that the staff – especially Special Teams Coordinator Bruce Read – should be able to take an existing player on the roster and develop them into a long snapper.

I couldn’t disagree with this more.

Sure, I’ll concede that a coach at a Power 5 program should be able to identify and develop a respectable long snapper out of 85 scholarship players, but is that how you want to run your program?  Every week, games are won and lost due to miscues in special teams.  So many bad things can happen with a bad snap:  blocked punts, rushed kicks, shanks, turnovers, or quick points for the opposition.  Why would you risk that with a player who long snaps as a side job?  Would you rather recruit an “athlete” to play quarterback, or would you prefer to recruit a true quarterback?  The same logic applies here.

Much like a good referee, you shouldn’t notice when a long snapper does his job at a high level.  For almost 10 years, Nebraska has enjoyed a strong run at the position.  T.J. O’Leary, P.J. Mangieri, and Gabe Miller were excellent performers, but Miller’s career-ending back injury almost meant using Nate Gerry as the long snapper.  Instead of risking field position and turnovers, Nebraska is wisely finding somebody with the talent and ability to do the job full-time for (hopefully) the next four years.

Considering that scholarship probably would have otherwise gone to some two star prospect who may only contribute for a year or two, I think Ober’s scholarship is a wise move.

Go Big Red goes (Gretna) green.

Two of the preferred walk-ons in the 2015 class are from Gretna High School:  linebacker Jared Brugmann and fullback Austin Hemphill.  This brings the number of Dragons on the NU roster to five (TE Jared Blum, FB Andy Janovich, and DE Mick Stoltenberg are the others).  The five Gretna Dragons ties Lincoln Southeast Knights for the school with the most players on the roster (side note:  the only other school with more than two players at NU is Edna Karr H.S. in New Orleans with three).

As an unabashed lover of fullbacks, the only thing better than a walk-on fullback is a walk-on fullback from your alma mater.  Here’s hoping that offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf has a double fullback formation for the fall.

Give ’em hell, Dragons!

Gymnasts are messing with perfection

The #7 Nebraska Women’s Gymnastics team is off to an impressive start.  Coming off of a Super Six final appearance in 2014, they are 5-1 this year, with the lone loss at #4 Michigan.

But one of the highlights of this season has been sophomore Ashley Lambert, who has recorded a perfect 10.0 on the vault.

Twice.

The Huskers have a strong lineup with All-America caliber performers in every event.  Plus, every gymnast will “throw the bones” at some point during her floor routine, which I enjoy.

Their next meet is this Saturday (February 6) at 6 pm against Iowa at Devaney.  My family has become big fans of this program over the past few years, as it is cheap entertainment (free admission with a popcorn box top), the team is fun to watch, and they are pretty damn good.

Baseball weather is here

If there is eight inches of snow on the ground in February, it can only mean one thing:  Nebraska Baseball is starting their season soon.

Sure enough, the season starts next weekend (February 13) at UNLV.  Hopefully, the snow will be all gone when the Huskers have their home opener on March 10.

 

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