Thursday, August 31, 2006
Boston College at Central Michigan 5:00 pm (CST) ESPN2
Northwestern at Miami (OH) 6:30 pm (CST) ESPNU
S. Carolina at Mississippi St. 7:00 pm (CST) ESPN
UTEP at San Diego St. 9:30 pm (CST) CSTV
•Just in time for Saturday I reintroduce you to the College Gameday Drinking Game. My favorite is: Rule No. 16: If Holly Rowe starts to look good to you, stop drinking.
•Heisman Pundit has his preseason Heisman list out. Pay close attention to his list as this is what he lives for.
•Rivals examines the number of miles that will be traveled by college football teams this season. Florida Atlantic leads the way with 15,064 miles. Nebraska will cover 6,140 miles in 2006.
•Here is a grainy video preview of USC quarterback John David Booty.
Naturally, when I presented the Defensive All-Bust team a week ago, I found myself pondering which offensive players would share in the their not-so-bright limelight. What I assembled is a group that left their hearts, their triumphs and in some cases their dignity on the hallowed ground of Memorial Stadium. So, if you came here looking for Husker dominance at the next level, you’re not going to find it. For that you’d need to head to Canton and look for Guy Chamberlain (H.O.F. Class of 1965), who excelled at Nebraska in the 1920s and went on to four NFL championships as a player/coach who was known as a talented two-way player. But if it is NFL obscurity from some of your most beloved Huskers that you seek, then you’ve found it. Without further adieu….
Offensive All-Bust Team
QB: Jerry Tagge, Green Bay Packers, Pick #11, Round 1
In 1971, Jerry Tagge threw for a staggering 2,019 yards and was named an All-American. However, you might remember Tagge most for bringing Nebraska the 1970 and 1971 National Championships. Tagge possessed legendary grittiness which was best exemplified in the Game of the Century where he led NU to victory with his jersey in tatters. Tagge was a first round draft pick but enjoyed just a brief three year career with the Packers. Surprisingly, his three career touchdowns and 17 interceptions have yet to garner him a Packer Hall of Fame nomination.
RB: Lawrence Phillips, St. Louis Rams, Pick#6, Round 1
Phillips breakout game came against Florida State in the 1994 Orange Bowl where, as a true freshman, he ran for 64 yards including a 12 yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter. During his sophomore campaign, he accumulated 1,722 yards playing against eight and nine-man fronts the entire year. In the 1995 Orange Bowl (end of 1994 championship season), Phillips totaled 96 yards against a Miami defense that boasted players such as Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis. To begin his junior year, the Heisman front runner was averaging over 10 yards a carry, including 22 carries, 206 yards, and 4 touchdowns against Michigan State. After Phillips found his girlfriend, Kate McEwan, in the apartment of Scott Frost, unspeakable violence ensued and his career was never the same. Phillips played in St. Louis for a year and a half before being cut (causing Dick Vermeil to cry at the press conference), played in Miami for two games, and finished a brief year in San Francisco (after stints in Canada and Europe) where he not only ended his career, but also that of Steve Young after missing a block on MNF. His career ended with 1,453 yards, 14 touchdowns and innumerable felony counts. Recently Phillips returned to the gridiron. Unfortunately it was while driving a stolen car through a group of teenagers’ pick-up football game.
RB: Calvin Jones, Los Angeles Raiders, Pick #80, Round 3
Much like in his Husker playing days, Jones is a standout on this list. The Central High School star, best known for being part of the “We-Backs,” had an excellent combination of speed and power. In fact, in the 1991 Kansas game Jones ran for a school record 294 yards and 6 touchdowns. In 1992, while splitting time with Derek Brown, Jones ranked ninth in the nation in rushing touchdowns. But let’s see if you can comprehend just how unproductive Jones’ 3 year NFL career was: 112 total yards, and 0 touchdowns. Not a difficult decision on this one.
WR: Johnny Rodgers, San Diego Chargers, Pick #25, Round 1
Rodgers could have been the most electrifying player in Nebraska Football history. He was the 1972 Heisman Trophy winner, a two-time All-American, and played on two National Championship teams. Rodgers will forever be known in college football folklore for his punt return against OU in the Game of the Century in 1971. Rodgers went to play immediately in the CFL because he “always dreamed of having $100,00, and San Diego didn’t offer (him) anything close to that.” He was a standout CFL player with Montreal, but returned to the NFL to achieve American glory. Well, in two short-lived seasons in San Diego, he suffered injuries to his hamstrings and knees, eventually sending him into an early retirement. FYI: Rodgers pulled out every stop to get enrolled at and play at USC, but the admissions board refused to give him slack solely for being a prized recruit.
WR: Eric Crouch, St. Louis Rams, Pick #95, Round 3
Crouch’s college and pro careers were both almost over before they’d even started. In 1998, Crouch briefly left the Huskers after failing to be named the starting QB for the season opener. His college career rebounded, however, with a (controversial) Heisman Trophy in 2001 and a (controversial) national championship appearance the same year. Similarly, Crouch left training camp after the Rams used a third round draft pick on him in the hopes of converting him into a wide receiver. At the time, he yearned to be a quarterback and believed himself capable of outplaying both Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger. When Mike Martz failed to drive to Omaha to change his mind, Crouch’s first NFL attempt was over. Crouch then saw opportunity in Green Bay, but due to an outstanding training camp by an relative unknown named Favre, he was once again the odd man out and quit. In 2005, the Chiefs sent him to NFL Europe as a safety, and for reasons not yet known, he once again quit. It is safe to say, the most publicity and notoriety he has received in his professional career was when he stood onstage at Matt Leinart’s Heisman Trophy presentation in a mock-turtleneck and baggy pants. Upon hearing that the Downtown Athletic Club has now imposed a dress code, Crouch promptly informed them that he quit.
TE: Johnnie Mitchell, New York Jets, Pick#15, Round 1
Mitchell played just two seasons at Nebraska, but was a fan favorite known for his athletic catches and vibrant, confident attitude. In 1991 Mitchell was named to the UPI All-America Team, and was also an All Big-8 selection in 1990 and 1991. In the Citrus Bowl against Georgia Tech, he had 138 yards and a TD. With the New York Jets, Mitchell was considered at first to be one of the top TEs in the NFL, but over 5 years, he amassed just 16 touchdowns and slightly better than 2,000 yards. He has tried multiple comebacks, including a 2002 tryout with New Orleans, a 2003 tryout with Jacksonville and more recently, a 2004 stint with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.
OL: Mark Traynowicz, Buffalo Bills, Pick #29, Round 2
Mark was an imposing force at nearly 280 lbs and was one of the anchors on the best offense in college football history that included Mike Rozier, Turner Gill, and Irving Fryar. A year later in 1984, his feats garnered him First-Team All-America honors. Drafted as the first pick of the second round in 1985, Mark appeared in 14 games his rookie season. However, the USFL soon folded and Kent Hull became the starter at center. Mark would never start another game in the NFL again.
OL: Mark Behning, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pick #47, Round 2
Playing alongside Traynowicz for his entire collegiate career, Behning was also an integral piece to the success of our program in the early 1980s. In his senior year, Behning earned All-Big Eight and Academic All-Big Eight honors and helped lead Nebraska to a Big Eight championship and a Sugar Bowl win over LSU. However, Behning’s NFL career was less than admirable, and lasted just one year. Mark is now a high school coach in Denton, TX and it is interesting to note that he was drafted ahead of Herschel Walker (as the Cowboys secured his USFL rights), Mark Bavaro, Andre Reed, Kevin Greene, and Jack Del Rio.
OL: Toniu Fonoti, San Diego Chargers, Pick #39, Round 2
Literally clearing the way for Crouch’s 2001 Heisman campaign and his team’s championship campaign, Fonoti earned First-Team All-America honors and left school early for the NFL draft. Listed at 6’4 and 340 lbs, Fonoti was named to the All-Rookie team in 2002 and named All-Pro by sportsillustrated.com in 2004 (he sat out the 2003 season). Due to weight related injury and attitude issues, the Chargers were more fed up than Fonoti’s stomach and sent the reported 400 pounder to Minnesota, where he played in three games last year. As quickly as he can clean out the Golden Corral, he was sent to Tampa Bay where he currently sits second on the depth chart and continues to be plagued by injuries.
OL: Barney Cotton, Cincinnati Bengals, Pick #59, Round 3
A three sport athlete in high school, Barney Cotton was an imposing force with his 6-5 stature. After arriving at Nebraska, Cotton played special teams and offensive line as a sophomore, defensive tackle as a junior, and offensive guard his senior year which earned him a trip to the East-West All-Star game. After entering the NFL with the Bengals, Cotton was traded a year later to St. Louis where his career ended two years later with multiple knee injuries. After being saddled with the unenviable task of offensive coordinator Solich’s final staff, Cotton has since experienced success in the same role at Iowa State. In contrast with his mentor Solich, it appears that the harsh ending to the 2003 season has yet to lead Cotton into a life of public intoxication and (alleged) pill popping.
OL: Rob Zatechka, New York Giants, Pick #128, Round 4
While playing alongside the likes of Brendan Stai and Zach Wiegert, Zatechka earned seemingly every academic honor given to college athletes. Not only did he graduate with a 4.0, but he also earned Academic All-America honors and was an outstanding collegiate lineman. After arriving in New York, he was prematurely inserted into starting lineup in the 1995 season, giving his coaches too early of a look at what they had acquired. The highlight of a short-lived three year career was a kick return for five yards. Zatechka has since returned to medical school and is active in medical education in Omaha. Today, however, he is probably most recognizable as the television personality with the dubious task of assisting Travis Justice in his aimless quest for credibility.
Honorable Mention: IM Hipp, Lloyd Voss, Derek Brown, Rick Bonness, Tom Novak.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
A recent Lincoln Journal Star article commented on the 10 year history of the Big 12 conference, with a special emphasis on the effects that the new alliance has had on Big Red. The article's thesis was essentially that the conference has weakened Nebraska's athletic prowess and reputation. Instead of collecting armloads of conference trophies each year, taking our picks of the litter with top prep stars and reaping other benefits accorded the conference's top athletic power, we have been reduced to scrapping with the likes of new Big 12 conference foes Texas Tech and Texas A&M and Big 8 also-rans Kansas St, Colorado and Iowa St in vying for coveted berths in the Independence Bowl (let's not even mention what's become of the basketball program-men or women's). The pre-eminent power in the new Big 12 is obviously Texas. In the new college athletics pecking order, Nebraska is now considerably behind the big boys of college athletics. Husker loyalists hear me out - I am one of you. It pains me to type these words as much as it pains you to consider the possibility that they may be true. So, before you call for my head or dismiss my blasphemous claims as baseless, I encourage you to consider the following.
Big time sports are big business. For most Nebraska fans, their first clue that the structure of college athletics was moving unavoidably toward being primarily business-centric coincided with Bill Byrne's arrival from Oregon in the early 90s. Soon after arriving in Lincoln, Byrne began charging season ticket holders annual fees to retain their seats, aggressively pursuing apparel licensing deals and corporate sponsorships, and began removing wasteful inefficiencies from within the athletic department. It was clear to most longtime NU boosters and alums, the new mantra of athletic department operations was "Show me the money." During Byrne’s 11 year reign at Nebraska, athletic department spending tripled. As tempting as it is to conclude, Bill Byrne is not to blame for the athletic program's new money-first directive. Byrne's arrival at Nebraska represented a necessary action to pull a proud and successful athletics program into the 21st century of business management. Schools all around the country were realizing the potential cash inflows possible with big-time college sports. This realization represented the new age modus operandi for athletic administrators: bring in as much cash as you can and spend as much of it as possible to build bigger, better, more recruit-alluring facilities to attract even more money. In the mold of Steinbrenner, the successful new age A.D. should be a cash sink, bringing as much money in while spending as much as humanly possible to justify the need to siphon in even more dollars. The college athletics arm race was born.
Sadly for NU, the deck is stacked firmly against us in this brave new world. Consider that Texas brought in almost $35 million more in revenue for 2004, the last year in which comparative data are available. What can you get for $35 million? To put it in context, our new multi-year fundraising project for stadium and locker room improvements had an ambitious $50 million benchmark. Even better, my current employer Indiana University drew a mere $38 million in athletic department revenue in 2004. A $35 million revenue gap is significant in a world where top coaches draw millions and 10 year old facilities are considered obsolete. In a world where success (and the millions that come with it) hinges on freshman kickers making 40-yarders into a stiff wind, every dollar counts. For instance, Nebraska’s ability to boast about the new Huskervision screen being the largest of its kind was short-lived, as Texas immediately announced it was building a bigger one — funded undoubtedly with some of that extra petty cash.
My point is not to claim that Nebraska cannot contend on the field with the big spending boys (e.g., Texas, Ohio St., Florida, Michigan, etc). However, when our current football spending ranks us #24 in the NCAA, the on the field struggles of recent years such as being , ranked the 28th best program over the past 3 years are suddenly less surprising. This pattern of results seems to follow the age old business adage that you generally get what you pay for. If we use the data available from the Indianapolis Star’s NCAA Financial Reports Database we can examine the issue of athletic spending more closely. I doubt most Husker fans would be too surprised to learn that schools like Ohio St., Auburn and Florida outspend the Big Red in football operating costs. However, I believe it is a bit eye-opening for most Husker fans to see us outspent by the likes of Virginia, Georgia Tech and Arkansas. At the very least, Husker nation may have to realize that on a year-to-year level; we may be slipping behind the big boys to the extent that on the field success is tied to spending.
My real point in drawing attention to all this is to go beyond merely stating the obvious reality that college sports generates a lot of money, and that this money is not distributed evenly among all competing schools. What bothers me about all of this is that the NCAA, the governing body that regulates every aspect of college athletics has not instituted more control when it comes to curbing the spending war. MLB, the NFL and the NBA all have luxury taxes that penalize organizations that spend excessively to try and level the playing field. Why shouldn't the NCAA look seriously at the fairness of allowing schools to spend $35 million more than others when their stated goal is to ensure the integrity and fairness of intercollegiate athletics?
The spot that everyone seems to be discussing is WLB where Bo Ruud is listed ahead of Steve Octavian. The general response to this pronouncement seems to range from shock or disbelief to downright resentment. Personally I don’t understand the hubbub. Although there is little doubt in my mind that Octavian is the more talented player, we must keep a few things in mind. First, it was less than a year ago that Octavian suffered a broken leg. It is because of that injury that he has just one quarter of Division I experience. Secondly, Octavian had his appendix removed less than two weeks ago. While the surgery is fairly minor these days, and Octavian quickly returned to practice, he did miss important days of Fall camp. There were also reports that Octavian came into camp a little heavier than the coaches would have liked and he himself remarked that the surgery was a blessing in that he dropped some weight. When there is a great deal of competition in camp and the separation between players is small, these are the types of variables that play a role in depth chart decisions.
Sticking with the defensive side of the ball, we are scary thin in the secondary. I have discussed this several times in the past, but seeing the reality of the situation on the official depth chart was still troubling. The backups at both cornerbacks spots are converted wide receivers who have less than 25 practices under their belts at their new position. In addition, true freshmen Ricky Thenarse and Major Culbert are listed as the second string safeties. On the one hand it is nice to see the future of a position laid out so clearly. On the other hand, we are one play away from that future becoming the here-and-now.
On offense I really don’t see any surprises. It is clear that Callahan and company are going to get the most experienced players on the field early on. I’m not sure how you can argue with that philosophy. Those that suggest that Maurice Purify should be starting need to go back and watch highlights of Nate Swift from last season. Again, Purify may indeed have more upside potential, unfortunately, all the physical talent in the world won’t help him digest the playbook or add crispness to his routes. I think of it in this way. Imagine you have your brand new Bentley parked in tight quarters. Who do you trust to back it out – the flashy and physically gifted Jessica Alba, or you, the crafty veteran with both experience and a keen understanding of the situation?
The most talented players are going to find the field no matter what the depth chart says. If you were surprised or disappointed by the first depth chart, then let it serve as a reminder that the future holds a multitude of unexpected twists and turns.
Oh, and it was a trick question. The correct answer is to back your Bentley out, with Jessica Alba right where she belongs, firmly planted in your lap.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
If this is one of your firsts visit check out the archives.
Don’t miss our comprehensive Louisiana Tech Preview.
Find out our take on the addition of Sam Keller.
Discover how much you know about the myths surrounding the Big Red in Husker Urban Legends Part I and Part II.
Check out Sammy Vegas’s All-Time Nebraska NFL Bust Defensive Team.
Take a peek at the Tour de Camp leaderboard.
If you like what you see, please keep checking back. The season is just kicking off and so are we.
Callahan repeated several times that he loved all four of the guys at IB and has been impressed with their attitude and approach to practice. He mentioned that they all bring something different to the table and that he can't wait to watch them play. Callahan feels they are all quality backs that are physical, capable and skilled enough to play. He stated, "we're going to play them all," and that it will be his job to figure out how to get one ball into the hands of four players.
Finally, Callahan noted that Randy Jordan has done a "heckuva" job of handling the stable of backs and has explained to them their roles on the team.
Yep, that was Sandro Deangelis with either the best Elaine Benes or the worst Vanilla Ice impression I have ever seen. The celebration was brought on by hitting the game winning 53-yard field goal as time expired against the undefeated Montreal Alouettes. Deangelis was 4/4 on field goals in that game and was named the special teams player of the week in the CFL for his efforts.
Ok, now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
With the college football season now just days away, we all understand the NFL must take a backseat. However, I promised you a weekly update, so here you go. Aside from Terrell Owens, the NFL preseason has been relatively quiet, thus far. More news about former Huskers will surely surface this week as teams start making significant roster reductions and adjustments to their depth charts. Next week I’ll discuss the players that were released this week, but in the meantime, I’ll briefly elaborate on players that I did not touch on last week.
Ahman Green: After tearing a quadriceps muscle five games into the last season, Ahman was back on Monday night with the Green Bay Packers to start his first game in nearly a year. In fact, coach Mike McCarthy was expecting roughly 15 carries from the former Pro Bowl back. What he got was 8 carries for 18 yards from a veteran back who just three years ago produced 1,883 yards and 15 touchdowns. Green was clearly frightened of contact, and given his lack of an offensive line and Brett Favre’s stubbornness to think he is still an NFL quarterback, look for another dismal season.
Daniel Bullocks: Drafted as the 8th pick of the 2nd round in last April’s draft by the Detroit Lions, Daniel started his NFL career with lofty expectations and has managed to impress this preseason. Bullocks is pushing veteran Terrence Holt for the starting free safety job while putting in time at both free safety and strong safety. Lions coach Rod Marinelli says of Bullocks: “He is really a load as a tackler. He can tackle. He's got good ball skills. He's got a lot of talent back there, so we've just got to let him compete, let these guys get after each other and let it all shake out.”
Scott Shanle: The New Orleans Saints recently acquired much needed depth at linebacker when they grabbed Shanle from the Cowboys for a future 4th round pick. We all remember and regarded Shanle as a player with good athleticism and a great work ethic, but did you know that last year he tallied 15 games played, seven starts, 50 tackles, 1½ sacks, and two pass breakups? I missed that as well. Look for Shanle to be the starter in Week 1 for the Saints.
Fabian Washington: When Charles Woodson became injured in Week 6 last season, Washington was immediately inserted into the Raiders’ starting lineup where he took plenty of abuse. However, Jerry McDonald, of the ANG Newspaper, recently described Fabian as someone “possessing the potential to be better than Charles Woodson ever was.” Washington is looking to help out a team that managed only five interceptions a year ago, and in week one of the preseason, he gave Art Shell something to smile about when he grabbed the team’s first INT of the preseason.
Grant Wistrom: Wistrom rejoined the Seattle Seahawks’ number one defensive unit last week, making his long awaited and hopeful return from shoulder surgery last winter. His injury was serious enough to make the Seahawk sign a free agent RE, but as Wistrom recently said, “good for him….I feel I have the right to be there. That’s my spot, on the right-end.” With 52 tackles last season and four sacks, including a Super Bowl sack, it is safe to say that is indeed his spot.
Titus Adams: As a seventh-round pick by the New York Jets, Adams recently just signed a multi-year contract of unknown details. Defensive coaches with the Jets have been impressed with his character and work ethic, and they expect him to contribute in their new defensive scheme at some point this year. Will he? Doubtful, but signing a multi year contract means somebody sees something. Adams will play along fellow Husker alum defensive end Trevor Johnson, who currently is third string and has recorded 29 tackles in two years.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Finally we have video documentation of the run we heard so much about last week. This is merely Kenny Wilson's interpretation since "The Run" in its truest form is still best exemplified by Tommie Frazier in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. This is an amazing display of balance, power and determination. However, much like Frazier's run it is also an amazing display of poor tackling. You have to like Coach Jordan meeting Wilson in the endzone, as well as the celebration that followed. I would gladly take another run like this at anytime during the season.
Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Conference: Western Athletic Conference (WAC)
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium “The Joe” (Capacity: 30,600)
First Year of Football: 1901
All Time Record: 529-383-36
8th year at Louisiana Tech: Career record 40-42
•Bicknell’s reign at La Tech began in 1999 when he was hired as the 30th head coach in the school’s history. He replaced Gary Crowton who announced his decision to move to the Chicago Bears as offensive coordinator following the 1998 season.
•Bicknell played at Boston College and was the starting center when Doug Flutie threw the Hail Mary to defeat Miami in 1984.
•Bicknell’s father Jack Bicknell II, is the head coach for the Barcelona Dragons of the NFL Europe and is the former coach at Boston College.
Last Season: 7-4 (losses to Florida, Kansas, Nevada and Boise State). The Bulldogs were snubbed by the bowls despite ending the season with a win on the road against #23 ranked and Liberty Bowl bound Fresno State.
This Season: Louisiana Tech has increased its win totals each of the last four seasons. However, the scheduling gods do not favor the Bulldogs in their quest to continue this streak in 2006. La Tech has four of its first five games on the road against Nebraska, Texas A&M, Clemson and Boise State. The schedule eases up some after that, and Louisiana Tech could be an upper-tier WAC team when it all plays out. However, Bulldog fans should be ecstatic if the team finishes the season with a trip to a bowl game.
On Offense: The Bulldogs averaged 366 ypg and over 28 ppg in 2005. They return six starters on offense from that squad, but must replace quarterback Matt Kubik. Junior Zac Champion will be the starter, but has just eight pass attempts to his credit in five relief appearances. Although previously known for their “pass happy” approach, the Bulldogs displayed a balanced attack with a 55/45% run/pass split in 2005. When Tech looks to throw this year, Champion will have some solid targets, especially senior wideouts Eric Newman and Johnathan Holland. The always consistent Newman had 30 catches for 566 yds and 8 TDs a year ago. Holland is a former WAC sprint champion who can stretch the field and will certainly test the Nebraska secondary. Junior Freddie Franklin also returns and will likely see action at both receiver and running back for Bicknell’s club. The shifty Franklin and the steady Patrick Jackson combined for 815 rushing yards in 2005. Joining them in the backfield will be heralded recruits Willie Griffin (scholarship offers from Nebraska and Michigan) and Myke Compton. Along the offensive line, La Tech may start four new faces. A two-year starter at guard, senior Marcus Lindsey was being counted on to anchor this year’s line. Unfortunately he showed up at camp carrying over 380 pounds on his 6-7 frame and has been demoted to the second team. The lack of experience along the O-line could spell big trouble for the Bulldogs in Lincoln.
On Defense: A year ago the defense was La Tech’s strength as they finished 58th in scoring and 66th in total defense. Unfortunately, in 2006, the Bulldogs have the unenviable task of replacing nine starters on the defensive side of the ball. Tech utilizes a 3-4 defensive alignment and the biggest area of concern is this front seven. The Bulldogs must replace their top five interior linemen and three of their four starting linebackers. One player to watch for on the defensive line is nose guard Josh Muse. Muse maybe the team’s best NFL prospect and is a talented run-stopper who will challenge the middle of the Husker O-line. Junior LB Brannon Jackson is another of Tech’s most gifted defenders and joins safety Dez Abrams as the only returning starters on defense. Both could be all-conference contenders by the end of the season. Joining Abrams at the other safety spot will be Mark Dillard a converted RB who led the team in rushing a year ago. Dillard missed spring practice after being suspended following rape allegations, but has made a quick adjustment to the secondary since returning.
Special Teams: The Bulldogs will use Brad Oestriecher on kickoffs, while Danny Horwedel will handle extra points and field goals. As a junior Horwedel converted 18/26 field goals and he could contend for the Groza award this season. Punter Chris Keagle averaged just 37.4 yards/punt last season, but placed 17 of his punts inside the 20-yard line.
Series History: Nebraska won the only meeting between these two schools 56-27 in 1998. Tech QB Tim Rattay threw for 590 yards against the fourth ranked Huskers. Jerome Peterson and the Blackshirts propelled Troy Edwards into the 1st round of the NFL draft after giving up an incredible 405 yards receiving to the Bulldog wideout.
Hey, That Guy Looks Familiar: Former Nebraska defensive backs coach George Darlington will return to Lincoln as La Tech’s Defensive Coordinator. Darlington was hired as Tech’s secondary coach, but was promoted to the coordinator job prior to Fall camp. Darlington arrived at Louisiana Tech after spending three seasons at Marshall, where he served as recruiting coordinator and coached the outside linebackers, safeties and secondary in each of his three seasons. Darlington previously spent 30 years on the Nebraska sideline.
Deserving of a Post-Game Ovation: Louisiana Tech opened its arms last season to the Tulane football program following Hurricane Katrina. The Green Wave utilized Caruthers Dorm, which had been scheduled for demolition, as well as other La Tech campus locations allowing the 2005 Tulane season to go on.
I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: Nebraska is 15-1 all-time against teams from the WAC. The Huskers’ lone loss came in the 1975 Fiesta Bowl to Arizona State (trust me they were in the WAC until 1978). In addition, Louisiana Tech is 4-19 all-time against current Big 12 members.
Six Degrees of Beano Cook: Should Nebraska fans worry? In 2005 Louisiana Tech beat Hawaii. Hawaii beat San Diego St. San Diego State beat BYU. BYU beat New Mexico. New Mexico beat Missouri. And Missouri beat…Nebraska.
For the Degenerate Gamblers: Latest Line: Nebraska -21. Louisiana Tech is just 7-17 ATS as an underdog over the last four seasons and that includes a 5-13 ATS mark as a road dog.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
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This is the best I could do for your Husker fix on the last Saturday of the fall sans college football.
•Burnt Orange Nation takes a look ahead at UT’s October 21st visit to Lincoln. It’s a decent analysis, and you can probably guess their feelings about the outcome. They did leave us with a chance, however.
Nebraska Can Win The Game If: The defense has their best game of the year. A turnover or two is probably needed for Nebraska to win this game. They aren't going to win a drawn out field position battle game with Texas because their offense won't be able to sustain enough drives against this talented defense. If turnovers or big plays on special teams give the Huskers a couple few short fields to work with, they can hang in this game, and win it. Otherwise, Texas will wear this team down.•Notre Dame blog Blue-Gray Sky has launched the 2006 edition of their Pick Six contest. The rules are simple - you pick 1 team from 6 groups of the AP Preseason Poll based on the team’s rankings (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, and the unranked). Your goal is to get the highest cumulative rank possible, and the winner then receives some piece of college football memorabilia. Pigskin prognosticator Sammy Vegas will be handling the entry for Double Extra Point. So sign up now and vie it out for second place. The polling closes on Wednesday, don’t miss out.
•Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t hook you up with this video (Thanks CFR). USC's center Ryan Kalil hosts a webshow on the USC athletics website and in this episode he invites you to check out a USC Song Girl practice. You're welcome.
Stay tuned next week for my Louisiana Tech preview and much more.
Friday, August 25, 2006
As you all know by now, former ASU quarterback Sam Keller began practicing with the Huskers yesterday. Keller’s arrival is expected to fill the 2007 QB void that will be created by the graduation of Zac Taylor. Unfortunately his addition does nothing to add to the depth for this season and I would still recommend packaging Taylor in bubble-wrap on Saturdays this fall. The acquisition of Keller also provides the Huskers with their first legitimate NFL talent at the quarterback position in decades. Sure some could argue that Zac Taylor will get a shot at playing on Sundays and I would agree. In fact, NFL Draft Scout ranks Taylor as the 17th best quarterback among 2007 NFL prospects.
Taylor, however, is not in the same league as Keller in the eyes of NFL scouts. At 6’4” 230 lbs, Keller has a prototypical NFL quarterback frame. He has also shown a live arm and plays the game with an infectious enthusiasm and toughness. Prior to his transfer ESPN.com ranked him as the 12th-best quarterback to be eligible for the 2007 NFL Draft. Keller was also named to several preseason first-team All-Pac-10 lists, was regarded by Lindy's as having the strongest arm in the Pac-10 Conference and was rated as the 10th-best NFL talent in the conference by that same publication. Street & Smith’s also regarded Keller as the Pac-10's best passing quarterback. Currently, NFL Draft Scout has Keller listed as the sixth best quarterback who will be eligible for the 2008 draft, without having ever taken a snap at Nebraska.
The addition of Keller could go a long way towards the development of a prominent NFL quarterback legacy at NU. Over the last decade schools like Central Florida, Dartmouth and Delaware have all had alumni start at quarterback in the NFL. Nebraska on the other hand has not had a quarterback even take a snap in an NFL game since 1987. In addition, the last time a former Husker finished in the Top 10 in the league in any passing category was 1983 and no player is in the all-time Top 50 in any passing category. Overall, the Huskers’ NFL quarterback lineage looks like this: Dennis Claridge, Jerry Tagge, Frank Patrick, Terry Luck, Dave Humm, Vince Ferragamo, Jeff Quinn (who never actually took a snap), and Bruce Mathison. If you combine the career NFL efforts of all of the former Nebraska quarterbacks they would look like this:
Games: 222Of these numbers Vince Ferragamo accounted for one-third of the games, almost 70% of the yardage and all but 16 of the touchdowns. The low point of Nebraska’s NFL QB struggles came in 1985. In that year, Ferragamo and Mathison shared the quarterbacking duties for the Buffalo Bills. During that season the Bills managed to score just 200 points and the pair of ex-Huskers teamed for nine TD passes and 31 interceptions. Just how bad was it that season? Take a look at this quote from a December 4, 1985 NY Times article.
Completion %: 53.4%
QB Rating: 62.35
The last time Bruce Mathison faced the Jets, he now admits, he didn't know what he was doing. “I was calling the wrong plays in the huddle.”So of course I’m excited about the acquisition of Keller. He could be just what Nebraska is looking for as we continue to climb back to our rightful place among the nation’s elite. Keller could also be influential in allowing us to forget the lackluster NFL performances of past Husker QBs, while creating a new legacy of NFL signal-callers in the future.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Unfortunately, this piece will have nothing to do with this type of achievement. Instead, I am going to share with you with some of our biggest NFL busts over the past half century. When I began to examine this story, I worried it would involve countless statistics, formulas, equations and Jager shots. What I found, however, was that many of these names seemingly wrote themselves. It was as if they were conceding, in a way, to their rightful place in history. This story will be broken down into several volumes, and today, I am pleased to introduce the:
Defensive All-Bust Team
DE: Jared Tomich, New Orleans, Pick #39, Round 2
A former walk-on at Nebraska who eventually found his way into the Nebraska Hall of Fame, Tomich’s career in the NFL stopped well short of Canton. In four seasons with the New Orlean Saints (1997-2000) and one in Green Bay (2002), Tomich amassed 10 sacks and 1 fumble recovery. His career ended shortly after Kansas City signed him in February 2003.
DE: Jason Peter, Carolina, Pick #14, Round 1
Recently named as the 17th best player in the short history of the Big 12 by College Football News, Peter was a dominating force that helped Nebraska regain and restore its national championship form. After being taken 14th overall in 1998, he accumulated four operations on his shoulder and neck over the next three years, which included fusions of the vertebrae. Peter started only 20 games in his NFL career and recorded 6.5 sacks before being forced to retire in 2001.
DT: Rich Glover, New York Giants, #69, Round 3
Glover’s accolades as a two-time national champion at Nebraska are remarkable and set the standard for our success today. He was an All-American, winner of the Outland Trophy, and named outstanding lineman in the Orange Bowl two years in a row. With standards and expectations set high because of his previous success, Glover managed to suit up two short years in the NFL, and eventually tried his skill in the World Football League for one year. His pro career was so lamentable that I was able to only find one career recovered fumble. He later retired to become a teacher and high school football coach.
DT: Larry Jacobson, New York Giants, #24, Round 1
At 6-7 and 250 lbs, Larry certainly was a force in 1971 when he won the Outland Trophy, played in the Game of the Century, and helped bring a national championship to Lincoln. In three seasons with the Giants, Larry played sparingly before injuries took their toll on his oversized body and forced his retirement at the age of 26.
LB: Mike Croel, Denver Broncos, #4, Round 1
Croel was named to the Mel Kiper's biggest all-time first round bust dihonorable mention team just narrowely missing out of his all time top ten. Croel’s NFL career started with a bang as he was selected as the AP Rookie of the Year in 1991 after amassing 10 sacks. Unfortunately he averaged just two sacks a year for the next six years while playing for four teams. However, his career looked to be rebounding in 2000, when Croel was selected by the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL, where coaches and fans praised his….. okay, Ill stop there.
LB: Tom Ruud, Buffalo Bills, #19, Round 1
Ruud was a tough, blue-collar, linebacker who set the tone for the Blackshirts during his playing days at Nebraska. Ruud also exhibited a nose for the ball while a Husker and set the single season fumble recovery record in 1974. Tragically, Ruud’s sense of smell abandoned him during his rookie season and he amassed just one fumble recovery during a five year career with the Bills and Bengals. Given he was drafted in the first round alongside the likes of Walter Payton, it is safe to say Tom Ruud failed to live up to expectations.
LB: Trev Alberts, Indianapolis Colts, #5, Round 1
Trev’s illustrious Nebraska football career ended with the 1993 Butkus Award, All-America honors, and just two points shy of a miraculous national championship. On Draft Day in 2001, Mel Kiper criticized Colts GM Bill Tobin for drafting Alberts ahead of Trent Dilfer, which prompted the infamous quote, “Who the hell is Mel Kiper?” After deciding there are more important things to do then to show up to your 1997 training camp, Jim Irsay and Alberts reached a settlement that allow him to retire with a portion of his $3.275 million dollar signing bonus and $8.15 million dollar, 6 year contract. During his NFL career Alberts missed 20 of 52 games, started seven times, and recorded just four sacks. He has since had more success annoying the masses as a studio analyst for ESPN and CSTV.
CB: Bruce Pickens, Atlanta Falcons, #3, Round 1
Where do I start with this one? Pickens enjoyed an up and down career in Lincoln and many fans were surprised when his stock soared prior to the 1991 draft. Soon it was the Falcons who were surprised when his obvious athleticism failed to translate to the field. In four seasons with four teams, “Slim Pickens” managed to grab 2 interceptions and officially was named as captain to the All-Bust team in 2006.
CB: Michael Booker, Atlanta Falcons, #11, Round 1
Booker enjoyed a coming out party at the 1996 Fiesta Bowl and was named Defensive MVP for his efforts. He returned a Danny Wuerffel pass the other way for a 42-yard touchdown and gave Steve Spurrier nightmares about his decision to repeatedly challenge him. Regarded as a bump and run corner in college, the Falcons (proving they could in fact be fooled again) took a chance that he could become a backed-off man-to-man corner in the NFL. In five seasons, Booker had eight interceptions and was cut twice by the Falcons and Titans.
S: Russell Gary, New Orleans Saints, #29, Round 2
Russell was a standout safety for Nebraska and earned All-Big Eight and All-American Honors. Drafted with the first pick in the second round of the 1981 draft, Russell had the misfortune of becoming a Saint (of the National Football League variety). In eight seasons, Gary played in 80 games and grabbed a modest 7 interceptions. Whether due to the influence of Tom Osborne and his success at Nebraska or the excruciating and unsuccessful years in New Orleans, Russell has now found the strength to give back to the community of Minneapolis, where he works for the city and for Concordia college.
S: Scott Frost, New York Jets, #67, Round 3
You might be thinking this is a stretch putting Scott Frost at safety. After all, it was as a quarterback that Frost led Nebraska to a 1997 National Championship and sent Tom Osborne out on top. However, when NFL teams deemed his shot-put mechanics unfit for Sunday viewing, Frost was instead drafted as a safety by the Jets. He eventually stuck it out for seven years playing for three NFL teams. He saw action, however, in just 59 games, recording 56 tackles, and demonstrating that he lacked the speed and ability deserving of a 3rd round pick. If you’re still not buying his spot on this team, consider this: Ahman Green was selected by Seattle nine slots after Frost at pick #76, in that same draft.
Honorable Mention: Rodney Lewis (CB), Tyronne Legette (CB), Jeff Mills (LB), Willie Harper (DE), Travis Hill (LB), Troy Dumas (LB), Mike Fultz (DT)
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
•Sam Keller may or may not be coming to Lincoln. But Arizona State fans offer Husker fans a warm welcome as they search for information on Keller.
•Steve Octavian and Andre Jones have returned to practice. If I were to tell you that they both could be at full speed by the USC game, would that be something you might be interested in?
•ESPN mentions the need for an improved running attack in their most recent Husker coverage. I’ll point out what they don’t. In our four losses last season we gained 170 yards on 110 carries and scored just four rushing TDs. That’s a paltry 1.55 yards/carry. Ouch.
Around the Blogosphere:
•The Big Lead has a fantastic interview with SI columnist/Letterman writer/actor Bill Scheft.
•Its been a banner week at UT. It was named the number one party school and the new pom squad was announced. Unfortunately they are not pictured in their chaps.
•Heisman Pundit releases his 2006 Preseason All-American Offensive squad. I love his take on the OL. I mean don’t we all just watch who has the ball during a game.
•The Business of CFB looks at college sports webcasts and provides a history lesson about what televised college football used to look like. Read the article he links to. Pretty amazing stuff given today’s coverage.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I'll start with a few quick updates:
•After missing three of the past four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles due to horrific knee injuries, Correll Buckhalter appears healthy and once again ready to contribute to a team that has yet to give up on him. Last Thursday in his first action this preseason, Buckhalter took a Donovan McNabb shovel pass for 48 yards before being tackled at the one yard line. Although he went on to accumulate just 8 yards on 5 carries, players and coaches were “very, very excited” for a guy who has been through so much adversity. Unfortunately, I believe there has to be some doubt about his chances of making the roster as a 28-year-old injury plagued running back. Especially given the Eagles have 5 other younger backs on the preseason roster including Brian Westbrook, Reno Mahe, and Ryan Moats. Regardless, as a Husker or Eagle fan, there is no way you cannot wish continued success to a guy who has always been nothing less than the ultimate team player.
•On a much heavier note, Toniu Fonoti was acquired in the offseason by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the Minnesota Vikings for a 6th round draft pick and lifetime rights to their all-u-can-eat buffet table. After being named to the All-Rookie team in 2002 and a First-Team All-Pro by SportsIllustrated.com in 2004 while with the San Diego Chargers, Fonoti appears to have eaten his way out of a second chance. Fonoti played just three games last year and has been plagued with weight-related injuries. He reportedly ballooned up to 400 lbs in the offseason and has since dropped to a svelte 370 lbs in training camp. He is currently listed second on the depth chart, is suffering from a variety of injuries, and has serious motivational issues with his coaches and trainers.
•Staying with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Barrett Ruud turned heads last Saturday night against the Dolphins. Ruud was given the opportunity to play with the first team defense when the team’s leading tackler from a year ago, Shelton Quarles, was given the night off. In one half of football, Ruud amassed eight tackles, one sack, one pass breakup, and one forced fumble. Although Ruud is second string and will spot play this season, big things can be expected.
•Demorrio Williams was looking forward to another terrific season with the Atlanta Falcons this season, until one phone call changed his fate. With Ed Hartwell back from an achilles tendon injury, the Falcons suddenly had four starters. Williams was “crushed” to hear that he was #4. In case you missed it, last season Williams accumulated 132 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, three pass breakups, and returned a blocked kick for a touchdown. Coach Mora “still considers him a starter because he starts in our nickel.” If I was Demorrio I would be looking to get on the next bus out of town, but the problem is that with the numbers he put up last year coupled with a modest salary, the Falcons could never get what they wanted in return.
•On the other hand, life is good if you are named Kyle Vanden Bosch. Vanden Bosch struck a $22 million dollar deal in the offseason with $15 million of it guaranteed. Last year, Kyle had 12.5 sacks which was 4th in the NFL. Titans Coach Jeff Fisher recently said.
"We've rewarded that type of effort and Kyle is in the position to continue to be if not as productive, more productive than he was this past year. There is no doubt in my mind he will. Kyle is as dedicated to the game as anybody I've ever seen."
Monday, August 21, 2006
Keller would join a group in 2007 that would include juniors Joe Ganz, Brian Hildebrand, and Beau Davis as well as true freshman Patrick Witt. Keller would certainly be the most experienced QB of this group. He played in 19 games at ASU including 8 starts. In 2005 he completed 155-of-264 passes (58.7 pct.) for 2,165 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the season. In addition, despite missing nearly half the season, he led the team in passing attempts and touchdown passes, and finished tied for 28th nationally and ranked fourth in the Pac-10 in scoring passes.
Keller also had two of his biggest games in 2005 against elite competition. Against LSU he went 35/56 for 461 yards and 4 touchdowns. Versus top-ranked USC Keller was 26/45 for 347 yards and five touchdowns. Although the Sun Devils lost both games it was not due to the efforts of Keller.
The bottom line is that Nebraska would be getting a quarterback who is fiery and emotional, as well as big game-tested. Many fans worried that not having a quarterback that fit that description would be a hindrance in 2007. The next questions then become how quickly does he pick up Callahan’s offense and how does our current stable of QBs respond to the news.
These late pick-ups via free-agency are the main benefits of hiring an ex-NFL guy. We just didn’t know what we were missing out on. I mean for all the running around they did on the field, our option quarterbacks were rather immobile off it.
•All I could find was this preview of Nicholls State as they attempt to build on last season’s share of the Southland Conference championship. It is a pretty thorough preview though.
•Here is a live recap and some stats from USC’s mock game against the scout team. Both quarterbacks must have looked pretty good:
John David Booty 10-12, 98 yards, 1 TD•Finally, the offense struggled in the Troy’s most recent scrimmage.
Mark Sanchez 6 -7, 79 yards, 1 TD
Sunday, August 20, 2006
•New JUCOs are continuing to make waves in Fall Camp. Maurice Purify, Kenny Wilson, Andre Jones and Carl Nicks, have all opened eyes and turned heads. You never really know what you are getting with JUCO guys and by definition they have little time to develop. The coaching staff was counting on these four to come in and make an impact and in this case, it looks as though it will happen.
•The cornerback position continues to suffer. Andre Jones recently tweaked a hammy and sat out a few days, and Grixby and Fluellen continue to practice in casts. Fortnunately, Tyrell Spain looks to be progressing in his position switch and may be able to provide much needed depth.
•Speaking of Spain, it will be interesting to see if he stays at CB next season. If he does we would have five senior cornerbacks in Grixby, Bowman, Jones, Spain and Brothers. Something will have to give there.
•Linebacker Steve Octavian also recently had surgery to remove his appendix. He was back jogging, however, at Friday’s practice. This is good news as I worried he was going to go all Lannie Hopkins on us.
•In special teams news, true freshman walk-on Michael Such is apparently pushing Dan Titchener for the starting punting job. Interestingly, all of our punters are currently sporting uniform numbers in the 90s, which seems to be a new trend at NU. Titchener is #97, Such #91 and Jordan Alegria #90.
•At kicker Jordan Congdon is hoping to handle both kickoffs and field goals this season after sharing the kickoff duties with Jake Wesch last year. Congdon will also be trying to avoid the sophomore slump that afflicted current NFL kickers Kris and Josh Brown while they were at NU. After connecting on 81% of his tries as a freshman in 1995, Kris Brown was successful on just 63% of his attempts as a sophomore. Josh Brown hit 70% of his field goal tries as a freshman in 1999 and just 50% of his attempts in 2000. Last season, Congdon nailed 19/23 attempts.
•Tom Shatel raved about the stadium improvements. Those of you outside the Lincoln area can see some decent shots of the stadium project here. In addition, I have also occasionally been able to view the new big screen in action here.
In other news around the college football world:
•Burnt Orange Nation has a detailed write-up of the Longhorns' scrimmage on Saturday. The QB job looks like it is Colt McCoy’s to lose and I fear that Texas still has as much talent as anybody.
•Scott Wolf looks at some possible defensive alignment changes at USC.
•Rutgers is going all out in promoting Brian Leonard for the Heisman. The interesting part is that Leonard is a fullback. Good luck with that Scarlet Knights.
•Finally, EDSBS notes that Solich’s GHB hearing has turned into a "dorkfight".
Friday, August 18, 2006
Just a Friday reminder of why we are all here. You’ll need sound so you might have to watch it at home (or invite your boss to check it out too). I could probably put this up every week and most of you would still watch it.
Anyway, you may have noticed some minor changes to the site. First, I have added some contributors to bring in some fresh commentary and insight. These are friends from college who have also refused to grow up or to lose their passion for the Huskers. Their profiles are now up on the site. I will let them introduce themselves if they so choose, but I am looking forward to their contributions and I know you will enjoy what they bring to the table.
Secondly, you'll now see weekly Top Ten rankings. This is because I was successful in my quest to attain a vote in the BlogPoll. I wasn’t expecting it and I’ll fully admit that I walked ass-backwards into it, as there were no Nebraska bloggers with a vote. However, I am extremely grateful to Brian at MGoBlog for the opportunity. Ok, here is how it is going to work. We will post our provisional Top 25 each Sunday night (or Monday) on the site. We are then asking you (Yes, YOU small, but dedicated group of readers) to give us feedback in the comments. We’re serious about getting your feedback. We may not use it, but we would like to see it. So, don’t be shy and tell us what you think (my parents are tired of carrying the comment load). If we get drunk and don’t actually remember the fourth quarter of a game with poll implications, well that’s where you come in. Or maybe you saw a late night Pac-10 game we might have missed, just let us know. Then after pondering your feedback, we then have until Wednesday to turn in our final poll for the week
The addition of the poll along with the new contributors should enliven the site and hopefully keep you coming back for your Husker fix.
#4 - Brook Berringer would have been drafted in the 1996 NFL draft if not for his tragic death
Like all legends, the stories involving Brook Berringer seem to grow larger with every passing year. In this case that’s not a bad a thing. To the contrary, if I had to pick a player that best represented what it means to be a Husker it would be Brook. He was athletic, charismatic and stately. Tragically, Brook was killed on April 18, 1996, when the small plane he was piloting crashed in an alfalfa field in Raymond, Nebraska. What you may not remember was that his death came just two days before the 1996 NFL draft. Brook’s mother had been planning a draft party and had rented a satellite for the occasion before receiving the heartbreaking news.
At the time of his death, I remember Brook being a dark horse for the draft. However, most fans now seem to feel certain he would have been picked. If we examine the issue and Brook’s career more closely, maybe we can come to some sort of conclusion. Berringer was a backup for the majority of his career, but is best remembered for making the most of his opportunities. In 1994, starting QB Tommie Frazier was sidelined with blood clots in his leg. Berringer started seven games in his place that season, winning all of them and leading the Huskers to the Orange Bowl and a match-up with Miami. Frazier was given the starting nod in the Orange Bowl, but when the offense struggled, Brook came in and provided a spark, in helping to lead Nebraska to the National Championship. In 1995, Frazier was healthy and Brook returned to the bench, as Nebraska again took home the national title.
In spite of a lack of playing time, Brook did have a lot things going for him as draft day approached. First, 1996 was a pretty weak year for quarterbacks. Most draft experts had either Tony Banks or Bobby Hoying at the top of their list, but most assumed no quarterback would go in the first round. Brook was also blessed with a prototypical NFL quarterback build at 6-4, 220 lbs. In addition, he had reportedly performed well at the NFL’s scouting combine that February. Rumors also circulated that Denver was looking for a quarterback, and might be interested in Berringer. On the downside, Brook was somewhat of an unknown. He was a victim of a run-based offense and had attempted just 246 passes in his Nebraska career. Despite a completion percentage of better than 60% many scouts questioned whether Brook might be a better free-agent pick up as opposed to draft selection.
Following a moment of silence honoring Brook, the 1996 NFL draft unfolded, and seven quarterbacks wound up being selected.
Round 2 #42 – St. Louis - Tony Banks, Michigan StateNot exactly a group on the fast track to Canton. Brook’s name could certainly have fit in anywhere on that list. In fact, here are one writer’s rankings of the top quarterbacks going into the 1996 draft. Coincidentally Brook sits at number six on that list. We will never know for sure whether Brook would have been drafted or not. The evidence seems to indicate that it could have gone either way. This is one of those things that is difficult to speculate about and we certainly would have preferred for Brook to write this part of his legend himself.
Round 3 #85 - Philadelphia - Bobby Hoying, Ohio State
Round 4 #100 - Denver - Jeff Lewis, Northern Arizona
Round 4 #130 - N.Y. Giants - Danny Kanell, Florida State
Round 6 #203 - Pittsburgh - Spence Fischer, Duke
Round 7 #238 - Baltimore - Jon Stark, Trinity, Ill.
Round 7 #240 - Green Bay - Kyle Wachholtz, Southern California
Status: Brook’s tragic death ultimately leaves the veracity of this legend unclassifiable.
#5 - Nebraska can’t win in all-white uniforms
Nebraska has been sporting white jerseys and red pants on the road, since shortly after Devaney’s arrival in 1962. Many Husker fans now believe that deviating from this ensemble messes with the earth’s rotation, or awakens the ghosts of Bill Jennings and causes the team to play poorly. Some call it superstition, or screwing with tradition, while others believe the all-white signals surrender. But whatever the reason, an urban legend concerning the correlation between wearing white pants on the road and inferior performances clearly exists.
The early 90s represent the first time the Huskers shifted from wearing red pants for away games. The earliest example I can find is the 1991 Citrus Bowl. In that game Nebraska was unable to overcome a 21-0 deficit and fell to undefeated Georgia Tech, 45-21. In 1992, the Huskers also broke out the white pants for road games. Nebraska first lost to #2 ranked Washington 29-14. Next, the Huskers squeaked out a 10-point win at unranked Missouri. Then on November 14, 1992, the unthinkable happened. Marv Seiler, a fifth-year senior quarterback who had never started a game, led unranked Iowa State to victory over the #7 Huskers. The following week Nebraska switched back to red pants and beat up on OU 33-9 in Norman.
The next time the Big Red wore all-white uniforms was in 2002. I think we all remember how that season went, but let’s rehash it just for fun. In our first road test that season, #8 Nebraska traveled to State College and was thrashed 40-7 by unranked Penn State. Two weeks later it was Iowa State again taking advantage of the all-white clad Huskers by defeating us 36-14. In Stillwater it was Oklahoma State over the Big Red 24-21. The next week Nebraska stuck with the white pants but found away to win in College Station, 38-31 over Texas A&M. Kansas State awaited the Huskers two weeks later in Manhattan. The #11 Wildcats easily dispensed of white-trousered Nebraska 49-13. Finally, the Big Red closed out the 2002 season with a trip to Shreveport in December. In that match-up, Nebraska could not overcome Eli Manning and Ole Miss falling 27-23.
So, the final tally for our record when wearing all-white uniforms after the introduction of the red pants looks like this:
1991: 0-1That looks to be pretty solid data in support of our struggles in games in which we don the white pants away from Lincoln. I don’t know how to explain this and unfortunately I actually used to like the way the all-white looks. However, after seeing this evidence I now definitely prefer red pants on the road.
Winning %: .222%
Status: Some solid evidence of truth.
#6 - Steve Pederson informed Frank Solich of his firing by slipping a note under his door
I couldn’t decide whether I was actually going to investigate this one or not. I didn’t want to re-open old wounds or rehash arguments that I tired of long ago. However, in the end, my curiosity won out and here we are. As we all know Steve Pederson was hired as the Nebraska athletic director in December of 2002. On November 29, 2003 he made the move that has come to define him, by firing Frank Solich after a 9-3 regular season. The days, weeks and months that followed were bitter, sad, and painful for all of Husker Nation.
During those difficult times, sides were taken, fingers were pointed, vile was spewed and rumors ran wild. Speculation centered on Pederson’s motives, his arrogance, and his one-man search committee. One of the most widely circulated rumors concerned the way in which he allegedly informed Solich of his job status. The conjecture was that this was accomplished by way of a note slipped under Solich’s office door. If you doubt that this rumor is alive and well today, take a look at these google search results. In addition I remembered reading a reference to it in one of Scott Frost’s blogs. These appear to have been removed from the Journal Star website, but you can see a copy of the text here (you’ll have to scroll down a ways).
I have come across references to this legend again and again in the past few years. What I couldn’t figure out was where it came from. Certainly it couldn’t be true? Whether you like Pederson or hate him, one would assume that his management acumen is greater than that. Or was it true and had I glossed over it in the news coverage or buried it in the depths of my overactive brain? So with that in mind I set out on my search to determine its origin.
It didn’t take long for me to locate a potential source of this legend. In this article by Steve Sipple written shortly after Solich’s firing we find the following quote from Solich’s daughter, Cindy Dalton:
Dalton said her father earlier this season tried to verify information about his assistants' contracts with Pederson. Dalton said Pederson "left a nasty note under Dad's office door."According to this article, a note was slipped under a door. However, it was allegedly a note regarding Solich’s inquiries about his assistant coaches. In addition, there is no way to verify that what Cindy Dalton is saying about a “nasty note” is true at all.
But I think this does clarify where the legend got started to begin with. In a newspaper article about Solich’s firing, his daughter mentions that a nasty note was slipped under her father’s door. Whether due to poor reading comprehension, the fogginess of details over time, or a desire to vilify Pederson, the legend became that Pederson fired Solich by sliding a note under his door. Another question then remains. Did this urban legend help lead to Steve Pederson becoming an "enemy of the state" or did his rogue status perpetuate the legend. I’ll let you ponder that one on your own.
Status: In the form the legend is presented, the evidence indicates it is false.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Terrence Nunn – 3
Greg Austin – 2
Kenny Wilson - 1
Joe Ganz - 1
J.B. Phillips - 1
Zac Taylor - 1
Lydon Murtha - 1
Nate Swift - 1
Cory McKeon – 2
Ola Dagundaro – 2
Lance Brandenburgh - 1
Stewart Bradley - 1
Adam Carriker - 1
Tierre Green - 1
Barry Cryer - 1
Ben Eisenhart - 1
Clayton Sievers - 1
Brandon Rigoni – 3
Jordan Congdon - 1
Ben Eisenhart - 1
Matt O’Hanlon - 1
Dane Todd - 1
Andre Jones - 1
Clayton Sievers – 1
I can’t say that there are many surprises on the leaderboards. I have a feeling though that Terrence Nunn is going to do great things before he is through here. I will not be surprised if he ends up playing on Sundays after a few more years under Gilmore’s tutelage
In other news:
•The first BlogPoll is out. This is a college football poll run and voted on by sports bloggers. I think it is a great idea, as these voters probably put more thought into it than our other so-called pollsters. I’ve been in contact with the developers and I'm trying to get a vote. We’ll see what happens.
•Speaking of the BlogPoll, Sunday Morning QB releases their ballot. SMQ has this to say about the Huskers at #16:
"SMQ says fear fear fear this team. It's not worth going overboard, but in last week's anatomy lesson on forecasting stunning mythical title contenders, the Huskers were the perfect storm of rising, highly-recruited talent, run-stuffing hellions and veteran quarterbacking cool under a new, big-name hire - i.e., a replica of Oklahoma in 2000 or Ohio State in 2002. Nebraska improved over the second half last year, played Texas Tech and Oklahoma very close in losses, detroyed division champion Colorado in a breakthrough game and capped it by hanging on against Michigan in a momentum-soldifying/building win. Definitely the Big XII North favorite, perhaps still a year away, maybe two (since Harrison Beck is out the door) from more. Or maybe waiting to pounce with cornfed, creepily-mascoted vengeance now. Don't say SMQ didn't warn."•Texas Tech quarterbacks Chris Todd and Ryan Rowland duked it out in practice Tuesday. Rowland was left with a broken nose. I can’t believe an argument over who gets to hold the clipboard could escalate like that.
•Finally, M Zone discusses their favorite pre-season college football magazine. Hint - It's Playboy (careful, might not be safe for work).
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I stand by my previous statement that the I-back who best protects Zac Taylor will see the most playing time. However, I’m not sure the depth chart will ever shakeout in a manner that produces a clear cut number one guy. Coach Callahan will likely use a "running backs by committee" approach. This approach, which is popular in the NFL will spread the carries out amongst the backs and may ease discontent. The downsides of situation-based personnel moves, however, are that they can prevent a player from getting into the rhythm of the game and also tip off the offense’s intentions. For a perfect example of this, think back to a mic’d up John Lynch laughing that the Bucs knew every play that was coming in Super Bowl XXXVII against Callahan’s Raiders.
Another problem with the committee approach is that a player is never certain if, and when, his carries are going to come. Case in point, Cody Glenn combined for 24 carries in back-to-back games with Texas Tech and Baylor in 2005. He then had just 7 carries combined in the next two games against Missouri and Oklahoma. Additionally, when most teams split carries at running back it is generally among two talented players rather than four. Because of this, and given that Callahan has occasionally been criticized for going away from the run at inopportune times, there might not be enough carries to go around in Lincoln. And if the carries aren’t there, or if the offensive line can't get enough push, then we’ll see a bigger waste of talent than Jenna Jameson posing for a parka catalog.
For now, however, lets examine what the coaching staff is dealing with:
Cody Glenn (So.): At 6’0”, 230 lbs Cody is a “big back” who has displayed a powerful running style. Glenn fights hard to move the chains and lost yardage on just one of his 45 carries in 2005. Looks capable of being an every down type of back, but hasn’t shown breakaway speed. He seems to have the confidence of his teammates and was named the Most Improved Offensive Player in the Spring. Looked to be the man to beat going into Fall Camp.
Marlon Lucky (So.): Was considered the gem of the 2005 recruiting class after earning Parade All-America honors by scoring 40 touchdowns as a senior at North Hollywood (Calif.) High. Has thus far failed to consistently show the talent that is evident in his high school tapes. Played tentatively and looked lost at times last season. Development has been slowed by a propensity to bounce plays to the outside rather than waiting for holes to develop. Flashed signs of his breakaway speed on kickoff returns including a touchdown that was called back against Kansas. May have the greatest upside potential if his grasp of the playbook and pass protection improve markedly.
Brandon Jackson (Jr.): Seemingly the forgotten one amongst this group. Should be comfortable with the offense as he enters his third season in the system. Missed entire Spring while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Has showed at times that he is more than capable as a runner. Had extremely productive freshman year. Most forget his 390 rushing yards in 2004, which were the ninth-most ever by a Husker freshman. Has decisive running style and hits the hole hard. Many assume he starts the season fourth on the depth chart, but don’t count out his heart and desire.
Kenny Wilson (Jr.): Probably the wildcard of the group. Considered the top-ranked JUCO running back after a successful stint at Butler Community College. Picked the Huskers over Florida and Tennessee. Certainly passes the eyeball test and was reportedly very impressive at summer workouts. Has track speed that has translated over to the football field at high school and junior college levels. Will lag behind the others until he becomes more comfortable with the playbook. If his pass protection is solid, he could be used in situational packages that utilize his skills until he has had more time to digest the playbook. If his junior college films can be believed, he might be the most complete back on the roster.
I imagine that we'll see all four players early in the season. Beyond that I'm not sure that we will have one back clearly separate himself from the pack. Instead, I could see anyone of these guys stepping up and providing a spark in a particular game. Therefore, if the coaching staff can encourage continued competetion, utilize the players' individual skills with packages and gameplans that cater to these, and keep the stable of backs happy, Nebraska's running game should be vastly improved.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
•You're in for a treat as Terry Bowden blesses us with his Big 12 preview.
•EDSBS also has some great quotes from his daddy. They missed this gem, however, from before last season's Orange Bowl.
“I am Exhibition B. Joe is Exhibition A. That's all we are. There's a game in there somewhere -- Penn State and Florida State are playing.”•Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione has a sleepover with his team
and regrets it.
•We can commence with the giggling as the All-SEC Name Team is out. And yes, Jim Bob Cooter is the quarterback
•Deep South Sports must have been feeling really
Monday, August 14, 2006
Cornerback was a position we were already thin at before Zack Bowman went down. Here is a list of who is currently on the roster at CB.
Zack Bowman – ACL tear, out for season
Courtney Grixby – Broken thumb, playing with cast
Andre Jones – JUCO transfer, 10 practices under his belt
Titus Brothers – Former safety, good special teams guy.
Tyrell Spain – Switched from receiver, 3 practices at CB
Isaiah Fluellen – Switched from receiver, injured most of his career, currently playing with cast on his hand.
Anthony West – True freshman, 10 practices under his belt, ran 4.38 forty at NU camp.
Corey Young – True freshman, HS running back, switched from safety, 3 practices at CB
Ryan Ford – Freshman walk-on, 5’11”, 170 lbs.
Tim Grier – On track scholarship, apparently working out at CB
*Update - Thenarse is evidently going to play safety.
On the bright side, Louisiana Tech will be breaking in a new starter at quarterback. Junior Zac Champion is expected to win the starting job. He's the most experienced signal-caller on the LA Tech roster, but he's thrown just eight passes in his collegiate career.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
•The Huskers kicked off two-a-days with a scrimmage on Saturday. Apparently no one saw a thing.
•Football 365 does the work for me and highlights the winners and losers of the Huskers’ first week of Fall camp. I can't be the only one concerned that Evelyn Beck-Bothwell is making more headlines thus far than Steve Octavien.
•Big Red Network wonders if Missouri is the darkhorse in the Big 12 North.
•Pete Carroll continues to downplay his team’s “Hollywood” image…Wait, is that Ricky Bobby visiting a USC team meeting?
•Sports Illustrated points out ten freshmen to watch this season. Um, anyone who follows recruiting with a modicum of interest was already planning on watching these guys, but thanks.
•News Flash - College freshman uses fake ID and lies about it. Oh, and he also happens to be a USC quarterback.
•Ohio State offensive lineman Alex Boone decided to quit drinking after his DUI arrest in April. Shares of Budweiser stock have since dropped sharply; as Boone claims he had been drinking 30-40 beers per day!
•Ivan Maisel questions the idea that “defense wins championships”. We’ll see, I might have to take a stab at this one in the future.
Friday, August 11, 2006
In Part 1 of this post, I will examine several of these Husker urban legends and attempt to get to the bottom of the origin and veracity of these tales.
#1 - Irving Fryar threw the 1984 Orange Bowl
I didn’t become aware of this story until some time after the 1984 Orange Bowl and it doesn’t seem to be all that common. Because I was still a day shy of seven years old when the game took place, I do not remember all of the details involved. As best I can tell, the origin of this legend stems from the belief that several gamblers made a great deal of money on the outcome of this game given that Miami was an 11-point underdog. Right now, I cannot find an internet citation that discusses the gambling allegations, but I do remember reading about this angle in the past.
The Irving Fryar connection is based on his apparent poor play in this game. During the 1983 season Fryar had amassed 1,267 all-purpose yards and 10 TDs. In this game, however, he was less visible. For instance, in this write-up, the following quote is found:
“Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill was having an average game. Kosar was outplaying him, but Gill wasn't getting much help, as his all-everything receiver Irving Fryar was nowhere to be found.”In addition, with 1:12 to play in the 4th quarter with the ball on the Miami 25, Gill threw a perfect pass to a wide-open Fryar in the end zone, but the normally sure-handed Fryar dropped it. Although Nebraska scored a few plays later, I don’t remember ever seeing Fryar drop a pass prior to that moment. Fryar finished the game with 2 carries for 4 yards and 5 catches for 61 yards.
Given the dropped pass and his less than stellar stats, I suppose one could argue that Fryar could be linked to possible gambling allegations. But I remain very skeptical. First, just how much money would it have taken to buy off Fryar? This is a guy who was soon to be a first round NFL draft pick and actually became the #1 pick overall. The average salary of an NFL player in 1984 was $225,600. Given that, how much would it take for Fryar to consider losing the biggest game of his life? In addition, after dropping the pass in the endzone Fryar fell to his knees like he’d been shot. in obvious disgust and disbelief. I also remember vividly the shots of Gill and Fryar on the bench after the game with their heads buried in their hands in disappointment. I guess we will never know the actual status of this tale, but my gut tells me it is probably a myth. While his stats don’t abolish his involvement a la “Shoeless Joe’ in 1919, they also don’t directly implicate him. I feel bad that I have so little to offer about this story, but wanted to examine it given that Fryar was probably my first favorite Husker. If you have more information about the origins or details of this legend, please let me know as I would love to hear about them.
Status: Undetermined, but it looks to be false.
#2 - Doug DuBose’s career was hindered by a substance abuse problem
This is one of those claims that has taken on a life of its own. It seems as though any conversation involving DuBose’s name eventually turns to a discussion of his alleged drug use. The tale is that his career was spoiled not only by a serious knee injury, but also by some sort of drug habit. Generally, when this topic comes up someone first mentions the clever nickname “Doug DuNose” implying that cocaine was his drug of choice. Next, continued anecdotal evidence is usually offered in the vein of “my older brother’s college girlfriend’s roommate knew the guy that sold drugs to DuBose.”
The last time this legend came up on a Husker message board I did some digging and couldn’t find anything on the internet to substantiate these claims. I then went back to the message board and asked whether or not we had any hard evidence to support the discussion or if it was all hearsay and innuendo. I was curious as to whether I had missed DuBose failing a drug test in college or the pros, or if he had discussed his struggles with drugs publicly. The answer I got was that DuBose served some suspensions while at Nebraska for “undisclosed reasons” and that at the time, word on the street was that they were due to failed drug tests. After that my hunch became that DuBose might actually be the victim of the “cocaine 80s” and the “Len Bias era” that associated every superstar black athlete with drug use.
When I decided to write this piece I did a little more research. I eventually came across this article from 1988 in the New York Times archives. It states that Doug DuBose was one of four players suspended by the NFL for 30 days for violating the league's rules on drug and alcohol abuse. As a result, I guess that could count as at least partial support for this Husker urban legend. Again if you have more information about this story please let me know.
Status: Some supporting evidence of truth.
#3 - County Scholarships
This might be my favorite Husker urban legend. The idea is that Nebraska has been able to circumvent NCAA scholarship limits by awarding so-called “county scholarships” to talented local athletes. This has supposedly freed-up additional scholarships for out-of-state talent and can help explain some of our past success. I first heard about this concept while I was going to school at UNL. The first person to mention it was actually a high school friend who had decided to attend Kansas State. He explained that everyone at KSU was talking about Nebraska’s unfair recruiting advantage and these folks had actually managed to convince him of this notion. Keep in mind this is someone who was born and raised in Lincoln before drifting away to Manhattan. However, beyond the discussions with this unfortunate Wildcat, I did not know the actual origins of this legend.
Fortunately for us, this myth has become so prevalent that a semi-academic paper has actually been written about it by Steve Siporin of Utah State University (I know, I couldn’t believe it either). This paper points out that apparently even Tony Barnhardt of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ESPN, was not above falling for the county-scholarship claim. So while it is difficult to trace its actual origins, it clearly has far reaching effects, despite there being absolutely no truth to it. I can’t believe people actually bought this! How would Nebraska have gotten away with this and why wouldn’t other teams just do the same? Where would the counties get the money to provide these scholarships? Who would decide which players received them? The holes in this story are countless.
I think the best description of the county-scholarship legend comes from the Siporin’s piece.
“The so-called "county scholarship" makes a fitting symbol for the grass roots interest and energy that people all over the state focus on their one outstanding (college or professional) sports team. Notice that the belief does not speak of a secret state scholarship or a conspiracy of private donors; money comes from the counties, the governmental unit most closely identified with the local, the grass roots, the average (or perhaps idealized) citizen in a rural state.”I like this description and think it is one that aptly describes our fan base while also clarifying how an idea like this can get started. Good work Mr. Siporin and thanks for clearing up a Husker urban legend for us.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Husker Urban Legends.