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Friday, February 29, 2008

The NFL Combine in a Nutshell

Or more accurately in a BOD POD.

So, the workouts wrapped up Wednesday and as an absolute non-fan of the NFL, I'm proud to bring DXP readers my riveting report from the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine:
"Some black guys ran really fast and competed in feats of strength. In a few months some rich, white guys will purchase the strongest and fastest of those black guys and put them to work. "
America certainly has come a long way in the last 200 years.

You know what's even more offensive? Check out how the NFL officially describes the combine.
The 2008 Scouting Combine is the annual job fair for prospective new NFL players.
Really, NFL? Job Fair?

Apparently Rich Eisen was the only one that got the memo and dressed appropriately for the occasion.

Edit: Oops, in my rush to make a socio-political statement, I forgot to note that for a real combine breakdown, head to Husker Guy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Audience Participation Day

We interrupt your scheduled programming to attempt to garner your opinions.

I've become a little disillusioned with the state of Nebraska football coverage on the internet. The discourse on the major Husker sites seems to have hit rock-bottom this off-season and I'm finding it harder and harder to get my Husker fix. I might be biased, but I contend that the talented group of Nebraska bloggers rises above the content and conversation available on most of the larger forums/message boards/pay sites. I think that's good for the time being, but I'd like to be at the forefront of a continued move in that direction. Toward that end, I'd like to know what YOU, as a fellow consumer of Husker football information is looking for.

So here are some questions that I'd love to have you answer in the comments.

1. I know a couple hundred people visit DXP each day, what brings you here? What are you looking for/hoping to see when you click on the site?

2. What are the strengths of DXP? What are the weaknesses?

3. What would you like to see more of on DXP?

4. What would you like to see less of on DXP?

5. Is there anything that sets DXP apart from other Husker sites or blogs? If so, what might that be?

6. What could we learn/borrow/steal from other Husker sites that would enhance your time at DXP?

7. Finally, what other Husker sites do you visit regularly?

If you'd prefer to comment anonymously, that's fine, just log in that way as a commenter or shoot your answers to me by email (click on my name under contributors and then click the "email" link). In addition, I'd love to hear from any and all of you that means regular and first time commenters should assume their opinion is important.

Oh, and Dr. D feel free to critique my survey research methods.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

First Look: Nebraska on 3rd Down in 2007

This little breakdown will have to suffice until Brian at MGoBlog breaks out his yearly examination of third down for every team in the country. The data for this effort, by the way, comes to me via “The Boy” a contributor at Missouri Blog Rock M Nation and an even bigger stat geek than myself (I mean that as the sincerest of compliments). “The Boy” was kind enough to send me the play-by-play data for every Nebraska game for 2007, which saves me the anguish of charting that disastrous season while still allowing me to compare his data to that which I gathered in 2006.

Anyway, the origins of this post arose months ago when I read now former offensive line coach Dennis Wagner’s comments at the November 30th Big Red Breakfast.

Wagner stated:
“Nebraska ran the football just four times all season — twice after the season-opening blowout of Nevada — on third down and 3.

On third and 2, the Huskers called only 11 rushing plays.

Dennis Wagner knows the numbers. The NU offensive line coach said today at the Big Red Breakfast he would have preferred a different approach.

"I am going to defend my guys on that end and tell you that I think they can push people off the ball," said Wagner, who continues to recruit one week after the firing of coach Bill Callahan. "But they have to be asked to push people off the ball."

His response drew applause at the Holiday Convention Centre.”
The applause, I assume, stemmed from the belief that Nebraska should have been running the ball far more often in these short yardage situations. I certainly agree on the surface, but I wondered whether these numbers might be a bit misleading. Having gathered all of the data from a year ago, I was struck by how infrequently Nebraska would face a given down and distance situation during a particular season.

For instance, if I were to tell you that Nebraska ran 899 offensive plays in 2007 and 965 plays in 2006, how many 3rd down and 3 yard situations would you guess the Huskers might face in a given season? 60? 80?

The truth is Nebraska faced 3rd and 3, just 16 times in 2007.

Does that put Wagner’s comments into bit more perspective? Remember he noted that Nebraska ran the ball on 3rd and 3, just four times all season. But that’s 4 rushes out of 16 total 3rd and 3 plays in 2007. Still not a run/pass split to be proud of, but not as eye-opening as he (and OWH writer Mitch Sherman) probably intended. After all, the comments came shortly after Bill Callahan was fired and everyone was looking at him as the ultimate scapegoat.

The second part of Wagner’s comments centered on 3rd down and 2 situations where the Huskers supposedly ran the ball just 11 times.

I’m not implying that Wagner intentionally misled the crowd, but my data has the Huskers actually totaling 14 rushing attempts on 3rd and 2 in 2007. And incidentally my numbers coincide with those listed under the situational stats at But I digress. Anyway, those 14 rushing attempts actually accounted for over half of the 26 total 3rd and 2 plays Nebraska ran in 2007. So, again, you don’t have to agree with the run/pass split just yet, but perspective, I think, is important.

For those interested in a closer look, the following table highlights Nebraska's overall play selection on 3rd down for 2007.

Play Selection By Down and Distance

DownDistanceRunsPct. Yds. Passes Pct. Yds.
3rd& 1-22562.5%1101537.5%186
& 3-61015.9%295384.1%297
& 7+69%206191%486

Wagner’s comments then became a bit more critical of Callahan:
"He is the head coach," Wagner said. "If he says this is what you do, this is what you do. If you don't, then you have problems within your group. It isn't always that you want to do it that way, but it's the way you're supposed to do it. That's just part of doing the things you're asked to do by the person who hired you."

In particular, Callahan's short-yardage play-calling didn't always sit well with Wagner.

"I want to hit somebody in the mouth before I sit off and protect with my hands," he said.
So Wagner wants his linemen to be run-blocking on 3rd and short rather than protecting the QB. But take a look at Nebraska’s play-calling again on 3rd and 1-2 yards-to-go. In 2007 we had a 63%/37% run/pass split when facing that particular down and distance. Wagner makes it sound as though he would prefer a 100%/0% run/pass split. Is there anyway to decipher what an appropriate run/pass split would be on 3rd and short?

If we again turn our attention to the NFL (remember that’s Callahan’s pedigree) we can gain some information on what works on 3rd and short. Football Outsiders, the kings of NFL statistics, have developed a concept over the years that directly address this scenario.

They argue that running on third-and-short is more likely to convert than passing on third-and-short.
On average, passing will always gain more yardage than running, with one very important exception: when a team is just one or two yards away from a new set of downs or the goal line. On third-and-1, a run will convert for a new set of downs 36 percent more often than a pass. Expand that to all third or fourth downs with 1-2 yards to go, and the run is successful 40 percent more often. With these percentages, the possibility of a long gain with a pass is not worth the tradeoff of an incomplete that kills a drive.

This is one reason why teams have to be able to both run and pass. The offense also has to keep some semblance of balance so they can use their play-action fakes, and so the defense doesn't just run their nickel and dime packages all game. Balance also means that teams do need to pass occasionally in short-yardage situations; they just need to do it less than they do now. Teams pass roughly 60 percent of the time on third-and-2 even though runs in that situation convert 20 percent more often than passes. They pass 68 percent of the time on fourth-and-2 even though runs in that situation convert twice as often as passes.
So overall on 3rd and short, you want to maintain some balance, while still running more than you pass. Isn’t that what Callahan’s run/pass split accomplished?

That, therefore, brings us to a final and important question. Were Callahan’s playcalling tendencies on 3rd and short successful in 2007? The following table should give us some idea.

3rd Down Conversion Pct. by Run/Pass Split

DownDistanceRuns1st DownsConversion % Passes 1st DownsConversion %
3rd& 111545.4%33100%
& 214535.7%12541.6%
& 1-2 Total251040%15853.3%

First, we notice that we converted just 18/40 3rd and short situations in 2007. That is not good. Not good at all. When Brian releases his data we’ll be able to compare our figure to the national average, but it is a pretty safe bet that we’ll fall below that line.

But now take another look. Check out our success rates passing the ball versus running the ball on third and short. Notice anything? We actually converted more often on third and short when we passed rather than we ran the ball. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom and is a pretty sorry statistic, but doesn’t it account for at least some of the high number of passes we threw on 3rd and short? Isn’t it the coach’s job to call what seems to be working? Shouldn’t we actually be upset with Callahan for not throwing more in this situation in 2007?

So why then does Dennis Wagner draw applause when arguing in favor of running the ball more on 3rd and short? Why are all of us as Husker fans (and I include myself in this category) hung up on this notion? Who amongst us didn’t get frustrated when another 3rd and short arose and Sam Keller was busy rolling out of the pocket? Were we wrong? Are we wrong? In our hunt to be “old school,” neo-traditionalists, focused on anti-style points and “smash-mouth” football did we ignore what was actually transpiring?

What the hell? I mean seriously. What. The. Hell? I swore I was done defending Callahan and then I had to go and look again at the numbers.

No wonder Wagner continued his comments by noting:
"The man [Bill Callahan] is very smart as a football coach. No one can take that away from him."
I'd substitute coach for "a very smart football mind." Callahan knows what works and isn't afraid to go against prevailing trends. A coach, however, couples that knowledge with the ability to motivate, inspire and get the best out of his players. So yeah, Bill Callahan is a very smart football MIND.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quick Update

For those of you that are interested I found out Monday that I matched with the Houston Independent School District for my internship next year. This is a good thing for many reasons. First, I don't have to move and leave my fiancé behind. Second, I'm already working at HISD, which should ease my transition, and lastly I ranked this site #1 within my final rankings which proves that the system works despite how silly the process might be.

I know my family is a little bummed as it looked for a while like I might end up in Nebraska at either UNL, Creighton or Boystown, but this works best for simplicity's sake. However, another year in Texas means that by law I'm now forced to purchase the following bumper sticker:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Husker Bloodlines - JaMichael Rozier

I stumbled across a familiar name a few days ago while looking for something or another. The name - JaMichael Rozier, who is a sophomore running back for Klein (TX) Collins High School just outside of Houston. JaMichael is apparently the son of Heisman Trophy winner and former Husker Mike Rozier.

JaMichael has already gotten a little publicity around the Husker message boards, but I suspect he'll continue to garner attention over the next few years. JaMichael is listed as 5-8, 180 lbs, which is pretty good size for a HS sophomore. It will be interesting to see what his body will look like as a senior.

Like most recruiting hopefuls, JaMichael has already posted some highlights on YouTube, including those displayed below.

I have no idea if JaMichael ,will turn into a DI recruit but you have to think that with Dr. Tom sitting in the throne and a renewed focus on "tradition," he may just get a look in a few years.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Husker Uni-Watch Friday

I never really know what to post on Fridays, so I'm always looking for ideas. A few weeks ago I ran across a Nebraska-related tidbit on one of my favorite sites, Uni Watch, or more specifically on Uni Watch overlord Paul Lukas' ESPN column.

The column focused on football helmet nose bumpers. The Husker connection noted by Lucas was as follows:
"Speaking of which, there was a rare commingling of college and pro bumper styles late in the 1989 NFL season and during the subsequent playoffs, when 49ers running backs Roger Craig and Tom Rathman -- both Nebraska alums -- sent a shout-out to their alma mater by wearing "Huskers" on their bumpers for at least five games (similar to when Ohio State alum Terry Glenn wore a buckeye decal on his helmet during a Monday night game last season). It's not clear if either Niner was fined for these shenanigans, but Uni Watch doubts it. That's the beauty of a bumper-related uniform violation: It's likely to be so subtle that the regulatory authorities won't notice."
And here is evidence of the nose bumpers sported by Rathman and Craig.

Like many young Huskers growing up in the mid-to-late eighties, I found myself a die-hard Niners fan and collector of piles and piles of football cards. This clearly exposed me to the nose bumpers of numerous NFL players, but my memories of the tribute by Rathman and Craig had been worn down by the passage of time. Stumbling across Lukas' column brought the memories flooding back, however, and seemed a worthwhile topic and a great excuse to post some vintage Rathman highlights while I was busy reminiscing.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

We Have A Chance

Thanks to my contacts (and a new account), I located Nebraska's odds on winning next year's BCS Championship.


I'm booking that. Call me.

Ines Sainz. Anyone?



And hotter...

Please send donations to the DXP fund.

Tempering Defensive Expectations?

Again this is needed to help stem the tide of message board posts like, "Nebraska has a ton of talent on defense, with Pelini in charge and getting them to play hard, I expect us to finish in the Top 10 in total defense in 2008."

In case you’ve forgotten, the Huskers finished #112 in total defense in 2007. I’ll type that again slowly so we’re clear. The. Huskers. Finished. #112. In. Total. Defense. In. 2007. Given the magnitude of that little nugget of information, what kind of improvement can we expect on defense from a historical perspective?

For this analysis I once again looked at the 2000-2007 seasons and examined the rankings for each team in total defense across that span of time.

The Good News

It is possible to make a vast jump in the national total defense rankings in one season. Here are the Top 10 greatest single season improvements in total defense rankings between the years of 2000 and 2007.

1. 2006 Western Michigan +97 spots
2. 2004 Kent State +93 spots
3. 2004 North Carolina St. +88 spots
tie. 2001 Iowa +88 spots
4. 2006 Wisconsin +87 spots
tie. 2003 San Diego St. +87 spots
5. 2007 Kansas +82 spots
tie. 2007 Pittsburgh +82 spots
tie. 2006 Illinois +82 spots
6. 2006 Ohio +80 spots
tie. 2005 Army +80 spots
7. 2006 UCLA +78 spots
tie. 2004 Louisville +78 spots
8. 2001 Maryland +77 spots
9. 2005 TCU +74 spots
10. 2007 Temple +73 spots

For help interpreting these standings the 2006 Western Michigan defense improved 97 spots in the total defense rankings going from #108 nationally in 2005 to #11 in 2006. In addition, 2004 Kent State improved from #110 nationally in 2003 to #17 in 2004 and so on and so forth. Clear? Good.

So we can see that if Pelini can work his magic – like far too many fans assume at this point – and we have a season in 2008 that would place us in the above Top 10, we would improve somewhere between 73 and 97 spots in total defense. That would put us in the range of #15 to #39 nationally in total defense in 2008. I would be ecstatic with that kind of improvement and suspect we would certainly see our win total climb if that were the case.

Unfortunately we also have to look at…

The Bad News

During this analysis I also specifically tracked the team that finished #112 in the national rankings in total defense to see how they fared the following the season. During the years of 2000-2007 five teams that finished 112th in total defense improved their ranking the following season, while two saw their total defense ranking get worse the next year. Unfortunately, the improvement demonstrated by these teams was smaller in scale than those listed in the Top 10 list above.

In terms of improvement the teams would look like this:

1. 2002 Tulane +60 spots
2. 2001 Indiana +50 spots
3. 2003 Kansas +27 spots
4. 2004 Tulane +19 spots
5. 2005 Ball State +1 spot
6. 2006 Temple –5 spots
7. 2007 Rice –6 spots

First, look at the teams we find ourselves comparing the Blackshirts to! Scary.

Secondly, while there is certainly nothing “scientific” about this data, it is interesting to gain some historical perspective on the types of expectations Husker fans have already saddled the new coaching staff with.

Overall, I will be shocked if the defense doesn’t improve in 2008, but at the same time I’ll also be shocked to see us finish in the Top 20 nationally in total defense. Is it possible? Obviously the data shows us that type of jump isn’t unheard of, but we’re talking about a defense learning a new set of schemes and perhaps more importantly unlearning old (and dysfunctional)schemes and techniques.

Incidentally, in Pelini’s one year in Lincoln in 2003, Nebraska’s ranking in total defense improved 44 spots from #55 nationally in 2002 to #11 in 2003. That sounds about right for an exceptionally solid one-year improvement in total defense and I’d gladly take it come 2008.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New DXP Banner

By the time you read this you should be looking at a new and improved DXP banner at the top of the page. This banner comes courtesy of Eliot Mays, who describes himself as:
"An experienced graphic editor, Mod, and a fan of your site and the Huskers".
The DXP editorial board appreciates Eliot's contribution which replaces my own rudimentary PhotoChop job that clearly paled in comparison.

(Sammy) Vegas' Dose Of Husker Reality - I

Thanks to some Vegas contacts and my offshore gambling friends, I dug up the gambling odds on the 2008 National Champion.

In case you are not familiar with how the gambling odds work, it is simple. Take Kansas for example. They are at +3000. If you wager 100 dollars on Kansas to win the BCS title game next year, you win 3000. If you wager 10 dollars, you win 300. If T. Rose wagers 1 penny, he would win 3 dimes, etc. etc.

Nebraska is at +8000. There are 37 teams with our odds or better for next year. In the final AP rankings of last year, Appalachian State was 35th, South Florida 36th, Tulsa 37th, and Connecticut 38th.

Clearly Vegas has little faith in the Big Red. Illinois, coached by Ron Zook who ‘Solich-ed’ Florida before landing with the Illini, is now somehow among the upper echelon. In fact they are shown to have 38% greater chance to win the BCS than the Huskers. And how about Rutgers and the need to replace Ray Rice? No matter, as they too, sit above Nebraska. Jenn Sterger’s new fave team South Florida played its first Division IA game in 1997 (coincidentally the year NU last collected the crystal hardware), yet the Bulls are almost a 2:1 favorite over Nebraska to win the BCS title in 2008. Cincinnati who graduated their entire defense which was one of the best in the country last year – same odds. Wake Forest, Michigan State, Colorado and Louisville(minus Brian Brohm) all ahead of us. Amazing how the college football landscape has been tilted on its axis the past few seasons. And even more amazing is how little respect Nebraska is getting from Vegas as Spring football nears.

So where is your money is at? For what my terrible gambling advice is worth, I'll take Georgia at +1000.

And for everyone who came here looking for an Erin Andrews 'jizzfest' (DT?), she not not only poses for us, she studies us as well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Daily Dose of Husker Reality - I

Apparently this is needed to help stem the tide of message board posts like, "If Nebraska doesn't win 9 games next year, the season should be considered a major disappointment."

Since the year 2000, 88 college football teams have won 5 games. In the following season 44 of those teams won at least six games the following the year. 34 of those teams won four or fewer games the following season and 10 won five games again the next year.

Just 13 of those 88 teams (14.8%)coming off of five-win seasons between 2000 and 2007 won nine or more games the following season. Additonally, only two of those teams (Colorado 2001, Texas A&M 2006) were from the Big 12 conference.

Think big or think rationally? You decide.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Erin Andrews Is Getting Hotter

No need to comment really on this. Insert your own thoughts, uh, i mean fantasies on this...




Sunday, February 10, 2008

Josh Williams' Haircut is Rad

Nebraska recruit (DE) Josh Williams should turn out to be one of the best recruits in Bo Pelini's first class. He is listed as a 4* on Scout and a 3* on Rivals - not that it matters. If his style can translate to the football field we are in for a great ride. This dude has some serious swagger and I like it.

Here he is demonstrating that he already has one up on Neil Smith (he can write)...

How much awesomeness do you have to have to pull this haircut off..

I highly doubt that anyone is on the other line but looking cool for the camera is good...

I am going out tomorrow to get two lines shaved in my head ala Michael Irvin. That will be sweet.

Friday, February 08, 2008

More on Big Uglies Vs. Skill Guys

I just noticed that USC kind of had the opposite type of recruiting class from us. Where we loaded up on skill position/athlete guys, USC "settled" for a huge class on linemen. In total 10 of the Trojans' 19 recruits are either offensive or defensive linemen.

Scott Wolf of the L.A. Daily News said this of the USC class:
"When you consider how important linemen are for a program, it's hard to argue with USC's decision to take 10 in its recruiting class. Last year was a good example how valuable linemen are when the Trojans lost so many offensive linemen to injuries, including two on one play.

The mistake some people are making is to think it's an either/or proposition between linemen and skill players, etc. If Will Hill (Florida), Darrell Scott (Colorado), Patrick Johnson (LSU), Arthur Brown (Miami), Joe Adams (Arkansas) or Chris Polk (Washington) wanted to come to USC, there would be a scholarship.

On its own merit, this is an excellent class that at the same time lost out on some marquee recruits who would have made it a consensus top three class."
USC also just happens to have an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions to run behind these guys. So clearly recruiting is a balancing act between filling needs and grabbing what is available and interested. So USC loses out on skill position guys for the first time in five years and loads up on the top linemen. Nobody ever said life is fair.

Signing Day Extravaganza - Part III

Ok, so I've given you a short take on each of this year's signees. Now it's time to look at the class a bit more closely.

Breakdown by State:

Texas (9): Grant (Killeen); Courtney Osborne (Garland); Steven Osborne (Garland); Spano (Stephenville); Thompson (The Woodlands); Ward (Brenham); Whaley (Madisonville); Whitmore (Port Arthur); Williams (Denton)

Nebraska (6): Fisher (Omaha); Henry (Omaha); Kreikemeier (West Point); Leverson (Crete); Okafor (Omaha); Steinkuhler (Lincoln)

California (3): Hetzer (Glendora); Meredith (Santa Ana); Toailoa (Highland)

Louisiana (2): Cooper (Shreveport); Smith (River Ridge)

Alabama (2): Rogers (Birmingham); Wald ()

Florida (1): Bell (Daytona Beach)

Georgia (1): Dennard (Rochelle)

Iowa (1): Cotton (Ames)

Kansas (1): Reed (Shawnee)

Missouri (1): Compton (Bonne Terre)

Ohio (1): Marlowe (Youngstown)

Breakdown and Grades by Position (as listed on

Offense (14):

QB -Spano

B - Given the time Pelini had to get somebody into the fold, we could have done a lot worse than Spano. Think Beau Davis or Jordan Adams - it's not easy to find quality QBs late in the game who aren't already committed elsewhere. We can also thank Mike Gundy for this one as he clearly botched Spano's recruitment, gift wrapping him for Pelini.

RB -Okafor, Ward

B- - We've all seen how important it is to create depth at the running back position. A year ago I was excited about a guy like Castille, this year, I'm less excited, but still believe we came away with some talent. Out of the two, I look for more from Lester Ward, but Okafor will certainly get a shot.

WR -Bell, Cooper, Marlowe, S. Osborne

A- - A nice haul of WRs, but I'm not sure this was an area with THIS much need. I think Cooper could be a real gem if he doesn't go Carl Crawford on us and choose professional baseball. Somewhere I saw he could be a second round pick in this year's MLB draft. You've read my take on Marlowe and I guess we don't mind having receivers wait in line for pass catching drills.

H-Back – Reed and TE -Cotton, Hetzer

A - I'll grade these together for simplicity. TE was a big need in this class and we really lucked out with Cotton. He'll be a pass catching upgrade from J.B. Phillips as soon as he steps on campus. Hetzer will be a project, but seems athletic. The major factor in the grade for this group is Kyler Reed. The more I think about him going into motion and catching balls in the flat, the more excited I get. Watson is going to LOOOOVE this kid.

OL -Grant, Henry, Steinkuhler, Thompson

A- - Steinkuhler pushes this group up more than it probably deserves. I like Thompson a lot as well, however. Without looking I think we lost about four guys from the OL so this group essentially replaces them and given the presence of Steinkuhler we're at least a push on that deal.

Defense (12):

DL -Meredith, Toailoa, Williams

B+ - This is a hard group to judge simply because it's so thin at the DT spot. That was a huge need this year and somehow we walked away with just one. The good news is that our first 2009 committment is from a DT from Lincoln Northeast (Suck My Rocket! - too obscure?) Cole Pensick who is believed to be a good one. I also think we hit the jackpot with Meredith and Williams and I really expect to see them contribute sooner rather than later.

LB- Compton, Fisher, Kreikemeier, Whaley

B+ - Another area of need and a decent group here. Compton was obviously huge, but I thought we'd score another big name to put beside him. Fisher could be a nice surprise as could Whaley. I'm just not convinced we made a huge upgrade here this offseason.

DB -Dennard, Levorson, Smith, Rogers, Whitmore

A - You can never have too many guys in the secondary and I think we wound up with a nice group here. Whitmore, Rogers and Dennard are all great athletes who should thrive in a more aggressive system. Our safety play can't get any worse than what we've seen in recent years and I think P.J. Smith is they type of guy who makes us forget a lot of the awful stuff we've suffered through.

Athlete (1): C. Osborne

I included Osborne in the assessment above. He doesn't have a safety build just yet, but I bet he winds up there soon.

National Rankings: #21 #30

These sound about right, if you're into that sort of thing. And I am to some extent, although ranking recruiting classes now rather than four years from now seems a bit disingenuous.

Walk-on Class

Name...Pos...Ht...Wt...Hometown...High School
Kenny Anderson...DE...6-2...235...Omaha, Neb...Millard West HS
Damon Bechtold...TE...6-4...215...Omaha, Neb...Westside HS
Jase Dean...FS...6-0...180...Bridgeport, Neb...Bridgeport HS
Taylor Dixon...DB...5-11...170...Wauneta, Neb...Wauneta-Palisade HS
Justin Jackson...DL...6-3...255...Roca, Neb...Norris HS
Jordan Makovicka...RB...5-10...170...Ulysses, Neb...East Butler HS
Matt Manninger...LB...6-1...225...Omaha, Neb...Creighton Prep HS
Mychael McClure...LB...6-5...210...Wisner, Neb...Wisner-Pilger HS
Colin McDermott...LB...6-2...225...Omaha, Neb...Creighton Prep HS
Conor McDermott...DE...6-2...230...Omaha, Neb....Creighton Prep HS
Sam Meginnis...LB...6-2...210...Lincoln, Neb...Lincoln East HS
Josh Molek...DE...6-3...235...Omaha, Neb...Skutt HS
Brent Moravec...FB/LB...6-0...180...Grand Island, Neb...Central Catholic HS
David Pillen...FB/LB...5-11...230...Sugar Land, Texas...Stephen F. Austin HS
Zach Ruiz...QB/ATH...6-3...210...Beatrice, Neb...Beatrice HS
Steve Spratte...WR...5-11...180...Waukesha, Wis...Waukesha West HS
Graham Stoddard...LB...6-2...215...Lincoln, Neb...Lincoln Southwest HS
Jeremy Wallace...RB...6-1...220...Omaha, Neb...Bryan HS

We have to be the only team that lists it's walk-ons on Signing Day, which is a good way. This list is missing a big one in Ronnnell Grixby who has also agreed to walk-on. In total I think we are expecting 30 walk-ons to join the team in the fall. Good for them. As I've said before I expect no walk-on to rectify all that ails the Big Red, but they will get a shot to contribute so bully for them.

My Take:

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the way Pelini and his staff finished out this recruiting cycle. Closing on guys like Rogers, Cooper and P.J. Smith who didn't seem to really be on Nebraska's radar prior to his arrival is big and sets the tone for the coming years.

My biggest concern centers on how many guys we brought in that are in that 6-0, 185 pound athlete range. We have a ton of those. That's just the way I used to recruit in the NCAA Football series on Playstation. Load up on athletes and then move them around as necessary. Unfortunately we don't have a reset button when our dynasty becomes overloaded at the skill positions and wafer thin at the big-ugly spots. Is this a first-time head coach "mistake" or is it better to fill up on talent where you can rather than reaching to fill a need? I don't have that answer, but I think we've got some insight into Pelini's philosophy on this. My hope is that next year we load up on interior guys and continue to milk the state of Texas for all it is worth.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Signing Day Extravaganza - Part II

Collins Okafor, 6-1, 210. Growing up I assumed you had to be from Omaha to play running back for Nebraska. The string of talent the Big O produced was just that impressive. It’s been a while, however, as Okafor will now look to make a name for himself in the near future. Okafor’s film shows some quickness and strength, but I’m not yet convinced he has the breakaway speed to evade Big 12 defenders. He’ll also need to improve his pass protection skills and his receiving ability before he contributes heavily. If I had to make a quick comparison to former Huskers, I'd say Dahrran Diedrick. Okafor made a late flirtation with Iowa, but stuck with the Huskers throughout the coaching change. I still have a feeling Okafor could wind up at another position, but he’s now joining a growing number of guys recruited as “athletes”.

Courtney Osborne, 6-2, 170. The more impressive of the Osborne brothers in my opinion. Courtney looks like a future star at safety if he can continue to add size. He’s another reward for our efforts in Texas, especially those of new assistant Tim Beck. These are the kind of guys that helped turnaround KU under Beck’s watch. Osborne is a nice hitter on film who shows a knack for taking the right angle on ball carriers. Courtney could also end up as a WR with his brother, but seriously how many do we need? Even if June Jones winds up as our offensive coordinator, there’s still only one ball to go around.

Steven Osborne, 6-4, 185. Steven will almost certainly play WR for the Huskers, but again, something has to give. Steven’s film shows that he has soft hands and an obvious ability to get open against shorter defenders. I’d like to see him attack the ball more when it’s in the air, but that can be taught. He’ll also need to improve his blocking and his ability to get off bumps at the LOS, to rise to the top of a crowded depth chart. Overall, I’m happy to have the athleticism of both Osbornes, but just hope they can be put to use.

Kyler Reed, 6-3, 204. Yet another guy who fits in the “athlete” category. I’m hoping Reed ends up as an OLB, but Shawn Watson likes him as an “H Back”. I do like the idea of having his athleticism motioning and creating mismatches, but his frame just screams linebacker to me. Kyler was one of the top players in Kansas this year, and I like the idea of us grabbing him despite KU’s record-breaking year. That will need to continue if we are planning on gaining on the rest of the Big 12 North. Reed sounds like a great kid and could be a real sleeper given his versatility.

Justin Rogers, 5-11, 180. It sounds like Rogers may start at CB, but RB remains a definite possibility for the talented Alabaman. He has a great head on his shoulders, however, as he indicated that his NFL future probably lies as a DB and that RB’s take too many hits on their way to the next level. This is another guy who we got in on late and managed to close on. This is a great sign of things to come for this staff on the recruiting front. Rogers rushed for 2,100 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior and followed that up with 2,110 yards and 28 scores this past fall. Rogers chose NU over LSU, Clemson, and Auburn among others.

P.J. Smith, 6-3, 205. Smith is another guy I’m uber-excited about despite not having an overly impressive offer list. For one, I like that Pelini got him out of Louisiana. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m big on us getting some guys out of not only Texas, but also the rest of the South. Smith just looks the part of a safety and his film bears that out. He’s not afraid of contact and does a nice job of getting low on tackles. That doesn’t always come natural to taller, lankier guys. I’d like to see him be a bit more aggressive in attacking ballcarriers rather than allowing them to come to him, but the most important thing for a safety is making the play, which Smith seems to do.

Kody Spano, 6-2, 202. Spano’s signing means we’ve brought in midterm QBs from Texas in two straight recruiting classes. That’s a trend I wouldn’t mind continuing. Spano looks to be a dual-threat QB who can make some plays with his legs. To be honest, he looks a lot like a taller Joe Ganz on film. In a normal year I think fans would be ecstatic to get Spano. Because he essentially filled the spot vacated by Blain Gabbert, he’s probably not getting the respect he deserves. Spano will have some extra time to learn the offense and depending upon Watson’s preference for QB type could leapfrog a guy like Witt in say a year from now. Overall, Spano’s film shows a guy that does a lot of things well, but he’s not really spectacular in any particular area.

Baker Steinkuhler, 6-6, 290. A five-star lineman prospect from our own backyards, what could be better? Steinkuhler began his senior year as part of what looked like it could be the best offensive line class in the country. But following a flurry of decommits, Baker really stands alone to help fill some immediate needs. The only question that remains is which side of the ball will he play? I go back and forth on this one. I could see him becoming a dominant OL like his dad, or a fine DT in a 4-3 scheme. Right now my gut says OT that we can really build around. Baker is extremely strong and physical and honestly might get some snaps as a true freshman. He looks twice as good on film as Burkes did in high school and Burkes impressed the hell out of me a year ago.

Brandon Thompson, 6-6, 280. Thompson is another lineman that excites me. He wound up as a 3-star according to Rivals, but held offers from Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Texas Tech and Virginia. Plays for a great program in the Woodlands outside of Houston, so he will come in well-versed and tested against tremendous competition. Once again, think about Anthony Blue and how mature he looked as a true freshman last fall. Texas high school football really is a different animal, especially at top-tier programs. Thompson is extremely strong and also athletic. He throws the shot and discus and also boasts a 30+ inch vertical jump at his size, which is quite impressive.

Quentin Toailoa, 6-5, 275. My dear lord, we finally got a high school DT recruit! Toailoa could be the gem of the class based solely on that. We will need him to contribute early and often if Pelini’s defense is going to have any success. All defenses struggle when the front four get winded and given our lack of depth up front we could be in trouble. I like Toailoa’s frame and think it can successfully carry another 25 pounds or so. He’ll need to if the coaches really do plan on running him at the three-technique. Toailoa will need to get stronger, but could be a good one down the road. And here's to hoping he brings the Haka with him to Lincoln.

Mason Wald, 5-11, 195. Somebody is wrong, wrong, wrong about Wald. This guy flew so far under the radar his middle name might be “stealth”. An unknown in recruiting circles despite a hit parade on film, Wald has Husker fans drooling. So somebody is definitely wrong. Either our coaching staff or the recruiting services have missed. If it’s the recruiting services then we just scored a living, breathing Bobby Boucher. If our coaches missed we get the second coming of Brandon Rigoni. I’ll glad take either, but guess is the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Lester Ward, 6-3, 185. Ward decommitted from Baylor to sign with the Huskers, which should probably scare Husker fans at least a little. Baylor? I guess since his dad played there we can overlook the implied crappiness of having to out-duel Baylor. Anyway, Ward does have some talent and actually reminds me a little of Leon Jackson. Ward wants to play RB and that’s apparently where Nebraska wants him to start. Most impressive to me, are some notes in his Scout profile which indicate he saw time with the Brenham varsity team as a freshman and also indicate he had a 6’2” high jump and 42’ triple jump as an eighth grader(!). Ward’s offer list suffered as he missed most of his senior season with a hamstring injury. Again Ward’s athleticism excites me, and I’ll be curious to see how the coaching staff decides to utilize him.

Alonzo Whaley, 6-0, 213. Whaley is a nice looking LB prospect from the Lone Star state. He was a playmaker in high school and finished his senior year with 162 total tackles, eight forced fumbles, five fumbles recovered and an interception which he took back for a TD. You can clearly see that Pelini is looking for athletes to line up all over the field, but particularly at linebacker. Whaley is the kind of guy that harkens back to guys like Jamel Williams from days gone by. Whaley turned down offers from Big 12 schools, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas A&M to sign with the Huskers.

David Whitmore, 6-2, 190. Whitmore holds the honor of being the sole signee that I saw play in person. I came away impressed with his athleticism, a little worried about his size (he’s skinny), and thinking he would benefit from a year or two of quality coaching. I stand by those claims today despite the fact that he recently received his fourth-star from Rivals. Whitmore’s highlights show a guy that runs well and is serviceable against the run. I noted in my original take that he didn’t play even one snap on offense, and I’m still not sure what that really says about him. I’m definitely sold on his height and I love that he’ll be coached by anyone not named Elmassian or Cosgrove. Given that fact alone, the sky is the limit for Whitmore.

Josh Williams, 6-4, 220. Williams is the second DE recruit that I’m really pumped about. Of all the guys that were on the verge of decommitting, Williams was really the one I wanted to keep on board. As his film shows, he will be a tremendous pass rusher as he readily sheds blocks and uses his hands well for a guy his age. He also has the kind of motor we are used to seeing at rush end. Given Williams ability to get to the passer, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get some time in nickel and 3rd down packages early in his career, much like Barry Turner was able to do as a true freshman. With time I think Williams and Meredith could wind up an extremely productive duo of pass rushers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Signing Day Extravaganza - Part I

Here is part one of my Signing Day opus. Part II will include the rest of the signees and Part III will contain more of my reactions to Pelini's first class. First, however, I'll leave you with a yearly reminder:

Woo! We've got fresh meat! Here is the comprehensive 2008 recruiting class. This is another class that looks pretty good on paper. Unfortunately championships are not won on paper. We can expect that some of these will never make it to Lincoln. I have severe academic concerns about at least two. Another percentage will "fail", if failing means having your education paid for, while you attempt to crack the top of the depth chart at one of the most storied football programs in the country. A few will imagine greener pastures, seeking playing time or just a change of scenery. And still others will unfortunately run afoul of team rules or worse yet - Johnny Law.

But Signing Day is a fresh start. A grocery cart filled with speed and strength and hype. And a hyped recruit can make you dizzy, like you've been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. He can make you feel high, full of the single greatest commodity known to man - promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow. This particular aura can be found in the gait of a hyped recruit. In his smile, in his glare, the way he makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it's going to be okay. The hyped recruits, folks? That's all they are. Bottled promise. Scenes from a brand new day. Hope packaged in shoulder pads.

Antonio Bell, WR, 6-2, 180. Bell was a guy we got in late with and wound up scoring after he decommitted from Tennessee. He caught 45 passes for 776 yards and nine TDs this fall. He was also named first team all-area and second-team class 5A all-state by the Florida Sportswriters Association. I like what Bell brings to the table as a receiver and feel he will have a productive career as a Husker. For that to occur, however, he must improve his route running and his strength, which could be said for most receivers trying to make the jump from high school to a BCS conference school. Bell won’t blow by guys in the secondary in college, but does have me excited about this year’s class of receivers. You can click here for a bunch of highlights on Antonio Bell.

Will Compton, LB, 6-2, 230. Compton winds up being the only score for the Huskers from Missouri. He decommitted following the coaching change, but was drawn back into the fold following an in-home visit replete with temporary tattoos. Compton received a lot of attention this recruiting season and for good reason. Not only does he have some talent, but he also fills a need as the Huskers desperately need help at the LB spot. On film, Compton shows tremendous instincts and is a sure tackler. In addition, he appears heady enough that he should fit in nicely in whatever scheme Pelini draws up. Both Scout and Rivals rank Compton as a 4-star prospect and he could see the field early in Lincoln.

Khiry Cooper, WR, 6-2, 180. Another exciting WR prospect. Pelini worked his magic in Louisiana to convince Cooper to jump aboard late in the recruiting cycle. I think Cooper looks polished on film and has a “smoothness” we haven’t seen a lot of at WR in the past. I could see Cooper lining up at the “Z” receiver spot early in his career and quickly helping fans to forget the loss of Terrence Nunn. Cooper made the Class 2A All-State squad after grabbing 60 receptions for 1,037 yards and 16 TDs during the regular season. Nebraska fans should respect the job Pelini did in landing Cooper given the number of offers he held from SEC schools, including Florida, Arkansas and LSU. Cooper is also a top baseball prospect as a centerfielder and plans on playing both sports at NU.

Ben Cotton, TE, 6-6, 220. Cotton could be the tight end this offense has been missing since Matt Herian’s injury. Obviously we won’t know for a few years, but Ben’s decision to join his father in Lincoln should not be overlooked. Cotton originally committed to Louisville before Barney was rehired, which says a lot about the national exposure this kid received. Cotton has good size and should continue to grow into his frame. The film I’ve seen on Ben shows him making a lot of catches in traffic and he appears to have good, strong hands. Being the son of an offensive line coach, we can assume he’s not afraid to block as well. Overall, Cotton could be one of the biggest scores in this class, if he improves his strength and speed and is able to stretch the middle of the field.

Alfonzo Dennard, 5-10, 185. Dennard is a rare Husker recruit out of the state of Georgia and is further proof of the staff’s hard work in the southern states. Dennard originally committed to UNC, but after some grade/qualification concerns wound up signing with Nebraska. Dennard looks to have good speed and seems like an Anthony Blue clone on paper. Blue of course came from a better high school program so we probably shouldn’t expect the same type of contributions as a true frosh from Dennard. As a senior, Dennard had 44 receptions for 826 yards and 11 touchdowns and averaged 18.8 yards per catch. He also had 55-tackles and 5-interceptions on defense.

Sean Fisher, 6-5, 210. Fisher is another in a long line of Huskers to emerge from the fine program at Millard North. Fisher is another guy who can provide immediate help at the linebacker position. He excels in pass coverage and isn’t afraid of contact, which are both major weaknesses we saw from the 2007 Huskers. Scout ranks Fisher as the 17th best linebacker prospect in the nation and he turned down offers from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado and most of the rest of the Big 12 North. I don’t know what the plan is down the road, but with his frame, I could see Fisher ending his career as a rush end.

David Grant, 6-6, 280. Grant is one of nine signees from the state of Texas. He’s also one of the few linemen taken in the class. You have to like Grant’s size and he should do well under the new strength and conditioning staff. Grant originally committed to Oklahoma State, then to Iowa State, but his relationship with Barney Cotton eventually led him to Lincoln. I expect Grant to redshirt while he improves his athleticism and strength, but we will need him to contribute in the near future. When you don’t sign many linemen, each one better be able to compete for a starting spot.

Ricky Henry, 6-4, 300. Henry was originally part of Bill Callahan’s recruiting class a few years back, but grade issues left him scrambling for a spot at Wahpeton (ND) North Dakota State College of Science. Henry graduated from Omaha Burke and also bears a striking resemblance to a fat Jon Favreau. Henry is thought to be a throwback to the in-your-face, dominating linemen that NU cloned by the dozen in year’s past. Whether Henry is the real deal or merely a personal foul waiting to happen has to be seen. He’ll have his work cut out for him, however, as JUCO linemen have a short stint in which to compete for a spot in Lincoln. Last I heard Henry was expected to line up at center for Nebraska.

Tyson Hetzer, 6-7, 265. Hetzer is the second TE recruit in the class. He is already on campus and will be competing in spring practice. This is a good thing given the lack of depth at TE on the current roster. Hetzer is a big guy with a great deal of athleticism as he originally committed to play basketball out of high school. Hetzer doesn’t have a ton of football experience, but competing at the JUCU level in California, indicates he’s no slouch. Pelini has made it clear that he won’t be recruiting many junior college guys but our need for a playmaker at TE means Hetzer gets a shot.

Micah Kreikemeier, 6-4, 215. Micah has the opportunity to say his offer came directly from Tom Osborne, which is certainly interesting. Clearly Osborne felt the staff needed to pay more attention to Nebraska high school talent, but I hope Osborne really saw something with Kreikemeier. Micah will begin his career as an OLB and could end up as a Brian Shaw-type player in the future. Kreikemeier appears to have decent strength and athleticism, but the coaching staff is likely counting more on his heart and desire. BRN makes the point that Micah is Sean Fisher without the exposure, and they might be right. I just hope both become solid contributors by the time they leave.

John Levorson, 6-4, 185. Another quality athlete from close to home. Levorson will begin his career as a safety, but probably has the ability to play WR as well. He has good size and his film demonstrates his ability to tackle. I’m a little worried about his closing speed and coverage skills as Crete isn’t exactly 5-A HS ball in Texas, let alone the Big 12. But I suppose if the need arises, either due to a lack of quickness, or depth issues that John could probably play LB in a pinch. Overall, Levorson is a guy that doesn’t overly excite me, but he certainly fits the profile of guys Osborne used to make a killing off of. Right now I’d trade he or Kreikemeier for a DT recruit, but I’m certainly willing to give them a shot to prove me wrong.

Tim Marlowe, 5-10, 165. If there is an obvious reach in the list of recruits, this is your guy. I understand that he’s from Pelini’s old stomping grounds, and yes, that could help us in the future, but I don’t think Marlowe is the second coming of Wes Welker. I’ve watched his film and he’s got speed and he’s got some wiggle. However, his statistics are far from stellar. He ran less than 300 yards on 42 carries and scored four just touchdowns. He, also, caught nine passes for just 216 yards and three more touchdowns. If I didn’t already feel we were overloaded on WRs on the roster, I could probably live with this one, but as it stands this looks like a really expensive holder for FGs.

Cameron Meredith, 6-4, 220. One of two DE recruits that I’m really excited about. Meredith looks to be the complete package. He’s got a nice frame, good strength and enough quickness to get off the edge. I can’t wait to see how his athleticism and his ability to get off of blocks translate to major college football. Meredith also represents a huge recruiting win given that he was also offered by Oklahoma, Oregon, and Arizona. To be completely honest of all the guys we’ve tried to recruit in the mold of Grant Wistrom, this is the guy who I feel could best live up to the hype.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Poopsie Hits the Hardwood

Jeffie's Erin Andrew's 'Pictures of the Week' has been going a little light of late due to the recycled pictures that have been on the internet for seemingly years now. However, just days after Ines Sainz had some gems thrown up from Super Bowl Media Day, Poopsie didn't disappoint (courtesy of Not to be outdone, here she is strutting her stuff at an... an always rowdy and wildy popular Penn State basketball game?

Here she is walking down the runway...

More glorious, glorious walking...

Erin: "No kidding, this big?"
Student: "Yeah, that big."
Erin: "Let's see, I mean hear it."
(check out the psycho in the background - dude, you're Penn State basketball. Penn State basketball)

Now I see where you are coming from Herbstreit. Does that thing take credit cards?

Hey! Man in the Happy Valley hat! Turn your head to the right! She's not looking! Turn your head to the right!

Now we know why 1st and Ten host and ESPN anchor Dana Jacobsen feels compelled to drink so much. Those are tough Stiletto's to fill.

All we want is to know when Erin. When are you going to hit our hardwood?