Thursday, July 28, 2005

Wisconsin thanks Nebraska AGAIN!

First for giving them Barry Alvarez, and then for taking Kevin Cosgrove off their hands so they could hire Bret Bielema to replace him. Now, Bielema has been named Wisconsin's head coach, effective in 2006.

Jake Muhleisen played with a broken wrist?!?

Seems that Jake Muhleisen played last season with a misdiagnosed broken wrist. Now that we have an explanation as to Jake's struggles last season, now the question is how did this get missed?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Huskers and Steroids - Chapter 3

Looking at my web logs, I see a few people coming here after Googling for steroids and Huskers. There really isn't any news here. The latest blurb comes from the World-Herald, which says that former Husker reserve Alex Shada was offered steroids, but refused. One wonders if that is as far as this story is going to go.

Interesting, though, that 2 names that show up in the Google logs are "Ross Pilkington" and "Sandro DeAngelis". Pilkington was a junior captain last season, but left the team after apparantly falling into "Billy C's" doghouse. Pilkington was a good possession receiver, but certainly seems unlikely to be part of this. And DeAngelis is a kicker.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sporting News: Matt Herian likely redshirt

Matt Hayes of the Sporting News reports thatMatt Herian is likely to redshirt. He is just now starting to run, which makes you wonder how long it will take to get him back into football shape, let alone be the difference maker he was before his gruesome broken leg and wrist injury.

Without Herian, that leaves a huge hole at tight end. How bad is it? JuCo Justin Tomerlin is being started at tight end, despite not playing that position since high school.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Does Callahan understand college football?

Deep in his heart, I think Bill Callahan still thinks he's an NFL coach. He still calls preseason practices "training camp", and several quotes from the Big XII Media days indicate that he's still hasn't adjusted to the college game. And at this point, one does have to start wondering if he ever will.

On not being able to watch off-season workouts: "I can't understand that. It would be like a CEO of a corporation who couldn't watch and evaluate the people who work for him. I think we need to amend that." Sounds like Callahan has forgotten that this is amateur sports, and these are college students. These workouts are voluntary for a reason, and if the coaching staff starts running them, then you can throw out the voluntary status of these workouts.

On defense: "The college rules really play in your favor as a defensive coach. You can be more physical, creat more collisions and disrupt more route runners on or near the line of scrimmage and on down the field. Look at the NFL rule. After a 5-yard bump, it's hands off and a cleaner game." Except for John Blake (3 years with the Dallas Cowboys), no defensive coach on the current staff has NFL experience. So why would the NFL rules have an impact on how the Huskers play defense?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

ESPN: Callahan on the hot seat

In ESPN's preview of the 2005 Huskers, Bill Callahan is rated as one of three coaches on the hot seat. The others are Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and Urban Meyer at Florida. While I'm positive the fanatics at Huskerpedia will vehemently disagree, the fact is that the "Husker Nation" still remains divided about the changing of the guard in Lincoln, and until Callahan starts winning, that division is not going away.

The pro-change posters will point to 60K fans at the Spring game as proof that Husker fans are solidly behind the changes, but they forget that the last 2 spring games were blessed with sunny skies and 80 degree weather unlike many of the previous years. I've talked with many long-time season ticket holders who said they've given up their season tickets. Ticket demand is definitely lower; last season, the renewal rate was the lowest in decades and the ticket office was still selling season tickets to fans in August. Hundreds of tickets went unused at the Baylor game. After the Colorado game, Steve Pederson was loudly booed twice at halftime, and afterwards, a banner thanking "Bob, Tom, and Frank for 42 years of excellence" featuring a teary-eyed Lil' Red was hung on the booster parking garage across the street. And don't forget that fundraising for the Tom and Nancy Osborne Complex has been stalled ever since the Solich firing.

Is 2 years too soon to fire a coach? In the past, perhaps. But last year, Florida and Notre Dame fired coaches after only 3 years. So, 2 years might not be too soon. Callahan's main strength is his recruiting, and that probably will buy him more time. More repeats of game day disasters like Southern Miss, Texas Tech, and Iowa State, or another "f'n hillbillies" outburst could lead to another house-cleaning in South Stadium. Some people will say that Steve Pederson won't fire Callahan, but they ignore that Pederson is the lightning rod for many fan's angst and will be the first to be removed.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Is the "Elite 11" QB camp a fraud?

Nebraska recruitniks are convinced Bill Callahan has Nebraska back on the road to greatness based on his recruiting. Many of them are drooling over how unstoppable the Huskers will become in a few years when the Huskers will have 2 QB's that were invited to the EA Sports "Elite 11 Quarterback camp".

So how have the "Elite 11" campers worked out? Pretty much a mixed bag:

Starters: Jeff Smoker, Michigan State; Brock Berlin, Florida; Chris Rix, Florida State; Casey Clausen, Tennesee
Somewhat of a success: Matt Cassell, USC (Only because he got drafted by the NFL and he has backed up 2 Heisman winners at SC)
Misses: Roman Ybarra (played in 1-AA), Matt Lovecchio (played for Notre Dame then Indiana), Chance Mock (backup at Texas), Zac Wasserman (played in a Juco), Jon VanCleave (played for one of the directional Louisiana's), and John Rattay (bounced around between Tennessee and Arizona)

Successes: Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and Purdue's Kyle Orton.
Other starters: Derek Anderson, Oregon State (almost has set a Pac-10 conference record for career interceptions), Kellen Clements, Oregon, Casey Paus, Washington
Misses: Nic Costa (playing receiver in 1-AA), Billy Hart (backup at USC), Ingle Martin (played for Florida), Adrian McPherson (kicked out of Florida State), D.J. Shockley (backup at Georgia), Paul Troth (played at East Carolina)

Successes: Pitt's Tyler Palko, Texas' Vince Young, and Michigan State's Drew Stanton
Starters: Ohio State will choose between Justin Zwick and Troy Smith; UCLA's Drew Olson and Ben Olson; Stanford's Trent Edwards
Misses: Matt Guiterrez, Michigan; Anthony Martinez, Virginia; Ryan O'Hara, Arizona; Gavin Dickey, Florida (made some great catches for the Gators at the College World Series)

Successes: Chris Leak, Florida
Expected 2005 Starters: Kyle Wright, Miami-FL; Andre Woodson, Kentucky; Blake Mitchell, South Carolina
Still unsure: JaMarcus Russell, LSU; Mike Affleck, BYU; Dennis Dixon, Oregon; Tommy Grady, Oklahoma; TC Ostrander, Stanford; Robert Lane, Mississippi
Misses: Justin Midget (played for Florida and quit), Clayton Richard (tried out at Michigan)

While there are a few college stars that have competed in this camp, it's no sure bet to stardom. In fact, when you look at the QB's who haven't been invited, such as #1 draft pick Alex Smith of Utah, you'd have to say that this camp isn't as meaningful as the hype. With the attention this camp gets each year, the camp itself probably ends up being the highlight of their career.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

New Turf at Memorial Stadium

Want proof that these are the dog-days of summer?

The big story...the new FieldTurf in Lincoln is going to have alternating stripes of dark green and lighter green turf. And just like everything else in Huskerland, it's either the greatest thing or the 2nd biggest blunder in world history.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

2005 Husker Projection

So how does Nebraska respond to their first losing season in 40+ years? Well, let's see what we've got:

QB: Let's face it, Joe Dailey was not Bill Callahan's choice for QB, but he was the best available. At the very least, Zac Taylor fits Callahan's play calling. He impressed the Kool-Aid drinkers with his first half stats in the Spring Game. They missed the first wobbly passes, and the constant fumbled snaps. In other words, I'm not sold on Taylor. In his last game, Zac Taylor went 10 for 35 with 5 interceptions for Butler. After Zac, it's recruiting sensation Harrison Beck as a true freshman.

RB: Cory Ross. Enough said.

WR: The unanswered question is will Matt Herian return? My guess is not this season, at least not like before his gruesome broken leg. Some of the incoming freshmen look intriguing, but I really like Terrence Nunn and Nathan Swift to complement Isiah Fluellen.

Offensive Line: These guys overachieved last year; Dennis Wagner did an outstanding job coaching this line. Recruitniks expecting much from the incoming recruits will likely be disappointed this season; incoming lineman rarely contribute. But a little more seasoning should help here.

Kickers: David Dyches returns here, though I bet Jordan Congdon is the kicker. You really have to wonder about the coaching of kickers, though, when Sandro DeAngelis is perfect on 13 field goals in the CFL after his results the last 2 years.

Defensive Line: Ola Dagunduro and Barry Cryer provided needed depth on the defensive line to complement Titus Adams and LeKevin Smith.

Linebacker: Can any of these recruits fill the void left by Barrett Ruud? Recruitniks are convinced, but I'm not.

Secondary: "Poorest secondary performance"??? And 2 of those guys get drafted in the early stages of the NFL draft? Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. Zack Bowman could be the second coming of Deion Sanders or Charles Woodson, and we might still have a problem here.

Schedule: I can't remember a weaker schedule. Maine? Wake Forest? Baylor? And the rest of the Big XII North??? If they can't get to bowl eligibility with this schedule, the Board of Regents should cut their losses.

To break things down:

Maine: If this one isn't a "W", there will be riots in Lincoln.
Wake Forest: Zac Taylor faces his old team. Should be a "W".
Pitt: Pitt may have been a BCS team, but they got blasted by Utah in the Fiesta Bowl. With Pitt's new coach, this one is a tossup.
Iowa State: Callahan was seriously outcoached last year in Ames. He shouldn't make the same mistake at home. "W".
Texas Tech: Kevin Cosgrove was seriously outcoached last year in last year's 70-10 thrashing in Lubbock. This is will be a bellweather game.
Baylor: Callahan's best coaching game last season. Unfortunately, this game is in Waco, and Baylor has surprised some people there.
Missouri: The coach that figures out the strengths of his QB first will win this game. Brad Smith has more talent, but Zac Taylor fits Bill Callahan's play calling better.
Oklahoma: This one could be a surpriser. The Sooners look like the 2002 Huskers, having problems replacing a Heisman winner at QB. If last season really was an abnormality (as the kool-aid drinkers insist), this game can be won by the Huskers.
Kansas State: I have a hard enough time understanding Nebraska; Kansas State is another enigma.
Colorado: This game will reflect Nebraska's season. A good season, a Husker win. A repeat of last year, turn out the lights.

Final results? If Nebraska has truly exorcised their demons, they could go 10-1 or 11-0.

But I really doubt that.

Too many question marks remain. I think 8-3 is a safer bet, with likely losses to come out of the Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas Tech, and Pitt games.

Worst case scenario? Don't go there. Every game can be lost - even Maine.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Huskers & Drugs - Chapter 2

The Omaha World-Herald finally looked into the case of the 3 drug traffickers and their connections to Husker athletes. (Better late than never.) The latest development is that one of the items these men were trafficking, Serostim (a human growth hormone) is not detected by the NCAA's drug testing program even though it is illegal. The article says that it can only be reliably detected using blood tests, and the NCAA only does urine testing.

The Nebraska State Patrol is still investigating, which means that we haven't heard the last of this story. Certainly now that the Omaha newspaper has ran the story, some of the local TV stations might now mention it. I still expect to hear some names, as the State Patrol spokesman says the drugs were distributed to "college-level athletes".

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Reviewing 2004 Husker Football

Well, the newstands are all full of college football preview guides, and as no surprise, there are fairly low expectations about in 2005. Before trying to take a guess as to where 2005 will wind up, first we need to understand 2004.

Is that even possible?

Speaking as someone who predicted 6-5 last year, I was prepared for a bad season, and was even more disappointed in the results. When you consider how weak the Big XII North was last season, a losing season was tough to explain. And when you add in the loss of no practices in December because of no bowl, it hurts 2005 as well.

So why did they go 5-6? A lot of people online claim to know the reason, but their explanation is way too simple to be sufficient. And the people who should know won't admit it.

My $0.02: It wasn't one thing, but rather a combination of talent, coaching, and changes. What's the ratio of each? I don't know, and that's debatable. But each pays a part.

Way overhyped by recruitniks as the explanation of 2002 and 2004 (but is usually ignored in 2003), it's safe to say that the talent level slipped since 1993-1997. And that was to be expected, nobody is going to continue to go 60-3. That's just plain unrealistic.

Except for the Oklahoma game, last year Nebraska wasn't out-talented. Even recruitniks would have to grudgingly agree that most of the teams that beat us had lower recruiting rankings than Nebraska. NFL draft day showed just how clueless some people were when 3 Huskers were drafted in the first 40 picks.

Nebraska did have a few holes in talent, but still should have won the Big XII North in a season where Iowa State claimed a share of the division title.

This is where it starts getting ugly. Former lineman Rob Zatechka summed it up when he said that it's truly rare when the criticism of the fans is so dead on right. The losses to Southern Miss and Iowa State can be squarely blamed on bad game plans. Against Southern Miss, Joe Dailey was sent out and threw a then-school record 42 passes. WHY? I understand the desire to break in the passing game, but when you call a school record number of pass attempts by a QB starting only his 2nd game (and first against a D-1A opponent), you'd better be expecting some mistakes.

At Iowa State, the running game was open all day, but never exploited until we were down 27-7. The next week, Nebraska traveled to Oklahoma, stuck with the running game and the expected woodshed beating never materialized. Afterwards, Jay Norvell was interviewed and basically said that the coaches realized that we were a better rushing team, and decided to play to our strengths. It took them 10 games to figure that out?

Iowa State also provided the situation that best summarized what happened to the Huskers in 2004. In the second half, Nebraska took the ball over after an Iowa State punt. During the media timeout, Dailey and Bill Callahan huddled to prepare the next play. The "white coat" who marks the media timeout walks off the field and signals the refs to resume play. Callahan is still talking to Dailey. Finally, Dailey trots onto the field with less than 10 seconds left on the play clock to call timeout. They had a 2 minute timeout, and couldn't get a play called.

There were plenty of other head-scratchers: the blown field goal from the 1 foot line against Pitt and Coz's prevent defense against Texas Tech come to mind.

Let's face it, once the decision was made to jettison the old guard and bring in the new guys, things were going to be rough. Change is never easy. Some people will accept it, and some won't. Compounding the issues were that even for those people who mentally could accept the change, they weren't physically able to adapt to the change that was being demanded of them.

Witness Joe Dailey. Recruited as a run/pass QB, he suddenly became as stationary as Dan Marino in the pocket. The few times he did run, you could see his instincts clashing with his coaching leading to indecisiveness - for example, the final play against Southern Miss. (Not that I blame Bill Callahan for wanting Joe to stay out of harm's way, what with Beau Davis and Ryan Goodman being the backups, but that's the price you pay.)

I think it's interesting to note the defections of last year's underclassmen captains. Ross Pilkington and Dailey were the first non-seniors to be named team captains, and both have left the program. Perhaps the people that haven't left the program have now "bought in", as Chad Sievers said.

So what was the ratio of last year's problems? I'd put it around 25% talent, 35% coaching, and 40% change. What does that mean for 2005? That will be another posting, but first I'm hoping I get some comments on this.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Omaha Royals: "Waaaaaaaa!!!"

The Omaha Royals, apparantly not happy with a half million dollar subsidy from the City of Omaha, are turning up the heat in their quest for a new ballpark. About the only thing they get right is that the Royals have no need for the seats that have been added to Rosenblatt Stadium over the past 10 years.

However, before they blame the ballpark for their attendance woes, they need to look in the mirror first at their own marketing ineptitude. The ballpark has been growing since the late 80's, and attendance actually increased during before the Minker's took over, though they blame "ticket giveaways" for much of the attendance during those years. For some reason, UNO Hockey decided to enlist the "expertise" of the Minkers in marketing Mav hockey as it moved to the Qwest Center, and got basically the same results. Attendance dropped like a rock.

Also not helping is the woeful performance of the parent Kansas City Royals over the past decade and a half.

But the Minkers appear to have teamed up with Branch Rickey of the Pacific Coast League in a "good cop/bad cop" scheme to try and extort a new stadium out of the city of Omaha. However, new stadiums have been shown to only have a minimal effect on attendance; it's like crack cocaine - a quick boost that soon goes away and leaves you wanting more. And I'm not sure how a downtown stadium will help the Royals. Rosenblatt has great access from the Interstate and plenty of FREE parking. If people have a hard time justifying a $6 ticket to a Royals game today, imagine that $6 ticket paired with $6 to park if they move to a brand-new downtown ballpark.

Now, if the Royals and Creighton can team up and put together a plan to share a new stadium downtown, that's a great idea. The city of Omaha can assist, much like they'll work with anybody else trying to do redevelopment. But expecting the city to pay for most of a new ballpark is just corporate greed.

If they Minker's can't manage the Omaha Royals, then rather than demand perks to stay, they should just sell the team. Many years ago, it was proposed to sell stock in the Royals to make the team community owned, much like the Green Bay Packers. In light of how well the Minker's have done running the team, perhaps it's time to revisit this idea.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Huskers and Steroids

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that one of the three men arrested in Lincoln for trafficing steroids claims that Husker football players were involved. In fact, one of the men roomed with former kicker Sandro DeAngelis.

I don't think this will be the last of this story, and we'll hear much more about this story. The issue really shouldn't be "are any Huskers taking steroids?", because in a program the size of Nebraska's, there are bound to be some players who want to take that chance. Plus, we know of players that have been disciplined in the past, allegedly for this. (Not to mention the legends of past players going on steroid rampages through downtown Lincoln.) The question really is, how widespread the problem is, and is the athletic department doing everything it can to deal with the problem.