Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Beck Backup Plan

Before the Spring Game, I suggested that Bill Callahan and Jay Norvell would be scouring the junior college ranks for another quarterback. Questions about Harrison Beck's progress and health, combined with a lack of confidence in Beau Davis and Joe Ganz are fueling this desire. Well, Callahan and Norvell are moving faster than I thought. They've offered Lyle Moevao, a junior college quarterback, a scholarship for this fall.

Unlike Jordan Adams, who only played in one game as a JuCo, Moevao played in 12 games in his freshman year. Moevao also is being pursued by Oregon State and Colorado, though they are looking at him for 2007.

What does this mean about Beck? Well, Moevao provides Nebraska with sorely needed depth at quarterback. Zac Taylor is clearly the starter, but he is a senior who took a huge pounding last season. What did Nebraska coaches tell Moevao about Beck?
“They said me coming in would basically give him (Beck) competition to get back (from his shoulder problems) and do what he needs to do, and put more depth at the quarterback spot.”
But with Moevao and Beck on the same eligibility cycle (3 seasons of eligibility over the next 4 years), it's obvious that the coaches are hedging their bets on Beck. At the very least, Nebraska is hoping that Moevao will be a quality backup to Beck in 2007.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Did the Huskers Get their Groove Back?

Husker fans had to be generally pleased with the baseball team's performance down at the Big XII tournament in Oklahoma City... or at least they should have been after the 3 previous weeks. Yes, they got the #6 National Seed and the inside track to host a Super Regional. More important than that was regaining some of the momentum they lost during their end-of-season slump. Fans are disappointed with how the regular season ended, but overall, they should be pleased. The sweep of Alabama (#4 National Seed) and winning 3 of 4 from Texas (#3 National Seed) give the Huskers a strong resume. So what to expect? Well, they've proven they can play with anybody in the country (add in a tight 3-2 loss to #1 National Seed Rice in February)...and can lose to anybody(Northern Iowa and their #152 RPI). They could make a run through the College World Series...or the season could be over by Saturday afternoon.

One wonders how this weekend's games will be televised. Since the NCAA controls the rights to the regionals, Steve Pederson probably can't blackball NET and Kevin Kugler from broadcasting the games to the state.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Husker Recruit in Legal Trouble and do U C LA in Nebraska's future?

Husker football recruit Major Culbert has had his scholarship offer "suspended" by Bill Callahan following his arrest on a sexual abuse charge that resulted from Culbert's recruiting visit to Oregon. Right move? Wrong move? Well, it sure is a different move. Former Husker coach Tom Osborne likely would not have told Culbert that he wasn't welcome in Lincoln. Osborne detractors would imply that Osborne would put Culbert into the starting lineup based on this, but that would be simply exaggerating. The real difference is that Osborne would have likely told Culbert that his top priority needed to be resolving his legal problems first, not football, but that Osborne would be there for Culbert. What's the right way to handle this situation? Impossible to say; an arrest does not necessarily equate to guilt. If Culbert ends up being exhonerated, the chances of him wearing Husker red are rather slim with the chilly reaction from Callahan. If Culbert ends up in serious legal difficulty, Callahan's tough approach sends a strong message that players need to be responsible for their actions.

The Journal-Star dug into Callahan's comments about another schedule announcement, and have traced it to UCLA for 2012 and 2013. I said UCLA sounded good on Saturday, and it still sounds good tonight. I also liked the idea of playing Wyoming in a home-and-Denver series...especially if you schedule this for Labor Day weekend. Can you imagine the outrage in Denver if 40,000 Husker fans invaded the Mile High City? Too bad this fell through...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rose: Nebraskans Don't Understand Baseball

Nebraska fans are probably getting an itch to press the "panic" button after losing their third conference series in a row this weekend. Yesterday's 10-4 victory looked like the Huskers might have broken out of their slump, but today's 6-2 loss to the Sooners squashed that momentum. The Huskers now limp into the postseason with no momentum. Whether they host a Super-Regional or even a Regional at this point is a secondary concern; the primary issue at this point is to get the bats and defense back into gear and get some confidence.

I wonder what the Husker Information Minister will have to say this week about Husker Baseball. Last week, Jim Rose dismissed the concerns that the Huskers were slumping by stating that "Nebraskans don't understand baseball" as they never started following the sport until Dave Van Horne started to turn things around in Lincoln in 1999. Uh, what? I guess Rose just assumes that the folks that show up year after year to watch the College World Series are really just holding their seats for the World-Herald's 4th of July fireworks show. By this weekend, Rose put his kool-aid back into the 'fridge and acknowledged several times that the Huskers were slumping and needed to get momentum back ... and fast.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Callahan: Another Opponent Announcement Forthcoming

In this morning's Omaha World-Herald, Bill Callahan commented that Nebraska is finalizing discussions with an opponent that "people will be excited about". Callahan went on to say
"We like to recruit out East, down South, on the West Coast, so we love this kind of exposure," Callahan said. "I'm in favor of getting the good teams on the schedule and creating the home-and-homes."
Translation: This means that this is likely to be an SEC, ACC, or Pac-10 opponent. Will this be a top-tier opponent? I'd like to think so, but some people have different ideas about "exciting". Some people think that the Nichols State game will be exciting.

Who would I like to see from this group? I'm not particular, but I'd love to see Florida, Florida State, Miami, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, LSU, or UCLA pop-up on the Huskers schedule.

What do I fear? Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Directional Florida/Directional Louisiana, Duke, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State. I don't foresee these schools making an "exciting game" or attracting the attention of the average sports fan.

I'd also like to see some of the Bigger 10 teams appear on the schedule, but that's not as likely to happen. Naturally Michigoon, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Minnesota could be an interesting game down the line if they get a new stadium; it's a reasonable drive for Husker fans to attend.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Howard Hawks on Huskers & (UNO) Hockey

Tom Shatel had an interesting interview in yesterday's paper with Nebraska regent and booster Howard Hawks. The conversation naturally spun to the state of Husker athletics and boosters, and Hawks touched on the Solich situation; a situation that today still bitterly divides Steve Pederson's "Husker Nation".
Q. Was it asked before Frank Solich was fired? How did you feel about that?

HH. "No. That was a little messy, probably too messy. If I had had my druthers, that would have come out as a retirement. What some forget is that Frank fired coaches the year before."

It's interesting that nearly 30 months after it happened, this is an issue that simply won't go away. At this point, it likely never will. For folks who feel the firing was wrong, most of them have moved on. I consider myself part of that group; the firing will never be justified in my eyes, but it's done, and it's not going to be reversed at this point. I try not to dwell on it anymore, and have rejected several ideas for blog entries because dwelling on it doesn't help anything. This issue is a dead horse.

On the other side of the division are another group of fans who continue to dwell on the firing. Maybe dwell isn't the right word; perhaps "revel" is a better term. In their eyes, Bill Callahan and Steve Pederson can do no wrong, and Frank Solich is evil incarnate. They claim to be the "true fans", yet they go to extreme lengths to rehash the old debates. Any criticism of the current regime is dismissed, and any good news is cause for storming 72nd & Dodge in their eyes.

Messy, indeed. As Hawks says, "if you are really committed to the institution, that way of thinking is too narrow."

Also of interest is the final question:

Q. What's your plan for future athletic donations? Anything you would like to see done?

HH. "We need to get better athletic facilities for UNO. Softball, baseball, hockey. We need to do something with the Chili Greens' land. I'd also like to see more youth facilities around the city."

There have been discussions about UNO building a practice hockey rink south of the Ak-Sar-Ben campus, and even grander ideas about a new UNO arena for hockey, basketball, and volleyball. While the Qwest Center is a grand facility for Mav hockey, it's also much bigger than is necessary for UNO. Plus, sharing the facility with Creighton and other events in Omaha has caused UNO scheduling problems; take UNO's games with Michigoon in February. The games were moved from the Qwest Center to the Civic Auditorium due to the state wrestling tournament. Many Mav fans would like to see UNO build a 7,000-10,000 seat state-of-the-art arena of their own as a home for UNO's indoor sports.

Adding weight to this idea is the questionable future of the North Central Conference. Over the last few years, members have been lost to Division 1 and others are considering it for the future. If other NCC members make the jump, UNO will be forced to ask the same question; either upgrade to full D-1 or downgrade to a lesser D-2 conference with restrictions on the sports. If UNO wants to move to Division 1, UNO will need to seriously upgrade facilities like the Sapp Fieldhouse. A new UNO arena could provide UNO hockey with all the amenities that the Qwest Center brings while restoring the atmosphere that some feel was lost in the move from the auditorium. This certainly bears watching to see how it develops.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Huskers vs. Hokies in 2008

Props to Steve Pederson for scheduling an attractive matchup with Virginia Tech and the Huskers for 2008 and 2009. I understand that the schedules were rather barren when Pederson took over, and Pederson had to take what was available, but these are the types of matchups fans like. Personally, I'd like to see 2 games like this each season: one in Lincoln and one on the road. It makes games like Troy and Nicholls State a little easier to take.

Some fans will worry that you could play yourself out of a BCS game by playing these types of games, but I think you run a bigger risk by NOT playing these types of games. In 2004, Auburn got shut out of playing for the national championship because their non-conference schedule consisted of Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, and The Citadel.

The matchup with the Hokies brings back memories of the 2nd 1996 Orange Bowl, played on New Years Eve in a deserted Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphins Stadium. The Hokie fans far outnumbered the 3,000 or so Husker fans there that evening, and certainly weren't friendly either before the game or afterwards. Not that I blame Husker fans for not going to this game; many had already spent money for the anticipated Sugar Bowl and playing for the National Championship. Airfare was obscene for the game; the best price I could find was a $500 flight out of Kansas City that returned at 6 am NewYears morning. (I almost fell asleep driving up I-29 during the early New Years bowl games due to exhaustion; fortunately I didn't hit anybody, unlike Cody Glenn last weekend.)

What the heck is a Hokie? I made the mistake of asking a Tech fan if the gobbling turkey puppet he was holding before the game was a Hokie (an honest question I thought), and he replied with an insulting comment about the state of Nebraska. Afterwards, they weren't much better behaved. Needless to say, I have a suspicion that Husker fans who go to Blacksburg for this game may return calling it "East Boulder".

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Anybody want to be a Husker Hoops Assistant?

So far, Husker basketball coach Barry Collier has gone 0-for-2 in his search to replace Scott Spinelli. Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald reported today that both Chris Chaney and Tim Thomas have rejected offers to become a college assistant coach. Why Chaney & Thomas? Both have coached current player Jamel White and recruits Toni Soda and Roburt Sallie.

While both say that coaching in the Big XII and at Nebraska would be an outstanding opportunity, both stated that family matters kept them from accepting the job. Family issues were part of the reason Spinelli gave for leaving Nebraska. Is Lincoln, Nebraska suddenly not a family friendly place?

Of course not. Unless, of course, you are a men's basketball coach. Apparantly, Steve Pederson's vote of confidence isn't carrying much weight with anybody. Collier investigated the Ball State job last month, which seems to suggest that even Collier isn't sold on his prospects in Lincoln.

Husker hoops is looking more and more like a program adrift when prep school assistants are turning down a job. Rumors of a buyout were floating around Lincoln in March; perhaps it's time to reopen those discussions. Perhaps Collier has a good plan "C", but I'm becoming more and more skeptical.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Players Who Transfer: Good Move or Bad?

In Tom Osborne's book "Faith in the Game", Osborne commented that players who transfer usually don't find more success at their new school. For the most part, it's true. Mainia Brown certainly didn't become a star at BYU. Marques Simmons found himself just as deep on the depth chart at Iowa as he did at Nebraska. Today's Omaha World-Herald looked at the quarterbacks who recently left Nebraska, and how they've fared.

When we last saw Curt Dukes, he was recovering from knee surgery but was competing with Jammal Lord for the starting QB job 3 years ago in the 2003 Spring Game. Shortly thereafter, he left the team and transfered to Duke, redshirted in 2004, and played sparingly in 2005. Based on his comments when he left and how things went in Durham, it sure looks like Dukes lost interest in playing college football. Dukes will graduate early from Duke and bypass his senior year to enter medical school. In this case, it looks like Dukes' transfer went well for him personally, even though his football career never really moved forward.

Joe Dailey took a lot of abuse from some fans in 2004, and most of that was undeserved. Recruited as a run/pass quarterback, Bill Callahan tried to convert him into a dropback passer, with rather mixed results. Some games (Western Illinois, Baylor) went well. Other games (Southern Miss, Iowa State) turned into disasters. In Callahan's defense, with Jordan Adams unavailable and a trio of freshmen backing up Dailey, keeping Dailey healthy was a top priority. Plus, many felt that Callahan had to prove his commitment to the West Coast Offense at Nebraska, so Dailey became a sacrificial lamb - the square peg in the round hole. Now at North Carolina, he's playing much better in another variant of the West Coast Offense, but one that will work with Dailey's instincts instead of against them. A lot of people point to the end of the Southern Miss game as the signature play of Dailey's career. What I saw is a completely befuddled quarterback who was having an internal battle between his instincts and what his coach was trying to teach him -- with a horrible result as his indecisiveness on that play resulted in him going out of bounds inside the Southern Miss 5 as time expired. A fresh start might just be what Joe Dailey needed.

Meanwhile, wrestler Ryan Goodman still chases his dream of playing in the NFL at North Carolina State. He did make the NCAA wrestling championships for the Wolfpack though.

Any discussion of transferring quarterbacks has to include the poster child for finding a better situation, and that's Nebraska's Zac Taylor. When Taylor left Wake Forest, I'm sure that he was hoping to work his way back into the MAC or Conference USA. Now the kid who grew up wearing Sooner Red is going to be spending his senior year battling for a Big XII championship.

Does transferring help players? It depends on where the problem was. If the problem was inside, the problem will just follow you elsewhere. But if the situation wasn't right for you, like with Zac Taylor and possibly Joe Dailey, it might work out after all. In the end, Curt Dukes found the problem inside, but in his case, the transfer looks like it was a good move for him as well.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Leon Jackson Boomerang

Well, a week after Leon Jackson decided to leave the Husker football program, Jackson has decided to stick around after all. Which should be a good deal for the Big Red; Jackson looked good in Spring practice. Some practice observers thought he was the best all-around back this spring; more power than Marlon Lucky but with more game-breaking ability than Cody Glenn. It doesn't sound like the gap between Lucky, Glenn, and Jackson was terribly great.

And let's face it, you never can have enough running backs. Just ask the Carolina Panthers, who had to finish the NFC Championship game with their 4th string back.... A couple of years ago, Marques Simmons was buried at 4th on the Iowa depth chart until injuries decimated the Hawkeyes.

However, comments by Jackson's father in the Lincoln Journal-Star are potentially troubling. According to Leon Jackson, Sr., Bill Callahan would only release Leon Jr. from his scholarship if he transfered to a division 1-AA or lower school, saying that he could do everything he wanted to do at Nebraska, if he wanted to play at a 1-A school.

This raises the question: Is Leon Jackson back because he realized he made a huge mistake, or is Leon Jackson back because he thinks he has no place else to go? If Leon has truly changed his mind and wants to be a Husker, all is well. But if Leon is staying because he feels trapped at Nebraska, that can't be good. If Jackson doesn't have a good attitude, he could become a distraction to the team... and that will hurt the team more than his talent will help.

And I'm not necessarily criticizing Callahan here; Callahan may have been playing tough with Jackson to make sure that Jackson wasn't acting impulsively. In life, you can't always run away when things don't go your way. Putting those restrictions on Jackson could be a way of making him think about the implications of his decision. Callahan might very well have changed his mind after a few weeks and Jackson was able to convince Callahan of that choice. We don't know...and don't need to know either.

Bottom comes down to what Leon Jackson's attitude is in coming back. Let's hope he wants to be the #1 I-back at Nebraska this fall.