Thursday, August 31, 2006
Husker Information Minister Jim Rose didn't fare any better. Rose was not one of the eight play-by-play announcers to get votes as the best play-by-play announcer; even his sidekick "Yo!" Adrian Fiala managed to get a vote. But Rose did get 2 votes for worst announcer.
Nebraska's Sports Information Department only got 1 vote for "best" in the conference to tie them with Baylor for 6th. I'm not surprised here because the athletic department has had PR debacle after PR debacle over the years, whether it was the whole coaching search/circus, scheduling rumors, or the throat slash.
But there was some good news for Nebraska in the poll: Nebraska's stadium was voted #1 in the conference in terms of atmosphere with 10 votes; A&M took 9 votes, and Tejas got the final single vote. So the sportswriters like us fans at least!
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
A few fans are going to nitpick about the helmet being for a lineman, but that's missing the point of honoring one of the greatest individuals to ever wear a Nebraska football uniform.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Bo Ruud topped Steve Octavien on the depth chart, which surprised some folks. Yes, Octavien looked unbelivable in his one game last year, but remember it was against 1-AA Maine. But Ruud was solid all season until he was injured before the Alamo Bowl. Last season, it was neck-and-neck, and now Ruud has edged very slightly ahead. Middle linebacker Corey McKeon gave a glimpse as to why in last Saturday's World-Herald:
Octavien is a "playmaker," middle linebacker Corey McKeon said, "but he's got to learn to take care of his responsibilities."
Some folks are disappointed to see Terrence Nunn and Nate Swift atop the depth chart at wide receiver ahead of Maurice Purify. Again, Purify will see plenty of action, but don't diminish Nunn and Swift. Both are steady, solid receivers who have spent the last 2 years learning this offense. Sometimes knowledge and experience is more important than size, speed, and athletic talent. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit even named Swift one of his players who will "make a name for themselves by October".
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
In any event, barring any new convincing evidence, here's hoping this is the last of this case. While I tend to believe Solich's story, it's far from convincing. Continuing to pursue this case without any convincing evidence only serves to damage Solich's reputation both here and in Ohio.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
On paper, Keller's arrival looks like a gift from above: pre-season all-Pac 10, potential NFL draft pick. So why is he suddenly transferring to Lincoln? Last Friday, he was named the Sun Devils starting QB. On Saturday, however, his teammates essentially mutinied, and suddenly Keller was demoted to #2. Why? Nobody is saying, but apparantly it was off-the-field issues. I understand why Keller would opt to transfer; like Harrison Beck, there is no way he could play on the same team after this. But is Nebraska getting a problem case here? You know what they say..."if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is." Maybe it was a misunderstanding, maybe it was nothing Keller did. We simply don't know. But you do have to wonder about the situation.
Next spring should be interesting as three quarterbacks (Keller, Hildebrand, and hopefully Patrick Witt) get indoctrinated into the West Coast Offense. It will need to be a crash course; we saw last year that it takes time to learn the offense; it took Zac Taylor all spring and most of the fall to get it down. There is a lot of terminology and philosophy to master, and it's tough for pros. ESPN's Joe Theisman last night commented on Terrell Owens needing to get into camp for Dallas, because even though the Cowboys offense is nowhere near as complicated as the West Coast, it still requires some study. This fall, Keller and Hildebrand will only get minimal snaps (though they will get valuable exposure) as Callahan doesn't give reserves much practice time.
Yes, these transfers do help the depth for 2007...but if prior history is any guide, caution is in order.
Monday, August 21, 2006
At I-back, every Husker fan is wondering about the battle royale between Cody Glenn, Marlon Lucky, Brandon Jackson, and Kenny Wilson. One day, Lucky gets the headlines, another day it's Wilson, and then the next day it's Jackson. The battle was so fierce that Leon Jackson saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to transfer. But who will be the starting I-back? Hard to say because I think the people who will make that decision (Bill Callahan, Jay Norvell, and Randy Jordan) haven't decided yet. That still doesn't mean that fans aren't already making their bold predictions. Here's mine: We probably won't have a clear-cut #1 back until after USC, and likely not until October. Here's how I'm handicapping the field:
Marlon Lucky: The recruitnik favorite got a vote of confidence from Jon Gruden in the spring. I get the feeling that Lucky could be a gamebreaker, ala Reggie Bush, in the open field. Problem is that in 2005, Lucky missed most of the holes. Will the game slow down for him in 2006?
Cody Glenn: The polar opposite of Lucky. Unheralded by recruiting experts, he became a fan favorite for his tough inside running in 2005 and outshone the field in spring football. We don't hear any buzz about him from fall camp, yet he's still mentioned as being part of the mix. I get the feeling that Glenn might be the most consistent this fall.
Brandon Jackson: A battering ram who got the tough yards in 2004, he's been hampered by injuries since. His running style reminds me a lot of Correll Buckhalter who has enjoyed more success running the West Coast Offense in Philadelphia than at Nebraska.
Kenny Wilson: People who've seen this kid out of his uniform mistake him for an NFL player. He might have the best combination of speed, power, and game-breaking ability, but he will be hampered by his lack of familiarity with the offense. (Remember how Jackson, Glenn, and Lucky were used in their freshman seasons?)
For much of September, I think all the backs will play, and the guy who plays first will probably be determined by Callahan's script rather than as an indication of who's #1 on the list. I do think that by USC, we'll start to see a back starting to take command, though most will play.
For all the talk of big runs, nobody is talking about their blocking ability. That probably will determine playing time more than anything. Job #1 will still be to pick up blitzes and protect Zac Taylor.
At cornerback, injuries to Zackary Bowman and now Andre Jones have forced the secondary to scramble. Converted receivers Isaiah Fluellen and Tyrell Spain are now alternating opposite Cortney Grixby, who's playing with a cast on his thumb. You don't think this has Dwayne Jarrett drooling out in SoCal? I expect Jones to be brought back slowly to ensure his availability for the Trojans and to get more experience to the converts.
Again, there are players back there, so fans should be concerned rather than in a panic. It will be more imperitive for the front 7 to get pressure on the quarterback rather than depend on the coverage. It will be interesting to see who steps up in the fall as the secondary is going to be full of new faces.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Because the car, travel, and country club memberships violate state policy, these expenses were charged against donated funds, specifically priority seating donations for UNO hockey. As Buck found a new source to pay for his privledges, his appetite for perks apparantly increased. His leased car was upgraded to a Cadillac with satellite radio and suddenly his family started to enjoy the perks of travel and golf.
In order to lessen the impact on the athletic department, other athletic department expenses were transferred to other areas of the University, creating a budget shell game that will take a complete audit to fully unwind.
This is no longer an issue of concern just for fans of UNO athletics; this is now an issue for taxpayers and anybody with an interest in the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Taxpayers provided the funds that Buck used to cover up his expenses, and certainly these funds could have been used in academic programs that have been cut over the years when the budgets got lean.
Needless to say, the University audit of the athletic department becomes more and more important. Will the audit find even more excesses? Will the results of the audit raise even more questions that may need to be escalated to the state auditor or attorney general's office?
A side note to Harold Andersen: Even the staff of the paper you once led recognizes that this is no longer a sports story about upset boosters, but rather a story of misuse of public funds that is once again deserving of front page coverage. This "tempest in a teapot" keeps on growing as people dig into this. What you think is "steam" is really smoke.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
However, much of the eyewitness testimonies now seem to support Solich's story. Early stories from the Athens bar reported that Solich was drinking heavily. Tuesday, the bartender testified that when he arrived for work at 5 pm, Solich was already there drinking. However, Solich testified that he had flown into Columbus, Ohio at 3:45 that afternoon and didn't arrive at the bar until 6:30 pm. Google Maps shows that it takes 2 hours to drive from the airport to Athens. The bar's records also support Solich's story, showing the tab opened at 6:38 pm.
Solich's claim of being drugged also received a boost when Athens police officer Krishea Osborne testified that within an hour, Solich went from drooling and incoherent to lucid enough to call Ohio University officials. 2 hours later, Solich was able to be released unlike the vast majority of drunk drivers.
It will be interesting to see how the court rules in this case.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
"It became clear to him you all were not going to let this die."
Isn't it now time for athletic department boosters - and the allies they may have in the press and on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents - to allow UNO Chancellor Nancy Belck and her associates to get on with the job of running a university? A university whose fundamental mission does not include appeasing athletic boosters or sports commentators or entertaining football fans but, rather, offering first-rate academic and research programs?
This actually raises several issues: (1) are these legitimate expenses, (2) if they are legitimate, are they legitimate to be charged to the athletic department, and (3) who approved these expenses?
The car lease and country club membership, while perhaps excessive, may have justification as legitimate expenses. Buck may have a need for travelling in his job, necessitating a car. And the country club membership may be used in conducting business with those in the business community. Plus, they may have been needed as terms of his agreement to come to UNO from his previous job.
The expenses for satellite radio raise serious questions about the legitimacy and the oversight of Buck's expenses. I struggle to find a business justification for satellite radio, and the fact that XM and Sirius didn't start operations until after Buck joined UNO means that they can't be considered a carryover from his previous job. It was a new and expanded perk --- one that was given to him at a time when UNO was cutting academic and then athletic budgets. And the World-Herald is still probing into what all was included in those expenses; we haven't heard the last of this.
So who was overseeing Buck's expense reports? If it's chancellor Belck, she should bear the brunt of the criticism. If not Belck, then who? If nobody, then Belck should be held responsible for not monitoring the expenses of her employees.
Even if somehow these expenses can be justified, it is still tough to justify them as athletic department expenses. Heck, the $32k in expenses this year alone would have paid for one of the positions that were cut this year. UNO fired someone so that Jim Buck could drive around town in his Cadillac listening to Howard Stern??? Sorry, Harry...but that's not part of UNO's "fundamental mission"...
Lee Sapp has it right:
"Jim Buck is a start, but I want Belck to leave too."
Monday, August 14, 2006
Considering the current state of malaise revolving around Husker basketball, a salesman might be one of the things Nebraska needs. Dana Altman's success at Creighton has siphoned off much of the fan support for Nebraska basketball, and Sadler just might be capable of recapturing some of that lost support.
My first reaction listening to Sadler's introductory press conference was a "WTF" moment when he said that players could freely substitute if they thought that somebody on the court wasn't giving enough effort. But, then I thought about it a little more and realized what this really meant. Some of my favorite Husker hoopsters were Bruce Chubick and Andy Markowski, 2 guys who outworked anybody and everybody on the floor. (Creighton fans should recall a guy named Bob Harstad who played the same way.) If 100% effort is what Sadler is going to demand, then I'll give him a shot.
We'll see if Sadler can talk Aleks Maric and Jamel White to return in 2006-07. In any event, I'm curious to see where he takes this program. I do not believe the difference between Creighton and Nebraska basketball is anywhere as big as some perceive. 3 of the last 4 CU/NU games have come down to the last minute, though last year's blowout at the Qwest Center certainly fuels Bluejay egos.
In any event, Sadler certainly has sparked interest in Nebraska basketball with huge crowds at Misty's in Lincoln and Big Fred's in Omaha. Nebraska basketball is by no means dead, merely in hibernation. Can Sadler awaken the sleeping giant?
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Last week, Bill Callahan pulled another surprise recruit out of his hat, getting QB Brian Hildebrand to transfer late last week. This "surprise" was in the works all along, and wasn't the result of Beck's departure. In fact, it may have played a small role in Beck's decision to leave. In any event, Hildebrand's arrival provides more depth for 2007 after Taylor leaves. For 2006, he's merely an emergency quarterback who will hopefully only see spot mopup duty. If injuries knocked Taylor, Ganz, and Beau Davis out of action, I'd expect to see Jordan Adams moved back to QB before throwing Hildebrand into the fire. Even Hildebrand is just looking to learn the offense this fall. Steve Sipple of the Journal-Star had a nice column today about Hildebrand's humility and how he wants to earn his stripes.
Speaking of quarterbacks, today's Omaha World-Herald had a nice article about how pure physical talent may not be compatible with the Huskers "West Coast" offense. In many respects, the mental aspects of the game, learning the nuances, mastering the playbooks, and exhibiting the patient to go down through your reads, learning to trust your mind over your arm simply aren't compatible with young hot-shot quarterbacks who've made their mark thus far with their arm. Perhaps that's why unheralded Joe Ganz gets rave reviews from the staff. Hopefully, we'll get to see him this season, no later than the Nickolls State game.
Turning to the ice, UNO all-American and Hobey Baker finalist Scott Parse announced that he planned to return to the Mavs for his senior season. Although his line-mate Bill Thomas now skates for Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix, this is huge news for Omaha hockey. (Husker baseball fans can compare this to Tony Watson's decision to return next season) UNO clinched their first NCAA tournament berth last year with a very young roster, and with most of the roster returning, the Qwest Center will be rocking this winter.
As long as were talking hockey, Ak-Sar-Ben Knights president Doug Soetaert resigned as OAKs president and as Calgary's assistant GM. The Knights struggled in the first season in Omaha with a horribly counterproductive marketing campaign (Best! Best! Best!) that alienated much of the audience they were trying to connect with. During most of the season, they played in front of a few hundred fans many Knights, and by the end of the season were reduced to giving away free tickets like gardeners give away zucchini. ("I once left 2 Knights tickets by the coffee machine one morning with a note saying they were free for the taking. That afternoon, there were 6 more tickets there...") In any event, I wonder if the OAK's will announce a new team president before the team folds or moves elsewhere.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
He (Beck) was a bust, maybe the biggest ever in Lincoln, considering the expectations heaped upon Beck two years ago in the months before he graduated from Clearwater (Fla.) Countryside High School.
Whose fault is that? Certainly not Beck's. He didn't ask for the attention.
Other factors, no doubt, helped lead to his eventual downfall. But perhaps the single most destructive force in Beck's crash-and-burn stay at Nebraska involved the unreasonable media coverage devoted to a football player who had accomplished nothing at the collegiate level.
Beck, as Bill Callahan's first star quarterback recruit, had almost no chance but to fall short of expectations.
As news media, we are guilty of fueling the fire. Beck was portrayed as a perfect prospect, the savior of a program desperate two years ago for a big personality with an even bigger right arm.
Actually, I'll blame services like Rivals and Scout.com far more. These "recruiting" services with their "star" ratings and evaluations lead some folks to believe that national championships are won in February. The rest of the media merely follow along, lemmings to Tom Lemming, setting these high school kids as the "next" Matt Leinart, the "next" Adrian Peterson. And some fans eat it up, swallowing it hook-line-and-sinker.
Now that Beck has left, it's now fashionable to bash him. I've had my concerns about Beck's maturity level, but I'm wishing him the best as he moves on. For his sake, a year at a junior college out of the spotlight might do him some good.
Monday, August 07, 2006
However, this end isn't a win-win; it's really a lose-lose situation for everyone. All of the principals deserve a share of the blame in this situation. In order of increasing responsibility:
Bill Callahan: There is an unwritten rule in sports that you don't lose your position due to injury. Callahan has violated this rule twice with his quarterbacks in the 16 months. Joe Dailey was demoted from 1st string to 4th string after tweaking his shoulder in Spring 2005, and Beck found himself demoted to 4th string to open pre-season practice. Both situations ended within days with the player leaving.
Evelyn Beck-Bothwell's criticism that coaches weren't spending enough time with lower string players also shouldn't be dismissed completely. We heard this criticism last year, and Callahan changed the practice schedule to devote a practice day to the lower units each week. I do wonder if the development of younger players played an impact in Josh Freeman's switch to Kansas State.
Speaking of Freeman, that drama queen comment sure sounds awfully ironic a few months later.
Evelyn Beck-Bothwell: Standing up for your child is a natural response, but at a certain point, you've got to let go and let your son resolve his own mistakes. Especially when Mom only makes the situation worse. Your boy Harrison is an adult now, let him speak for himself.
Harrison Beck: In the end, the player itself is responsible for his actions. Skipping practice is counterproductive. Your Rivals rating isn't an automatic ticket to stardom. Hopefully, you've learned a hard lesson in your time in Lincoln. Last week, it sounded like Cody Glenn saw some progress on this front. You'll need to work extra-hard to live down the reputation you earned in Lincoln.
So what does this mean for 2006? This season, not much except that protecting Zac Taylor becomes even more important with even less depth at quarterback. That means that the #1 IB will likely be the best at picking up blitzes, not necessarily who is the best rusher.
2007 is another story. With Taylor being a senior, the need for quarterback depth becomes the #1 priority. Look for a strong push for at least 1 JuCo quarterback. And don't discount commit Patrick Witt either. I remember hearing a radio interview with Harrison Beck during the summer before his senior year, and I was immediately concerned about his maturity then. My concerns were warranted in the end. I heard an interview with Witt last month, and came away with the opposite impression.
I heard a report that Callahan might be looking for a JuCo quarterback to come to Lincoln immediately, which could be a huge mistake. I understand the need to build depth, but you don't want to waste a scholarship for 2 or 3 years in desperation. At this late date, any JuCo quarterback still available for this season is unlikely to be more proficient this season than Joe Ganz, Beau Davis, or Jordan Adams. Better off to look to the JuCo ranks for next season, preferably if they are available for spring practice. If those same players are available now, give it a try now.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
After last season's thrashing at Kansas, I felt that Nebraska had lapsed into a state of "Pediocrity". They always say that it's darkest before the dawn...well, that game may go down as the darkest day of Nebraska football since Kansas State shut out Nebraska on Homecoming 1968. Did Callahan and the Huskers turn the corner with the Colorado and Michigoon victories? No doubt the direction of the program is finally looking upward, though whether Nebraska is "back" is debatable at this point. 2 games simply are not enough to make that statement.
HuskerPedia has always been known as one of the most popular internet web sites for Nebraska sports. It's wealth of information led it to become the biggest home for some of the most obsessed fans, who checked out of reality opening themselves to ridicule. Over the last year, though, HuskerPedia has changed...and for the better. Some of the more obsessed, logic-challenged fans were banned for their incessent trolling and flame-baiting. These exiles went on to form their own junior-high message board, that I compare to "South Park". Ironically, they now call everyone who disagrees with them "trolls", even though they've been banned from other forums for that offense. Needless to say, HuskerPedia is not the same place I thought it was a year ago.
The idea of Husker Hockey is one idea that I've had some second thoughts about. As the debate over UNO athletics grew, a few observations have tempered my initial favorable opinion. My initial observation was based on the success Creighton has had with basketball, but the more I think about it, I'm realizing that Creighton's success is based primarily on Dana Altman's success compounded by Nebraska's lack of success in basketball. While it doesn't look like Altman is going anywhere, I think Nebraska basketball has bottomed out. What does that mean for Creighton? Well, if Nebraska starts beating Creighton regularly, much like they did nearly every time they played in the 1980's and 1990's, it will be the Devaney Center that will be packed and the Qwest Center will seem like a cave. What does this mean for Husker hockey? Well, the casual sports fan in Omaha will likely follow his natural allegience to the Huskers, and defect from UNO. And while the rivalry between the Mavs and Huskers would be interesting, it might only serve to fragment the fan base instead of expanding it. And would Husker fans support a building program that could take years to develop? Very few followed Husker baseball until they started winning conference titles, and it took several of those to get Husker baseball to the position in now enjoys.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Late this afternoon, Beck's mother said she had received a text message from Beck saying "I'm safe", and then Beck's mother told the Lincoln Journal-Star that Beck was frustrated with his position on the team:
Beck-Bothwell then told the Omaha World-Herald that Beck was opening fall practice as the #4 quarterback after his recovery from his shoulder injury. The comments that Beck's mother made today are eerily similar to the comments posted in June by "HuskerGma" (Husker Grandma?) to a post on Beck before the Spring Game:“It’d be different if (Beck) was sitting behind Matt Leinart or Brady Quinn,” Evelyn Beck-Bothwell said. “Zac’s OK; I wish him all the best, but he’s just OK. The bottom line is, my son isn’t learning anything. He’s just on his own. If he got more time and attention from the coaches, he would be ahead of (Taylor). That’s just my opinion, but I’m his mother.
“He knows that playbook. It’s just an issue of not getting respect from the older players.”
“Maybe if he would’ve stayed in the SEC, he would’ve been playing,” Beck-Bothwell said. “Maybe he made the wrong decision, I don’t know.
“I know he has some growing up to do, but it’s not like he’s getting in trouble. He’s doing everything he’s supposed to do.”
husker mike you are out of your mind! you wouldn't know how to evaluate a great QB if you had to!!just cause the kid sings with a band to let out some steam doesn't mean he's not a good QB! And where did you get this 40% completion pass bullcrap?? How about the receivers run their routes correctly and attempt to catch his bullet passes without dropping them?Harrison is the best drop back passer to arrive at UNL EVER! zt ISN'T EVEN WORTHY OF TYING HIS SHOELACES!! people in Lincoln should watch some SEC Football games--and see how a QB should play!! Harrison shoud have chosen anSEC conference team...he would have gotten more respect that he deserves!! tha kid gets a 3.8 Gpa doesn't drink or get into trouble and is the strongest and most physically gifted QB on the team!! people need to shut up and give the kid a chance to show his stuff this year and not worry about the few little drivels of playing time he got last uear--a total waste of his redshirt to be sure!!
What does this mean for Beck? Well, unlike many Kool-Aid drinkers, I'm not going to throw him under the bus yet. I've criticized his maturity level in the past, and today's actions certainly don't help him there. But I'm hoping that Beck will contact the coaching staff ASAP and work through his issues. He's still only 19 years old.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
“Harrison, he’s the kind of guy who’s got all of the physical tools, he can throw it a mile, he can throw it harder than anybody else I’ve seen in my life. But he has to mature a little more. You saw it a lot during 7-on-7 stuff this past summer, how he’d come in and take control and try to be more of a leader, as opposed to last year, where he kind of goofed off and jacked around. This year, it’s like a totally different Harrison.”
It's great to see that Beck is stepping up with the mental aspects of the game. He's only 19, and has all of the physical tools you need to play quarterback. Let's hope the progress in the mental aspects continue.
Update Saturday 8/5/06: Beck Goes AWOL