Friday, April 06, 2007

Back to What's Important

This week, the Journal-Star's Steve Sipple talked to linebacker Corey McKeon about leadership and the quarterbacks. He also confirms some of my fears about Sam Keller:
“Joe, he’s a product of the system. He goes through his progressions: ‘He’s not open, you go to him. He’s not open, so go to him (repeats) …’
Sam’s going to attack people. He’s got that experience where he’s looking for Maurice Purify every play. You look over and see Cortney Grixby guarding Maurice Purify, he knows where to put the ball to get a big play.”
Can you see defensive coordinators drooling over this scouting report? Disguise your coverages and watch Keller force the ball into coverage as the safety comes in for support. Remember Josh Bullocks in 2003, who stepped in front of passes time and time again for a key interception? In fairness to Keller, Damon Benning watched practice on Wednesday and said yesterday that the gunslinger reputation Keller has may be a misconception. Let's hope so.

Speaking of McKeon, the pressure is on the linebacker corps to lead the defense with the inexperience up front and Zack Bowman's blown patellar tendon raising questions about depth in the secondary. While defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove is confident Bowman will return this season, the medical research I've seen suggests that this injury may take 9 months to a year to return to full form. This is especially true for a corner, which will depend on this tendon for leaping. After missing last year due to an ACL, would it make sense for Bowman to look towards a possible medical hardship season and try to play in 2008, rather than rush to try and play in 2007? In any event, with Andre Jones having a season of experience and transfer Armando Murillo already learning this spring, Nebraska is much deeper at cornerback this season, even if Bowman stays on the sideline.

Nebraska announced that football tickets are going up over 8% next season. Although it would be easy to take a shot at Pederson over this one, I won't. It's part of a sad trend in college sports as everything escalates in price. For what it's worth, Steve Pederson has tried to buck this trend for the most part, even reducing prices in 2003 when he arrived. (And you thought all I did was badmouth SP!) With money games now fetching $800K a year, one wonders how long it's going to be before college teams start playing tougher non-conference games. The BCS really needs to bring "strength of schedule" back into the BCS equation to penalize teams for loading up on home games against weaker opponents. It might be bad for some schools budgets, but it's good for the game. Steve over at Big Red Network suggests that games like New Mexico State are kind of a necessary evil, not exactly enticing to fans, but coveted by just about every big college program.

Speaking of Big Red Network, they have some interesting takes on Osborne's retirement 10 years ago and the Husker Family Feud that I commented on previously. It's a great conversation item to speculate on what would have happened if Osborne had stayed on for a while longer. My take is that I'm not sure it would have made as much of a difference in 1998 or 1999; heck, many folks thought in 1999 that Nebraska was the best team in the country. And if Osborne would have waited to retire, would Bill Byrne still have allowed Osborne to name his successor? If he hadn't, the entire schism we now are experiencing would have occured years before. Some people wonder "what could have been" if the rumors that Byrne wanted to hire Mack Brown in 1997 were true. My take: based on how Texas fared in Brown's early years (regularly outcoached in big games, benching Major Applewhite for Chrissy Simms, etc.) and the divisiveness that was sure to ensue after a change of this sort, Brown would have been fired at Nebraska before he would have had a chance to recruit a Vince Young.

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