Archive for the ‘Off-season’ Category

Bowman, the Secondary and Interceptions

April 3, 2007

The injury to Zack Bowman got me to crying in my beer thinking more about our secondary.

Obviously we are back to where we were when the season began last August. Grixby and Jones will be the ones to go against the Big 12’s best. In case you forgot, here is just a short list of that talent:

Todd Blythe
Malcolm Kelly
Adarius Bowman
Limas Sweed
Billy Pittman

Ouch. Anyway, Grixby made a great point the other day, that shouldn’t be overlooked.

“We have two corners that started every game last year,” Grixby said. “We went 9-5. Back with more experience, we just keep getting better.”

Grixby and Jones will be improved. They will still be physically overmatched at times, but they will be improved.

Bowman’s injury also gives someone a chance to step up. That player could be Armando Murillo. Callahan sounds optimistic when discussing Murillo’s abilities.

“He can burst. He can change direction,” Callahan said. “He can play physical-type coverage techniques that we want him to.”

Another guy to watch will be Anthony West who just moved back to corner after beginning the spring at FS. I think West is going to be a great player for us once he finds a stable home. I was very impressed by West’s film a year ago and reports indicated he was giving Tierre Green all he could handle in the battle for starting FS this spring. His development is definitely something to watch.

My biggest concern with the loss of Bowman is our defense’s ability to make big plays. I’m talking game-changing takeaways and interceptions returned for TDs. We just haven’t seemed to have many of those in the Callahan era. This spring the corners stated they were looking for more interceptions. They should be. This is a graph of Nebraska’s interceptions over the last seven years. Note – I would have gone back further, but the national stats were difficult to find.

Click to enlarge

The blue line within the graph shows the national average of interceptions for each of the seasons. Aside from the 2003 season when Bo Pelini’s band of marauding bandits led the nation in interceptions, you can see that our interception rate has been, well, average.

I don’t know exactly what to make of all this. Obviously Pelini’s zone coverages allowed the DBs to watch the eyes of the QB more, but outside of that type of schematic variable, our performance is difficult to account for. Clearly we have had some talent during those years, including NFL players Fabian Washington, Josh and Daniel Bullocks, Keyou Craver, and Jerrell Pippens (I’m sure I left some folks out). But we’ve also had some players who were nice, had good personalities, tried their best (Pat Ricketts, Blak Tiedtke,Andrew Shanle). What we haven’t had is a consistent threat to pick off passes outside of Josh Bullocks. I had high hopes that might change this year. I’m less optimistic now without Bowman.

Finally, for those that doubt that interceptions are important, here are some numbers:

2006: Florida and Ohio State – 21 each
2005: USC – 22
2004: USC – 22
2003: Oklahoma – 22, LSU – 21
2002: Ohio State – 18
2001: Miami – 27, Nebraska – 19
2000: Oklahoma – 22, Florida State – 19

Lastly, Brandon and Chuck made some interesting points about whether Bowman will bother to come back in 2007 or 2008, or whether he will jump to the NFL. That’s a tough situation. I think he needs to play before he thinks about the NFL. Whether that will be November of this year or not, remains to be seen.

Press Conference Tidbits

March 21, 2007

Coach Callahan spoke with the media yesterday, but failed to disclose anything new or particularly meaningful. I’ll recap some portions just the same, however.

On the players’ work in the off-season:

“They’ve worked hard, not only in conditioning, but in video review. They’ve had an opportunity to go back and to review their video and their plays and their performance from last year. I thought that was extremely productive for them, as individuals as well as a team and as a unit. Just to get back into football, to refine their techniques, and to refine themselves.”

I like that the players are spending some time critiquing their play via game film. Research indicates that in almost all fields, people tend to improve by watching both their successes and their failures. While I’m sure this is nothing new, it felt good to read about it here.

A lot was discussed concerning the quarterback situation and Callahan did his best to reiterate that it was a wide-open race.

“I think that people naturally look at this as a two-horse race, and it certainly isn’t even that. I think that Beau Davis has a lot of great attributes that have really been kept in the dark the past two seasons. His performance in his rookie year was really an unfair performance because it was really too soon. He has talent, he has mobility, and a good arm, and has been in this system going on his fourth year, so I think that has some merit. If you look at the successful quarterbacks around the country that have performed at a high level, it usually takes awhile to get to that level. So I don’t want to discount any of the guys in the quarterback race.”

The spring is a perfect time to really evaluate the talent and depth that we have at the QB position. That is why I have no problem with dividing the snaps amongst 3-4 guys. I don’t really expect Beau Davis to do much more than carry a clipboard or signal in plays, but if he earns the spot, so be it. Besides, given our recent luck I half expect an ACME safe to fall on Sam Keller some time in the next few months anyway.

Two questions on Tuesday pertained directly to Mr. Keller concerning whether the job was his to lose and what he brings to the offense. Here is the question I would like to have seen answered:

Coach, I assume you traded your soul to the devil himself in return for Sam Keller. Any regrets? And a follow up – had Sam Keller not found his way to Lincoln, is it safe to say that your house would be on the market right now?

Callahan also addressed concerns about the defensive line:

“We graduated some outstanding players, and that’s not to say that the upcoming players will not be outstanding. I think (sophomore defensive lineman Ndamukong) Suh has a chance to be an all-league performer, I think (junior defensive lineman Ty) Steinkuhler is coming into his own. I look at our end position, and unfortunately (junior defensive end) Barry Turner will be out this spring, but he is a top end when compared with other guys around the country. I think (junior linebacker) Clayton Sievers moving positions should provide us some depth and intrigue in regards to what he can do with a full-time position. And of course (junior defensive end) Zach Potter is a guy that has been around for a couple of years and has only gotten bigger and stronger, so we’re changing him really from a base-five technique to a base-six technique, so that should really tie in to his strengths as a player.”

I guess I didn’t expect a miracle here, but part of me was hoping Callahan had some Jared Tomich clone that he was keeping under wraps until the spring. I think we may have some talent on the D-line, but Buddy Wyatt is certainly going to have to earn his paycheck in 2007.

So with that let’s hit the field fellas. Wait, you want an inspirational pre-game speech. Hey, why not. Take it away Coach Coronary-Embolism

The Quick Fix for Husker Nation

March 5, 2007

As I’ve previously discussed, things are pretty sordid around Husker Nation these days. When Trev Alberts, Jim Rose and Tom Shatel all chime in, however, the end times are upon us lamenting has officially “jumped the shark.”

I still feel that a 10-win (or better) season will be a cure for all that ails the Big Red collective. Unfortunately it’s March and spring practice hasn’t even started. Thus, it’s clear that a quicker fix is necessary.

Callahan and Pederson are trying their best to cut dead weight bring new energy into the athletic department, with their removal of Doak Ostergard. Right idea guys, but wrong office. The fat that truly needs to be trimmed is of the puffy, inflatable, vinyl variety.

That’s right, I’m saying it, folks – FIRE LIL’ RED!!!!

With one swipe of box cutter, one stab of a jailhouse shank, Pederson could retool his PR image and finally bring about Pax Lincolna.

I can hear the detractors already.

“But, Lil’ Red has been around since 1993. He was there for all three national titles in the 90s. He’s another connection to the Osborne and Solich eras. We can’t force out yet another link to our Big Red roots. It’s just not the Nebraska way.”

All valid points. I’ve compiled a list of grievances, however, to make my case for firing Lil’ Red with the UNL Human Resources Department. After reading these, there can be no uncertainty surrounding the reasons for his dismissal.

1. Lil’ Red vigorously humped former HuskerVision production specialist Rick Schwieger at the 1999 Homecoming “Tailgate on the Turf” pep rally. Yes, I know Tom Green was inside the costume during this event, but perhaps Lil’ Red should be a little more choosy about who he lets inside him.

2. Lil’ Red wears nothing but red and also sports his hat turned to the right. Both of these are known symbols of the Bloods. Lincoln has enough of a meth problem as it is. Do we really need to add gangs into the mix?

3. Lil’ Red finished third behind the Stanford Tree and “Other” in an online “Which is the worst mascot” poll. I disagree with these results. While the Stanford Tree is indeed a worse mascot than he, Lil’ Red is far worse than “Other”.

4. The boys at EDSBS have this to say about Lil’ Red:

“Why couldn’t they have stabbed Lil’ Red? His palsied gait haunts our dreams.”

And why should we listen to the opinions of a couple of Florida bloggers? Well check out the number of awards they have won in their sidebar. The world would be a better place if more people listened to EDSBS.

5. Lil’ Red made the list of “Eight Mascots that Need to Die.”

“Suggested method of death: Cross the streams from your proton packs. Watch as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Cornhusker mascot melts.”

6. In 1997, Lil Red took part in the National Cheerleaders Association National Championships in Daytona Beach, Florida. Despite being blessed with an uncanny ability to bounce on his head, Lil’ Red could muster just a second place finish. Finishing second is one thing, but losing to the Virginia Tech mascot – Frank Beamer’s neck scar the Hokey Bird, is completely unacceptable.

7. According to this article, the Lil’ Red costume includes, “a battery strapped onto one hip and a blower attached to the other hip.” A “blower” attached to the hip? Is this really the kind of image we want serving as a mini-ambassador for the university, the city and the state? Oh, and I’m almost positive that “blower” is not the preferred nomenclature for an orally-adventurous coed.

8. I’m pretty sure Lil’ Red stole my soul in 1997 by staring directly into my eyes during a timeout at a Nebraska vs. Kansas basketball game. I’d really like it back ASAP.

9. The name Lil’ Red requires the use of the apostrophe. Utilizing it in this context is just one of three misunderstood uses of the apostrophe. The apostrophe is also a right pinky keystroke which irritates my budding carpal tunnel syndrome. Laugh if you will, but this is a far greater personal annoyance than getting past security at the Nebraska athletic department.

10. I like cheerleaders. The Nebraska cheerleaders are facing financial cutbacks. Lil’ Red costumes cost $5000 apiece. We already have Herbie Husker. I think you know where I’m going with this.

So there you have it. An easy way of righting the ship and pacifying Husker Nation can be accomplished by firing the “Round Mound of Nightmares Abound”. Hell, he already looks dead and bloated. Let’s just go ahead and put him out of his misery.

The Borders of Husker Nation

March 2, 2007

This has truly become the off-season of our discontent.

The fibers of Husker Nation have been tattered, if not torn by a bleak mid-winter of scandal, change and scorn.

Philosopher and consciousness expert Ken Wilber postulates that every decision we make, every action we take is based on the construction, (whether conscious or unconscious) of boundaries. Boundaries between you and I, between us and them, between similar and dissimilar, between war and peace, between life and death. Existence, then, as we know it is a process of drawing boundaries. At first blush this act seems both inevitable and harmless. Unfortunately, a natural consequence of this is the creation of opposites.

Expectations or recollections. Solich or Callahan. Privacy or Disclosure. Pederson or Shatel. The Past or the Future.

Husker Nation must now recognize that each of these boundary lines also becomes a potential battle line. Every hire and every fire arms the divergent sides. Every coming and every going strengthens conflicting opinions. The new reality is that to draw a boundary, is to prepare oneself for conflict.

The problems facing Husker Nation are problems of boundaries and the opposites they create. Our usual way of solving these problems is to attempt to eliminate one of the opposites. We handle the problem of good vs. evil, by trying to exterminate evil. We handle the problem of change by gripping tightly to the status quo. The point is that we treat the boundary as real and then manipulate the opposites created by this boundary. We never question the existence of the boundary itself. Because we then believe the boundary to be real, we steadfastly imagine that the opposites are irreconcilable, separate, forever set apart.

But what if the boundaries aren’t real? What if by seeking to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, we have forgotten entirely that the positive is defined only in terms of the negative? In other words, while the opposites might indeed be as different as night and day, we must recognize that without night we would not even be able to recognize something called day. Without Nebraska football’s past, its future would be unimaginable. Without Devaney, there is no Osborne. Without Osborne, no Solich. Without Solich, no Callahan.

However vividly the differences between these opposites may strike us, they nevertheless remain completely inseparable and mutually interdependent, for the simple reason that the one could not exist without the other. There is no inside without an outside, no up without down, no win without loss, no pleasure without pain, no life without death. This is what Nicholas of Cusa called the coincidentia oppositorum – “the coincidence of opposites”. What we thought were totally separate and irreconcilable opposites turn out to be complimentary aspects of one and the same reality.

Thus, to destroy the negative is, at the same time to destroy all possibilities of enjoying the positive.

Like it or not Nebraska football’s past and its future, like all opposites are fated to intimately embrace one another for all time.

The point is not to separate the opposites and make progress, but rather to unify and harmonize the opposites, both positive and negative, by discovering a ground which transcends and encompasses them both. This common ground refers to an ultimate reality that is a union of the opposites.

What then will serve as Husker Nation’s union of opposites? Firing Callahan? Firing Steve Pederson? Tom Osborne as A.D? The easy answer is winning. Win enough and the opposites will be realized as one. With a sixth national title, the past will become the future. Discord will melt into concord. Battles will become celebrations, and old enemies will become allies. Then, and perhaps only then, will we find ourselves in a position to make friends with all of Husker Nation, and not just one half of it.

*Special mention needs to be made of the work of Ken Wilber, without this I would have been unable to illustrate these points.