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Friday, August 22, 2008

8 Reasons to be Concerned About 2008 NU Football

To establish a sliver of objectivity and to show you, the reader that I'm not filled too densely on flapjacks and Mrs. Butterworth, here are 8 (see what I'm doing here?) reasons that you should be concerned about your 2008-2009 (hopefully 2009) Nebraska Tackle Football Cornhuskers.

8. THE LINEBACKER SITUATION. There is a strong possibility that four true freshman (Will Compton, Sean Fisher, Matt Holt, Alonzo Whaley) could see quite a bit of playing time here. Three true sophomores (Blake Lawrence, Latravis Washington, Thomas Grove) will also see time. We're so young at linebacker many drills are done to the tune of nursery rhymes. The two starting outside linebackers are a former running back and a class C-1 walk on who could be better known for his 3.9 GPA rather than his 3.9 20 yard cone agility time. That leaves quite a bit on the formerly hefty physique of one Philip Dillard, or Phillard as he will now be referred to. All reports regarding Phillard have been good so far this camp. Down 20 pounds. The game is beginning to slow down for him. All well and good, but Phillard has a slight history of injuries. Phillard has been asked by Coaches Bo "If you're friends with P, then your friends with me" Pelini and Ek to basically know the assignments for each player on the defense on every given play. This is by no means an egregious request, but if the injury bug comes back due to the wet summer and bites Phillard, we could be in for a hurtin'.

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7. FIRST YEAR STARTING QUARTERBACK SYNDROME or FYSQS. The most recent example of this is obviously Sam Keller. I'm not sure if it revolves around knowing that you have only one shot to prove your legacy and prepare for the next level. It could deal with the consolidated pressure after waiting in the system for a few years. For whatever reason, FYSQS has clawed its way into the annuls of Nebraska tackle football. Remember a guy named Mike Grant? Number 1 in your programs, number 2 in your hearts. He went 4-1 and gave way to a kid from Manatee High in Bradenton, Florida. You know who that kid was? Mitch Kumstein. My college roommate. I don't particularly think that FYSQS will affect Joey Ganz as much as it could, what with the three record-breaking starts last year and his overall abundance of perseverance, et al. I know Coach P has said on multiple occasions that he would not trade any quarterback in the Big XII for Ganz, but that could be due to the one-year loss of eligibility rule for in-conference transfers. And no mention of non-conference QBs he'd be willing to trade for. Furthermore, I don't even think you can officially trade for players in college. He should know that. Any the who, I wouldn't be a billionty percent flabbergasted if in the "perfect situation" Ganz was relegated back to backup. Just sayin.

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6. THE CONTINUING TIGHT END DROUGHT. I understand that when J.B. Phillips and Sean Hill graduated we didn't exactly lose Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman or Gerald Armstrong and William Washington for that matter. The evidence is pretty obvious that we are losing the Big XII arms race at the TE position. The All-Conference pick last year was OSU's Brandon Pettigrew. Over Rucker. And Coffman. And A&M's Martellus Bennet and UT's Jermichael Finley and OU's Jermaine Gresham. And yes, over any TE that NU could muster. As the Big XII offenses develop into something reminiscent of my NCAA 09 playbook, they are using their tight ends. We are not. Sean Hill had 18 catches for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns. Seventy-three of those yards and one touchdown came on one play. More consistent play from our tight ends is integral. Like the Acura Integra. My four-year old twin nieces know that Marlon Lucky set the single season receptions record coming out of the backfield. They also know that opposing defenses will key on him out of the backfield. Bold prediction: He won't catch that many balls this year.

So what do we have on our TE menu:
--Hunter "Tea for the Tillerman" Teafatiller. I'm in a glass house on this one, so I'll simply say that it is unknown when Teafatiller will return to game action. I do believe he is on the 105-man roster and methinks I've seen a picture of him at practice. He wasn't exactly our most potent deep threat, but losing him for a more difficult than usual non-conference schedule doesn't help. Despite being a bit undersized (6'3", 240) he seems an adequate blocker.
--Mike McNeill. Played in eight games last year catching one ball for 25 yards against Nevada. Guess who else caught a ball in that game? Ten other Nebraska Cornhuskers including Frantz Hardy, Dan Erickson, Andy Sand, Dreu Young, Niles Paul, and Chris Brooks. For McNeill, Young, Paul, and Brooks, it was the only game in which they caught a ball. Not exactly Murderer's Row splitting out for us this year. Sure, McNeill is just a redshirt sophomore and has time on his side to better absorb the offense and add to his 6'4", 240 frame. Tight Ends coach Ron Brown has been positive with his comments about McNeill during fall camp, but bless his heart, Coach Brown is also the man who once told this author on the first day of Big Red Football School session that I "looked like a player." I was a six-foot, two-inch, 230 pound offensive tackle, not the ideal blocking receiver he was looking for.
--Dreu Young. Believe you me, I love me some West Central Nebraskan walk on Tight Ends. He's got a good frame (6'4", 245) and his dad's name is Marcus II. No joke. Other than that, his bio looks a lot like McNeill's. I like him, but I'm not expecting breakout potential.
--Ryan Hill. In their official 2008 Football Yearbook, Huskers Illustrated makes no mention of Mr. Hill despite his status as the second string TE. That should say something.

Not exactly a three course meal when compared to the rest of the conference, but to continue the food analogy, it is meat and potatoes. For this year's squad, that will have to do. But we need to recruit a Filet Mignon at TE quickly, or our corner diner might get shut down.

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5. LACK OF DEPTH AT DEFENSIVE TACKLE or PROVE ME WRONG, JARED CRICK AND BAKER STEINKUHLER. Kevin Dixon kicked off of the team! Ty Steinkuhler misses practices with back problems that have been known to the players since last year! Ndamukong Suh tears ligaments in knee during spring practice after disappointing 2007 season! Who in the Helen of Troy is Ben Martin?! What will the citizens of Metropolis do? The coaches have said that Ty Steinkuhler has been held out of practices to rest him up for the regular season. Isn't he a bit young for the Steve McNair treatment? Is he that good? I certainly don't believe that he is necessarily deserving of the Impact Player label that NCAA 09 bestows upon him. Even the most optimistic of sunshine blowers will say that Suh did play to the highest of his abilities last season and coming off a knee injury this calendar year, I'm not sure how many expect him to break through this year. Ben Martin is a hometown kid and I'm thankful for his contributions to the team, but (please prove me wrong) I doubt he would be a major contributor on the teams of the mid to late 90's. Isn't that the level that we are striving to return to? I'm certainly not saying that Crick and Bake have a red S on their chest, but I'd love them to prove me wrong. Both are huge. Both have the speed to be 3-4 DEs. Both are homegrown. By most accounts, Baker Steinkuhler is one of the top 5 incoming offensive linemen in the country. He's now a DT. Take that however you will. I think it speaks more to our lack of depth on D than his prowess as a DT.

Some will argue that returning all four starters should quell some of those concerns. Did you see them start last season? That should add more concerns if anything.

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4. CHANGES IN JERSEY NUMBERS. This shit is getting out of hand. Major Culbert has moved from #6 to #2. Pat Witt once wore #18 and is now #2. Anthony West, a cornerback was #22 and now #5, the former number of another cornerback, Armando Murillo who switched to #6, the former number of fellow DB Major Culbert. You can see where it can get confusing. There will be plenty of broadcasting mishaps due to this, especially with the Pay Per View crews. Continuing, Latravis Washington is now sporting #7 from last year's #23. Menelik Holt has moved from #4 to #18. Two offensive players, FB Kyler Reed and RB Jeremy Wallace, share jersey number #25, yet nobody's using #27 (guess that says something about the status of Kenny Wilson). Nick Covey is now wearing #31 as opposed to #45 for those of you scoring at home or related to Covey. Two defensive players (LB Cody Glenn and DE Cameron Meredith) are sharing #34. Mr. Meredith, I'd like to introduce you to your redshirt season. Sophomore linebacker Blake Lawrence changed his number from #12 to #40 so as not to be confused with Joe Ganz. Honestly. Sean Fisher chose #42, though I would have let him have any jersey number he wanted.

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3. THE PROGNOSTICATORS' OPTIMISM WILL BLIND NEBRASKA NATION. Oh, Chris Schmidt. I've only listened to you once during an hour and a half delay outside of Lincoln on the way to my 10 year reunion, but you seemed then like a sane and credible man. Your 10-3 prediction, complete with Holiday Bowl victory over Oregon, is adorable. I haven't seen his, but has Jim Rose predicted a National Championship yet? I think our esteemed local college football experts have become a bit too enamored with our coaching change and our schedule. In reality, there are three, maybe four guaranteed wins this year. Despite the strength of our schedule, the worst record predicted for NU by a smattering of local and national experts was 7-6, and that included a bowl win. Bill Callahan's first year ended with a losing record. After a 10-3 finish the previous year. Let's just temper our optimism.

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2. THE BO-MANIAN JUDGES ALWAYS GIVE LOW SCORES. Yes, Bo Pelini has history with Nebraska and knows the tradition. He has one and a half years of history. Yes, Tom Osborne has come out of retirement to right the ship of the lost Athletic Department. As I said yesterday, in our lifetimes there has never been an embracing of a new head coach as that of Pelini. Hooray! Yipee! What if Bo leads us to 6-6 this year? It would be an improvement, but would the songs of praise be sung so loudly as they are now? The hiring of Steve Pederson aroused similar approval from the Nebraska Nation. Homegrown boy with ties to Big State U coming home to right the ship. Sounds familiar to me. While we are an intelligent and well-mannered fan base, we can also be awfully fickle.

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1. DEEP THREAT? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' DEEP THREAT. Mo Purify caught a 60 yarder last year. So did Frantz Hardy. Sean Hill caught one for 73 yards. They're all gone and for Pete's sake I wouldn't be caught dead calling Sean Hill a deep threat. Marlon Lucky did catch a 62 yard pass last year and that seems legitimate, but as my nieces astutely observed earlier, most teams will key on him out of the backfield. The next longest was a 44 yard grab by Todd Peterson, but I'd feel much more comfortable calling him a possession receiver and not depending on his blazing speed for our primary deep threat. McNeill might have the ability to stretch the field. And what about this Curenski Gilleylen fellow? Wasn't he supposed to break out after his stellar Spring? I haven't heard a word about him this Fall with the exception of my own laughter at the most ridiculous facemask in recent memory. Now I don't mind running a slant and curl passing game, but you have to keep defenses honest somehow.

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well done MIB...

You and i being the recruiting nerds that we are, doesn't that list of TE's in the league just piss you off, considering that half of them had NU as one of their finalists???? Rucker and Bennett specifically, how did we never land any of them????

You made some great points about our D...everytime i start to break down our Defense i realize that this defense is at the same talent level or below, last years....yikes!!!!!! At least Cozbohl isn't around....
And I didn't even talk about our DEs. We had 13 sacks last year. That's the same number we had against Maine in the 2005 season opener. To put things further into perspective, last year Barry Turner had 3 sacks and Zach Potter had 2.5. In 2005, Blake Tiedtke had 4. Yikes. And I cannot confidently say that coach John Papuchis, dynamite recruiter that his, will help things. Last year his title was Defensive Intern.
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