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Thursday, August 21, 2008

9 Things to Get Excited About NU Football

In an attempt to harness my exuberance for the upcoming collegiate tackle football season, here are 9 things from the preseason to be excited about:

9. THE RUNNING BACK COMPETITION. Did anyone seriously see this one coming when Marlon Lucky announced he was coming back for his senior season? Sure it was nice to see Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille emerge on the scene as a true freshman, but we've seen that before (see Glenn, Cody; Horne, David; Evans, DeAngelo) and it hasn't always panned out on a long-term basis. So when Helu exploded during spring ball, it was comforting to this fan's eye to have the added depth, but to see him listed as sharing the RB1 duties most definitely surprised me.

Helu's quick rise certainly meant Castille's plummet, right? Apparently shedding anywhere from 12-30 pounds gave Q some buoyancy on the depth chart. More than one report I've read this summer has suggested that Castille's svelte figure and the coaching staff's commitment to the running game have ensured that he does not lose any carries from last year.

And that's not even the end of the story. It would be unfair to end this discussion without throwing Marcus Mendoza's name into the mix. Although Mendoza has always been a burner, he's also been the runt of the running back stable (despite looking like a 36-year old accountant from suburban Houston complete with clear braces and awesome barely there mustache). I had no problem relegating him to special teams until I read about how much he torched the first team offense as a scout teamer last year. I know that doesn't speak highly of our then faded Blackshirts, but he did make the travel squad for two games before Callahan made a wise decision to maintain his redshirt.

Not only the depth of this position, but the variety of skill sets possessed by these ball carriers will be a key to re-establishing the running game this season.


8. RICKY MOTHERGRABBING HENRY. Shame on me for not being excited for Ricky Henry to make his second attempt at being a Husker. I think intelligence is a virtue for an offensive lineman and when it was unsure if Henry would qualify after his stint at North Dakota College of Science and Football, I was less than indifferent on him joining the team. I was led astray by my own goddamned overanalysis. I overlooked one important difference: BOOK SMARTS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH FOOTBALL SMARTS! What an idiot! What's the difference, you ask? Book smarts entail knowing the proper way to use a slide rule. Football smarts, specifically for a lineman, entail using force to put a defender on their ass regardless of your knowledge of the playbook. Ricky M. Henry has football smarts.

When Andy Christensen pulled a Christian Peter at the Brass Rail this off season, Nebraska lost a good lineman. Not necessarily great, but Christensen had starts under his belt and was versatile along the line. Ricky Henry, mohawk on head and Copenhagen in lip, is after just two weeks establishing himself as a motivating force on the line and is challenging for a starting position at left guard. I can only imagine it's like seeing Eric Naranjo drive to our middle school football games in full uniform and grinding his cigarette into the grass with his cleats. Scary dude.


7. LINEBACKERS COACH MIKE EKELER. Everything I've heard about this dude is awesome. Great family man. Loud. Former special teams standout, albeit at k-state. Homegrown. Coached high school as a volunteer. Young. Hell of a recruiter, as evident by his willingness to put a semi-temporary tattoo of Will Compton's name on his shoulder in time for a in-home visit. Handsome. Good sense of humor (he can quote each of the 84 words of Carl Spackler's Dalai Lama soliloquy at will). Sensitive...er, I mean tough. Forgive my man crush. Granted, he has his work cut out for him this year, I can't imagine him being less successful than some of his predecessors (I'm looking in your direction, Mr. Cosgrove).


6. RETURN OF THE WALK-ON PROGRAM. Brett Maher should be Ohio University or Colorado State's starting kicker this year. Damon Bechtold would most likely get some field time there as well. But they won't, because they turned down scholarships to walk on at Nebraska. Good for them. Matt Holt has built himself a home with the number two defense as an outside linebacker. Not bad for a kid who received 0 stars from Rivals and didn't even get a profile with Scout. Also watch for David Pillen, son of Clete, to letter about three times. He's listed as a long snapper and with the top two long snappers gone after this year, he's got three, maybe four letters just waiting for him.


5. TWO WHITE GUYS STARTING AT RECEIVER. No other team in the Big XII can claim that. And I'm fine with having our top two guys filling the role of possession receivers. Peterson established himself as a legitimate redzone threat last year with five TD grabs. I bet Pete's cousin will match that number if not nudge it up a bit this year. If Swift successfully catches 41 footballs during games on plays that aren't negated by penalty, then he will be the sole leader of the all-time receptions record at the University of Nebraska. That will put him ahead of Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Rodgers, which if you use the Communicative Property of Addition will reward Nate Swift the 2008 Heisman Trophy. Congratulations, Nate.


4. KHIRY COOPER. Am I the only one who thinks this kid looks like a nephew of Flava Flav, if Flav was just a regular guy from Shreveport? Reason to be excited about Khiry Cooper #1: Turned down 5th round MLB draft choice money to play sports for the University of Nebraska. This coupled with the fact that he will play baseball for the University of Nebraska collegiate baseball team should lead you to deduce that he is a heck of an athlete. Reason to be excited about Khiry Cooper #2: He will give us our most dangerous return threat since DeJuan Groce (hometown: Shaker Heights, Ohio).


3. BO PELINI IS UNDEFEATED AS HEAD COACH OF NEBRASKA. Frank Solich's hiring was overshadowed by the fact that Dr. Tom was retiring. Bill Callahan's hiring was mired in the controversy following Solich's firing. Not in my lifetime has a new Nebraska football coach been this widely anticipated and welcomed. I am encouraged by what former players who had never met Pelini have had to say. I like what his current players have to say about him.


--Western Michigan is no joke, maybe. Prognosticator Phil Steele has WMU ranked 40th to NU's 43rd. Then again, Athlon has WMU 82, NU 41 and Lindy's has WMU 107 and NU 51. Two years ago, this would be a cupcake, but following a near upset from Ball State at home last year anything can happen.
--San Jose State should be significantly easier, but they are coached by the reputable Dick Tomey.
--New Mexico State could prove hazardous with Hal Mumme's, "F--- it, I'm going deep!" offense led by ball launcher Chase Holbrook, especially with last year's high propensity to suck defense.
--Virginia Tech, now absolutely obliterated by suspensions and injuries, is still Virginia Tech. A winable game, but probably a loss. Big recruiting weekend.
--Missouri will be a challenge, to say the least. But, they haven't won here since any of us have been alive. Not that I'm promoting anything less than the epitome of good sportsmanship, but it would be good to hear Blaine Gabbert booed. You broke my heart, Fredo.
--Baylor should cap off a nice two game winning streak. Yay, winning streaks.
--Kansas will be worse than they were last year. Kansas will not hang 76 points on us. At home. Under Bo Pelini. That, my dear friends, I can assure you.
--Colorado is always a fun game to go to. Whether it's a blowout or not. It always has the feel of a vacation game.


1. DAN TITCHENER COULD BE THE BEST PUNTER IN THE NATION. You would expect something sexier to garner the number one spot, but this isn't a countdown, just a list. He kicks the ball hard and far and where he wants it to go.


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is there a chance of the Man in Black uploading an .mp3 of him actually saying "get excited!"

Loved the Naranjo line by the way.
This quote from the scrimage on Thursday sounds a lot more like what a football practice should sound like.

When it was revealed that senior Joe Ganz would be the only quarterback to sport a protective green jersey for Thursday's scrimmage, some eyes on the defense definitely lit up.

According to Ekeler, some of NU's linebackers delivered a little payback to the backup quarterbacks, specifically redshirt freshman Patrick Witt.

"I think they enjoyed that," Ekeler said. "I know Witt gave our guys a couple stiff arms and he had a green jersey on, and those guys remembered that, so they enjoyed it. I saw (Cody Glenn) got a nice little shot on him. But it was all in good fun. The guys were having a good time."

-I don't remember hearing things like "scrimage" or "hit on redshirt freshman quarterback" enough in the last 4 years.
I'm excited about the return of The MIB.
A great constructive article will help to understand the issue.
Another great article. I like that you are very honest and direct to the point.
Nice review about 9 Things to Get Excited About NU Football! This really helps me to find the answers to my question. Hoping that you will continue posting an article having a useful information. Thanks a lot!

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