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  • Yes Sir-2014 Spring Practice and Spring Game Headlines

    I attended Nebraska's spring game with low enthusiasm on Saturday, and the on-field product matched my experience. Maybe it's because this Bo Pelini's seventh year here at Nebraska, with coordinators going into their fourth and third years, that it just feels like there wasn't a lot to see.

    Obviously, that doesn't have to be a bad thing. The face of Nebraska football right now is Kenny Bell, who appears to be the furthest thing from a rah-rah guy. Quiet strength is still strength, so let's look at the major headlines and try not to do too much over-analyzing before the end of August gets here.
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    Attendance was virtually the same as last year's spring game, a good sign given that Husker basketball had taken considerable buzz away from the start of spring practice. Even though there probably won't be another sold-out spring game without a popular new coach or transfer quarterback, it's good to know that the university can count on strong, young attendance for the event.

    The spring game still matters in terms of bringing in kids and marketing Husker football to a new generation. College football attendance has looked sparse, even at programs that have their act together, and don't think Nebraska won't have issues filing Memorial Stadium in the future. Oddly enough, it's probably cheaper for dad to take the two kids to the Spring Game if they take the drug-fee pledge, and that's a good thing
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    I'm all for using an alternate scoring system, but not for a set number of plays per quarter. Play with a clock and run the playclock, and play with kickoffs and punts, an area of your team that needs significant work. Running a no-huddle offense is about snapping the ball quickly, and part of the point of the spring game should be getting a quarterback used to look up at the playclock in the stadium, something he's not doing when the team is practicing inside.

    By altering the game format significantly and putting his coaches on the field, it begs the question if Pelini has great concerns about his team going into this year. This is the time since 2010 he's going into the season without a sure-fire starter, and one of the biggest offensive line reboots he's ever had. While the former may grab more headlines, don't be surprised if the later is causing Pelini the most concern, as well it should.
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    Imani Cross appears lighter, quicker and like he will be an every-down back next year. Even with all his great moves, Ameer Abdullah probably needs another 5-10 lbs to be the ideal between-the-tackles pounder the Big 10 is accustomed to. Cross seems to be that back.
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    It was disappointing not to see Jamal Turner get to play quarterback. When I first read that Turner was taking snaps, I dismissed it as a complete waste of time by a coordinator who is no where near as clever as Northwestern offensive coordinator Mike McCall. But then I thought, what if it's just a few short yardage and red zone snaps against Florida Atlantic and McNeese State that save a few carries on Abdullah and Armstrong? Nebraska had two running quarterbacks get hurt last year, and if Turner can help save some mileage on Nebraska's other ball carriers and makes other coaches study a little harder, it could be worth it. Even with Quincy Enumwa gone, Nebraska looks to be loaded at the wide receiver position. (Brandon Reilly could average 10+ yards a reception, and he's likely the fourth or fifth option.)
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    While I'm happy that Tim Beck has pared down the playbook, it will be ineffective if Nebraska is not snapping the ball with 20 seconds or more left on the playclock. As we saw on Saturday, all the quarterbacks still spend a lot of time changing the play at the line of scrimmage, costing Nebraska 7-10 plays a game.
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    I don't know what to make of Pelini carrying a cat on to the field for the Spring Game. On the one hand, this is college football, and part of college football is recruiting and staying in step with the culture at large. On the other hand, this is still coach who had a sideline/post-game press conference meltdown only four months ago. Genuinely speaking, does Pelini look like a guy who spends a lot of time laughing at himself? I don't think so, but if he wants to parody his parody account go ahead. It's not like the joke hasn't taken on a life of its own.

    (Faux) Pelini's cat has become to Nebraska what Phillip Rivers' bolo tie became to San Diego. Both are kind of dorky and seem to be out of place, but after a while, it kind of becomes a thing. Right now, I would buy a T-shirt with Pelini and the cat on it, just because it kind of cool and different.
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    When Dorial Green-Beckham got booted off of Missouri's football team last Friday, I got to thinking: how much confidence should Nebraska fans have in Bo Pelini to take in a transfer player who has had legal issues? This is not a commentary on Alex Lewis, whose arrest for assault occurred after he decided to transfer to Nebraska. Certainly, Green-Beckham, who had two drug arrests before it was alleged that he abused a woman, will have to be evaluated with great care by any program considering him. Drug arrests are one thing, but physical harming a woman is something else.

    The irony is, Nebraska as an institution seems well-suited to handle players from shaky backgrounds (Lawrence Phillips being the one glaring exception), but does not seem to have the greatest head coach for handling such players. Yes, Pelini has tempered his bad behavior over the last two years, but given how pervasive his bad behavior has been at times, should Pelini be trusted with those who can't control their own anger?

    That decision can only be made by the discernment of those around Pelini, namely Shawn Eichorst and Jeff Jamrog. Just because Pelini has had incidents doesn't mean he can't lead young men who've had similar problems living up to the same standard. However, Nebraska's athletic department no longer has Tom Osborne watchful eye-over-all, and outside of Ron Brown (who has his detractors in the political arena), there isn't one assistant who you would look at and say, “Oh, he'd keep a troubled players in line.” Such is the case when Pelini keeps choosing assistants with less experience at the BCS level.
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    Derek Johnson is a Seward, Nebraska native who works for his family's organic farm seed company, Blue River Hybrids, and is a freelance writer and commission photographer. He has been a contributor to Husker Max since 2013, and is a former contributor to the website Husker Locker. Visit his blog, derekjohnsonmuses.com, and follow him on Twitter @derekjohnson05. Email him at derek@derekjohnsonmuses.com
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Wow. I don't want sunshine pumpers filling me full of unwarranted optimism, but man, do you have some sort of agenda? Seriously, you have nothing positive to say?
    1. Warhorse's Avatar
      Warhorse -
      I thought about not reading past the first sentence, and once I finished, I wish I had.
    1. Neuro613's Avatar
      Neuro613 -
      I was thinking the same thing, Warhorse.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Wow, why so negative? Just killed any buzz I had about that game, which I thought was great. How many times did the coaching staff mention how pared down the schemes and plays would be? What did you expect out of it? And since when is Pelini unable to handle troubled players? Whose to say he couldnt handle someone like Green-Beckham?
    1. Red Dead Redemption's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Warhorse View Post
      I thought about not reading past the first sentence, and once I finished, I wish I had.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Horrid article. Please stick to selling seeds.
    1. ksuhusker's Avatar
      ksuhusker -
      Quote Originally Posted by Warhorse View Post
      I thought about not reading past the first sentence, and once I finished, I wish I had.
    1. 68hskr's Avatar
      68hskr -
      Not very impressed with this article. Why not just come out and say you do not like Coach Pelini. Wish I had not read it either
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Thankfully HM tells me when it is Derek Johnson writing the article because then I know that the article is going to be depressing. I read the first sentence and immediately went straight down to the comments. I'm glad I saved myself from reading his morale-draining article. Does he ever have anything nice to say about Husker athletics? He even ripped on Tim Miles for over-achieving this season.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      This is terrible. Disagreed with almost every point that you had to make. I think you are way off base from what the rest of the fan base saw during the game and just in general
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Thankfully Huskermax posts who writes these articles because with Derek Johnson, the article will always be depressing. I am glad that he put such a great first sentence. I read that and I knew the article wasn't worth my time. Does he say anything supportive of the athletic program? On one of his previous articles, he rips on Tim Miles for finishing 4th in the Big Ten.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      David, it's time to dump this guy. When you can count on the average fan of any other program in the conference to write a more balanced article about Nebraska, you know it is not helping the program, the fans, or your web site.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Worst article I have read on this site. Hands down!
    1. One Man Jury's Avatar
      One Man Jury -
      So many good things to report on about this team and this author is trying to find a cloud amid all the genuine sunshine. I like Pelini. I like this team. The guy who wrote this article doesn't get it, and doesn't understand what an awesome job the coaches did last year with all the holes they had to fill, esp. losing their star quarterback for the season and having a defense full of freshmen and sophomores.
    1. husker21's Avatar
      husker21 -
      Way to start the season off on a positive note. This team and coach put up with enough negativity last year and it's BS like this that continues the trend. Find something as a writer or fan to say good about this team (and there was plenty during the spring game) that's positive or shut the heck up. You mean you couldn't find anything better to report on but your personal feelings about Pelini and a cat or a coach giving a 18 year old kid a second chance. You make a comment about Pelini and is non BCS level coaches leading young men, I wonder if Devaney hired Osborne because of his vast experience at a so called BCS level. Get a life
    1. Vegas's Avatar
      Vegas -
      Great article,all true another 4 loss season, won't change until our ad makes some changes just read Bo is sixth rated coach in our conference a little high I would say.
    1. johnhoie's Avatar
      johnhoie -
      I'll make it unanimous. If the program gives you so much pain, why follow it? One doesn't have to be a Kool-Aide drinker to enjoy Nebraska football, but it sounds like a trip to the dentist for a root canal the way you describe it.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I, too like the other commenters found this article overly pessimistic. But since no one else has pointed out the flaws in this post I'll help you:

      1. This one is trivial, but virtually everyone would agree that Abdullah is the face of the program, not KB.

      2. The quality of depth on this OL (especially the guards, which have 5 viable starters) is arguably the greatest its ever been in Bo's tenure. His past few classes of OL recruits, going by their offer lists in high school, are noticeably better. Even so, don't be surprised to see Nebraska repeatedly run behind the left side of the line, as Cotton and Lewis (lowly regarded HS recruits) are the best run blockers on the team. I highly doubt the OL is "causing Pelini concern"

      3. Last season should have put to rest any notion that Abdullah's size is a liability in the Big 10. The kid brought it consistently all throughout the season. Gaining weight might not hurt, but he certainly doesn't need to.

      4. Nebraska pared down the playbook for two reasons: help the offense master a set of plays that will be the core of what they run during the season. and also, not to tip their hand too much to opposing DC's. I still think they whip out the JT wildcat package a bit this season, but given that it's gimmicky and relatively new, there was no need to put it on film yet.

      5. I don't know how you can definitively say Drug arrests are more desirable for the team than physically harming a woman. Both are pretty bad and undesirable.

      6. Pelini is the perfect head coach to handle players of questionable character. His zero-tolerance policies either whip the player into shape or weed out the ones with poor character. He has followed through on this policy enough for the zero-tolerance culture to be fully ingrained. Name all the instances of Pelini's "bad behavior", most of which you know only from his antics on the sideline during a game. As a writer for HuskerMax you should be fully aware by now that enough people inside the program have corroborated instances of Pelini's bulletproof character and "good behavior". The instances of his good behavior far outnumber the instances of his "bad behavior". I'd say Bo Pelini is the best equipped to keep troubled players in line. He's better at it than Ron Brown as you argue, and certainly better at it than Osborne was (see: LP, Peter Brothers). Osborne was much more willing to sacrifice character for talent than Bo was, and that very well may have costed Bo some wins. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Pelini's high-character kids have always been easy to root for, no quandaries of the likes of LP, Christian Peter, or Thunder Collins are likely to happen under his watch.

      Your articles have always been suspect, but this is by far the worst
    1. paul's Avatar
      paul -
      How about you ease up a bit. It was a spring game and it is meant to be a family friendly atmosphere. Don't expect them to operate it like an actual game and don't expect them to show much of the playbook.

      I grew up on a farm outside Seward and I find your writing to be pure garbage. It lacks any substance and it is full of negativity - never any fair or balanced journalism here. I have read several of your articles because I thought it was neat to see someone from Seward writing, but this will be the last I read.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Doesn't seem like anything our coaches would have done for the Spring Game would have pleased you.

      Maybe you should have taken the day off from Nebraska Football.
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