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  • Will redshirts of 2008 pay off for 2012 Blackshirts?

    Remember 2008? The way Bo Pelini finished his first season at Nebraska had Cornhusker fans at least as optimistic as Michigan fans must feel about Brady Hoke and the Wolverines right now.

    The Huskers won six of their last seven games to finish 9-4 in Pelini’s first year as head coach, capped by a 26-21 win over Clemson in the Gator Bowl. It looked even better coming off a depressing 5-7 season under Bill Callahan in 2007.

    Pelini did it with a lack of speed and athleticism on defense, especially the secondary. He gambled – and won – that he could redshirt most of his first recruiting class. Will there be a payoff four years later?

    With Joe Ganz at quarterback distributing the ball to receivers Nate Swift, Mike McNeill and Todd Peterson, plus Roy Helu Jr. and Marlon Lucky providing sufficient punch in the running game, the 2008 Huskers had plenty of offense. But the defense suffered, especially early in the season.

    Yes, Ndamukong Suh was a junior, and he had a lot of help on the d-line, but the back seven was shaky. The linebacking corps was mediocre at best (Phillip Dillard had his renaissance the following year – in 2009) and the secondary was leaky – Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard weren’t far enough along to make a difference yet.

    Players who possibly could have given Nebraska a boost in 2008 – guys like Baker Steinkuhler, Will Compton, Sean Fisher and P.J. Smith – ended up redshirting. So did Alonzo Whaley and Courtney Osborne, who were selected co-MVPs of the scout team that fall.

    It stands as one of Pelini’s best achievements in his first four years at Nebraska, wringing nine wins out of that 2008 team that allowed 28 points per game. That payoff needs to come in a big way this fall on a defense that will be short on star power but long on depth. The leadership should be there, but will anyone be able to make an explosive play?

    Turnover margin has been a big problem for the Big Red. The Blackshirts were unable to get two takeaways per game in either 2010 or 2011. All eyes will be on quarterback Taylor Martinez this fall, and if the defense can’t get him a short field once in awhile, the pressure on Martinez and the Nebraska passing game will ratchet up exponentially. Martinez has been working on his throwing mechanics, but has not yet proven he’s a good enough passer to hit targets under duress (more on Martinez in another column).

    Giving T-Mart a short field to work with once or twice a game would go a long way toward a Big Ten title. And even a few tackles for loss (NU rated 112th among all major college teams last fall) would be welcome. At the very least, it would help the Huskers get off the field on third down more often than in 2011, when they rated 64th in that category.

    Meanwhile, Michigan came in at No. 68 in tackles for loss and No. 36 in third down defense. No wonder it felt like Hoke had Michigan playing more consistently in year one of his tenure than Pelini did Nebraska in year four of his.

    Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker is a longtime Nebraska sports writer, having covered University of Nebraska and high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Sera's Avatar
      Sera -
      Personally I find Beck's comments asonutdly self delusional and a little insulting..Did he watch the same game as everyone else? As one sports writer put it The Wisconsin loss was more than just a loss..It highlighted what is and has been wrong at Nebraska for the last several years Lack of focus on the field, mistakes, busted plays, fumbles, the never ending assault of penalties. The endless parade of post game excuses, after excuses after excuses, *ad infintum* ..Pointing of fingers at the players by the coaching staff The once venerable and respected Blackshirt Defense the laughing stock of the league..A QB that can barely string more than 3 words together in a sentance without saying um along with the subsequent dumbing down of the Offense to accomodate him Taylor Martinez is slow witted & dumb Period. This is his THIRD season with this team as a Quarterback..And yet He is still unable to think on his feet, unable to make the mental adjustments a QB needs to be able to make in an actual game in order to be an effective QB or team leader for that matter. Seriously, who wants to play their guts out for someone that is either going throw the ball away or fumble it or refuse to take credit for his mistakes?..He's a spoiled playground wannabee ..The inability and unwillingness of the OC & DC to adapt to changing conditions on and off the field .The how dare you ask me questions attitude at the post game conferences. Bo Pelini apologising in front of a national audience for his team's play..Is this how you inspire young men to believe in you Bo? To play hard for you? You humiliate them publically whenever YOUR game plan goes awry..? The list goes on and on and the frustrating part is .None of this is new. Boleni does not have what it takes to be a Head Coach at this level. He's arrogant, stupid and immature .These are systemic symptoms of a derailed program that began with Tom Osbourne's Departure. The highspeed screwing they gave Frank Solich & Charlie McBride. All of it culminating in the team you see before you now These are not player issues They are Coaching & Orginizational staff issues. and BTW Let us not forget the Bo Pelini is one of the highest payed coaches in the College Football. NU is paying for steak and getting hamburger ..None of this is going to get better on it's own Until the AD steps up and makes the needed changes, either by asserting his authority or replacing personel..Or both.. Big Red Fans had better get used to celebrating mediocrity
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