Friday, March 28, 2008

Where's the Kool-Aid Stand?

*** My apologies to any other Husker bloggers (and readers), as we inevitably all have some variation of the exact same information. This tends to happen when there are 20,000 bloggers for one college football team.


That seems to be the collective feeling of Husker Nation as we enter the first spring practices of the Pelini era. Everyone you talk to seems to be completely bombed off of the Pelini Kool-Aid, myself included. Unlike the last time we had a regime change, there's no bitterness over firings or anything like that--everyone is genuinely excited we have a different coaching staff, which is understandable considering everyone (including the players, apparently) really didn't like Callahan and his crew.

Every player has given glowing endorsements of Pelini's practice style, and the media as well as the fans are eating up every sound bite they are fed by the Big Red. I'm not going to analyze or quote every single interview that was given or try to break down Pelini's defensive schemes after just one practice (that would be pretty dumb at this juncture). What I am going to do in this post is look at what some of the the players are saying about the new staff as well as the old one (these quotes were particularly eye opening). Anyways, I, along with the rest of Husker Nation, find myself with a spring in my step this week. Sure, it's a new staff, a new outlook, and we are back at square one. But I'd rather be at square one in the Pelini era than whatever number we were at last year in Callahan's......because his "drive program into ground" square completely sucked.....

One article I definitely want to touch on is this gem by the OWH's Dirk Chatelain, discussing how the players last year would often fall behind mentally because Callahan's staff wouldn't stop to make sure that everyone understood what was being taught. If you fell behind, someone who understood was going to be playing instead of you (which is probably why we saw a lot of guys playing who weren't really the best football player). Typically revealing was this little soundbite:

"Coaches weren't really in teaching mode," safety Larry Asante said.

So whoever understood the information, Asante said, "that's the guy who played."

"There were guys out there lost."

Really? No way! I always thought the defensive guys were spot-on in their assignments. I mean, those 15 yard-wide holes against USC had to have been planned, right? Oh, wait, it's because nobody knew what they were doing? I really couldn't tell. As the article states, Callahan's practices were better set up for NFL players who could quickly pick up his schemes with minimal instruction. After all, by the time you make it to the league, you're expected to understand most football schemes, and there isn't much individual instruction and follow up to make sure the players get it. Because if they don't you can simply find someone who will. College ball is different. You still need to be a teacher, you still need to help the kids out, you can't expect 19 and 20 year olds to be able to pick up a scheme instantly. In addition to that, apparently the staff waited till they were in film later that night or even the next day to point out mistakes made in practice. This is one of the DUMBEST things I have ever heard of. Players need correction and re-enforcement right away, you don't wait a day to let them know they screwed up.

One thing I have loved reading about is the intensity and effort that Pelini is demanding (and apparently getting) from his Husker defenders. Take this quote from Phillip Dillard:

"Every play he's yelling, 'Run to the ball, run to the ball. D-linemen, I want you running 10 yards to the ball no matter what,"' Dillard said. "If you're not, you're going to hear from him."

"If you're messing up, he's talking to you, and he's going to correct you because he wants everything done right," Dillard said. "If you're not doing something right, he's going to call you out. And the other players are going to call you out. That's the way it's supposed to be."

I know that seems like a given, but there were a lot of times last year where the effort was questionable at best, and to be a successful, ball-hawking unit that Pelini likes, there has to be guys flying to the ball every single play. The goal is to always have about 7 guys in the picture when you're watching film of a tackle. There has a to be a wolf-pack mentality, where every one is fighting for scraps. This is especially true of a unit that wants to create turnovers. There were several times last year where the opposing team fumbled, only to recover it themselves because nobody was around the ball (which was partly due to Cosgrove's insistence on sticking with man-to-man defenses). This quote by Niles Paul to Brian Christopherson of the LJS was particularly encouraging: “The defense was flying to the ball, picking up fumbles, dropped passes, they were picking them up and taking them to the house.” After watching the Blackshirts sleepwalk through embarrassment after embarrassment last year, it's refreshing to hear of their enthusiasm to impress their new coach.

Anyways, I just wanted to check in with some stuff on this post, we're only one practice in after all. But I want to leave with you with one more snippet from Barry Turner about what Bo is telling his troops about the upcoming season:

"Coach Pelini is doing a great job of just saying there's no team on the schedule we feel like we can't beat," said Turner. "That's how your mind's got to be."

Damn right.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Decline of Drinking Prowess, along with Husker tidbits

I just realized it's been several weeks since I've posted anything new on here, so I figured I'd at least check in and write something, even if there is very little new Husker news. Yes, there is that little issue of losing Anthony Blue for the spring (and some say longer) to a knee injury, but I didn't want to write about that because it is, to be completely honest, downright depressing. Just once, I'd like to make it through a spring without having one of our best cover guys blow something out......

Also, sure-fire starter Andy Christensen was arrested for allegedly putting his hand up a girl's skirt at the Brass Rail in Lincoln. If sports followers have learned anything, it's to let things like this go through their due process before jumping to rash conclusions.......I made the mistake of predicting Mo Purify getting kicked off the team last summer after his two arrests, and I was only off by 11 games, considering he only missed the opener. The lesson, as always, is that I'm a dumbass.

Now, to the main part of my post.

Having turned 24 this past winter (I should say the one we are currently in, considering that there is no such thing as spring in Minnesota), I've noticed over the past few months that my ability to consume large amounts of alcohol has lessened severely. Now obviously, I never thought I could drink like I was 20 forever, but I really didn't think that my ability to recover would be so greatly affected at such an early age. I went out Friday night, and over the course of the night drank enough booze to kill a small-to-medium sized family of people. Even two years ago, this wouldn't have fazed me all that much. I never used to get hangovers, and when I say never, I really mean I'd never get them. I could drink liters of hard alcohol and wake up the next morning and go work out. I've noticed over the past couple years that I can't drink as much as I used to, but despite that, my recovery time was still seemingly way faster than that of my peers.

That illusion came crashing down this past Saturday morning, when I woke up feeling like someone had hit me in the head and stomach with a boat oar. Usually, something like that would dissipate pretty quickly for me, but this was different. I didn't feel human until about 10:30 that night, and there was no way I was going out after what I had just endured. I've never had an all-day hangover, and it marks the first time one has prevented me from going out for a 2nd consecutive night. Now, maybe this was an aberration, a fluke occurrence that won't happen regularly. Or maybe, as I suspect, the time has come when my body has finally started to punish me for my liver abuse. If it sucks this much when you're 24, let's just say I'm really not looking forward to when I'm 30 or older.

That said, I'm going to test which is really the case this coming weekend. I figure, what better time to figure it out then on St. Patty's day weekend? Hope you are all finding something to do to satisfy your Husker fix, because I myself am going into withdrawl......Spring ball can't get here soon enough, it's getting so desperate that people are starting "blackout" threads on message boards just to have something to argue about.