Monday, April 28, 2008

A Disappointing Draft

Another NFL Draft marathon come and gone, and another disappointing result (on many fronts). My original plans had called for morning golf followed by drinking and draft watching. However, due to the fact that the state of Minnesota is stuck in some kind of winter purgatory that has no end in sight (it felt like 25 degrees with snow throughout the day Saturday), we were relegated to sitting inside and drinking, along with several games of NCAA 2008, a tournament that yours truly dominated easily.

In addition to weather that is causing many Minnesotans to contemplate suicide, the draft sucked even worse due to lack of draftable Husker prospects. Many expected Carl Nicks to go in the 3rd round (some people speculated he was a 2nd rounder), yet he fell all the way to the Saints late in the 5th round. He is expected to come in and challenge for playing time after some development time. We could see him helping Reggie Bush get 3 yards a carry sometime in a couple years if he comes in and impresses. This continues to make the Saints a popular place for ex-Huskers in the league, as they have both Scott Shanle and Josh Bullocks on their roster in addition to Nicks.

The real surprise was oft-injured CB Zach Bowman being drafted by the Bears early in the 5th round, making him the first Husker selected this year. At one time, before suffering his two knee injuries, Bowman was considered a first-round talent. Obviously, teams were wary of his injury history, but the Bears' medical staff obviously thought that the worst was behind him, and that at 100% he could be a good project to work into their secondary. They already have good corners in Nathan Vasher and Ricky Manning, but this gives them someone who could develop into a contributor once he is completely done rehabbing and gets worked into the rotation. Also, if everything were to pan out perfectly (a longshot), we could see two Huskers in the same secondary: Husker legend Mike Brown, and Bowman.

The last Husker drafted may have landed himself in the best situation, depending on whether or not he can make the team. Bo Ruud was drafted in the 7th round by the Patriots, whose linebacking corps is the NFL equivalent of an old folk's home. Aging vets Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau, Mike Vrabel, Larry Izzo, and Adalius Thomas are all on the wrong side of 30, some of them well past it in NFL years. While that bodes well for Ruud's prospects of making the team, the bad news is that in addition to Bo, the Pats also drafted Jared Mayo out of Tennessee and Shawn Crable out of Michigan, both linebackers. Bo's best shot is to impress in camp with his smarts and maybe make the squad as a special teamer and work his way into the rotation over time. Many will write him off immediately due to his lack of agility, but I think a lot of his struggles at NU were due to the fact his defensive coach was Kevin Cosgrove. Last time I checked, Bill Belichick is a somewhat more highly regarded defensive mind.......

5 Picks I liked......

1) Glenn Dorsey, DT, Kansas City
A great pick for the Chiefs, whose interior defensive line has been terrible for years. After some misfires (Ryan Sims, anyone?), KC finally has a guy who can anchor the inside for the foreseeable future and quickly make an impact on this fast-improving defense.

2) Jordon Dizon, LB, Detroit
While some say the former CU Buffalo lacks the size to play outside backer in the NFL, they were saying the same thing about Ernie Sims a couple of years ago, and he's turned out to be pretty good in the League. While Dizon isn't the physical specimen that Sims is in terms of speed, he is a consistent player who does what is necessary to make the plays. He has a high motor, and is always around the ball. He's going to be a great fit with Marinelli in Detroit, and should get time on special teams right away in addition to getting a look at OLB.

3) Limas Sweed, WR, Pittsburgh
Taken in the 2nd round, the big-bodied Longhorn is the perfect fit for the Steeler's offense, and he'll work in with a talented group that includes an aging Hines Ward and former 1st-rounder Santonio Holmes. Factor in stud TE Heath Miller, and Big Ben is going to have plenty of options to throw to. Look for Sweed to be a big factor in the red zone this coming season.

4) Martin Rucker, TE, Cleveland
Yes, I realize that my "Picks I liked" section is a bit Big12-heavy, but these are the guys I've spent a lot of the past few years watching, so of course I'm going to feel a bit more comfortable evaluating their talent. Some of you might be saying "Wait, the Browns already have Kellen Winslow", but he is used more out of the slot in a H-back role than a traditional tight end, which is what Rucker is. While he's a bit slower than the elite pass-catching tight ends, I think he's going to be a very serviceable pro, particularly for a 4th rounder.

5) John David Booty, QB, Minnesota
While I absolutely hate to give the Vikings credit for anything they do, I thought this was a great pick so late in the draft (5th round). The QB situation in Minnesota is one that needed bolstering, with still-doubted Tavaris Jackson starting and Gus Frerotte and Brooks Bollinger backing him up. Booty was once considered a Heisman candidate, has an adequate arm for the Vikings west coast offense, and has experience in the pressure cooker of a big-time program in college. Reminds me a lot of Tom Brady way back in the day, when people slept on him coming out of Michigan.

5 Picks I didn't like...

1) Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
Arthur Blank on the BC product's first day in Atlanta: "Mr. Ryan, welcome to the Falcons! I'd like you to meet the guys that you'll be competing with for our QB position: Joey Harrington, Chris Redman, and DJ Shockley. Please, don't make us look any dumber than we already do. As long as you don't sanction any dog fights, we're already headed in the right direction!"
I still think Ryan is going to be a bust in the NFL. I've thought so for a couple of years now, and I'm sticking to my guns on this one.

2) Vernon Gholston, LB, NY Jets
A huge upside, but an inconsistent college performer. For the amount of guaranteed money he's going to get, you would expect more from him than he gave in college. An absolute freak physically, he has the potential to be a game-changer or a huge underachiever. I like the player, but not in the top 10.

3) DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia
An explosive but incomplete player, Jackson will immediately boost the Eagles' return game, but he's an spotty route-runner and is waaaay undersized (5'9", 175). He didn't produce that much in college either, despite his freakish speed. If he turns into a Devin Hester-type player though, you can't argue with the pick.

4) Brian Brohm/Matt Flynn, QB, Green Bay
Two QBs to back-up your new starter, Aaron Rogers? Seems like kind of overkill to me. Some see this as a message to Brett Favre that he needs to just stay retired. I see it as a waste of at least one draft pick. Flynn is one thing, but to grab Brohm as well is a bit much, though I guess the Packers figure they have a young and deep team and that they can afford to take a few gambles.

5) Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
I think he has the tools to be an NFL QB, but he's a couple of years away to me, and this is a Ravens team that is aging quickly, particularly on defense. The window is closing, and they don't have time to sit around and wait. It's a good thing they have Kyle Boller there to.......oh wait, nevermind.....

Closing thoughts
A high of 40 degrees here in Minneapolis........I was waiting for spring, but apparently we're going to skip that and just go from winter to summer, probably in early June. It will be 42 and windy, and then the next day will be 96 with 94% humidity and baseball-size mosquitoes........damn this place sucks...

-Wish Danny Woodhead had gotten drafted, thought he had a really good shot.....

-Octo signed a free agent deal with the Chiefs, giving them two former Huskers at LB (the other being Demorrio Williams, who came over from Atlanta). Should be interesting to see what Octavien can do and if he can stay healthy.

-Reports from the LJS have Mo Purify going to camp with the Bengals

-Courtney Grixby signed a FA deal with Carolina

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hot Routes

Due to a rare busy week at work, I didn't really have time (or, to be honest, feel the need) to write a recap of the spring game. We didn't see much that would lead us to believe there has been a huge transformation in the defense, and nobody really stood out and had monster days. Even the guys that made several good plays (like Curenski Gilleylen, who hauled in a 77 yard bomb from Ganz but also dropped a couple balls) balanced them out by having a few gaffes. I'm still confident that the team will continue to improve over the summer through workouts and diligent film study, and that after fall camp, they'll be ready to go out and surprise some people. But let's not kid ourselves, they aren't going to come out and pitch shutouts right away. It's going to take work, patience, and time.

Some thoughts from the spring game:

- If someone had told you two months ago that our starting outside backers going into fall camp would be Cody Glenn and Tyler Wortman, what would your reaction have been? It's a shock that a former running back and a 5th year walk-on are our starters right now, but it's shocking in a good way. I was skeptical that Glenn would contribute much after playing running back exclusively the past few years, but it just goes to show that I'm a complete idiot (though, to be honest, we already knew that, didn't we?). And Wortman is a testament to the value of the walk-on program. A guy busts his ass for 5 years, and his diligence is rewarded by the new staff, who gave him his shot, one he took and ran with. Will they be our starters on open day? Who knows. Blake Lawrence and a group of talented youngsters will have ample opportunity to grab the spots in fall camp. For now though, my hat is off to the two seniors who were the big stories of camp (Glenn) and the spring game (Wortman).

- Does anybody else wonder just how many carries that Lucky is going to get with the other studs behind him? If Castille can learn how to hang on to the ball, he and Helu will be breathing down Marlon's back. It's not a bad thing (competition never is), but it's going to be an interesting scenario to watch next season, especiallly considering Helu seems to improve with each passing day. We are going to have a very dangerous running game, and that'll open up some things for Ganz, whose interceptions last year were often due to the fact he had to throw 45 times a game to keep us in the shootouts. I really hope that Watson gets creative with these three, I'm talking having Ganz in the shotgun with Lucky and Castille on each side of him with Helu in the slot, stuff like that. If you're a defense, who do you key on? I've advocated for SOME elements of the zone-read from the shotgun in past posts, and it's something that Terry Bowden agrees with me on. I can't decide if that's a good thing or not.........

- With 'Bama having 92,000 last year and the Huskers having 80,000-plus this year, the fascination with spring games will continue to grow, as everybody now knows that it is a huge recruiting tool. Almost everybody already knew this, but with increased interest in college football and the coverage of it growing, even impartial people are taking notice of these events. It's going to be a competition every year now to get the headlines and banner recruits for these glorified practices. Not that it's a bad thing, the more college football coverage, the better.

Some NFL thoughts, with the Draft Marathon coming this weekend:

- Why did the NFL move the draft start time back to 2:00? This crap takes forever, the last thing we need is a delayed start. Plus, that means if I start drinking at 10:00 AM (which was the standard operating procedure when the draft started then), I am now classified as a drunk instead of just being your average football fan.

- While I don't plan on keeping a running diary of the draft like I did last year (where it took 4 damn hours for the 1st round, causing my laptop battery to die), I do plan on keeping an informal journal throughout the day (which will include my golf round in the morning with my buddies), then posting it on here Monday. I'm not sure how it will work out, but it's worth a shot, even if most of the stuff that my buddies and I talk about will probably not be postable due to inappropriate comments about pretty much every single race, sex, orientation, know what, it's not going to matter. Just imagine watching a Judd Apatow movie for 12 hours, fueled by heavy drinking. It's going to be a bunch of guys ripping on each other, so you know it's going to get pretty bad (in a fun way though).
While I'm on this topic, I gotta say, has anyone done more to take the male art of ripping on each other to a whole new level than Apatow and his cast of buddies? Movies like 40-year-old virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad have taken sh*t-talking to a whole new level, to the point that women can't even be around when men interact with each other, it just gets too graphic. This may be a phenomenon reserved for those of us 25-and-under, but what happens as we get older? Will we still be ripping on each other like this when we're 50? I certainly hope so.

- Living in Minnesota, I have to comment on the Jared Allen trade. First off, let me say that I am a big fan of Allen. He's a hell of a player who plays the game the right way, and he's an absolute beast. But I still think the Vikings overpaid for him. Giving up a 1st and a 3rd would be fine, but to give up a 1st, two 3rds, and swapping 5th round picks, in addition to giving him one of the richest contracts in NFL history in terms of guaranteed money is a big investment for one guy. I realize that they need an edge pass rusher, but damn, he better get them at leas 12 to 15 sacks every year the next 4 years, or you have to say that it wasn't worth it. A lot of this depends on what KC does with the bevy of picks they acquired, and with Carl Peterson in charge, they'll probably do pretty well (though picking Brody Croyle a couple years ago is still a head scratcher, and in my opinion was a terrible choice from the get-go). Either way, it's fun to watch all the Vikings fans talk themselves into the trade, saying that a good pass rusher was all they needed. Apparently they've all forgotten that their QB is Tavaris Jackson. Then again, with some guy named Adrian Peterson in the backfield, they might be good despite that.

-Kudos to Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, who despite getting some good trade offers, are moving forward with their collective F-you to Chad Johnson's bitching and moaning. This guy has always played the happy-go-lucky version of T.O., but you had to know that deep down, the guy would eventually turn into a cancer, and sure enough, his douchebaggery has risen to the top. I hope they keep him the whole year and just let the asshole sit out like he is threatening to.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No TV Coverage?

So I'm still a bit miffed as to why this year's spring game hasn't been picked up for broadcast on TV.......last year, the NFL Network came to town to watch Keller beat up the sixth string defense while Witt was assaulted behind an offensive line comprised of some kids found at the local Y....but this year, nothing. Now, if it was a week later and the NFL draft was going, I'd understand why neither the NFL Network or ESPN would want to commit to covering the game. But it's not draft weekend. On the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" networks, they are showing (and I wish I was kidding): a women's billiards 9-ball tournament, the Indy 300 from Japan, and the World's Strongest Man 2007 competition.

On the NFL Network, though I haven't checked, I can only assume they are re-re-re-covering what needs the Miami Dolphins and other top-10 pick teams have, which most of us already have seen in some form about 1,000 times (and if you haven't, don't worry, it'll be on 24 hours a day all the way through the draft, at which point they will fill out "report cards" based on players who have never played one snap in an NFL game, which makes as much sense as doing a job review of someone who hasn't completed their first day on the job yet. Man, I LOVE media over-saturation.)

Now, with ESPN, there are obviously contracts with those sporting events that have to be honored (particularly the one with Indy Car). I don't mind this, and being someone that attends the Indy 500 every year (I go for the drinking, not the racing), I can accept that. But do we really need to see last year's strongest man competition? What is this, the Ocho? First of all, these competitions aren't even fun to watch anymore. The only WSM contests that should be on TV are the classic ones from the '70s that starred Lou Ferrigno and Bruce Wilhelm, the contests they had back then were so primitive and ridiculous that the chances for some comedy (and atrocious freak injuries) were through the roof. Now, it's just a prolonged MET-RX commercial with freaks that look like blimps.

Speaking of the NFL network, there are few things on the sports calendar I hate more than the annual release of the NFL schedule. ESPN stops all other activity, and we have to be subjected to Jaws and company breathlessly break down every "must-see" matchup from the upcoming season. What these guys forget is that with the exception of the Pats and Colts, the good teams in the NFL vary EVERY SINGLE YEAR. What might seem like a good game in April might turn out to be a crapfest between two sub-.500 teams in November. So why the hell are we subjected to these guys yelling over each other, arguing about games? What makes the NFL very appealing is also what makes it difficult to care about: the parity that enables teams that went 8-8 one year to leap to a Super Bowl Champion the next also guarantees that there is going to be a high level of mediocrity as well, and with the exception of a few teams, year to year you have no idea of whether your team is going to suck or make a run to a division title. That's what I love about college football: traditionally, there is always going to be a top 20 or so programs that will be strong, even if there are a few roadbumps where they struggle (um.....Nebraska, anyone?). With the NFL, it's a year-by-year crapshoot. That said, it works for them, and it is comforting if you're an NFL fan to know that a team that sucks for a couple years is only three or four seasons from potentially becoming good. Maybe that's why all these delusional Minnesota fans cling every year to the fantasy that they're going to turn it around soon (which makes it all the more satisfying for me to watch it go down in flames in dramatic fashion every season).

Anyways, I guess I'm just bitter that Florida's spring game was televised by ESPN but we're getting passed over in favor of women's billiards and steroid abusers. Stupid, I know, but it's my job as a Husker fan to make sure that we always feel slighted by ESPN. I'll be back tomorrow with thoughts on the spring game rosters and other tidbits.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Outta Control Optimism

So we're halfway through spring ball, and despite my best efforts to keep from getting too excited about all the glowing reviews coming out of practice, I just can't help myself. Bo seems to already be changing the mindset of the once-downtrodden Husker defense, and word coming out of camp is that they are flying around with an enthusiasm and confidence that was (obviously) non-existent the past few years. While this is encouraging, we have to keep in mind that the Huskers were the 112th-ranked defense last season, so even an incredible improvement would only put them in the top 50 units in the nation. Of course, couple that with a top-15 offense, and you'll probably finish with more than 5 wins.

I know that everyone is probably really distracted today due to tonight's title game between Tennessee else is in the women's championship game, but before we get too carried away with all the exciting lay-ups and set shots that are sure to make it a barn burner, let's look at a couple developments with the Huskers.

- While it's a bit early to hand him the Bednarik, it seems that Cody Glenn, despite my expert analysis that he would struggle, seems to be doing well thus far on the defensive side of the ball. I thought that there might be too much rust for him to make much of a contribution, but time may prove me wrong. But the main thing to stress at this point of the experiment, as always, is patience. After all, Bo knows:

“It’s either (that) he shows it’s a fit or not a fit. So far he’s done a lot of good things. He’s made some plays. But it’s too early on making a rash judgment. I do like some of the things I’ve seen out of him.”

The real question is this: being a senior, will he make any kind of contribution in games this fall? Even if he can provide about 20 snaps a game, that would be considered a huge success.

-In a move that will have traditionalist Husker fans bowing at Pelini and Watson's feet, the Big Red have apparently been working a little bit of the option game into their practices. When we were going through the interview process after Callahan's ouster, many of the old-school Husker fans were clamoring for Paul Johnson, mainly because he loves the option like a fat kid loves cake.

I was never part of that camp, but at least they'll be appeased by some elements of the option this fall. What I am really hoping to see is some elements of the spread, with Helu at the slot and Lucky in the backfield, where we have Ganz either pitching to Lucky or giving Roy a shovel going the other way, against the flow of the defense, who will be keyed on Marlon. This kind of offense will keep defenses guessing all game, and make our already-good offense extremely potent. Nobody knows how much Bo and Watson actually use the option, but the fact that it will have even a small part in the Big Red offense this fall can't help me from feeling nostalgic.

-One article I enjoyed thoroughly was the OWH's article about Jared Crick taking some of his city-raised teammates home to Cozad, Nebraska. It's truly a satisfying experience to take kids who have never been out of a metro area to a small town community. I grew up in Iowa and still have a farm about an hour East of Omaha, and several times I have taken some of my friends from the Twin Cities there for four-wheeling, tractor driving, and relaxation. It's a rewarding experience, and the guys gain a new appreciation for a slower pace of life and genuine small-town kindness. I'm just glad to hear that it's happening with the Huskers, because that is a huge bonding experience. Maybe I'm biased, but to look in every direction and see farmland and hear nothing but the breeze.......that, to me, is the good life.

Friday, April 4, 2008


This little snippet of an interview is why I am ACHING for next season to start. If this Ron Brown interview from is any indication, we're going to be knocking guys on their ass like we did back in the day. Also, I highly recommend looking at the entire article, because Brown has a great perspective not just on Husker football, but on life. Being in the ministry full-time for the past few year has given him a great outlook on what is really important in life. What will be the philosophy of this staff?

Ron Brown:
Relentless. There will be a relentless pursuit to the football on defense. There will be a relentless physicality on offense, where players will not only block, but every player will block. When Tom was coaching, even quarterbacks blocked on the backside of a toss sweep. Nobody runs out of bounds. You don’t just run out of bounds unless you’re in a two-minute drill. You take on ball carriers, and you fight for extra yardage. And you don’t take punishment – you give punishment. Everybody blocks downfield. Wide receivers block like crazy on the perimeter. Linemen get up off their block at the line of scrimmage, and they go downfield and block.

Click here for the entire interview

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Glenn to Linebacker?

It's been a pretty quiet spring thus far. Every day, we get the same tired quotes from the players as well as the coaching staff, which is understandable. They probably get sick of answering the the same questions day after day, just as I'm sure the media gets tired of asking them. But dammit, it's Husker football, and there isn't much else going on, so the routine continues. There was one interesting development we found out about this morning though: Cody Glenn is contemplating a move to linebacker. The former standout running back, who has battled injuries throughout his career at NU, apparently barely even played defense in HIGH SCHOOL!

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't blame him for thinking about the move. If I had to pick between fighting for playing time in a crowded backfield or a position group that returns no starters, I'd probably start to think about switching too. But when I read that his high school used him on defense only occasionally (and at defensive end at that), I became highly skeptical of this decision. It'd be one thing if Glenn had been pulling a Major Culbert and had been switching back and forth for a year or two, but to play running back your entire college career and then decide as a senior that you'd like to play on the other side of the ball seems like a stretch to me. Believe it or not, muscle memory is important when it comes to things like pursuit angles and tackling. And while Glenn undoubtedly has the athletic ability and size to play linebacker, it's a whole other thing to actually play the position well. The nuances and subtleties of being 'backer in the college game is no simple task, particularly if you barely even played it in high school.

The motivation for this move is easy to understand. With Marlon Lucky, Q, Helu, Mendoza, as well as the soon-to-be-active Kenny Wilson all competing for carries, Glenn faced an uphill battle for playing time, particularly considering his role as goal-line battering ram would likely be filled by Castille. That said though, does Glenn really think he's going to be getting significant playing time behind guys who received scholarships specifically to play the LB position? In addition to this, would an experiment like this stunt the development of younger guys who could use the practice snaps? It's tough to say, and Glenn hasn't made a final decision yet, so this might all be pointless to talk about right now. As much as I have my doubts about this maneuver, I think Glenn has the right to play where wants to, considering he's a senior who has sacrificed his health for the program for several years now. I don't think it will be successful, but the guy deserves a shot if that is what he wants.

Some random thoughts to end the post:

-It may be un-American, but I really don't give a rat's ass about pro baseball. Not one bit. I appreciate the skill the game takes, and I do acknowledge it as an American institution, but that doesn't change one simple fact: 95% of the time, it is the most boring damn thing I've ever seen. The only thing fun to watch is the playoffs, or if there is a dominant pitcher on the mound. Other than that, I'd seriously rather watch golf. Lone exception: if former Husker Alex Gordon is batting, I'd watch it. But then I'd change it after his AB. Most of this dislike stems from the fact the baseball season (counting spring training) stretches from February to November, which would be too long for even an exciting sport (which baseball isn't most of the time).

-I haven't really cared about pro basketball since Charles Barkley retired. Sure, I like KG and followed the Wolves there for a couple of years, but I've never really found a team I care about enough to sit down and watch entire games. That said, for the first time I am genuinely looking forward to the NBA postseason (well really only the Western Conference playoffs, but better than none, right?). It has been incredible to watch the emergence of so many players jumping to the next level this year. Have you seen Chris Paul play? It's like watching a created player abuse people on a video game. He's really that good. It's not just him either: Kobe made the leap from selfish jackass to selfless jackass who is playing on a whole other level, Garnett has made the Eastern Conference a legitimate threat in the Finals, and Shaq is rejuvenated in Phoenix. How crazy would a Lakers-Suns Western Conference finals be, followed by Lakers-Celtics for the title? How could you not watch that, even if you were just an impartial observer?

-51,000 tickets sold for the spring game thus far........the chances for a sellout are high, but we're going to need a lot of walk-ups to get there. I think Husker nation will come through, if only to show Alabama (who had 92,000 in the stands for last year's spring game) that they aren't the only ones who have nothing to do right now besides obsess over college football.