Are you tired of the cliches? Bored with the "let's just take it one game at a time" diatribe? Talk with LeKevin Smith once. Actually, it's a bit surprising as Smith has always been a bit more low-key, but maybe that was because was never healthy enough to get out there and back his words up. He doesn't have that problem this year. "I'm feeling good." Smith stated. "I think this is the first time I actually have everything healthy, so I am just trying to keep everything healthy."
Healthy is something that the interior line can say they are for the most part. Though veteran, Jason Lohr is out indefinitely, Seppo Evwaraye remains the only other real question mark as to returning talent, still rehabbing off a shoulder surgery. Evwaraye is expected to be ready for the game though, a game which will be one of the most anticipated in recent years.
Usually, it's Troy State, San Jose State or even Pacific. Teams that NU starts out with aren't notoriously good. This year though, NU hits conference play right off the bat, coincidently enough, playing the same team they faced the last time NU opened the season with a conference opponent, Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys finished last year in style, winning 6 out of their last 7, beating the likes of NU, Southern Miss, Texas A&M and the Oklahoma Sooners. With the offensive combination of Rashaun Woods, Josh Fields and Tatum Bell returning, the Cowboys look to be a seriously potent offensive team and perhaps too stern of a test for NU initially. LeKevin Smith doesn't think so. "I'm glad it's supposedly a hard team." Smith said of Oklahoma State. "I say supposedly because they are just going to get messed up when they step on the field."
You are thinking right now that Smith either is way too confident or maybe it's Oklahoma State that could be too confident coming in. Ok, you are also probably saying that regardless of what your confidence level, words like this only encourage the other team to want to beat you that much more.
That doesn't phase Smith as he is quite steadfast in his attitude towards what is going to happen come August 30th and gives his insight as to why the highly-publicized offensive triumvirate of Fields, Bell and Woods won't be effective against the "Blackshirts". "They can talk about their offense all they want." he said. "But, for one thing, we are going to shut Bell down, so they won't even have time to get the ball off to Woods."
"I'm not worried about their offense."
Though Smith seems immune to not just the loss of last year, but the statistics the triple-threat put up last year, it would be logical to assume that the coaches aren't. Starting RB, Tatum Bell averaged over 6 yards a carry last year. Josh Fields completed over 55 percent of his passes, amassing over 3,000 yards and he threw 31 touchdowns. And, over half those touchdowns went to none other than Heisman-hopeful, Rashaun Woods, who tore up most anyone that was lined up against him, Woods totaling over 130 yards against Nebraska.
Nope, it doesn't phase Smith and he gives his brief "analysis" of the offensive line that will be trying to stop him and the rest of the interior D. "They got decent size." Smith said. (But) "Their footwork ain't all that. They can get beat in the pass and when they double, it ain't all that either."
With such confidence, you might think that Smith has a prediction for the game. You would be right. LeKevin's prediction doesn't come by way of numbers though as he describes not the points that will be put on Oklahoma State or the lack of points they will get because of the NU defense, rather he just comments on what OSU will feel come August 30th. "Pain" Smith said. "Pain."
Ok, I couldn't help myself, but I asked LeKevin to translate "Pain" into some numbers. "Take whatever they are predicting for the score to be and flip it around." he said. This based on some comments he heard about what some said OSU was going to do to the defense of NU. "Last thing I heard was them putting up 49 on the defense."
After I had told Smith that NU was actually favored by the odds-makers, he changed his tune. Well, sort of. Instead of him predicting the points NU would put on the Cowboys, Smith decided to let everyone know how many points they Cowboys would put on the Huskers this weekend. "I think they are going to get 3." he said. "They are going to get 3."
That's points and a huge point made as to whether or not you think that NU lost any confidence from last year. To be quite honest, though none of the other defensive players were willing to be as vocal as Smith, the confidence appears uniform.
How that translates has yet to be determined, but Smith's statements make a dramatic statement that the apparent losses on defense have not phased those returning or coming to take their place. Now, they just want to start hitting someone other than each other.
"I'm tired of hitting our own guys." Smith said. "I'm ready to lay some on Josh Fields."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 402-730-5619
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Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619