Are you kidding me? This must be basketball we are talking about. Nope, Walter Washington, JUCO QB stud decided that he wasn't going to be a Husker, rather he was going to be an Owl. Darn, that hurts Husker fans as much as knowing they are winless against Duke in the football field.
This wasn't all Walter though as he and his dad decided together that Temple was more stable offensively, because Solich still hasn't decided on the new offensive coordinator, but all that aside, I think there's more to the story than this.
I can't say whether it's parental influence solely, but Walter didn't appear to be just overcome with joy at his choice, but that's for someone else to figure out.
Let's move on.
Nebraska gets a STUD!!!!
Hartselle, Alabama lineman, Brett Byford pulled the trigger and said that NU was the place for him. Though Ron Brown was a convincing recruiter, it was neither him or even his parents that showed Byford the way into making his choice. "That's where God wanted me to be." And with
that, Brett joins the Husker commit class of 2003.
Let's run down that class as it sits right now:
Now, let's look at some of the remaining possibilities:
Whew! That's not all of them, but those are chances for NU, some good, some longshots at best.
Didn't we just talk about this? When it came to choosing a defensive coordinator, everyone was in a panic because it was killing recruiting or so everyone thought. Recruits were waiting, some were wondering and some were hesitating because they wanted to know that the focus of the defense would be the same, if not the success.
With the hiring of Bo Pelini, fears were assuaged and everything went back to normal.
Now though, the debates are re-ignited as Frank Solich has yet to choose an offensive coordinator and because of the stretched time-span, thoughts point to Turner Gill actually not getting the position.
If things prove true to the process of hiring Pelini though, Solich is going through this process with the same kind of thoroughness and dedication as he did in trying to find a new D.C., but for some reason, there seems to be more candidates.
If that is the case, you might assume that Nebraska could be looking at a change in offensive style, though don't assume a big one. A little more power-running with a little more emphasis on the pass, say from an average of 15 attempts a game to 20 to 25. That's always possible, because right now, maybe there is nobody on the staff that can truly run the option, because against good teams, it simply hasn't worked that well consistently.
We'll just have to see, but the deadline behind this should be winding down very soon, like within the next week or so. With signing day coming up so soon, Nebraska will have to show offensive recruits something, especially possible quarterbacks. Their interest in how the offense will look is obvious.
OL, Sam Baker
OL, Joe Thomas
LB, Corey McKeon
DB/QB, Tommy Zbikowski
RE, Kyle Caldwell
Hey, since Kyle finished the list there, let's talk a little bit about his position, the rush end. In recent years (we will call it the Nelson Barnes' era), Nebraska has seen it's illustrious reputation of being home to some of the best rush ends in the country fall by the wayside. No longer the dominant, aggressive and flat-out nasty players, they have been substituted by overachievers that are considered long on determination, but low on talent and speed.
Whether that's the case or not, a kid like Kyle could go a long ways into helping bring back that tradition along with up and comer, Benard Thomas and new commit, Wali Muhammad.
Being a rush end is one thing, but being a successful rush end is quite another, so let's take a look (through my eyes) as to what a rush ends needs to have to be successful.
As with any position, the size of this position has changed over the years. And, if you really want to get picky, you can choose five different schools around the country and depending on the system they use on defense, that could indicate a different type of rush end they need in regards to size, speed, strength, etc.
For the sake of making this simple though, let's assume this is a base 4-3 or even a 5-2 defense and go from there.
Nowadays, look at 6-3 to 6-5, weight between 235-255. Though the pros like a combination of big and fast, most 4-3 defenses would just as soon have speed first with just enough strength to consistently use leverage when needed.
As tackles have gotten bigger, the logic that they have gotten slower is incorrect. These big uglies have become very versatile to the point where getting square even against guys like Terrell Suggs is doable before they can get on their shoulders and are gone, around to the QB.
So, the rush end has to be big, but not too big. It does inevitably come down to the individual athlete, as some can move better with the weight than others, but bulk is something you don't want from the position. These guys have to be cut, in cornerback-like shape and must be highly maneuverable.
So, think balance first. Take their speed and size into account and go from there. Do NOT sacrifice speed for size in this type of defense. Rush Ends aren't primarily run-stoppers, though asked to do that. They get to the QB, so speed should not be overcome by size.
As we have already talked about Terrell Suggs, let's move onto a guy that NU fans would be more familiar with when it comes to speed rushers, Grant Wistrom. He epitomized the term. Aggressive, relentless, but if you look at him even now in the pros where he has close to 20 more pounds of muscle, he's still the speed rusher he always was. That has a lot to do with his frame and how he can hold that weight and keep his speed, but his speed is obvious.
Some would say that if you look at someone like Reggie White, it shows that speed isn't always the best way to get to the QB. That's true, but I believe you will see that it will evolve to the point where the best rush ends in the country at any level will be the best combination of speed and technique versus the "old form" of technique and strength. You are still going to have to be strong, but beating that tackle before he can get his shoulders square to you will be the primary goal instead of the bull-rush technique with a little "swim" here and a "spin" there. Speed kills and that applies even to the lines.
There isn't a real rule of thumb here as to how fast is fast enough. You look more for quick than you do fast. Though rush ends will find themselves in pass coverage from time to time, playing laterally either along the line of scrimmage or in backside pursuit, how fast that guy can close the twenty feet between him and the QB is what matters most.
Look at one extreme, Jevon Kearse. A guy that runs a 4.4/40 , weighing in around 265 lbs. and standing 6-4. He is what his nickname indicates, a freak. That's the highest of the high end and is completely unrealistic for any college coach to think he can try and find that kind of speed.
What you look for is a happy medium in ratio to height and weight. The shorter this guy is, the faster he better be. He's going against tackles that are anywhere from 6-5 to 6-9, so he can't jump over these guys to bat balls, so he better be able to get around them and fast. The taller the rush end is, you can sacrifice maybe one-tenth of a second per inch. For example: If he's 6-3, he had better run a 4.4 or real close to it. At 6-4, a 4.5 and so on. This is my own personal idea of some ideal times for guys of certain sizes, but logic indicates, if you can't go through them or over them, you better go around them, so as you sacrifice size, you need more speed.
Gone are the days of the bull-rusher from the rush end position. Well, that's not entirely accurate, but as the Michael Vick types permeate the landscape of successful NFL quarterbacks, you can see the trend that one day, that's what you will have. Guys that can throw, but can tuck and go at a moment's notice. With that, you can't just be a bull-rush type, forcing your way to the QB, thinking that closing the gap in under four seconds is good enough, because the QB is just standing there , trying to find a receiver.
It spans back to the days of Frank Tarkenton, the first real scrambling QB. He used to be scolded by the slower and bigger defensive players because they weren't used to that type of QB. They were used to that QB being point B and all they had to do as Point A was just get there. But, nowadays, point B moves and sometimes, pretty darn fast. You can't just be that bull-rush type anymore.
You can't be a weenie either though, but thanks to the wonders of modern strength and conditioning, players are bigger, faster and stronger than they have ever been. A rush end can bench 350 and still run a 4.5.
What a successful rush end needs to have these days is strong legs, hence a lot of "cleans" to develop those muscles they need to get off that line in a heartbeat. Their strength needs to be utilized in technique on the fly. They can't just expect to go into someone that ‘s pushing 340lbs. and think they can knock them over in time to get to a QB that isn't just going to stand there like the old days. Strength is good in technique, but no longer the focus as it's just one means to an end and not THE means anymore.
Here you go folks, this is what separates the good from the greats. That perfect combination of speed, size and strength doesn't mean squat if this guy can't go full bore one hundred percent of the time. You would say that's obvious, but it's not. You might think of a Grant Wistrom type that was the perfect picture of that motor and I would bring up Florida's Alex Brown that could have been a legend if he didn't let his ideal combination go to his head. He slacked off at times, making a slam-dunk defensive career a sporadic success, because he didn't go to the hilt all the time.
When a coach tells you that this kid has a motor that doesn't stop, it means a lot of things. It means they are in shape. It means they are relentless and it also means they have an edge and I don't mean a physical edge or some psychological superiority. I am referring to a nastiness that motivates them to not just get to point B, but kill whoever is wearing that letter.
This is the tie that binds all the physical prowess with that mental tenacity it takes to play this position and well. It's not just about being physical. It's not just about being fast. It's about taking all that and putting it together with an attitude to flat-out smack someone and whoever is trying to stop them. It's about attitude.
Well, there you have just a brief synopsis of what I think goes into a good rush end. There's vision that we didn't cover, that ability to read both the pass and the run, but I just felt like covering the physical aspects along with what I feel is the most important mental aspect of the position.
Let's move on.
What's left for Nebraska?
With 12 commits down, Nebraska has anywhere from 13 to 16 schollies left to give out. Let's break down where I think it should go, who they have at that position now and the possibilities on offense.
With the loss of Walter Washington, the unproven capabilities of Jammal Lord and the injury status of Curt Dukes, this becomes a big need. Where you thought they could get away with getting just one, Nebraska should be looking at getting two quarterbacks in this class.
R. Wade Pete
Nebraska is pretty stacked here right now, so I don't think they are going after the position with the fervor of most others. I see they could use maybe one, but don't put that even as a "need" for NU this year, especially if Antwon Guidry qualifies. Here's a list of some candidates if they do:
Losing three out of your four tight ends is enough to say that you need to fill that position back up. Matt Herian has proven himself to be a worthy candidate to take over next year, but he's still got some size to go. Josh Mueller also is a big pick-up for NU at that position as he is one of the top tight ends in the country and Trevor Neeman is a nice pick-up as well. That still leaves (I believe) with one more ship to offer at the position.
NU could have one of the best receiving cores in the conference this up-coming season and in some aspects, it's not just applicable to the system they run. These guys are going to be flat-out good. Nebraska does lose their biggest threat, Wilson Thomas, so regardless of depth, NU needed one to get in here to at least replace that number. NU might look for another one to add to Andy Birkel, but it would more be likely that it would be an athlete that might make the move to SE, but not initially recruited as such.
Always a need for Nebraska, the pipeline can never be short on reserves to look to as guys that can come in if needed or at the very least, bolster a pool of bigguns that NU can choose from in putting their best guys on the field. Nebraska loses two starters in Garrison and Cody along with their long snapper, David Kolowski. Along with that, NU loses two others to graduation and whether they were starters or not, on the offensive line, if you lose five, you get as close to that to replace them.
Not a huge need for Nebraska. They did lose Paul Kastl, but he wasn't their starter as Judd Davies remains. Nebraska though (in my opinion) does need that all-around FB. Judd Davies was very erratic in his performances this last season and was never able to prove that he could be any type of threat to catch balls coming out of the backfield, something that Nebraska had with the Makovickas and Schlesingers. With that being said, it doesn't look like NU is really going after any running backs with the size that you could translate to the position.
Ok, that's the offense and if our projections are correct, that's 9 scholarships down, with an approximate 4-7 more to go. Give or take a couple on the offensive line, I think that's pretty close, but as everyone knows, NU needs help on defense and a lot of it.
With February closing in, people are getting a little antzy about commits, none moreso than that of Tommy Zbikowski. Though Tommy is a player like anyone else, his position and athleticism have offered to NU fans a sense of hope to a position that this last season was sorely disappointing, at least in the passing dept. Tommy is a decent passer, but for a full film review I did on Tommy, check out the "In the Crosshairs", where I broke him down completely, side to side and up and down.
Joe Dailey was also in the news as they say, coming off a great visit to Nebraska. He was an early commit to Syracuse, but was reported at changing his mind and again, changing his mind back as he re-committed to ‘Cuse.
It's looking good for Nebraska when it comes to Kyle Caldwell and let me tell you something, he would be the biggest get thus far of the class as this kid is a flat out stud and he fits all the above-said criteria in what you want for a potential star at the position.
We'll be back next week with another rendition of TAKE ONE, but hope you got something out of this one. The weeks are winding down, so the recruiting is heating up. Be ready, because commits are bound to happen and I do happen to know of a commit that NU is VERY likely to get that will actually surprise people. It's not that they didn't look at him before, but for whatever reason, people have written him off. They might be writing him back on very soon.
How's that for teaser?
Thanks for taking the time to read this and lord knows, the patience. You all have a good week and we'll see you next time around for another edition of TAKE ONE.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619