This and That

There are a lot of things going on in the month of July and what kicked it off for me was bumping into one-half of the Pony Express at SMU, Craig James, as we were both heading into the same place to eat lunch. Our conversation was brief, but the subject was college football is just about back. Are you ready?

My mind has been racing. This season just can't get here soon enough and I am thinking about all of the angles, the possibilities and the hopes of the Huskers this season. There are a lot of storylines going on right now and I am going to do my best to put my finger on the pulse of the Husker Nation.

ZAC LEE MORE SECURE THAN EVER?

I have watched and re-watched the Nebraska spring game highlights and if there is one person that has to feel good about things it's Zac Lee. I just didn't see the improvement that I hoped to out of Cody Green and I didn't see a quarterback that seemed very comfortable in Taylor Martinez.

Now, I am not throwing the towel in on either of these two young men, but I just have to say that I am more optimistic about the incumbent as opposed the challengers.

I think that there were times last season that were frustrating with Lee as a quarterback. However, he was asked to just manage the game against Arizona and as I go back and re-watch that game he did a heck of a job.

More than that, I thought that Lee at least looked effective as a runner and a thrower in that game. But, will he ever be again pending the recovery of the surgery that he went through?

That's the question that I have. If he can, there is little doubt who your quarterback is this fall to me. If there were loud questions about why Lee was in there this fall then they were answered in unison by the performance of the backup quarterbacks and where they are in managing the game/offense.

CHASE HARPER AND THE TIGHT END POSITION AS A WHOLE

People have said it before and I am really tending to agree with them, but Nebraska either has great success or unbelievable failure when it comes to recruiting junior college players. While I am not going to say that I think Harper made a huge difference in the way the team would function this year, it's still a failure.

Harper might have figured into that Y picture after Mike McNeil chose to make the move over to the X to give Nebraska some more reliable targets on the edge. More than that, word is Ryan Hill is being moved around a little bit and being used as an H-Back or more of a U (when you think of the U, think of Mike McNeil in the early part of his career being off of the line of scrimmage and typically in motion). Also, the word is Kyler Reed has been improving, but can Nebraska get him involved. That really only leaves Ben Cotton with previous time as a tight end for the Huskers.

Not to mention that Harper was really addressing a need and by that I don't mean a need for the 2010 class necessarily. Harper was big and athletic unlike many of the past tight ends Nebraska had recruited. He really played the tight end position before coming to Nebraska. Nebraska had recruited tight ends that didn't necessarily fit the mold of tight ends in the past. Reed, Hill and McNeil were all wide receivers in high school or at the very best flex tight ends (J.T. Kerr did line up as a tight end in his high school film, but is in the 6-3 and 230-240lb range). In their film that I saw I don't recall seeing any of them lined up tight to the tackle on the line of scrimmage.

Harper on the other hand was. He was used as much in the passing game as he was in the run blocking game. I will say that after seeing Harper play against Blinn JC last year that I was impressed with the frame and the athleticism. However, I always questioned why or how a four star tight end split time as much as he did. Literally, he was off the field 50% of the game when Navarro was on offense.

While there might not be an effect felt by Harper "heading for greener pastures" and not being part of the 2010 class for Nebraska this year, there might be long term. Nebraska's need for a tight end this year went from <10% to being an almost certainty that they do need to get a tight end in this class. Look for Nebraska to possibly change the way they view Christian French and lure him with the possibility of playing on offense or defense if he were to come to Nebraska.

THINGS HEATING UP FOR A LB

It's the middle of July. It's hot here in Dallas. It's more than likely the warmest it's going to be anywhere nationally. And, the same can be said about Nebraska and their hunt for a linebacker in the 2011 class. The Huskers have already hosted Anthony Sarao during their summer camp and he left impressed.

Now you have David Santos from Klein (Texas) Collins coming in on July 23rd and he's making it sound like if the visit goes as well as he anticipates and if Nebraska will accept his commitment that he could be the next Husker.

Then there are guys out there like Keith Lewis and Dexter Moody who, as near as I can tell, reside at the top of the linebacker recruiting board in Lincoln. How much higher are they than anyone else? Is this another Steve Octavian/Rey Maualuga situation where one in the hand beats one in the bush?

How realistic of a target is Lewis for Nebraska? Only recently has Dexter Moody said anything positive about Nebraska either and was really looking to get closer to home.

From what I can piece together, there have really only been a handful of linebacker targets for Nebraska this year. There has been Lewis, Moody, Sarao, Santos, Rob Hankins and Keeon Virgile. Those seem to be the ones that Nebraska has extended the most on.

That brings me to Rob Hankins. I think that Nebraska has done a great job of riding a wave of success that they had from last year (even with a loss against Texas). That's what makes Hankins commitment to Arizona all the more puzzling to figure out.

Did he watch the Holiday Bowl? That was a game that by all of the announcers' opinions could have ended up being 7-6 and boring ended up being a 33-0 rout by Nebraska for the only shut out of the bowl season and the Huskers scored about a minute into the game…and Arizona kicked off! Good luck to ya' though. That program is heading…in a direction.

TEXAS TALK, ALREADY?

I get it, OK? I have been to see the last three, heartbreaking losses to Texas. I saw Terrence Nunn fumble in the flurries. I saw Jamal Charles go wild in the 4th quarter against NU in Austin. I also saw :00 on the clock in Texas Stadium only to have :01 put back on the clock. I. Get. It. OK?

Those are woulda, coulda, shoulda games. However, it was really last year's game which has an exclamation next to it, for me anyway, and it has nothing to do with Texas getting another second back on the clock. That game was about what could have happened if Nebraska won and how Nebraska pushed through some bumps in the road earlier in the season.

And that's my point, how can NU fans look forward to just that one game and look beyond the 5 before it or the 6 beyond it? This season's schedule sets up a lot like last year's with a tough road contest at Washington like at Virginia Tech last year and then NU has to go to Kansas State (and they had better offensive numbers than NU did in Lincoln). What about another insane turnover game like Nebraska had last year against Iowa State, but this time against Missouri or Kansas at home? How about a late trip to see Jerrod Johnson in College Station or the last NU/CU game in the foreseeable future?

What does that Texas game mean if NU loses two of the games before Texas? What are the expectations really of the season? If you had to ask me as a fan, all of the games are winnable this season and that's something that I am not sure that I have said in a very, very long time.

So what if NU loses to Texas on 10/16? Doesn't that set up to be a lot like 1999 if Nebraska does everything else right? If you recall, NU made it to a BCS bowl game that year and I don't think that anyone would complain about that if that happened this year and it wasn't for the BCS National Championship.

Yes, there is hatred. Yes, there is hostility. It didn't help that the conference realignment played out like it did, but Husker fans should take heart and realize that they did what no other school in the conference was willing to do and that was do something that Texas didn't want to do.

So, circle 10/16/2010 on your calendars because it is on mine, but for another reason. I have mine circled because that will be the first home game that I make it up to more than likely. For the record though, I am planning on making my way out to Seattle because just like the game on 10/16 the Huskers really need to win the one on 9/18 too.

Oh, and getting back to my rhetorical question about it playing out like 1999, it does a little. Nebraska will more than likely get a crack in December against the South Division winner on a "neutral field" in Dallas, TX. Maybe what Nebraska fans should be hoping for is Texas to beat Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry?


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