Husker Hot Takes – 2/5/15

5 Feb

Come bask in the warmth of the hot takes…

Mike Riley and friends can recruit a little bit.

I’ll preface this with a big disclaimer:  I don’t follow recruiting very closely.  I understand the importance, but watching highlight films and tracking the whims of 17-year-old kids doesn’t do it for me.  That said, it certainly looks to me like Mike Riley and his staff will be a recruiting force.  For a new staff coming in with less than two months to go in the recruiting season, they did an excellent job of keeping almost all of the recruits the previous staff assembled as well as filling the remaining spots with guys heavy on talent and upside.

There is a lot to like about how Riley’s staff is going to handle recruiting.  Notably, I’m a big fan of having the recruiting process led by guys who do not have on-field coaching duties.  That should really help with in-season recruiting, which tended to tail off in most years.  The use of social media with the “Paint the Nation Red” maps and tweets by the entire coaching staff is big not only for recruits, but for Husker fans who passionately follow the program 24/7/365.  It’s reassuring to know the coaches are out there working hard to ensure the #HuskersJustGotBetter.

But mostly, I’m very impressed by the final weekend before Signing Day.  The Huskers received verbal commitments from four prospects who live in Florida, Mississippi, Southern California, and Las Vegas on a weekend with a winter storm that dumped over six inches of snow.  If they can pull that off, I’m excited to see what they can do with a full recruiting cycle.

Long snappers are people too.

One of the last recruits in this class was long snapper Jordan Ober.  During his official visit, I heard a couple of local radio hosts questioning if Nebraska should “waste” a scholarship on a long snapper.  Their argument centered on the idea that the staff – especially Special Teams Coordinator Bruce Read – should be able to take an existing player on the roster and develop them into a long snapper.

I couldn’t disagree with this more.

Sure, I’ll concede that a coach at a Power 5 program should be able to identify and develop a respectable long snapper out of 85 scholarship players, but is that how you want to run your program?  Every week, games are won and lost due to miscues in special teams.  So many bad things can happen with a bad snap:  blocked punts, rushed kicks, shanks, turnovers, or quick points for the opposition.  Why would you risk that with a player who long snaps as a side job?  Would you rather recruit an “athlete” to play quarterback, or would you prefer to recruit a true quarterback?  The same logic applies here.

Much like a good referee, you shouldn’t notice when a long snapper does his job at a high level.  For almost 10 years, Nebraska has enjoyed a strong run at the position.  T.J. O’Leary, P.J. Mangieri, and Gabe Miller were excellent performers, but Miller’s career-ending back injury almost meant using Nate Gerry as the long snapper.  Instead of risking field position and turnovers, Nebraska is wisely finding somebody with the talent and ability to do the job full-time for (hopefully) the next four years.

Considering that scholarship probably would have otherwise gone to some two star prospect who may only contribute for a year or two, I think Ober’s scholarship is a wise move.

Go Big Red goes (Gretna) green.

Two of the preferred walk-ons in the 2015 class are from Gretna High School:  linebacker Jared Brugmann and fullback Austin Hemphill.  This brings the number of Dragons on the NU roster to five (TE Jared Blum, FB Andy Janovich, and DE Mick Stoltenberg are the others).  The five Gretna Dragons ties Lincoln Southeast Knights for the school with the most players on the roster (side note:  the only other school with more than two players at NU is Edna Karr H.S. in New Orleans with three).

As an unabashed lover of fullbacks, the only thing better than a walk-on fullback is a walk-on fullback from your alma mater.  Here’s hoping that offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf has a double fullback formation for the fall.

Give ‘em hell, Dragons!

Gymnasts are messing with perfection

The #7 Nebraska Women’s Gymnastics team is off to an impressive start.  Coming off of a Super Six final appearance in 2014, they are 5-1 this year, with the lone loss at #4 Michigan.

But one of the highlights of this season has been sophomore Ashley Lambert, who has recorded a perfect 10.0 on the vault.

Twice.

The Huskers have a strong lineup with All-America caliber performers in every event.  Plus, every gymnast will “throw the bones” at some point during her floor routine, which I enjoy.

Their next meet is this Saturday (February 6) at 6 pm against Iowa at Devaney.  My family has become big fans of this program over the past few years, as it is cheap entertainment (free admission with a popcorn box top), the team is fun to watch, and they are pretty damn good.

Baseball weather is here

If there is eight inches of snow on the ground in February, it can only mean one thing:  Nebraska Baseball is starting their season soon.

Sure enough, the season starts next weekend (February 13) at UNLV.  Hopefully, the snow will be all gone when the Huskers have their home opener on March 10.

 

Thought of the (Snow) Day – 2/4/2015

4 Feb

With snow continuing to fall in beautiful Lincoln, NE, today is the second snow day of the week for local students of public and parochial schools.  But it raises the question:

Do home-schooled kids get snow days too?

When the snow flies, do they get a one-day reprieve from tests and homework?  Do they get to hang out in their jammies and watch The Price is Right* the way we did when we were growing up?  Or is it just another day for them?

*Even if The Price is Right is just not the same with Drew Carey.

Regardless of how one feels about the pros and cons of home school, I would hope those kids get to experience the unbridled optimism that a few flakes of snow can lead to instant vacation, as well as the Christmas morning-like excitement that comes from hearing/seeing your school’s name followed by the word “CLOSED”.

Top 10 Things Harder Than Being A Pelini in Nebraska

16 Jan

On Wednesday, it was reported that former Nebraska defensive coordinator (and fired Florida Atlantic head coach) Carl Pelini had expressed interest in coaching a high school football team in Des Moines, Iowa.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Pelini explained his interest (he wants a job that allows him to be relatively close to his children in Nebraska).  He also gave some insight into the recluse-esque lifestyle he’s led since being fired from FAU:

“I came back to Lincoln (Neb.), kept to myself. I don’t even go to restaurants,” he said. “I spend (almost) 100 percent of time with my children, I teach school at the community college here. For about 15 months, I just have lived liked a hermit.”

Jokes aside, I do feel for the guy.  Say what you will about some of the choices he has (allegedly) made, it still sucks to not be able to do the thing you love and want to do.  Plus, it would be really hard to live in a city like Lincoln and not enjoy some of the wonderful local restaurants (Honest Abe’s, C. Berry’s, Lazarri’s, Sebastian’s Table, and Lazlos, to name a few).

But there was one quote from the interview that left a bad taste in my mouth:

“It’s hard to be a Pelini in Nebraska.”

Setting aside the obvious fact that nobody is forcing the architect of Carlfense to reside in the Good Life (or whatever we’re calling it this year), the simple fact remains that there are things harder to be in Nebraska than a Pelini.

Without further ado, I give you the Top Ten Things Harder Than Being A Pelini In Nebraska:

10.  Being an (alleged) adulterer and drug user trying to write a children’s book in Nebraska.

9.  Being a Jaysker in Nebraska.

8.  Being a liberal democrat in Nebraska.

7.  Being a fan of consistent, moderate weather in Nebraska.

6.  Being a fan of Iowa Hawkeye football in Nebraska.

5.  Being a flamboyant homosexual in Nebraska.

4.  Being a homosexual in a committed relationship in Nebraska.

3.  Being a hater of Nebraska football in Nebraska.

2.  Being unable to find work when your last job didn’t pay $472,500 a year in Nebraska.

1.  Being a Cosgrove, Pederson, or Callahan in Nebraska.

Mondeja Vu All Over Again

2 Jan

Due to an extreme lack of vacation days, I’m one of about five people in my office today.  As such, I get to experience one of the worst phenomena of a holiday week – a Friday after a holiday.

Instead of a super awesome four-day weekend, I’m in the office trying to focus on projects, billable hours, and other minutiae of corporate life.

In short, I have a nasty case of Mondéjà vu.*

*Yes, that’s a thing.  I should know, I invented it.

I knew I was in trouble from the moment my alarm clock went off.  For some reason, today is the first time it dawned on me that my wake-up time (7:07 am) is LOL upside down.

That’s just a rude way to start the day.

Damn you, clock.

Holiday Cotton Bowl

31 Dec

Thanks for stopping by!  While I am very grateful for those who take the time to read my work, I would greatly it if you read this one on HuskerMax.com.  

Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

Continue reading

End of Year Blowout – 2014

31 Dec

If it’s the end of the year, that typically means two things:  1) I’m a couple of posts shy of my annual goal and 2) I’ve got some odds and ends that never got finished.  Therefore, we grab one virtual stone, take aim at two metaphorical birds and fire off some miscellany:

Randy Gregory goes pro.

All year, I’ve been seeing Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory listed as a top 5 – or at least high first round – pick in the 2015 NFL draft.  Some experts have him as the #1 overall pick.

Coming into the season, I probably would have agreed with that.  Gregory had a great 2013 season and looked to improve as a junior.  But four months later, I am not sure why Gregory is still considered a lock to be a top 10 pick.

Don’t get me wrong, Gregory is an athletic freak with a strong upside, but when I watched him play this season I rarely thought “this is one of the best players in college football” or “this guy is NFL ready right now”.

He has an amazing motor, hustles like a walk-on, and is relentless in his pass rushing – and maybe that’s what the Mel Kipers and Todd McShays are going off of.  But I also see a guy who – while improved – is still questionable on run defense, appears injury prone, and sometimes loses his composure.

Clearly, if he’s going to be a top 10 pick he made the right decision to go pro, but I’m not sure I’d want my NFL team to take him with their first pick.  The reward may not be worth the risk.

There’s Bo place like home.

Author’s note:  I wrote this after it was announced that Bo Pelini was going to return home to be the head coach at Youngstown State.  This also happened to be the night before the second Pelini Audio Bomb was dropped.  After that beauty hit the fan, I didn’t think this would be well received:

Good for him.  Whether or not you liked Bo, supported him, or wish he would have been fired a year ago, I would hope you think this is a good move for him.  It was very clear during Bo’s tenure just how much he loves his hometown, and how much pride he has in his roots.  I don’t want this to come across as a swipe at Bo, but I think that when a coach truly loves the school, city, or state he represents, it generally leads success.

I don’t claim to know what Bo’s career goals were two months ago, or are today, but Youngstown State seems like a good fit for where he is at now – and a great stepping stone for future opportunities.  Even with Youngstown State’s history, there won’t be nearly as much pressure to win as what he felt at Nebraska.  It’s unlikely that Pelini will face 20+ media members after every practice.  Once again, his boss is the legendary, championship-winning coach and not a lawyer.  And most importantly, he’s back around family and friends.

Nebraska gets a new trophy game

Author’s note:  This was from a post tentatively titled “Freedom isn’t Free (but apparently, ugly trophies are)”

Big Ten loves it some trophy games.  Fine.  That’s part of who they are, so it should be embraced and cherished.  In that regard, I’m all for putting a trophy at stake in the Nebraska – Wisconsin series.  With both teams now in the West division, that matchup looks like an annual winner-take-all battle royale.

But whomever is responsible for the actual trophy has no idea what makes Big Ten trophy games so unique and fun.  The draw and desire is not to see two programs honoring “freedom”, “heroes”, or some other broad term that most everybody already respects*.

*I’m looking forward to future trophy games honoring “America”, “Moms”, “Apple Pie”, and “Three Day Weekends”.  Maybe Nebraska can get a trophy game going with Purdue or Rutgers for one of these themes!

Big Ten trophy games are about peculiar items that are only considered “trophies” by the teams involved:

A bronze pig.  A jug.  A wooden turtle.  A giant ax.  A spittoon.

Yeah, some of these are cheesy and corny*, but I feel that was part of the draw for Nebraska fans when we joined the Big Ten.  We could picture ourselves getting worked up over a bronzed ear of corn, a big cow, or some other random item.

*Yeah, that was intentional.  Memo to Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Big Ten leadership:  stop being embarrassed by the agricultural roots of our great states.

Nobody is getting worked up over the ultra generic Heroes Trophy (presented by Hy-Vee!) and I don’t see many players or fans getting too hyped over the Freedom Trophy.

And that is what is the most disappointing about this – it is just such a huge missed opportunity.  Nebraska and Wisconsin seem like natural rivals – and they have since the day NU joined the conference.  Two traditionally powerful schools, priding themselves on homegrown talent, big offensive lines, powerful run games, and passionate fans.  The ties between the two programs (Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez was a NU player and assistant.  Nebraska’s AD Shawn Eichorst worked at Wisconsin) are big.  With both teams in the same division, the matchup just seems destined for a heated rivalry.  Adding a trophy should have been the cherry on top, but in this case, it was a swing and a miss.

Both Wisconsin and Nebraska are states that are proud of their agricultural roots, and are widely known for the food they produce.  Wisconsin is synonymous with cheese and if you want a good steak, find a cow raised on Nebraska corn.  A cow would have been a natural trophy – something with meaning to the two schools and states, something unique, and something that respects and honors the legacy of Big Ten trophy games.

But apparently somebody thought it would be better to go broader.

And that is disappointing to me.  The Big Ten could have done something unique to honor the people and culture of the teams involved.  Instead, they opted for something vague, non-specific, and unnecessarily self-important.  It makes me sad, but given this is the same conference that gave us Legends and Leaders, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Big Ten went for the most pompous route instead of the one that makes the most sense.

Ironically, the design inspiration appears to be taken from a December 2013 post on knowitallfootball.com, where J.P. Scott wrote:

“I was rooting through some Husker gear when I came across a lunchbox that had “Huskers” painted onto one side and the Wisconsin “W” misprinted on the other.”

Seriously, toss a big ol’ flag in the middle and there’s your Freedom Trophy!

2014 World Series Games as Husker Bowl games

Author’s note:  The genesis for this post was the heartbreak of the Kansas City Royals’ Game 7 loss to the San Francisco Giants.  It reminded me of the 1984 Orange Bowl, where Nebraska was so close, but fell just short.  The original idea was to take each game of the World Series and find a comparable Husker bowl game (preferably one with national championship implications).  I didn’t games 2 -5 done, but here is what I had:

Game 1:  Giants 7, Royals 1 is the 2002 Rose Bowl (Miami Hurricanes 37 – Nebraska 14).  Some may question if the Royals should have been there, much like Eric Crouch’s Huskers were questioned for appearing in the Rose Bowl.  A game that was not as close as the final score indicated, as the Canes and Giants were dominant in all phases of the game.

Game 6:  Royals 10, Giants 0 is the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (Nebraska 62, Florida Gators 24).  Few gave the Huskers a chance against the vaunted Fun and Gun offense (“Nebraska can’t run on grass”) just like nobody gave the Royals much of a chance of coming back down three games to two.  At best, it was expected to be a close, hard-fought game that came down to the wire.  Instead, it was over in the second.  The Huskers exploded for 29 second quarter points to take a 35-10 halftime lead.  The Royals batted around in the second inning to score seven runs.

Game 7:  (Giants 3, Royals 2) is the 1984 Orange Bowl (Miami Hurricanes 31, Nebraska 30).  The games were so close, yet so far away.  The opponent controlled most of the game, a key injury (Rozier / Sal Perez HBP) left fans wondering what could have been.  But these two games will be forever remembered for a critical decision made late in the contest.  Should Nebraska go for two to win outright?  Should third base coach Mike Jirshelle have tried to send Alex Gordon home after his single was bobbled and booted around the outfield?  As much as fans may disagree (Nebraska probably would have won the National Championship by kicking the extra point to tie / Gordon may have beaten the throw or the relay may have been off-target) it says here that the right decision was made.  Osborne gained so much more than he lost by going for two.  Gordon likely would have been out by 10 feet, and the next batter (Salvador Perez) had homered off of Bumgarner earlier in the Series).

Braxton Miller is out for the season. 

Author’s note:  This was written shortly after Ohio State star quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the 2014 season due to injury.  A local radio station was making the case that this injury was bad for the Big Ten, and therefore, bad for Nebraska.  I didn’t buy that.

It sucks for Miller and to a far lesser extent, Buckeye fans.  But I just do not feel compelled to feel bad because the Big Ten’s “best chance” at getting a team in the playoffs and therefore, restoring glory and respect to the conference is gone.  Yeah, Ohio State has a far tougher road to get into the playoffs – let alone win the Big Ten East, but I’m not really sure how that impacts me as a Nebraska fan – especially since Ohio State was not on Nebraska’s schedule, nor do they play either of the teams expected to contend for the West title (Wisconsin or Iowa). 

This may be 15 years as a fan of a Big XII school talking – but I don’t take a lot of pride in the successes of fellow conference schools.  Sure if the championship game came down to say, Alabama or Florida State versus Michigan State, I’d want the Spartans to win.  But I’m not going to chant “B-I-G” the next time a Big Ten school wins a title. 

*Or would it be “Bee-One-Gee”?

Heck, I think Nebraska fans are more likely to find amusement in the stumbles of conference mates (such as the typo in the Texas media guide) than gain pride in something that Illinois does.  Besides, getting a team into the playoffs isn’t going to magically erase the stigma that the B1G is the weakest of the Power 5 conferences.  That will take multiple years of bowl wins, non-conference victories, and most likely a national title or two.  As good as Braxton Miller is, he can’t do all of that by himself.

The “Obama Presidential Library” is unveiled in a Norfolk parade

Author’s note:  A Fourth of July parade in Norfolk, NE contained a controversial float of the “Obama Presidential Library” – a Obama caricature sitting in front of a dilapidated outhouse.  

As is my custom, I’ll do my best to leave my political views out of the discussion.  If you want to read an impassioned response from a conservative or a liberal, you have many options.  I’d rather try to view things from both sides of the street.

I am not at all surprised by the float’s popularity.  The joke seems to be lifted right out of my Facebook feed, which is often filled with images and other memes mocking President Obama.  Obama is not popular with many of my Facebook friends, and I’ve seen more than one person use language that was rather disrespectful.  That’s part of life with a left-leaning President in a very conservative state like Nebraska.

I’ve seen many people asking what the response would have been if it was a conservative politician being lampooned.  Certainly, in an ultra red state like Nebraska there are several options (the governor, both Senators, and all three U.S. Representatives are Republican – and the odds are microscopic that a Democrat will win any of those offices in November’s elections).  So I can understand that a hypothetical float mocking the accomplishments of Governor Dave Heineman’s 10 years in office would not be well received – if it was even allowed entry into the parade in the first place.  But that’s not the point.

Personally, I’ve had enough with the “where was the outrage when so-and-so was ridiculed” straw-man arguments.  Yes, folks mocked George W. Bush (as well as Bush Sr, and Reagan), just like folks mocked Clinton and Carter.  And I’ll guarantee that whichever Republican wins in 2016 will be mocked too.

Let’s all acknowledge that democrats bash republicans and republicans bash democrats.  Let’s also acknowledge that this childish back and forth is one of the things most people hate about our current political culture.  At some point, somebody needs to be the bigger person and say “This is over the line.  There is a time and place, and this is not it”.

In one local article, a defender of the float said it is nothing worse than a “political cartoon” in a newspaper.  That is a fair point.  I’ve seen sharper jabs in political cartoons than what the float was trying to convey.  But there is a difference:  There are not too many young minds who read the editorial/opinion pages.  The ones that do probably can understand the concept of political satire.

But when an outhouse float goes down Main Street USA to the applause and laughter of the crowd, it becomes tougher to explain to a child why we should continue to respect the office, especially when the current President is depicted outside a dilapidated outhouse.  I don’t have a problem if you don’t respect the current President, but I do take issue with being disrespectful of the office.

 

Reflections of the Freshly Pressed

30 Dec

In May of 2014, I achieved one of my blogging goals:  I became Freshly Pressed.  It was a pretty cool moment for me, and one that many other bloggers would like to achieve.  But as amazing as it was, it didn’t play out like I had pictured in my mind.

So what was my experience like?

  • First off, it’s tough to explain to those outside the WordPress community why being Freshly Pressed is a big deal.  My mom told me congratulations of being “newly ironed”.

    Freshly Pressed / Newly Ironed.  Potato / Tomato

    Freshly Pressed / Newly Ironed. Potato / Tomato

  • I didn’t see the statistical explosion that I expected in terms of views.  I was expecting thousands and thousands of views of the Freshly Pressed post and a notable spike for other content.  That didn’t happen.  Granted, a lot of it has to do with the piece that was chosen:  2,500 words on the trap falls of paying NCAA student athletes doesn’t convey “this is going to be a fun read” like some of the other Pressed posts.
  • My traffic on the day I was Pressed was far, far below my personal best, and has been topped by several other posts before and since.  I don’t get a ton of traffic, but even with all of the exposure that being Pressed provided, that post will only be the fourth most read thing on this site for the year
  • That said, I received far more likes on that post that anything I’ve ever published.
  • Ditto for followers.  In the first two weeks, I gained over 200 followers, which almost doubled my count to that point.  Most of these were actual people and not the foreign language spam accounts that seem to be attracted to my blog of late.
  • Most of my posts do not get comments, but the Pressed post had over 50.  I had some excellent, well thought comments on that piece.

What advice do I have for those who aspire to be Freshly Pressed?

  1. Be patient.  I was at it for almost three years and 350 posts before I got picked.  And I’ll be honest – the piece that got me pressed is not my best work.  I like it, but I probably could find a dozen or so that I feel are better.
  2. Visit other blogs and comment.  I have no way of proving it, but the email notifying me of my Freshly Pressed selection came a day after I commented on a Daily Post blog post.  Would I have been selected if I hadn’t commented?  Maybe.  But I doubt it.  And almost definitely not that particular post.
  3. Don’t be afraid to break the rules.  In WordPress’s “So You Want To Be Freshly Pressed” guide, they list several recommendations.  You may notice that my Pressed post does not have any accompanying images.  They say “Readers are overwhelmed by huge chunks of text”, yet I have several lengthy paragraphs with not a lot of white space.  My headline (“NCAA Pay for Play (P)”) is not catchy, and the random letter in parentheses (part of an A-Z challenge I was in at the time) is odd.  And there are probably more of their recommendations that I didn’t follow.  Bottom line:  be yourself.
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