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C O M M E N T A R Y
T A D    S T R Y K E R
February 8, 2010

 
Everyone likes sizzle. In football, that elusive quality is generated by the so-called “skill positions,” the major ballhandlers. And there’s no denying that Nebraska football lacked sizzle on offense this past season. Frankly, at times, the Huskers struggled just to be lukewarm.

So it’s natural – if somewhat unrealistic – that we should look to the 2010 recruiting class for a quick remedy. That’s not a real option this year, nor any other year. What’s more, this year’s class appears to be strong on defense, solid in the offensive line, and it lacks a five-star big name among the skill positions.

It doesn’t rate in the Top 20 of recruiting classes nationwide, if you believe what Rivals or Scout or ESPN has to say.

That’s all good news, as far as I’m concerned.

Nebraska football has rarely had sizzle. If you go back to the 1990s, the golden age of Husker football, you’ll recall that even then, the Big Red didn’t have sizzle, at least not when compared to teams like the 1994 Colorado Buffaloes, who came into Memorial Stadium red hot after beating Michigan in The Big House on the famous Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook “Hail Mary” pass.

Nebraska’s o-line and defense doused the sizzling Buffs that year by a 24-7 count in Brook Berringer’s best game ever. The Blackshirts held Stewart, Westbrook and Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam to zero conversions on third and fourth down.

And it appears that linemen and defensive backs will be the strength of this Class of 2010. That’s just fine with me. Bo Pelini appears to be building strength in the trenches, and if that’s not a proven recipe for success, I don’t know what is.

Sure, it would be nice to get a quick fix for the Cornhusker offense, which had multiple issues in 2009. There were problems at quarterback, where inexperienced Zac Lee was a step ahead of true freshman Cody Green, although neither was overly effective. There were problems at wide receiver, where the Huskers got occasionally brilliant play from Niles Paul, a late-emerging Brandon Kinnie and not much else. There were multiple flashes of excellence at running back, but injuries to Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead stifled made it a rough year.

There were also multiple problems in the offensive line, including injuries and lack of depth, which crippled the running game at times.

If I had a voice on which problem to fix first on offense, I’d vote for the offensive line every time. You can’t have sizzle without substance, and it appears that getting 6-foot-7, 315-pound junior college transfer Jermarcus Hardrick at offensive tackle may provide some immediate punch to the offense.

No one knows o-lines better than Cornhusker fans, who give more attention to the big uglies than most other college fans people do. This appears to be a good class for o-linemen, with Hardrick, Andrew Rodriguez and Mike Moudy set to join the Husker program. Last year’s class, with Nick Ash, Jesse Coffey, Brent Qvale and Jeremiah Sirles, may be stronger in the o-line, but this year’s should be good also. If nothing else, the youngsters will provide depth. It looks like Pelini is trying to build a strong foundation.

Even though it’s arriving under the radar, this class may turn out to have more sizzle than national recruiting analysts are letting on, if Braylon Heard turns out to be a breakaway threat. Heard, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder from Pelini’s old school, Cardinal Mooney High in Youngstown, probably was the best offensive player in Ohio last fall. Kenny Bell of Boulder, Colo., and Quincy Enuwa of Moreno Valley, Calif., could turn out to be more explosive than the national experts say. Quarterback Brion Carnes of Bradenton, Fla., may bring back memories of his cousin Tommie Frazier. It’s hard to say.

No, there are no big-name wideouts in the class, but there are safeties like Corey Cooper and Harvey Jackson, who can put a big hurt on big-name wideouts. NU missed on all-everything defensive end Ola Odighizuwa, but getting Chase Rome and Jay Guy may turn out to be better.

Best wishes to Odighizuwa and the others who considered NU but signed elsewhere. If it turns out that Nebraska missed out on some sizzling five-star recruits, but got a load of solid players with good character and a team-first attitude, I’ll take that tradeoff every time.

 

Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker is a longtime Nebraska sports writer, having covered University of Nebraska and high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at tad.stryker@gmail.com. | Archive

 
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