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Pre-Season 2007

Spring college football…on the NFL Network…the draft…followed by four months of waiting, waiting, waiting. What is a Husker fan to do? It’s like being in a holding pattern on a flight. So you linger at the magazine racks, start wondering about early rankings, click around online…maybe even read the Scarlet Commentary.

As we look toward fall practice (or “Training Camp” as Bill Callahan calls it) and the season to come, here are some quick Scarlet thoughts—in the form of a countdown. These are the most intriguing things I’ve noted during the long journey from the end of the Cotton Bowl, through the Spring Game, and up ‘til now:

10. Rickey Thenarse is one of the best second-team safeties we’ve had lately, which is to say we have excellent depth now. This position has gone from one of our weakest to pretty solid with Bryan Wilson, Tierre Green, Larry Asante, and Thenarse.

9. Phillip Dilliard is fully back from injury and could push Corey McKeon if he stays healthy. The guy is all over the field.

8. Maurice Purify and Nate Swift catch the ball in traffic better than any pair of receivers I’ve ever seen together on the same Husker team. Still hoping for a TE to complement.

7. New CB Armando Murillo covers well and seems to be in the right place most of the time.

6. A seemingly healthy Steve Octavien (will it last?) lined up as a pass rusher a la Demorrio Williams…Cosgrove could be onto something here.

5. Expect problems with kickoffs and field goals this year (again).

4. On defense, the talent level is up. Over the past couple years, we have gone from a team that had few strengths to a team that has many. The defensive line will remain a work-in-progress, however.

3. We still need a returned-to-form Zack Bowman. Badly. If we got that, then Cortney Grixby could become the nickleback and cover the opponents’ third (or shortest) receiver on passing downs.

2. The running game may not be the strength of this year’s offense. We’ll see a lot of the 6’4” Keller throwing to the 6’4” Purify and Peterson, and the 6’2” Swift. Suddenly, height becomes another advantage for the NU O. Which leads me to…

1. Sam Keller is the man. He already looks more impressive than any quarterback of the Callahan era. His arm, his size, his rapport with his teammates…I think the coaches are just being polite when they talk about the race being wide open. Actually, I hope Keller keeps playing like he’s got something to prove even after he’s officially named the starter. Competition is good. One of the things we’ve lacked at the QB spot the past three years is the sometimes-healthy threat of being yanked.

Joe Ganz is certainly scrappy and makes plays. He is listed at 6’1” but looks like he’s 5’11” (especially compared to Keller). Keller, who’s two inches taller than Zac Taylor, looks like he was imported from an NFL team. Ganz looks more like a West Coast version of Matt Turman. Both Keller and Ganz execute well, which is refreshing.

Joe Dailey still holds one spring game passing record, so it’s not like spring success guarantees a monster season or anything. But Keller just seems like the guy to run this offense against the USCs and the Big 12’s best. I know countless Husker fans out there have come to the same conclusion.

My favorite Spring Game “side” highlight: Keller warmly encouraging the injured Lydon Murtha on the sideline.

Quick Scarlet Update

In other, more-personal news, this off-season the official headquarters of the Scarlet Commentary relocated from Denver, Colorado, to the Kansas City area. (My “headquarters” generally being the spot where my Apple iBook laptop happens to be at the moment.)

Now that I’ve moved, I thought I’d share a few of my more surreal Colorado moments. During my time in the Buffalo state, among other things, I:

Worked for former CU head football coach Bill McCartney. “Coach Mac” didn’t seem quite sure what to make of the young dude from Nebraska. The feeling was mutual. I give him due credit, though, for saying “This guy looks like an athlete” when he first met me (I was 22 at the time…those days are long gone).
Worked for former two-term Governor Bill Owens. Actually, a more pleasant guy to be around than the other Bill. He also never seemed very fond of CU, which I found amusing.
Coauthored a pair of books with a former CU gymnastics head coach. Strange but true.
God bless all the Husker fans who remain in Colorado (and there are a lot of them), and the remnant of CU fans who actually have class.

I look forward to meeting more fellow Husker-lovers on the Missouri side of KC and in Eastern Kansas. So far KC seems like a pretty good place to wear red.

All told, I’m looking forward to this season more than any in quite some time.

The voice of Scarlet Commentary is Jeffrey A. Leever, a Nebraska native also stuck behind enemy lines in Jefferson County, Colo. He is a 1994 graduate of the University of Nebraska (Kearney) and a freelance writer and author. Some of Jeff’s writings of the nonfootball kind can be found online at Barnes & Noble (12), Amazon.com (12), and MenofIntegrity.net (1345). Contact Jeff at this email.