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carriker_adamBW (204K)

Jan. 5, 2017

Five keys

Welcome, Husker Nation, to the Carriker Chronicles, and today I want to talk about the five things, the five keys, that I believe can help the Husker football program improve even more going forward.

Number one stems off of Mark Banker’s statements, from “we need to get bigger to play in the Big Ten and faster to be an elite defense and an elite team overall.” So number 1 is speed and size.

The first way you improve that is by recruiting. To me, where it all starts, something that has not be a priority in recent years, for whatever reason (I believe that’s a mistake), is in-state recruiting. You start by dominating in-state recruiting, especially in the state of Nebraska. There should never be a 4- or 5-star athlete that ever goes to another college outside of the state of Nebraska, and if there is, the coaches need to have a meeting immediately and figure out why. If you look at it, if you’ve got a Nebraska boy and you’ve got someone from somewhere else, and they’re relatively even, or even if the Nebraska boy isn’t as quite as highly recruited, that Nebraska kid – it’s always going to mean so much more to play there, which means he’s going to practice harder, he’s going to lift harder, he’s going to work harder, he’s going to play harder; he’s going to be a better player. And then that attitude is going to carry over into your team locker room, your team chemistry, and it’s going to carry over to the team on the field, and the team will play better. So you start by winning the recruiting battle in your state.

And then you go national. You go after the top recruits nationally. You go down to Florida and you get the speed guys; you go out to California, you get the athletes; you go down to Texas, if need be, and you get them big ol’ boys from down there. The fact of the matter is, from what I understand, Bo Pelini didn’t think we could get the top recruits from across the country so he wouldn’t even go after them most of the time. I think that’s a bunch of BUNK! Yeah, we’re not going to get ’em all, but we’re definitely going to get some.

Dominate in-state recruiting, recruit nationally, and that’s the first way to improve on your speed and your size.

The next way (to help speed and size) is, whoever you get to come in, whoever commits on National Signing Day, whoever comes to play for Nebraska: the strength and conditioning program. I’m so glad Boyd Epley is back in charge of the strength and conditioning program at Nebraska! In 1970 and ’71, it was taboo to have your football team and your football players lift. It was thought that it would affect their flexibility, their mobility, and they wouldn’t be able to move to make plays, they’d be too stiff. Boyd Epley said, “Uh uh, that’s not correct,” and I believe he developed the first-ever strength and conditioning program for a college football team. I believe that’s a huge reason we won national championships in 1970 and ’71. We were ahead of the curve, we had that edge in the weight room, and I believe that’s something we need to regain that will give us an advantage going forward.

And I think Mark Philipp’s done a pretty good job. If you look at what we did in the fourth quarter last year, clearly strength and conditioning’s going in the right direction because that was a severe advantage for us most of the season. Now, there were some injuries but it’s hard to prevent ankles and knees and things of that nature. If those things continued next year, then you gotta evaluate what

you’re doing and maybe you gotta do some more pre-hab to prevent these injuries and maybe Mark Phillip looks at what he’s doing a little bit more in-depth, but I think there’s definitely been progress.

The third thing you can do (for speed and size) is scheme-wise, especially on defense. Look at what Charlie McBride did in the 90’s: he would take a big safety, move him to linebacker; big linebacker, move him to DN, and so on and so forth. Now, there’s a catch-22 with that, ’cause we do play in the Big Ten; when you play with the big boys, you don’t want to get too small and get shoved around, so what you can do, in my opinion, is have separate packages. So you have your base defense, which is just your best players, your best 11 players. Then you could have, and teams do a variation of this, but you could have your nickel defense. Typically, you take out your big nose guard, take him out; move your 3 technique down to nose guard; you move your big end down to 3 technique; you move your speed end to your big end, and you move your big linebacker to your speed end. That allows you to get a little more speed on to the field without getting too small. And then, if you want to get really fast based on who you’re playing, based on what the situation is in the game, or whatever the case may be, you can have a dime – where you bring the six defensive backs – or a speed nickel – where you take all the D tackles out, move D ends to D tackles, move linebackers to D end – and you get speed all over the place, if need be, based on what’s happening.

Now, there’s a defensive end down in Alabama who’s got 8½ sacks this year and doesn’t start for them. He just plays on nickel. I remember the Patriots on Monday Night Football about 7-8 years ago – they played the Dolphins – they had a defense they ran several times where not a defensive lineman was on the entire field. Now, you don’t want to get too complicated; you want these college kids to be able to play fast. But if you just keep running the same defenses, your same basic defenses, with some blitz packages mixed in just with different personnel, it’ll allow them to play fast, you get more speed, or size, on the field based on whatever you need.

And here’s a random idea that I have: hey, all these bowl games are down in the South. That’s an advantage for them southern boys. Let’s bring them southern belles, them southern honeys on up to the North and let’s play a national championship game in cold weather! Pittsburgh, the Super Bowl played in New York ... let’s even this thing out a little bit! I think that’s a great idea.

My second key: mentality. It’s your expectations and your attitude. I got a bunch of stuff written down, so I’ll be looking down for a little bit here. But I think these participation trophies are starting to hurt us a little bit going forward because of people’s expectations; it’s a little bit of a political sidebar, but there you have it. I always took great pride, when I played for the Huskers and the NFL – it didn’t matter if we were behind, if we were winning, if we were playing a top team or No Name University – I always took great pride in playing with heart and passion, leave it all out on the field. I tried to express that to my teammates because it’s really the players; the coaches can yap all they want, but it’s really the players who take control of the team and should lead the team because it is their team and it stems from the players so much more than anyone else.

I’ve told this story before but I’ll tell it again. I had a teammate in the NFL who was talkin’ trash to me, but he upset me because he was from Nebraska, and he was so overly proud that they’d won nine games, and they went to the Big 12 Championship game (even though they lost), and none of us need that. Don’t get me wrong, but the same things that made him so happy upset me and haunt me to this day. I was mad that we’d only won nine games in some seasons; I was mad that we lost in the Big 12 Championship game. To me, you need to have a different level of expectation. We need to raise that bar again at Nebraska. You need to have a championship level of expectation. Whenever I watch a Nebraska team, I care what the scoreboard says but regardless of the scoreboard I always want to see a few things. I always want to see passion, I always want to see physicality, competitiveness, and pride.

Real quick – practices, ’cause this is a lot of where of your attitude is developed. There’s no two-a-days anymore. You used to go two-a-days every day, then you’d go 2-1-2-1 (two-a-day then a one-a-day, 2-1-2-1) but they got rid of that. There’s no more two-a-days, ever, anymore; you can’t do that. So you want to practice smart; you don’t want to beat your team up but you can take advantage of this and practice a lot more physically, whereas before you had to be careful.

Number three, it’s time to find our coach. I have addressed the coaching staff on Tuesday (check that video out if you missed it), but Mike Riley has been playing with house money for two years now and every coach should get three years, minimum, to be evaluated and to me, I think we should give him four just because he’s going to have a new quarterback. Let’s say it’s Patrick O’Brien, he’ll be a freshman. Give him a couple years with his quarterbacks, so four years. But it’s time to start evaluating Mike Riley and if he’s our coach going forward, it starts now, starting this season. Would I have hired Mike Riley? I don’t know. Do I believe his offensive scheme can work at Nebraska? I don’t know. But the fact is Riley is here. It would be a mistake to fire him. Let’s see what he can do. And if he doesn’t work out, then I say we go back to our niche, to what we’re used to have, to what used to set us apart. And I will make a video on that if Riley ever does get let go.

Number four: identity, our identity on offense and defense. On defense for the Black Shirts it used to be attitude and physicality. Tackling definitely was not a consistent issue that anyone ever had back then and we need to get back to that physicality and that attitude on offense. We’re not Wisconsin! We’re not going to pound the ball down your throat all the time. Are we Purdue from 2001 with Drew Brees, where they threw the ball all over the yard? They did go to the Rose Bowl, that offense, but who are we? Are we a 50% run, 50% pass and we just do a bunch of pre-snap motions? Who are we? We need to find an identity starting this season.

Number five (and certainly not least important): the walk-on. The hard-nosed, the blue collar, the players with just pure heart. We used to get 2- to 3-star athletes to walk on at Nebraska. The walk-on program was huge, it was a pride, it was part of our niche, it was part of our advantage. If you think about it, if you have 85 scholarship players and 180 players on the team that means that well over half your team is walk-ons. That means you’ve got more guys to give you a look in practice, more guys fighting for spots. Whatever spots you can’t fill (by recruiting), the walk-ons will more than happily fill it in. Remember how I described the Nebraska boy earlier? I’ll always take that Nebraska boy over an out-of-state guy when everything else is equal, or if it’s even close. I think we need to build up that walk-on program to what it used to be ’cause that was a huge advantage for us that no other team in the country had. It was a niche, it was an edge, and some of my best friends are walk-ons. My brother-in-law was a walk-on – I met my wife because of him! So thanks, Jeff. And my six children thank you as well.

On Saturday, I will be doing the reaction video to the FCS Championship game and Bo Pelini. It’s going to be very short, just a couple of minutes. I’m hoping to get it out within 30 minutes of the game ending, but I have some family stuff so I may not get it out til Saturday night, I’m not really sure, but look for it on Saturday. If you’re not interested, that’s cool, but he’s my former coach – I am. Look for it Saturday, sometime this weekend, and then next week we’ll be back to our regular schedule. So until Saturday, Husker Nation – GO BIG RED and always remember to THROW THE BONES!