Nebraska football has certainly been a roller coaster ride this fall. Their loss to Minnesota had fans up in arms, but consecutive late-game wins versus Northwestern and at Michigan have the Huskers in the hunt for the Big Ten title again.Nebraska’s young defense is growing up before our eyes, as is quarterback Tommy Armstrong.
Armstrong played well in home contests against South Dakota State and Illinois, but struggled on the road against Purdue and Minnesota. He followed that with a strong first half against Northwestern, then had difficulty with the Wildcats’ halftime adjustments. Then he showed tremendous poise engineering the final drive at Michigan.
Ron Kellogg played has been up and down. He (and Jordan Westerkamp) saved the Northwestern game with the “Hail Mary,” but Kellogg is severely limited in the QB run game. Whether injured senior Taylor Martinez will play again as a Husker remains to be seen. He’s been relatively ineffective, and quite frankly I believe the team operates better under Armstrong’s guidance.
The defense has played faster and with more confidence since the first bye week. You can see guys like Randy Gregory, Aaron Curry, Michael Rose and Leroy Alexander all getting better each week. Suddenly formations and misdirection plays that were confusing them in September are being snuffed out. Fifteen-yard gains are turning into three-yard gains, and the goal-line stand against Northwestern was a big confidence boost. That carried over to Michigan, where they completely stoned the hapless Wolverines.
Is all of this growth enough to save Bo Pelini’s job? The insiders I talk to seem to be evenly split in their beliefs. I think if NU wins two of their remaining three games to go 9-3 without any blowouts, Pelini will be coaching in Lincoln in 2014.
NU needs interior DL
While NU plays a lot of young guys such as Aaron Curry, Vincent Valentine, Maliek Collins and Kevin Maurice, you can never have enough depth at defensive tackle.
That’s why they continue to go hard after guys like Dalvon Stuckey (6-2/305) of Pearl River (Miss.) CC, Joe Keels (6-4/280) of Highland (Kan.) CC, Terrell Clinkscales (6-4/315) of Dodge City (Kan.) CC and Josh Frazier (6-3/325) of Springdale, Ark.
Stuckey, committed to Miami since April, will visit for the Michigan State game. He will also trip to West Virginia Dec. 6. The opportunity to earn early playing time intrigues Stuckey, “…they’re real young on the defensive line and they want an old guy to come in and help out so once (Kaczenski) told me that I gained a lot of interest in Nebraska.”
Keels committed to Wisconsin in early October, but will also be in Lincoln for the Michigan State contest. He also has trips to Wisconsin Nov. 30 and West Virginia Dec. 6, and is considering visiting Oregon. Keels plays defensive end for Highland, but could slide inside if needed. Getting him to flip from Wisconsin will be tough, but a visit gives NU a chance.
Clinkscales, who has blown up at Dodge City this fall, was a high school teammate of Husker safety Corey Cooper. Kaczenski told Clinkscales that he’d have an opportunity to play right away, and along with NU’s history with DTs that’s a big selling point.
“I’ve been interested in Nebraska though since high school, since Ndamukong Suh,” he told HuskerOnline.com. “He’s been one of my idols for a while. I mean, I feel like if I ever had an opportunity to go there I would, and I want to play (right away).”
There is some question whether he will qualify academically, but Clinkscales seems confident and is working with Kaczenski to schedule a visit. NU leads here right now, but Alabama, Miami and Oregon are all chasing him as well. NU had better strike while the iron is hot.
Frazier has offers from around the country and is considered a strong lean to the home-state Razorbacks, but he’s planning a trip to Lincoln and has told the NU coaches he’ll be visiting. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is trying to persuade him to stay home.
“I’ve already told Nebraska I’m coming, so I just don’t know if I’ll be able to do that,” Frazier, who lists Arkansas, USC, Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M as his top five, told HuskersIllustrated.com “But it was a good talk (with Bielema).”
DB is a priority also
At defensive back, Nebraska will likely sign four prospects, and to date they have commitments from Trai Mosley (5-10/171) of Pflugerville, Texas and Josh Kalu (6-1/169) of Houston.
Kalu visited for the Southern Miss game in early September and admitted to considering a commitment at that time.
“I thought about it. I think that’s natural,” Kalu told HuskerOnline.com. “I initially went to talk to my parents about it and I talked to them and we still haven’t made a decision. I have a decision made in my head I think but I still want to see what’s out there.”
Oct. 14, Kalu posted on Twitter: “As of October 14th, Monday night at 7:40 Joshua Kalu is officially Nebraska Cornhusker! #Blackshirts #GBR #FOE #RFG #Blessed”
Mosley’s teammate, Colorado commitment Chance Waz (5-11/173), might be next. They are visiting together for Michigan State, and most recruitniks believe Waz will flip his pledge to NU.
St. Louis, Mo. prospect Raymond Wingo (6-0/165) lists a top six of Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan St., Tennessee and Nebraska. He’s yet to schedule any visits and isn’t doing many interviews while focusing on his senior season. He did tell HuskerOnline.com, “Nebraska calls every week.”
Philadelphia, Pa. prospect DeAndre Scott (5-8/180) was the lone official visitor for South Dakota State weekend. Scott is also considering offers from Penn State, Miami, Tennessee and Texas among his 20-plus tenders.
He was pleasantly surprised by the ‘big city feel’ he got from Lincoln, telling HuskerOnline.com, “Other than not knowing where I was going (in Lincoln) it didn’t even feel like I left Philly. It just felt like I was out with my friends. I feel real comfortable here; I could definitely see myself living in Lincoln.”