Big Ten: nebraska-intro-021011

Huskers' David bulks up for Big Ten

February, 10, 2011
The plan always called for Lavonte David to get bigger.

Nebraska's move to the Big Ten simply provides a little extra incentive for the star linebacker.

David did it all for Nebraska in 2010, earning unanimous first-team All-Big 12 honors and second-team All-America honors after a breakout season. He led the Big 12 and ranked third nationally with 152 tackles, a Nebraska single-season record, and recorded 15 tackles for loss, six sacks, 10 pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries.

[+] EnlargeLavonte David
AP Photo/Nati HarnikLavonte David led the Big 12 last season with 152 tackles, a Nebraska single-season record.
But David's most impressive numbers might have been 6-1 and 210 -- his height and weight. Despite being undersized, he managed to remain extremely productive.

David also knows to continue his success, both at Nebraska and at the next level, he'll need to bulk up.

"That was a goal of mine last season as well, to put on weight," he said. "I'm still trying to do the same thing for the upcoming season. It's one thing I'm really trying to work on."

David's ultimate goal is to reach 230 pounds, although he admits 225 might be more realistic. He's already at 221 and says it's easier to add the weight during the offseason, when his training schedule is more focused and routine. (Most players lose weight during the season.)

One major question for Nebraska's Blackshirts defense heading into the Big Ten is whether the linebackers can adjust to a slightly different brand of football. As Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said: "You may see [in the Big Ten] a few more traditional-type linebackers, guys that are 220, 230, 240 pounds in the ballgame, whereas in the Big 12, you had so many spread offenses that you ended up playing nickel and dime and you're playing with five, six defensive backs a lot of the time. And sometimes those guys are lined up as linebackers."

David notices the differences, too.

"It'll be real physical ballgames," he said. "We know what's coming at us."

The Big Ten has had its share of smaller linebackers stand out. Ohio State's Brian Rolle, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010, checks in at just 5-11 and 218 pounds. Michigan State star Greg Jones was never the biggest 'backer, although he added weight between his junior and senior seasons.

It'll be interesting to see how David and the other Huskers' linebackers fare in the Big Ten this fall.

Q&A: Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead

February, 10, 2011
I'll spend the coming weeks familiarizing myself with Nebraska's full roster, but I have an idea about my favorite Huskers player to watch. Big Ten fans should like him, too.

What's not to like about Rex Burkhead? He ran the ball for 951 yards and seven touchdowns on 172 carries last season. He also served as Nebraska's quarterback out of the wildcat formation. All three of his completed passes went for touchdowns in 2010, as Burkhead boasted an Aaron Bates-like passer rating of 396. Burkhead is no stranger to the quarterback position, calling signals for Plano High School as a sophomore while playing running back his other three seasons.

I caught up with Burkhead earlier this week.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Rex Burkhead
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesRex Burkhead rushed for 951 yards and seven touchdowns last season for Nebraska.
So you run the ball, pass the ball. Are you going to kick field goals this year without [Alex] Henery there?

Rex Burkhead: I don't know, I've never been the greatest kicker in the world. I punted in high school. That's about it.

How much fun is it to contribute in multiple ways? It seems like football is becoming more and more specialized.

RB: It's fun. Just to show your versatility and to act like you're the quarterback of the team every now and then, it makes the game a lot of fun. Stand back there and be the leader of the team every now and then throughout the game, just to give a spark to the offense, it's a good thing.

How much have you and your teammates talked about the move to the Big Ten since the Holiday Bowl? Have you spent much time on it?

RB: Oh, yeah. We're already watching film on the Big Ten games from last year. We're definitely looking forward to it, and a big thing is playing new teams. That's what a lot of people are looking forward to. We're not playing the same Big 12 teams every year, so now it's a whole new conference, a whole different style of games, so we're just looking forward to it.

What stood out to you when you watched tapes of those Big Ten games?

RB: Teams are very physical. That's a big thing. The offensive schemes are just lining up, pounding it at you and then throw the play-action pass. The defensive lines and offensive lines, they're very big and athletic, so that has really stood out to us.

Do you think you'll have to adjust your style at all for the Big Ten? Will there be a feeling-out process between you guys and your opponents?

RB: Yeah, I think we're going to have to feel it out and see what we're dealing with. But the coaches have confidence in our scheme and whatever they feel like they're comfortable with, we're going to go with it 100 percent.

I know you didn't end last season the way you wanted to. What has been the mood around the team as you go through your winter program?

RB: We've had a really good winter so far. The guys, we came back and started even a week early. The guys have been really motivated. Especially after that loss, you get a bad taste in your mouth, so the guys have been really determined. We're working hard out and coach [James] Dobson, our strength coach, he's getting us prepared.

You're from Texas and so are some of your teammates. One big question a lot of people are asking is: Will Nebraska still have a presence in Texas for recruiting? Will that be a bigger challenge now that you're in the Big Ten?

RB: Yeah, I think it will be a little bit more of a challenge. I wanted to play in the Big 12 because there were games close to home, but at the same time, Nebraska's such a tremendous program that people are still going to want to come here from all over the country. We have a few guys that have connections down in Texas on our coaching staff, so I'm sure we'll be getting guys out of there every year.

The guys in this recruiting class from Texas, did they express any concerns about their families not being able to go to as many games or anything like that?

RB: Honestly, I haven't heard any of that. I think they're in the same boat as we are and just looking forward to playing the new teams. I'm sure they're a little upset, but at the same time, it's college football, so you've got to love it.

What are your goals individually going forward? You played a big role last year and you guys lose Roy [Helu Jr.]. Where do you see yourself fitting in?

RB: I want to especially lift up the leadership role. That's a big thing. The coaching staff kind of put that on my shoulders this offseason as well. That's my biggest goal, to step up and say things when things need to be said and hold other guys accountable and make sure they're holding me accountable as well.

No matter what happens with the offense, do you expect to be a team with a lot of guys carrying the ball, or could you be more of a featured back going forward?

RB: In college football now, you've got to have multiple backs. That's just how it is. It's a long season, especially how we run the ball. So you're going to have to have multiple backs. In the NFL, you see that every team has multiple backs. The system's kind of changed now, and I think it helps change up the pace of the game.

A lot of people are excited about the running back recruits you signed. What have you learned about those guys?

RB: I texted with Aaron [Green] throughout the process, just telling him what was going on here. Because his brother [Andrew] was on our team, I got to know him quite a bit and he's a great kid, great-looking kid. Saw his highlights, saw him play in the Army All-American Bowl. I love that he's coming here and I look forward to playing with him and getting to know how we works.

What are your thoughts on the schedule for 2011?

RB: It's going to be exciting. Some of the stadiums we're playing at are incredible, with a lot of tradition. We're just looking forward to it. There's going to be some great games, especially some home games that we have. Ohio State we have at home, so it should be fun.

What should Big Ten fans expect from Nebraska fans when you start playing in the league?

RB: Oh, man. They're great, they travel well, you can expect them to come to the away games. They're really nice and humble, that's the main thing. They love their Nebraska football, that's what it is here in the state. So they're fired up.

Q&A: Nebraska AD Tom Osborne

February, 10, 2011
As we continue to welcome Nebraska to the Big Ten blog, who better to provide the state of the Huskers than Tom Osborne? Big Ten fans will get to know Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and his players over the coming weeks and months, but everyone should know Osborne and his accomplishments.

In case you just started following college football or something, a quick Osborne overview:

  • Nebraska head coach (1973-97)
  • Three national titles (1994, 1995, 1997)
  • Overall record of 255-49-3
  • 1999 College Football Hall of Fame inductee
  • U.S. Congressman (Nebraska's Third District, three terms)
  • Nebraska athletic director (Oct. 16, 2007-present)

Yeah, so he's kind of important.

I caught up with the Nebraska AD earlier this week, and here's our conversation:

Tom Osborne
AP Photo/Nati HarnikTom Osborne and Nebraska will have some minor adjustments to make in transitioning to the Big Ten.
What has stood out to you about the transition to the Big Ten?

Tom Osborne: The Big Ten has done an excellent job of reaching out and recognizing that culture does matter and no matter how similar you think a school like Nebraska might be to other institutions in the league, there still might be some differences. There will be some things that are done differently in the Big Ten than were done in the Big 12. Those are unavoidable, and to make sure everyone has an adequate understanding of new parameters and how people communicate is important. So for the last six, eight months, we've had a fairly steady flow of people from the Big Ten who have come out here: compliance, business office practices, academic consulting, Big Ten Network and on and on. So we feel very good about the outreach and the effort that the Big Ten has put in to assimilating us into the conference.

What are some of those differences between the Big Ten and the Big 12?

TO: There are some relatively minor issues. In the Big 12, we were able to furnish complementary tickets to all of our student-athletes to football and to men's basketball games. This is not true in the Big Ten, so we've had to notify all of our student-athletes. For other athletic contests like baseball and track, we can give them tickets. That's not a huge thing. There are some minor issues in terms of academics. There are a few changes in the idea of oversigning. At Nebraska, we've had I think an average of 4.4 [baseball] players per year who have opted to go into Major League Baseball after their junior seasons. Under Big Ten rules, it's very difficult to replace those 4.4 players. You can replace maybe a couple of them.

We don't believe in oversigning, signing more letters of intent than you have spots. We've never done that in football, we don't do it in any of our sports, but we do feel in a couple areas, the Big Ten might be a little more restrictive than what we've encountered. Although it's nothing major.

We appreciate the stability, we appreciate the collegiality we've seen within the Big Ten. There is a good deal of concern about the welfare, the health of the league, as opposed to individual desires to get a bigger piece of the pie. That's probably a healthy thing because the long-term viability of the league eventually serves everyone well.

As you've gotten to know the league better, how comfortable to you feel with how Nebraska fits in culturally?

TO: I believe there's a great deal of common ground. We tend to look at the role of athletics through similar eyes. I think it's a very good fit for us. The differences are relatively minor and certainly nothing that can't be easily adjusted to.

From the football standpoint, what will be the biggest adjustments in transitioning to a new conference?

TO: I don't know that we'll do anything differently than we have been. Generally speaking, the Big Ten offenses are a little more what we might call traditional, where you're apt to see a tight end or two tight ends, and you're more apt to see a fullback in a game with an I-back. But you're still going to see spread offenses, you're still going to see some zone read, you're still going to occasionally see an option. But the Big 12 was more one running back and most schools don't use a fullback hardly at all. They had maybe more emphasis on throwing the football. Again, it doesn't really change your approach to football very much because in playing the 11 other teams in the Big Ten, we're going to see just about everything. We're going to see teams that operate out of the shotgun with no running backs, and we're going to see a full-house power running game. So you've got to be ready for all of it.

Defensively, because of the style of offense, you may see a few more traditional-type linebackers, guys that are 220, 230, 240 pounds in the ballgame, whereas in the Big 12, you had so many spread offenses that you ended up playing nickel and dime and you're playing with five, six defensive backs a lot of the time. And sometimes those guys are lined up as linebackers.

Will the move to the Big Ten change how you recruit? You've mentioned Texas being such a big recruiting area for Nebraska, and you won't be there as much playing games.

TO: I don't think we'll change our philosophy very much. We'll continue to recruit as we have. My perception is that we'll continue to go into Texas. Our presence in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, maybe even the East Coast, will be a little bit more pronounced than it has been in the past. But being a relatively sparsely populated state with 1.8 million people located right in the middle of the country, we've always recruited nationally, whereas so many schools would only recruit two or three states heavily. So we're all over the place, from Florida to Washington, from California to New England and all points in between.

Where would you say the program is in terms of your vision for it? Is coach [Bo] Pelini on track at this stage in his tenure?

TO: I feel Bo has done a very fine job here. We went from a losing season in 2007 and some pretty horrific losses to nine wins in 2008 and then 10 in 2009, 10 again this year and we came within a whisker of winning the Big 12 championship both years. So we're competitive. We're certainly a very strong program, but you always feel like there's room for improvement. I'm sure Coach is working hard to do that.

Do think it will take time for people, especially your fans, to get used to the idea of Nebraska in the Big Ten?

TO: A great majority of Nebraskans are looking forward to the Big Ten. They're looking forward to new venues, going to places like Wisconsin and Michigan and Ohio State. A lot of them have been to Penn State at one time or another. But they're looking forward to seeing new places and having new opponents come into Lincoln. There seems to be a lot of excitement about it.

What are your thoughts on the 2011 schedule? They didn't do you guys many favors.

TO: No. Given the breakup of the divisions, we probably couldn't have drawn a more difficult hand. Outside of our own division, we're hitting schools like Ohio State and Wisconsin, so it's very difficult. It's probably as demanding a schedule as we've faced in a long, long time.

I know you're making a pretty big investment into your program and the facilities. How important is that going forward, being in a league like this where you have the facilities at places like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan?

TO: We think it's important that we be very competitive as far as facilities because there are some things we don't have. We don't have a huge population base. We're not located real close to large numbers of great high school athletes. And we don't have tremendous weather to recruit in because a lot of our recruiting occurs during December, January, even in February. So I think we better maximize our facilities.

We think we do a good job of taking care of our student-athletes in terms of academic support, medical support, nutrition, all those types of things. So we're trying to do what we can to maximize our strengths and do whatever we can to mitigate whatever weaknesses we might have.
NebraskaEric Francis/Getty ImagesNebraska fans will see their Cornhuskers face a tough schedule in the Big Ten.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have a new home in the Big Ten blog, and bloggers Adam Rittenberg and David Ubben are guiding the Big Red ship through these waters of transition. Before Ubben and the Big 12 give up Nebraska for good, it's time for something we like to call a blog debate.

Buckle up.

Adam Rittenberg: Mr. Ubben, I know you're all torn up about losing Nebraska. How can you possibly wake up in the morning without all those e-mails from Huskers fans flooding your inbox? Somehow, you must push forward. We here in Big Ten country certainly appreciate your generosity. The Big Ten undoubtedly gets better with the addition of Nebraska.

Let's face it: The Big Ten needs to catch the SEC, and Nebraska gives the league another big-name program with a ton of tradition on the football field. Nebraska has reached back-to-back Big 12 championship games and could have won both. Bo Pelini seems to have things going in the right direction, aside from his sideline flare-ups. My question to you is this: How close is Nebraska to becoming a true national powerhouse once again?

David Ubben: Very, very close, and if the ball had bounced their way a bit different a few times during the previous season, we might already be agreeing that the Huskers were truly back.

Pelini announced Nebraska was back after the Holiday Bowl win following the 2009 season and I agree with his statement. Nebraska won't play anyone next season, and didn't play anyone this season, that they didn't have a very good chance of beating. Doing that consistently is what separates the elite programs from everybody else. Everything is in place for Nebraska to have big-time success moving forward. They have tons of talent, lots of depth and a great coaching staff. There are obvious places where improvement is necessary, namely on offense, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Nebraska become a major player in the national title race in the next few years. They weren't far off this season.

We've heard a lot of talk about next season's schedule, though. How tough will it be? Where do you think Nebraska fits into the Big Ten on the field in Year 1?

[+] EnlargeBo Pelini
Brett Davis/US PresswireBo Pelini and the Cornhuskers were happy to leave the Big 12.
AR: The Big Ten certainly is doing Nebraska no favors right off the bat. Not only will the Huskers play five teams, in what I think will be a very competitive division, but their crossover opponents are the three top teams in the Leaders division (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State). Two of those games (Wisconsin and Penn State) are on the road. Bottom line: We'll find out very soon how well Nebraska stacks up with the Big Ten's top teams. If the Huskers can win their division after going through this schedule, they'll immediately put themselves among the Big Ten's elite.

Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, we've heard a lot about the cultural similarities between Nebraska and its new league and also some of the cultural differences between Nebraska and the Big 12. Big 12 officials didn't even deliver the North division trophy to Lincoln. How contentious did things get at the end with Nebraska and the Big 12?

DU: "Quite" probably doesn't do it justice, but suffice it to say, Nebraska welcomed the end of the Big 12 era. Ever since the Big 8 became the Big 12, Nebraska hasn't quite been as happy with the Texas-centric nature of the league. The league offices moved from Kansas City to Dallas and the Big 12 Championship was set to be played at Cowboys Stadium for the next three years before Colorado and Nebraska left. That's not why Nebraska is leaving, but it didn't help establish much good faith toward the Huskers. It's a mischaracterization to say they're running "from" the Big 12, but rather they're running "to" the Big Ten.

The action on the field didn't help ease the transition. Nebraska was the only team that had a player suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit all season, and there were plenty of controversial calls in the Huskers' second loss of the season, on the road against Texas A&M. Their final two losses were mostly free of controversy, but like I said, Nebraska's bags are packed and they're definitely excited about the future in a more stable Big Ten.

What do you think will be the best and worst parts about the transition for the Huskers?

AR: The positives certainly outweigh the negatives. The Big Ten provides the stability Nebraska craves and the equitability from a revenue-sharing standpoint that the Big 12 lacks. Nebraska also aligns itself with a stronger group of academic institutions, and membership in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (the Big Ten's internal academic association) will please those in the administration. Nebraska also will get a bump in exposure not just for its football team but for other athletic programs because of the Big Ten Network.

The biggest negative, other than a tougher schedule in most seasons, is the potential recruiting impact. Other than Ohio State and, at times, Penn State, the Big Ten isn't a major player on the national recruiting scene. Nebraska has had great success in the state of Texas, but it no longer will be playing games there on a regular basis and players and their families will have to travel a lot farther on fall Saturdays. Can the Huskers continue to recruit well in Texas and also establish themselves more in the Big Ten footprint?

OK, Ubben, you're on the spot. How much will Nebraska's departure impact the Big 12? Can the league continue to be considered one of the nation's elite or will the ACC and Big East have company soon?

DU: As long as the Big 12 survives as a league, and I believe it will, it will be fine. Next season isn't a big concern. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M should all be top-20 teams at worst, and Texas and Missouri could find their way into that group without surprising too many people as well.

Long term, I think there are a lot of programs moving in the right direction to keep the Big 12 a nationally relevant league. Nebraska leaving hurts, but it's not a death sentence. Oklahoma isn't going anywhere. It's hard to see Texas getting any worse, and the new network will help that, too. Texas A&M is probably the biggest question mark in terms of long-term success, but they finally got things moving under Mike Sherman and despite an underwhelming 2011 recruiting class, are off to a nice start in 2012.

Oklahoma State and Missouri are having great success, racking up a lot of wins even if they haven't been able to win the conference. Texas Tech looks like it's building some great things under Tommy Tuberville. Baylor is better than it has been in the history of the Big 12.

On the field, it should be fine.

And the flip side of that Nebraska recruiting debate is this: Where do you think those Texas players that don't choose to go to Nebraska will go? TCU is becoming a big player in the state, but in all likelihood, most of the best among those 400 or so FBS signees in Texas every year will stay and play in a slimmed-down Big 12. More parity could theoretically be on the way if that happens.

For now, the ACC and Big East will continue to be the only leagues who gain entrance into the BCS as little more than legacy admissions. Thanks for playing last month, UConn.

What's the biggest impact Nebraska's entrance will have on the Big Ten, both on and off the field?

AR: Nebraska gives the Big Ten another impact program, another program that demands national attention. Big Ten blog users often see me write the phrase "move the needle," which basically translates to: make an impression nationally.

Some college football programs move the needle win or lose and others have a much harder time doing so, even if they have great success on the field. The Cornhuskers give the Big Ten four programs that truly move the needle: Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Just looking at the 2011 schedule, there are so many more potential marquee games in the Big Ten with Nebraska entering the mix.

The Big Ten has fallen behind the SEC both on the field and, to a lesser extent, in buzz factor. If Nebraska enters the league and truly restores itself as a national powerhouse, the Big Ten will have a better chance of catching the SEC in both arenas.
Nebraska is officially part of the Big Ten blog, and the welcome wagon hasn't stopped rolling.

To help us learn more about the Huskers, I've reached out to colleague David Ubben from the Big 12 blog. David knows all about Big Red and covered Nebraska during its transition from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. After being nice enough to hand off the Huskers -- actually, I had to pry them from his hands -- Ubben took some time to talk about the Big Ten's newest member.

Let's go back to June 11. What was your initial reaction to Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten?

David Ubben: Ha, well it was certainly an unpopular one among the Nebraska supporters. I thought it was a great move for the university and the football program, but a huge, huge blow to the future stability of the Big 12.

In short, I equated Nebraska leaving to pulling the pin on the Texas Grenade that would blow up the Big 12.

Obviously, that's not what ended up happening, and for a fan base that since June has despised all things Big 12, I was surprised at how much the Huskers didn't want to be blamed for the Big 12's demise. One would think they would relish in it.

At the core, I think there was some fear from fans that their Huskers might be villainized as a program for the self-serving move, but that's not at all what happened to Arkansas, who certainly did much of the same thing to the Southwest Conference when it left for the SEC.

Back to your original question, though, Nebraska leaving definitely meant a weaker Big 12 if it continued to exist moving forward, and anyone who wants to try to argue otherwise is kidding themselves. Nebraska did what it needed to do: secure infinitely more stability and a good amount of cash with a move to the Big Ten, as well as the academic prestige that comes with, to borrow a phrase from deservedly maligned Missouri governor Jay Nixon, aligning themselves with Northwestern and Wisconsin rather than Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Yeah, anytime a school wants to upgrade its league, it should remember Mizzou and do exactly the opposite. But back to Nebraska. People know about the national championships, Dr. Tom and the option offense. What should Big Ten fans know about the current Nebraska program and its fan base as the Huskers transition to the conference?

[+] EnlargeMemorial Stadium
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesNebraska's Memorial Stadium has been sold out for every single home game since Nov. 3, 1962.
DU: Nebraska's biggest asset is its fan base. People like to knock Huskers fans for being a bit full of themselves, but they have reason to be. They're going to rival any team in the Big Ten when it comes to traveling for road games. Prepare yourselves for a sea of red in your stadiums when Nebraska comes.

One big reason? It might be tougher to get a ticket to see the Huskers in Lincoln. Every single home game has been sold out since Nov. 3, 1962, a streak of 311 games. That's an NCAA record, of course. The ones who do make it into Memorial Stadium on fall Saturdays enter under permanent signs that read "Through these gates pass the Greatest Fans in College Football."

Is it obnoxious? Yes. Will it turn off a few opposing fans? Most definitely.

But I would argue that it's not inaccurate.

Husker fans are voracious supporters. They love their team. They know their team. They read about and are opinionated about their team. They spend money on their team. Any other fan base should admire at least that much. Because of that devotion, among other things, the program is one of college football's blue bloods and is able to make a big move that will benefit the program tremendously.

Let's talk about the team itself. Bo Pelini is an Ohio guy, and his track record on defense speaks for itself. Nebraska has seemed more up and down on the offensive side. How do you see the Huskers' style translating to the Big Ten?

DU: That's presuming Nebraska has an offensive style. Nebraska was all about the run early in the year, and ran over and around just about everybody in the first half of the season. Since no one could stop it, they didn't have to throw much, and when they did, they were so, so dangerous.

But the offense slowed late in the season, and I thought they relied on Taylor Martinez to simply drop back and pass way too often and didn't run the zone read enough.

The latest word from Nebraska's recruits is they want an offense that most closely resembles Oregon's, likely minus the dizzying tempo. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson would describe his offense as a bit of a hybrid between Oregon's offense and the West Coast passing attack, but he looks like he's on his way out.

I'm a big believer that you have to do what suits your personnel, and with a zone-read whiz like Martinez and quality running backs like Nebraska has, it would seem that's a good fit.

On the whole, though, Martinez has to continue to develop as a passer to really give the best defenses trouble. How much of that happens over the next three years will determine how successful they ultimately are. If he can't do it, there's nothing saying he's guaranteed to be the starter above incoming freshmen Bubba Starling (if he stays with football and doesn't sign an MLB contract) and Jamal Turner. Even Cody Green, who played when Martinez was injured this year, could earn some quality snaps if Martinez struggles as a sophomore.

Wow, sounds like we could soon have a QB controversy. Interesting. What do you think will be the biggest adjustments for Nebraska in transitioning from the Big 12 to the Big Ten?

DU: I'm a big believer in Pelini as a defensive coach, so I think they'll be able to make these adjustments eventually, but they're going to have to change the type of players they recruit defensively. You need so many defensive backs (and good ones) to have success in the Big 12, and winning the line of scrimmage will put you over the top, but teams like Missouri and Texas Tech have had success in the league without doing it on a consistent basis.

The Big Ten is all about the beef up front. The Huskers are big and fast on the defensive line with guys like Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler. I don't see many problems there.

Nebraska's best linebacker this year, Lavonte David, made a Big 12-best 152 tackles. He also happens to be 210 pounds. Players like him, while they're incredibly valuable in the Big 12 for their ability to make plays in coverage and provide a speed rush, will be marginalized in Nebraska's future for bigger, run-stopping linebackers.

There will be all kinds of things that will have to change, but the type of defensive personnel will be No. 1 on the list. Specifically, Nebraska will need more, bigger linebackers and fewer defensive backs.

Nebraska always has recruited so well in the state of Texas. How do you think the move to the Big Ten will impact Nebraska's recruiting strategy?

[+] EnlargeJamal Turner
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI Now that it's left the Big 12, Nebraska will have more difficulty luring elite Texas high school players like Jamal Turner.
DU: Oh, what a contentious question. So, so much disagreement on this issue.

I don't think there will be a time when Nebraska just has no one from Texas, but their success in the state will take a considerable hit with the move. I do believe the Huskers should continue to recruit the state, but I also think they need to take some of those efforts and resources previously allocated toward Texas and use them to start scraping the Rust Belt and compete with their new conference mates, rather than their old ones.

Pelini knows the area well, and I think the Huskers will have some success doing it. They had a huge year in 2011 in Texas, getting three top-tier, ESPNU 150 players in ATH/QB Jamal Turner, RB Aaron Green and CB Charles Jackson.

I do believe they can keep getting some talent like that in 2012 and 2013, but as recruits and their families really realize what life is like as a parent of a Texas kid playing in the Big Ten, they'll realize why so few Texas recruits elect to play in the Big Ten. I talked with Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville about this issue last week actually, and he said for most families, it's a huge deal. Watching on TV simply isn't the same thing as going to games, home or away. And the facts are, a lot of families can't afford to fly to a ton of games.

Nebraska traditionally only played one or two games in Texas during a season, three if they made the Big 12 title game and it was in Texas. That doesn't sound like many, but look at it this way, unless you can pay for a flight or make a ridiculously long drive, you're talking about going four or five months without seeing your son versus around two or fewer if they play games in Texas.

So in short, I don't think there will be a time when Nebraska absolutely can't recruit in Texas, but they need to take advantage of their new opportunities in Ohio and Michigan, too, as compensation for the guys who won't want to play up North.

OK, you're on the spot. How do the Huskers fare in Year 1 in the Big Ten, which has already branded them a legendary team in the Legends division?

DU: The Big Ten certainly didn't do them any favors with their first-year schedule, booking them for trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. Hosting Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State is going to be tough, and they have to play the Buckeyes in the first game with their five suspended players back. Who knows what happens there?

With a still-maturing passer who won't have a ton of help at receiver, they'll have some struggles offensively, but they should be solid again on the defensive end.

I'll say 9-3 or 8-4. Short of what you might call a Legendary season, but certainly a good one.

Thanks to David for his time, and stay tuned as we'll both have more on Nebraska's move to the Big Ten.

Nebraska fans: This is your blog!

February, 10, 2011
You have waited patiently -- some more than others -- but it's now official.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are part of the Big Ten blog!

Although Nebraska doesn't become a full Big Ten member until July 1, the Huskers football team has severed ties with the Big 12 and can focus solely on its transition to a new league. We at are doing the same, as colleague David Ubben hands off the Huskers -- more appropriately, he pitches them to me out of the option -- and Nebraska becomes a permanent fixture in Big Ten country.

It will take time for some folks to get used to having Nebraska in the league and on the blog, but I'm VERY excited to welcome Big Red. Nebraska brings tremendous football tradition to a conference that actually values tradition, and the Huskers seem to be on their way back to powerhouse status under coach Bo Pelini. Despite its Big 8/Big 12 roots, Nebraska should be an excellent fit for the Big Ten.

I've heard from many Nebraska fans since June 11 and look forward to interacting with you more often in this forum. The passion you have for your team is obvious, and you'll definitely add to our mostly productive dialogue about all things Big Ten.

A few things Nebraska fans should know off the top:
  • I'm not a Nebraska fan or a Husker hater. I've been called a homer and a hater for every Big Ten team, and while I'm sure these labels will continue to be used, they're absolute rubbish. My job is to cover the conference and opine on the teams, the players and the coaches. I'll tell you what happens around the Big Ten, but more important, I'll attempt to tell you what it all means.
  • I will offer strong opinions, some of which you will like and some of which you won't. Even three years into the blog network, some still think my colleagues and I aren't supposed to have opinions. They think it's our job to "promote" the leagues and the teams. They're wrong. While I'll post news and aggregate content from around the Web, I'm paid to have an informed view on all the key happenings in the Big Ten.
  • When you disagree with me, let me know. Same goes for when I make mistakes, which amazingly will happen from time to time when you're covering 11 12 teams. This is the perfect place for constructive debate, so if you keep it civil -- again, easier from some than others -- we can have a lot of fun exchanges.
  • Bear with me as I familiarize myself with Nebraska. Although I paid extra attention to the Huskers last season, thanks in large part to my pal Ubben, I had 11 other squads to cover. I'm very excited to learn more Huskers players and coaches, and especially excited to make my first trip to Lincoln in the near future!

OK, enough rambling for now. Here's how to reach me (mailblogs typically are posted Tuesday and Friday).

Now introduce yourselves in the comments section below. Play nice.