NCF Nation: Matt Slauson
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It might be a little quieter at Memorial Stadium this season, at least if a directive from the Nebraska athletic department is enforced.
Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald reports that skybox holders at Memorial Stadium have received word that there will be stricter enforcement of the campus law that forbids alcohol possession on campus.
No beer or whiskey in those prime seats might lead to a more sedate crowd -- at least in what some Nebraska insiders refer to as "Lexus Lane."
But something tells me that if Bo Pelini's team is as good as expected, the rest of the stadium might drown them out.
We won't know about that until early September at the Cornhuskers' first game. Until then, here are some notable stories from across the conference.
- Mark Hasty of Fanhouse.com wonders if the Big 12 can rebound after last season's disappointing bowl performance.
- Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman writes about how Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines has simplified his defensive scheme in hopes of improving the defense's production.
- Colorado is intent on improving its ability to block kicks this spring, the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo reports.
- Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle is sticking to his 6-6 prediction for Texas A&M next season.
- Backup Oklahoma offensive tackle Donald Stephenson turned himself into Norman police after a municipal warrant was issued for his failure to pay a previous speeding ticket, the Oklahoman's Jake Trotter reports.
- Backup Texas Tech quarterback Steven "Sticks" Sheffield is intent on earning a scholarship to get his parents off the hook for tuition, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams writes.
- Michael Crabtree and Brian Orakpo are among players who will serve as cover athletes for different platforms of EA Sports' NCAA Football, the Business Wire reports.
- Former Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman tells Joshua Kinder of the Manhattan Mercury he isn't looking back at his decision to declare for the NFL draft.
- John Whisler of the San Antonio Express-News profiles backup Iowa State quarterback Jerome Tiller, who has emerged as one of the Cyclones' biggest spring surprises.
- Lydon Murtha and Matt Slauson hope to renew the reputation of Nebraska's offensive line as a pipeline to the NFL, the Omaha World-Herald's Rich Kaipust reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Some interesting topics popped up across the conference this morning. Feel free to digest them with your lunches this afternoon.
- Austin Meek and Kevin Haskin of the Topeka Capital Journal report that outgoing Kansas State president Jon Wefald said he would be willing to provide the university's next president a head start at picking the school's new athletic director.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told the Tulsa World's Dave Sittler he "likes the quarterbacks we have," in regards to reports linking the Sooners with former Miami quarterback Robert Marve.
- Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports on the tumultuous year of Kansas State athletic director Bob Krause, who was re-assigned Tuesday to a new role at the school's Olathe campus.
- Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple reports that six former Nebraska players -- Matt Slauson, Nate Swift, Lydon Murtha, Marlon Lucky, Zach Potter and Cody Green -- have received invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine next month in Indianapolis.
- Boulder Camera beat writer Kyle Ringo remembers the playing career of former Colorado quarterback Bernard Jackson, who was sentenced to more than five years in prison last week along with former teammate Lionel Harris last week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some links to prime your appetite for the turkey and stuffing tomorrow and some really good football rivalry games over the next three days. Enjoy.
- Great column this morning from Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald that tells as much about him as his interview subject -- and that's a lot. Shatel profiles Nebraska offensive lineman Matt Slauson, who like Shatel, has overcome stuttering throughout his entire life.
- Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kansas and Missouri officials are "close" to extending their deal to playing their annual rivalry game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City for either two or four years.
- Texas Tech's defense has done a much better job containing opposing quarterbacks in the running game this season. But Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal writes that the Red Raiders will be facing their biggest challenge of the season against Baylor's Robert Griffin.
- Texas quarterback Colt McCoy will be going for history Thursday night as he tries to slay an old nemesis. The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton writes that McCoy can become the winningest quarterback in school history while beating Texas A&M for the first time in his career.
- Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will be looking to become the first Heisman Trophy winner to beat three ranked opponents to finish the season since Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997, the Oklahoman's Jake Trotter writes.
- Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star tracks down Ball State offensive coordinator Stan Parrish -- the head coach at Kansas State before Bill Snyder arrived -- for the first time in 1988.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Nebraska's punishing ground attack historically has been as big a part of the Cornhuskers' storied program as Herbie Husker, sellout crowds at Memorial Stadium and Academic All-Americans.
Consider that between 1977 and 2003, Nebraska ranked at least seventh or higher every season in the national rushing rankings. That's right: seventh or better. And in 13 of those seasons the Cornhuskers led the nation in rushing.
That's why the rankings during the four seasons of Bill Callahan's tenure -- 34th, 107th, 23rd and 66th -- were so disappointing. Two of the four teams even threw the ball more than it ran. How un-Nebraskalike, even in this age of spread passing offenses.
Most observers are expecting Nebraska to more effectively run the ball this season. Some are even predicting a smash-mouth running attack keyed by an experienced offensive line and four strong I-backs led by Big 12 returning rushing leader Marlon Lucky.
Running the ball would also provide a way for new coach Bo Pelini to keep his defense off the field, dominating time of possession and lessening the time his defensive unit will have to make plays.
Senior Nebraska offensive guard Matt Slauson told the Omaha World-Herald it would be noticeable compared to his previous seasons.
"We're going to line up and smash guys, and if it works, we're going to keep doing it," Slauson told the newspaper.
Which tells me one thing. Simple dives and off-tackle smashes won't be nearly as unpopular among Nebraska fans as they might be at other places across the Big 12 this season.
And speaking of traditional, hearty fare, how about this lip-smacking collection of links this morning? It's good for what ails you.
- Former Penn State DT Phil Taylor has enrolled at Baylor and begun practicing with the team. Taylor was dismissed from the Nittany Lions after his involvement in an on-campus fight last season. Freshman K Ben Parks has won the starting job for the Bears' opener Thursday night against Wake Forest.
- Boulder Daily Camera coulumnist Neill Woelk said Colorado fans are providing a form of corporate welfare to Colorado State, buying tickets this week that weren't scarfed up by the Rams' fans.
- Colorado TE Riar Geer avoided jail Monday after his friends and family members pleaded to a judge that his role in an off-campus fight was out of character. But he'll miss the first two games of the season as he recovers from knee surgery.
- Heralded Colorado freshman TB Darrell Scott is trying to keep up with the other demands than just playing.
- Iowa State will have 27 freshmen in its two-deep roster Thursday night against South Dakota State. But Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler writes that Iowa State coach Gene Chizik needs to choose a starting quarterback soon and stick with him.
- Kansas State list four newcomers on its starting lineup for Saturday's game against North Texas. Three are from junior colleges -- RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin and LB Ulla Pomele - and LB Olu Hall is arrives from Virginia.
- Jeff Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle provides a few nuggets from Kansas State's press conference, including Coach Ron Prince uttering the word "confirmed" 14 times during a 30-minute stint at the podium.
- Kansas State officials learned that top returning receiver and punt returner Deon Murphy has an extra year of eligibility. He will be considered a junior in the upcoming season.
- Kansas has 10 freshmen and 15 sophomores in its two-deep roster, including PR Daymond Patterson as a starter.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait writes about Kansas rebuilding its secondary without All-American CB Aqib Talib.
- Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal World wonders who would be the bigger chick magnet in downtown Lawrence -- Michael Phelps or Todd Reesing?
- Manhattan Mercury beat writer Mark Janssen breaks down the ABC's of Kansas State football.
- Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune's Big 12 notebook leads with Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger's comments about Texas.
- Kansas City Star college columnist Blair Kerkhoff has Oklahoma ranked No. 5 in his top 25 countdown. Kerkhoff also expects faster play and shorter games with the new clock rules.
- Missouri WR Jared Perry gave Dave Matter the quote of the day about how he hopes to impress the Illinois defense after struggling with injuries. "It's a big motivation," Perry said, "because people are just sleeping on me. So, I have to wake them up."
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini says he's not any more excited about Saturday's game against Western Michigan than any other. "My level of excitement really isn't any different than it was last year," said Pelini, who spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Louisiana State. "I treat them all the same. I think we'll be prepared come Saturday and let it all hang out. It'll be a fun time, but at the same time I've got to keep my emotions in check, as does the team."
- Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald says that Kansas State QB Josh Freeman has provided the best quotes of the preseason -- particularly those that threw Kansas State's seniors last seasons under the bus for their lack of leadership. Barfknecht also gives his preseason Big 12 rankings.
- Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel wonders if ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit really likes Nebraska as much as he's saying - or if he's only try to throw a bone to his old Ohio State teammate and current Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
- The Lincoln Journal-Star's Curt McKeever doesn't expect any suprise teams from the Big 12 because of the conference's depth at the top.
- Pelini met with the media for about two minutes Monday after an intense practice on the first day of classes. Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan never practiced his team on the first day of classes.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will be back calling plays for the Cowboys this season after delegating that job to assistants in recent years.
- Oklahoman columnist John Rohde is expecting Saturday's Oklahoma State-Washington State game to be fun on Saturday.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes that Oklahoma's non-conference schedule shouldn't be a liability to their national title hopes - even as the Sooners start the season Saturday against Chattanooga, a 2-9 team last season.
- Oklahoma State WR Damian Davis has been suspended for the Cowboys' opener against Washington State for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
- Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter has set a goal of rushing for 1,000 yards this season according to Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World.
- Tulsa World columnist John Klein said that Mike Gundy should have more talent at his disposal this season than any previous season when he was Oklahoma State's head coach.
- Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World writes about Texas A&M's water balloon fight in his weekly Big 12 notepad, also providing a quotepad and his rankings.
- Eleven positions remain up for grabs on Texas' depth chart, heading into Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic.
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman writes of Texas' new slogan worn on their orange wristbands: "Consistently good to be great."
- Depth at tailback could produce Texas A&M's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2003, according to Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
- Freshman WR Jeff Fuller is listed as a starter for Texas A&M's opener. And QB Stephen McGee told the San Antonio Express-News that backup QBs Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill are "two of our four top guys" at receiver.
- Texas Tech CB Darcel McBath is determined that Eastern Washington won't sneak up on his team on Saturday night - particularly as Coach Mike Leach has repeatedly talked about Michigan's upset losos to Appalachian State last season. "I definitely don't want to make Sports Center for that," McBath told the Lubbock Avalanche-ournal. "We can't let that happen."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
|Ronald Martinez/Getty Images|
|Oklahoma's Duke Robinson is the Big 12's best offensive lineman.|
They were famously called "the big uglies" by veteran ABC-TV play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson over the years. But there's nothing unbecoming about the group of Big 12 offensive linemen who dominate in the trenches.
Here's my group of the conference's 10 best offensive linemen heading into the upcoming season.
1. Oklahoma G Duke Robinson: Could have made a lot of money by turning pro last season after grading out at 85 percent in 2007. But is poised to be a No. 1 NFL draft pick with a big senior season.
2. Oklahoma T Phil Loadholt: Dogged at times by inconsistency, but still the biggest, baddest offensive tackle in the league.
3. Texas Tech G Louis Vasquez: Started 24 games in his career. Has emerged as anchor of the Red Raiders' line that allowed only 18 sacks last season.
4. Colorado T Ryan Miller: Had bang-up season as a freshman last year and should be poised for even more after earning most-improved honors from his coaches over the spring.
5. Texas Tech T Rylan Reed: Might be ranked a tad low, although he's coming off major ankle surgery after his injury in the Gator Bowl. Former pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization who has beaten cancer and broken the school's bench-press record.
6. Missouri T Colin Brown: Former walk-on who emerged as Tigers' most consistent blocker last season on a line with two four-year starters.
7. Texas G Derrick Dockery: Struggled at times since 2006 season, but could be poised for a monster senior season.
8. Oklahoma C Jon Cooper: Started 29 games in his career, leading Sooners with 798 plays and 136 knockdowns last season.
9. Nebraska G Matt Slauson: Most experienced Cornhusker offensive lineman started at right guard and both tackle spots last season.
10. Texas G-T-G Chris Hall: The conference's most versatile offensive lineman after starting at least one game at every interior line spot last season, including four at left guard. He's likely slated for center this season, but in a pinch could fill in almost anywhere.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After struggling through a miserable season, Nebraska needed an shot of confidence.
Enter new coach Bo Pelini, who has pumped the Cornhuskers with inspirational leadership that has made the players excited about his rebuilding project after the disappointment of last season's 5-7 record.
"The game is fun again," Nebraska offensive lineman Matt Slauson said. "We're playing for a coach we can really relate to. Coach Bo is a real fun guy to play for. He's a player's coach. He's a guy you want to work hard for because he's working as hard as we are."
Slauson said he almost imagines that Pelini would still like to continue his football career, considering the enthusiasm he has brought after taking over the program.
"He still wants to be a player," Slauson said. "You can tell he would love to strap it on every day like us. I don't know how old he is, but he's still a college kid at heart. He's an easy guy to play for."
Pelini, 41, said he's not ready to turn back the clock and practice again. His own career ended at Ohio State, where he was a fiery inspirational leader and overachieving free safety for the Buckeyes when he graduated in 1990.
"I don't think my body would stand up very well now," Pelini said, laughing. "But the great thing about sports and about playing sports in general is playing. I like to compete and it's in my personality. Now that I'm a coach, it's the same thing. I like the relationship with the players and getting to know them. When they are having success, I'm having success. But I don't know about playing."