Monday, August 13, 2007

Five Good Questions with Steve Sipple about Nebraska

Today's Five Good Questions is with Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star.....Steve took the time to respond to some questions about the Nebraska Cornhuskers....I want to thank him for his time....

Q1. Bill Callahan is beginning his fourth season as head coach at Nebraska. Has Husker Nation accepted the changes he has made such as running the West Coast offense?
As expected, there was some initial resistance to some things the new coach was doing. It didn't help matters that his first team finished with a 5-6 record. But fans have warmed to Callahan because they see progress in the program. The Huskers had records of 8-4 and 9-5 in the head coach's second and third seasons, and it's clear he has upgraded talent across the board. As for the West Coast offense, many people erroneously regarded it as a "finesse" system initially. However, Callahan's system emphasizes a "pound the rock" mentality -- in fact "Pound the 'Rock" was the theme of last year's preseason camp. He emphasizes the need for a punishing ground attack to go with an elaborate passing system. People in these parts appreciate physical football.

Q2. On September 15th, number 1 Southern Cal will be visiting Lincoln. How big of a game is this for Bill Callahan and the football program? What are Nebraska's chances of winning this game?
I'd say it's a huge game because Nebraska is in need of a "breakthrough" win against an elite-level opponent. Four of last year' s losses occurred against such programs (USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Auburn). Now Husker fans hunger for such a victory. I think Nebraska will have a decent chance to beat USC because the Huskers are awfully good on their home field at night. I think it'll be crucial for NU to have success early in the game. If they can jump ahead on the scoreboard and build momentum, the crowd will get really loud. It's tough for any team to turn back that tidal wave of noise and emotion once it gets rolling.

Q3. What is the overall strength of this team and what areas are they weak at?
Nebraska possesses a deep and talented corps of receivers and a huge and efficient offensive line. The Huskers lost two-year starting quarterback Zac Taylor to graduation. But Sam Keller, a transfer from ASU, appears set to take over at QB and seems to have enormous potential. He's battling for the starting job with junior Joe Ganz, a hard-nosed competitor and a popular player on the team. Defensively, Nebraska must replace all four starters on the line, including Adam Carriker, the 13th overall selection in last April's NFL Draft (to the St. Louis Rams). However, the Huskers have a talented and experienced group of linebackers, led by preseason All-Big 12 choice Bo Ruud. The secondary was a major issue last season, but appears to be improved.

Q4. Sam Keller takes over at quarterback this year. He was a former starting quarterback at Arizona State. What do you expect from Keller this year? Does he have a good grasp of Callahan's offense?
See above. Yes, by all accounts, Keller has a good grasp of the offense. I think Keller ultimately will capture the starting job and put up good numbers in his only season as starter (he's a fifth-year senior). He started seven games at ASU in 2007 before a thumb injury ended his season. He has a ton of experience against elite teams (LSU and USC, for instance) and has put up big numbers (461 passing yards and four touchdowns against LSU, for instance). Taylor threw for 3,197 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. I think Keller can exceed those numbers.

Q5. Overall, what do you expect from this year's team? What will be their final record?
I see them as a 9-3 team in the regular season, and champions of the Big 12 North with a 6-2 record (same as last season). In order to take the proverbial "next step," the Huskers would need to capture the Big 12 title game and make it to a BCS game. I think NU will have a decent chance to beat the South champion in the league title game. NU now has talent on its starting units that is comparable to Texas and Oklahoma. Those teams, however, still have more depth than Nebraska.

Once again, I want to thank Steve for his time...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve is right on the mark. Running back depth and a play maker at Tight End are probably the only concerns on Offense (along with a fullback that blocks close to what NU had last season). In particular the O-line will be better and that will make everything else work.

On D - the players are there to have a good defense but the depth will be an issue, especially if injuries stack up on D.

If Paul Niles upgrades the return game significantly, that might push good special teams to another level.