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CORN NATION MAILBAG: 2011 Husker Leadership, Future Felon Ed and O-Line Excuses

I apolgize for the delay in releasing the 2nd installment of the mailbag. I could whine and tell you how busy I've been with other things but who the hell cares, right?

So kickoff is almost upon us which means the 2 years it felt like between seasons will end and then we'll blink a couple of times and the clock will be hitting zero on Nebraska's BCS bowl game. (Oh hell yes, hope springs eternal before that first game) I've read my Phil Steele cover to cover, watched the preview shows, cruised blogs and posed scenario after scenario from Tiger's barstool.

Time's almost up on speculation, though, and in less than week we can get back to living vicariously through college students for another fall season. On to the reader e-mails....


Q: Big 8 Farewells. Plan to finish those up or are you done?  I enjoyed those articles.
-JH (Indiana.)

AK: Personally, the rest of the Big 8 can all bone each other for all I care.  It was all so cute and funny jumping in on all those 11-1 votes against Nebraska, and now they're in an investment club that's about to become a Wal Mart with other conferences being greeted by Dan Beebe in a blue apron at the front door while they cruise aisles and decide if they want one of the 46" Sony Plasma screens (Oklahoma) or a $1.99 pair of rainbow flips flops (Kansas State). So, no, I'm not really wistful about saying bye-bye to a bunch of schools who direct all their butthurt at the Big Red for seeing where this was headed and covering their ass. If the Big 12 was Prison Break, Texas would be T-Bag and other eight would take turns at his side holding his outturned pocket. Or maybe I'm still a little bitter.

Anyway, Husker Mike says the farewells will continue soon, so stay tuned.

Hold my pocket, Baylor.

Q: I was kind of hoping to take advantage of the BTN's streaming service this year, but then I noticed that Nebraska hasn't even had any games announced on the BTN. What's up with that? It looks like we're playing on ABC at least five times (the most for any team out of 28 ABC games announced - USC, LSU, Texas, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin are in 2nd with three appearances each). Do you know if the ABC games get streamed anywhere (like or something)? Where are the rest of our games likely to end up? Is the BTN basically just a replacement for what would otherwise be a PPV game?
Eric M. (Des Moines)

AK: And thank god for Husker Mike who just penned this on exactly just what is going on with the BTN locally. The answer near as I can tell - and I really can't - is we don't know yet. Once the carriers get everything hammered out, the streaming will likely fall in line accordingly, but for now it looks like we're having our own little Longhorn network dance. Ah well, there's always bugs to work out with the new guy, I guess.

Q: Love your articles and insights to husker football. With all the talk this year about "leadership" no one has brought up the fact that leadership really matters when things go wrong. It's easy lead when there is no pressure...but what happens when we are down 14 points with 5 minutes to go at the Big House? That's when we will see if all this leadership talk is for real. Last year we didn't have that in my mind and that's why we came up short again. We will be good but can we come together and will our leaders show us the way when all hell breaks open? That to me is the "leadership" difference between a champion and a what if season. Would love to hear any insight or your opinion on this...keep the great articles comin!
Chase (unknown)

AK: Chase probably answered his question in that we won't know until we're on the road down in a tight game in a wild, noisy environment. I think it's a good sign in that Martinez has apparently healed up and performed well enough that the "Carnes can challenge" talk has all but disappeared. I think as fans we got way too juiced in his early big games and way too quick to trash the kid when he was injured and things went bad.

That being said, he is now a year older, a hell of a lot wiser and has been through the wars on the field. I'm looking for a scenario like Landry Jones to play out. Remember his freshman year, before he was the best QB in America? He was a disaster in just about every road game of consequence. A year older and wiser, he turned it around and played like a 5th year senior.  Will Martinez make that leap? That's a stretch, but not outside the realm of possibility. I look for a much less frazzled QB in the road wars this year. The mid-term exam will be administered at Camp Randall in early October.

Q: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the excuses are already flying.  Our offensive line.  Barney Cotton has had plenty of excuses the last few years.  Lack of depth, the defense stealing his best recruits, injuries,  Shawn Watson's hybrid offense, not enough help coaching, etc.  We now have plenty of offensive lineman on scholarship, John Garrison is now a paid coach to help Barney, Brendan Stai is an unpaid intern, Beck is running the offense in a way that makes Barney more comfortable, and some top flight recruits stayed on the offensive side of the ball.  Now they're already playing the injury card before the season even starts.  How worried should we be?
Greg S. (Omaha)

AK: No one's missed a block yet and Barney is officially under fire. Just kidding, this might be the biggest story no one's talking about. In the off season, Bo officially cleaned house at every questionable coaching spot on the offensive side of the ball except one in many fans' opinions. The quality of Barney's work has been discussed over more than one cocktail in this state and if there is a coach on the hot seat this year, it's him, so I get where Greg is going with this.

Or maybe folks think it is just a coincidence that Stai and Garrison were brought in. It's one thing to run the Callahan holdovers, and Bo's loyalty ran very deep with them in helping hook them up with new jobs to avoid public firings. Now triple that level of loyalty where Barney's involved. I believe that it's an understatement to say that he will be given every chance possible to succeed.

And now, there's already injury talk before the 1st game. My opinion is that, while young, this is by far the most depth Cotton has had to work with, so if there's some nicks and bruises, then someone needs to step in and get done until they heal and be coached up enough to perform well doing it. End of story.

Nebraska has not had an All-American offensive lineman since Fonoti in 2001. With the talent that's been recruited under Bo's watch, there's something very wrong if we don't produce another in the next 2-3 years.

Q: OK, it's a gameday where it's just me or me a few buds hanging out at someone's house or wherever and there's wives or girlfriends around. Inevitably at a tense point in the game, one of them is going to wander in with no clue of the situation and totally kill the room by saying something about Burkhead having a cute butt or asking an unbelievably dumb question like "Does Eric Crouch still Play?" Then the poor husband/boyfriend is completely screwed because if he doesn't treat it as a completely great question and give the answer "No" without a hint of sarcasm or disgust, he's in the doghouse for days. And even if he does pull it off, he's still screwed bcause no way his drunk buddies don't snicker & roll eyes.
Help us Obi-Wan, you're our only hope.
J.R. (Lincoln)

AK: Sorry, JR, you might as well ask me what guys should do when women ask if their ass looks fat in those jeans. You know, besides faking nausea, diving in the bathroom and sticking your arm down your throat to induce vomiting as way of getting out of it. Those moments are absolute horror shows, because the guys have probably been busting each other's balls at every opportunity for hours, and all of the sudden everyone has to shift gears and eat their own lips when the sweetheart innocently unleashes a stupid bomb in the name of feigning interest in her hubby's activities.

It's not just girlfriends either. When I would get stuck at work on Friday after Thanksgiving, they'd tell us we could bring TV's to work to watch the Colorado game even though reception was so lousy, it looked like ABC contracted to play the game at a K2 base camp. So, I'd try sneaking in the lunch room to watch it and inevitably, one of the "girls" (the place is about 78% female) would wander up, feign interest, stand next to me staring blankly at the screen  for about 15 seconds, then ask how "Jim" Ganz was quarterbacking today or some shit. After four of five of these, I would admit defeat instead of giving smart ass responses that would land me in dutch with HR, and crawl back to my desk in total defeat watching Gamecast or something.

As far as how I dealt with significant other scenarios that you mention, I always went with sarcastic answers that would bring down the room and insure a sexless evening, but unless you want to be divorced like me, it's not a strategy I recommend for everyone. Until non-football loving women realize that couples do not have to participate in every one of each other's activities, there's no easy answer.

Q: That heroes game with Iowa is the stupidest shit I ever heard of. Do they have some sacred pig or cornstalk or mini silo we steal or destroy and make that the trophy? What about Ferentz car? If I snag that can the trophy be one of the tires? Something has to be done.
Ed (unknown)

AK: On the new season of Oz, meet Schillinger's new roommate, "Ed".

Q: So, in your opinion, who emerges as the number two man behind Burkhead for carries? All they're saying is that Abdullah, Heard and Green are all in the mix. Do all three play and if not who do you think emerges?
Carl (Grand Island)

AK: The other name that needs to be included here is Mike Marrow. The NCAA is apparently going to wait until 5 minutes before kickoff to rule on his eligibility. If he plays, expect him get a healthy number of short yardage carries. As for the other three I'd think they'll redshirt at least one and possibly two of them to spread the position out eligibility-wise.

Knowing nothing about how this will play out in practice, I look for Heard to win out simply because he's a year older and both Green and Abdullah - for all their talent - could use a redshirt year to beef up a little. Of course another scenario could see one of them snagging the backup spot and another grabbing time as a special teams return man.

Q: Why is it that guys get all mumbly and change the subject when a chick wants to talk a little Husker football? I know some girls don't  know the Peso from a Lincoln penny, but we're not all football stupid and watching The Hills 24/7. I live for game day because I've loved football since I was a little girl, not because it's an excuse to drink Hurricanes and scream "Woo hoo!!" Not that I don't like to throw a few back with boys, I do. But if you're a cute blond, guys just assume you're football stupid and it's getting old.
Erin G. (Papillion)

AK: And then, J.R., there are girls like Erin.

A special bonus goes to Erin for the being the 1st female in the Corn Nation Mailbag. My advice to you is run with a completely different social crowd. I think half the male readers would chop their pinky off like a Yakuza mobster for your e-mail address.

There you have it ladies, if you actually follow the game and want to hang with the boys and talk ball, welcome aboard. Being a cute blonde who wants to get drunk with us is a definite plus.