RB Marlon Lucky

2007 Statistics

Coach: Bo Pelini
1-0, 1st year
2007 Record: 5-7
at Wake Forest WON 20-17
USC LOST 31-49
at Missouri LOST 6-41
at Texas LOST 25-28
at Kansas LOST 39-76
at Colorado LOST 51-65

2007 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2008 Outlook

The troubles seen over the previous five years reached an unbearable peak in 2007. Even outsiders knew one of the greatest programs ever was ailing like never before. By going 5-7, it is now four consecutive years of missing a double-digit win total. The last time a five-year span didn’t produce at least 10 wins in one of the years was 1958-62, and this season will be challenged to break the current streak. It’s amazing that the last time Nebraska was ranked to end the year was 2005 (No.24), and their last top 10 finish was 2001’s No.8 ascension. Regardless of what’s happened and regardless of the futility of Cornhusker fans as of late, the light at the end of the tunnel got really big when Bo Pelini was brought back to run the team.

Pelini’s one game of head coaching experience was at the end of his single-season duration here as defensive coordinator. This time, Pelini’s brother Carl will be his DC (he was a graduate assistant under Bo last time). Results follow most of Bo’s exploits, and we expect that, with the raw talent already in place, things get back to the regular Nebraska levels of quality football.

The biggest challenge is luckily on defense. It got so bad last year that the “Blackshirts” were taken off out of respect to the defensive history here and how that heritage had been lost for the year. Allowing 455 points was embarrassing, if not athletically blasphemous. The back seven needs the most attention, especially the marginal linebacking corps that loses all of its starters and a key sub. Bad LBs equaled a bad defense, so the turnover could help. But when a top RB candidate (Cody Glenn) has to be brought in due to a lack of scholarship players in that unit, it seems evident that this area could be playing catch-up all year in this ever-toughening league. Another magician, Marv Sanders, has been brought in to punch up the secondary. The corners look better than the safeties, but the seniority of the group playing furthest back offers hope that the DBs can gel.

The offense has much better future in one-and-done senior QB starter Joe Ganz and I-Back Marlon Lucky. Lucky is the top receiving back in the country. Factor in the new trend toward “read option” quarterbacking to get how even more possibilities of ground production will make the offensive flow increase. Shawn Watson, the guy who coordinated the recent improvements under ex-coach Callahan, was wisely retained to assure as much continuity as possible. With an OL up to the conference’s usual caliber, there will be little letdown on this side of the ball.

Three cupcakes to start will make September seem easy, that is until Virginia Tech shows up to ruin the party. That game is winnable (50-50), with a low score guaranteed. Lessons and weak points have to be taken in stride quickly since the conference slate – division favorite Missouri – arrives the next week. The Tigers, Jayhawks and Buffaloes all coming to Memorial Stadium gives further advantages to Nebraska. Texas Tech and Oklahoma are big challenges to further measure if the defense is back and again worthy of their Blackshirt label. If NU can go 2-3 against the teams currently ranked ahead of them, double-digit wins can be found.

Even if it takes another year to prop themselves back up near or atop their division/conference, the team’s longterm outlook remains vibrant with Pelini out to prove his worth at the job that has always eluded him. Patience, not often found in Lincoln (as proven by the fanbase’s unrest and subsequent coaching turnover seen lately), will be the biggest virtue in allowing those longterm, foundation-building steps to occur. Put onto his back, the Cornhuskers will ride Pelini’s legacy to prominence.

Projected 2008 record: 7-5

DB Larry Asante

QB - 3.5 DL - 3
RB - 3.5 LB - 2.5
WR - 3 DB - 3
OL - 4 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Joe Ganz, 89-152-7, 1435 yds., 16 TD

Rushing: Marlon Lucky, 206 att., 1019 yds., 9 TD

Receiving: Marlon Lucky, 75 rec., 705 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Marlon Lucky, 12 TD, 1 two pt. conv., 74 pts.

Punting: Dan Titchener, 49 punts, 41.3 avg.

Kicking: Alex Henery, 8-8 FG, 45-45 PAT, 69 pts.

Tackles: Larry Asante, 78 tot., 40 solo

Sacks: Barry Turner, 3 sacks

Interceptions: Kevin Dixon, 1 for 0 yds.; Zach Potter, 1 for 0 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Hunter Teafatiller, 4 ret., 9.2 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: None


OFFENSE: Sam Keller-QB, Andy Sand-FB, Maurice Purify-WR, Dan Erickson-WR, Terrence Nunn-WR, Frantz Hardy-WR, J.B. Phillips-TE, Sean Hill-TE, Carl Nicks-OT, Brett Byford-C
DEFENSE: Bo Ruud-SLB, Corey McKeon-MLB, Steve Octavien-WLB, Lance Brandenburgh-WLB, Cortney Grixby-CB, Zack Bowman-CB, Ben Eisenhart-SS, Tierre Green-FS, Kevin Dixon-DT (dismissed)

With the regime change, Coach Bo wisely kept the most important aspect of the recent offensive improvements – coordinator Shawn Watson. In his second year in charge of that new-fangled look now seen here, NU added nearly 55 yards per game of total offense, which equaled three more points per week. But unlike the balance found in his initial effort, Watson leaned on his QBs’ arms a lot more. The running game actually lost over 25 yards per game from the prior year’s Husker-esque totals, further cementing the fact that the running game isn’t about to make a huge comeback anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean improvements won’t occur, especially since the QB spot now features better wheels.

Senior Joe Ganz looks like an upgrade if his statistics tell anything. In place of Sam Keller, Ganz had more TD passes on the season in less than half the number of throws Keller had. Extrapolated out as if he started every game, Ganz would have had 64 TDs, but that’s at throwing 50 passes a game, which won’t occur if he does start since Keller only threw it about 35 times a game. Plug his rating of 163 into the national rankings to see how he would have ranked third in the nation. The big news out of Lincoln is how the QB position is going to include mobility in its job description. Ganz is definitely a step above Keller that way. This spring saw lots of read option type plays, similar to how Zac Robinson at Oklahoma State or Matt Grothe at South Florida have their respective systems set up around their multiple talents. Ganz is a phenom, the kind of athlete who pulls off the fakes and feigns needed to fool foes in any situation, passing or running. Junior Pat Witt is not quite as quick, but his presence in the same system as will be used for Ganz won’t mean a step back or a need for many (if any) changes. Zac Lee could pass Witt, but he lacks enough experience at this level to think he would be inserted in an important circumstance before Witt.

Perhaps just as important of a cog for this offense to reach its potential is Marlon Lucky. The No.1 returning rusher in the conference and the best receiving back in the nation, this former No.2 national RB prospect isn’t afraid to hit between the tackles. Lucky’s ability to spilt out wide means defenses rarely know the play call until the ball is actually hiked. His compliment is hulking Quentin Castille, the hybrid back from hell. A step slower, Castille also keeps foes guessing as to what he’s doing and why – is he running right at that guy with or without the ball (etc.)? – and he adds another element just too good to ignore. Helu’s mobility makes him another good target out of the backfield, so he can step into Lucky’s role when needed. Another big boost (as well as a key reason the running game took a step back) is Kenny Wilson’s return. Wilson size-speed combo are rare, and after a broken leg kept him out all of ’07, the chip to prove himself again is weighing his shoulders down. Tom Lawson isn’t anything but a pusher…unless the Huskers are near the goal line, and then he’s deadly (all three catches last year were TDs).

Another deadly target is senior Todd Peterson. He will have to make up for the nine TDs Purify takes with him, but Peterson’s speed and 6’4 frame have proven he’s a big-play weapon (19.9 yards per catch). Peterson’s counterpart is fourth in all-time team career receptions – Nate Swift’s 103 catches facilitate getting the promised passing game in motion. Appropriately named, this kid flies by guys almost at will, but he isn’t the purist speed merchant. That would be Curenski Gilleylen, a freshman whose game-changing impact could give Nebraska a quick-strike ability rarely seen here on the outside. Menelik Holt could easily become that big play guy who hits hard in the red zone, so weapons abound. But coming together as a unit with role players who lift the team’s offensive prospects remains to be seen. Mikey McNeill is almost as fast as the WRs, and his pedigree as a viable downfield target makes him an asset to the passing game. But McNeill lost favor last year and was getting few snaps by season’s end, so his development as the top TE is important. Teafatiller started twice in 2006. Foes need to note how he had five catches that year and four TDs in them.

New line coach Barney Cotton inherits a wealth of Cornhusker beef to mold into Watson’s protecting shield. Jacob Hickman bumps over to center, and his long-armed quality works perfectly. Christiansen has been suspended and has no immediate prospect of returning, so no huge loss since the left guard spot will go to vet Mike Huff. One of the biggest changes has been the impact of strength coach James Dobsen, and no player exemplifies Dobsen’s results than Matt Slauson. A sure future Sunday player, Slauson lost at least 10 pounds, and the entire line has become leaner and quicker for the improvising style soon to be utilized (Slauson started at left tackle vs. Kansas State and right tackle vs. Colorado). Lydon Murtha returns to the side on which he played in 2006, embracing the challenge. Burkes finished out his freshman campaign as the starter over on the right side. The shuffling that occurred this off-season seems to be having no ill effects on production. The backups are just as worthy of praise. Mike Smith lines up as a power TE, but he is broken-in already behind Murtha. Jones is just as broken-in, but Williams is a bit green still as he worked primarily on special teams. Baker Steinkuhler is this year’s No.2 tackle prospect (top run blocker and rated strongest tackle, too - Rivals), and the local (Southwest) product will be a stalwart soon enough. As much as the receivers didn’t gel, the line did over the spring sessions.


OG Matt Slauson


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Joe Ganz-Sr (6-1, 210) Patrick Witt-Fr (6-4, 220)
FB Thomas Lawson-Sr (6-0, 240) Justin Makovicka-So (6-1, 235)
IB Marlon Lucky-Sr (6-0, 210) Roy Helu-So (6-0, 220)
Quentin Castille-So (6-1, 250)
WR Nate Swift-Sr (6-2, 200) Menelik Holt-Jr (6-4, 215)
WR Todd Peterson-Sr (6-4, 210) Curenski Gilleylen-Fr (6-0, 210)
TE Mike McNeill-So (6-4, 225) Hunter Teafatiller-Sr (6-3, 230)
OT Lydon Murtha-Sr (6-7, 305) Mike Smith-So (6-6, 285)
OG Matt Slauson-Sr (6-5, 335) D.J. Jones-So (6-5, 310)
C Jacob Hickman-Jr (6-4, 285) Mike Caputo-Fr (6-1, 265)
Andy Christensen-Sr (6-3, 275) (susp.)
OG Mike Huff-Sr (6-4, 300) Keith Williams-So (6-5, 310)
OT Jaivorio Burkes-So (6-5, 340) Marcel Jones-Fr (6-7, 300)
K Alex Henery-So (6-2, 170) Adi Kunalic-So (6-0, 175)



455! That’s how many points were allowed last year. For those of you thinking, “Well, in an off year, things like that happen,” think again. Here’s the skinny – the “Blackshirts” didn’t give up 100 points in a season for the first 42 years of the program (1900-41). In 1902, NU went 10-0 and never allowed a single point. They didn’t even allow a 300-point total until 2002 (which was why Bo Pelini was brought in the first time in 2003). The 76 points allowed to Kansas (11/3/07) is now the record. The disaster last year sealed ex-head man Bill Callahan’s fate and had the fan-base seeking a defensive maven to come in as coach. How lucky Pelini was still seeking his first legitimate head coaching post after leading the Huskers against Michigan State in the ’03 Alamo Bowl. Familiar with the alums and unique school vibe, Big Bo left national champs LSU and Death Valley for the confines of Memorial Stadium. A sure-fire improvement all by himself, Bo brings in his older brother Carl from Ohio to hold down the coordinators position. Here in ’03 with his bro as a graduate assistant, Carl just led his Bobcats to top 30 rankings in total and scoring defense.

It all starts up front for the five returning starters (four are seniors, with two more second team seniors behind them) who together allowed foes to run at 5.2 yards per carry and allowed them 38 ground scores. Carl is also the line coach, so bodies are in place awaiting further instructions. The ends are going to be faster and more athletic in other ways. Senior Barry Turner is a bit leaner this year, so he should be better in run stuffing as he gets back to the look he had as a freshman. Turner needs to push the QB’s timing more, and if his pass rush is still not what it used to be, expect Pierre Allen to be the first to get reps. Allen had a huge spring and seems to thrive in the new scheme; he also has his first year to learn from, and it has really helped his upside to emerge. The “base” end is 6’7 Zach Potter, and his frame moves well with his solid footwork. Potter has shown more flashes of brilliance, but he, too, has had as many inconsistencies as he has big plays. Inside, NU looks better. Ndamukong Suh had minor knee surgery, the kind where the guy comes back even stronger. He could find himself paired with Kevin Dixon, a JUCO transfer with one year of FBS experience from which to grow. Dixon floored this spring, earning praise from the new staff and assuredly scaring Ty Steinkuhler since Dixon had only three starts to Steinkuhler’s eight, but had six more tackles. Barfield is right there with these other guys, so a healthy rotation is already established. UPDATE: DT Kevin Dixon has been dismissed from the team.

The biggest pivot comes in the corps. Losing every starter usually hurts, but what can be said about these departees when the defense ranked 112th (114th for scoring allowed)? When there are problems in both facets, it has to be because of a weak set of LBs. New LBs, new coaches, better results. Right? Well…hopefully. Phillip Dillard started twice in the middle, and he seems to be the cream of this crop. Behind him, Nick Covey will need to hold off Will Compton, a super quick greenie who turned down Michigan and Notre Dame to be here. Desperation is reflected in the fact that Cody Glenn, a RB ready to compete for the start there, is now starting on the weakside. No slight to his progress and determination to learn a position he has never played, Glenn will have to really fly up the learning curve if he is to avoid being a weak spot once those Big 12 foes start testing him. Ex-DB Washington is great for matching up with extra WRs. Wortman is a walk-on with great promise, and his three TFLs out of nine total tackles offer hope that the strongside can be held down steadily. LB coach Mike Ekeler gets his first unit assignment of his career, but after tutoring under Pelini (and Bob Stoops prior to his time in Baton Rouge), his glass looks half full for making the linebackers a substantially better group than what was just here.

The secondary fared better than the run stoppers, but mostly new hats means there is work to be done in finding replacements. The good news back here is getting alum Marv Sanders rejoined with Pelini, whom he served under in 2003. That year, the school record for takeaways was set (47, with 32 INTs)…expectations are deservedly high, and hopefully that will be a good thing. Junior college player Armando Murillo started every game, but he failed to develop into the shutdown corner needed. His huge spring has some thinking Murillo has turned a proverbial corner. Blue is the man once he comes back, but namesake West and classmate Amukamara got reps in his absence to give them a feel of what’s to come. Whitmore comes into a group mostly composed of six-footers, and he’ll get redshirted if the health outside holds up. This is a good two-deep, but can they gel as a coordinated machine to provide decent coverage every down? In ’03, Sanders-Pelini made the Cornhusker DBs the best group (efficiency) in the nation in one year, but that group had more base talent to mold. The starting safeties are really worthy of praise – Asante looks like the real deal and has the chops to be as good as any in the conference, while Thenarse is the same kind of heavy hitter who can flag down deep passes with prejudice. O’Hanlon and Culbert are career backups who are not on par with the starters. This area looks good enough to make the secondary a serious group, but any injuries will definitively impact the entire defense’s prospect. How much better the entire D gets will go the longest toward bringing up the win total.


DE Zach Potter


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Barry Turner-Sr (6-3, 270) Clayton Sievers-Sr (6-4, 245)
NT Ndamukong Suh-Jr (6-4, 300) (inj.) Shukree Barfield-Sr (6-4, 310)
DT Ty Steinkuhler-Sr (6-3, 285) ..
DE Zach Potter-Sr (6-7, 280) Pierre Allen-So (6-5, 265)
SLB Tyler Wortman-Sr (6-3, 230) Blake Lawrence-So (6-2, 225)
MLB Phillip Dillard-Jr (6-1, 245) Nick Covey-Jr (6-2, 240)
WLB Cody Glenn-Sr (6-0, 230) Latravis Washington-So (6-3, 225)
CB Armando Murillo-Sr (6-0, 195) Prince Amukamara-So (6-1, 195)
CB Anthony West-So (6-0, 195) Anthony Blue-So (5-10, 180) (inj.)
SS Larry Asante-Jr (6-1, 210) Major Culbert-Jr (6-0, 210)
FS Rickey Thenarse-Jr (6-0, 190) Matt O'Hanlon-Sr (5-11, 200)
P Dan Titchener-Sr (6-0, 200) Jake Wesch-Sr (6-1, 200)




Dan Tichner is as consistent as the coverage that held foes to a punt return long of 16 yards. Hey, and speaking of consistency, Alex Henery and kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic (failed to execute a squib kick vs. Kansas) went a combined 9-for-9 on three-pointers, but only one of those was from 40+ (Kunalic’s 46-yarder against Nevada). The only names we could uncover for replacing Grixby at both return spots are Mendoza and Amukamara. Guarded info like this could change a game’s complexion…really.