Sunday, August 26, 2007

Is Sam the man?

We'll find out soon if Sam Keller is the man to lead the Huskers back to the promised land. If he has a big year, maybe former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter could be the Husker MVP. It's easy now to second-guess Koetter's decision to bench Keller and put Rudy Carpenter in as starting QB at Arizona State after first naming Keller the starter.

The story is that Carpenter threatened to transfer if he wasn't the starter. There is certainly more to the story. Koetter obviously wasn't sure about the decision to name Keller the starter, and there were questions from some players about Keller's dedication to football at ASU. Even so, to me unless Carpenter is a whole lot better than Keller, you start the senior, tell the sophomore he's the back up - and thus just one play from being the starter - and would be the top candidate to start as a junior and senior.

But Koetter waffled and named Carpenter the starter. Carpenter struggled, the Sun Devils folded, and Koetter was out of a job. We'll never know if things had been different at ASU if Keller had bene the starter. Sure would be interesting if we could go back and find out.

The Huskers certainly are happy to have him. We have yet to see him in a real game, but Callahan has needed an NFL-type quarterback to run his offense. Now he has him. Zac Taylor was good college player, and you had to love his competitiveness, but he's not an NFL player. Keller is that kind of player. We'll see what he has Saturday against Nevada.

Posted by Bob Hamar @ Sunday, August 26, 2007 || 0 comments

Friday, August 24, 2007

Huskers looking strong

It's early in the volleyball season, but this year's opener was much smoother than last year.

Nebraska struggled in a win over San Diego to open its 2006 run to a national title. This year, the Huskers are rolling against Tennessee. Christina Houghtelling looks healthy, Sarah Pavan does indeed look better (if that's possible) as does Jordan Larson.

The younger middles - Amanda Gates and Kori Cooper - look much more comfortable and affective out there, and Rachel Holloway is in total control from here setter's position. All this guarantees is that the Huskers are going to win a lot of matches this year. They will have to be better, because other teams are better. At the top of that list is Stanford with six starters back and the top ranked recruiting class coming in.

No. 3 Penn State got the season off to a good start with a 3-1 victory over Texas. The Nittany Lions will find out a little bit more about themselves when they play Nebraska Sept. 2 at the Qwest Center.

Posted by Bob Hamar @ Friday, August 24, 2007 || 0 comments

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cook announces lineup

Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook announced Tuesday that the Huskers will open the season in a 5-1 offense with sophomore Rachel Holloway as the No. 1 setter. Cook had to decide between a 5-1 and a 6-2 with Holloway and Maggie Griffin both setting.

Cook has confidence in both those setters, but at this point he's still waiting for 6-5 freshman Lindsey Licht to develop at rightside hitter. If Licht gets to where Cook needs her to be, don't be surprised if the Huskers use the 6-2 later in the season. Cook loves that offense when he has the players to run it.

Senior Sarah Pavan also returned to practice on Tuesday after sitting out the Red-White scrimmage on Saturday and much of Monday's practices with a slight groin injury. Pavan is apparently fine and was anxious to get back on the court.

Posted by Bob Hamar @ Wednesday, August 22, 2007 || 0 comments

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cook undecided

Nebraska coach John Cook joked at the team's media day that he would know what kind of system the Huskers were going to run about the same time as NU football coach Bill Callahan knew who would be his quarterback. Well, Callahan has his guy in Sam Keller, but Cook is still up in the air.

It seems Cook really wants to use a 6-2 offense with both Maggie Griffin and Rachel Holloway playing at setter, but Sarah Pavan's groin injury throws a big monkey wrench into those plans. The Huskers have just two right side players - Pavan and freshman Lindsey Licht. That means if Pavan can't plan, the Huskers can't use the 6-2. Things may change, but at this point we have to assume the Huskers will open in the 5-1 with Holloway at setter, Licht playing right side up front with freshman Kayla Banwarth subbing in for her in the back row. Christina Houghtelling and Jordan Larson will play at outside hitter and senior Tracy Stalls at one middle position.

There's been no indication as to who the other starter will be at middle blocker with Amanda Gates and Kori Cooper as the top candidates. Freshman Brooke Delano also could see some time.

Posted by Bob Hamar @ Tuesday, August 21, 2007 || 0 comments

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Good news for Cook

The performance of the NU volleyball team in the annual Red-White scrimmage Saturday night had to bring a smile to coach John Cook's face. The Huskers played without returning player of the year Sarah Pavan who was battling a slight groin injury, but 2005 player of the year Christina Houghtelling showed she is back and ready to go after having shoulder surgery and missing all of last season.

Houghtelling had nine kills against a tough Red team defense, but more impressive was her match-high 16 digs. Cook said her floor defense is much better than when she last played in 2005. That will just make the Huskers that much better when they start the season Friday against Tennessee at the Qwest Center in Omaha.

As of Saturday night, Cook still hadn't decided whether the Huskers will go with a 5-1 or a 6-2 offense. The guess here, and it's only a guess, is he'll pick the 6-2. The Huskers are loaded with players who can contribute, and a 6-2 will give Cook the chance to mix and match and get the most out of those players. We may know by Monday.

Going to the 6-2 would allow both setters Rachel Holloway and Maggie Griffin to get on the floor. It would also give the Huskers three strong hitters in the front row at all times. Cook does love the 6-2 when he has the players to run it. The Huskers used it in 2005, and their offensive stats were much stronger that year than last year when they won the national championship.

We know this much: Houghtelling showed she is back and will be on the floor. Pavan will be there as soon as she is healthy, and so will Jordan Larson. Freshman Tara Mueller is a versatile player who gives Cook a lot of options. Freshman libero Kayla Banwarth has sparkled at times as well. One key will be 6-5 freshman Lindsey Licht. If Licht is ready to contribute right away, she can play opposite of Pavan at rightside hitter and the Huskers would have two 6-5 lefties on the floor much of the time. That would indeed be a unique situation.

Posted by Bob Hamar @ Sunday, August 19, 2007 || 0 comments

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Return of the Pipeline?

The best news to come out of fall football camp so far is this: The offensive line physically looks the part. That wasn't the case at the end of the Solich era and the begin of Callahan's reign. There were plenty of fine young men playing up front at the time, but there's no doubt the football talent was down. I remember looking at the offensive linemen one August at the media day and thinking, "This is the pipeline?"

Now the Huskers are building up the depth on the offensive line. Freshmen are going to come in and redshirt like in the old days. The upper classmen are good enough that the freshmen don't have to play. That's a good thing. It takes time for everyone to learn Callahan's offense, but offensive line is particularly difficult.

Make no mistake about it. Those championship teams back in the '90s were built around the offensive line. There were great players in the backfield (Tommie Frazier, Lawrence Phillips, Ahman Green) and on defense (Mike Minter, Jason and Christian Peter, Jared Tomich to name a few) but the the offensive line were a bunch of big, strong, tough bruisers who made the difference in the fourth quarter of games.

Posted by Bob Hamar @ Thursday, August 16, 2007 || 0 comments

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Husker tickets

Have you gotten your Husker volleyball tickets yet? If not, forget about it.

NU tickets went on sale last week. All 14 home matches at the NU Coliseum were sold out in 45 minutes. That's the fastest ever for the 4,030 seat Coliseum and shows just how much Husker fans like volleyball. Or maybe it shows how much they like a winner. If the Huskers weren't defending national champions and weren't a favorite to repeat this year, the tickets might not have gone quite so fast.

The sellouts guarantee that Nebraska's streak of 90 straight home sellouts at the Coliseum will reach at least 104. NU will also play three times a the Qwest Center early in the season and face Hawaii at the Devaney Center in October.

There's no guarantee that Nebraska's streak of 48 straight wins at the Coliseum will continue, but with the match against Penn State scheduled for the Qwest Center and Hawaii at Devaney, you have to like the chances. The big hurdle will be a Sept. 12 match against Texas to open the Big 12 season.

Posted by Bob Hamar @ Tuesday, August 07, 2007 || 0 comments

Friday, August 03, 2007

Spike this

John Cook and the Husker volleyball team are set to begin their practices next week. To say the outlook for the Huskers is bright would be an understatement.

Cook's team is absolutely loaded going into the 2007 season. 2007 player of the year Sarah Pavan returns as does 2006 player of the year Christina Houghtelling. Jordan Larson is probably the team's best all-around player and setter Rachel Holloway is a star in the making. And don't forget Tracy Stalls, one of the best leaders Cook has ever had.

But all that doesn't guarantee anything. We'll have to wait to see if this team has the same chemistry that last year's team demonstrated in a regional final comeback win over a tough Minnesota team.

Posted by Bob Hamar @ Friday, August 03, 2007 || 0 comments

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