Nebraska Huskers Football: Dr. Hatchyll and Mr. Fan, a Raging Debate
The Husker season is only a day away. The offseason is a brutal marathon, and now, with the end in sight, we find ourselves stumbling toward the finish with nothing but WNBA “highlights” ringing in our ears.
(Author’s note: The WNBA is kind of like Karaoke. Sure, it has a few similarities to the original, but you have to be really drunk to truly enjoy it.)
The adrenaline-needle-to-the-heart surge of joy that comes with the morning of a Husker football game is very nearly here. As I have for the past two years, it’s time to lay out a few of my hopes, thoughts and concerns about this year’s team.
As a fan, it’s truly a high wire act, balancing our truly crazed inner fanhood with the rational, collected individual who knows a little bit about sports. Some people don’t even try to find that balance.
I struggle every year as the season begins to rein in the manic, wild-eyed fanatic that is buried just beneath the surface of my outer calm. With my split Husker fanhood, it's truly a balancing act, and this close to the season, that balance is always on razor’s edge.
Dr. Hatchyll, the more analytical, fact-based part of my fanhood, preaches logic. He’s calm, understands that winning actually isn’t everything, and realizes that even if the Huskers lose, he can still have a pretty good Saturday.
Mr. Fan is a werewolf at dusk, waiting for the moon to rise. He’s the Cullen family volunteering at a community blood bank during National Hemophilia Day. He’s the guy who every year, when he starts running his fingers down the schedule, keeps seeing the “W”s pile up like he’s in that section of the phone book.
Winning is paramount. It’s exclusive. When the Huskers win, Mr. Fan is Scarface-faceplant high and when we lose he’s in need of a negotiator to talk him down off the ledge.
So what does each of these guys think about the upcoming season? What do they believe the ceiling is for this Nebraska team?
Let’s find out.
How Has Taylor Martinez Progressed as a QB?
Dr. Hatchyll: While Martinez certainly did all the right things this offseason—i.e. seeing a quarterbacking guru, loosening up in front of the media and heading to the Manning Passing Academy—he still is the same guy who completed 56 percent of his passes last year.
He’s still the same guy who has the explosive straight-line speed but runs like he’s competing in the 100-meter dash, not like he’s got bloodthirsty linebackers looking to obliterate his spinal column.
I will say this for the guy: whatever he’s done this offseason can’t hurt. It’s not like you can make his delivery shot-put-ier or his feet any more splayed out in weird, geometrically improbable angles.
It’s his third year in the system, and he has several ballyhooed receivers who should keep the pressure off the running game. It’s his third year as a starter, his second with the same offensive system, so coach Bo Pelini’s insistence on hitching his wagon to Martinez needs to start paying dividends.
Mr. Fan: Tayvid Copperfield, that's Martinez, the Memorial Stadium Magician. It’s time he starts tapping that potential. Now that he’s fully healthy, and by all accounts he definitely and finally is, maybe he can get back to smoking fools on the read option and blitzkrieg-ing them through the air.
When he’s on, Copperfield becomes a Tayle of Two Cities. Through the air? He’s dropping more dimes than a junkie trying to use the local pay phone in need of a fix. On the ground, when a hole opens up on the read option, it’s like watching the opening scene from Top Gun.
(Author’s note: Coming from Mr. Fan, that’s high praise, indeed.)
He’s put in the work on fixing his mechanics. He’s even discussed his passing abilities with the Manning family, which is like discussing how to run your crime family with the Corleones. It’s now or never for Martinez.
I’m saying with the weapons he has, the stability of his offensive coordinator and his burgeoning maturity, it has to be now.
I’ll Have a Vodka Pelini, Shaken Not Stirred
Dr. Hatchyll: There was a time when I firmly believed that, no matter the circumstances, players or league we were in, Bo Pelini could field a really good defense. I even thought that he would keep our defenses playing great.
But last season was far from great and I’m not sure if it even qualifies as good. While I still have confidence in Bo’s ability as a defensive guru, our lack of pass rush and turnover creation last season has my strong belief in his D shaken.
(Author’s note: I’m sorry, were we pretending that John Papuchis is in charge of the defense? Whoops.)
Where’s the edge rusher to put heat on the opposing quarterback? I know that that’s not entirely what Bo’s system does, but quarterbacks were generally able to drop back on us, watch Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Extended Director’s Cut and then pass the ball on us.
I want to see something from Bo this year. Some blitzes. Some re-issuing of the Peso. I just want to feel like our defense deserves to be called “The Blackshirts.”
(Author’s note: Even if Bo doesn’t care about that tradition, the rest of us still do.)
Mr. Fan: Bo knows. Plain and simple. Sure last year might’ve been a little below average. But we were a new team, in a new conference, with a serious adjustment in style of play.
Our guys have been hitting the weight room and the training table, beefing up on beef, and should know exactly what we’re up against in the Big Ten. Lavonte David is gone. So is The Fonz.
More importantly, though, is who we have coming back. Will Compton came on strong last year, Damion Stafford is a receiver-seeking missile.
(Author’s note: Shouldn’t we start calling the huge hits that he doles out “Stafford Loans?” Just a thought.)
And you know that the coaching staff has decided to let these guys attack the QB a lot more this year. Put on your Cornhusker Camo, because it’s open season on the rest of the league, son!
(Author’s note: Loosely translated this means “I’m so crunk that I’m typing with my elbows because I’m throwing up the bones right now.”)
P-90 Rex, the Big Red Workout Plan
Dr. Hatchyll: Rex Burkhead is a beast. We know this. We love this. He’s a cult hero around here and probably deserves to be so popular.
I like him just as much as the rest of the state, but having Burkhead is like finding an oil well, not having a wind turbine. He is a finite resource and we just about had to cobble together our own crappily constructed trans-Canada pipeline to refill his tank last year, we used him so much.
He’s a non-renewable resource and I hope that the coaches have realized this as much as the rest of the state does. He’s a workhorse, to be sure, but not even a team of Clydesdales pulls as much weight as Rex did at times last year.
Should he be a Heisman contender? I don’t know, really. Was he our MVP last year, a completely invaluable piece of our offensive puzzle this year, and a world-class guy? Yes.
I hope that we give Rex a few less carries and a few more important touches. But here’s someone who might not agree. Mr. Fan?
Mr. Fan: “P-90 Rex!” “Don’t Rext and Drive!” “Rexbox 360!” “Rexual Healing!” “Rexican immigration laws!” “Deus Rex Machina!” These are all things I’ll be shouting at my T.V. during the opening game.
I expect a huge dose of Burkhead this year. He’s a beast. A stud. A human battering ram that broke down the gates of Sparta(ns) and toted the rock more than an Egyptian slave working on the Great Pyramid of Giza.
He does a little bit of everything and does it all well. It will be an honor and privilege to watch Mr. Burkhead break heads for one final year.
Feed Rex the rock! Burkhead for Heisman! I can’t stop using exclamation points!
We Have Another Year of Tough Scheduling Ahead of Us
Dr. Hatchyll: Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin are all opponents in our conference schedule. Talk about a murderer’s row.
The Ohio State and Iowa games will be on the road, which doesn’t help. We get Michigan and Michigan State at home, which should.
If we run the gauntlet, we’ll come out on the other side battle-tested and hardened like steel-forged weaponry. If we can beat Michigan, MSU, OSU, Iowa and the Badgers? That is an impressive resume. In all reality, we’ll probably drop something like two games along the way, be it against any of those teams or one that sneaks up on us. However, if we can beat, say four-out-of-five of those teams and make the Big Ten title game? That would be a step in the right direction.
Mr. Fan: Michigan: just kick ‘em in De-Nard-s. If he’s hurt, they’re nothing. Will somebody please tell Brady Hoke that the only coaches who don’t wear headsets on the sidelines are what I like to call Queen of Englands. They’re rich, have birthdays that end in “B.C.” and are merely figureheads.
Having MSU, Michigan and Wisconsin at home will swing the score in our favor. Look at that schedule. All of our games are truly winnable. We’re a couple mobile-QB injuries away from being on our way to a BCS game and a Big Ten title
What If Wisconsin Comes to Lincoln Undefeated...for a Night Game?
Dr. Hatchyll: Let’s see, the Huskers would only have to beat Southern Miss, UCLA, Arkansas State and Idaho State to come into the September 29th game undefeated. And the Badgers have to beat Northern Iowa, Oregon State, Utah State and UTEP?
And Nebraska will be wearing those incredibly bad-ass new uniforms in a clear-cut revenge game?
Uh-oh. . .has anyone told Mr. Fan about this one?
Mr. Fan: KABOOOOM!
(Author's note: That's the sound of Mr. Fan's mind imploding.)