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January 13, 2011

Husker Buzz: Final ranking put things in perspective

Sometimes when you are close to a team it's hard to put things in a clear perspective.

Yes I'm well aware that Nebraska lost three out of their final four games. After a disappointing 19-7 loss to Washington in the Holiday Bowl a lot of NU fans weren't even expecting the Huskers to be ranked in the final polls.

However, not only was Nebraska ranked, they finished in the top 20. If anything I think that ranking is a sign of respect and stability with how far this program has come under Bo Pelini.

Even with a late season slide the Huskers were considered a top 20 team by both the writers and the coaches.

It's pretty amazing to think the last time the Huskers finished ranked in the top 25 back-to-back seasons was in 2000-2001.

While most NU fans continue to hang their heads about poor finish down the stretch, once again I'll tell you the program is somewhere it hasn't been in 10 years.

There is a consistency with this program that we haven't seen in a long time. The expectations will always be high at Nebraska, but I think it's important for NU to be a 9 to 10 win team each year.

The SEC led the AP top 25 with six teams ranked, while the Big 12 was second with five, followed by the ACC (four), Big Ten (three) and Pac-10 (2)

The only 10+ win teams ranked below the Huskers in the final poll were Utah, Tulsa and Central Florida.

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Nebraska has yet to confirm that running back Dontrayevous Robinson has officially been released from his scholarship, but the Texas native is no longer at NU.

Robinson is officially enrolled in classes at MSU and Bobcat head coach Rob Ash confirmed the news on Wednesday.

This definitely puts some questions around the running back position heading into spring practice. After Rex Burkhead, it remains to be seen who NU will look towards in the backfield to compliment Burkhead.

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Two names I'll throw out as legitimate candidates for the linebackers coach opening at NU are Tulane defensive coordinator Steve Stanard and Ohio linebackers coach Ross Els.

Both Els and Stanard have deep connections to the NU staff and a strong familiarity with Pelini's defensive system. They are also both originally from Lincoln. The word from the coaching convention in Dallas this past week is Stanard and Els were the two names that have emerged as the front runners to fill the opening.

It remains to be seen if this hire will happen before or after signing day. I'm told that since NU is one man down in recruiting, Director of Football Operations Jeff Jamrog has been activated to go on the road once the contact period opens back up. My guess is most of Jamrog's work will be focused on in-state recruiting for the walk-on program.

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Later tonight Wisconsin offensive lineman Gabe Carimi will officially accept his Outland Trophy at the Downtown Doubletree Hotel in Omaha.

I still remember the first time I laid eyes on Carimi. It was June of 2005 and he was in attendance at Nebraska's football camp in Lincoln.

At that time Carimi was 6-foot-7, 260 pounds. He was built similarly to current Husker commit Zach Sterup.

There was no question Carimi was the best lineman at NU's camp that session, but former head coach Bill Callahan didn't end up offering him because it was a foregone conclusion that once he attended Wisconsin's camp the Badgers would offer and he'd commit on the spot.

The crazy thing was Carimi wasn't even in the Rivals.com database until I entered him in after the camp. That should show you that an Outland Trophy winner doesn't always have to be a five-star recruit coming out of high school.

Wisconsin has made a living of recruiting three-star type prospects like Carimi and turning them out as future first round draft picks when they leave Madison.

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There's an old saying that sometimes the girl you end up taking to the prom was not your first choice, but more often than not that girl becomes your wife some day.

For Michigan, I think that's the best way to describe their recent hiring of Brady Hoke. Wolverine AD Dave Brandon shot for the moon in Jim Hardbaugh and Les Miles, but at the end of the day Hoke was the most logical choice for the job.

In a way, Hoke reminds me a lot of Pelini in that he preaches accountability to his players. He is also a defensive minded head coach. I look for him to get things turned around in Ann Arbor.

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According to NFLDraftScout.com, up to 10 Husker players have a legitimate chance to get picked in this year's NFL Draft.

The website projects cornerback Prince Amukamara (round 1), tight end Mike McNeill (rounds 3-4), wide receiver Niles Paul (rounds 3-4), defensive end Pierre Allen (rounds 3-4), running back Roy Helu (round 5), kicker Alex Henery (rounds 5-6), safety Eric Hagg (rounds 6-7), safety DeJon Gomes (rounds 6-7) and offensive linemen Keith Williams (round 7) and Ricky Henry (round 7-FA) as projected NFL draft picks at this stage of the game.

Since the NFL Draft has gone down to seven rounds, NU has never had more than eight players drafted in one year (1997). I'd say there's a good chance they will challenge that mark this year. The last time NU had more than five players drafted in one year was 2001 (7).

If anything credit should go to both Callahan and Pelini if these draft numbers hold true. Callahan identified quite a bit of NFL talent in this senior class, but it was Pelini and his staff that were able to develop it to where it's at today.

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Look for Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest quarterback Tavarius Bender to continue to pick up some early recruiting attention.

The 2012 prospect had a very strong showing at the US Army Junior Combine in San Antonio and currently holds an offer from Tulane.

Right now it looks like Bender and Cambridge defensive tackle Mike Shoff appear to be the top 2012 prospects in the state.

I'll hit the road for my eighth annual "HuskersIllustrated.com In-state Tour" on Monday Feb. 7. Hopefully we'll be able to uncover a few more big names around the state for 2012 and 2013.


Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@huskersillustrated.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha. He can also be seen on WOWT TV in Omaha four nights per week during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.



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