November 11, 2010

Thursday notebook: Wildcat still in the playbook

On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said that if redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez was healthy, Nebraska didn't need to run the Wildcat formation because of Martinez's talents as a runner.

That may be true, but just because the Huskers don't need to run the Wildcat doesn't mean they've ruled it out completely.

Running backs coach Tim Beck said the staff always has the option of using the formation, which features sophomore running Rex Burkhead taking snaps with the quarterback split out wide.

Whether or not they choose to use it, Beck said, depends entirely on the game situation. In other words, if the Huskers are going to use the Wildcat again this season, chances are they're not going to come out and tell anyone ahead of time.

"We'll do what we think we need to do, whatever that may be," Beck said. "If that's more (Wildcat) plays, less plays or none at all, it's whatever the situation presents. Those are our cards, so we're kind of holding our cards. We don't want everybody to know all the time what our plan is. We'll do whatever we need to do to win games, whatever that is."

On Thursday, head coach Bo Pelini echoed Beck's thoughts on using the Wildcat, making sure to be as vague as possible when asked if the formation would still be a part of the game plan this week.

"We'll see," Pelini said. "We could do a lot of things. We'll see how the game goes."

Because of the success Nebraska has had with the formation both last week against the Cyclones and during last year's Holiday Bowl win over Arizona, Beck said the coaching staff is perfectly comfortable running the Wildcat at any point.

Burkhead has thrived in the formation when he's been called upon, and should Martinez somehow be limited or end up not being able to play against Kansas on Saturday, don't be surprised if the Huskers go back to the Wildcat once again.

"We've always been comfortable running it," Beck said. "You just have to know when to use it and how to use it. That's when you bring it out. That's kind of how it is. It's something we've had and can have, and whenever we need to break it out we will."

- Robin Washut

Thursday practice takes
China picks NU?: Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui met with former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel on Wednesday to discuss a variety of political topics during an E.N. Thompson Forum event at the Lied Center in Lincoln. As far as this site is concerned, though, the most interesting aspect of the dialog came at the end of the meeting, when Zhang, according to the Lincoln Journal Star, weighed in on his thoughts about Nebraska football and what the season holds for the Huskers. "I am confident your football team will win back the national championship before very long," Zhang said.

Running away with it: Nebraska's offense has put up some pretty impressive numbers this season, especially running the football. Kansas, on the other hand, has been anything but impressive on the ground. Coming into Saturday's game, Nebraska has out-rushed KU by more than 1,200 yards. Want an even more startling stat? Quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Roy Helu have combined 1,792 rushing yards this season, while Kansas has just 1,333 as a team. Needless to say, the advantage in the running game is clearly on the Huskers' side.
Injury report: Junior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (concussion) and quarterback Taylor Martinez were officially listed as "ready to go" by head coach Bo Pelini following Thursday's practice. Pelini said senior quarterback Zac Lee (hand) would be available to play if needed, but Pelini said he'd ideally like to give him an extra week of rest. Sophomore safety P.J. Smith missed a day and half of practice due to an illness earlier this week, but Peini said he was back in the mix and expects Smith to play on Saturday. Lastly, receiver Tim Marlowe (hip pointer) will be ready to play against the Jayhawks.

What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team practiced in helmets only inside the Hawks Championship Center and the fields north of Memorial Stadium on Thursday for final full session of the week. The Huskers will hold a brief walk-thru session on Friday before taking on Kansas on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Gilmore: Enunwa will do great things

Freshman receiver Quincy Enunwa was thrown into the spotlight earlier this season when he made his debut and caught his first career pass in Nebraska's season opener.

All the talk back then was how Enunwa's physical ability was just too impressive to keep on the sideline. Since then, however, that's primarily where he's stayed. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native has yet to catch a single pass after the opener and has had just one ball thrown his direction since.

Receivers coach Ted Gilmore admitted that Enunwa probably wasn't quite ready enough mentally to make as big of an impact as some had expected early on, but that doesn't mean he doesn't think his young wide out won't get there eventually.

"He's still a work in progress," Gilmore said. "He's added to my grey hairs, but it's a good problem, because that young man has a lot of talent. He's going to do a lot of great things. Not good things, he has the ability to do great things around here. So I'm very excited about Quincy."

While Enunwa has had to learn by trail and error at times this season, Gilmore said the experience he'll gain from his involvement in the offense both in games and with the top offensive units in practice will benefit him in a big way down the road.

"We put him in a position where we're trying to force feed him a little bit, and that's because of his athleticism, because of the things he can do," Gilmore said. "From a technique standpoint and learning the scheme, he's a ways away, but he's going to be a very talented young man when it's all said and done."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***When asked one final time about the status of players the likes of Martinez and junior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Pelini said there wasn't a player in the starting lineup he didn't expect to start on Saturday.

"I'm sure there's somebody in there that's a little bit nicked that I'm missing," Pelini said. "I mean it's November, everybody has their little bumps and bruises, but overall we're in pretty good shape."

***As for senior quarterback Zac Lee, Pelini said the plan is to sit him out and let his injured had heal, but Lee would be available to play if needed.

"Best case scenario is we let it heal," Pelini said. "But yeah, he's available."

***After losing their Blackshirts this week to Courtney Osborne and Austin Cassidy, Pelini said safeties P.J. Smith and Rickey Thenarse have responded well the past few days of practice. Though they may not be in the starting lineup, Pelini said both Smith and Thenarse would see their share of playing time against Kansas.

"They're fine," Pelini said. "The other two guys (Osborne and Cassidy) have started, so we put the Blackshirts on those guys, but those other two guys (Smith and Thenarse), we have a lot of confidence in them. They'll be available. You'll see them playing with us Saturday night."

***Saturday might be the last regular season night game Nebraska plays in a while after it moves to the Big Ten Conference. In some ways, that suits Pelini just fine.

"You'd prefer to play it a little bit earlier, but it doesn't matter when," he said. "Whenever you play, you play. I'm used to playing night games. It doesn't bother me."

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