July 26, 2014

Husker football news briefs…Gregory on another watch list, freshman leaves and former player pleads guilty

Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory was named to the Lombardi Award Watch List, his fourth award list he’s been added to. Five Huskers have won the Lombardi Award, most recently Ndamukong Suh in 2009. The Lombardi is another award given to the best down lineman on offense or defense.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini confirmed that incoming freshman defensive end DeAndre Wills has left the Husker football program. Pelini said Wills’ departure was a mutual decision. Willis is from Alabama, he told the Omaha World Herald, two family illnesses played a major role in his decision, saying he left the program in June after his grandmother got sick and his uncle had a heart attack.

Former Husker football player, 26 year old Benjamin Martin, pleaded guilty to drug and gun charges and now faces up to 15 years to life in federal prison after a woman found Martin slumped over passed out in his car in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Lincoln with a rifle and ammunition in his car, back in his car. A search of his car found over 15 grams of meth and over $48,000 in cash.


Meet the newest members of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame

Three former all-conference offensive linemen headlined by All-American and 12-year NFL veteran Russ Hochstein join Nebraska’s all-time leading tackler Barrett Ruud in a group of four Huskers being inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2014.  Nebraska-Kearney All-America quarterback Justin Coleman adds a state college flavor to the 2014 induction class. Coleman, a native of McCook, Neb., was the runner-up for the 2000 Harlon Hill Trophy and finished sixth nationally for NCAA Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy in 1999.

Carl Johnson, OT, Phoenix, Ariz. (1970-71)
An offensive tackle for Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney’s 1970 and 1971 Huskers, Carl Johnson earned first-team All-Big Eight honors in 1971. The 6-4, 245-pounder from Phoenix, Ariz., earned all-conference honors in his only year as a starter for the 1971 Big Red, after serving as an outstanding reserve lineman as a junior transfer for the 1970 national champs. Johnson, who spent two seasons at Nebraska after transferring from Phoenix Junior College, helped the Huskers rank third nationally in scoring offense (37.2 ppg) and 11th in total offense (421.3 ypg) as a junior. As a senior for the unbeaten Huskers, Johnson helped NU rank third nationally in scoring (39.1 ppg) while ranking eighth in total offense (437.7 ypg).

The graduate of South Mountain High School played in the All-America Bowl following his senior season before being chosen in the fifth round of the 1972 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He spent two NFL seasons with the Saints before closing his professional career with Portland in the WFL in 1974.

Mike Mandelko, OG, Lexington, Neb. (1980-82)
An All-Big Eight offensive guard for Coach Tom Osborne’s Huskers in 1982, Mike Mandelko helped Nebraska to an NCAA rushing title as a senior. With Mandelko as a senior leader on the line, the Huskers rolled up 394.3 yards per game on the ground, while also leading the nation with 518.6 yards per game in total offense. The 6-2, 255-pound native of Lexington, Neb., paved the way for quarterback Turner Gill, I-backs Roger Craig and Mike Rozier and wingback Irving Fryar at the skill positions, as the Huskers averaged a nation-leading 41.1 points per game. Mandelko was NU’s left guard, opposite right guard Dean Steinkuhler, while playing next to Outland Trophy-winning center Dave Rimington. A second-team All-Big Eight choice in his first year as a starter for the Huskers as a junior in 1981, Mandelko helped NU rank No. 2 nationally with 330.5 rushing yards per game, while leading the Big Eight with 437.5 yards per contest in total offense.

Russ Hochstein, OG, Hartington, Neb. (1997-2000)
A three-year starter for Coach Frank Solich at Nebraska, Russ Hochstein was a first-team All-American by The Sporting News in 2000 and a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection in 1999 and 2000. The 6-4, 290-pound offensive guard from Hartington, Neb., helped the Huskers claim the 2000 NCAA rushing title by averaging nearly 350 yards per game on the ground.

A team co-captain in 2000, Hochstein was also chosen as the winner of the Cletus Fischer Native Son Award before being selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round of the 2001 NFL Draft (151st overall pick).

Hochstein went on to one of the longest and most successful NFL careers of any Husker in history. The Cedar Catholic High School graduate spent 12 seasons with the Buccaneers, Patriots, Broncos and Chiefs. He won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Patriots in 2003 and 2004. In his 12-year career he played in 149 NFL games with 37 starts.

As a Husker, Hochstein started the final 29 games of his career, including every game of the 1999 and 2000 seasons. In Nebraska’s memorable 27-24 overtime win over Notre Dame, Hochstein was credited with a school-record tying 23 pancakes (knock-down blocks).

Barrett Ruud, LB, Lincoln, Neb. (2001-04)
Nebraska’s career leader with 432 total tackles, middle linebacker Barrett Ruud joins the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame after a successful eight-year career in the NFL. Ruud, who was a second-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (36th overall pick), spent six seasons as one of Tampa’s top tacklers before spending the 2011 season with the Tennessee Titans and 2012 with the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans. Ruud recorded 658 tackles in the NFL, including six sacks while adding seven career interceptions and six fumbles forced.

He produced four consecutive 100-tackle seasons from 2007 through 2010, when he started 63 games for the Buccaneers. He played in 113 career games with 78 starts.

Before heading to the NFL, the 6-2, 240-pounder was a third-team AP All-America linebacker for the Big Red in 2004, after claiming first-team All-Big 12 honors. A team captain and Nebraska’s Defensive MVP in 2004, he participated in the Senior Bowl in 2005.

A four-year letterman (2001-04) and a three-year starter, Ruud appeared in 50 games with 37 starts in his Husker career. His 432 total tackles included a school-record 218 unassisted stops. He notched 50 tackles for loss, including eight sacks. He also had 29 quarterback hurries and 12 pass breakups. In 2003, playing in his only season under then-Husker Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini, Ruud scored touchdowns on a 27-yard interception return against Texas A&M and a 15-yard fumble return against Oklahoma State. He also produced a then-school-record 149 tackles as a junior for the Big Red in 2003.

A Lincoln Southeast High School graduate, Ruud helped lead the Knights to a 48-2 record and 1997, 1998 and 2000 Class A state championships. He joins his great-grandfather Clarence Swanson (1919-22, inducted 1974) and his father Tom Ruud (1972-74, inducted 1997) in the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.

Justin Coleman (Nebraska-Kearney, 1997-2000)
The most prolific passing quarterback in the history of Nebraska-Kearney football, Justin Coleman joins the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2014. Coleman, a four-year star for the Lopers from 1997 through 2000, was the runner-up for the 2000 Harlon Hill Trophy after closing his career with a school and then-NCAA Division II-record 11,213 passing yards. He completed a school-record 706 passes in a school-record 1,193 attempts for a 59.2 completion percentage. As a senior, he was one of 23 finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. A four-time All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection, Coleman had his No. 5 jersey retired by UNK in 2003. He was just the second Loper football player in history to receive that honor.

As a freshman in 1997, Coleman threw for a then-school record 2,804 yards. He broke his own record as a junior with 3,167 yards in 1999. He added 2,645 passing yards as a senior and 2,597 as a sophomore to own four of the top eight passing seasons in UNK history.

His prolific yardage totals included a school single-game record 483 yards against Wayne State on Sept. 4, 1999, when he also set the school record with six touchdown passes. He added six more TD strikes against Fort Lewis exactly one month later. He added five other 400-yard passing games in his career to own six of the top-11 single-game marks in the UNK record book.

Coleman, who finished sixth in voting for the Harlon Hill Trophy as a junior in 1999, added a school-record 99 career touchdown passes while throwing for a school-record 273.49 yards per game in his outstanding career.

NU defensive end Gregory added to Bronco Nagurski award watch list

The preseason honors continue to roll in for Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory. The junior standout was named to the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Thursday. The 6-6, 240-pound Gregory is among the nation’s top returning defenders. Gregory led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks last season, including nine in conference games. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is presented by the Football Writers Association of America and is given to the nation’s top defensive player.


Pelini named to the Rimington Trophy watch list

Nebraska senior Mark Pelini is one of 66 centers who have been named to the official watch list for the 2014 Rimington Trophy.

The Rimington Trophy is presented annually to the nation’s top center. The award is named in honor of Dave Rimington who twice won the Outland Trophy and captured the Lombardi Award during his All-America career at Nebraska. Pelini saw extensive time at center and his role increased in the second half of the year when injuries hit the offensive front.

The 6-0, 290-pound Pelini helped Nebraska feature one of the nation’s top running attacks in 2013. Behind the play of the offensive line, I-back Ameer Abdullah racked up 1,690 rushing yards, the most by a Nebraska player since 1997.  Pelini will also be counted on for leadership on the offensive line in 2014. The Huskers graduated five seniors from its 2013 offensive line, leaving Pelini as one of the most experienced members of the position group.

Pelini is one of 10 Big Ten centers on the watch list. The winner of the 2014 Rimington Trophy will be honored at a banquet in Lincoln on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.

NU’s Abdullah, Bell, Gregory named to football award watch lists

Husker seniors Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell and junior Randy Gregory were each named to watch lists.  One of the nation’s top returning rushers, Abdullah was named to watch lists for both the 78th annual Maxwell Award and the Paul Hornung Award. Bell was also named to the Hornung Award Watch List, while Gregory was listed on the watch list for the 20th annual Chuck Bednarik Award.

The Maxwell Award has been given to America’s College Player of the Year since 1937 and is presented by the Maxell Football Club. The club also presents the Bednarik Award, given annually to the College Defensive Player of the Year, since 1995. The Paul Hornung Award is given annually by the Louisville Sports Commission to the most versatile player in college football.

Abdullah rushed for 1,690 yards last season, the most by a Nebraska player since 1997, and this fall he could become the first Husker to record three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He is also the nation’s active career leader in all-purpose yards and is on track to become Nebraska’s all-time leader in that category.

Like Abdullah, Bell is a dual threat for the Huskers, excelling as a receiver and kickoff return specialist. Bell enters his senior season poised to become the school’s all-time leader in both receptions and receiving yardage. He is also one of the nation’s top returning kickoff returners after averaging 26.5 yards per return last season, including a 99-yard touchdown.

Gregory became one of the Big Ten’s top defenders last season and has earned preseason All-America accolades in 2014. In his first year with the Huskers, Gregory led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Nine of Gregory’s sacks came in Big Ten Conference play, including a season-high three sacks at Michigan.

Semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced Nov. 3, while the three finalists for each award will be unveiled on Nov. 24. The winners will be announced as part of the  College Football Awards show on Dec. 11.
Monday’s announcements were first of several watch lists which will be unveiled over the next two weeks. The National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) has spearheaded a coordinated effort to promote each award’s preseason candidates.

Following is the complete 2014 preseason watch list calendar:
Mon., July 7: Bednarik Award / Maxwell Award
Tue., July 8: Mackey Award / Rimington Trophy
Wed., July 9: Lou Groza Award / Ray Guy Award
Thurs., July 10: Bronko Nagurski Trophy / Outland Trophy
Fri., July 11: Jim Thorpe Award
Mon., July 14: Butkus Award / Rotary Lombardi Award
Tue., July 15: Biletnikoff Award
Wed., July 16: Davey O’Brien Award
Thurs., July 17: Doak Walker Award
Fri., July 18: Walter Camp Award