Sunday, April 16, 2006

Spring Game Recap

Well, the third Spring Game in the Callahan era was much the same the previous two --- an uncompetitive blowout. I skipped this year's game due to a combination of the Easter holiday, the limited seating, and the expectation that the game would be uninformative. And from the sounds of things, I didn't miss anything. With the current format of Starters vs. Reserves, this game is really only suitable for two groups: families who want to introduce kids to Husker football at a reasonable price and the obsessed who will gladly jump on any opportunity to wear their red to Memorial Stadium.

This year's Spring Game featured a heavy dose of the running game, which is welcome news to those of us who feel that the Callahan version of the "West Coast" has been too dependent on the passing game in it's first two years. Tom Shatel of the World-Herald attributes this to a need to prove his committment to the aerial game to recruits. I've heard this theory from others in the past, and it makes sense. During the Osborne/Solich era, pro-style quarterbacks and receivers usually didn't consider Nebraska, and Callahan probably felt that he needed to prove this to skeptical recruits. However, the over-emphasis on the passing game undoubtedly cost us a winning season in 2004 and cost us a win or two in 2005.

So what did we learn? Well, Steve Octavien is a difference-maker, at least against out-matched competition. The gap between Zac Taylor and his backups Joe Ganz and Beau Davis (and apparantly Harrison Beck) is growing larger and larger. And Nebraska still doesn't have much depth on the offensive line, as the reserve offensive linemen were no match for the Blackshirts up front.

It appears that Marlon Lucky has made some progress in the last few practices to move into a tie with Cody Glenn as the top I-back. A lot of folks think that JuCo Kenny Wilson will make a solid case to start in the fall, but unless Wilson is a master at picking up blitzers, Wilson will probably only see spot duty. (Think Brandon Jackson in 2004, Lucky, and Glenn. 1st year running backs seem to be limited to specific roles in this variant of the WCO.) The starter this fall may very well depend on who blocks the best. For Nebraska to have any success in 2006, keeping Zac Taylor healthy is going to be priority #1. (If anything, Saturday's scrimmage proved that point...)

Folks looking to extrapolate Saturday's results to greatness next season should stop first and remember the false hopes that emerged from the last couple of spring games. Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald reminds fans that the successful ending to 2005 needs to be tempered by the fact that Kansas State, Colorado, and Michigoon were in shambles at the end of the season. (KSU and Colorado completely changed their staffs, while the Weasels hired new offensive and defensive coordinators.)


Jason Siffring said...

Mike, good point about the starters vs. reserves format. I'm not so excited about that either, but I guess Callahan is trying to build some first-team cohesion.

I mentioned you in our Spring Game News Roundup on Big Red Network.

I enjoy your site. Keep it up.


Husker Mike said...

The idea of building "cohesion" is bunk IMHO. Except on special teams, there isn't much interplay between offense and defense. It's probably more important to have cohesion between the various lines so that backups mesh better with the starters when they get into the game. I think OU's "Offense vs. Defense" format works much better to build cohesion.

I think the real reason for this format is marketing. It gives the starters every opportunity to shine and make big plays in front of fans and especially recruits.

Tuckster said...

I heard about your blog and decided to take a look. After reading through, you have very little positive to say about anything in any of your posts. Why bother? It just makes you look bitter and like a whiner. Please stop for your own good.

Husker Mike said...

If you want 100% sunshine pumping, go listen to Sports Nightly. I give credit when credit is due, and criticism when it's due.

If you aren't seeing anything positive in this blog, you obviously didn't read much.