Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dispelling a Myth

Many Husker fans spent the weekend with one eye on the TV or computer to see which former Huskers would end up with which NFL teams. This year, four (Adam Carriker-Rams, Brandon Jackson-Packers, Stewart Bradley-Eagles, Jay Moore-49ers) Huskers were chosen, which was second most in the Big XII behind Tejas' 7 draft picks.

Some fans point to the number of draft picks and use it as more evidence towards the recruiting abilities (or, as they prefer to say, lack of recruiting) of Frank Solich. Just for curiousity sake, I went back and looked at the history of Nebraska's draft picks over the past 20 years.

1987-1991 30
1992-1996 31
1997-2002 35
2003-2007 21

Hmmm...looks like quite a drop in recent years. Perhaps there is something too this? So let's look further...

1987-1991 Offense 13, Defense 17
1992-1996 Offense 15, Defense 16
1997-2002 Offense 15, Defense 19, Kickers 1
2003-2007 Offense 4, Defense 15, Kickers 2

First some clarification: it's tough to compare years in the draft. Up until the middle 90's, the NFL drafted many more players than they do today, and judging from the pick numbers of some former Huskers, the 1987-1991 group had 5 guys who wouldn't have been drafted under the current setup. But what is obvious is that the drop-off was only on the offensive side of the ball. The defense continues to crank out NFL prospects at nearly the same rate as the championship teams from the golden era.

I noticed this trend several years ago as the depth in the offensive line began to drop in the late 90's. In 1994 and 1995, we went 2 deep on the offensive line on the way to steamrolling anybody and everybody in college football. But by 1997, the line was much thinner and the starters were the main contributors to the line. This shows in the NFL draft results as the Huskers have only sent 5 offensive linemen to the NFL since the 1997 National Champions. Compare that with 8 linemen being drafted during the 60-3 run, and it's obvious that the dropoff in offensive line production started well before Frank Solich took over.

Expecting the Huskers to maintain the level of the 60-3 three-time trophy winners is simply unrealistic. But even when you take that into consideration, the dropoff on offense was still noticable. Was it recruiting? Was it coaching? Or was it in strength and conditioning?

Likely all of the above. But wherever it was, it seems to have been concentrated on offense.

No comments: