Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reality Check: Pelini's Coming, Not Dorsey, Highsmith, and Steltz

Hey, I'm as pleased as many fans that Bo Pelini is returning to Nebraska, this time as head coach. But I'm also a realist who also knows that his players are NOT coming along with him. Nebraska's defense is not likely to jump from the third worst in division 1-A to the third best.

But there's no reason to not expect the defense to be improved. Heck, it would be nearly impossible to get any worse. Bo Pelini isn't a miracle worker, and there are serious questions with depth at linebacker not to mention the defensive line. But I'm not convinced that Nebraska's problems on defense last season were primarily a talent issue. Let's look at last season again, shall we?

September: 5 games, 133 points allowed (26.6 points per game)
October: 4 games, 150 points allowed (37.5 points per game)
November: 3 games, 172 points allowed (57.3 points per game)

Each month, Nebraska faced a team that ended up in the top 10 (USC, Missouri, and Kansas), so it's not like the schedule got dramatically more difficult as the season went on. But the defense got progressively worse as the season went on. Yes, there were some injuries here and there, but other than Lance Brandenburgh, none were season ending. So what was it? Corey McKeon blamed it on conditioning and scheme. Steve Octavien blamed it on lack of belief in the scheme. Lack of confidence built on itself, and as the season unraveled, the lack of belief in the old staff simply became a large, festering wound.

Well guess what. Strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy is gone. And one thing that seems to be universal with Bo Pelini is belief in the scheme, whether it was at LSU or 2003 Nebraska. Players play hard for Bo Pelini, and playing hard is something we really haven't seen much of.

Does this make Nebraska a top defense all of a sudden? Hardly. But perhaps if Nebraska's defense upgrades to merely mediocre, Nebraska likely wins a couple extra games in 2008. Heck, the three games before they played the Huskers, Colorado scored 69 points combined. They scored 65 against the Huskers.

Hey, I don't expect miracles. But it would be difficult for the Nebraska defense to be any worse than in 2007.


Jason said...

It's safe to say that the defense will be better this year. (How can it be any worse?) I think the big question is how will our offense compare to last year?

Retaining Watson gives me hope that the "schemes" will be there, but I worry about lack of depth at WR and OL. And if Lucky goes to the NFL... well, let's not think about that for now.

Anonymous said...

Good write. I TOTALLY smell what you're steppin in.

Anonymous said...

Mike your anylasis is spot on as usuall. If the players do not believe in the system iregardless of how good the plan is it will probably not work. Beside "D" is all about "Violence of Action" and getting their "firt with the most". When teams play your "D" they need to leave the field thinking that was the worst physical beat down we have ever experienced. I believe in the past before Calaclown and Cosgrove teams left the game and felt it for the next couple of weeks. For me watchng on TV I can not ever rememeber a hit that made sit up off the couch and say "danmm he brought the lumber on that hit." Most of the time on 07 it was "make a tackle or at least hold on till someone else shows up". I trully believe that Pelini will bring back the desire and willingness to punish oppsosing offenses. GO BIG RED.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with jason as far as Lucky goes. You think Marlon Lucky is really the linchpin to our offensive success?

He's had games where he's looked very good, but in general Lucky is a guy who I find goes down too easy and isn't nearly elusive or physical enough. Yes, he has great hands and that adds another dimension, but I think some of the younger guys showed as much or more desire as he did in '07 - heck really throughout his time here.

Experience at that position is great to have, but at the same time what you really need is someone with desire, heart, elusiveness and speed. I think we've seen more of that out of some of the younger guys like Helu and Castille.

Maybe I'm wrong, but if Lucky goes (he really shouldn't IMHO) I think we'll be just fine.