Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Night Dessert: Watson Puts a Label on the Husker Offense

Husker offensive coordinator Shawn Watson talked glowingly to the Lincoln Journal-Star about the other offensive coaches. No surprise there; you wouldn't expect any negative talk in the public newspaper. What I found more interesting is that while Watson still claims allegiance to the West Coast Offense, he talks about doing it as a spread offense.

Does that seem inconsistent? Oddly no...unless you think of the Bill Callahan variant of the West Coast Offense. The West Coast offense is more of a philosophy of being multiple: it's being able to run and/or pass out of any formation and personnel grouping. In that light, I'm not sure Bill Callahan really was a West Coast disciple. Perhaps he ran plays like a West Coast team, but how he did it generally didn't seem to match up with how Bill Walsh set it up originally. I went back to a snapshot my wife took in the summer of 2004 at the first Football 101 for Women, where Jay Norvell talked about the history of the West Coast offense.
So when Watson talks about getting ideas from Barney Cotton and Tim Beck on how to expand the offense, he's not abandoning the West Coast offense at all. If anything, he's staying faithful to Bill Walsh's original vision by adapting to the strengths of the players and showing the flexibility of the system.

Watson didn't comfort me at all last week when he mentioned that the offensive personnel this season match up best with the 2007 group. Actually, that thought sent a cold chill down my spine. In fairness, he was referring to the receivers and the speed of Frantz Hardy and Terrence Nunn. I certainly hope that he wasn't comparing Zac Lee to Sam Keller. I think Nebraska has a couple of intriguing additions to the receivers this season in Antonio Bell and Brandon Kinnie that might give the Huskers more of a deep threat than they've shown recently.

One week into practice, and we still haven't heard much about anybody making moves at linebacker and on the offensive line. That's disappointing. Well, I take that back: true freshman Brent Qvale made a great impression, but you almost have to expect that from a 6'7" 330 lb. guy. It's early, but I'd like to see some people pushing for starting time on the first team, not pushing out guys off of the 2nd team.

I got a new perspective on the Kody Spano knee injury yesterday while channel surfing through some coverage of the PGA Championship on the Golf Channel. An orthopedic surgeon wrote into the Golf Channel team to mention how impressive that Tiger Woods was as competitive as he is one year after his surgery. Which got me to thinking: did Nebraska's training staff rush Spano back into fall camp? Now, the doctors and trainers know far more about Spano and ACL injuries than I'll ever know, but I do have to wonder whether his return was accelerated too fast. Modern medicine and surgical techniques have significantly improved the ability to recover from an ACL, but whenever I see a player with an ACL injury return to the field, it still seems to hamper them for about 18 months. Yes, they can get back on the field much sooner, perhaps six to nine months...but a full recovery seems to take a lot longer. Now, Kody Spano's "amazing recovery" from his injury last spring doesn't look all that amazing anymore.

Back to Woods, I really hope that tomorrow's media coverage of the PGA Tournament talks about the winner, Y.E. Yang, and how he won the tournament. Sure, Tiger Woods had a great tournament leading most of the way, but the fact is that Yang won the tournament down the stretch. (How about that chip in for eagle?) The fact that Woods finished second shows that Eldrick Woods is back; he'll be back and dominating the game again shortly. But for this week, the focus belongs not on the Nike pitchman, but rather the man who earned the title on the course.

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