Sunday, September 25, 2005

World-Herald takes a look at the state of the Huskers

Today's Omaha World-Herald dedicates most of the front page of today's football section to disecting the enigma that is the Nebraska Cornhusker football program. Not there aren't any positives to note, namely the improvement on the defensive line. The emphasis on recruiting is clear here, with Ola Dagunduro, Barry Cryer, and Barry Turner making an immediate impact. And more importantly, this also allows LeKevin Smith and Titus Adams to stay fresher.

But there are some areas where either we haven't improved or regressed, namely at wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, and the secondary. The secondary is to be expected, with the loss of Fabian Washington and Josh Bullocks to the NFL. Zac Bowman has not lived up to the recruitnik hype, in part due to injuries.

The offensive line is in desperate need of playmakers, and unfortunately, it doesn't appear that there are a large number of them coming. Until last week, Lydon Murtha was making more of an impact in the training room than on the field. Andy Christensen is out for the season. Craig Roark and Rodney Picou are redshirting. Dennis Wagner has his work cut out for him here; fortunately for Husker fans, he's a top offensive line coach.

Wide receiver has to be considered a recruiting failure at this point, with only Frantz Hardy making any impact, though Chris Brooks is still recovering from knee surgery. But the West Coast Offense requires big receivers - and Bill Callahan still hasn't recrutied any. Yes, Callahan may have signed Tyrell Spain, Wallace Franklin, and Broderick Hunter, but none of them are enrolled. And only Spain is 6' 3", and even he was under 200 lbs. It's obvious that Callahan's offense misses Matt Herian, so one has to wonder why with this being Herian's senior year and his injury, where were the replacements? If a player like Herian is a requirement for Callahan's offense, then this has to be viewed as a recruiting failure on Callahan's part.

The hypesters were counting on Harrison Beck and Marlon Lucky to be on the field and contributing this season. However, the hypesters fail to account for the complexity of the Callahan offense, and the core issue as to whether or not it is too complex to run in college. That becomes a catch-22 for Callahan and his recruiters: recruits want to come to a program where they are going to have an opportunity to contribute, but the complexity may start to scare people away.

Finally, Missouri alum Tom Shatel once again sounds the warning siren of starting a coaching revolving door. Fans are obviously split; the fans who supported the former coaching staff are now howling as Nebraska gravitates below mediocrity and approaches futility. Some of the fans who called for change now realize that sometimes change makes a situation worse, and are calling for another change. And ironically, fans who howled for a change in South Stadium are now pleading for patience.

My own $0.02: I've steadily grown dissatisfied with Bill Callahan as head coach, and am very unsure that he was the correct man for the job. However, barring any major blunders (NCAA violations or another "f'n Hillbilly" outburst), firing him probably creates more problems than it solves. Give him more time to recruit and get some more of his recruits on the field.

However, without any improvement on the field, his boss probably doesn't get the same pass. Demand for tickets is at a low, and with 6000 new seats scheduled to open next season, the sellout streak is in serious jeopardy. Steve Pederson may have done some nice things (stadium improvement project, pre-game pavillion), but his bungled coaching search and Callahan's struggles have made him the focal point of fans angst. A new athletic director would be the first step towards reuniting the Husker fan base, and will buy Callahan more time to implement his system.


Carl said...

I agree with your $0.02. Here's my take.

I was very worried about the defensive coordinator at the beginning of the year. The defensive players I talked to were anything but complimentary about the guy. Now I watch the defense and they look worlds better than they did in the past season. (Of course we've yet to face a productive offense, but I have no doubt that these guys are better than last years attempt.)

It gives me hope that this coaching staff can improve. Callahan needs to realize that he's not dealing with NFL players who have unlimited time to devote to learning a system.

On the other hand, nothing is going to happen to make me think Pedersen should stay. This guy has bungled it bad. Steve's firing should serve as a warning shot across the bow of all the fire/hire ADs in the country.

I hope UNL can maintain the home sellout streak while this all hammers itself out.

Abe said...

I agree it would make things worse to change coaches again at this point. Even though Calahan has not been impressive so far, he needs a least a couple more years to prove himself.

Pederson deserves to be canned (if not caned) IMHO, but it seems unlikely unless this season is a complete disaster. That's possible, but certainly not something to wish for.

Husker Mike said...

Hmmm...caning? I think we may have found out how to pay off the new stadium expansion project; charge fans $100 a swing! :-)

JP Anderson said...

Pederson is a hero in my book. He had the courage to can Solich.

mattp_68135 said...

He had the courage to can Solich, give me a break.