Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Offensive Line: Past and Future

Steve Hanaway over at Big Red Network is ecstatic over the four offensive linemen who have verbally committed to the Huskers for 2008. He makes the point that we haven't had enough depth at offensive line in recent years, a trait he ties back to the Solich years but I actually trace back even further. Back in the golden years of 1994 and 1995, we didn't so much have a second string offensive line, but rather a first string and a 1-A string. The starters would plow the road for Lawrence Phillips, Ahman Green, Clinton Childs, and Damon Benning for a while, then line 1-A would come in fresh as the defense started to tire and continue beating them down. Miami couldn't handle the depth, and Florida couldn't either. However, by 1997, that depth was gone and the starters were left to shoulder most of the burden.

Want proof? Look at the NFL draft history of the offensive line over time: 1993: Will Shields; 1994: Lance Lundberg; 1995: Zach Wiegert, Brenden Stai, Rob Zatechka; 1996: Aaron Graham; 1997: Adam Treu, Chris Dishman; 1998: Aaron Taylor; 1999: NONE; 2000: NONE; 2001: Dominic Raiola, Russ Hochstein; 2002: Toniu Fonoti; 2003: NONE; 2004: Josh Sewell; 2005: Richie Incognito; 2006: NONE. Whether it was recruiting, conditioning, coaching, or what, but it's clear that the production of the offensive line started to drop off before Tom Osborne's retirement. (Not that we shouldn't have expected a little drop off from the 60-3 run, but the dropoff on the o-line was a little more than it should have been.)

So, the fact that these top offensive line prospects have committed is going to lead us back to the glory days of the mid nineties? Maybe...maybe not. Or maybe more accurately, probably not. Take the case of former Iowa recruit Blake Larson: Parade All-American, top offensive line prospect coming out of high school.

Played three years for the Hawkeyes. Never started a game, and is now a police officer down in Kansas City. Is he an isolated case? Hardly. Of Rivals Top 100 of 2002, 31 players didn't even finish out their college careers with the school they signed with.

Ok, I've railed before about the fact that these so called recruiting experts are anything but experts. What's the harm? Plenty. A high school coach in Pennsylvania likens it to exploitation of kids. Kirk Ferentz said that it adds "undue and un-normal pressure" on players. Even Houston Nutt admits that "it just seems like it's out of hand. You just have to keep up with the faith that there will be something or some legislation to rein it in."

Some will scoff at the idea that the attention is harmful. You can dismiss the idea of the "fragile psyche" if you want, but with some players, they develop a sense of entitlement. We saw it around here with some members of the class of 2005, such as Leon Jackson and Harrison Beck.

Is it a good deal that Bill Callahan already has 4 verbal commitments from offensive linemen for the 2008 class? Yep; it shows that Callahan and Dennis Wagner are getting their first choices at these positions. But if you're thinking about toasting the 2012 National Championship, better reach for the black coffee instead and sober up first.

1 comment:

AJ said...

Mike, telling Husker nation to sober up about their title dreams is like telling Rosie O'Donnell to stop eating so many cupcakes.

Good luck with that.