With all Hallow's Eve closely upon us in a few days...more blogging is in order today.
THE HOT LIST:
1. Nebraska's Offense: How Bad is it?
2. Eye on Recruiting: What does Nebraska Need in this Class?
1. I thought we'd write today about what my perceptions are about why this offense is struggling so badly the past few weeks. Lets examine. In my eyes if you want to be a great offense it all starts up front with your hog mollies. Last season Nebraska had Matt Slauson and Lydon Murtha, two veterans that instilled a hard nosed attitude to the line that allowed Nebraska to be very successful last season. This year Nebraska is forced to play guys that were used primarily as backups last season. There's no question that this is not an excuse for the reason why we have struggled on the offensive line, only one guy has a hard-nosed attitude that wants to blow people off the ball...Jacob Hickman. The lone Husker senior has played well this season despite not playing last weekend. If this offense wants to begin to turn the corner, the line must get back to those hate-hard-nose days where defenses feared what our line would do to them during the game.
Second, is the play at running back. Roy Helu is Nebraska's best offensive weapon, but the problem with that is he's banged up and appeared hesitant to rush the ball with authority last weekend. No question Nebraska misses it's phenom running back Rex Burkehead but the future appears brighter with Robinson becoming the primary backup to Roy. The question will be endurance and durability with the young freshman, if he can continue to make strides Nebraska can create the formidable 1/2 punch it was suppose to have at running back this season.
Third, is the play at wide receiver. This has been the most awful play of the entire offense. These guys aren't getting open and making it easier for Zac Lee to fire the ball in. Many many times on Saturday I saw guys taking plays off since they knew the ball wasn't coming to them. I also saw poor blocking and sloppy execution. One of the keys for this offense to get itself back on track has to come from improved WR play where these guys make outside blocks hold up so our running backs can bust out big yard runs. Nebraska thought they could have put any two guys to replace Swift and Peterson, but I think we are quickly seeing how valuable those two guys were for this offense a year ago, and probably was the reason that Joe Ganz had the success that he did last season. There's already change in effect for this weekend as freshman Khiry Cooper will start over Minelik Holt on Saturday. I hope that Shawn not only benches Holt, but Niles Paul as well. For the amount of hype that I have seen from this kid, with this being his first season to be the go-to-guy he has been downright unimpressive. Many times I see him half-assing plays because he knows its not going to him....and no question there is no excuse for his fumble last weekend. He needs a swift wake-up call that being a starter at Nebraska has to be earned, not given...and he hasn't earned a starting job in my eyes.
Fourth, the play of the tight ends. There's no questions Mike McNeil is very frustrated that he hasn't caught the ball as much as he did last season, but play from the WR core has to improve so teams can't just single him out. Right now teams don't respect Nebraska's WR's, so they key in on their TE's to make sure they can't catch the ball. Those TE's have been a focal part of this offense and they have to get back to using them effectively again. It creates nightmare matchups when you have to cover good WR's and a bunch of TE's. They have blocked well at times but not great. Nebraska has the best core of TE's in the Big 12 and they need to get back to finding a way to effectively use them again, meaning the WR's need to step up their game to allow these guys to get the favorable matchups with LB's that they need to get open downfield and make a few big plays that this offense has been unable to do the past few weeks.
Finally, the play of the quarterback. At times Zac Lee has played well but at times he has audible to plays that hurt the overall effectiveness of this offense. He has had some confidence issues now as the Husker Nation has emphatically made it known that they want Cody Green to start. That no doubt has taken an effect on Zac Lee but he did play better than last week against Iowa State...it was just that his supporting cast didn't help him get touchdowns. Zac must go into the Baylor game with a new attitude that with new players playing WR that this team will officially change its attitude and start execution with a mission...to score points. If they can get back to that attitude that they had against VT, than good things are on the horizon for this offense.
OUTLOOK: No question the lack of this offenses ability to march down the field and score points has generated two ugly losses. With new guys getting a chance to play this weekend Shawn Watson looks for answers to many questions that have plagued this team the past two weeks. Ball security is the utmost priority this weekend as Nebraska can't go on the road and continue to fumble the ball and hope to win the game. There are flashy pieces there with Cooper and Robinson show casing their talent, but leader Niles Paul has to grow up and start playing like a man and not a pansy little boy. This team needs to get back to being nasty on the offensive line and must start running the ball effectively. That will in turn open up holes that WR must read to allow Zac to throw easy passes. No matter what happens the next few weeks, Nebraska must find a way to get its TE playmakers the ball and allow them to get into the open field and score touchdowns. I'm only a proponent of starting Cody Green if you feel that he can accurately make the right throws for this offense to be successful. He'll start next season when he's stronger and ready to command this offense...Zac must shake of his anxiety and get back to having fun out on the field...do those things and Nebraska can turn the corner this season and get to the Big 12 Championship game.
2. Recruiting is in full swing but Nebraska isn't a regular on the trial right now. This class just picked up a nice 6-2, 200 pd wide receiver from California. He's having a great senior year and was only recruited by Washington State and the Huskers since he was injured last season. Nebraska has about 5-6 spots available in this class. I expect them to recruit a safety recruit of some kind, as well as another WR and few linemen. I think also that Nebraska will pass on a running back this season as they will be line to get the #1 running back in the country next year in Andrew Green. It's not a big year, but Nebraska is poised to have a huge year next year. When Moore spurns Florida to come to Nebraska, that's a nice victory that Nebraska can build on heading into the future. If you wanna get back to the elite, you have to out recruit the top programs in the country every year.