So much for the off season

So much for the post-signing day doldrums, eh? One coach left before signing day. Another resigned following soon after signing day. And potentially more to come. So, now what?

It was kind of funny, but I was doing a radio show this morning and one of the D.J.s said that he had been reading about this kind of stuff taking place for awhile now, long before signing day arrived. But now the question is, will it continue?

I think you can figure that one out without too much trouble, yeah?

Color it ironic then that the first two coaches who are gone, one taking a promotion at another University and the other resigning for personal reasons - they both represented the side of the ball that has been the backbone of this team since Bo Pelini arrived.

Mike Ekeler, the former linebacker coach and now new co-defensive coordinator at Indiana, he had in linebacker Lavonte David, a kid who came in and broke the single-season record for the most tackles in Husker history.

Not bad

And then there is Marvin Sanders, who resigned officially yesterday, and all he did was take a secondary which was not good to say the least, and turn it into one of the best if not the best unit across the land. He took Eric Hagg, a kid who thought he was going to play receiver when it got to Lincoln, and turned him into one of the best all-purpose players the defense had. In Prince Amukamara, here's a guy who thought he was also going to be on offense and in the return game on special teams, and now he's one of the top rated defensive players in the- entire NFL Draft this year.

Sanders leaves behind him huge shoes to fill

If that isn't enough, go back to 2003, when Sanders' secondary led the country in interceptions, pass efficiency defense and Josh Bullocks, a solid safety but hardly someone who had taken the country by storm, tied for the top spot in the entire country in interceptions.

Kind of hard to say Nebraska will be experiencing addition by subtraction as those two walk out the door.

But then there is the other side, the one which hasn't officially been put out there, but has been speculated on a lot longer than Sanders, certainly. Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore. You can probably throw the entire offensive staff into that rumor mill, at least when it comes to the scathingly unrelenting onslaught by the Husker fan base that has watched a Husker offense hold back the team as a whole, from taking that next step as a program. Two times in a row the Huskers made it to the Big 12 title game, and in both instances the offense was a dumpster fire.

The belief was by many that the offensive shake up, providing it takes place as expected, should have happened a year sooner.

The belief by most if it all does indeed go down, though, will be that it's better late than never.

I won't say I disagree. Well, not entirely.

We do have to remember that in the first half of the 2010 season, Nebraska was steamrolling teams. They were running roughshod over squads, especially on the road. The offensive line looked great. Taylor Martinez looked great, despite his ball-handling issues. The running backs were doing well and those receivers were making all the blocks downfield.

There was a hiccup in victory against South Dakota State.

I'll give them a pass on that. They took SDSU lightly, and SDSU played like it was the Super Bowl.

Then there was the slip up against Texas.

To that, I say that even as bad as Texas was playing all year, they didn't turn the ball over in this game and Nebraska dropped three touchdown passes.

It all went to hell and a hand basket when Martinez got injured. Ironic that it came against Missouri, because it was against Missouri the previous season when their starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert, had his ankle almost ripped off as it buckled under the weight of Ndamukong Suh. That hampered him and his team for the rest of the year.


Probably just a coincidence more than that, but it was still bad news for the Huskers from that point on.

The offense came to a halt. It was pedestrian, and what was worse, the staff apparently felt that even a healthy Green wasn't good enough to lead a team unless Martinez couldn't even walk. Seriously, the kid almost had to be on crutches before they wouldn't throw him out there on the field.

An injured Martinez signaled the beginning of the end for this once deadly offense.

So, instead of a healthier Martinez, we kept seeing the gimpy version of a guy who had proven he could throw against Oklahoma State. But let's face it, Don Bosco Prep could throw on Oklahoma State.

The identity of the team, that new zone read, became almost pointless. It only really worked when running back Rex Burkhead was back there taking the snap instead of Martinez or Green. For awhile it was working like a charm. But it was never something the staff was going to stick too, because for whatever reason, they seemed to think that even a hobbling Martinez was a better shot to win than pretty much any other option they had.

The running game went south, and suddenly, the offensive line that was so good throughout the year, couldn't do anything. They couldn't move the ball. They couldn't drive people off the line, and the turnover issues continued to plague the Big Red.

Did they suddenly become bad?

No, of course not.

It was a combination of Martinez not being healthy, the team still using him and defenses being able to lick their chops, because they knew what Martinez was going to do, and instead of the 4.4 blur around the edges that Washington and Kansas State saw, they would see a decidedly slower version, easy to bring down, push around and even catch.

I know, I know, we have relived this, haven't we? Why go through the pain again?

I'll tell you why.

The performance of the offense paints a pretty obvious picture, doesn't it?

Don't try and tell me you weren't all saying that this offensive staff needs to change. This whole thing isn't working. The defense can't do all the work all the time.

This was a picture painted over three years.

And the first two departures we hear about are on defense?

I read the boards. Yep, I sure do. Don't have a lot of choice. There it is, one opinion after another, and there seemed to be a growing sentiment that if Bo wasn't going to make the changes on offense that seemed pretty obvious to people not on campus, then he wasn't doing his job as a head coach. He wasn't doing what was necessary for the sake of moving on as a team. Loyalty was overriding common sense. Don't hire guys you can't fire.


Well, if you are one to believe the rumors that say Watson and Gilmore are out, you are probably thinking it's about time. If you take anything from the fact that neither was at the recruiting dinner in Omaha, you are probably saying that now it's just a matter of time.

I'd probably agree, though, it's never a good thing to root for someone to lose their job, even in the face of the kind of money coaches at the FBS level can make. But that's life, this is coaching, and like Bo said himself, these kinds of changes happen every year or almost every year.

Now let's just assume for a minute that both do indeed lose their job. I'm going to give you a few views on how this will appear based on a few things.

People loved how Gilmore's group of wideouts could block. But when it came to catching...not so much.

The first view is that Bo sat on his hands and waited for change when he should have been changing things the second the disaster of a Holiday Bowl was over. His name kept coming up when it came to the opening at Miami, and all he said was that he wasn't interviewing for the job. Then there came the rampant speculation that if LSU opened up should Les Miles go to Michigan, he might entertain that as well. I saw plenty of posts on those boards that voiced concern that Bo wasn't more emphatic about not looking at other jobs or that he didn't at least come out and say that he wasn't leaving and wild horses couldn't drag him away.

And because of all this, he put himself in a position where he was going to have to make some significant changes to his staff, and the timing of when those changes might have to take place was going to bad.

The second view was that changes were going to be made, and the fact that Shawn Watson seemed to be looking at jobs everywhere you can imagine seemed to indicate that. The writing wasn't just on the wall, but it was done and all that remained was for it to become official. What ultimately happened, though, was that the finding of replacements took longer than anticipated, which put Nebraska behind the eight ball, especially when it came to signing day which was fast approaching. And when it comes to that, you can't go telling recruits that you are definitely making a change on the offensive side, but you just don't know who the next guy is going to be. What recruit will buy that? All of them outside of those on the defensive side and those in state would probably decommit and go find calmer waters elsewhere.

But that's how these things go, and while it's regrettable that kids couldn't be informed of the situation, it was something that couldn't be avoided, because there were no answers they had to give.

As for Sanders, there's nothing you can do about that. Resigning for personal reasons basically takes the blame completely off Bo's shoulders, because he didn't fire Sanders. Sanders fired himself.

The third view lies somewhere in-between, where fans aren't happy with how this thing have gone down. They are those who feel that the program is what it is, and they will support it no matter what. But they are aware of national perception, and not telling kids changes in the staff will be made until after signing day, isn't how you do things.

And they will also say that they believe top to bottom that Bo is an honest guy. That's his thing, you know? He's black and white. No gray anywhere to be found. He calls it like he sees it, and he'll tell you the truth, whether you like it or not. If there was any way he could have prevented what appears to be an on-going fiasco, you bet he would have. It just so happened that everything worked out in such a way that it seemed like if anything could go wrong, it did and at the wrong time.

There are a lot of other ways to approach this. There are a lot of other scenarios you can write up and call it believable or outlandish.

But one thing is for sure, right now it's kind of a mess.

We believe it's OK to say that Corey Raymond will be the man who replaces Sanders. He coached under former Husker safeties coach Bill Busch for two years. Busch is the D.C. at Utah State.

Where the speculation is a bit more abstract is on offense. Nobody is officially gone, after all. But there's really nothing to worry about from a Husker fans' perspective. Signing Day is done. You aren't going to lose any commits now, no matter what happens. So, no place to go but up, right?

Scott Frost's name keeps coming up on offense, and there has been this belief that Nebraska has been inching closer and closer to the Oregon offense, which obviously did pretty well last year. Frost coached the receivers, but you could see how his history might lend itself to him being the coach of the quarterbacks this time around as well as potentially a co-offensive coordinator position.

Cotton's group looked at times, like world beaters, up to the point Martinez was injured.

As for the receiver coach, should Gilmore not have a job sometime soon, let's not forget that Ron Brown coached wide receivers at Nebraska, during the grand ole' option days. This guy knows how to teach blocking fundamentals from the wideout position.

Some have said that Barney Cotton should be looking for a job.

Why? His offensive line was reminiscent of the pipeline in the first half of the year, and they suddenly got bad? Cotton suddenly forgot what to do? And let's not forget that this Washington team Nebraska faced the second time around was actually worse in regard to its starting personnel in the Holiday Bowl than it was when the Huskers faced the Huskies in Seattle. That's the perfect point to argue that you as an offensive line coach can only do so much. But the players have to do the rest.

There will be a host of names which will come out as candidates for this or that. And yes, eventually, even Bo will have to come out and say or issue a statement saying something about his staff and how many of them will remain. It stands to reason that if you are of the belief that where there is smoke there is fire, this one is about to get a few more pieces of wood.

But it will come, it will end and people will move on trying to get to know new coaches, new players and that will be that.

And oh yeah, there will be a P.R. backlash. You can bet on that. You don't make coaching changes after signing day and not expect someone to be calling you out for it. That's going to happen. If you live in denial to the point you think it's not merited, go back to the cave until around Spring, so you keep that smile on your face.

There has already been one story, that coming from the Omaha World Herald, where Charles Jackson, one of the prized recruits said he had no idea any of this was going to take place. He did say that he probably would have still chosen Nebraska, but he would have appreciated someone letting him know.

It probably won't be the last story you read with that kind of tone.

But this is coaching, this is big time football and not all the decisions you make will be applauded. Not all the decisions you don't make will be criticized. But they will be talked about. They will be commented on to no particular end.

This is Nebraska.

What else are we going to do?

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