Examining the changes: Offense

It's been a staff that I have had to sit back and really try and soak up and get a feel for what it's all about. After some time, and some analysis, I was ready to put some of my thoughts down about the changes that will be taking place with the coaching staff on the offensive side of the football at Nebraska. Here is my take on the recent changes in Lincoln on offense.

It took a while to get here from the end of the Holiday Bowl, but the Nebraska staff has been assembled and spring ball is just around the corner. This spring will be an introduction of things to come, getting simpler before they get complicated, and here are my takes on the moves and the hires that took place on the offensive side of the ball in Lincoln.

Tim Beck to Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach from Running Backs coach

Why this move makes sense - Bo finally has a guy in the offensive coordinator spot that is his hire. Shawn Watson came to Nebraska from Colorado when Bill Callahan was the head coach at Nebraska and out of the people that Bo Pelini brought in as part of his staff, that weren't retained, Tim Beck seems the most logical. Tim Beck also has relevant experience to draw from when it comes to this move.

The fact of the matter is that the OC position always seemed to be waiting for Tim Beck, but how long was always going to be the question. Beck has had success as an OC, but not at the DI level. Beck was the OC at Missouri State in 1998 and the offense was good for 4,542 total yards, which was good for 4th all-time in school history.

Beck was also part of the offensive juggernaut at Kansas in 2007. Beck served as the passing game coordinator and Kansas finished with a 12-1 record and ranked #7 nationally after beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Beck helped the Jayhawks finish second nationally in scoring offense with 42.8 ppg, either in total offense with 479.8 ypg and 17th in passing offense with 291 ypg.

Why this move could fail - Let's be honest here, the Nebraska offense is in need of an identity. From what I have heard Bo Pelini say recently in the media the offense will be simplified and multiple. I am not sure what to make of that at all and will wait to pass judgment until a product gets put on the field. I could see limiting what's going on in the passing game when it comes to the overall number of plays, but that gets down to another problem.

The reason Nebraska wasn't more multiple last year wasn't an issue of offense. In fact, the offense under Shawn Watson at Nebraska flourished like it did in 2008 when Nebraska averaged 33.4 ppg (better than any year under a Bill Callahan called offense) and averaged 464 ypg. The reason Nebraska wasn't more multiple had to do with personnel.

It was pretty clear that with Taylor Martinez under center that Nebraska was feast or famine on offense. The fact of the matter is a lack of clear direction about which way the offense was going as the season went along. What didn't help was the success that Nebraska enjoyed with the big-play ability that Martinez brought to the table and looking back on it Nebraska and Martinez might have been worse because of the way they started.

Think about the big plays that Nebraska was able to rip off against Washington and Kansas State with Martinez running the football. It looked like a one-player NCAA football game on a PS3 in two-player mode with no one playing against him. Consider Martinez not scoring a rushing touchdown after the Kansas State game for the rest of the season affected his mindset and the Nebraska offense.

The other thing to consider here were the fumbles that the Nebraska offense had with Beck as the running back coach moving to coach the position that more than likely put it on the ground more than the others at quarterback. Martinez and Cody Green seemed to be good for it a few times a game, in fact Nebraska had 45 fumbles last year losing 16, and it plagued the Nebraska offense as much as any type of personnel limitation.

Keep an eye on the direction of this offense in the spring game. I am not sure that you will see "multiple". In fact, I am beginning to hate the word as much as we have all heard it over the past decade or so. Look for an offense that is willing to take what is being given, exploit and also run their plays at a good pace out of the no huddle and getting to the line quickly. I also would expect for Nebraska to continue to lean on the running game.

Ron Brown to Running Backs coach from Tight Ends coach

Why this move makes sense - You know that previous little problem I mentioned under Tim Beck? You know…the fumbling part? I have little doubt that Coach Ron Brown will have an impact with the running backs when it comes to putting the football on the carpet. More than that, I think that you could also see some improvement in the pass receiving department for the running backs.

I firmly believe that Ron Brown is Nebraska's finest assistant coach, period, point blank. I don't think that he has to be a strong recruiter necessarily. He just needs to be niche and he definitely is that. Put Coach Brown in the living room of 99% of all the recruits that Nebraska is trying to get and the parents of those players are going to come away impressed. There's no way around it.

Why this move could fail - I don't think that Coach Brown will fail at running backs, but what concerns me is the play at tight end. Nebraska isn't exactly overflowing with talent at the tight end position and it appears to be even a little more weeded out this year than what it was going into last year. Dreu Young and Ryan Hill are gone from the roster on huskers.com. Nebraska returns just Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed who had a significant role last year.

Reed went from being someone that didn't make an impact two years ago to being one of the most exciting players to watch on the field last year with the coaching of Ron Brown. You hope that once he's got it up that he can keep it up without any sort of constant micro managing, but if the play of Reed falls off you will definitely see some fingers pointing back to the decision to move Ron Brown from tight ends to running backs.

John Garrison to Assistant Offensive Line/Tight Ends

Why this move makes sense - If there is a theme that rings through all of the new hires for Bo Pelini it's that Bo is "getting his guys in". Garrison to me is interesting. First of all, I was a big fan of him as a player when he was at Nebraska from 1999 to 2002. He was a rock at center his junior and senior seasons, was a reason to me that the offensive line did so well in 2001 and was a key reason why Nebraska made it to the BCS National Championship Game that year.

He has experience. Before Nebraska, where he has been a football intern since 2008, John Garrison returned to his home town of Blue Springs, MO to become an assistant coach and was the offensive line and running game coordinator. If there is a person that can help out inside it will be John Garrison. More than that, Nebraska might need to think about the development side of the offensive line. With typically just having seven or eight guys ready at any moment to play the extra coach could become invaluable to a more up-tempo offense.

Garrison could light a spark in recruiting. Nebraska's recruiting of Missouri is dismal. In my opinion, the 500 mile radius that both Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini have talked about when it comes to extending the borders of the state of Nebraska has never happened.

Think about the key players that were from that 500 mile radius during the 90's for Nebraska and really think of the players from the state of Missouri. You had Grant Wistrom, Tracey Wistrom, Mike Rucker, Dan Alexander and Steve Warren to name a few. Garrison could have an impact on improving the footprint for Nebraska in the state of Missouri and more critically take over the Kansas City area that seems to be wide open year after year.

Why this move could fail - One has to wonder how this move will affect the tight ends that strived under Ron Brown. The lack of experience at the position and the inability to land top-tier recruits year in and year out has plagued the position. The overall depth of the position two to three years ago was one of the strengths of this offense. Now, it's an Achilles Heel to some extent.

You have to also think about splitting the duties of coaching offensive line and what Nebraska is actually trying to do here. Is Bo Pelini giving Barney Cotton a chance to get things together with putting someone in the on-deck circle? Maybe…maybe not. It could be looked at that way by some. The offensive line sure seemed to be a weak link week in and week out last season for Nebraska.

You also have to wonder about the inexperience factor coming into play and was Garrison the right man for the job? Personally, I like the hire and want to see him get his fair shake, but could be potentially unfairly labeled if the offensive line struggles continue from one year to the next?

Rich Fisher to Wide Receivers

Why this move makes sense - To me, new blood here is a good start. It's clear that things had run their course with Ted Gilmore and now he's possibly off to USC to join Lane Kiffin a few years after he about did the same thing with the Oakland Raiders. Fisher though, might be getting the least of the spotlight of all the hires and I actually am a big fan of this hire.

First of all, Fisher knows what it takes to be part of a successful football team. Fisher played for Colorado during the late 80's and 90's and won a National Championship at Colorado in 1990. Fisher played linebacker, but actually split four years as an assistant coach at Idaho between coaching linebacker, which he played at Colorado, and coaching wide receivers.

Some things that I have actually read about Fisher at Rivers School in Wesston, Mass. are encouraging as well. First of all, the schools recruit and Fisher enjoyed success getting out and recruiting to Rivers. That couldn't have been an easy task considering Rivers hadn't been successful on the football field in some time. However, Fisher was building something.

This past year Fisher led Rivers to a perfect 8-0 conference season, the first undefeated season since 1915 and only conference championship, and led Rivers to just it's third winning season since 1979. Fisher can build. Fisher has been part of championship teams.

Why this move could fail - There have been a lot of shots at Fisher because he was formerly a golf pro. So what? Most recently is what he's done at Rivers and just because you pick up a metal stick doesn't mean you forget about what you have ever done before that.

Still, relevant experience to jump into the DI level is questionable. The wide receivers at Nebraska need to get more technical about the game, about catching the football and about being better receivers overall. It's not an overly talented group, but there is talent there to work with. Fisher is going to have to make due and that is going to be a tall challenge

Personally, I think that any type of recruiting from Fisher will be an improvement. If there is a position where Nebraska simply wasn't thorough enough in evaluating players before offering it's been at receiver. More than that, Fisher needs to find his groove when it comes to recruiting players to Nebraska. Rivers might not have had the football tradition and he was able to get players there he will be in a very similar situation at Nebraska when it comes to recruiting wide receivers to a school not known for producing NFL caliber players at the wide receiver position.

I will get into John Papuchis taking over the recruiting coordinator position later in the week when I get into the changes on the defensive side of the ball. Comparatively, that will be a much shorter article than this one because of the change with Beck from running backs coach to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. It's clear that the men for the job were people whose familiarity with Bo goes deeper than their resumes. That might not be entirely bad.

One thing that I think is pretty evident, particularly about the offensive hires, is the lack of familiarity with the offensive staffs at where he has worked before in the past (pro and college) has led to a fairly weak black book of potential names for him to go back and consult about working with them. There just isn't a large list of people for Bo through experience and more to the point through a possible lack of networking where he has possibly turned to trust and his guys over qualifications and right guys.

This is going to be a staff though that could work some wonders. The team, particularly on offense, is talented and the recruiting class for 2011 was very talented on the offensive side of the ball especially up front on the offensive line. If Tim Beck can implement the same type of system mentality that Bo has on the defensive side of the football then a very good product could hit the field in the next two to three years. Until then, there might be some growing pains.

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