Just too damn complicated
Players thinking and not playing
Being clever for no good reason
We spent too much time outthinking what we were doing
All these things a Husker fan has said to themselves and to anyone who would listen, over and over again.
But you won't hear a coach say them, certainly not the coach who is replacing the one who just left.
Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck was very careful, but at the same time very Youngstown-like in how he addressed how the offense would be different. He said that players would be running the system and not executing the plays.
That's the problem, you see? Or, at least it was.
While Beck isn't going to say that what former Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson was doing wasn't working. It was for awhile. Heck, early on in the season the Husker offense looked unstoppable. But when health became an issue, it started to go down, and it seemed the offense had nowhere to go. There was nothing it seemed to be able to do.
A coach isn't going to run another coach under the bus. You just don't see it. And for a lot of reasons. One, it's not very professional, and it would seem all coaches realize that no matter how great their job is now or how much they love it, they are probably auditioning for the next coaching job they get or in some cases, have to take.
You aren't going to make a lot of friends running other coaches down, saying what they were doing was wrong or just plain dumb.
And, to a few of the things Beck said in today's Spring presser, he wasn't going to be reinventing the wheel.
He's just going to redesign how you make that wheel.
And that is why the offense will work, and for an entire season, health of the starting quarterback be damned.
That's the theory, anyway.
It's actually a pretty sound one when you think about it though. How many players have said over the years, and in just about every sport there is, if you are thinking you aren't playing. If you aren't playing, you are going to lose the game.
But the only people who really know if that is actually happening are the coaches. I know, you as the armchair fan see everything. You know when a team is giving effort. You know when they are running at full speed. And you can tell when a team is thinking a lot more about assignments and verbiage than they should be.
So, I will say for myself, I can't see it. Some players in their first year or even two, are going to look confused all the time. But on offense, it would seem the theme from today, from both Beck and Head Coach Bo Pelini, was making things really simple, while still being very effective in what they wanted to do.
You remember who Shawn Watson credited for much of his offensive philosophies?
You do, don't you?
And as we have come to know and knew even before Callahan took over at Nebraska, that there guy knows offense, and he knows all those fancy Xs and Os to the point it would make you pass out in awe.
More or less
I think the thing we assumed was that due to the fact that Watson wasn't coming from the NFL to Nebraska, those issues of being ultra complicated when you didn't need to be, weren't going to be there. It would be the players who defined the team, not the system.
When Billy C was at Nebraska, it was all about the system. It was the offense that made this possible, that happen or all those points fly up on the board. The players were simply executing a very intricate set of plans, which resulted in lots of yards and whole lot of points.
Now it's about the players?
I seem to get that. Do you?
Now, that's the Bo Pelini we know. But in this case it's Tim Beck. But are they really all that different? No, Beck doesn't seem to breath fire with the ease of the fourth-year head coach, but he certainly seems to have the same ideas as to what works and what doesn't.
And that seems to be that players work and systems don't.
Take as much of the system out of it, meaning you take as much of the complications out of it, so players can run what there is remaining, to the best of their ability.
Sound like what happened to this defense when Bo Pelini arrived...the first and second time.
That's a Bo thing. He's a schemer, yes. But the first thing he seems to talk about to players is effort. If there is no effort, nothing else matters. You give me the effort, the rest of the stuff takes care of itself.
Because it's simple.
And you can scheme on the week as you prepare for an opponent. The rest of the time you are learning how to play football.
Tackling, blocking, throwing, catching and yes....keeping a hold of the ball.
That was something Nebraska didn't do very well last year, ranking as one of the worst teams in the country in fumbles lost, and as THE worst team in the country in balls put on the ground.
Beck said today they have something planned for that. A system, if you will. But it's doubtful anyone will have to memorize much of anything in order to ingrain it into their head. I figure that will probably happen in day one.
That's another thing: memorizing
In school you learn the subjects you enjoy, you memorize the answers in those you don't.
It's that simple.
Retention comes from having a genuine interest in what you are studying, reading or doing.
If all you are doing is memorizing, the amount of repetition that has to take place in order for that thing to sink in to the point of being instinctive - well, you MIGHT be able to do it by the time you graduate.
But if you enjoy the subject, your retention is going to be dramatically faster. You won't just get it, you'll enjoy the process of learning it.
That was, to me, the entire theme of the presser outside of when Defensive Coordinator Carl Pelini was up there. His players didn't need to learn that. They already knew that not long after Bo Pelini arrived. They didn't dramatically change their personnel from 2007 to 2008. They didn't dramatically change their practices, how fast they went, what they did, etc. They simplified, rewarded effort and told guys to go out there and simply make plays.
Going from the 112th defense in the country one year to ranking in the top half of the division the next, is a pretty good illustration of why that works.
And the offense is now just getting to do that very thing.
You can't blame Watson though. And you can't blame Bo for keeping him at the time. This team had no defense. They needed help. The last thing they needed going into year one was having to rebuild the offense, too. No, it may not have been perfect, but that offense carried that defense for the first half of Pelini's first year.
The problem has been, it's been the defense carrying the entire team ever since.
Well, there's no better way for Bo to put his fingerprints on his offense than by doing it himself. Or better yet, getting guys he knows up and down, inside and out, to do it for him.
Enter: Tim Beck, someone who you have coached with and who hails from the same town you do. Bring in Rich Fisher, someone you have known since you were a coach with the New England Patriots in the 90s, as the new coach of the wide receivers.
Out with the old and in with the familiar
If you are the head coach, that's probably not a bad way to go. I mean, if you are going to go down, do it knowing that everything you are doing is what you wanted to do and done how you wanted to do it.
Now Bo has a chance to see that actually happen.
And for Beck, he already won me over with one very simple line that was perhaps not an intentional shot at the person he just replaced, but it's one that speaks volumes to anyone who watched this team last year: He said that if a play is working, they will keep running it until the defense can stop it.
Yep, that's idealism at its best, but pretty sound, I think most would agree.
Remember the play against Oklahoma where Rex Burkhead, going out of the Wildcat formation which was working great earlier in the drive when it came to running the ball? Then you might remember that inexplicable pass down the field, to the end zone, practically a go-route by the length of the throw needed to be made, but to a streaking Taylor Martinez across the field.
It was on third down, and it asked a running back who hadn't thrown a pass over 15 yards since he got to Nebraska, to hit a player in stride, across the field, from over 30 yards away.
This is me, but Beck's philosophy seems to point toward something like this never happening again, or certainly not in the way it did. Not to say that all third down plays will be predictable, but there's going outside of the box, and then there is going outside of the stadium in which the box resides.
That's what I got out of this, and after watching all the video and listening to all the audio, maybe you will too. Maybe you won't. And I don't mean to say that this new page for the Huskers is perfect, and it's nothing but wine and cheese from here on out.
It won't be. Have you looked at Nebraska's schedule in the Big Ten?
It won't be, just bet on that.
But we won't sit here wondering if the other team beat Nebraska or did they beat themselves.
Now, when it comes to the turnovers, we'll see if they can fix that, and let's face it, that and dropped balls were the biggest enemies of the team last year, especially in some of its most heart wrenching disappointments.
I'll leave the officiating aspect to you, the fan, to debate.
On offense it seems to be good. I guess in many minds it couldn't get much worse. So, change, at least here, is for the better.
Now, on defense I have my concerns.
To make it very simple and short, Marvin Sanders coached a unit that ranked as one of the best in the entire country the last three years. The guy could coach. And now the theme with Corey Raymond, the new secondary coach, seems to be that it isn't all about just going out and playing football. Now it's technique, technique, technique.
Now it's about the system.
Alfonzo Dennard, now a senior corner and as far as I am concerned, one of the best corners in the country this year - said that there is a lot about technique they weren't even thinking about. Now they are.
And that's a good thing?
I seem to remember a certain coach prior to Sanders who preached many of the same ideas. Well, "preach" is one way of putting it. And I seem to remember that when Sanders took over, his style made this unit almost instantly better, but down the road made them one of the best secondaries in the country.
They didn't think. They played. They ran their scheme, but the great thing about it, they were allowed to not think too much and just go out and make plays.
Sound like what the offense is doing now? It does to me.
But it doesn't sound like what the secondary will be doing in the future.
The only thing that makes me not worry so much for the Husker fan base and how they won't appreciate trading one struggle for another, is that this is a Bo and Carl or Carl and Bo Pelini defense. I do have to admit, though, that there is a certain irony in that the theme on the entire offense seems to be about simplifying, while at least in one area, the defense seemed to get a bit more complicated.
With so many new faces on the defense, maybe that won't hurt. Maybe it will
I guess we'll have to see.
But in the end, it is about keeping it simple. And honestly, can you argue with that? Are we finally past the stage where a Spring game crowd won't give a standing ovation when they see two players go in motion at the same time?
Sometimes simpler is just better.
You'd think in Nebraska, that's something we could get used to.