Recruiting Roundtable: You ask, we answer

What's the hottest recruiting questions right now? Well, we've got them and the answers as well. Check out what people want to know about what's going on with NU recruiting right now and, for the future.

The pickin's are getting a little slim at offensive tackle for Nebraska.  Why is Nebraska, home of the offensive lineman, having problems getting the nation's best talent at that position?


Bryan: Here are my thoughts about offensive lineman.  Unfortunately they are not as faddy as players that play quarterback, running back and wide receiver.  They are traditionally some of the brighter players on the field intellectually and I think that they are some of the most conservative.


They will go where the trends are currently as opposed to making huge risks and trying to buck trends.  Why did Iowa get all of those offensive linemen last year?  It's clearly because of their recent success with Robert Gallery.  They haven't become a factory overnight, but who was Robert Gallery before he came to Iowa?  A tight end with the potential to play OT. 


Offensive lineman like results, not promises.  They go for the tangibles.  I don't expect that Nebraska will get a top-notch OT (granted, D.J. Jones is a very good prospect but admittedly is not a Carl Johnson, Aaron Brown, Sam Young or Steve Schilling) until we start producing trophy winners at that position or producing NFL offensive linemen.


I really thought that last year's most surprising play came from the offensive line position.  I thought that a lot of players stepped it up and played big.  It's only a matter of time and development before we are back on top there.


Justin: I think that some of the problems Nebraska is having getting premiere offensive lineman can just be attributed to bad luck.  Things haven't fallen the Huskers' way the past couple of recruiting classes.  I also feel that Nebraska needs to have a good showing of offensive lineman get drafted before we will be back to where we used to be with offensive lineman.


In the 90's Nebraska often had lineman get drafted two or three to a season.  Kirk Ferentz is also somewhat of a culprit.  He has established himself as an offensive lineman coaching guru and many midwestern kids are heading to Iowa.  Again though, this all was helped by putting Robert Gallery in the NFL with such a high draft pick. 


Getting kids to come to Nebraska from anywhere other than the midwest is always a battle and the recent upswing of USC in the west, LSU in the south have hurt things some.  Miami also gets their fair share of great offensive lineman as well. 


So to sum things up, I feel Coach Callahan and Coach Wagner need to prove that their system of coaching offensive lineman is helpful in getting into the league. I have faith it will, but it might be a few years down the road.


Steve: Part if it has to do with the increased recruiting success of programs close to Nebraska like Iowa, but more than anything, just as the offensive line performance drops off with one bad recruiting year, the recruiting itself can drop off if the line is suspect, something Nebraska's not been in decades.


Tim Green, Chris Loos, M.J. Flaum. Those are three names that will go down in the annals of Husker history, simply because, at least for me, they signify the reason why Nebraska is where it is at today in regards to not having a stockpile full of bigguns.


Those three were thought to be at the very worst, two-deep regulars, but each was thought to be a starter and in the case of Flaum and Loos, possible stars. They never saw the field and you add into that the early departures of Dominic Raiola and Toniu Fonoti, that was the recipe for the eventual demise of the pipeline as we have come to know it.


Also, with the change in offensive philosophy, Nebraska simply doesn't have the luxury of being able to say that they can take the best stocky, albeit short maulers from around the area and develop them into what they need. Nebraska needs a far more complex type of lineman now, so the days of picking the best bodies out of the local landscape and turning them into road graders are gone.


Also, when one year is dramatically hit as far as depth, that trickles down and forces the team into a rather precarious position. When not even ten years ago, Nebraska loaded up the line with juniors and seniors every single year, because they had the depth to develop these kids, so that they didn't even need to see the field until they were definitely big enough, strong enough and knew enough that they would be a solid contributor.


No depth means no luxury in being able to do that, so it forces you into a position of having to recruit guys that can get on the field right away.


Tom Osborne once said that he didn't have to recruit great linemen because he could make them. Well, maybe Dennis Wagner can make them himself, but not right now.


Nebraska's recruiting of the offensive line isn't any worse than it's ever been in my opinion. Yeah, maybe you see some marquee names getting away, but that's always been the case. The only difference now is that the Huskers NEED them and when you need bad enough, it makes losing them seem that much worse.



Has the fullback position become obsolete in the Callahan era?


Bryan: I think it was last year because the abilities of the fullback weren't what you actually need in a fullback in the WCO.  When I think about the Oakland Raider offense in the late 90s and early 2000s I don't think of Rich Gannon or even Jerry Rice. 


For some reason I can't help but think about Jon Ritchie.  Does anyone else remember this guy?  The guy whose forehead would split open every game?  Yeah, that guy.


Anyway, he was VERY productive in the WCO and that is because he was as equal of running threat as receiving threat.  Over 5 years of being in Oakland he averaged 26 receptions, for 205 yards and just under a touchdown per season.  He was a weapon in the WCO.


The problem is he wasn't productive as we have come to love our fullbacks for.  While Ritchie may have made 26 receptions per year he averaged under three carries and 10 yards….per season rushing.  The position hasn't become obsolete it has just changed and there is a need to get a special type of player there.


Justin: I don't think the fullback position has become obselete in the Callahan era. I think things have just changed a lot with that position like many other positions have.  The fullback is used much differently than most Nebraska fans are used to. 


I think when the staff gets a few at the position that they feel comfortable with, you will see a few carries here and there, along with passes to that position.  I do feel that Dane Todd is a fairly good fullback for the west coast offense and should see a few passes his way this season.  Even Steve Kriewald caught two touchdown passes the past season.  The position will always have its role, just not as prominent in the running game as we are used to.


Steve: You do what you can with what you have and honestly, Nebraska hasn't had a great fullback since Joel Makovicka. There's been a lot of attempts at trying to find someone that could do everything Joel could, but when Frank Solich vacated the position as the running back coach, it was the fullback position that absolutely suffered the most.


Since then, Nebraska's just not had that game breaker of sorts and if a team has that, they will utilize him if they can. No, Callahan didn't exactly use John Richie very much, the Raider fullback almost an afterthought when studying Callahan's offense. Richie was not overly accomplished at carrying the ball, though, his prowess obviously that of a relentless and punishing blocker.


Nebraska will have to recruit a great fullback in order for the fullback to get back to doing what they did in prior years with the big red. My question is if this staff even will. Outside of blocking, I'm just not sure how much emphasis they put on the position. I guess it won't take long to find out.



How will the staff adjust week to week to meet the requirements of the team we face?


Bryan: I think that the staff adjusting from week to week is the easy part of game planning.  The most difficult is getting the players to adjust.  We all know that there are a wide variety of offenses in the Big 12.  There are the teams that prefer to run to set up the pass, pass to set up the run and then there are very balanced attacks. 


What the players need to do is be flexible.  If there was one game strategy from last year that I think was a bad idea that had to be at the coaches' level I would say never run the 30-stack defense ever again.  This is the infamous defense that puts in 3 defensive linemen, 3 linebackers and 5 guys in the secondary.  This was the defense that allowed Texas Tech to just get a way from us.


It's up to the player as much as the coach to know the opponent.  Game planning starts by watching film.  Doing situational planning and studying the teams' tendencies.  This is where week to week must start. 


Justin: I feel like this season will be a complete turnaround from last year.  Everyone is much more comfortable and I honestly believe this season the average fan will be able to tell that during different games their will be totally different gameplans. 


This was one of the greatest strengths of Bo Pelini and his defense in that he could adjust a totally new defense to meet the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent that week.  I think especially with our defensive schemes this season, fans will be able to tell a new passion from the defense as they will be able to play football a lot more and do less thinking. 


The coaching staff has adjusted to their new roles and even allowing Coach Elmo to focus on just cb's with Coach Busch to focus on just safeties will allow for scheme improvements in my opinion.


Steve: This staff has shown that it can do something, particularly on the offensive side of the ball: game plan. I have really liked what I have seen from an offensive standpoint and I can't think of one game or even one full quarter of any game last year, where I being the arm chair QB that I am, thought that the play-calling was just so-so.


It's been better than that and the excuses for why the defense went awry was definitely applicable on the offense, execution being the one major key.


On defense, we'll see as I don't know how an entire year of being on your heels can really show what people have in store for them in the future. I think more time was spent just trying to get through to players than actually coaching them, that the defense we saw was not even close to the one that you are going to see this time around.


I've seen what I consider to be great adjustments at times from one half to the next and others, not so much. But, with all the inner-problems this team had, none of which any would admit to actually existing, I am not entirely sure what to expect.


It's safe to say, though, that with all the big twelve north quarterbacks returning and Pitt's Tyler Palko coming to town, along with a rematch with Texas Tech, you will have a ton of opportunities to see for yourself whether or not this staff is getting things figured out.

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