Shooting Point Blank

What would you say if I were to tell you that there is a condition sweeping across the state of Nebraska, and even world-wide, that has the potential to affect all who dial in to see the Big Red? I'm not talking about the trucker hat fashion statement that is sweeping the country, but rather, a condition that is striking a large portion of Nebraska fans: OEP.

When I sat down with some Cornhusker fans after the Class of 2005 was signed, we dreamed about what could be.  What about Marlon Lucky and Cory Ross in the same backfield, or hey, what if we could get Cody Glenn into the mix?  Heck, let's ditch this ol' West Coast Offense jazz and switch to the Wishbone.  Hearty guffaws were had by all. 

Fast forward to August 2005 and you have yourself a condition that is spreading across the State of Nebraska, the United States of America and yes, even the world like melted butter over a crumpet.  Every Cornhusker football fan could be affected, that's how wide-spread this thing is, folks.  I'm talking, of course, about OEP.  Over-Expectations of Performance.

Now upon reading that, no doubt some of you did an aback and said surely this man is mad!  Let me give you a for instance.  Marlon Lucky, you remember him?  Runningback, about so high, big time recruit out of California?  That guy?  Marlon has been claimed, and with good reason, to be one of, if not the, highest rated runningback that Nebraska has EVER had enter its hallowed halls.  Oh and by the way, he's wearing the number twenty.  I remember a guy who once wore the number twenty.  I think you guys do too.

The point I'm making here is that you pile all of this happenstance on Marlon, a shy young man who isn't much for yacking to anyone besides coaches, friends and teammates (some of which are all and the same) and here's what you get: Better than Adrian Peterson.  Breaking 1,000 yards, 1,500 yards, heck, why not be greedy, 2,000 yards?  Rozier is shaking in his boots.  He'll win the Heisman, NAY, he'll win two.  Ron Powlus to the white courtesy phone, please.

That's just Marlon.  Look at Leon Jackson.  A guy that I, myself, got so hyped up about I adorned him with a nickname totally against his personality.  The guy is not THE Leon Jackson.  He is Leon Jackson, #31, Nebraska Cornhuskers, True Freshman, I might add.

What I'm saying is thus: We have a fantastic recruiting class and no, I am not saying that there shouldn't be hype.  I'm not saying there shouldn't be expectations and enjoyment of potential for both career and scheme.  I'm not saying we shouldn't say "what if".  I'm saying we shouldn't be saying "when". 

Look at Thunder Collins.  This guy was doomed from the start.  Sure, it was even said then and when he eventually left the team, if the guy was named James Applegate, no one would've batted an eyelash, but you put an act of nature in front of a surname and look out, you've got yourself a certified superstar, right? 

Nebraska fans always want the next Heisman, the next Lombardi, the next NFL Hall of Famer and that's good, that shows that they want the best for the program, something that will serve everyone well.  However, as with eating cheeseburgers, there's a limit and moderation is key.  What I would recommend, and you can take this or leave it with the anticipation of most doing the latter over the former, is that rather than slap a Jackson on the table and bet your buddy that Marlon Lucky will put up a grand this year, look at what he brings to the team.  That's something that I think a lot of fans forget.  That whole "There is no ‘I' in team" mantra that's become so cliché you could put it up there with Bear Bryant's hat and Joe Paterno's pants.

They both have all of the potential in the world, but let's take a look at two more of the incoming freshman.  What if Harrison Beck never starts for Nebraska?  What if he spends his time never higher than #2?  Does this make him any less of a cool guy and someone you'd want to hang out with?  It shouldn't.

What if Jordan Congdon, a young man who has probably put in more hours of community service than the entire state he came from, what if he never kicks a meaningful field goal or even a PAT?  Does this make him less of a human being?  Does this not make him someone you'd want your daughter to date or your son to be friends with?  It shouldn't.

Nebraska fans place so much important on what "should be" according to them, particularly when it comes to their athletes.  Here's a recruiting fact and if you haven't learned it by now, you need to or you are going to be severely disappointed: Some prospects rise to greatness, some don't for one reason or another.  Injuries, family life, personal issues, the list goes on. 

Perhaps instead of placing so much individual expectation on a young man from California wearing Johnny the Jet's number, we should put out expectations for his unit.  Maybe we should take it a step beyond that.  Perhaps we should put out expectations for the team as a whole, maybe set a record that would be appropriate.  Or maybe we should even go one step beyond that.  Maybe we should just not care about the stats.  Maybe we shouldn't give a care about how it gets done, but that it gets done and gets done the right way.  I'm not talking Al Davis here people, this isn't "Just win, baby."  This is "Just win the right way, baby."

Just something to think about on a warm August day only a few weeks before pigskin meets plastic.

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