The Chicken and the Egg

As Nebraska sits at the proverbial crossroads, I find myself uttering "the chicken and the egg, the chicken and the egg". I do that as I look at NU's current situation where they not only need some solid coaches coming in, but solid recruits as well. The past five years has shown a pervasiveness of neither, thus the season Big Red fans just had to endure. A few here and there simply won't do. Chances are, you can't have both, because one has to precede the other. Which one will it be?

The "Chicken and the egg" theory basically reiterates the time-worn argument of success and the origin of success. You can't have this without that or that without this, so which one is most important?

Recruiting is the lifeblood of success. Great recruits, mean a great chance of achievment and an even better chance of getting more solid recruits to come in.

Coaching though brings those recruits together, taking their physical attributes and giving them the mental tools, the teachings to play the game.

Without the great recruits, especially nowadays, even the greatest coach will fail, but without great coaches (see Texas), even the best class of recruits will do likewise.

Honestly, Nebraska needs both.

The lack of talent across the board has equated to NU suffering from defeats the likes of which it hasn't seen in more than four decades. Even one of this current team's captains agrees on that. "It isn't like it used to be." starting rush end, Chris Kelsay stated in regards to talent. "It didn't matter what you were on the depth chart, everyone was good. You just don't have that now, the All-Americans and guys that come in with a lot of publicity."

Publicity doesn't win games, but bad players don't often get the kind of publicity Kelsay is referring to. There is an argument though that concerning the classes NU has gotten lately, they are the same as they have always been. Some solid out of state players, all the good in-state players and a couple of marquee names here and there.

Well, that is actually true. The only problem with this is, is probability.

Nebraska can be considered as very fortunate during the early to mid-nineties in recruiting. No, they weren't drenched with one big name after another, but the ones they got validated those rankings. Aaron Taylor, Grant Wistrom, Jason Peter, Terrell Farley and of course, Tommie Frazier.

Each proved to the very playmaker they were assumed to be. Nowadays, those that came in with the hype, have brought mostly hope as fans are wondering if their "name" will ever be as heard as it was coming out of their prep school days.

Because of injury or poor performance, names like Septak, Amos, Flaum, Grixby, Miller and more have fallen either into obscurity or they have been relegated to a lesser role. Those players not withstanding though, you look up and down the roster of the team, what's missing are those aforementioned "playmakers". There are some, yes, but not very long ago, there used to be playmakers on the two-deep, while now, you have to actually look to find them somewhere on the starting roster.

The talent pool has dwindled, but more, NU's odds of bringing in playmakers and them staying such have gone from good to bad.

And part of the reason for that leads us to the other part of the "chicken and the egg" theory, coaching.

No matter how much talent you have, if you don't know what to do with them, you might as well be playing tiddly winks instead of football. All the speed, talent, size and strength in the world will do wonders against teams so overmatched, that organization really doesn't matter, but against quality opponents, against ranked opponents, all that potential must have some sort of direction.

Along with the loss of great players, so to has the coaching pool for NU dried up and went bounding away like tumbleweed over a dry and windy plain. Osborne, McBride, Samuel, Steele and Solich the running back coach have all added to the depleted reserves. The firings in recent weeks only go to validate that as the players went, so to did their salaried leaders.

The whole theory behind this most recent year of NU football is one that is just that. Some conjecture as to what the problem was and where did it begin. The loss of quality coaches, the dwindling of quality recruits or the lack of coaches to take good recruits and make them better, instead of watching them wallow on the bench or the practice squad.

Position leaders, both on the sidelines and on the field. Playmakers, both on the sidelines and on the field. Coaches and players both working in unison, rather than each having to depend on the other. Maybe it is cohesion between the recruits and coaches on both sides that's missing, but that is cohesion that for now, is a fantasy.

A fragmentation of both units exists and only good coaches with good players can bring it all back together.

That begs the question though, which has to come first?

This weekend, a lot of good players come in to Lincoln to visit, but where's the coaches? Firings have not led to any hirings and though Solich would downplay it all, while trying to overstate the confidence recruits have in the process NU is taking to get good coaches, there still are no coaches.

And Frank Solich has said that before the 27th of this month, there will be at least some coaches in place.

Will it be soon enough though? Big visits this weekend and next. Recruits wanting to make the pledge and no longer elongate a process that for them, has been long enough already. Will they wait for coaches or will the coaches have to wait for them, rather the next big class in a year following or possibly thereafter?

Re-loading has turned into rebuilding at NU. Block by block, player by player and yes, coach by coach, they are re-tooling for the future.

Everyone knows what the answer is as to what it takes to get back to the top. The formula is easy. Great players and great coaches equal great teams. Across the board, at least right now, Nebraska has neither.

So, I ask again, which has to come first?

Steve Ryan can be reached at or 402-730-5619

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