If there is a position anymore responsible for the overall outcome or record of a team than that of the quarterback, then I don't know what it is. Their role in every offensive play is critical to the success of that very play, the win and ultimately if the season will be considered a success or not.
The biggest question of the 2009-10 season for Nebraska was who was going to replace Joe Ganz as the starter at quarterback. The likely front-runners included Patrick Witt, a red shirt sophomore who was first off the bench in mop-up and injury duty in 2008-09, or Zach Lee, a heralded junior college transfer who also saw time last year.
Include in the picture a red shirt freshman, Kody Spano, who obviously has ability and heralded true freshman, Cody Green, who has just made his way to Lincoln. These two could push for time this season, but it's more likely that the quarterback race was just between two horses.
Gone is Patrick Witt from the quarterback picture. Maybe the picture of who will more than likely replace Joe Ganz is clearer, but it's even more clear that Nebraska is not better without the only other experienced quarterback, Witt.
The situation with Witt in it wasn't all that rosy for Nebraska. Witt, the most experienced of the returning quarterbacks, brought with him two previous springs of experience and seeing time in five games, going 6-for-8 for 48 yards. Witt added four rushes, averaging five yards per carry and scored a rushing touchdown.
Lee, the only other quarterback on the NU roster to see time, only saw action in two games and was 1-for-2 for five yards. Lee added two rushes for 17 yards averaging eight and a half yards per carry.
Add the stats together of Witt and Lee, as well as the time they spent on the field together, and there wasn't much. Take away the share brought to the table by Witt and you lose the lion's share.
The problem existed already that there wasn't going to be anyone remotely considered seasoned returning for the next year and then you have the most experienced request to transfer. A shaky position went to 7.0 on the Richter scale.
An article was released last week by tampabay.com, as well as other rumors and speculation, that Mike Ekeler is being considered for a position by South Florida. Jim Leavitt, the head coach at South Florida, was Ekeler's position coach at Kansas State where he walked on to play linebacker from 1991-1994.
While Ekeler is a relative newcomer to being a paid, full-time assistant coach, that doesn't mean that he isn't seasoned or not capable. In fact, Ekeler was a GA at Oklahoma in 2003 and 2004 with 2004 being under defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. During that stretch, the Sooners went to a National Championship game and were 24-3.
When Pelini made the move to Baton Rouge and LSU in 2005, Mike Ekeler followed and was a GA there from 2005 to 2006. In 2007, Ekeler held an intern position at LSU and helped coach LSU to a National Championship. Ekeler was around one of the top defenses at LSU, all time, when the 2006 team allowed just 242 yards per game.
Not only does Ekler have a resume at some of the premier schools in the nation, but he has seen success. More than that, he has seen and been part of the hard work that has led to that success.
At Nebraska, Ekeler has been known as a coach that relates well to his players; a player's coach. More than that though, he is a motivator and a high energy guy that can often be found pounding the pavement around the downtown area getting his exercise in.
What makes Ekeler special though is what he brings to the table in terms of recruiting. Almost single-handedly, Ekeler was able to turn around a terrible situation with a high profile recruit like Will Compton and landed him into the 2008 class with very little face time.
This is where Nebraska will suffer. Nebraska's defensive staff are all great coaches. They are very educated and are led by one of the brightest, defensive minded head coaches in the nation in Bo Pelini.
Ekeler's coaching can more than likely be replaced. Potentially replacing his almost youthfulness way, his charisma and his energy will be difficult to do. Then you throw into an equation an old name that might could succeed him at Nebraska.
Almost immediately following the rumors of Ekeler and USF came the name Jimmy Williams. Williams, an assistant coach under Bo's tenure as a DC at Nebraska back in 2003, was the linebackers coach for a very good Nebraska unit.
However, Williams wasn't known for his prowess on the recruiting front. Then again, beyond coaches like Ekeler, Tim Beck, John Papuchis and Shawn Watson, very few of the current assistant coaches showed a dedication to coaching on the field as well as nabbing talent for the future.
Adding another coach to a staff where over half of the staff isn't known for being strong recruiters would be a crushing blow. Now, I am not saying Williams would be a bad coach, but what I am saying is that if Ekeler did leave and Williams was named a successor that there wouldn't be anyone on the staff that could necessarily do what Ekeler did in his short time at Nebraska when it came to recruiting.