Don’t Overthink Cotton Move
I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone. They're often far more interesting than real life. Since Barney Cotton hasn't always been a fan favorite as an assistant coach, his shifting responsibilities have provided some ammunition for those who want to portray him as a failure. You could color the change in roles for Cotton as him being supplanted by John Garrison as offensive line coach, but in truth it seems more about shoring up a big question mark for 2013 and perhaps also about fatherhood.
On Friday, it was revealed that Barney Cotton will move from his role as offensive line coach to coach the tight ends and "run game coordinator". Head coach Bo Pelini said it was "ludicrous" to call the move a demotion. So why the move? There seem to be some logical reasons that might not please the anti-Barney crowd.
Garrison Gets It
Credit where credit is due. You can't make a move like this if you don't have faith in John Garrison. The line had a good year in 2012 (Athlon named it second only to Ohio State in the Big Ten) and that's a credit to both Garrison and Cotton. With a lot of returning experience, you may not get as much "bang for the buck" with two coaches that you would with a younger group of players. If you've got one good guy, that can be enough. Garrison looks like that guy.
Help Wanted for Tight Ends
Tight end by contrast is perhaps the biggest question on offense for 2013. Jake Long is an experienced blocker at tight end, but then virtually everyone else is coming in cold. Considering how important the position is for run blocking, pass protection, and as a pass-catching threat, there's a lot of work to be done to get this group ready to play. Allowing a veteran coach to focus on this position in an exclusive way is probably one of the best ways to prepare your next generation of tight ends.
One of the prime prospects for playing time at tight end will be redshirt freshman Sam Cotton. Yes, Barney loses some time coaching his son Jake by moving to tight end, but he'll get a chance to spend more time with Sam. At least for the coming season, tight end will probably be the more pressure position than guard and Sam is probably more crucial to team needs. There could be some anxiety with the tight ends under the microscope this season that the older Cotton wants to do everything possible to set Sam up for success. He can also take the blame when his son makes rookie mistakes. If Barney remained with the offensive line, he wouldn't be able to do as much to help Sam. Now, he can be right there when the heat is on.
People can believe that Cotton was demoted if they want. But the reasons probably have more to do with football and family than personality. Not nearly as interesting, perhaps. It probably makes more sense though.