The Factory

Glancing through the Husker's roster of offensive linemen, a pattern begins to emerge involving redshirt players and walk ons.  Before Tyler Moore decided to leave the program, he was only one of two players who did not redshirt in their first year of the program.  The other, Andrew Rodriguez, will compete for a starting spot at left guard or left tackle.  It is no surprise that a red shirt built up the strength and game knowledge of a player for an extra year.  It may be the difference in depth the Huskers need.  But a surprise is how many walk on and former walk on players will contribute important time in 2012.

Three former walk on offensive linemen were granted scholarships for their efforts.  For Spencer Long, Bo Pelini had already indicated that this was coming.  The Junior started every game in 2011 at guard, and made a number of preseason watch and accolades lists.  But for Seung Hoon Choi and Justin Jackson, it was a surprise.  Choi will surely see time on the field to spell Rodriguez, and Jackson is battling hard at the center position logjam.

Of the 26 listed players still on the roster, 11 are current or former walk on players, and 25 have been or will likely be red-shirted this year.  This is critical for depth in case of injury, and even that second half push to wear down opposing defensive lines.  The larger pool allows someone to step into roles and the chance to perform at a high level.  Now that Moore is gone, only 3 players have started at any point.  However, 8 players have been in the offensive line rotation, some for entire seasons of backup roles.

Yes, Choi, Long, Rodriguez will play because they started before.  But Brent Qvale, Jeremiah Sirles, Jake Cotton, Cole Pensick, are other contributing players that will continue to add depth as they have in the past.  Some new guy names that will come to be recognized could be Justin Jackson, Brandon Thompson, Mike Moudy, or Brandon Chapek.  They have earned accolades and mentions over the spring and summer, and some have had to step up because of an injury.  It is important for the next guy in line to bring the same level of effort as the first.

This is not the pipeline.  The big guys do not just come in, play their games, and leave.  Offensive linemen are being built by a process here.  This is an O-Line factory, mass-producing the type of player needed for the system.  The team within a team is being trained to recognize the part each one has to play on the field, more than just knocking down the defensive lineman or linebacker in front of them.  If it is truly the case that the work to clean up some of the little issues is successful, than this position group is one that will come to impress the whole of the conference by the end of the season.

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Barney has produced a few conference level players but never an all american level player.  Unfortunately, it appears that his ability to coach players “up” has a limit that being Barney was a “second-team All-Big Eight honors” and this is the level he seems to coach at.

Barney will be the next to go.

Barney isn’t gone after this eason it won’t be long before Bo will be gone.  This hire was a mistake made out of loyality but never the less a huge mistake!  We will never have a dominant O line with Barney at the helm!

I think I’d really like to reserve judgement on whether Barney should go until after the season.  The loss of Klatchko and Moore are significant, but it seems they have been building towards this season in terms of depth and experience on the line.  There will be strides in development this year.  And since when did getting “just” all conference players become a bad thing?  And what happens if Spencer Long (or even Andrew Rodriguez) becomes the type of All-American people have been waiting for?  Long is on national watchlists at this point and he has the skill to be an AA.

I think I’ll reserve judgement till after the season too.  Last year we put in a new offense and that is probably as difficult for the o-line as any other player/unit.  Plus, we’ve only had one year with the two-coach system. We really need to see improvement this year though…it is pivotal.  The player departures is concerning and we need to see more consistency/less mistakes for sure.

I also thought the d-line was worse last year, honestly.  I’m more worried about that front and think we need to see as much improvement there, if not more, this year…particularly against the run.  If we see Southern Miss blowing through our line like UT-Chattanooga/Fresno St. last year, we will be in big trouble come conference time.

I think people will be pleseantly surprised by our line this year, therefore will eat their words on cotton.. GO BIG RED!

I don’t think you should rule out redshirts and walk-ons. You look at any team and they’ve got lots of examples of hungry guys the scouts missed that ended up kicking serious butt. I’ve already gotten tickets at Go Big Red!

Could the poor line play, be related to that fact we have a subpar starting QB, who is prone to making poor mistakes, e.g. holding on to the ball to long? NU’s rushing output seems to fine, as we ranked 16th nationally in rushing, so it would seem that our line at least fairly well. So maybe it is possible Barney Cotton is not entirely to blame.

Poor line play because the QB holds on too long is different from the false starts and holding (especially right off the block) that have plagued the team.  They keep saying focus is the issue at hand.  We have the physicality based on rushing numbers, but simply paying attention to when the ball is snapped or watching hand position on a block - those things have been missing.

The problem we are suffering from is the class of 2009, which is Coach Pelini’s first full class he had a year to recruit.  Simply put the class of 2009 has not been a very productive one.  From a class of 20 players nearly 1/3 are no longer with the program.  When people start wondering why there is not a whole lot of quality depth on Offensive Line and Linebackers especially the root causes for this will be the lack of productivity from this first class of Coach Pelini’s.  A lot of the young guys getting looks this fall and players like Long and Choi figured in was because the class of 09 has not been productive.  So when you look at the one and two Depth Chart you have Martinez, Ankrah, Burkhead, and Green.  Out of a 20 man class you have four starters.  Sirles played as a Freshman, Qvale has been hurt, Randle too and perhaps Pensick gets time this year.  In fairness Dejon Gomes was in this class so we can make it 5 starters out of 20.  But for contributions from this class that is more or less it.  You would probably want slightly better numbers than that.  Coach Pelini did a tremendous job of coaching up Coach Callahan’s players but his record (excluding JUCO’s) is spotty at best.  He is a young coach but there are executive and managerial aspects to running a program like this that he’s still growing into.  These are his players, his position coaches, and his program now. . .

What’s problematic for me is that he’s spent time at Oklahoma and LSU, two places that put premium on getting talent.  And I can already hear the grumbling of those who are reading this at this point so I would like to point out a few facts that must be considered:

1)  Coach Pelini is not Dr. Tom Osborne and nor will he ever be.  He does not have the football mind or the executive and managerial talent that Dr. Osborne had. There is no shame there.  When people say that it took Dr. Osborne time to get to the top please consider that there is only one Dr. Osborne, and his success will not be duplicated by anybody in college football ever again. . .

2)  Yes it did take Dr. Osborne 6 tries to beat Oklahoma, and 20-something years to win his first National Championship, and yes he did have his time of struggle between 1988-1992 (Bowl Games) BUT this was at a time when things are MUCH different than today, which leads me to point three. . .

3)  For a large part of Dr. Osborne’s career there were two shows between The Mississippi and The Rockies.  We used to carry over 100 scholarship players.  In regards to both of these points the conditions on the ground as they exist today are very different. . .

4)  Dr. Osborne’s Coaching Staff and Coach Pelini’s Coaching Staff cannot be compared.  Dr. Osborne’s was better, by a million miles and then some.  You just can’t compare the two staffs.  To throw out one Coach Tenopir or Coach Cotton. . .

This is not a shrill declaration to burn down the house and run everyone out of town but since last season there are legitimate, and correctable, problems that exist.  Wasting Redshirts (Rodriguez, and this was admitted by Coaching Staff), taking 3 IB’s in same class and not Redshirtting at least one, starting freshman for early games and then banishing them to the bench for the remainder of the season, musical chairs on the offensive line without having these players learn how to play one position first and settle into it, and other managerial issues.  I feel a little alone sometimes out here because it seems that once people want to bring up legitimate issues we’re treated like anarchists. We hear the word Culture a lot.  Well one has developed.  It is one where we win 9 games, lose to an unranked team under odd circumstances sometimes, lose to all BCS caliber teams, and where the team has a prickly, sensitive, demeanour that sometime loses composure.  Kind of like their young head coach. . .

Again, this is not fire Coach Pelini but there are problems out there and what scares me is that Coach Hoke and Coach Meyer are just better recruiters, managers, and coaches than Coach Pelini at the moment.  Coach Hoke went out and got the best people he could find.  Coach Pelini finds guys that know him.  In his interview with Big 10 Network he didn’t say that Coach Papuchis was the best candiate for the job.  He said he had been him since LSU.  We’re at a critical time for our program.  We have to show that we are moving forward this year. . .

Holding penalties can be attributed to the QB holding onto the ball too long. If he’s not getting his reads right and he’s sitting in the pocket waiting for someone to get open, then O-linemen are going to hold to avoid a sack. If the QB isn’t getting the snap count right, then that can lead to false starts. My point being that it isn’t all Barney Cotton’s fault, and solely blaming him for the O-line problems is an easy excuse. And it’s well documented that Taylor Martinez has had issues in both these categories.

I must agree with James…Hoke and Meyer know how to run programs, turn around programs, and are FAR better recruiters. Young Bo is, unfortunately, exactly the opposite. We have to deal with it and hope for the best because he’ll be here for at least another 3 years no matter what happens. And at the end of 3 years, there is a good chance, better than not in fact based on the last 4 years trends, that we’re going to be almost exactly where we are now; 3rd in our division…unless things magically change, which of course we’re all hoping for. Care to place a bet it does? I didn’t think so. And THEN we’ll be out looking for another HC and staff and starting all over again…like we’ve done 2 times now.
Osborne has now made 2 huge hiring blunders…Solich, and now hiring someone who was popular, but had never been a HC before and therefore very inexperienced in Bo Pelini. Bo has proven who he is and who he isn’t. A great coach and program manager he isn’t. To hold on to a guy like barney Cotton is insane…everyone can see it…the only person to ever give him any praise that I’ve ever heard is a guy working under him just recently…how convenient. You can make all the excuses you want for the guy, but the proof is in the pudding…our O line sucks, always has under Pelini and he does not seem to put all that much importance on it…you never hear him talking about it and he’s never recruited much for the position except for 2011 and half those guys are mysteriously gone; maybe he’s just been so wrapped up in defense, I don’t know, but the situation is dire. We have no beasts; we have no pipeline; we have no one even close to an AA. Some good players yes, but no proven names. Our 2 best guys are walk ons! that should tell you something. And his non focus on a dominating O line has most likely cost us 2 conference championships and other games as well…still think hiring isn’t important Bo? Ya, keep on hiring no names and see what happens.
We’re stuck with Cotton, at least for this season; he’s certainly not going to fire him 2 weeks before the season opener. Another year of sub-par performance is what we have to look forward to and another year of staying about right where we are now; better for sure, but nothing anyone would call real champions. Nothing coming close to Nebraska football. And everyone else (Michigan, OSU, Mich State, Wisconsin) getting better and better because they know how to do it…you go out and get the best coaching talent you can possibly get or afford! Like Hoke did, like Meyer did, and Saben did. You DON’T hire folks because they’re nice guys that you worked with before and happen to know you that you think have potential!!! That’s what they do at Idaho State Bo!
Sorry Tom…this is no factory.

These are probably topics for another day, but we’re seeing the results of Bo Pelini’s on the job training.  Are we patient enough to see if he’s learned from his mistakes by giving him a pass on the first few years of coaching and recruiting?

The number one thing that I want to see this year… does the team implode against one So Miss, UCLA, Minnesota, NW, Iowa?  If this situation really has improved, the Huskers split 2-2 Wisc, Mich, MSU, OSU and win the rest.

Tom, you had to know when writing this you would only be fanning the fire Barney, Bo sucks, our QB is awful, the sky is falling and we will never ever ever win again and be like the 90’s Huskers flames.

Sorry, brief lapse….
Today’s fans are far to impatient to let a coach build a team for long term success. They want results yesterday. Yes this team has had its problems but just as Martinez is getting the same offense 2 years in a row, so is the o line. I expect marked improvement in all phases of our offense this year and with that a better than 9 win year. Hell, I would bet this team could win 11, and there still will be fans pissing on the teams success with negative, ignorant comments. That certainly doesn’t mean that some are not very insightful and worth a read.
Patience Husker fans, patience. And be thankful your not a Hawkeye or Buffallo fan. GBR

To Tom…good point. We are certainly seeing the results of Bo’s on the job training. And ya, I think I am patient enough. I’ll give him a while. Especially if this season is as good as it can be. Even if we loose some big games, I can deal with that if it’s respectable. It’s improvement at this point I think everyone wants to see. But without making it at least respectable, then all bets are off…well, then again, we’ll all still be here who are we kidding! LOL !!!
Seems to me this is a very pivitol season for Bo and the gang. It better be good or he’ll be on a seat that is definatly warming.

James Moore:

I think that you are missing a huge point in regards to Pellini’s recruiting.  A program tends to develop a relationship with high school coaches and their programs throughout the country.  These are your “meat and potatoes” players, guys that fillout your squad.  These high school coaches develop players in systems that are close to what the collegiate program runs, hence the reason the relationship was established.  So when it comes time to recruit the program has a good idea of what is available talentwise that fits its system.  Now, there are exceptions when targeting highly ranked recruits, the ones that every school makes an offer to.  And those results can vary year to year.  But a solid class always comes back to the “meat and potatoes”.

Our walk on program has assisted with the MaP players as well, but this is only a supliment.  Without those good relationships a program ends up with substandard players providing substandard depth overall.  Callahan’s first misive in becoming Head Coach was to rewrite the Husker program’s system.  Out MaP guys were no longer of interest to the program under his watch.  He caused a lot of bad feelings and serverly damaged our recruiting relationships.  As a direct result, he was able to bring in a fair amount of skill position players but relied on substandard guys and JUCO’s to fill out the roster.  He also unbalanced the recruiting classes, its not a good thing to have one or two heavy classes with two or three light classes over five years.

Now enter Coach Pelini, not only does he have to identify the skill players that ever program is after he also has to re-establish the MaP pipeline that Callahan destroyed.  Wonder why Hoke seems to be rebounding quicker?  RR tried to become a Michigan Man, he kept the traditions and recruiting relationships in tact only varied how he would run his system.  Callahan did neither of those things.  Pellini was/is realistically at minimum 5 years from rebalancing the program from a recruiting standpoint.

Not many fans understand exactly how bad Callahan left us.  We are Nebraska, we NEED those relationship to thrive for the Huskers to be successful.  We don’t have recruiting hotbeds like California, Florida, or Texas.  Heck we’re not even as fertile a recruiting ground as New Jersey.  So please take some perspective on how far Pelini has actually brought us, we’re close to regaining our former status.  Maybe not this year but next year most likely.

Cotton needs to go. Whenever you watch the game the o-line can never make a hole and the backs just run into the lineman. Pretty sure martinez got hurt again cuz the o-line got pushed back and he got his ankle stepped on. Look at teams that run the ball on us and they make holes size of busses but we can only make holes size of gopher holes. Cotton needs to go or Pelini is going to put himself on the hot seat

Mack…you put it better than anyone else has. I never thought of it but the guy has cost us more than thought…yes your right…it was an O lineman that got his you know what handed to him, was being pushed backwards and that is the reason Taylor got his ankle stepped on. Your absolutly right! And what has that cost us? Probably more than a few games and some blowouts and most likely a conference championship. That’s all Barney Fife…I mean Cotton…has cost us. Get the BUM outta here !!! I say run him out of town on a rail before it gets too late!!!

Husker Pepper,

Thank you kindly for your response.  I’m not joking or trying to be sarcastic in any way.  I’m appreciative of the opportunity to have a discussion regarding this.  Sir, I am very aware of how far we have come.  I also realize that before this move we were recruiting for two lane read, matchup Cover 2 which requires personnel different than what we needed last year.  I can see that we are moving to three man fronts and that we are starting to get the pieces needed to play an aggressive, fast flow (possibly one gap assignment) defense which is considerably different.  We are tweaking some things here and I can attest that there are some things that are in a state of transition to acclimate us to this new conference. . .

What my concerns are is that, as you said, we are 500-some odd miles from Chicago.  We have to aggressively and promote this program.  We didn’t even give out all of our official visits last year.  That just can’t happen.  When I look around it seems difficult to imagine a scenario where we can go to California for the top shelf talent.  USC is back, Oregon is still out there, Rich Rodriguez will do very well at Arizona, and it’s hard to see people getting people from Pac 10 territory to leave.  That is a conference on the move. . .

We’re not in The Big 12 anymore so Texas will be a place we go but we’re kind of “out of sight out of mind” when it comes to being a player down there.  Do not underestimate Missouri moving forward.  They are in The SEC and will be able in time to start to lock up their home state.  Urban Meyer is at Ohio State.  That turf just became exponentially more difficult to recruit moving ahead.  In my posting I was just trying to point out that the managerial and executive needed to compete and suceed at this level is not up to par at the moment.  I do realize Coach Pelini is young, but this is something that is a problem, but a very correctable one at that. . .

It just seems that many people in Husker Nation believe that Dr. Osborne assembled those Dynasty Teams in a laboratory out of spare parts and WD40.  Those teams had talent, and loads of it.  Boatloads of NFL talent.  Especially on The Blackshirts.  I look at the reruns from the BCS Bowls of last year, and what did I see?  Well coached football teams with NFL talent.  At some point we need to aggressively get out and promote this magnificent machine we have here. . .

I guess what is somewhat disappointing for me was the realization that I came to the other day.  To be good enough to win The SEC you need to be good enought to win it all.  Same goes for The Big 12.  To be good enough to win The Big 10 might not be enough to win The Rose Bowl.  That kinda sucks.  But recent history says, that for the moment, is true. . .

On the topic of recruting did u guys watch the Wyo game last year and c there Qb. He could play. What id like to know is how does Wyo get a Qb like that and NE get Tmart. Yes he is a good athelete but he is no Qb at any leval. Were was the recruting there.

Nebraska is lucky to have a player of T Marts caliber. He’s one of the top QB’s in the country…#18 in fact and how many hundreds of QB’s are there? 124 teams each with 3? That’s 372. He’s #18 and people are complaining? Your kidding right? You are in Nebraska…we run first then throw. We are the king of dual threat QB’s, not West Coast throwers. Taylor Martinez will in all likelyhood re-write the record books…and I mean ALL records, and that includes the passing records.
Never ceases to amaze me when people speak ill of Taylor Martinez…it’s like they watch one game all year and think they have an educated opinion without knowing any of the relevant facts. Fact 1) He was HURT for 3/4 of his 2 seasons. Fact 2) He was a FRESHMAN! Then he was in a new system, with a new coordinator, in a new conference, without a backup or good offensive line. How can people not see how that might effect a players decision making or play? He has shown what he can do when healthy and in a good system. When he was, they were talking Heisman. He’s got nothing to prove to anybody.

Pe he is not a qb and bo should start fresh again and start armstong

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