Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald recently interviewed Nebraska Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson. I found some incredibly telling information within the few questions and answers. Among them:
Wats explained how the offense was thrown into 'management' mode even before the season started when they lost both OL Jaivorio Burkes and IB Quentin Castille, both of whom were expected to be major factors in the '09 campaign. Once the season got going, every OL suffered injuries limiting their practice time, thus limiting the 'game-like' reps Pelini wants and demands. The lack of depth combined with the injuries resulted in a lack of competition....and without that the offense could not evolve. Then QB Zac Lee damaged his throwing elbow and IB Roy Helu Jr suffered a shoulder injury that never got right. Buckup IB Rex Burkhead breaks his foot in practice (what would Iverson say?) and misses most of the season's 2nd half. The offense also was hit hard by the swine flu, especially during the Missouri game. However, I'm not claiming injuries as an excuse, and neiter was Watson. Every team has to deal with injuries. But because most of these injuries went unreported until after the season, most Husker fans wondered why the offense had gotten so basic. Knowing how banged up everyone really explains alot.
Watson goes on to describe how he and Bo envision the 2010 version of the offense. It can best be described as multiple -- mixing in both shotgun and under-center sets. They want to be a run-first offense, but will always take what's given. Their plan is to run a basic scheme until the opponent makes an adjustment, but always be one step ahead. Give them the same look but exploit the weakness that's given when what you were running is stopped. Expect two-backs, power running and play-action passes deep down field. Wats and Bo even spend time with Dr. Tom Osborne and former assistant Milt Tenopir to gain additinoal insight as to how the Big Red used to practice, how they used to play....heck, they might even have taken a play or two from the old play book -- we'll have to wait and see.
My thoughts -- I truly believe the Bros. Pelini think they have something special brewing. I really think that they think the Huskers can win the National Title in 2010. I like that. It will be really interesting to see how much of the 'multiple' offense is real, and how much is media-speak. I suppose we'll learn quite a bit in the Spring...but Lee isn't expected to be recovered from offseason elbow surgery by then, so the QB will still be a huge question mark. One thing I have learned is the green 'no contact' jersey for QBs will NOT be used by the Huskers until an absolute clear cut favorite emerges from the pack. In the spring, expect Cody Green to compete with Taylor Martinez, Kody Spano and LaTravis Washington for the starting job. All reports are that Martinez is an exceptional runner -- I would love to see him in the Wildcat formation, posing a true passing presence along with the ability to run. Green has a little experience now, and the bright light syndrome should be behind him. He really needs to spend time devouring the playbook -- and don't underestimate the fact that former Husker QB Joe Ganz is on board as an intern. I really think he can help relate to the younger players, especially Green. If Ganz can get what he knows in Green's body with that skill-set....look out!! Both Washington (a converted LB) and Spano are unproven -- and don't forget about Ron Kellogg Jr....he was Scout Team player of the year last year -- no small feat against that Blackshirt Defense.
Can't wait for Spring ball!!!