Sunday, September 11, 2011
Back to the Future
We've seen the future, and it's not pretty. Nebraska escaped an upset bid from fiery Fresno State on Saturday, using two big plays and a lot of luck to win 42-29. Let's get on with a position-by-position report card:
QB--This is the future of Nebraska football, barring injury, for the next three seasons. Taylor Martinez has tapped his limited potential, and Nebraska will flounder because of it. Low football IQ, careless with the ball, poor passer. If the play doesn't involve him, he doesn't understand. Taylor run right. Taylor run left. Taylor lob ball high for long bomb touchdown. NU has seven fumbles in two games and a -2 turnover margin, mostly because of Martinez. That won't work.
RB--Who knows. If Rex Burkhead can't get positive yardage most times, who could? The backs are met by defenders in the backfield on a consistent basis, which makes us realize how good Roy Helu was at jumping sideways and just getting past the line of scrimmage.
Running back should be the most important position at NU. Instead, as a group, they got just 17 carries to Taylorina's 15. Aaron Green and Braylon Heard didn't get a touch. Looks like a great way to burn a redshirt. Do these coaches have a long-term plan on using/burning redshirts? Never seems like it.
OL--See above. Watching the Fresno game once was sickening enough, so we haven't analyzed the game tape yet. However, the blown assignments and lack of drive that we saw in 2010 remain in 2011. The Huskers average 5.7 yards per carry, but that's severely skewed by Martinez's long runs, which won't happen against good competition.
WR--Quincy Enunwa has been a pleasant surprise. Brandon Kinnie, by our count, has had eight balls thrown to him the first two games. He has one catch, FIVE drops and had his hands on the other two but didn't catch them. We'd hammer him Niles-Paul style, but he's not a delusional, arrogant flop like Paul. We're rooting for him, actually.
TE--Glad to see that Tim Beck thought Kyler Reed was good enough to use, once they fell behind to the Bulldogs and got desperate. How many yards could he rack up if he had a QB that threw like a man?
DL--Got pushed around badly on Saturday. That 'depth' that you heard about--everyone conveniently forgot that Jared Crick is the only one who's played well in the past, so having five other average linemen doesn't necessarily mean shit. Cameron Meredith was expectedly absent, after padding his stats against a pathetic Chattanooga team. We saw nothing from him or the other DEs.
LBs--LaVonte David was great, as usual, by necessity. Will Compton proved that he may be capable of contributing in Big 10 play, racking up 15 tackles. Sean Fisher constantly gets mismatched against faster slot players and won't be able to compete against good teams. This will be a huge problem area once conference teams start hammering at the spotty defensive line.
Safety--This is the best of times. This is the worst of times. Daimion Stafford has been the best addition to the NU team over two games and had eleven tackles against Fresno. Whether or not the Pinelli brothers will admit it, they will have to move him up to cover slot receivers and help David once Alfonzo Dennard returns.
Austin Cassidy is still awful and misses more tackles than he makes. He whiffed on both of Fresno's first two TDs--the Devon Wylie punt return and the Derek Carr run. Shades of Philip Bland and Clint Finley. Justin Blatchford, the junior for Ponca, Neb., can't compete at this level. He is consistently beaten by four yards on five-yard out patterns, because he doesn't have the acceleration out of the break to compete with elite athletes. Time to bench him. Is PJ Smith really so bad that he can't crack this rotation?
Punt Coverage--Brett Maher has no problem kicking it 55 yards, but he has no hang time. This is a problem in itself, but when John Papuchis insists on peppering his punt coverage team with slow walk-ons, the issue is accentuated. If you don't believe it, watch Wylie's 67-yard punt return TD and count the number of stiffs who miss tackles on his way to the endzone. Apparently, giving special teams playing time as sympathy reps didn't end with Frank Solich. Games are won and lost with these units....
Punt Return--Ameer Abullah looked great. Glad to see Tim Marlowe back there in his place several times instead. More sympathy reps for Bo's fellow Cardinal Mooney grad.
Kick Return--Abdullah saved the day for the Cornhuskers with his 100-yard return. Get him on the field.
There you have it. We could go on for days about the playing and coaching shortcomings on this team. There is a lot of youth, however, so we'll wait until this unit is tested against stiffer competition to make a final judgment. Either way, it's certain they'll be limited by their offensive line and their quarterback's continual fumbles, bumbles and errors.
When Nebraska football relies so heavily on one player, the future isn't bright. When that player is mentally soft and doesn't understand the game, it could be downright dark.