Nebraska Football: Is Bo Pelini Changing Up the Blackshirts' Schemes?

Mike WehlingAnalyst IJune 14, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Defensive end Cameron Meredith #34 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers closes in on  quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11of the Missouri Tigers during first half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Missouri 31-17. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Head Coach Bo Pelini of Nebraska is known as a defensive genius.  He resurrected the Blackshirts after their abysmal performance under previous head coach Bill Callahan, who was good at offense but not so much at defense.

Callahan's last year in 2007 saw the Huskers give up 37.9 points per game.  Bo took over in 2008 and saw an improvement with a drop to 28.5 points per game, but in 2009 the Blackshirts returned to dominance as they only gave up an astounding 10.4 points per game, good for best in the country in 2009. 

In the 2010 season, Nebraska only gave up 17.4 points per game.  Nebraska's defensive formation during this time was the Peso, a 4-2-5, which effectively took on the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12, but would struggle at times with run-based offenses, like against Texas, or when the offense wasn't doing enough to help the defense, like against Texas.

As most people should know, Nebraska completed its first season in the Big Ten.  Some had the Huskers as favorites to win the title because of the defense.  However, the defense was somewhat of a let down this year, giving up 23.4 points per game

Injuries were abound on the team, with Jared Crick's season ending injury against Ohio State, Alfonzo Dennard injured for the first part of the season, linebackers injured and defensive tackles so injured that offensive backups were switched to the defense.  Also, adjusting to the new offensive play of the Big Ten played a part in the drop as the defense had to learn how to play against eight new teams.

Bo is known to adapt.  He did not adopt the Peso until the second season and it wasn't well known until the third season. This brings us to news from a recruit.  Nebraska commit Scout 4-star defensive lineman Christian Lacouture out of College Station, Texas, who was recruited as a 3-4 defensive end/outside linebacker.  Christian is also playing 7-on-7 football to improve his hands for his role as a linebacker and will play that same hybrid role in high school this season.  Interesting.

Could Nebraska be switching up the defense to a 3-4 scheme?  Maybe; it works for Alabama doesn't it?  Same may automatically dismiss this, but consider a few things. 

First is that Bo's defenses work best when they have hybrid or amazing players that just cannot be off the field.  Players like Suh and Hagg. 

Second, Nebraska has pulled off a 3-4 before.  In 2010 Nebraska would drop a defensive end, usually Cameron Meredith, into the linebacker position.  This worked extremely well, especially against Missouri in 2010. 

Third, another Nebraska commit, Scout 4-star defensive end AJ Natter of Milton, Wisconsin, also plays a 3-4 defensive end/linebacker hybrid.  If you watch the video, Natter plays a lot of time at the hybrid position.  So that's two players being recruited that will play a 3-4 hybrid.

Like I said, Bo adapts his defense.  Could this be his way of changing the defense to work the best against the Big Ten? 

Nebraska is recruiting quite a few linebackers to make up for not having that many during their time in the Big 12.  This would be a way to get more of them onto the field.  If Natter, and Lacouture play defensive end, then Nebraska could play more of its linebackers as they have recruited quite a few.  This may be Bo's way of getting his best players on the field.

As for this year, if we do see a 3-4, the hybrid player could possibly be Eric Martin who alternates between a linebacker and defensive end already.  Will Nebraska stay at a 4-3 or switch to a 3-4?  We undoubtedly will learn more as the season draws near, and especially when the games are played.