Can you believe we're only nine days away from kickoff? That long wait through miserable basketball and baseball games, the tease that was spring football, is all in the rear-view mirror as we hurtle toward the first sweet fall Saturday and the feeling that, once again, all is right in the world.
Considering I've neglected to post much on Nebraska-related developments the past couple of days, I'm going to spend the bulk of today's Hot Routes focusing on the Big Red, then moving on to whatever conference and national matters I find noteworthy (or worthy of poking fun at).
Who's Afraid Of A Little Freshman?
The biggest news, at least in terms of buzz, is the announcement that Cody Green has taken the lead in the race to be the No. 2 quarterback. Green, the stud freshman who some thought might redshirt this year behind Kody Spano before the latter's injury, has apparently grasped the intricate Nebraska offense quite well, gaining the confidence of his coaches and teammates through nearly three weeks of fall camp.
The real concern here is that Watson already said he won't change his play-calling to protect Zac Lee from injury, which means that we are one play away from having a true freshman manning the most important position on the field.
That said, Green is obviously no ordinary freshman, and the days of worrying about an 18-year-old kid not being able to do the job are for the most part gone. With the advancements in year-round football camps, clinics, training, and the increase in kids getting on campus a semester early for spring ball, having a freshmen under center isn't nearly as scary as it used to be.
Just look at Terrelle Pryor or Robert Griffin last year. I think both of those teams probably had few complaints about the quality of their quarterback play.
The other thing that boosts my confidence about Green's rise on the depth chart is that Watson has said he won't dumb-down the playbook for him. He's going to coach him 'till they feel he'll be ready to play with no drop-off from Zac, and it seems like the staff is confident he'll get to that level pretty quickly.
Battering Rams May Not Be the Best Backs
After the dismissal of Quentin Castille, many bemoaned the fact that the Huskers now lacked a short-yardage battering ram for the goal line situations. I, too, was a little concerned about it, as it's tough to find guys who are 235 pounds and can run like Quentin did.
After reading this article by Jon Nyatawa over on the Omaha World Herald site, my concerns are put to rest, at least a little bit. Quoting running backs' coach Tim Beck:
“It's still about reading holes and getting through there,” Beck said. “It does help sometimes if you're a bigger guy and somebody's in the way...but you have these guys who can make big plays because they make people miss. Sometimes that two-yard gain for the first down on 3rd-and-1 becomes a 50-yard touchdown.”
Here's my opinion on the usage of big backs like Castille: Are they the be-all, end-all for short yardage situations? Of course not. One of the best short-yardage backs in history of the game was Marcus Allen, whose wiry 6'2", 210-pound build more resembled that of Lester Ward than Quentin Castille.
Another instance of battering-ram tailbacks not assuring a first down is from the epic USC-Texas national championship game at the end of the 2005 season. Needing one yard to move the chains and keep Vince Young off the field, LenDale "Kripsy Kreme" White couldn't get it.
That said, my argument in favor of guys like Q is that the deeper you go into a game, the more it wears out the linebackers and secondary having to tackle a guy like that. Have you ever tried to stop someone like that when they have a head of steam? I have, and it felt like someone hit my shoulder with a sledgehammer. Extrapolate that over four quarters and you get an idea of what I mean.
All of this, of course, is a moot point because Quentin is gone, and the task now falls to Roy and Nebraska's stable of speedsters. As Beck pointed out, results are results. It doesn't matter how NU gets them as long as it's effective.
No Fan of "Fan Cans?"
To no surprise, Tom Osborne isn't really wild about Bud Light's "Fan Cans." Given T.O.'s opinion on underage alcohol abuse on college campuses, this was a given. All I really want to know is which place in Nebraska got some of those cans? Because I'd like to call them and buy a case to be shipped up here.
They have fan cans up here for the Vikings, but I fear that drinking beer out of a purple and yellow can may make me question my sexuality, whereas red and white would probably shoot my consumption to an entirely new level on fall Saturdays.
I mean, I'm going to be wearing a red shirt and a red hat...to have red and white Bud Light cans on top of it? That might put too much strain on an already overburdened liver.
Still, my opinion aside, Osborne's request falls in line with nearly every athletic director and college president in the country, and I'm not going to argue with the logic in their arguments. Will this stop underage consumption? Well, no. It won't even slow it down. But if you're in their shoes, you have to make that move and speak out against it.
Latravis Lapped At QB? Big Surprise
While part of me feels for Latravis Washington being disappointed about getting passed by Cody Green, can he really be that surprised?
Washington hadn't played quarterback since high school, whereas Green was coming in right after a ballyhooed career in Texas, with both of them beginning their NU quarterback career at the same time.
Furthermore, isn't competition what makes great programs great? The most-repeated phrase of camp thus far is that nobody's job—save Zac Lee's—is safe; every guy has to be sharp and busting his ass every day, or he runs the risk of being passed by. While disappointment is understandable, the good thing is he seems to have the right reaction:
"I'm kind of disappointed in myself I didn't come out as the No. 2, but I'm going to just keep working and keep grinding, just keep on pushing forward...It's whatever the coaches want. I'm a team player."
Honesty Is Always the Best Policy
Is anyone loving Bo's mentality and Pelini-isms through fall camp? After a sub-par practice, he comes out and says that "We're not a very good team right now." Which is exactly what needs to be said if the secondary is giving up deep balls, which is reportedly one of the big factors for Bo's surly attitude after practice Wednesday.
After watching opposing wideouts fly by our defensive backs over and over again last year, largely because of mental mistakes like biting on underneath routes, it's good to see that everyone is so focused on accountability.
I've been one of Larry Asante's biggest critics, but to hear him say "We need to step it up" makes me excited to see what kinds of improvements we'll see from the pass defense.