Bo Pelini's Nebraska Cornhuskers and their quest to return to relevance on the national stage took a big punch to the gut today. Arguably, the pain from this blow is harder to take for Husker fans than the last second loss to Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.
In the all-important recruiting wars, Nebraska lost two of its top offensive players this week. Four star recruits Tyler Gabbert, quarterback, and Curtis Carter, wide receiver, both decommitted. These dejections will set back even further a Nebraska recruiting class that was already ranked outside the Top 25 on Rivals.
Neither player left any question as to why they made their decisions either.
Tyle Gabbert, whose brother Blaine also decommited from Bill Callahan's Cornhuskers, said that Nebraska's offense and play calling no longer fit the mold of what he was looking for. He also expressed concern with Nebraska's inability in the last two years to recruit talent to the offensive side of the ball.
Translated, this likely means that Gabbert was scared off by the level of ineptitude the Nebraska offense and coaching staff showed this year and he doesn't see it changing in the near future.
Even if you view the parting of ways between Nebraska and Gabbert as being mutually complimentary because of a difference in style, Gabbert's criticism of the lack of talent at the wide receiver position and his critique that the Nebraska coaching staff is unable or uninterested in recruiting talented receivers and tight ends is troubling.
Carter, for his part, was even more pointed when he explained his decision to decommit and said he had been watching Nebraska all year and was unimpressed with the playcalling and skill sets of both quarterbacks, Zac Lee and Cody Green.
Both players, Gabbert and Carter, are now considering playing for Nebraska rival Missouri.
Coupled with the historically awful performance of the offense this year (it was the worst Nebraska offense since 1968), the news of these offensive decommitments doubles the pressure on Bo Pelini to make changes in his staff and offensive system for next year.
Nebraska fans have been howling for Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson's head all year. The best argument for retaining Watson had been that if Nebraska fired him his top recruits like Gabbert and Carter would probably leave too. Well, scratch that argument in Watson's favor. It now seems plausible that change in the offensive coordinator position could actually breathe some life into Nebraska's offensive recruiting class.
Bo Pelini is now learning why it is so hard to be a head coach. The head coach is responsible for the total performance of his team in all three phases of the game.
As impressive as the turnaround of the defense has been this year, the historic collapse of the offense compared to its relative success during the last two years of Bill Callahan's regime does not reflect well on Pelini's leadership. Nebraska's offense cost the team a BCS slot this year.
If improvements are not made in the near future, one has to wonder if the struggles of the offense could even eventually cost Bo Pelini his job.