Nebraska Football: Cornhuskers on the Lookout for Offensive Identity

Brandon CavanaughCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04:  Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers looks for an open receiver against the Oklahoma Sooners at Cowboys Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Will the real Nebraska offense please stand up?

Bo Pelini knows how to orchestrate a defense, but it appears that he’s yet to truly nail down what he wants to see offensively.

Shawn Watson came to Nebraska to study Bill Callahan’s West Coast Offense philosophy. Offensive line coach Barney Cotton seems to be teaching more of a pro-style blocking scheme. This season saw a shift towards quarterbacks operating a spread option.

Every fan wants his team to be able to score in five different ways on any given play, but the Cornhuskers need to establish a main area of focus.

Rumors suggest that Nebraska is looking to combine aspects of the Florida spread offense that featured Tim Tebow and Oregon’s current fast-paced attack. Picture it as “The Tom Osborne Offense 2.0.”

One could argue that if this is the case, the Cornhuskers saw pieces of the puzzle on 2010’s depth chart, but the total package simply wasn't there.

Taylor Martinez provided speed and demanded a defender to account for him, thus allowing Nebraska’s other offensive weapons to break free. Once his ankle was injured, the Cornhuskers’ foes easily defended his raw passing skills.

Cody Green had size and strength, but this season showed that his passing mechanics still required polishing. His speed also took a few steps to get going. By that time, defenders had him stopped.

Regardless of the offense, a consistent and accurate passing game is still required to move the ball effectively. Green showed flashes of this against Colorado, but the remainder of his playing time was hit or miss.

Finally, there was Zac Lee, who saw little time during the season due to injury. His severely limited throwing ability coupled with lack of speed took away any chance of passing Green or Martinez on the depth chart.

Looking at Nebraska’s current quarterback commits, Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling could be very effective in an evolved spread option.

Turner has similar measurables to Martinez. Both quarterbacks are highly mobile and relied on their speed to reach the end zone. He could easily be utilized much in the same fashion as Martinez.

These two would provide Cornhusker coaches with two quarterbacks with similar traits and abilities as opposed to this year’s Martinez/Green contrast.

Starling is an imposing figure at 6’5” and 193 pounds. His size is combined with speed, similar to Turner and Martinez. With this in mind, behind a proper blocking scheme, he could easily be utilized in a similar fashion to Tebow.

Regardless of who is behind center, the correct blocks need to be made. It is vital that Coach Cotton communicates with Watson to ensure that this is the case. Both Watson and Cotton have worked under Pelini during his entire head coaching tenure. At this point, both coaches need to either shape up or ship out.

Another area of concern is at wide receiver. It seems odd that Niles Paul, a receiver that many scouts originally touted as a potentially high NFL draft pick, had such a pedestrian season.

While Nebraska saw the breakout of tight end Kyler Reed, wide receivers Mike McNeill and Brandon Kinnie’s talents were squandered.

Talent such as Quincy Enunwa and Antonio Bell wait in the wings, and they have the ability to make big plays. Unfortunately, wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore still seems to have issues with getting his charges to catch properly. See this year’s game versus Texas for plenty of examples.

The one area on offense that continues to be highly productive is the running back position. Rex Burkhead, Braylon Heard and current commitment Aaron Green give the Cornhuskers three immensely talented backs. Credit Tim Beck for a job well done.

If Pelini’s Cornhuskers are going to make any headway in the realigned Big Ten, they need to settle on a single model of offense for all coaches to follow. If they do, the results of their first season in a new conference could take the nation by surprise.

NOTE: Nebraska commits Bubba Starling, Aaron Green, Charles Jackson (DB) and Tyler Moore (OL) will be playing in the Army All-American Bowl all-star game on Saturday, January 8. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. (EST) on NBC.

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