Nebraska Cornhuskers offensive coordinator Tim Beck has no problem taking a sledgehammer to his team’s old system.
The “sputter then stop” offense that has plagued Nebraska over the past three seasons has fans grumbling and coaches wringing their hands over the lack of production.
Examining the type of athletes both brought in during the Cornhuskers’ most recent recruiting class and current offers given out, Beck may be preparing to make like Marty McFly and go back to the future.
Regardless of the formation, if Beck is looking to install a power running game to bash Big Ten defenses with, misdirection is a must.
One good counter to a defense sticking more than half of its noses across the line of scrimmage is to fake it out with old-fashioned play-action passes.
Nebraska used this concept prominently under former head coach and current athletic director Tom Osborne.
The Cornhuskers would do well to implement more passes to their tight ends, who can turn second down into a very manageable scenario.
Other deception can be used on play action roll-outs, such as reverses to running back Aaron Green or quarterback/athlete Jamal Turner to keep opposing defenses slipping and sliding.
The Diamond formation would be a very formidable offensive set if the Big Red can implement it properly.
As TCU showed in the 2011 Rose Bowl versus Wisconsin (No. 20 overall defense in 2010), this formation can bash through even the stingiest of opposition.
Nebraska could utilize any of its quarterbacks along with two faster running backs on both sides and a more sizable back behind, such as Rex Burkhead.
The Cornhuskers could also go for a more powerful formation featuring fullbacks such as Tyler Legate and C.J. Zimmerer leading the way up the gut.
No matter how you slice it, Nebraska has the talent to mirror the variations that TCU pummeled its opposition with.
Potential Sets (running back positions next to QB in parentheses):
Speed Set: QB, Ameer Abdullah (left), Aaron Green (right), Burkhead (rear)
Power Set: QB, Legate (any), Zimmerer (left or right), Burkhead (any)
Don’t fret, zone-read fans.
As long as quarterbacks like Taylor Martinez, Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling are brought into the fold, these plays are still going to be called.
The beauty of the zone read is that Nebraska can use a number of individuals as a quarterback, running back and slot receiver for a legitimate triple threat.
Quarterback: T. Martinez, J. Turner, B. Starling, R. Burkhead
Running back: B. Heard, A. Green, A. Abdullah, J. Turner
Slot wide receiver: T. Martinez, J. Turner, A. Green, A. Abdullah
Barney Cotton and John Garrison will be molding not only the minds of Nebraska's offense linemen, but Garrison will also be working with the tight ends.
If the Cornhuskers refine the run blocking technique that tight end Ben Cotton displayed in 2010, they may be lining up in the Power I set sooner rather than later.
Nebraska’s offensive line, while young in some spots, has the depth necessary to rotate plenty of big bodies in this grinding style of play.
This is where the Cornhuskers may see a return to fullback traps and the more familiar type of power option football run under Osborne.
If Rex Burkhead is known for anything during his career at Nebraska to this point, it’s his prowess in the popular Wildcat formation.
This configuration allows him to act as a quarterback while allowing for an amazing range of looks from the running back spot.
The Cornhuskers can feature speed with Green, Abdullah or even Jamal Turner.
If Nebraska wants to exert more power, sitting Heard or Legate on Burkhead’s hip would be the way to go.
Potential Sets (assuming Burkhead is at quarterback):
Speed: A. Green/A. Abdullah/J. Turner
Power: B. Heard
While these are all simply concepts based on the Cornhuskers’ current roster, if properly executed, they could be dangerous in the Big Ten conference.
In a league where scoring can come at a premium, a prolific offense under Beck might take a few games to get started.
If Beck's charges are capable of pulling off this blend of speed and power, many opponents would be left gassed come the fourth quarter.
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