Well, whoever said the month of May was boring in college football? As the month wound down, Nebraska Cornhusker football was rocked with two stories that shattered what should have been a quiet month of preparation for fall camp.
First came the news of backup quarterback Cody Green handing in his transfer request. Green, who was undefeated as a starter for Nebraska, said in his statement that leaving Nebraska was "by far one of the hardest things I've ever done," as reported by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald.
There are two things that can be immediately inferred from Green's departure. First, it's a good guess that Green saw himself sliding down the depth chart behind incumbent starter Taylor Martinez and redshirt freshman Brion Carnes. Should two-sport phenom Bubba Starling decide to forego the big check from a major league baseball team to play football at Nebraska, Green would likely slide down the chart even further.
While Green was clearly a team leader and a joy to hear at press conferences, he's also a competitor. If he sees himself in a position where he will have no real chance at playing, it's a logical and sensible move for him to transfer now while he would have the maximum amount of eligibility left.
In addition to Green's place on the depth chart, his departure also gives us some extra data to infer what Nebraska's offense will look like under new offensive coordinator Tim Beck. It's clear that Pelini believes Martinez to be Nebraska's future at quarterback, and Martinez's threat to defenses comes much more from his legs than his arm.
Now-backup quarterback Brion Carnes has much the same pedigree as Martinez, a player who is dangerous on the run and will make defenses play 11-on-11. Starling, for all his size, possesses Martinez-level speed and would fit right into a dual-threat quarterback mentality.
Green, while an adequate runner, did not threaten defenses with his legs in the way Martinez and Carnes can. His transfer request can be seen as further evidence that a Beck-led Nebraska offense will rely more on the quarterback's legs than before.
When Husker hearts were aflutter with fear about Pelini's apparent flirting with the Miami job, they could soothe themselves somewhat by remembering that Pelini had no real connection with the Hurricanes. When Les Miles looked on his way out at LSU, those concerns arose again about Pelini bolting Nebraska for a school he won a national championship with.
But now Jim Tressel is out at Ohio State. THE Ohio State. As in Pelini's alma matter, Ohio State.
This is a story that won't go away anytime soon. Ohio State has announced that Luke Fickell will coach the Buckeyes in 2011, and a decision on a long-term hire will be made after the season. So Pelini's name will continue to be mentioned all year as a possible replacement for Tressel (and, I suppose, Fickell) in Columbus.
Pelini's name is probably not on the top of Ohio State's list. Urban Meyer will almost assuredly be their first target, and Jon Gruden and Bob Stoops would likely be looked at as candidates before Pelini.
But it's no guarantee that those coaches would be interested in Ohio State. The Buckeyes are going to have a turbulent year in 2011, with the distinct possibility of star quarterback Terrelle Pryor never playing another down in scarlet and grey.
And NCAA sanctions are hanging over the Ohio State program like a sword of Damocles. With news coming out about a pattern of corruption under Tressel, and more serious allegations of rule violations against Pryor, it looks like Ohio State could be facing penalties at least as severe as USC's two-year postseason ban and 30 scholarships lost, if not more.
None of the coaches that may be ahead of Pelini are in a position where they need to jump to a new job. They may all see the problems Ohio State will face in the next few years and decide to wait for another high-profile job opening. That may open the door for Pelini, if he wants to jump through and head home to Columbus.
But Pelini doesn't need a new job either. His job is very safe in Lincoln, and he may be on the verge of getting something special started with the Cornhuskers. With Ohio State faltering, the door may well be open for Nebraska to win the B1G Conference in their first year and return to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2001.
Ultimately, I would be very surprised if Urban Meyer isn't wearing scarlet and grey in 2012. Even with sanctions, Ohio State is still one of the best jobs in the country, given the resources, talent and fan support available. Meyer wasn't afraid to take on a rebuilding job at Florida after Ron Zook was fired, and was a spectacular success. He knows if he replicates that success at Ohio State, his status as a legendary coach would be cemented.
THE WAITING GAME
But Nebraska fans will have to deal with the specter of Pelini's departure after the season all year. And they will have to deal with questions about quarterbacks throughout the summer, likely until Nebraska's first real test in Madison on October 1. Settle in, Husker Fans, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
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