Nebraska Cornhuskers Football: Road to Offensive Success Is Paved with Diamonds

Mike WehlingAnalyst IDecember 20, 2011

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 25: Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 hands the ball to running back Ameer Abdullah #8 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game at Memorial Stadium November 25, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Iowa 20-7. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Think back to October 8th, 2011, more specifically the Huskers' game versus the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Down 27-6 with about eight minutes to play in the third quarter, linebacker Lavonte David stripped the ball from OSU QB Braxton Miller at the 24-yard line, setting Nebraska up with great field position. 

After a six-yard run by Rex Burkhead, the Huskers line up in a formation we haven't seen them use often, if at all.  Taylor Martinez lined up in center with Rex Burkhead behind him and fellow running backs Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah on his left and right.  Martinez hiked the ball, faked a handoff to Green and ran 18 yards for a score. 

Fast forward a few plays, Nebraska is on the 36-yard line.  Once again they lined up in the diamond formation.  Martinez hiked the ball, faked the handoff to Ameer Abdullah but held on and threw to a wide-open Quincy Enunwa for a 36-yard touchdown pass.

Don't remember this?  Here is a video to refresh your memory.

Wow, this sounds like a great formation. I am sure that Nebraska would use this to their advantage, right?  Wrong.  Nebraska rarely used the formation after this game, with only one highlight coming from it: a 54-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Kinnie using the exact type of play Nebraska used against OSU, except sub Enunwa for Kinnie.

My question is, why haven't the Huskers used this formation more often?

Here is Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck on the reason why, from an interview with the Omaha World Herald.

“It’s a good change-up. That’s what it is. It’s just a good change-up. I don’t know that you could live in the formation the whole time. It’s a unique formation. It causes teams alignment issues and that’s why we’re able to get big plays out of it. Like anything, you can’t live in any formation in any amount of time.”

Really? We can't live in the formation?  We seem to live in the pistol all the time, why not the diamond?

Nebraska is a run team, plain and simple, so why not get our best players on the field at the same time?  The diamond formation allows Nebraska to field Burkhead, Martinez and two of the freshmen running backs. How else are you going to get Aaron Green's elusiveness, Ameer Abdullah's speed, Braylon Heard's power and Rex Burkhead's combination of speed and power, all on the field at the same time?  And when the opposing team is focused on the running backs, that leaves Martinez open to do damage.

This formation would help not only the run game but also the passing game. Think about it, to counter the three running backs, opposing teams would need to load the box, giving the wide receivers more favorable matchups, like Enunwa and Kinnie had.  Martinez could even throw to the running backs on designed wheel routes or slants. Our wide receivers are improving with some great talent in Kenny Bell and Enunwa, but imagine how much better the passing game would be with one-on-one coverage downfield.

The diamond formation opens for a world of possibilities for the Nebraska offense.  Think about slipping wide receiver/QB Jamal Turner into one of the running back spots flanking Martinez.  Turner could catch, run,or even pass the ball once he got it.  He could even slide into Martinez's spot before the snap.  Don't think that would confuse defenses?  Look at the Penn State game, the Nittany Lions had no idea what was going on when Burkhead switched spots with Martinez. 

The diamond formation presents a great opportunity for Nebraska to use its strength and exploit the defense.  The only question that remains is why aren't we using it?