OK, let's cut to the chase.
Last night's game sucked. Royally.
To be fair, Missouri is an outstanding football team, and can score at will. But 52-17? Ouch. I could sit here and grade each postion...but I think we all know what the vast majority of the grades will be. So rather than belabor the point, how about this week we just discuss what's wrong.
Offensive Line: We went into this season with high expectations for this bunch...and have been pretty much disappointed here. Pass protection has been spotty, with almost no running room. Yahoo's Tom Dienhart talked to an anonymous coach earlier this season who said these guys weren't programmed to run block, and it's going to take time. Or perhaps it's the fact that these guys had Bill Callahan and Dennis Wagner coaching them each their separate ways in past seasons, and now have Barney Cotton coaching them this year. Or maybe, strength and conditioning coach James Dobson downsized them a little too much.
Running Backs: Problems here might be more of a result of the struggles up front. Marlon Lucky isn't a great back in traffic; he needs to get to the open field, and with the o-line not opening up any holes, he's neutralized. Roy Helu has shown signs of being the Huskers most complete back, for what it's worth. Quentin Castille can make his own holes and hits the line hard, but continues to struggle with ball security.
Quarterback: Joe Ganz is a mobile quarterback who's at his best rolling out. In the pocket, he's somewhat unsure and gets his passes deflected back towards him. Sometimes makes poor decisions and turns the ball over. He's a senior, so Nebraska needs to start grooming his replacement. Last night's game might have been a lost opportunity to get Zac Lee and Patrick Witt some more game action. That doesn't give me a good feeling for next season at all.
Wide Receivers: Nate Swift is a good possession receiver, but in year five of the change to a west-coast style of offense, we're still looking for some sort of difference maker at receiver. Oh, sure, the recruiting analysts love the guys we've signed...but funny how that hasn't panned out: Chris Brooks (4 stars), Franz Hardy (4 stars), Will Henry (3 stars), Menelik Holt (3 stars), Curenski Gilleylen (3 stars), and Niles Paul (4 stars) haven't panned out yet. Only Maurice Purify (4 stars) has been a difference maker at times. An awful lot of scholarships have been used here, only to have walk-on Todd Peterson out play the bunch.
Defensive Line: OK, I see a lot of improvement in this bunch this season...but that might be because they were completely lost last season. Dobson's probably made a positive influence here, but again, we're not seeing a lot of impact from younger players here. Is this one of the positions Blankman wants to see younger guys on the field?
Linebackers: This position might be the poster child for recruiting incompetence in recent years. Phillip Dillard has been solid, but our only other solid linebacker is converted I-back Cody Glenn. Like at receiver, here are some of the touted recruits who haven't made much of an impact here: Blake Lawrence (4 stars), Austin Stafford (3 stars), Nick Covey (3 stars), and Michael Keenan (3 stars) are among the names who haven't made much of an impact.
Secondary: Phil Steele named Larry Asante to the 2nd team all-conference in his preseason rankings. He got benched against Virginia Tech, and only played in mop-up duty against Missouri. Rickey Thenarse has been off-injured, Anthony Blue is out for the season, as he recovers from a torn ACL. So this is a patchwork group back there. If there was anything I noticed yesterday, the secondary didn't have the glaring busts that they had the week before against Virginia Tech.
Coaching: I think Barney Cotton (offensive line), Shawn Watson (offensive coordinator/QBs) and Ted Gilmore (wide receivers/recruiting) are probably the three coaches that deserve the greatest scrutiny at this time. Watson's and Gilmore's tenure with the previous staff probably raise the biggest concerns. It's too early to start talking about changes, but certainly they aren't immune to criticism.