You know the story, right? Bill Callahan brought his version of the West Coast Offense (WCO) to Nebraska. Full of pre-snap shifts, motion, and a 15-pound playbook, one of the biggest complaints about his offense was it's complexity. Complexity ultimately increases mistakes, whether they be penalties or a running back going the wrong way. Because of that complexity, underclassmen couldn't get on the field right away because it took at least a year for them to learn the system. This meant that the best players might not be playing and that the team could be hampered by a lack of depth at certain positions simply because there weren't enough guys ready to play.
Enter 2008. Shawn Watson is the guy in charge of the offense. It's his offense. We're not running the WCO anymore. We're running something called the `Nebraska offense' because the coaches used all their creativity in coming up with the play-calling format. The `new' offense will involve multiple formations and multiple schemes and so shall be called `multiple' by any pundit that describes it next season. It will gain about a bazillion yards a game and with it we will crush our enemies. Or so we hope.
But what is it? What is the `Nebraska offense'? I've concluded that despite my wishful thinking that there would be mass changes to make it less complex, it's pretty much the same offense that Bill Callahan brought to Nebraska.
As evidence, I offer Joe Ganz's comments during the initial spring news conference:
On the Playbook Changes...
"The playbook is pretty much the same. There have been some slight changes in the verbiage. Some of the changes give a more detailed meaning to the running backs and the offensive line."
"You can't really dumb anything down. Everything we say has a meaning for someone in the huddle. Things are more precise now. With all the shifts and motion we do, you can't cut things out."
And if that isn't clear enough, you have the same from Ted Gilmore, wide receivers coach:
Ted Gilmore, Nebraska's wide receivers coach, said the playbook from last year remains.
Yet the expectation throughout winter and into spring is that there would be change, that the `new' offense will incorporate the spread and now the option. It's been stated that we'll be running the ball more, although that doesn't require changing the offense. It's a matter of changing play selection and more effective use of our existing personnel.
The biggest question I have is - how can you incorporate more formations, more plays, more schemes (everyone uses that word to incorporate anything dealing with offensive and defensive alignments, why should I be any different?) without increasing the complexity of the offense beyond what it already was?
One conclusion could be that I've underestimated the contents of the playbook. It could be that every formation known to man is in there, every possible blocking scheme (there's that word again), pass routes (are there more than nine?), over 250 pasta recipes you can cook in less than 30 minutes, and the complete US Army Survival Manual should the team somehow get stuck in Kansas and have to wait for rescue. Maybe there's a whole section on how to use the playbook itself as a weapon to bring down a large animal like a deer or a cow in order to keep the team well-fed.
Another conclusion is that complexity isn't bad, but that it was the association with Callahan that made it bad. The Husker offense is already familiar with Bill's......er, Shawn's `Nebraska offense' so what's the harm if it's the same as last year? Would it be worse if they had to learn a whole new system?
We'll learn more at the Spring Game next weekend. Any guess as to the first play? A run up the middle as a salute to old times, perhaps?