In the aftermath of the 2013 season, some Husker fans wanted a complete overhaul of the Nebraska football program while others held back. Our team as well. So where to next? This series attempted to put a little more depth into what we see as the state of Nebraska football. In parts one and two of this series, the CornNation team looked at what was right and wrong with the program. Now, with all that in mind, what changes are in order? There are the usual suspects ("Fire Barney Cotton!"), but some more intriguing thoughts to consider as well.
We'll, I think I made mention of this above, but if I was going to add one thing here, it would be to hire a veteran defensive-coordinator that's allowed to run his defense the way he wants to without Bo getting in the way. Go throw some money at Pat Narduzzi and tell him that if his defense shines here in Lincoln, but we still struggle to win (i.e. the offense is bad), he'll be next in line to take over. I've been a Bo supporter for a long time, but it gets harder and harder every year because of his actions and inactions. Nothing changes. We still get the rants and the excuses for poor play. If we get smoked in the bowl game, I think it's really time to consider changing coaches.
Special Teams: It's time for Nebraska to rethink their approach to special teams. More time spent in practice, a different approach to the kicking game (if we're not blocking for our return man, we better be attacking the punt), maybe some Oakleys for the return man. Do something. If Ross Els can't give us that, maybe a change is in order. As for the kicking game, It was expected to drop off with an entirely new lineup. No one seized control but hopefully we progress next season.
Strength and conditioning: I don't know if replacing Dobson is absolutely necessary, but the current program is not working. Injuries are far too frequent to be freak accidents. Either send Dobson and his staff on a fact-finding tour to other programs or hire someone who will. Enough is enough. With the young DL talent we have, I don't want their development to be stunted by an inadequate program.
Fan Behavior: Manage your expectations (and subsequent disappointment) better, reassess your priorities and respect your opponents and fellow fans. Even if they don't reciprocate. Show that those signs aren't arrogance incarnate. Stop making football a negative experience for yourself.
And for the love of all that is good and holy, stop tweeting players and recruits.
Recruiting: Jury is still out and whether anything has really improved since 2011. Obviously we can wait to evaluate how year two of the Ross Els Recruiting Coordinator Experience turns out, but there's always room for improvement. Nebraska needs to do whatever they can within the rules to amp up their recruiting efforts. Diamonds in the rough are great, but you can't take boxes of dirt to a sifter and expect to get luckier and luckier. Sometimes you just have to work hard and earn the diamonds we already know about.
Bo Pelini: Obviously he needs to assess what he's doing to make his job harder for himself. Between his embarrassing outbursts (usually from the excessive stress he is under) and his staff's apparent inability to get the team ready for the biggest games, it may be necessary to make some changes. There's no need to hang yourself hoping the process works - sometimes new blood can help solve problems you can't seem to see or fix. He needs to seriously consider it or the fan angst will only get louder. Make the job easier for yourself, Bo. You don't have to do everything. Good enough won't quiet the critics. Don't worry, I'm sure they won't take it personally. They're professionals, right?
First question is what to do with Joe Ganz, other than wish him well at his next stop now that his time as a graduate assistant is over. It sounds like Ron Kellogg may slide into that role in 2014. And no, you can't have a dedicated quarterbacks coach without a massive shakeup of the coaching staff.
I do think something has to change with Ross Els' role this offseason. Personally, I think he's doing OK as a linebackers coach and as recruiting coordinator considering the situation. With more and more recruits committing after unofficial visits in the spring and summer, the challenges of recruiting are becoming greater and greater for Nebraska. Most people who criticize Nebraska for falling behind in recruiting in the spring and summer fail to acknowledge that most recruits can't afford to fly to Lincoln for an unofficial visit prior to the start of the fall. (The Big Ten's obsession with 11 am kickoffs for gameday official visits don't help one bit either.) Some of Els' ideas like the "Big Red Weekend" are innovative ways of trying to manage through the issue. But it's a lot easier to Tweet "Fire Els; he sucks at recruiting" than it is to thoughtfully examine why Nebraska seems to be playing catch-up in recruiting every season.
It is clear, though, that Nebraska's special teams are spectacularly awful, especially punt returns. I think it's time to hand that responsibility over to somebody else.
As for strength and conditioning, there's definitely room for improvement there. I don't know if Nebraska can ever get back to the dominance they once enjoyed in this part of the game; nearly every other school has recognized the importance of this and have made the investment to be competitive or to do even more with strength and conditioning. The question needs to be asked about what more needs to be done.
Offensively we need a quarterback coach, a legit one. Maybe that's the next offensive coordinator if Beck leaves. Maybe this is the window to slide Barney Cotton to a player personnel role. Garrison has proved the problem with the offensive line laid with Cotton. I'm also not convinced Ron Brown is the best RB coach either. Abdullah is an incredible talent, but the young guys and fumble problems continue.
If Beck does leave, I'd like to see an experienced OC rather than someone who hasn't called plays before. Beck got cute too often.
Ross Els shouldn't be coaching here anymore. Recruiting is bad, special teams are bad, and linebackers, while improving, haven't been great under him. Go find a stellar coach who can handle LBs and either recruiting or special teams, not both.
Major changes to S&C, whether that's Dobson being out, or just philosophical changes. I don't know what the problems are, but they are surfacing.
1) Goodbye Barney. If he's done, have a nice retirement ceremony. If he wants to keep coaching, resign him.
2) Goodbye Pap. Time to stake your own claim in the coaching world. And not at Ohio for God's sake.
3) Goodbye Els. You may return to Ohio.
4) Goodbye Dobson. Maybe it is just bad luck, but whichever it is - are you the equivalent of some Haitian cat's blood voodoo curse put on us by Pinkel or just shitty at your job? I honestly don't care anymore.
5) Bo - hire a top notch DC - like Narduzzi above. Whoever it is, make sure he shares your basic philosophies, and then turn it over to him except for occasional meetings, input & review. Being head coach is tough enough. Not being head coach/game planner for the DC will reduce your stress tons.
6) Hire a QB coach. Now. Not Joe Ganz. Do not interview Neuheisel for this. He and Ron Prince were personally taught how to cloud athletic directors' minds by Lamont Cranston.
7) It's small jet time. Even if it's one of those corporate timeshare deals, it's time to pony up like one of the big boys for recruiting. Alabama and Southern Cal don't fly coach.
8) Stop ignoring younger, talented backs once we get past game 4. Abdullah is a great kid, and maybe that's why he gets a pass on the fumbles while we vilify Taylor. Cross & Newby deserved more carries.
9) Unless the ball's hitting him in the back of the head, get someone who frightens the punting team a little back there catching punts even if they're a fumble risk. Westerkamp dropped two anyway and teams teed off on downfield coverage since they knew it wasn't exactly going to be a Hester coming at them.
10) Take down that fucking crap about "The Best Fans in College Football". It simply doesn't apply to fans who get loud for 1 ½ games a year and bitch at everyone to sit down.
I really don't know that Nebraska can do better in Recruiting right now. Primarily, it doesn't seem to matter who is the RC, the staff only goes hard at it outside the season. BRW and such seem to be a hit, but you don't get a sniff of anyone else till the middle of December (which, as you're seeing now with Cockerell and Keels). The dead period could hurt Nebraska. but at the same time, if that's how Bo wants to attack it, then it isn't going to matter who the RC is.
I'm down with getting rid of James Dobson, but you have to be careful what you wish for. It seems that, for all that Dobson gets wrong in the trenches, he seems to do well with position/skill players. As Mike said above, Nebraska will never have an advantage anymore in this department, but at the same time, you can keep kids upright and on the field.
I don't get why the staff keeps Barney, but if you do get rid of him this year, make sure to get a true QB coach, not one that shares that title with being OC. Tight Ends can be given to Kyle Bray, and it's not the first time a GA had them (Marrow).
I'm not really into a DC that can run his stuff, because then I don't think there would be that harmony on the staff that seems to not be there with Papuchis and Bo (/sarcasm).
OK, so now you have it. What changes sound good to you? What changes sound ridiculous? Any ideas we missed?