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Husker Offense - Running in 2008 Is About Production

We're going to run the ball more often in 2008. That's no surprise, given that Shawn Watson and Barney Cotton have stated so on more than one occasion. Looking around the internets, it appears to come as a shock to some Husker fans that this is the direction we're going. I wonder if many have that Nintendo offense we saw in the last three games of last season and have it stuck in their minds that we can do this all of the time and be successful.

We're going to be running the ball more simply because of personnel. Going into 2007, the strength of the offense was in it's depth at receiver. Going into 2008, the strength is now it's depth at running back. Let's look at the numbers.

Below are the stats of the returning rushers. Obviously the top guy is Marlon Lucky, who topped 1,000 yards on the ground last season. If you look solely at the numbers beyond Lucky, they're not that impressive. The average yardage isn't bad, but as a total, not that great.

Returning Rushers Statistics

Name Att Yards Avg TD's YPG
Marlon Lucky 206 1019 4.9 9 84.9
Quentin Castille 76 343 4.5 4 28.6
Roy Helu 45 209 4.6 0 29.9
Joe Ganz 20 93 4.7 3 15.5
Cody Glenn 27 78 2.9 2 15.6

Let's compare that to the numbers for our returning receivers, including tight ends and fullbacks. Once you get past the top three, production drops significantly.

Returning Receivers Statistics

Name No Yards Avg TD's YPG
Marlon Lucky 75 705 9.4 3 58.8
Nate Swift 36 520 14.4 3 43.3
Todd Peterson 18 359 19.9 5 29.9
Cody Glenn 6 52 8.7 0 10.4
Roy Helu 5 40 8.0 0 5.7
Menelik Holt 4 97 24.2 0 10.8
Hunter Teafatiller (TE) 4 34 8.5 0 3.4
Quentin Castille 3 33 11.0 0 2.8
Thomas Lawson (FB) 3 11 3.7 3 1.1
Mike McNeill (TE) 1 25 25 0 3.6
Dreu Young (TE) 1 14 14 0 1.8
Niles Paul 1 6 6 0 0.9
Chris Brooks 1 4 4 0 4.0

One Perspective On What This Means

Looking at the offense from last season can give you a skewed sense of what was happening, i.e., we had 3,886 yards receiving and 1,733 rushing. There are a number of different ways I could go here but in this piece I'm only going to give you one perspective.

On the ground, Nebraska produced 19 total TD's, and as I said earlier, netted 1,733 yards. In 2008, the Huskers return 100% of the production on the ground (one TD isn't listed amongst the rushers above as I removed Major Culbert's lone TD and rushing totals). In fact, since Sam Keller lost 78 yards, we return more than 100% of the total ground yardage from last season.

In the air, the 2007 Huskers produced 31 TD's, and 3,886 yards. Returning receivers scored 14 of those TD's, less than 50% of the production total. Returners account for 1,900 yards, again, just less than 50% of the total production.

Given those numbers, returning to the ground isn't necessarily about returning to Nebraska's roots, although I don't mind thinking about it on those terms. Returning to the ground fits the personnel the Cornhuskers have going into the 2008 season. That's where our strength lies.