Over half way through the 2009 season, you'd swear there wasn't much positive happening with the offense. After two consecutive home losses, and trying to get the idea of eight turnovers in a ball game out of our heads, that's not surprising.
Still, the Huskers have had some positive output from first-year players. For a team looking for playmakers, that's not such a bad thing. If the more experienced players aren't going to win games, perhaps there are difference makers to be found amongst the first-year guys.
Against Iowa State, true freshman Dontrayevous Robinson showed that he could contribute to the offense, carrying the ball 15 times for 77 yards for a 5.1 yard per carry average. He scored his first career touchdown, the only touchdown scored by the Husker offense against the Cyclones. Robinson was impressive, giving the Huskers some tough rushing yards despite having a fumble near the goal line. Given the state of the running game, he should see many more chances in upcoming games.
Despite a foot injury that derailed his season, true freshman Rex Burkhead remains the team's second-leading rusher with 23 carries for 118 yards. Burkhead provided a straight-ahead, tough running style that gave the offense a boast when he was in the games. He also provided an alternative to Niles Paul in fielding punts, and while he had only four chances, he has the highest average in that category.
After Roy Helu Jr, the top leading rushers (in order) are Burkhead, quarterback Cody Green, and Robinson, all first-year players. Zac Lee gained 128 yards, but has also lost 55, netting him 73 and putting him behind the aforementioned players. That should speak volumes about the state of the offense.
JUCO transfer Brandon Kinnie has gotten involved in the offense, with three receptions for 27 yards against Iowa State, giving him four total receptions this season. At 6' 3" and 215 pounds, Kinnie is a big receiver of the Maurice Purify mold. Husker fans can hope the experience gave him some confidence and we'll see more of him as the season goes on.
Antonio Bell has already burned his redshirt season as well, but has only one reception. If Menelik Holt and Curenski Gilleylen have been regulated to the scout team, perhaps it'll mean more playing time for Bell this week against Baylor.
Quarterback Green remains a center of fan focus. The status of Green remains a mystery. Pelini stated after the Iowa State game that Green isn't ready, yet he was ready enough to insert into the Texas Tech game, told to take risks if necessary, and not hold back.
In fairness to the coaches, it's relatively easy to learn the running back and wide receiver positions. The only thing you have to know is what you're supposed to be doing - a running back doesn't have to know what the receivers are doing and vice versa. But as a quarterback, you must know and understand what everyone is doing. Hence the learning curve is higher - any any offense, not just Shawn Watson's.
In deference to Pelini's post-game comments, Zac Lee wasn't the problem this past weekend. He played a reasonable game. Unfortunately, his offense has no heart right now, and if you're going to burn Green's redshirt season, then why not give him some series in a game just to see what happens?
Pelini's recruits are showing that they're ready to get on the field and play some football. At what point does this offense tip over and start giving way to the youth movement?