Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has been fielding a lot of criticism in recent weeks over the play of the Huskers. And while the last few weeks haven't been Watson's finest, I don't think Watson the offensive coordinator deserves much of the blame. Looking over the problems Nebraska is facing, I think Watson's previous role as recruiting coordinator might actually deserve more of the blame. The Husker offense is suffering from a dearth of playmakers, and that's the result of injuries and, believe it or not, poor recruiting.
Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star raised my eyebrows this afternoon in a radio interview with Kevin Kugler on KOZN radio (1620 AM in Omaha) when he said that he thought "Baylor had better players on offense, even without Robert Griffin." Stop and think about that statement, and let that sink in.
Baylor has more offensive talent than Nebraska?
The first response to that is disbelief, but after you think about it, it's hard to argue with that statement. Granted, injuries to Roy Helu, Rex Burkhead, and finally Dontrayevous Robinson really limited Nebraska offensively in Waco. When you factor in the dismissal of Quentin Castille, nearly every football team in the country would suffer greatly if they lost their top four running backs.
My primary concern is the lack of production at wide receiver. Nebraska started redshirt freshman Khiry Cooper, sophomore junior college transfer Brandon Kinnie, and junior Niles Paul at wide receiver on Saturday. None of those players even appeared in the last spring game (Paul was suspended, Kinnie was still in junior college, and Cooper was playing baseball). That's a whole lot of inexperience out there, and the direct results of recruiting problems.
That's right. Bill Callahan, the coach who was supposed to solve Nebraska's so-called "recruiting problem" might actually have created one instead. Look at his track record after he arrived at Nebraska in finding receivers. Other than Maurice Purify, just who did Callahan attract to Nebraska? Niles Paul is the nephew of Ahman Green, so he likely was going to come to Nebraska regardless. Terrence Nunn and Nate Swift committed to Nebraska prior to Callahan's arrival. Todd Peterson was a walk-on from Grand Island; he probably was coming to Nebraska anyway. Frantz Hardy might be the best name on the list.
With Swift and Peterson gone, Nebraska's offense has struggled and finally bypassed the depth chart to insert Kinnie and Cooper. Inexperienced, yes. But they aren't making the mistakes the older veterans made either.
It's not just wide receiver that's the problem, but receiver is where the problem is most glaring at this time. There are offensive line problems, to be sure, and substitutions aren't in the cards at this time there. This one may take time to unwind: college football doesn't have a waiver wire that allows you to immediately rebuild and start over. The process takes time and effort.
There's a huge difference between recruiting and recruiting ratings. The evaluation of recruiting is an inexact science at best, and the ratings are wrong almost as often, if not more so, than they are right. That doesn't make recruiting overrated, just the evaluation. Only time allows you to evaluate recruiting.
And right now, time is not reflecting well on Bill Callahan's work at Nebraska.