Spring football is nearly upon us, and with it the real beginning of the Mike Riley era.
Riley prefers a "pro style" offense; "pro style" being a pretty broad term. Thinking of the term "pro style" conjures an image of what we think the offense will look like. For me, "pro style" connotates the I formation, but the term can imply everything from signal calling to whether you think the quarterback will be lining up under center or in shotgun. What it should not imply is an offense with a lot of designed quarterback runs; no option, no zone reads.
Interviews with new offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf indicate one of his influences as being Green Bay's Mike McCarthy. He's also stated that he will bring with him what he and Riley did together at Oregon State. He favors balance between run and pass (a standard line from the coachspeak bible), and he prefers accuracy over everything else in a quarterback.
Translate McCarthy's offense to the college level, and what you should plan on seeing will be a quarterback in the shotgun, use of a H-back (a cross between a tight end and fullback) more than a pure fullback, and more use of a tight end than Nebraska has seen in years. Obviously, it will take a few recruiting cycles to get there.
Gone from last season is Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah was a darned special player. It wasn't his vision, ability to run in traffic, or his speed that made him elevated him to special. It was his will. Abdullah had a combination of leadership and willingness to put his team on his back that will be very hard to replace.
Also gone is prolific receiver Kenny Bell as are three consistent starters - Mike Moudy, Mark Pelini, and Jake Cotton - from the offensive line.
The Huskers return an experienced quarterback in Tommy Armstrong Jr. Armstrong has a darned good 16-5 record as a starter. He isn't the typical "pro style" quarterback that Riley and Langsdorf are looking for. His completion rate in 2014 was 53.3%, and his accuracy on short throws has been abysmal at times. Whether or not his new coaches can fix his accuracy remains to be seen. Whether or not Johnny Stanton passes him since both are new a learning system remains to be seen as well.
It is difficult to believe that Nebraska isn't going to incorporate some option and zone read. It's not because of tradition of option play at Nebraska, it's because that's what their personnel is built for. Tommy Armstrong Jr, is adept at that type of offense. Is Langsdorf that adaptable?
So what is Mike Riley/Danny Langsdorf's offense going to look like?
The spring game will give us a small taste of what the offense will look like and it will be analyzed like beating a dead horse.
Reality; we have no idea. Funny thing - at this point neither Riley nor Langsdorf know either. Keep in mind that they have yet to see their new team in pads. Film may give them some indication of what their players are capable of, but until they get the players into practice and into their system, they're just guessing. They will spend spring watching their new team, then the next few months figuring out what they're really going to do come fall.
That is, if they're truly as adaptable as they say they are.
There are so many questions at this point with very few answers. Interviews can reveal only so much. Come fall, a new Nebraska team will take the field, and at that point there will be no hiding.
But that is so many months away.