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So What Will Nebraska's Offense Look Like in 2015?

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Is Reggie Davis providing some new ideas from the 49ers for Mike Riley's offense to evolve?
Is Reggie Davis providing some new ideas from the 49ers for Mike Riley's offense to evolve?
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Friday gave Husker fans a couple of insightful peeks into what Nebraska's new coaching staff might be thinking about for an offensive philosophy, at least for the 2015 football season. First, "Space Coyote" at Breakdown Sports looks at Riley's past history and how he might start out at Nebraska. Then, the head man himself, Mike Riley, sat down with the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star to share some pre-Spring Practice impressions.

First, to Space Coyote's breakdown on Riley.  Riley's preferred offensive attack is reminiscent of Air Coryell at San Diego.  Run inside zone, then go deep with a vertical passing game.  Use the tight end both to block and as an outlet in the passing game.  In some respects, it's not as huge of a departure from the Tim Beck approach as some might think.  Sure, Nebraska hasn't utilized the tight end as much the last two seasons, but that may be more of a personnel issue than a philosophical issue.  Look to 2012 when seniors Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed were around.  Nebraska's tight ends caught 48 passes that season.

Oregon State's tight ends caught 52 passes in 2012.  And Riley's quarterbacks threw 94 more passes in 2012 than Nebraska's that season.

But what about that zone read?  The Coyote says it might remain, if only to provide some continuity for the transition.

Which takes us to the World-Herald's discussion with Riley, where running backs' coach Reggie Davis experience with the San Francisco 49ers is a prominent point of discussion.

"We’re looking at teams that have historically, in an NFL scheme, been dropback passing teams and all of a sudden do a little bit of this," Riley said. "We're just talking about we’re going to look at this. And then we have to be selective as to what we take into fall camp."

That's an interesting perspective because not only is Riley inheriting a team that utilized the zone read quite a bit, Riley also knows that his offense has become somewhat antiquated compared to the rest of college football. After Oregon State's season-ending loss to Oregon, Riley admitted that his offensive approach had to change.

"Just in general right now we are not a good enough offensive team to win a lot of games in our league the way it is," said Mike Riley, the Beavers’ longtime head coach.

"You’ve got to score more points than what we’re scoring to win games."

Sean Mannion might be an NFL quarterback, but Riley recognized then that he might need to start looking at a different type of quarterback if he was going to last at Oregon State.

"We had a skillful quarterback, and I think we will in the future (including freshman Luke Del Rio), but the skill set might be a little different. … That’s part of the big evaluation in the offseason. It’s kind of exciting to do actually."

So now he finds himself with several quarterbacks with a different quarterback skill set, and now it's a question about how to use it, as he told the World-Herald Friday:

"Exploring what we can do with a quarterback like we have here is pretty exciting, and I think it gives the offense another great dimension, frankly," Riley said. "If you don’t have it in a running quarterback, you have to find it in other ways, right?"

So is the San Francisco 49ers offensive approach the blueprint for Nebraska football? That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the 49ers made the NFL playoffs three out of four years.

Certainly better than the alternative.

Nobody really wants this seasons Nebrasketball on grass, where more often than not, each possession results in no points.