1. With the first half of spring practices on the books, we've heard a lot about what the media guys are seeing out of the offense. I'm personally excited for the return of the huddle, but I can be curmudgeonly sometimes.
One thing in particular that we've discussed behind the scenes here is the switch in philosophy on route-running. As noted by Sam McKewon, the biggest change appears to be fewer option routes built into the playbook. I'm curious if this will help out with Armstrong's decision-making and accuracy.
Let's say you have three WRs and a RB. (Yes, there's a TE but he's not getting the ball in Beck's offense.) If you're running Beck's offense, you could imagine that each WR has two possible routes. So there are seven possible pass outcomes, and six of those possible passes are dependent on the defense. And remember, the play call involves sideline cards and a single word for the play. So now the QB has to read the defense (correctly) and hope that his WRs read the same things.
In Riley/Langsdorf's offense, you'd have all of the same reading of the defense, but your receiver's route is set by the playcall, not the defense. The QB can change the route, but there's active communication there. A subtle difference, but I wonder if not having to trust your WR to make the same read of the defense gives you more time to focus on your footing and your release.
Personally, I think removing as much of the post-snap decision-making as possible may actually stabilize our offense, which honestly was my biggest gripe about Tim Beck's offense: you were never quite sure what offense would show up each week.
It'll be interesting to see what Riley and Langsdorf figure out to be Nebraska's identity this fall. Here's hoping they do what Callahan, Watson, and Beck all failed to do, and trim the playbook down to what Nebraska can actually execute.
2. Everything I've read about Coach Cavanaugh makes me happy. That said, the fact that the defensive line is wrecking them is concerning. If the OL's technique is that bad, will it be fixed by fall? And is our defensive line really getting the reps they need? I mean, would having them take on some concrete blocks be more fitting, what with Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan State on the schedule? The defensive line doesn't have the luxury of time to wait for the offensive line to challenge them...
3. The defense sounds happy. My only caution against what we've read is that Pelini's original mantra on defense was "get the ball". It quickly devolved into a process. Here's hoping Banker's defense doesn't have the same problem.
4. Speaking of this fall, our opening opponent BYU just got the seal of approval from the SEC to be considered a "Power Five" opponent. It's good to see that all independents are being treated like Notre Dame. Of course, the other independent is Army. (Navy is joining the former Big East, now the American Athletic Conference, for football only this fall.)
Personally, I was more fascinated by the decision to allow Army to be considered a Power Five program. (Don't be fooled, Florida! They're Georgia Southern's Yankee Campus now.)
5. An interesting piece that popped up this week concerned the possibility of the current Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam essentially trading for ownership of the Tennessee Titans. While extremely unlikely, it got me thinking: what if we could do this in college football? Just trade, wholesale, your current roster and staff to another school, in exchange for theirs?
Would anyone try and trade for Nebraska? Would you trade our roster and coaches for someone else's?
Would anyone trade for Colorado? Kansas? Iowa?
Oh, and speaking of making program decisions in a unilateral matter, how eerily close are UNO and UAB's football program closures?
6. The NFL hosted a combine for their veteran free agents this past weekend. Across the board, 40 times of the veterans were lower than expected. Now, I'm no conspiracy theorist, but if EVERYONE is running slower than they expected, doesn't that suggest an equipment malfunction? I mean, I know the new rookie rules are more favorable to the franchises but this seems odd to me. Michael Bush demands the opportunity to get three yards on third down!
7. It's really fascinating watching the NFL micromanage gameplay. Not only are they re-defining the definition of a catch, but the owners are also basically suggesting that a college kicker's greatest ambition should be graduation. Of course, the reason we keep an eye on the NFL is that eventually their rule changes filter down to college. Would college football be as fun if a touchdown was guaranteed to be seven points? Or if you never had punt returns?
DPE wouldn't be nearly as exciting, that's for sure.
Alabama would never have to recruit a kicker again and you just know that Nick Saban smiles at that thought. Kirk Ferentz though? He's livid.
The NFL is also worried that instant replay makes referees look bad, so no, penalties won't be reviewable. I understand where they're coming from: if every call an official makes is ruled incorrect, that undermines the authority of the officiating. And it's easier just to say no reviews than to write your rules so they're applied in an objective manner!
But let's be honest with ourselves here: the NFL is just making it easier for college referees to get called up. Just imagine that one referee from the Big 12 calling a Denver Broncos-Green Bay Packers game! SEATTLE TOUCHDOWN!
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 24: Wide receiver Golden Tate #81 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a catch in the end zone to defeat the Green Bay Packers on a controversial call by the officials at CenturyLink Field on September 24, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Amazingly, not everything the NFL does is a head-scratcher. Yesterday they voted to approve an injury spotter whose job is to watch the game and to call a medical timeout for any players showing injury symptoms. If you recall the bit of controversy at Michigan that ultimately proved that Hoke was a poor leader for a modern football program, this probably would've helped in that situation. With the increased focus on concussions in football, I'd expect to see the NCAA follow suit in 2016.
8. Speaking of the NFL and its odd disconnect with reality, the owners voted to suspend the blackout rule for 2015-2016. They'll probably put it back in place but at a lower threshold in 2016. Thankfully college football doesn't have this or most of Indiana would never get to watch their home teams play.
The NFL is also broadcasting the Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguar game internationally, because yes, when selling American football internationally, those are the teams I'd pick as my ambassadors of "good football".
9. Is it really an upset when Kansas loses in the second round? Or just inevitability? Yes, this is just an excuse to make fun of Kansas. And before you ask where Nebraska is, I'll answer you: not playing in Omaha, just like Kansas. Or Creighton.
Meanwhile, I expect Wisconsin to lose this round because heartbreak is their name (in basketball).
10. Coming to a Nike uniform near you, scientists have invented a new material which is capable of changing colors at will. And people say science isn't cool!
I'm personally expecting Oregon's uniforms to go from green to white as their tempo increases. Those of you who want Nebraska to go to Nike, I'll allow it if our uniforms go from scarlet to more scarlet. And people say I'm inflexible. (Touch the helmet and I'm sending Lil' Red over to your house.)
But seriously, if this becomes a production technology, you just know Nike is going to jump on it. We can only hope Adidas doesn't.
BONUS: I have news that'll have you screaming "I poop gold!" like resident recruiting reporter Brian Towle. The United States Geological Survey has been looking at your poop and they've discovered that we've all been pooping valuable minerals. Don't worry, they're already looking into whether or not this is a future industry. (I'd give it about three months before there is a prospecting kit for your waste. Check your late night informercials.)
I can only assume this means that in the near future, your poop will be licensed by companies for mineral rights. I have to wonder which football program will be the first to be Phil Knight'd by a poop mineral mogul. Texas is the easy bet, right?
(No, this is not an actual viable get-rich-quick strategy. The amount of stuff you'd have to eat to get that much would probably kill you.)
Today is March 24, 2015. The Chicago Cubs are still mathematically eligible for the World Series. Go out and celebrate!