Hot Reads: Different Philosophies
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: Different Philosophies, Different Sides of the Ball

September 20, 2017

Defensive coordinator Bob Diazo took the podium for his weekly meeting with the media on Tuesday. These things can sometimes be an adventure, but I always come away feeling like I learned something.

Yesterday, I think I may have learned just how much of a sovereign nation the defense is when you consider what we’ve seen from the offense for three years.

Here’s Diaco on rotating players:

“The players can play harder, longer collectively … We’re playing a lot of offense that make you defend the whole width of the field and predominately have to do it with speed and tempo,” Diaco said. “Some of these plays have been turning over every 10, 12 seconds, so having to run to the right and to the left and to the right and to the left, for a guy that’s 310 pounds, that can get really taxing. It’s not your prototypical or standard kind of 3 yards and a cloud of dust running, rushing attack. It’s a lot of side-to-side running, so the big boys get tired and we have to make sure we get them out before they get tired and don’t produce. You can see in production on third down, you can see in production in the red zone evidence of players being ready to play in those situations and not being extremely gassed to a point that they can’t produce. 

“Then the side byproduct, which is fantastic, is development, so we’re getting a lot of guys reps and game experience. There are so many young players playing in these games, it’s incredible. The future is very bright.”

Based on what you’ve seen over two-plus seasons from Nebraska, could you imagine reading the same comment from anyone on the offensive staff? It’s basically the other end of the spectrum philosophically from what we’ve seen from offensive line Coach Mike Cavanaugh. A starter has to be in street clothes before a backup gets a shot. Boneheaded penalty? Still not coming out for even a play or two.

The Huskers’ tight end play so far this season has been pretty pedestrian. Nebraska has six tight ends on the roster who aren’t redshirting this season, but only two have played most of the snaps and just one (Tyler Hoppes) has a catch. Promising underclassmen – scholarship guys – can’t even get a shot?

Nebraska used to rotate at running back, but this year has gone all in on the bell-cow approach. At almost every spot on offense minus wide receiver – where the Huskers are as thin as they’ve been during the Mike Riley era, but will rotate – it’s like the depth chart was chiseled in stone at the start of the season and changing it requires all the hassle of engraving an entirely new tablet.

Normally, I’m more than comfortable to default to the coaches and what they’re seeing in practice in this regard, but something needs to change offensively for the Huskers. If the fear with giving young players or backups in general a chance to make an impact (even in limited snaps) is one of inconsistency, the offense isn’t consistent right now anyway. The longer it stays that way, the less that fear of consistency or ability to execute assignments remains valid. 

And when the defense boss comes out and is pretty positive over how many guys are making plays on his side of the ball, well, it sort of underscores what isn’t happening on the other side. The defense is getting better.

The offense? Well, that might determine how the rest of this season goes.

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