Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nebraska Football: What a Gap Between Hype and Reality

Bill Callahan refused to play Joe Ganz at QB until Sam Keller's season was ended by an injury. Ganz took NU's offense to a whole new level. Keller was not taken in the NFL draft, not even by the New York Jets, the team for whom Callahan is now offensive coordinator.

That's one manifestation of the colossal failure of Callahan and his staff.

The debate used to be: Is the hype about NU's blue-chip recruits wrong, or is the coaching staff unable to coach?

Last year seemed to confirm the latter. Maybe it was inability to coach. Maybe it was mistaken evaluation of talent. I don't blame Callahan for recruiting Keller, but going with him over Ganz may have cost him his job.

Well, no, even with Ganz engineering 39 points against Kansas and 51 points against Colorado, the defense was so pathetic that NU still was getting blown out. Even a full season of Ganz probably would not have saved Callahan, so total was the collapse of the Lackshirts. The numbers say NU's defense ranked 112 out of 119 last year. The display on the field was even harder to view than the numbers.

The 71 points against Kansas State may have fed Callahan's ego, but the woeful Wildcats still scored 31.

The recent NFL draft indicates that the recruiting hype was, indeed, mostly hot air. So even the supposed success of Callahan and his staff -- recruiting -- was a fraud.

Whatever happens under Bo Pelini, I hope the smoke-and-mirrors era is over. Instead of the defensive and self-serving cooing and stroking and whining and emoting of the Callahan staff, I look forward to Uncle Charlie candor.

Usually at least once early in spring practice or fall practice, Charlie McBride, longtime defensive coordinator under Tom Osborne, would announce that the defense looked "fat, dumb, and slow" and would get slaughtered unless it shaped up.

In his previous tour of duty as defensive coordinator in 2003, Pelini withdrew all Blackshirts in the middle of the season to signal his disgust with the effort of the players.

By the way, that defense finished the 2003 season ranked 11th (first in turnovers forced). It had been 55th the year before and would sink to 56th in 2004, and of course slide to 112th last year.

Good luck, Il Duce Pelini, in turning the Lackshirts back into the Blackshirts.

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