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NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Grading the Coaches After Week One

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Ryan Donohue
Bo Pelini – Head Coach
The first game of 2011 is under Pelini's belt and the fourth-year coach appears more comfortable in the cockpit. He finally has his hand-picked staff running the offense and his brother has the defense on lockdown. It’s up to Bo to manage each game from a higher perspective so that he can worry more about overall strategy and less about strictly defensive tactics.
He has to give more attention to the offense and help guide Beck in his first year. Pelini seemed more even-keeled last week although the win was never in doubt. He’ll need to keep his temper in check in the Big Ten to shed the reputation he’s earning as a hot head. If he can show himself to be more balanced head coach with a level head, he may be leading a championship team. There wasn’t much to go off of in week one, but all eyes will be on Pelini as he molds his squad in preparation for a feisty Fresno State team.
Grade: B
Tim Beck – Offensive Coordinator
The new offensive mastermind has produced his first game for all to analyze. What’s Beck trying to say? Is Nebraska really transporting back to the late 1980s with an option-first ground game or is that a swerve to give future defenses less to analyze? Certainly the option is a component of Beck’s offense, but when does the zone read come into play?
Beck spoke this past spring about having a multi-faceted offense like the 2007 Kansas Jayhawks. There wasn’t much multiplicity going on last week and since Beck is responsible for quarterbacks, let’s look at Taylor Martinez.
Martinez still has a sick second gear, remains very impatient with his reads, and is liable to getting hurt again with his flailing running style. Brion Carnes looked just as uncomfortable as Martinez running the option. Beck may have something in the works, but we need more data.
Grade: Incomplete
Ron Brown – Running Backs
One of the three freshman backs would be redshirted, right? Thanks to a major decision by the new running backs coach, all three will play. There’s a lot of excitement about the three-headed monster of Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah, but how will Nebraska fans feel in four years?
Pelini’s 2008 redshirting strategy seems to have pulled a 180 just three years later. Either Nebraska is at a better place in terms of depth or getting impatient for playmakers. Regardless, with Rex Burkhead in the backfield, Coach Brown can’t go wrong.
Grade: B
Rich Fisher – Wide Receivers
Brandon Kinnie, the vocal leader of the receiving corps, didn’t seem in rhythm. Quincy Enunwa, a true sophomore who looked like a redshirt senior against UTC, may surprise this year.
Fisher’s squad has potential if they can get the ball. Turner showed promise on several plays as he ran his routes well made a big gain on a broken play. There are playmakers waiting in the wings, but there needs to be two or three dependable options for Martinez to find.
Grade: C+
Barney Cotton/John Garrison – Offensive Line & Tight Ends
It’s hard to get a feel for the Cotton/Garrison experiment. There’s nothing wrong with giving Cotton some helping hands to mold this young offensive line as obviously there’s work to be done. This line doesn’t appear to transition well from run-blocking to pass-blocking and are scrambling in the option game.
The technique looked a little sloppy overall. The offensive line has been the Achilles’ heel of the Husker offense for so long that it seems silly to refer to it as “The Pipeline” at this point. Hopefully this group has stepped preparation up a notch for a less vanilla scheme. At least the Huskers’ tight ends can block well.
Grade: D+
Carl Pelini – Defensive Coordinator
Kudos to Carl for retooling the defense so well after losing so many high-impact players to the NFL ranks. There might not be a drop in performance this year. The only question mark is at linebacker. As long as the defense can prove they can properly attack a heavy rushing offense – and they’ll get their chance on October 1 – they’re clearly the most complete unit in the conference.
Grade: A-
Ross Els – Linebackers
Coach Els has the tough task of transitioning Nebraska’s linebacking corps away from a spread-based Big 12 to the run-heavy Big Ten style. He also has the challenge of finding three starting linebackers that mesh. Lavonte David is a rock star and will continue to shine.
Sean Fisher has a lot of rust to knock off and Will Compton is beset by injury once again. Trevor Roach is intriguing in a 2008 Mathew May way. The Blackshirts will need to re-establish their identity as a run-stopping bunch and the linebackers will play a big part in that.
Grade: C+
John Papuchis – Special Teams/Defensive Line
How about Brett Maher? The kid can kick and will help fill the void left by Alex Henery. The defensive line is stacked with depth. Jared Crick continues to dominate and Cameron Meredith showed he will be a beast out of the base end position. Baker Steinkuhler looks like the next Crick. Coach Papuchis has clearly built his own version of "The Pipeline" on defense and if last week showed Nebraska fans anything, it’s that the defensive line will be the backbone of the Blackshirts.
Grade: A+
Corey Raymond – Secondary
Raymond shoulders a lot of expectation as he takes over a vaunted secondary that was ravaged by the NFL draft. Without his crown jewel Alfonzo Dennard, it’s hard to get a good read on Raymond’s revised unit. Ciante Evans seems capable as the No. 2 corner, but Andrew Green was shaky, giving up the day’s lone score. The safeties are sound, with Courtney Osborne and Austin Cassidy looking like a seasoned duo. Look for Daimion Stafford to push them all year long.
Grade: B+
James Dobson – Head Strength Coach
Dobson technically isn't a game day coach, but players looked thicker, leaner and meaner in the opener. Everyone seemed to have packed on a little extra muscle since the last time we saw them while looking quick and agile. Kudos to Dobson for getting the Cornhuskers motivated in the gym during a long, cold winter.
Grade: A
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