In recently placing Nebraska football coach Bill Callahan on the proverbial “hot seat” for 2007, ex-Husker great and current CSTV analyst Trev Alberts apparently was either:
1. So overcome by passion and love for his former program that he went just a little far with his line of thinking.
Or 2. Trying to attract as many “hits” as possible on CSTV.com, for which he writes opinion pieces.
The guess here is that it was more No. 1 than No. 2, although the more I think about it, the more I wonder.
Albert writes of Callahan’s performance: “The Huskers haven’t beat anyone of substance. His record in three years is just not good. They’ve become a bad road team and lost to unranked teams. Callahan needs to produce a big year. He needs to win the Big 12 North. I think a step backward could be the end of his regime.”
Wait a second. A step backward could be the end of Callahan’s regime?
Barring complete catastrophe, such a notion is simply ludicrous.
At this point, Callahan should be at least one year away from the “hot seat” — no matter how it’s defined — and perhaps two or three.
To be sure, Callahan deserves more slack than most big-time college coaches because of the monumental nature of his undertaking at NU. He revamped everything. Stripped the big house on Stadium Drive to its core. Growing pains have been excruciating.
I also respectfully disagree with placing Callahan on the “hot seat” at this point because by virtually any measure, his program has shown progress. For example, Nebraska was 5-0 in the Big 12 North last season. The Huskers are 8-2 in their division the last two seasons. Yes, the North is relatively weak. But winning it represents a good starting point for Big Red.
“I think that’s huge,” Callahan said recently. “As I’ve said many times, it all starts in your own division.”
Of course, it would be great for Nebraska if its progress continues in 2007 and manifests itself in an improved record, a Big 12 championship and BCS bowl victory — all of which, by the way, are within reach. However, a “step back” in record wouldn’t necessarily represent a step back in overall progress.
In this particular time in Nebraska football history, the big picture is immeasurably more important than the small one. Husker fans should avoid getting too hung up on records at this stage of the game, although there’s no question Callahan needs “breakthrough” victories — a national headline grabber against someone like Southern California or Texas or perhaps even Wake Forest.
Alberts and others write that Callahan has had ample time to recruit players to fit Nebraska’s new systems. However, it should be noted that many of those players remain in development stages.
For instance, it would be unfair to make hasty judgments on gifted offensive linemen such as redshirt freshmen Keith Williams and D.J. Jones or sophomore Jacob Hickman or even juniors Matt Slauson, Lydon Murtha, Andy Christensen and Mike Huff.
When Callahan arrived at Nebraska, the Husker offensive line was substandard to a startlingly high degree. Through strong recruiting, the “pipeline” has begun to again resemble a championship-level outfit. The new guys are huge and athletic.
Callahan also appears to have stabilized the most important position of all — quarterback. He now has a stable of young players to groom. Sophomore Zac Lee possesses “a huge arm” and ferocious competitiveness, a Husker assistant told me recently. Freshman Patrick Witt shows enormous promise. And don’t get me started on Blaine Gabbert, the centerpiece of a promising 2008 NU recruiting class.
Yes, at some point Callahan’s wonderful recruiting classes need to bear more fruit in the win-loss column. However, anybody watching Gabbert perform Friday at a training camp in Columbia, Mo., saw a quarterback with enormous potential.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Gabbert, of suburban St. Louis, participated in drills with Jim Youngblood of Fairview, Ark., who has pledged to Arkansas, and Tyler Wilson, who’s being wooed by Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana State, Kansas and Hawaii, among others.
Gabbert was named MVP among quarterbacks at the camp. Trust me, it wasn’t even close.
Pouring through Nebraska’s current roster, you see young talent at virtually every position. Maybe those placing Callahan on the “hot seat” haven’t noticed.
“This is the year, according to Nebraska football history, that will define and basically characterize what this (coaching) regime is going to be about,” Alberts writes. “I think that’s fair.”
I’d say that’s jumping the gun.
Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or email@example.com.