Gator Bowl, Nebraska vs. Georgia, 01.01.2014

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah (8) breaks a tackle by Georgia defensive end Sterling Bailey (58) after getting a lane from offensive linemen Cole Pensick (62) and Ryne Reeves (65) during the Gator Bowl on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

In each of Tim Beck's three seasons as Nebraska offensive coordinator, the Huskers' run-pass ratio has swung increasingly toward more passing.

Without belaboring the point — I'm beginning to fixate, I know — I think the ratio should swing back toward the run this season, for obvious reasons — most notably Ameer Abdullah, Imani Cross and Tommy Armstrong.

Or maybe I'm crazy.

After all, Nebraska is a passing school.

Pound the football at teams with two powerful running backs, not to mention a tough-running quarterback? What in the name of Bill Callahan am I thinking?

Not in this state, pal.

Beck, preparing for his fourth season as NU play-caller, was asked Monday to follow up on head coach Bo Pelini's comments regarding Armstrong's strong play in recent practices.

"Much more crisp in the passing game, much more decisive in the running game …" Beck said.

Notice which part came first.

I'm only kidding, I think.

Asked what jumps out about backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe's overall game, Beck said, "He's really good in the passing game, really gets the ball out quickly."

Armstrong, when asked which area of his game that he's tried to improve most since last season, said, "Just the passing game, honestly. I felt last year when they needed me most in the passing game, I let them down."

Forgive me. Sometimes it takes me awhile to grasp change — like, oh, a decade or so. It seems Nebraska continues to move further from its long-time identity as a stiff-arming, will-imposing, ground force.

It's why few folks batted an eye earlier this month when some media-types tried to manufacture a quarterback controversy based on — what else — Armstrong's passing.

Then again. …

In 2011, Beck's first season running the offense, Nebraska ran the ball 67.6 percent of the time (down from 69.2 in Shawn Watson's final season as play-caller). The Huskers ran the ball 63.7 percent of the time in 2012 and 60.1 last season.

Pelini said last month he hopes the offense moves closer to a 50-50 ratio.

The question at the time: Considering the strength you advocate on defense and your stable of running backs, should we expect to see a more run-oriented offense this season?

"No, I wouldn't say that at all," Pelini said, before quickly adding: "First of all, you have to establish the running game. It's always important. To win a championship — I think it's been shown over a long period of time — you have to be able to run the football."

But the key is balance, he said.

"We always talk about that. We've been about a 60/40 run-pass team, and I believe at the end of the day you'd like to get as close to 50/50 as you possibly can," he said.

Based on what I've seen and heard this month in camp, Nebraska is indeed moving closer to 50/50.

Or maybe it's all a brilliant disguise.

You know, another Pelini prank of the highest order.

Perhaps the joke will be on opposing defenses.

Maybe, when the season begins, we'll see Nebraska lean hard not only on Abdullah and Cross, but also on Armstrong's comfort running the traditional option and zone-read game. Perhaps we'll see Armstrong deftly mix in play-action passes and a generally conservative passing approach.

Maybe Nebraska will move toward running the ball 70 percent of the time, playing to Armstrong's strengths all the while.

Then again, I'm still living in another era.

* I'm told Aaron Curry, a junior defensive tackle, left the Nebraska program last week because he had fallen on the depth chart, plain and simple.

Curry, who started eight games last season, was the fifth tackle behind sophomore starters Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins as well as sophomore Kevin Maurice and junior Kevin Williams (who was injured in Monday's practice). Sophomore walk-on Logan Rath, of Aurora, by way of South Dakota State, also is making a push.

Pelini obviously doesn't cut much slack to players who shy from digging in and competing for playing time.

Meanwhile, call it "Camp Attrition." Pelini perhaps wishes he could fast forward to the Aug. 30 opener against Florida Atlantic.

* Abdullah's strength and speed gains since coming to Nebraska are largely the result of an all-encompassing healthy lifestyle. That's what I took from a brief chat the other day with Husker football head strength coach James Dobson.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Abdullah, who bench-presses about 360 pounds and squat-lifts some 580, watches closely what he eats, how much he sleeps, the gamut.

"Find a way, not a way out" is the mantra espoused by Dobson, and evidently followed by Abdullah.

You need a quick shot of motivation? Talk to Dobson for two minutes and you'll feel like you can tackle Abdullah one-on-one. OK, maybe not that good.

* So, Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim Miles compares transfer Andrew White III to Paul Pierce. Pierce and Chauncey Billups come to mind as two of the most precocious collegians to play in the Devaney Sports Center. Now all Miles needs is a Kevin Garnett-type to go with White. Knowing Miles, he has it in the works.

* Beck has at least one good problem: How to use both Jordan Westerkamp and Jamal Turner, a pair of gifted slot receivers. Turner is dialed in and practicing very well. Same goes for Westerkamp. Wait, I think Nebraska should run the ball more often. Never mind.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.​


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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