Ed Haenfler became a Nebraska high school coaching legend at Grant from 1933-1972 by using just a few simple plays on offense and executing them to near-perfection.
Football doesn't have to be all that complicated, especially at the high school or small-college level.
Of course, strategies must be a little more complex to succeed in major college football. At the University of Nebraska, coach Bob Devaney allowed his young offensive coordinator, Tom Osborne, to install for the 1969 season a balanced I-formation attack that put a heavier emphasis on the passing game. Although it made Devaney nervous, it quickly paid dividends.
As a head coach in the 1980s, Osborne decided to move back to a run-heavy offense, adapting his base "I" into a power option attack. Critics laughed at the simplicity of his passing game, but they couldn't figure out his running game, which included multiple blocking schemes for a wide variety of option plays and traps.
After Osborne's retirement in 1997, Frank Solich kept things pretty simple on offense, but his successor, Bill Callahan, installed the West Coast offense and his infamous NFL-sized playbook, which was way too much to handle for college players who had other things – like studying for class – to worry about. Callahan's vision of football as a chess match on turf was doomed to failure at the major college level.
I'll follow several trends throughout the season:
• How Taylor Martinez is developing as a passer,
• If the Blackshirts are forcing enough turnovers,
• How senior leaders are developing, and maybe,
• If coach Bo Pelini is allowing his offensive coordinator, Tim Beck, to make things too complex by trying to squeeze a spread option attack, a power running game and a 50/50 run-pass ratio out of the same offense.
You may or may not agree with my take, but I'll give you something to chew on. Of course, you'll be able to Talkback to tell us what you think.
Callahan's tenure turned out to be forgettable, so since Haenfler won five state championships at Grant, we'll see how far simplicity takes the Huskers this season.
Tad Stryker is the former sports editor of the North Platte Bulletin and provides analysis after each Husker football game for Bulletin readers. Stryker also writes for HuskerPedia and HuskerMax. (http://www.huskerpedia.com and http://www.huskermax.com.