The offensive line has long been one of the most important positions on the field. Nebraska had been known for their “Pipeline” in the 90s. Entering year five of the Bo Pelini era, the offensive line is in disarray. For Nebraska to take the next step forward, to compete for conference and national championships, Barney Cotton must go.
After three years, it was clear that the offensive line had issues. The fans knew it, the media knew it, and even Bo Pelini knew it. He promoted John Garrison to be the co-offensive line coach alongside Cotton. In addition, former Husker great Brendan Stai also coaches the line as a graduate assistant.
Having multiple offensive line coaches can work. Look no further than the Osborne era combo of Milt Tenopir and Dan Young.
That said, it’s remarkably clear why Garrison and Stai were brought in – Cotton couldn’t cut it. It’s rather remarkable that Cotton’s kept his job this long while valuable assistant coach and graduate assistant slots were filled with others trying to mask his deficiencies.
Meanwhile, Nebraska operates without a proper quarterback coach. Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Tim Beck hadn’t coached quarterbacks until taking on the role in Lincoln. It’s inexcusable.
For many, the straw that broke the camel’s back happened when Tyler Moore, a five-star recruit, Husker legacy and the first ever true freshman to start on the offensive line left the team. Depending on who you listen to, Moore allegedly stormed out of practice after a loud confrontation with coaches.
Regardless, his father’s comments to the Lincoln Journal Star were telling. While he refused to get into the coaching situation, he was quick to direct praise on Pelini and Beck. There was no such praise for Cotton.
Rewind to last season, Moore starts the season opener and plays extensively in every game. Then, on that fateful night in Madison, he commits a single false start and is barely heard from again.
A true freshman makes a mistake on one of the most hostile fields in the Big Ten and never is given the opportunity to redeem himself. It’s stunning in retrospect.
With a player of Moore’s caliber, knowing what he can do, it made zero sense to not have him in games as often as possible.
We’re talking about a four-year starter at left tackle, why bench him? He wasn’t the problem that night. Even if his issues had just been isolated to the Night of the Badgers, where was he the rest of the season? For a player of his caliber, it’s easy to see why there was frustration.
While Garrison is involved in the teaching of the offensive line, Cotton makes the personnel decisions. Why he kept Moore on the bench is a mystery, but it seems apparent that Tyler had enough. Nebraska’s offensive line/assistant head coach cost the Huskers their most promising offensive lineman in a decade.
Where do the Huskers go from here?
In many ways, 2012 should be the last chance for Barney Cotton to prove his worth and ability to coach the line. In year five, there are no excuses.
These are the players he’s helped recruit, that he’s coached for their entire careers. No one expects a dominant offensive line based on the past four years’ results, but Nebraska should at least have a decent one.
Can Bo Pelini fire his good friend if it’s warranted? That’s tough to say.
Cotton has three sons on the team. He’s a legacy. Despite the unacceptable results, Nebraska handles these types of situations with grace. Maybe Tom Osborne and Bo can find Barney a new offensive coordinator position – effectively the Carl Pelini treatment.
A cushy athletic department job is a possbility, but should Nebraska pay someone to keep them off the assistant coaches’ roster? Maybe a quiet retirement with fishing pole in hand is best for all involved.
Bottom line: Cotton needs to deliver this year.
If the offensive line flounders yet again, there should be nowhere for him to hide. Not behind his sons, not behind his legacy at Nebraska and not behind Bo’s loyalty.
The fans and the team deserve an offensive line that’s closer to the Pipeline than to Cotton Candy. If Cotton can’t deliver, it’s time to bring in someone who will.
What should Barney Cotton’s fate be? Leave your comments below.