Let’s be honest about this, Husker fans: This is the Big Ten and we all wanted to be a part of the Big Ten. Nebraska had to go to the Big Ten, but there was going to be a cost and in this case, the cost was a running back who happened to be a five-star recruit. In some respects, we can’t blame Aaron Green.
I don’t know how much Big Ten football Aaron Green watched before coming to Nebraska, but I’m sure he realized pretty quickly that the Big Ten is a butcher’s shop for running backs. His father said Green wants to play in open offenses.
Meatball fans may read that and say Green isn’t tough enough, but consider what he observed last year: Rex Burkhead taking weekly punishment from hulking Big Ten front sevens. He saw behind the curtain when No. 22 was in the training room and the ice tub. If Burkhead looked tired after games, how must he have looked to his teammates during the week?
Green, an elite high school recruit, seeks to make it to the NFL. Of the top twenty five NFL rushers last year, only three were from the Big Ten. Two were from the SEC, the nation’s leader in physical college football.
Nine were either from the Big 12 or then-Pac 10, the homes of “finesse” football. Six were from non-AQ schools and went against less daunting competition. Aside from the lack of wear and tear, the Big 12′s video game-style can help a player’s draft stock in other ways.
Even if a player is just stockpiling numbers, his long runs will look better to an NFL fan base than what Silas Redd tallies for Penn State. Even when you’re small, if you can get into space, there’s a place for you in the NFL (See: Woodhead, Danny).
This raises the issue of whether or not Nebraska should have sold itself so hard to Green in the first place. A fair question in light of the Jarred Uhoff fiasco at Wisconsin. Recruiting both he and his brother as a pair made sense. No doubt Bill Busch did the right thing recruiting Prince Amukamara, Eric Hagg, Marcel Jones and their Arizona comrades as a group in 2007.
If you can get players to come thousands of miles from home as a group, that’s an accomplishment. However, we don’t know what Bo Pelini sold to the Green brothers in their living room and once they arrived on campus.
There was time last year when Green could have been given more carries after a game’s outcome was decided (Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota), but garbage carries aren’t enough. If you’re going to play a true freshman, it has to be early in games.
With Nebraska’s no-huddle offense which can yield eighty plays per game, there can be fifty carries available for running back. However, Green did have six carries again Minnesota and only gained 20 yards against the Big Ten’s second worst team.
It’s surprising that Tim Beck apparently felt he wasn’t even worth a carry against Northwestern as opposed to an exhausted Burkhead who had 35 totes the week prior. It’s fair to question whether the San Antonio native is as good as recruiting services say.
However, if you question Green’s talent, it’s only fair to wonder if Nebraska’s offense merely imitates a modern spread offense.
Even when the Huskers lined up in the Diamond Formation, many teams played their base 4-3 against it giving Nebraska match-up advantages that were reminiscent of when Big 12 offenses undressed Kevin Cosgrove. Instead, Nebraska adopted the Big Ten’s Put-Your-Load-on-One-Back offense and left big plays in our imaginations.
The play that exemplifies this is best is Quincy Enunwa’s touchdown against Ohio State.
Not only did Enunwa break free behind a play fake and a great double move, but Green found himself running uncovered on a wheel route out of the backfield.
Watching him run down the field with his hands up in frustration, he’s probably justified in thinking he wasn’t getting enough touches.
Then again, much like he and his quarterback, maybe Nebraska and Aaron Green simply weren’t on the same page.