Excellent stuffWe're never going back to an offense featuring an I-back 7 yards deep in the backfield as our base offense, but I think that folks on this page will be very pleased, possibly even surprised, by what Austin has been trying to change with the offense. If you haven't already, listen to his interview after the first practice of spring and pay close attention to the examples he uses and the times when he's the most animated.
Be sure to catch the part where he talks about running "zone, power, and some old stuff." He's a Nebraska alum, a former Nebraska O-linemen, sitting in a Nebraska cafeteria, talking with Nebraska media about doing some "old stuff" that they used to do. He's specifically addressing questions about the running game, so what could he possibly mean by that except something like the old-school I-formation that we broke out against Ohio State for a series or two? Folks, that didn't just happen by accident or without thought or an investment of time and resources. Because both Osborne's Power-I offense and Frost's spread offense are based on zone blocking principles, it's actually not that huge of a shift for the players who most struggle with jumping back and forth between offensive schemes: the O-linemen. I'm pretty sure that Austin is saying that he wanted to run more of that I-formation offense last year, and nobody was listening to him. He gave specific examples of wanting to lean on the run when he referenced the Purdue and Iowa games, and that could be related or not, but it wouldn't change what he said. Folks, we're going to see some old-school Nebraska offense.
Here's what's interesting: How many people remember Frank Solich's base offense? We all remember Crouch running a lot of option out of the I-formation, but going as far back as Frazier and Lawrence Phillips, Nebraska had been running increasingly more of the Ace Offense with a QB under center and a single RB (Ace-Back) behind the QB. Frost ran this a lot as QB, including a lot of option plays where Shevin Wiggins was the pitch-man coming from the backside Wing (often it was a Slot) position, very similar to the heart of Paul Johnson's option offense. Fast forward to the Jammal Lord years under Solich, and I think that we ran almost as much Ace as Power-I, possibly more. Not only that, way back with Crouch we were already running some shotgun with a single RB, similar to almost all spread offenses now. Why does that matter? Austin started out in that Solich offense. He would have had to have learned the blocking techniques, principles, and calls for all of those Solich offensive looks, and I think that they were designed to be as interchangeable as possible for the people who most mattered: the O-linemen. Austin started playing at Nebraska under the Frank Solich offense, and it was actually quite complicated and quite multiple as it still contained pretty much all of Osborne's 90s offense, plus every wrinkle that Solich had added. Frost has been around ALL of the above, and he's even run almost all of this as a QB, and the O-line principles and techniques aren't significantly different from one scheme to the next.
I think that that's what Austin wants to do--change offensive formations to run the same plays with the same O-line blocking rules--and it's completely in line with what Frost (and Lubick) envision as a huge part of their ideal offense. That would mean more of what we saw briefly against Ohio State, when we switched up to run I-Formation offensive plays for a couple of series while still running our regular offense for most of that game. Austin wants more of that. Schematically, that would be an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses to replicate in practice, and it almost requires entirely different defensive schemes for the vastly different formations. Meanwhile, with guys like Wan'Dale, Rahmir, Mills, Chris Hickman, and an army of good TEs, the same personnel can line up in everything from Osborne's Power-I to Chip Kelly's Spread to anything in-between without having to change personnel. They can go goal-line with 2 TEs in line (like normal TEs), another set up like a Wingback/H-Back, Hickman at FB, and Wan'Dale at I-Back, then shift out of it to an empty backfield without changing personnel. I can't say that that's specifically what they're thinking about doing--I've been dreaming of it for 2+ years now, and it's all within the coaches' grasp if they want it--but that would be in line with what I'm pretty sure the offensive staff is trying to do.