Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
What does Nebraska need to focus on against Rutgers? That's the big question.

Nebraska football mailbag: Where should the Huskers focus ahead of Rutgers?

Erin Sorensen

Have Nebraska football questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Nebraska mailbag to talk all things Huskers. This week, we’ll discuss what Nebraska needs to be focused on against Rutgers, whose seat is hotter between coach Mike Riley and athletic director Shawn Eichorst, and more.

Coach Mike Riley probably said it best on the Big Ten teleconference on Tuesday.

“We’ve really got to find our identity offensively,” Riley said. “I don’t think we’ve been good offensively this year consistently. Glimpses, good isolated plays. Nothing I would say that is an identity builder.”

Riley also said Nebraska had a vision coming into this season to be a “good run-play action team” and to be balanced. Instead, the Huskers have been inconsistent in the run game and have struggled to protect quarterback Tanner Lee.

I’m not going to say there isn’t room for the defense to improve, because there is. But right now, my focus is on finding that consistency on offense and the offensive line stepping up big against Rutgers.

Riley’s seat is currently hotter, although that doesn’t make athletic director Shawn Eichorst’s seat any cooler. Eichorst could maybe buy himself some time if Riley conveniently retired after a rough season.

However, if things go completely off the rails and there are two wins or less left in the season? No one’s job is safe at that point come November.

Nebraska is still viewed as a “football school,” for the most part. People who knew of the Huskers in the 1990s definitely se it as such, even if the last couple of decades have been significantly different.

However, there are people who do see Nebraska as a “volleyball school” too. That’s completely OK in my opinion. Why not be known for multiple things? It doesn’t hurt the cause for either team, especially when one might be struggling more than the other.

No, I do not see Patrick O’Brien playing against Rutgers. Even offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said after the Northern Illinois loss that it hasn’t been an option on the table at this time. If Lee were to be injured? Sure, O’Brien would go in the game. I just don’t see Lee being benched at this point otherwise.

Going back to the first question I answered above, we need to see improvement from the offensive line first before we start to think a quarterback swap is the answer. I know Lee is not the most mobile — or mobile at all sometimes, I guess — but would we feel better if O’Brien went out and kept getting sacked too? Then what? Do you burn Tristan Gebbia’s redshirt?

The grass is always greener, and I’m willing to wait it out a bit with Lee. Let’s see the offensive line improve before calling for O’Brien to take over.

Before I say anything more, here’s what Riley had to say about Antonio Reed on Monday:

“Antonio Reed made it through and played with his cast and my hope is there that he will just get more and more comfortable, because it will be awhile before he gets that cast off.”

My takeaway is the coaches want him in the game, regardless of the cast. For what it’s worth, I specifically remember one play where he got knocked down but quickly bounced back up and finished the play. That’s likely why he’s still in. He just needs to get more comfortable playing and tackling with the cast, especially if he could have it for some time, and that’s why he is staying in the game.

I honestly don’t put too much emphasis on either. Recruits will go where they want to go regardless of wins, losses and fan tweets. With that said, I caution those who tag recruits in their tweets. While you might think you’re helping, I think that’s probably more problematic than a loss.

As Nebraska commit Brendan Radley-Hiles said in his latest notebook, “There is no such thing as a loss. There are only lessons.” I think that speaks volumes on how recruits approach these things, so now it’s on fans to be mindful of that as well.

I think they understand and appreciate it, at least from my experience. Lee specifically said last spring how much fun the spring game was, and that wasn’t even at capacity. In fact, here’s Lee’s full quote (where you can see his reaction to the question too):

Beyond that, we’ve all heard the recruits and young players gush over the crowd at Memorial Stadium. While they might get used to it in some regard, I don’t think it’s ever lost on them how special this is.

Long story short: The fans are a vital part of Nebraska’s game day, and the players and coaches appreciate it.

I think you’re on to something here.

Have a question about Nebraska football? Tweet us @Landof10Huskers and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Nebraska football mailbags here.