Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big 12 [Print without images]

Thursday, December 10, 2009
Huskers' offensive meltdown may have cost them Gabbert

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

The ramifications of Nebraska's putrid offensive effort in the Big 12 championship game have reverberated through the recruiting trails.

It came earlier this week when Nebraska recruit Tyler Gabbert told Nebraska coaches he no longer considered himself a Cornhusker recruit.

Gabbert's decision came several days before a scheduled visit to Missouri, where his older brother, Blaine, is the starting quarterback for the Tigers.

It sounds to me that Tyler Gabbert was watching very closely in the Cornhuskers' 13-12 loss to Texas -- especially taking note of the lack of a downfield passing game in that tight defeat that cost the Cornhuskers the Big 12 title.

Gabbert, who played high school football at Ballwin Park, Mo., informed Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson of his decision earlier this week.

“It definitely was a mutual decision,” Gabbert told the Lincoln Journal-Star. "I told him that I didn’t see myself playing at Nebraska in five years, and told him I wanted to look around a little bit. He was like, ‘Yeah, we understand that. I’m not going to make you come. You have to follow your heart. But if you’re looking around, we have to go our separate direction and look after our best interest as well.’”

The Cornhuskers' mid-season change in offensive philosophy sounds like it played a part in Gabbert's decision.

Although Watson has repeatedly said he favors an offense that "slings the ball around the lot," the Cornhuskers won the Big 12 North with a heavy ground-based philosophy. Nebraska ran the ball 58 percent of its snaps this season, including 69 percent after the Baylor game when Zac Lee reclaimed the starting position.

Nebraska ran the ball on about 53 percent of its snaps last season with Joe Ganz as its starting quarterback.

Gabbert told the Journal-Star that Nebraska's transformation into a heavy I-formation team "definitely" impacted his decision.

“I know they’re doing what they have to do to win,” Gabbert told the Journal-Star. “But I did some research of the past recruiting classes. I haven’t seen the receivers or athletes coming in as opposed to all the linemen and running backs coming in. So it just kind of makes you wonder what the intentions are for the offense. And I imagine myself throwing the ball 40 times a game. … So in terms of running the power-I, that’s just not the case in that style of offense.”

Recruiting analysts like Tyler Gabbert's savvy, but he's not considered the recruit that his older brother was. He's listed by his high school at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. And according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, his senior statistics were pedestrian -- 1,148 passing yards, eight touchdowns, four interceptions, 188 rushing yards on 78 carries with two rushing touchdowns. Those numbers are down significantly from his junior season, when he passed for 18 touchdowns with five interceptions.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel got a lot of publicity in the Nebraska and Missouri media when he made a point to drop in on Tyler Gabbert's game the week before the Nebraska game via helicopter.

Gabbert and his family haven't won any friends in Nebraska after this decision. His older brother was an early Nebraska commitment before changing his mind during the fall of 2007 when Bill Callahan was coaching the Cornhuskers.

And another decision made by his little brother only stokes the emerging Nebraska-Missouri rivalry a little bit more.