Mailbag: Pesos, Gills and Broyles

Ike in Chicago (from Nebraska originally) asks: Can you better explain in my language what the "peso" formation consists of and what it would look like on paper?

Cory in Bellevue, Nebraska wanted to know the exchange rate on the formation, too: With Nebraska going with the "peso" defense this year do you think the Blackshirts bring an element that other teams will have to gameplan for or do you think it will take a year to really get it running correctly?

David Ubben: The Peso is nothing you haven’t seen before. You’ve seen it, and so has every coach in the Big 12. It just has a name now. You’re not going to be able to do anything on defense to legitimately surprise anyone. It’s about execution. Not as much of what you do as much as how well you do it.

The Huskers ran the defense currently known as Peso a lot in the final two games of 2009, and it was effective. They used it all season to combat obvious passing situations.

Basically, the point is to get more speed on the field. The team lines up in a normal 4-3, but instead of a third linebacker, they play a hybrid defensive back/linebacker. Think the Oklahoma Roy Williams. Bigger than an average defensive back, but faster than a linebacker. For Nebraska, that player is Eric Hagg, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder who does what he needs to for the whole thing run. He’s fast enough to cover a tight end or a slot receiver reasonably well, but big enough and strong enough to help in run support if necessary.

Gabe D in Denver, Colo., asks: After reading that Harper isnt taking reps at QB, is it because he won't be able to contribute till the 2011 season or does snyder plan on Harper being a reciever?

David Ubben: It sounds as though they’ll use him exclusively as a receiver into the future. He came in as an “athlete,” but he had a history of playing quarterback. Kansas State needs big-play potential on the edges, and while he’s obviously untested, on paper, he looks like he could give them that. Six-foot-one, 234 pounds with a 4.45 40-time? That’s going to be fun to watch at any position.

dan the man in Chilifest, Snook Texas, asks: Best Receiver in the Big 12 South: Fuller, Broyles, or whoever Texas is going to start?

David Ubben: It’s Ryan Broyles, and it’s not close. He has a case as the best offensive player in the entire conference, and if he can surpass the numbers he put up last year, he’ll make that case loudly. Without him, Landry Jones would have struggled. With Jones at quarterback and Broyles healthy (he missed almost two games with a fractured shoulder blade) he caught seven balls or more in every single game except Texas, when he was still well short of 100 percent, returning from that injury. Against Miami, he caught a 37-yard pass on the opening drive and hurt that shoulder blade, otherwise he might have had a big day against the Canes.

And not many players closed the season as well as he did, establishing momentum for 2010. In his final two games combined, Broyles caught 22 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns to help the Sooners finish a rough season with a pair of wins.

Fuller has the impressive size that Broyles lacks, but Broyles' finish to 2009 was even more impressive than Fuller’s, and the Aggies lost both of their final two games.

Dale Reeves in Lincoln, Neb., asks: My take on the Kansas hiring of former Husker, Turner Gill is that he was hired more for his personal relationship skills, and less about him actually being able to compete in the big 12 as a coach. He put together a great staff, but I'm afraid he isn't going to win more than half his games. What are the biggest differences Turner will face in his first year in the ultra competitive big 12 that he didn't have to face at buffalo?

David Ubben: I don’t think that’s the case at all. Gill certainly has his detractors for his coaching pedigree, and some of that has to do with his unimpressive career record of 20-30 and even his team’s 5-7 record at Buffalo before he jumped to Kansas. But before Gill arrived, Buffalo had won just five games in four seasons. In three seasons, he turned them into a championship team in the MAC, always a competitive conference.

It didn’t hurt his case that he’s Mark Mangino’s opposite in almost every way. It will hurt his case if he can’t duplicate some of Mangino’s successes.

As for the biggest differences, I don’t see much that’s uncommon to any coach who moves up to the major conference ranks. He won’t play a team in the nonconference that can beat his team by five touchdowns very often. He’ll be able to attract a lot more quality talent to his program. And he won’t need to win his conference just to make a bowl game. I’m sure he welcomes all of those changes.