Offense: It’s great that Taylor Martinez has no loss of confidence but let’s put the delusions of grandeur to bed here and now. Nebraska’s offense will baring injuries be really good and could be great. It will not however be the best in school history. They will not score 53 points a game like the 95 Huskers nor 52 points a game like the 83 Huskers however 40 points a game is not out of the question.
Nebraska is set
at everywhere on offense but tight end. Taylor Martinez already owns
much of the record book. If he stays healthy you may as well rename the
record book The Taylor Martinez memorial playbook. Running back still
looks strong but not as strong as it did before Braylon Heard’s transfer
to Kentucky. Amir Abdullah ran for over a 1000 yards last year and is
set for another big year. Ball security appears to be his only weakness.
Imani Cross was the short yardage back last season. He lost 15 pounds
to try and add some speed. 2 Highly touted Freshman provide back up.
Nebraska doesn’t use Fullbacks to run much anymore but they do still use
the to block and receive the ball. CJ Zimmer and Andy janovich are both
solid there. Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, Quincy Enunwa, Taariq Allen
simply put make this is the best wide receiving crew in Nebraska
history. There are also some youngsters like Jordan Westerkamp that
the coaches are excited about. Tight End is the only question mark on
the offensive side Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed are gone. Only Jake Long
has any game experience. Long is a great blocker but hasn’t caught
many passes. This is expected to be the best offensive line of The Bo
Pelini era. The line 4 starters from a line that was good but
inconsistent last season.
Defense: Can we talk about offense some
more? First the good news. Nebraska had a very good secondary last
season for the most part and it returns 3 starters and 4th
man who played enough to be a starter. This is the strength of the
defense which would be great if Nebraska were back in the Big 12 and not
in the Big 10. The Front 7 is Oscar The Grouch Green. Since Nebraska’s
front 7 struggled so much last year that could in time be a good thing
but there will be growing pains. Only Jason Ankrah has any starting
experience on the defensive line. Thad Randle also has playing some
experience but that is it. The coached believe what this group doesn’t
have in experience it makes up for in talent. The Linebacking group is
greener if that is possible. Atheism in the front 7 has been a huge
problem for Nebraska sans Lavonte David for the last 2 years. That
appears to be somewhat rectified. Still it’s hard to think of a front 7
less experienced than this one other than maybe 2007. Do I have to
remind you how that season turned out?
Special Teams: Great Kicking
is almost getting to be a Nebraska trademark. At Field Goal kicker
since 1995 Nebraska has had Kris Brown, Josh Brown who both had long
successful NFL careers. David Dykes and Jordon Congdan were both sold.
Alex Henery was the greatest College Kicker I have ever seen and Brett
Maher followed him with great success. Now the job falls to Maurio
Baundi. If the Spring game is any indication he’ll be fine. He made one
kick from 50yards and barely missed from 58. If Anything Nebraska’s
punting game has been stronger longer than it’s field goal kicking game
has. Going back to the late 80’s Nebraska had a string of great
punters. This year the job will fall to Freshman Sam Foltz who is also a
back up receiver so maybe you can expect some fake punts this year.
When Nebraska catches the ball on Punt and Kick returns they have been
solid returning kicks. The problem is catching the ball. Amir Abdullah,
Kenny Bell, and Jamal Turner were all tried a year ago and all
struggled to a field a kick. Eventually Nebraska put Rex Burkhead back
to catch punts sacrificing a return for just catching the ball. Rex
now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. It got to be such a problem last
season that when kicks were successfully fielded the fans cheered.
Obviously this needs to be fixed.
The Schedule. It’s hard to find a
major college football team with one much more friendly. Thanks to
buying off Southern Miss’ ex coach the first 5 games are at home and
only UCLA would seem to be a threat. Here Nebraska get’s a break by the
TV gods putting the game at 11. There is no Ohio State or Wisconsin.
Home games against Northwestern and Michigan State will be anything but
easy and road trips to Michigan and Penn State will be a chore. Still If
Nebraska stays healthy on offense and plays at least average defense
it’s hard not to find 10 wins here.
Finally: If they stay healthy
Nebraska will average at least 38 points a game on offense and with
their schedule that should guarantee another 10 win season whether or
not Nebraska takes the next step up off the 10-4 merry go round will be
up to a very green defense. A good goal for this defense would be to
average holding their foes to 21 points a game or less. 99.9% of the
teams in College Football are going to lose a game from time to time
and this team almost certainly will as well. Another sign of progress
will be what will the loses be like? Too often the last two years by
halftime I was smoking a cigar and looking and reading a Modesty Blaise
comic strip while keeping only a half eye on the massacre on the screen.
Those days have to stop. Ohio State is the class of the Big 10 but the
legends race appears to be a 3 horse photo finish between Nebraska,
Michigan and Northwestern with Michigan State behind by just a nose. If
there was any reason to believe Nebraska’s defense is going to be much
improved despite their inexperience there then I’d say this could be a
very special season. But I haven’t seen it yet. The Spring game didn’t
which isn’t a great way to judge such things anyway didn’t ease any
fears. Nebraska will be good again. There will be many great memories
this year again. There will be 10 wins again. Whether or not there will
be 3 or 4 loses will depend on whether or not Nebraska wins the