Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:58 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Nebraska.
Spring Practice Starts: Sunday, March 4
Spring Game: Saturday, April 14
Returning Starters: Seven on offense, seven on defense, both specialists.
Three Things To Watch For:
1. Finding replacements on defense. The Cornhuskers may have seven starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, but there are also four pretty big departures that need to be replaced. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Jared Crick are all gone. That's one key player on each level of the defense and none will be easy to replace. Though having Cameron Meredith on the defensive line will make the loss of Crick easier to absorb. That being said, Dennard and David were two of the best defenders in the Big Ten last season. It's not easy to just plug in new playmakers of that caliber, and as if the job wasn't hard enough, Nebraska will also be breaking in a new defensive coordinator this season. John Papuchis was promoted to defensive coordinator after Carl Pelini left to take the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic.
2. Rediscovering the T-Magic. Taylor Martinez's first two seasons as Nebraska's quarterback have been a bit of a roller coaster. He was able to stay healthy last year, but he also completed only 56% of his passes, which was actually lower than the 59% he completed as a freshman. Martinez's yards per attempt went down over a full yard as well. Some of this was likely due to it being Martinez's first year in Tim Beck's system, and Nebraska is hoping Martinez will improve in his second season under Beck. In fact, if Nebraska wants to make a serious run at a Big Ten championship in 2011, they'll need him to. So it's important for Martinez to have a strong spring and make sure that the Cornhuskers head into the summer with a clear cut leader at the quarterback position.
3. Giving Burkhead a breather. Rex Burkhead had a great season for Nebraska in 2011, rushing for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to making the All-Conference team. While there's no reason to believe Burkhead won't have another solid season in 2012, Nebraska would be better served to find a bit more depth at running back to keep Burkhead fresh. In Nebraska's first 8 games, Burkhead averaged 110.25 yards per game, but that number dropped to 95 yards per game over Nebraska's final five contests. The Huskers went 2-3 in those games. So if backs like Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green can show that they're capable of taking some carries this spring, it could go a long way in the fall.
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Posted on: September 17, 2011 8:01 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
NEBRASKA WON: The 11th ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers turned on the jets on offense early and often against Washington, and the end result was a 51-38 victory in front of its home crowd. QB Taylor Martinez hooked up with Kenny Bell on a 50-yard completion (seen at right) on the game's first play from scrimmage, then found Tyler Legate on the next play for a 3-yard touchdown, 34 seconds into the game.
WHY NEBRASKA WON: Washington partisans would loudly proclaim "BECAUSE OF THE REFEREES" to answer that question, and they might have a point (more on this later). The truth is, though, Nebraska won because it was able to grind out over 300 yards on the ground in 55 carries, gaining positive yardage on 52 of those 55 attempts and keeping the sticks moving at ease.
WHEN NEBRASKA WON: It looked like the game was safely in hand when Nebraska opened up the fourth quarter scoring with a 6-yard score by Aaron Green, but it wasn't until a Washington onside kick attempt failed and Nebraska responded with a five-run, 57-yard touchdown drive to make it 51-31 that the game was safely in hand for the Cornhuskers.
WHAT NEBRASKA WON: For Cornhusker fans, this script of struggling with an opponent for most of the first half -- if not longer -- must be getting tiresome, and this is the third straight week where the Huskers have not lived up to their lofty ranking. Still, wins are wins, and wins over teams with the cachet of Washington and Fresno State are likely more helpful for the Huskers' development through the season than if they'd just taken a stroll through Cupcake Alley for all three games thus far (next week's opponent is, um, Wyoming, but that game's at least on the road).
WHAT WASHINGTON LOST: Washington fans will rue the litany of penalties that plagued its special teams efforts, and that inarguably altered the course of today's game. All in all, Washington was called for three kick catch interference penalties -- two on punts -- and Nebraska took advantage of short fields on the three resultant possessions for a total of 17 points. In fact, Washington could have led at the half, as the Huskies punted late in the first half, then recovered the loose ball when the punt glanced off the returner's leg. Improbably, the referees called a phantom interference on the play, and Nebraska used the rest of the half to put together a drive for a field goal. The Huskers would not relinquish the lead.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Not all of Washington's special teams woes came via the penalty. After Rex Burkhead scored on a one-yard dive early in the third quarter, Washington KR Bishop Sankey muffed the return on what should have been a simple touchback, and Sankey and fellow returner Kevin Smith bungled the recovery until Nebraska came up with the ball at the 1. Next snap: Rex Burkhead, one-yard dive, touchdown -- his second in nine seconds.
Posted on: March 15, 2011 5:17 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 5:35 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
College football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Nebraska, who opened spring camp on Saturday.
Spring Practice Question: Does Nebraska have the firepower to win its division in its inaugural Big Ten season?
If there's ever an ideal time for a college football program to join a conference, it's when that conference is in a state of flux; at the very least, then, everybody is going through an adjustment period, so the new team is in something of a similar boat. If Nebraska makes it to its very first Big Ten Championship Game this year, well, so will its theoretical opponent.
Of course, getting to that game is far more of a challenge than anything else; one bad weekend can put a team into also-ran status when it comes to a division title, so Nebraska has its work cut out for it coming into the 2011 season. Yet then again, on those terms, so does everybody else in the (sigh) "Legends" division, and Nebraska may have the upper hand on personnel in the division.
Yes, there are three Big Ten teams that won at least 11 games last season. Two are in the (sigh again) Leaders division. Nebraska basically has to contend with a reeling Michigan program in the first year of the Brady Hoke era, a Michigan State team that was embarrassed by Alabama and the Hawkeyes in 2010 and won an unsustainable amount of close games, and an Iowa squad that loses a ton of NFL-caliber experience from a five-loss 2010 team. Northwestern might contend for a bowl game again, but Minnesota won't, and that's it for the division. Hardly a murderer's row.
Moreover, Nebraska returns a wealth of offensive talent. QB Taylor Martinez, or "T-Magic," is back after winning the 2010 Big 12 Freshman of the Year award, quashing several transfer rumors in the process. Yes, Bo Pelini blew up at Martinez late in the season last year, and there's always the fear that some strife could potentially linger and cause problems down the road, but there's also little indication that such a rift still exists. Martinez had his chance to make a new start and decided against it. Sure, problems may exist under the surface, but that's at least a manageable situation, and coaches can (and often do) live with that type of arrangement. Big Ten defenses should expect to get a heavy dose of T-Magic in 2011, and that is bad news for Nebraska opponents.
The main strength of the Cornhusker defense is going to be on the interior, led by surprising senior returnee DT Jared Crick. That is to say, the secondary is a major point of weakness, with CB Prince Amukamara, SS DeJon Gomes, and FS/SS/LB/MVP Eric Hagg all needing to be replaced. That's a job easier said than done, especially with an elite draft prospect like Amukamara and a team leader like Hagg, but rising seniors Alfonzo Dennard and Courtney Osborne are going to be given the keys to the secondary. Both are high-level players; if defensive coordinator Carl Pelini can build quality and depth around them, this defense could be just about as scary as last year.
The bottom line is that Nebraska is not only a contender for the (sighhhhhh) Legends division crowd, it's practically a favorite. The Huskers are, on paper, better-loaded than anybody else in the division and set to make a run at the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Bad and unexpected things may happen along the way, but the spring status quo seems to indicate that fans in Lincoln should set high expectations for the 2011 season. Don't go booking hotel rooms in Indianapolis quite yet -- this is still college football, where all hell can break loose anywhere at any time -- but it would be safe to expect at least 10 wins in 2011 as long as the Husker team stays relatively healthy.