Big 12 Football Preview - Nebraska

Last season: 5-6 overall (3-4 Big 12). Behind Bret Meyer's 345 yard and three touchdowns, Iowa State beat Nebraska 34-27. It was Iowa State's second victory over Nebraska in three years, but only the third since 1978.


This season: Iowa State will travel to Lincoln on Oct. 1.


Key Returners – The Huskers will return 40 letterwinners (18 offense, 19 defense, 3 specialists); including 13 starters.




Balanced was one way to describe Nebraska's offense a season ago. Under the first year guidance of Bill Callahan and his West Coast Offense the Huskers generated 52 percent of its offense through the air and 48 percent on the ground.


Three starters will return for the Nebraska offensive line, including offensive tackle Seppo Evwaraye, guard Brandon Koch and center Kurt Mann.


Evwaraye came to Nebraska while he was a student in Finland; the Huskers recruited him as a defensive lineman, but was moved to offensive line and made an immediate impact. This season he may play right or left tackle.


"As we played through [last] season his play was solid and good, and we really felt strong this spring we could make a move and put him over on the left tackle on the blind side of the quarterback to provide us a little more protection in that sense," Callahan said. "He has done that. The sky is the limit for this guy."


With exodus of Joe Dailey, Zac Taylor looks to be the front-runner as the Huskers' signal caller.


"It's going to be interesting to get to the training camp and watch Zac compete," Callahan said. "We have four other quarterbacks competing for the position, and Harrison Beck, a young man out of Clearwater, Florida, and Joey Ganz from Chicago, Beau Davis, and Jordan Adams from California, all four quarterbacks will compete for the stop.


"We didn't name a starter for the position. I will tell you, Zac has an upper hand predicated on the experience. It is going to be competitive. For all those guys, it's going to be interesting in terms of their battles."


Playing the I-back position will be senior Cory Ross who rushed for over 1,100 yards and caught 21 passes for Nebraska a season ago.

"The thing that is most appealing for us is this is [Ross is] a guy that has been a workhorse for us and carried the load at times, even when he was pretty banged up and nicked up," Callahan said. "So this is a guy that has great heart, great passion for the game, and there is no doubt he will be one of our offensive leaders as we go into the season."


The wide receiver corps will be flowing with familiarity as six Huskers' with playing time return, including four with starting experience. 


If healthy, senior Matt Herian will be the Huskers target at tight end. Last year Herian caught 24 passed before breaking his leg. He had surgery to repair it, but had to go back for a second surgery.


"His status right now is up in the air," Callahan said. "I am confident -- we are confident that he will be back, but at what point in time, we don't know. He is just starting to run on that leg and he is progressing, but how fast and how fast that rate of rehabilitation goes, we are going to have to go day-by-day and week-by-week."




Five starters return on the Huskers' defense – including three of the front four. Hardest hit were the linebacker corps and secondary.


Nebraska's all-time leading tackler and all-Big 12 MIKE linebacker Barrett Ruud graduated, as did Chad Sievers and Ira Cooper.


In the defensive backfield, cornerback Lornell McPherson completed his eligibility, while Fabian Washington opted out of his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Free safety Josh Bullocks also left Nebraska early for the NFL draft. Washington and Bullocks each are among the top four players on Nebraska's interceptions list.


On the defensive line, seniors Titus Adams and Le Kevin Smith return. Smith made 11 tackles for loss and 43 total tackles a season ago.


SAM linebacker Stewart Bradley will be the only returning starter at the linebacker position. He was second on the team with 67 tackles last fall.


Offenses beware, there's another Ruud at Nebraska – Barrett's brother Bo has moved to the WILL linebacker position.


Strong safety Danny Bullocks will anchor the inexperienced secondary. Last season Bullocks intercepted a team-high five passes, returning them for 187 yards. He also made 58 tackles. Bullocks is the twin brother of former Nebraska all-American Josh Bullock.


"He has been a superb leader for our football team," Callahan said. "He has come on and has had an exceptional year as a full-time starter.


"We are leaning on his leadership to provide us a catalyst on defense. He will be spearheading a young secondary. Secondary is where we lost three starters from a year ago, so his leadership, his ability to communicate, put people in the right spots will be pivotal for us as we begin this season."


Special teams:


Senior Sam Koch will be back as the Huskers' starting punter. Last season he averaged almost 42 yards per punt, with 27 of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line.


The place-kicker position appears to be that of David Dyches, after starting the majority of his freshman season, he backed up Sandro DeAngelis for most of the 2004 season. He started the final two games of the year hitting 2-of-3 field goals.

Fast Fact:


Nebraska had one of the best 2005 recruiting classes in recent history, recruiting guru Tom Lemming, ranked the Huskers' newest class No. 1 nationally. Nine high schoolers and 12 JUCO transfers will suit up for the Huskers next season, including quarterback Zac Taylor who is already garnering Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year attention. Taylor played a season at Butler County CC in Kansas, following a year at Wake Forest.



The Schedule:


9/3/05           vs.       Maine

9/10/05        vs.       Wake Forest

9/17/05        vs.       Pittsburg

10/1/05        vs.       Iowa State

10/8/05        vs.       Texas Tech

10/15/05      @         Baylor

10/22/05      @         Missouri

10/29/05      vs.       Oklahoma

11/05/05      @         Kansas

11/12/05      vs.       Kansas State

11/26/05      @         Colorado



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