Notebook: Southern Miss game week

The Huskers discuss opening the year with Southern Miss.

Lincoln, NE - Nebraska's contest Saturday against Southern Miss is definitely a game with a little more national appeal than the Huskers have played in previous years to open the season, but with an entirely new coaching staff for the Golden Eagles, what can fans expect?

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini says his team must be ready for everything, and everything is just what this squad has been prepping for – even going back and watching high school film.

Don't ask about the depth chart

When Monday's pregame notes hit the press, it did not include a depth chart. It's likely because Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini isn't the biggest fan of them.

"At this point of the year, depth charts really don't mean a heck of a lot. You want to get guys some snaps and evaluate," said Pelini. "It's one thing to execute in practice, it's another on how you will execute in front of 85,000. You have to keep your options up."

Two of the biggest positions still thought to be open include the starting center and the backup quarterback. While Pelini wouldn't hint if Nebraska freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong was his man for the signal-caller spot, it appears the center position might be decided.

"If we were to lineup today, it would probably be Justin Jackson," said Pelini.

Imani Cross is the man, will he play?

When freshman running back Imani Cross committed to play for Nebraska, Big Red Report at the time projected he wouldn't be redshirting in 2012. Cross was recruited for a reason, Nebraska needed a bigger back for the Big Ten Conference, but Pelini says he's more than just that.

"He's probably more athletic than what I thought when we first recruited him. We knew he was a big back who could play tailback or a little full back, but we learned he can do a variety of things," said the fifth-year head coach. "He's a man. He runs hard. He's big, physical, and mature for a guy his age….he's a guy who could maybe bring something we maybe haven't had in a couple years."

Translation – we think Cross plays on Saturday, even if it's not being publically said at the moment.

Taylor has a chip on his shoulder

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez will always have his doubters, nothing less than a National Championship or Heisman Trophy will resolve that, but could 2012 be the year the junior silences most of his critics?

"I think he's taken a bit of an attitude like he's got something to prove. I'm excited; he's had a great offseason and excellent fall camp," said Pelini.

With an offense that is expected to be very balanced this year, Martinez is hoping to get the ball to show off his new mechanics a little more in 2012.

"60-40," said the junior when asked about how often he would like to pass. "I would rather pass the ball than run the ball, because I think we have a lot of great receivers and tight ends this year."

Rex Burkhead had 284 carries in 2011

Burkhead's carry distribution

After 284 rushing attempts in 2011, the topic of Rex Burkhead's workload will likely be a hot topic in 2012.

"Rex wants to play every snap, it's our job to manage that, at the same time getting him the ball in his had to get carries," said Pelini. "We have a lot of talent at the running back position, so it's in Rex's long-term interest to offset that load and not wear him out."

With Ameer Abdullah, Imani Cross, Braylon Heard, and Mike Marrow all expected to get carries, Burkhead's totals could go down, meaning a fresher back later in the season.

"We were very young at the position, it's a much different dynamic than a year ago," said Pelini. "Circumstances change and sometimes for the better. We are much deeper at the position than a year ago."

Will Compton:

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Video shot by: Shane Gilster

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for Fox Sports & since 2008. He is now the Publisher of Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics.
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