It's a season with so many expectations (offense) and so many question marks (defense).
Here is what the Big Red Report staff will be focusing on over the next four weeks.
1.) A young defense:This is the first time since 2010 the Nebraska coaching staff didn't feature a new face on defense – great news for a squad that needs to replace at least seven starters on that side of the football. The defense will be young and likely have some growing pains along the way, but should instantly be a more athletic and quicker group to the football. The schedule will allow them some time to develop, but things could get ugly in November if the group hasn't grown up a little bit.
2.) Eliminating the turnovers:Only Hawaii had more turnovers than Nebraska last season. The Huskers had 35 lost (T-118th), meaning the squad was giving up a little more than two a game. Nebraska was No. 26 in the nation in total offense last season and scored nearly 35 points per game – now imagine how good it might have been if the turnovers were cut in half? It sounds like ball security and eliminating mental mistakes were the main things the offensive side of the ball worked on this offseason. If both categories could be better, Jamal Turner's 50 points per game comment could be close to a reality.
3.) The newcomers who could make an impact:As Big Red Report's Bryan Munson pointed out a few weeks ago, the 2013 class could be one that has a lot of early contributors. Not only should junior college transfers add depth (Randy Gregory, Matthew Finnin, and Chongo Kondolo), but freshman like: Cethan Carter, Maliek Collins, Josh Banderas, Terrell Newby, and Adam Taylor could have big impacts at their position. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez has already pointed to guys like Carter and Newby and players who should help this year.
4.) The depth up front on offense:Over the past two seasons, Nebraska has wanted a deeper rotation on the offense line, they just didn't have the depth to do it. That shouldn't be a problem this year, at least on paper. The Huskers have enough talent up front to go nine or ten deep at the five spots. With one of the most experienced lines in the country and quite a few redshirt-freshman ready to contribute, it's no wonder Martinez said the front five are the strength of the offense.
5.) Special teams:For the past two seasons, kicker Brett Maher handled field goals, punting, and kickoffs. His presence as a specials teams leader will undoubtedly be missed, and could cause Nebraska to play three different guys at the three different spots. Unless Western Illinois transfer Pat Smith comes to camp and blows everyone away, sophomore Mauro Bondi should be handling field goals this year, but that doesn't mean Smith won't have a chance to win the kickoff job. In the punt game, Bondi will likely take a back seat to Sam Foltz, a walk-on freshman from Grand Island, who has the talent to play wide receiver down the road, but won't because his big leg is too valuable.