Nebraska practices get underway today. Here are five things we know.
The wide receivers should make the secondary better:
Everyone talks about the depth at the wide receiver spot and debates the amount of catches each guy will record. But let’s dig a little deeper. Will this wide receiver group make the secondary better? I believe they will. A secondary that struggled early in the year and ranked in the 100s when it came to pass defense last season. http://www.scout.com/college/nebraska/story/1692378-media-day-jordan-wes...
For fans lucky enough to see a spring practice or two, they saw some intense battles between the two position groups. Both sides were trying to get the best of one another (they both talked a little trash as well). Expect the battles to continue into the fall.
“We probably have the best receiving corps and Coach (Keith) Williams is really doing a great job with those guys,” said Nebraska corner Chris Jones. “And going up against those guys is really helping me out a lot. We have all types of receivers, fast, strong, possession catchers, great route runners. We go against each type of receiver you can think of, so every receiver we’re going to face this season, it’s not like we’ve never seen them before.”
The running back room is “complicated”:
Head coach Mike Riley admitted it. Even the question of how the reps will be divided in practice seems to be a fluid situation. http://www.scout.com/college/nebraska/story/1656632-2016-husker-profile-...
“Does somebody win that job convincingly where he is going to be a guy that plays more plays than the other guys? Or do we get into a deal where we play them situationally or play them evenly?” – Riley
A three-headed race in the spring between Terrell Newby, Devine Ozigbo and to a lesser extent Mikale Wilbon, will see another player thrown into the mix – true freshman Tre Bryant.
“Tre Bryant, that has been impressive since June,” said Riley. “The testing, the work that he’s done. And possibly his ability with his size – he’s a pretty stout guy. He might make an impact on special teams.”
And that is where it begins. A burned redshirt to help on special teams allows him to get carries throughout the season on a limited basis.
Special teams is definitely a concern:
Out of the spring the special teams unit looked like the best in the Big Ten – maybe one of the best in the country. But, the tragic loss of Nebraska punter Sam Foltz not only leaves a void in the punting game, but as kicker Drew Brown’s holder.
Both of Foltz’s jobs will have wide-open competitions. There are favorites to win each spot, but the likeliness that any winner performs at the same level as Foltz is slim to none.
Nebraska will likely have the punter situation figured out in a couple weeks or less. Caleb Lightbourn is right-footed. Isaac Armstrong is left-footed. It causes the entire formation to be different. There won’t be any on the job battle here.
The Huskers will have to also worry about Brown emotionally. He was Foltz’s best friend.
“It’s tough to think about football, but at the same time, football is an exciting thing coming up,” said Brown. “Whether something like this would have happened or not, there’s still a season ahead of us, still games we have to play and games we have to win. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be an exciting year for sure.”
The team still needs to learn how to finish:
Can that be done in fall camp? I’m not sure. Most would argue no. The Huskers lost six games by a touchdown or less last season.
“The emphasis there lies in some of the things we just have to do better,” said Riley. “One of those for sure is we want to get big plays offensively. If you look at the numbers and what you’ll expect to need to win games, we did OK, offensively big plays. But we were bad defensively. We gave up way too many big plays…I think being sounder, being able to prevent long passes and long runs. I think maybe the two main factors in winning and losing games are turnovers and big plays.
Penalties were costly as well.
“To give yourself a chance to continue to make plays. Just eliminate those penalties that do with procedure. You know, offsides and false starts – stuff like that,” said Riley. “Those are three main emphasis going in that will impact final outcomes.”
The team is hungry for wins:
You might read the headline and say duh! But every single player on the roster knows 6-7 isn’t Nebraska football. The pressure to win, especially for the seniors to win right now, has this team locked in with an increased focus. One Scout.com source told Big Red Report the offseason was the best in years in terms of guys’ dedication to their craft. Now those are only words at the moment. Until it is shown on Saturday, there won’t be a lot of buy in from fans. Husker nation has been burned before.
“I think they invested a lot. My hope is, and it’s an educated hope, is that they have the last part of the season with a couple really good wins in there. It kind of made them confident in what we do and also anxious to prove we can do that consistently, which we did not last year,” said Riley. “I think with veteran leadership we have coming back, with the fact that I think there was some confidence coming out of that and some excitement about what might be, it’s allowed me to say I think this is a hungry team.”