2004 Nebraska Huskers Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> <A HREF=[PlayerNode:1163223]>Bill Callahan</A> (first year)<br><br><b>Last Season's Record:</b> 10-3 (2nd in Big 12 North Division, ESPN/USA TODAY No. 18, AP No. 19)<br><br><b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2003 Alamo Bowl (17-3 over Michigan State)<br><br><b>Key matchup(s):</b> Oct. 23 @<A HREF=http://kansasstate.TheInsiders.com>Kansas State</A>, Oct. 30 <A HREF=http://missouri.TheInsiders.com>Missouri</A>, Nov. 13 @<A HREF=http://oklahoma.TheInsiders.com>Oklahoma</A>

Star Power: MLB Barrett Ruud 6-2 240 Sr, FS Josh Bullocks 6-0 205 Jr, TE Matt Herian 6-5 240 Jr, OL Richie Incognito 6-3 300 Jr, CB Fabian Washington 5-11 180 Jr

Notable Additions: OT Lydon Murtha 6-7 300, DB Cortney Grixby 5-9 130, RB Brandon Jackson 6-0 220, QB Jordan Adams 6-3 200, OL Danny Muy 6-3 290

Notable Subtractions: WLB Demorrio Williams 6-1 215, DE Trevor Johnson 6-4 250, NT Ryon Bingham 6-3 295, all drafted into the NFL

Notable Returnees: DE Adam Carriker 6-6 275 So, DT Le Kevin Smith 6-2 305 Jr , RB Cory Ross 5-6 195 Jr

09/04/04Western Illinois
09/11/04Southern Mississippi
10/09/04@Texas Tech
10/23/04@Kansas State
11/06/04@Iowa State
Offensive Overview: Breaking in a new offense is one thing, but going from a run-oriented tradition of 30+ years that favored the "option", now suddenly opting for the "West Coast", that's not going to be an easy transition for NU. Expect the running backs and tight ends to be involved in the passing game more than they ever have as the West Coast dictates heavy use of the tight end and Bill Callahan's habits from the NFL are to use the running backs as prominent receivers coming out of the backfield. The receivers for NU while uncommonly good for the option are going to get a baptism by fire. Expect players like Isaiah Fluellen to thrive though, the Sophomore able to do just about everything including stretching the field almost at will.

The offensive line will be the question for Nebraska though and right now it's a wide-open race as to who will be where. The only cemented position is at center, returning starter and All-American candidate Richie Incognito moving inside from the left tackle position.

How that line does early on could dictate who the starter is at QB, the two favorites right now being incumbent, Joe Dailey and JUCO transfer Jordan Adams. Dailey's the more fleet-footed of the two, but if the line holds, Adams' experience in the West Coast could give him the advantage. Look for Cory Ross to have a big year running and catching the ball, but David Horne has came on of late and could push Ross all year for the top position.

Defensive Overview: The best news for Nebraska's offense will be this Nebraska defense as they will no doubt shoulder the load for the team early on. They are capable of doing it to, this unit ranking as one of the best returning groups in the country. FS, Josh Bullocks led the country in interceptions last year and MLB, Barrett Ruud could be on his way to being a top 10-15 pick in the NFL draft. Add to that the deepest group of rush ends in years, NU is heavy on talent, front to back. Depth is the issue right now, but with a very friendly early schedule, Nebraska will be able to figure out who's where and exactly what they have by the time the real games approach. Also look for CB, Fabian Washington to make a return to prominence as the new Kevin Cosgrove (the new DC) "man" coverage system will once again favor the cornerbacks, whereas their predominate "zone" favored the safeties last season. This unit was one of the best last year and don't expect that to change this year. The only question is if they will be able to get off the field.

Special Teams Overview: Losing one of the best punters in the country is a major blow for Nebraska. Kyle Larson was so good at pinning offenses deep in fact, interim head coach and defensive coordinator gave Larson a "blackshirt", a jersey normally only for starters on the defensive side of the ball as Pelini considered him a defenses' best friend. Replacing him will be Sam Koch who while he has a great leg doesn't have any experience in doing what Larson did so seemingly effortlessly, so this will be his chance to learn. At kicker, Nebraska returns starter, David Dyches, who didn't have a great season last year, but as a true Frosh., he still managed to go perfect on his extra points and scored 74 points on the season. The question for Nebraska will be on who will be doing the kickoffs as they have been experimenting with numerous players all year. In the return dept., it's almost anyone's position right now, a bevy of players having been tried out for the position. RB, Cory Ross, FS, Josh Bullocks and many others are contending for the job. Don't be surprised though if incoming freshman, Cortney Grixby isn't given a shot at the position as well, Grixby being fairly small, but devastatingly explosive, especially on the run.

The Huskers can win eight games this season if... they can avoid any major injuries and find some continuity on the offensive line. Seriously, this is potentially a very solid team, easily capable of contending for the Big XII North. But, it starts and ends with that offensive line and as they go, so will the Huskers. If Callahan can find the right combination in the trenches so that the QB has some time to work this "West Coast" attack, Nebraska has more than enough defensive power to make this not just a good team, but a team that most of the Big XII wouldn't want to play. The only game that would seem not to be winnable for Nebraska at this point is the road-trip to Oklahoma. Other than that, NU has a chance to come out looking pretty good. If the O-line is solid, Nebraska is going to be equally solid all year.

TheInsiders.com 2005 College Football Preview
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