OFFENSIVE POSITION FALL BATTLES
Quarterback: Harrison Beck vs. Zac Taylor, Joe Dailey and Jordan Adams
Easily one of the headliners of the recruiting class of 2004-05, Harrison Beck will come in and make things even more interesting this summer. Now, it has been said that Taylor was a late addition to this class to provide more competition at the quarterback position. What it also might have done was take some pressure off of Harrison Beck.
The talk before Taylor was even offered was what game would Beck be starting by this fall. Now that talk has shifted to talks about Beck being in a position to take a redshirt year, watch a good quarterback dual for the No. 1 spot between Dailey and Taylor and get groomed as the quarterback of the future.
There are some possible problems though. There could be people transferring out that are currently listed as quarterbacks on the depth chart. It is also a possibility that Beck could work himself up into a #2 position, as a redshirt, and if an injury were to happen that could be season ending to the #1 quarterback you could see some baptism by fire.
Beck likes pressure and would probably be alright in that situation. However, given that Taylor is there now in Lincoln I am getting the idea that it's best to redshirt Beck and let Dailey and Taylor take care of the reigns of this team.
The only rushing touchdown in the U.S. Army All-American game was scored by Marlon Lucky. Lucky who is another one of the headliners will be in Lincoln this summer with Leon Jackson and Cody Glenn to provide instant depth to the incumbent Cory Ross.
Running Back: Marlon Lucky, Leon Jackson, and Cody Glenn vs. Cory Ross, Brandon Jackson and Tierre Green
The running back class that Nebraska pulled together is arguably the best in terms of quality of all the positions and may be the best running back class in the country. Lucky, Jackson and Glenn join a stable of running backs already in Lincoln.
For Lucky, the question isn't will he play it is when will he play? To unseat Ross, a player that demonstrated great ability to play injured and can make the most of not having the best blocking up-front for him on the line. Lucky will play and I can see him lining up at a variety of positions.
Look for Lucky to have an impact at Lincoln very early in the season unless something unforeseen happens. Lucky will be able to catch, run and also return the football. Try and keep him off of the field.
As for Jackson, who might be one of the long shots to get qualified, he could get on the field in a variety of different areas as well. Jackson could come in and see some immediate playing time as a running back. He could also split out wide and stretch the field as a wide receiver. He is also a highly touted safety and could ultimately work himself into a starter there by the end of the season.
Cody Glenn is unlike the other two running backs, if Lucky and Jackson are similar. Glenn is a back that you could imagine being used more as a single back or even moving to fullback. However, the early word is that in the film that was presented at the recruiting dinner was that Glenn's film was the most impressive of all the running backs.
While the last statement is hard to believe, it is easy to believe that these three players could come in a challenge immediately. Ross is probably the only player that it should have been felt was a shoo-in to start next year from the offensive side of the ball.
While I still feel like that is the case I think that Lucky will work himself into the mix and steal some reps. Additionally, I think that Jackson will get some time doing some different things, but will probably be part of the offense this fall. Brandon Jackson sounds like he has had a great winter conditioning time and should know more of the playbook this fall.
I would look for a depth chart like this in the fall:
Lucky or B. Jackson
Look for Glenn to try and keep a redshirt on due in part to the depth that will be at the running back position and the chances that this year will be tough to pull in a top-flight running back given the numbers that we took this past year.
Looks like the wide receiver situation will be totally re-done next year with new players from the junior college and high school ranks and I am anticipating getting some looks at a couple of players that weren't part of the picture last year.
One thing is for sure about the offense and that is the wide receiver corps could look totally different than it did last year. Gone is Ross Pilkington, last years leading receiver and a team captain. Returning are walk-on Grant Mulkey, Terrence Nunn, Mark LeFlore and Isaiah Fluellen who were the number 4-7 leaders in terms of receptions on last year's team.
Out of the players listed it was pretty clear that Nunn just needed a season to get used to the offense, but his ability was really better than what was on the roster as he came in as a true freshman. Injuries are a concern too among the returning starters which will allow for the new players to come in and challenge immediately.
What is interesting about all of the incoming receivers is that they are more polished than the receivers that Nebraska was used to signing. Nunn may have been the exception, but isn't as tall as you would typically like in a receiver, but has solid hands, speed and athletic ability.
Hunter looks to be like the physical receiver that Pilkington was. Hunter is really put together for a player out of high school. Hardy will have that "stretch the field" ability that this team may not have had last year. Franklin is a taller receiver that is also very athletic and may or may not be an offensive recruit.
If there is one prep player that a lot coudl be expected from it would be Chris Brooks. Brooks has the tall frame and is put together real well. Where he might hold a larger advantage over other incoming recruits may be in maturity. Figure Brooks to be a big part of the offense in the fall.
A few other players that may see time here, but most likely will start their playing days or spend a majority of their time on the defensive side of the ball are Zack Bowman, Tyrell Spain and Brian Wilson. These are all players that are 6-foot-0+ tall, 200+ pounds are in the 4.4-4.5 range. They also have some college ball experience coming in from their respective junior colleges.
Two others that figure into this equation are Marque McCray and Shamus McKoy. It was thought that these two could figure more into the picture last year, but both were kept from joining the team in Lincoln until late in the summer and that probably kept both players off of the field last year.
As for who will see playing time next year of the newcomers, I would expect them all to see time. Hardy is an instant upgrade to the current roster. There isn't a physical guy like Hunter anywhere to be found and he can step up and play the role that Pilkington did. As for Franklin, I actually anticipate his playing days on the defensive side of the ball and you may see Spain come over to wide receiver full-time and you will at least see Bowman have plays/sets put in to use him and his speed.
A big question mark coming into the season has to be the health concerns surrounding Matt Herian. Up to the injury, Herian was having a good year, but lacked a physical intimidation that you would like to have in a tight end. That might change.
Tight End: Justin Tomerlin vs. Matt Herian, J.B. Phillips, Josh Mueller and Clayton Sievers
Herian will hopefully return this fall from a broken leg that he suffered this season as the starter. However, the move that the coaches did to go out and get a guy like Tomerlin that can come in and be as big of physical mismatch for a guy with his size and speed.
Herian is a unique blend of size and speed, however has shown that he would rather attempt to over the shoulder receive as opposed to going up and taking the ball away or chances away of the pass being batted away by a defender.
Tomerlin is a little more assertive. This kid plays fueled by his emotions and should be a big, physical guy for Nebraska to try and run more towards and will still give you a match up problem against a slower LB or a smaller S.
Phillips last year was used much like a Jimmy Kleinsasser and as an H-Back. He was used in the backfield and as the wingback that would go in that shuffle motion along the line of scrimmage and make a lead block. Needless to say, he is the most capable of all of the current tight ends in blocking.
I haven't heard much about the development of Josh Mueller which is a bit concerning. He does have a chronic injury problem, but is a tall and athletic type of tight end. Sievers on the other hand played well on the scout team and may be the sleeper of last year's recruiting class.
One player that is part of this recruiting class that could be a tight end might be Nick Covey. Covey who is listed as a linebacker recruit also played tight end in Arizona and has very good speed for a man with his size.
Ultimately, I think that it is a scary scenario to come out in two tight end sets with Tomerlin to one side and Herian to another. The two of them together just provide too many match up problems for a defense to plan for. Tomerlin will have an instant impact.
If there is a position where it is uncertain who will play of the fall enrollers and who won't, it might be the offensive line. The line was notably the weakest unit on the field last year for Nebraska. It's not a surprise though, these players were asked to do something that they weren't used to doing or weren't being able to play into their strengths.
Coming out of the season the offensive tackle position was a position that needed solid, book-end tackles that were prototypical tackles, or tall, agile and long armed. This class may have got one of those types of players.
Brock Pasteur is an offensive tackle that came up in a passing offense and will come in and be able to help out in providing adequate pass protection at the tackle position. Jordan Picou is not as tall or does he have the experience that Pasteur does in pass protection, but he can help.
Jordan Picou comes from a more balanced attack. His offensive mix at Mt. SAC was closer to 50/50 run to pass ration while Pasteur's offense at Mosabi Range threw nearly 50 times a game. Picou may be more ready to come in and contribute, provided he makes it to Lincoln, immediately.
Out of the prep players, both seem to be physically ready. Craig Roark and Rodney Picou are put together very similarly, both are physically dominating at the point of attack and for both it seems that their best days of playing offensive line are ahead of them.
Craig is best suited as an interior lineman playing both the guard and the center positions. If he learns to snap and can do it effectively he may very well play as a true freshman. While after talking to him he is willing to do either redshirt or play he wants to do what is best for the team first and foremost.
Rodney Picou has the ability to probably play all of the positions along the offensive line. His thick frame and great feet will allow him to get on the field early, if called upon. Out of all of the lineman coming in, Rodney and his cousin Jordan may be the most ready to handle the mix of run/pass that is needed in the West Coast Offense.
The early word is that there may be 5-6 of the newcomers that will fall into a starting role this fall. Bottom line, there will be 3-4 on the offensive side of the ball alone.
Given the sheer size of the class, this will go to three parts. We will breakdown the defensive battles of the fall, enrolling recruits in the next addition.