Nebraska Preview 2006 - Offense

Check out Pete Fiutak's breakdown of the 2006 Nebraska Offense. Pete Fiutak is a writer for College Football News, where this story was originally published.

Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview 2006 - Husker Offense

What you need to know ... The West Coast offense should finally blow up with the pieces in place to run it the way head coach Bill Callahan wants to. It all starts up front with an improved offensive line that should be more athletic and, eventually, more consistent. There are more than enough star prospects at receiver and running back to put up some huge numbers as long as quarterback Zac Taylor makes the jump in production he's expected to. The return of tight end Matt Herian from a broken leg should mean big things for Taylor.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Zac Taylor
237-430, 2,653 yds, 19 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Cody Glenn
45 carries, 131 yds, 4 TD
Nate Swift
45 catches, 641 yds, 7 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Zac Taylor
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB Marlon Lucky
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Matt Slauson
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Matt Herian
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Taylor, 2) Herian, 3) Lucky
Strength of the offense: Receivers
Weakness of the offense:
Number two quarterback, proven running game

There's no question Zac Taylor is the star of the offense, but who's the number two going to be? Harrison Beck is the likely backup to be groomed for the 2007 starting job, but he has had issues with his shoulder and has come along slowly. Joe Ganz isn't the answer unless there are some major problems. Taylor should blow up statistically and be in for an All-Big 12 season now that he knows what he's doing.
The key to the unit: Taylor has to go to the next level. His completion percentage has to be better in the bigger games and he has to keep the interceptions to a minimum.
Quarterback Rating: 7.5

Projected Starter
- Zac Taylor, Sr. - 237-430 , 55%, 2,653 yds, 19 TD, 12 INT, 1 rushing TD
Stepping in from the JUCO ranks, Taylor finished the year as the Nebraska single season record holder for passing yards, completions and attempts. He had a better season than he got credit for since he had to adjust to the D-I level while getting popped over and over again thanks to a porous offensive line. Now he appears to know what he's doing and should be a superstar with a better line in front of him, a good group of receivers to work with, and an even better command of the attack. While he's not going to run much, he can take of and come up with a few big plays now and then.

Top Backups
- Joe Ganz, Soph.
The star scout teamer of last year is a smart, athletic quarterback who adds a little more mobility to the quarterback mix than the other prospects, but he still needs work on becoming a steady passer. He'll have to battle all fall to be the number two man.
- Harrison Beck, Soph. - 1-10, 21 yds, 1 INT
The team is still waiting for the former star recruit to be a factor in the quarterback race. He'll get more time to develop with Zac Taylor firmly entrenched as the starter, so he'll have to work on his command of the offense. Most importantly, he has to get healthy after having problems with an injured shoulder.

Running Backs
Nebraska finished dead last in the Big 12 in rushing? Nebraska? Averaging 96 yards per game is unacceptable in Lincoln, and it won't happen again despite the loss of top back Cory Ross. The offensive line is better, and it should pave the way for supreme talents Marlon Lucky and Brandon Jackson to put up big numbers. Bruiser Cody Glenn will see more than his share of carries if he doesn't win the starting job outright.
The key to the unit: Someone has to become a consistent threat. Lucky has to take the job by the horns, or else Jackson and Glenn have to become reliable producers.
Running Back Rating:

Projected Starters
- Marlon Lucky, Soph. - 43 carries, 129 yds, 3 ypc, 2 catches, 3 yds
The superstar recruit of 2005 s saw a little bit of work, mostly in mop up time, but showed little of the flash that made all recruiting fans crazy. He ran for 2,036 yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior at North Hollywood High in L.A., and now he has to hold off several great prospects to be the number one back. With his combination of size, speed, and hands, he might be worth the wait until he gets comfortable in the offense.

- Fullback Dane Todd, Sr. - 8 catches, 75 yds, 9.4 ypc
The 235-pound senior earned Academic All-America honors and had few problems understanding the offense. He's not going to get any carries, but he'll get a few passes his way and should be a key blocker when the offense uses a true fullback.

Top Backups
- Cody Glenn, Soph. - 45 carries, 131 yds, 2.9 ypc, 4 TD
Glenn received little fanfare when he arrived in Lincoln with all the attention paid to Marlon Lucky, but he ended up being just as productive. He's a 230-pound power back who proved this spring that he could start and shine if needed. At the very least, he should be a good short-yardage back and great around the goal line.
- Brandon Jackson, Jr. - 18 carries, 52 yds, 2.9 ypc, 1 catch, 5 yds
Jackson was never right last season suffering from a shoulder problem, but he still served as a kickoff returner and saw a few carries. He ran for 390 yards and six touchdowns in 2004 and should be a factor in the rotation with tremendous speed in a 5-11, 200-pound frame.
- Kenny Wilson, Jr.
The 220-pound JUCO transfer runs a 4.4 40 using that speed to carry the Butler County CC offense scoring 27 touchdowns in two seasons. He was a big-time recruit who'll push hard for starting time. With his wheels, the coaching staff will find ways to get him the ball in space.

There are plenty of options to work with and a great combination of reliable veterans and explosive prospects. Terrence Nunn and Nate Swift are strong targets who know the offense and have proven they can produce, but they'll have to earn their starting spots every week with Todd Peterson, Maurice Purify and Tyrell Spain, bigger, faster, and more talented. The real excitement is over the return of all-star tight end Matt Herian. He'll provide the go-to receiver who'll demand double coverage on every play.
The key to the unit: Herian has to prove he can be the same player he was before the leg injury. The new wide receivers have to prove they can handle the intricacies of the offense.
Receiver Rating: 8

Projected Starters
Terrence Nunn, Soph. - 43 catches, 495 yds, 11.5 ypc, 7 TD
Nunn quickly turned into a reliable playmaker and got better and better as he grew into the offense. He's extremely quick showing off skills as a tremendous punt returner and has been great at making the short to medium range plays. With reliable hands and a nose for the end zone, look for him to turn into more of a deep threat if quarterback Zac Taylor gets more time to throw.

- Nate Swift, Soph. - 45 catches, 641 yds, 14.2 ypc, 7 TD
Swift blew up after not catching a pass in the first three games of last year with three 100-yard games with brilliant back-to-back performances against Missouri and Oklahoma catching 18 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. Despite leading the team in receiving, he'll have to fight to keep the starting spot with several good prospects ready to see time.

- Tight End Matt Herian, Sr.
The All-America caliber tight end finally appears to be back and ready to contribute after missing almost two years trying to recover from a broken leg that required two surgeries. He's a decent blocker, but he's an NFL caliber target, or at least he was before the injury, and he needs to prove that he can be the fast, 6-5, 245-pound wide-receiver-playing-tight-end that he was before getting hurt. From 2002 to 2004 he caught 53 passes for 1,093 yards and ten touchdowns averaging 20.7 yards per catch.

Top Backups
- Todd Peterson, Soph. - 9 catches, 150 yds, 16.7 ypc, 2 TD
Peterson didn't do anything over the first half of last year and then blossomed into a good-looking deep threat. At 6-4 and 210 pounds, he's one of the team's biggest target with the speed to make big plays behind Terrence Nunn.
- Frantz Hardy
, Jr. - 25 catches, 349 yds, 14 ypc, 1 TD
Hardy finished fifth on the team in receiving, but he didn't show off much of his blazing speed after the first half of the season. He only caught three passes over the final five games of the regular season. He ripped off a 73-yard touchdown catch in the opener against Maine.
- Maurice Purify, Jr.
It'll be a shock if he doesn't find a starting spot in a big hurry after catching 68 passes for 1,318 yards and 19 touchdowns last year for famed San Francisco CC. The superstar JUCO transfer is 6-4, 210 pounds and has next level potential.
- Tyrell Spain, Jr.
On all-around skills, Spain could quickly become the team's best receiver. He's 6-3, 190 pounds, fast, and has polished route running ability and a scorer's mentality. The only question is how fast he understands the offense.
- Tight end Josh Meuller, Jr. - 1 catch, 18 yds
The 6-5, 260-pound junior will mostly be a blocker in two tight end sets with Matt Herian catching most of the passes. He started in three games last year and should see plenty of action in the rotation.
- Tight end J.B. Phillips, Jr. - 15 catches, 108 yds, 7.2 ypc
The Academic All-Big 12 performer started every game last year and became a good target over the final four games catching eight passes. With the return of Matt Herian, Phillips will be used as an H-Back and should end up being more of a blocker.

Offensive Linemen
The line was a major weak spot last year having a nightmare of a time in pass protection allowing 38 sacks and getting little push for the ground game. Despite the return of only two regular starters, guard Greg Austin and center Kurt Mann, the line should be a lot better with a good upgrade of young talent. Sophomore tackles Matt Slauson and Lydon Murtha and junior tackle Chris Patrick are excellent prospects who handled themselves well this spring against the amazing Husker D line.

The key to the unit: Patience. This isn't going to be anywhere near the dominant group that'll make fans forget about the classic Nebraska lines, but it has the potential to be very good in time. This should be an amazing front five next year.
Offensive Line Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- OT Chris Patrick, Jr.
Don't be shocked if this is one of the team's top linemen as the year goes on. He was this close to quitting football two years ago, but the 6-4, 290-pound junior ended up improving more and more as the season went on and was terrific this spring. While he's decent in the running game, he'll make most of an impact in pass protection.
- OG Greg Austin, Sr.
Austin overcame a few knee issues to start the first ten games at left guard and showed off the versatility this spring to play center if needed. He can play either guard spot and could move around to a few places before the start of the year.
- C Kurt Mann, Sr.
Mann was out this spring healing an injured shoulder, but he'll be back this fall to anchor the line. While he might not be dominant, he's a smart, tough blocker who was one of the few steady performers on the front five last season earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. He's also an Academic All-American
- OG Mike Huff, Soph.
While he still needs developing, the 6-4, 305-pound senior saw time as a reserve last year and now will likely take over the starting job on the right side. He was a good recruit for the program a few years ago and is strong enough to quickly become a top run blocker.
- OT Matt Slauson, Soph.
Able to play guard if needed, Slausen has the potential to be a standout pass blocking tackle after having an amazing spring. If the line becomes better as expected, he'll be the catalyst as he grows into a rock on the right side to work around.

Top Backups
T Lydon Murtha, Soph.
A massive 6-7, 315-pound presence, Murtha can play either tackle position and grow into a top starter. He saw three starts late last year and was predictably inconsistent, but he has the talent and the potential to eventually be an all-star. Eventually.
- T Victory Haines, Jr.
The top JUCO transfer will come in and push for time at one of the tackles spots. He's a strong 6-7 and 285 pounds with the experience to step in and start right away.
- G Andy Christensen, Soph.
Worked a little bit at center this spring as well as at guard, the 6-3, 300-pound sophomore will be the main backup at both

Big Red Report Top Stories