Open issues

Every season ends and it has you looking forward to the next. How will the team adjust? How will the team replace who they lose? Nebraska has their fair share of places that need improvement to take another step forward toward a Big XII title and a BCS bowl game. Big Red Report outlines some key areas that Nebraska must address.

While many might dwell on how the season ended for Nebraska with two losses, the improvement from last year to this year was obvious. Nebraska wasn't a quick fix for Coach Bill Callahan and his staff, but they are making steady improvements from year to year.

While improvements are being made there is only so many you can make in one year and the program is always a work in progress. Nebraska will continue to look to make improvements in certain areas next year to improve offensively and defensively.

The first area you must always begin with is at quarterback. There probably hasn't been anyone as important to a Nebraska team as Zac Taylor since Tommie Frazier. Taylor has been a catalyst for the offense and the biggest reason for it's success.

Taylor earned the respect of his teammates by getting hit by defensive pressure over and over, but getting up every time. The next quarterback at Nebraska not only needs to continue to get up, but take on a more vocal leader/coaching role on the team.

It's a natural progression when you take a line that was accustomed more to pulling and run-blocking to kick-stepping and pass-blocking to be supportive at first and then critical after some time. The quarterback now needs to correct the mistakes of others and be supportive at the same time.

The stable of running backs helped Nebraska "Pound the Rock", but it seemed that there always a number of injuries at any given time from the mid-point of the season and on. We never really got to see what the four were capable of doing at anytime.

While health is a little bit difficult to correct, it's obvious why Nebraska has gone out and got some other recruits at the running back position to complement what is there, because when the injury bug bites you never know how hard.

It's also a worth pointing out that Nebraska has targeted some running backs with some different skill sets. While Nebraska has a big back in Cody Glenn, Quentin Castille is still larger than Glenn and supposedly faster.

There is also not a player at Nebraska like Marcus Mendoza who is more like a third down back and could potentially play a slot receiver. The speed of Mendoza will give Nebraska more options in play-calling.

There may not have been a position that had more improvement from one season to the next than wide receiver. Most of that credit belongs to Maurice Purify, but there is still one skill set that lacks at the receiver position.

There isn't a 10.5/100m guy on the field for Nebraska that can consistently catch the football. That speed is necessary to get over the top help deep to allow players like Purify, Terrence Nunn, Nate Swift and Todd Peterson the ability to work the middle of the field and intermediate routes.

Another thing that will help Nebraska work the middle of the field and the intermediate routes would be the addition of a threat to really catch the ball and do different things at the tight end position. Nebraska is sorely lacking a difference maker at the tight end position.

While it was great to see Matt Herian return to the field this year, it's obvious that he wasn't the same player that he was. There was the occasional touchdown grab by a tight end this season, but people really need to go back and watch some film of Herian to remember what Nebraska once had. He was amazing.

On defense, the biggest question to me will be replacing the defensive line which will be lost to graduation. Players like Adam Carriker, Jay Moore, Ola Dagundero and Barry Cryer have all been special in their own right, but the void left by Carriker is a huge question for Nebraska.

While the names of Ty Steinkuhler, Ndamukong Suh, Zach Potter and Mike Smith are already on the current roster, but Nebraska will be throwing some new names at it from the recruiting class. There is a need at the five-technique spot.

A player like Joseph Townsend could be asked to come in and play immediately at the five technique. Nebraska also went out and got a prep player like William Yancy or even Jared Crick that could develop into nice defensive ends.

Beyond just the base end though, Nebraska is bringing in players like Shukree Barfield, Demetrious Davis, Terrance Moore Jared Crick and Patrick Grant. Nebraska is also still after the likes of Kevin Dixon and Jason Peters.

It's clear that getting players to replace those four lost to graduation was and is still a priority. You have to like the variety of players across the defensive line and their individual qualities.

Nebraska still seemed to struggle with injuries at the linebacker position. Philip Dillard was lost early in the season to a knee injury and later in the season Corey McKeon was slowed by an ankle injury.

Steve Octavien struggled with injury as well and really these injuries, plus the graduation of Stewart Bradley, demonstrates the need for players at the position.

Nebraska has gone out and grabbed one of the best linebacker classes in the nation, not just because of their quality, but because of the versatility of the players. Travis Lewis could come in and play WILL immediately and eventually move over to MIKE.

Nebraska also went out and got Austin Stafford, that filled the decommitment from Jared Glover, and Nebraska probably improved the athleticism of the group of linebackers. Stafford will probably also start out over at WILL.

Blake Lawrence is a player that could potentially start out in the secondary, but will more than likely be asked to play SAM in the future. Lawrence played in the secondary this year and knows how to operate in space.

Behind the linebackers in the secondary though might have been the positions in the most need of personnel, in terms of numbers. The Nebraska coaches have gone out though and got athletes and speed.

There seemed to be a clear need to get taller players as well as players who are known for more man to man skills at the cornerback positions. Nebraska also finally got some needed help at the safety position.

The headliner here is Larry Asante who Nebraska needed to land to put the pop back at safety. Asante played linebacker at Coffeyville, but wanted to play safety in college. Conveniently, Nebraska wanted him at safety too.

The sheer number of secondary players that Nebraska has commitments from does provide some optimism for the future. Players like Shawn Sullivan, Anthony Blue, LaTravis Washington, Armando Murillo, David Ross and players like Eric Hagg and Prince Amukamura that could potentially play defense.

The kicker position was addressed with Adi Kunalic to help with kick offs, but recently with the departure of Jordan Congdon to return home for family issues has increased the importance of Kunalic in the class.

The question that most have come back with, despite Kunalic in the class, is who is the kicking coach at Nebraska? Good question. The importance of coaching kickers can't be ignored or only addressing it by bringing in talent.

The last open issue is a need to bring in some help in the return area. With the athletes that Nebraska has brought in with speed and return experience there could be a list of players willing to do returns.

I would start by looking at a guy like Marcus Mendoza who has a unique ability to change direction quickly and get up to full speed again in a few steps. Other players that could be considered for returns are Amukamara and Ross.

It seems that Nebraska has been addressing most open issues with recruiting. However, some questions remain, particularly in the area of a kicking coach, and it will be interesting to see how Nebraska will address these concerns.


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