There is optimism, concern and things that you just don't know what to think about yet. In this article, the staff members from Big Red Report will address all three parts to the team and to recruiting up to this point. Enjoy debating and please post what you are excited about, concerned with and not too sure about yet when it comes to the 2008-09 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Bryan says…I am really interested to see the linebackers this fall. Nebraska lost Corey McKeon, Steve Octavien, Bo Ruud and Lance Brandenburgh from last season, but more than that Nebraska might upgrade their overall physical play and potentially speed to the linebacker corps. The projected starters this year are probably Phillip Dillard, Tyler Wortman and Cody Glenn. While inexperienced, Dillard brings a more physical style of play to the MIKE position, Wortman is a player that really surprised me from the spring game and Glenn is so athletically gifted that he upgrades the defense team speed and gives Nebraska a real threat off of the edge with him blitzing from the WILL position.
Steve says...We have been dealing with this for awhile, and that's simply not knowing what to expect. The only problem with has been that there was this sense of foreboding the more we watched the Callahan-era continue. I think that this time around and with this new group of coaches and players there is a sense of excitement about football again. I know that I got no joy in watching teams like Texas Tech which could score almost at will, it seemed, but gave up points faster than they could put them on the board. Football is about offense. It's about defense. And it's about players excited about what they are doing. To me that is what college football is all about. I am excited at the prospect that the team will get back to that this year.
Kevin says…Even though most think the defensive line was a major reason for the struggles last year, I see things a little different. I thought the coaching was the culprit of the worst defense in Nebraska history, not the talent. I am anxious to watch the DL perform this year under new head coach Bo Pelini. I look for returning starters Kevin Dixon, Zach Potter, Barry Turner and Ndamukong Suh to thrive in Pelini's attacking style of Defense. Youngsters Terrance Moore, Jared Crick and senior Shukree Barfield could provide needed depth. In the past Pelini has been a fan of rotating his defensive line, so this should give Husker fans and early opportunity to see how this unit gels.
Bryan says…I think after hearing comments out of spring practices and seeing it in the spring game that I am most concerned with the play of the wide receivers. This is a talented group of players that include senior leaders like Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. Then you also bring in players like Menolik Holt, Chris Brooks, Will Henry, Niles Paul and Curenski Gilleylen who have immense talent, but don't have a lot of experience and that could somewhat explain the inconsistent play. More than that, there might be a desire to get some of the true freshmen involved this fall and that might include players like Khiry Cooper, Tim Marlow and Steven Osborne. This doesn't upgrade the on the field experience that Nebraska lacks beyond Peterson and Swift. Also, there is the fear factor of pulling a player in this year that might be better served keeping a year as a red shirt (like Brooks, Holt and Paul).
Steve says...It's no secret that the defensive line had issues last year which had a domino effect on what was a very experienced group of players at both linebacker and in the secondary. How this line does this year will have as much impact on the team as it did last year –maybe more. The linebackers and secondary are going to need help from the defensive line this year to get them through the early part of the season until many inexperienced players can get some legit game-reps under their belt. If they do well it could be a nice momentum builder going into conference play. If they cant, well, I don't think anyone wants to think about that right now. But it's something I would say is a worry-spot for them right now.
Kevin says…My concern lies with the uncertainty around the quarterback position. Some people might look at the numbers Ganz put up in his three game stint to finish the season and think we're fine. While I think Joe will be solid against lesser competition, I think the better teams will expose some of his weaknesses. The real question is, what do we have behind him? That's something nobody knows. If we are able to build solid leads against Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State, I'd look for Bo to get Patrick Witt and/or Zach Lee playing time to see what they've got. That way if Ganz were to struggle in conference play or go down with injury, Bo would know if we have a legitimate option behind him.
Still up in the air about:
Bryan says…I am interested in seeing what this weight loss from players at positions that vary from the two lines to linebacker does for Nebraska this season. Weight is one of those things that unlike in any other sport around plays to an advantage in football. Now, there is the law of diminishing returns when a player is carrying too much weight and that extra weight leads to poor conditioning and worse than that poor play. However, I am wondering if all the positions from the linebackers to all of the line were just too heavy to be effective last year or is the root of the problem deeper than that? Were the bodies of the players just the wrong composition, but the wrong build? I came to a realization at the USC game that the Trojans and the Huskers were built entirely different and it showed. What gave me further grief was knowing that a person like Bryan Bailey, originally from Nebraska, was now at USC and seemed to have all of his guys in excellent shape. Will Nebraska be in "that shape" or a shade of it and too light at key positions?
Steve says...The receivers didn't have a very good spring. Dropped balls seemed to be almost the theme. I do believe there is the talent, speed and even size. But they need some consistency. Part of me says that this group has all the ingredients to be a standout group able to keep this offense as one of the most potent in the country. There's another part that says that with the loss of Maurice Purify and Terrence Nunn, you have lost the most lethal aspect of the playmaking side of things. Nebraska has the horses for the race, but they need to get out of the gate clean, stay focused on the path ahead and dropped balls have to cease. I'm sold on their potential, but I honestly don't know what to expect from this group as a whole this season.
Kevin says…I'm still unsure over the decision to move Lyndon Murtha to left tackle. Murtha has all the measureables you would ever want in a left tackle. But he sometimes plays a little stiff and seems to lose his focus at times, not qualities you want in the player protecting your quarterbacks' blind side. Murtha needs to develop a mean streak and become the dominant player so many thought he could be. He will be tested early and often against Virginia Tech, at team that loves to bring pressure from the outside. If Murtha puts it all together and has a solid year this offense could be very productive. But if Murtha does continue to have problems, I could see Burkes coming in and taking that spot.
Check back tomorrow as Bryan and Kevin weigh in on the same three points as it pertains to recruiting.