The Answers Are Coming

I almost feel like starting this off with ‘Twas the night before….. ". Hey, try telling any Husker fan worth their salt that the beginning of Fall Camp isn't like Christmas. It is. Maybe it's better. There's lots to learn, and all the questions will officially be answered starting tomorrow. But instead of rehashing the questions, we give you our take on what we think are the answers.

When practice starts tomorrow these are probably the questions which will loom largest in your mind about what's going to happen between now and the home-opener:

Is Zac Lee really the guy?

Can inexperienced wide receivers step up quickly?

Can previously silent players starts to make some noise?

The running backs will be good, but will there be holes for them to run through?

What in the world is the linebacking corps going to look like?

Can Jared Crick be as good as Ty Steinkuhler was last year in playing beside Ndamukong Suh, or could he be better?

The answer to the first question is easy:

He better be.

No, Lee doesn't have so much more playing experience that he has to be the guy, because nobody has the game-proven ability he has. Heck, those players who haven't played at all, have almost as many snaps in an actual game that he does.

But he's got the arm, the physical ability and now it's going to be time where you will find out just how mentally tough he is.

Zac Lee

During the course of Spring it all good, practicing with no game at the end and everyone knows that after that session is done, there's an entire off-season ahead. 

Every single rep, every single throw – all of it now has as much meaning for Lee as it ever has in his football career.

We can debate on end about who is number two, and that's going to be very important. If Lee goes down, someone has to come in and do the same job with the same efficiency. But this is the tense time, show time, if you will. Every single time Lee touches the ball over this entire Fall Camp, is going to be another notch either in his belt of confidence or a nail in his coffin.

But he has to be the guy.

As for ‘Can inexperienced wide receivers step up quickly?', it's similar to Lee:

They have to.

It's hard to believe Menelik Holt is going into his senior year. I have been waiting to see him realize his potential, whatever that is. Well, sometimes you just have to wait your turn, and he had a couple pretty good wideouts in front of him. Now he has to master their consistency and intelligence working within the system.

I don't look at Holt as the make-or-break guy when it comes to total production on the field. But I do look at him as the steadying force for that entire group. He's the one that I believe, when the chips are down, he'll get you a first down, even if he has to catch it on the line and work his guts out to get just a couple of yards.

You need that workman, but Holt has enough physical ability that he could be one of their biggest producers. More than any of that, though, I think Holt has to be the center piece, because regardless of the playmakers you have, the speed you can put out there, someone has to be that rock, so to speak.

You could argue that Nebraska had two of those last year. It's up to Holt to be one. And if he can do that, while there are going to be growing pains with this group of potentially potent ball catchers, a steadying force, a consistent message and just that one player who gets it done, no matter what, can do wonders for the entire unit this season.

Can previously silent players starts to make some noise?

We'll stick with the wideout position for a second as Chris Brooks is also going into his senior year, and coming off his best Spring to date. But we have yet to see it translated to the field. He seems to have matured into his role, taken the next step in practice and I think he and Holt make a good pair of potential leaders for the team. But Brooks has the size. He reportedly has the speed, and at this point you'd think he has the kind of moxie to be able to do a lot of things in situations which shouldn't be foreign to him anymore.

But let's face it, he hasn't played a whole lot since he's arrived. If he gets significant time this year that will be something new. He could prove to be a major asset for the stability of this

Brooks' last chance to shine

group if he can carry the momentum from Spring into the Fall.

Whatever doghouse Phillip Dillard was in over the Spring, it must have been big and deep. But it doesn't take away from the kind of potential the guy has. And I am not even talking about the ability to play the game.

It's HOW he plays the game that I am referring to.

You won't find a more jacked up player on the field than him. He's an emotional torch waiting to be lit, and one big play is all it takes to make it happen. But when things go bad, he's someone who can be that rallying force that gets everyone going. That ability to do that might have taken a hit over the off-season, but a strong Fall can put a lot of fears to rest.

I personally think that this kid has a ton to offer, and it goes well beyond his ability to play the game. Every defense needs fire, and he can be that…definitely.

The running backs will be good, but will there be holes for them to run through?

We've talked to much about the offensive line that it should be automatic with everyone as to the biggest question which still exists with the line. That's simply to do with their three-year starter at center in Jacob Hickman and him staying there.

Think about the fact that you have a mostly untested group of wide receivers trying to gel and create some chemistry quickly with a completely untested quarterback, no matter who is in there. While Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille both have considerable experience, neither has had to be the guy or was the guy going into any particular year. Until there is an established number-three back, we  have to assume that these two are going to get the brunt of the carries this year.

There is going to be so much emphasis on the running game early, and there will be so much importance put on it working all season, that there is no option: Nebraska has to be able to run the ball.

In my mind, if you want the absolute best combination to do that, Hickman has to stay at center. It's nothing against Mike Caputo, but he's not nearly as big, extremely inexperienced in comparison and there is something to be said for knowing this offense so well that you don't even think about it. Not when it comes to understanding the play call, making the line calls as needed or communicating everything to the rest of your teammates in the trenches.

Both Ricky Henry and Derek Meyer are untested at right guard. Meyer has experience from Kansas State which helps, but this isn't the Kansas State offense.

Keith Williams should be a rock at
left guard this year

If Hickman stays at center I think this line has a chance to be pretty darn good. You have some smashmouth guys, and we have all heard plenty about Henry's penchant for aggressive play. He's an offensive line coaches' dream as long as the pancakes are far outnumbering the little yellow flags thrown during plays. Marcel Jones might still need to acclimate to this kind of attack. I think he may still be a few pounds light of being a true physical force when it comes to pure drive blocking. I like Mike Smith at the other spot, and he does have the size and strength to knock people off the ball. Both Keith Williams and Andy Christensen at the left guard spot, have size, strength and Williams is very quick off the ball and laterally for someone his size.

Can they all start a block and really finish a block though?

I think so, but there's really no thinking about it. They will have to do that if this team is going to be able to establish the running game they have to have for this season even to be good.

What in the world is the linebacking corps going to look like?

Maybe a better question is simply having to do with just how much we are actually going to see the entire linebacking corps on the field for a game. With all the anticipated nickel and dime coverages we are going to see, you may see no more than one linebacker on the field for three quarters of the game. At this point, especially with Matt Holt out with a shoulder injury, Matt May seems to be the guy who will fill that lone position. He's got the speed and then some.

But when this entire group is out there, I think the dynamic they will bring won't necessarily be speed. I think they will have that, but this isn't going to be one of those SEC linebacking corps, where everyone seems to be running 4.4s. They are more glorified safeties than linebackers, really.

This one is going to have a better physical presence, and something I think will be considerably different at the BUCK position, is the kind of size and speed both Sean Fisher and Micah Kreikemeier bring to the table.

Just think about the fact that Fisher, a guy who is athletic, but who is also 6-6. You can now forget the match up problem just from a size standpoint, with any tight end in the conference. Now, there is a lot more that goes into covering these guys than just matching up, as many have learned to their chagrin in trying to stop Missouri's Chase Coffman or Oklahoma's Jermaine Greshman.

But if you saw a single snap of Fisher while he was at Millard North, he's athletic, but he's also tenacious. Never give up on a play, don't get physically beat – they are mantras at North, as they will be at Nebraska. Fisher will get burned early. That's just going to happen as he learns throughout the year. But he's been working against a couple of pretty decent tight ends on his own team as he prepares for regular season play.

I think that right there makes this group look different as a whole, because you just can't treat Fisher like any other linebacker. How many other linebackers are 6-6 and can run?

Can Jared Crick be as good as Ty Steinkuhler was last year in playing beside Ndamukong Suh, or could he be better?

When all attention is on Suh, what
will Crick be able to do?

Whatever the answer to this question is, it will come from having ample opportunities.

All off-season we have heard Suh's name spoken, wrote about, talked about and the NFL draft gurus seem to consistently keep inching his name up higher and higher on the list as just where in the first round he'll go. Every single offensive guard and center will know that this is the man you have to stop.

The question about Crick, at least to me, is his first step.

Ty Steinkuhler had a good one, as he was able to shoot the gap and get penetration up field when Suh was being assaulted by two and sometimes more guys.

It isn't a question of whether or not Crick can do it though. Like Lee, he has to. There's no way that you can have a force like Suh demanding double team after double team, and not have a guy at the defensive tackle spot not take advantage. It's mandatory, or offenses can simply double team the preseason All-American candidate, beat the other interior guy with one-on-one blocking and chip and cut block the ends all day.

As important as Suh is, because everyone already knows he's the guy. Crick has to be the guy, too. I don't worry about the guy getting blown off the ball. He's got solid size, and seems to play with great leverage. I'm also not concerned with what he does laterally. He's shown to have very good speed side-to-side. But that first step is the big one. It has to be good, and honestly, I haven't seen enough of it to know. If it is, and he can do what Steinkuhler did last year or maybe even more, you can cement this entire line as a certified nightmare for offenses preparing to face them.

There are so many more questions, and the great thing is, the answers are right around the corner. Some we'll get during the course of Fall Camp, and some we'll simply have to wait until the actual season before we can see.

This is the fun part. It's not speculating anymore for the sake of speculation or because July is an abyss when it comes to sports news.

It's game time…Or maybe practice time is a better way to put it.

But the game is just around the bend.

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