The Nebraska Offense Preview

Come inside as Big Red Report Publisher Josh Harvey helps BadgerNation breakdown the offensive side of the football for Nebraska.


Just a junior, quarterback Taylor Martinez has established himself as one the best statistical signal-callers ever to wear the Nebraska jersey. He is the school's all-time yardage and passing leader, with many more records bound to fall before his time in Lincoln is up.

But one thing eludes Martinez. A piece of hardware needed to be considered one of the greats at a school with as much tradition as Nebraska – a conference championship.

As a freshman in 2010, Martinez and Nebraska squared off against Oklahoma for a Big 12 title. Down 17 points at one point, the Sooners would come back to defeat the Huskers in their last game affiliated with the conference. Martinez was just 12-of-24 in the game with an interception and -34 yards rushing.

"This time I'm healthy, which I'm happy about," said Martinez. "We started out fast against Oklahoma and we need to do that again."

On Monday, Martinez was named by the conference's coaches first-team All-Big Ten. An honor that shows how far the California native has progressed the last three seasons.

In 2012, Martinez has thrown for 2,483 yards and 21 touchdowns, with a completion rate hovering around 63 percent. In addition, he four game of 100 yards or more rushing, finding the end zone seven times on the ground.

Against Wisconsin earlier in the year, he combined for 288 total yards and three scores.

"A guy that, I think, earned the respect of all of our players after our game, just about how well he could execute the throwing game," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said of Martinez. "We all know he's a good athlete. We know he can run. But he's very, very clean and precise in his throws, his reads, his reactions, and ultimately on his throws."

Running backs

Sophomore Ameer Abdullah was selected second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches on Monday night. He won't be starting in Saturday's championship game.

The honor will go to Rex Burkhead (7.5 yards per carry), who missed a total of six games in 2012 with a MCL sprain. Burkhead has just recorded 63 carries in 2012, compared to his 284 the previous year. The former first-team All-Big Ten running back is finally healthy and hopes to bring fresh legs to crowded Nebraska backfield.

"I hope it gives a burst of energy to the team," said Burkhead. "Just being able to finish off things, finish off runs, fight for those extra yards and just help the team where I can."

Many wondered whom Nebraska would turn to next season when Burkhead graduated and in 2012 Abdullah provided he was ready to carry the load.

Making eight starts on the season, he rushed for 1,071 yards and eight touchdowns, racking up 5.0 yards per carry. He might have found the end zone more, but true freshman Imani Cross established himself as a goal line threat.

The true freshman, who checks in at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, found the end zone six times, registering 54 carries on the year. Despite his larger frame, Cross averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

Last but not least, sophomore Braylon Heard should be nicknamed "first down." On 45 carries, he averaged 7.0 yards per carry and has big-play threat capabilities.

"I anticipate Rex starting. He's going to play a lot and Ameer (Abdullah) is going to play a lot," said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. "You'll see Braylon (Heard), you'll see Imani (Cross), you'll see them all."

Wide Receivers

Led by second-team All-Big Ten standout Kenny Bell (44 catches, 789 yards, eight touchdowns), Nebraska might have the most talented wide receiver group in the Big Ten.

Junior Quincy Enunwa has 35 catches for 408 yards and a score. He also brings superior blocking on the outside in the running game.

Rounding out the top three is sophomore Jamal Turner, a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. Turner season started off slow, but the sophomore has become one of Martinez's favorite targets over the last four games.

Offensive Line

Nebraska's offensive line will come into Saturday's contest with no seniors up front, as center Justin Jackson is out for the remaining part of the year after hurting his leg against Iowa.

In his place will either be junior Cole Pensick, or Saturday's replacement Mark Pelini – nephew of head coach Bo Pelini. The two will be battling it out in practice this week to determine the starter.

"I've said all along that I feel good about the center position," said Bo Pelini. "Just like any other position, if someone goes down, somebody has to step up."

The Huskers finished the regular season No. 29 in the nation in scoring and No. 8 in total rushing yards.

Junior offensive guard Spencer Long was a first-team selection by both the coaches and the media, the only Nebraska player to receive first-team accolades on both teams. Long was a second-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore in 2011. A former walk-on, he is just the second Nebraska offensive lineman to earn first-team all-conference honors since 2003.

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