Last year’s issues: Go Big Red finished the 2013 season with a 9-4 record. Even though the season ended with a bowl victory, for Nebraska fans, those numbers were not acceptable.
Nonetheless, I believe last year’s record was an anomaly. Early in the season, a possible championship year slipped into an eddy of key injuries and never resurfaced. Taylor Martinez, NU’s three-year starting quarterback, only played in four games. Similarly, All American offensive guard Spencer Long also missed the majority of the year with an injury.
Seldom used senior walk-on Ron Kellogg and freshman Tommy Armstrong replaced Martinez. Together they did a credible job, but lack of experience at quarterback and winning Big Ten championships are not found in functional football foundations. Destiny did not bestow an exception to that rule on Kellogg and Armstrong, so the Cornhuskers stumbled through the year.
This year’s positives: In 2014 the quarterback issue became the prime topic of discussion, and preseason practices attracted intense scrutiny. Then, surprisingly, instead of isolating the press from practices, a new, approachable, Coach Bo Pelini invited them to observe the majority of the workouts. This led to delirious sport’s writers descending on the scene, and the atmosphere at practice sites became a cross between a revival hour and a carnival.
Everyone survived, though, and the 2014 spring game gave Big Red fans an idea of what to expect from their team this year.
The offense: Tommy Armstrong emerged from spring practice as the #1 quarterback. His poise, his experience, his leadership traits appear to rise above the other combatants for the position.
I believe, however, that he has much territory to traverse before becoming a top-tier quarterback. I think stiff competition from his quarterbacking piers would energize the maturation of his work ethic. If that happens, a Big Ten championship may be won on a practice field in Lincoln, Nebraska.
With another year of weights, of learning, of maturity behind them, I think running backs Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross are undisguised blessings. As a dual threat, they present power, speed, and elusiveness that could give opposing defensive coordinators sleepless nights.
To me, depending on how the quarterback and the offensive line developments, Nebraska may become another scoring explosion. They have the possibility of recreating the invincibility not seen since the Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne eras.
The defense: Barring unforeseen circumstances the Cornhuskers will field an experienced defensive line, which is formidable and has a mean streak they want to flaunt.
Generally, I think lack of experience may hinder the secondary. But, I feel the experience they have is meshed with leadership. When it’s time for the heart of the conference schedule, the secondary should be able to hold its own.
Summary: Head Coach Bo Pelini said he’s impressed with the improvement of individual player’s. In my opinion, a team’s improves and builds depth as its individual players improve. So, Coach, individual improvement is a good omen.
Go Big Red.