10. Who will fill in for Tyler Moore?
Offensive tackle Tyler Moore transferred from Nebraska last week. This leaves a very bare spot at the offesnive tackle spot. Redshirt seniors, Jeremiah Sirles, and Brent Qvale are the clear cut favorites to start at left and right tackle respectively. This doesn’t leave Nebraska with a whole lot of options behind those two guys. The two popualr choices for backups are Jake Cotton, and Nick Ash. Both guys are over that 6-foot-5 mark, but are both very unproven. With the loss of Moore, Nebraska’s depth on the offensive line, has dropped greatly.
There is no doubt that Will Compton is the best inside linebacker on Nebraska’s team. The question is on the outside. There are two seniors at outside linebacerk, in Alonzo Whaley, and Sean Fisher. Both have seen limitted playing time in their time in Lincoln. On top of that, Nebraska added 3 very talnted freshmen at linebacker with the 2012 recruting class, and a very talented player from the junior college ranks. On top of that, red shirt freshman David Santos was the Texas 5A player of the year his senior year in high school. As of right now, Whaley and Fisher are starting at the outside linebacker spot. They will be challanged all season by guys like Santos, and the one freshmen to look out for is Michael Rose. He will be looking to see playing time, and compete for a starting position.
8. Who will help Rex cary the load?
With the addition of 6-foot-2, 220 lb. running back Imani Cross, Nebraska’s depth at running back has grown immensely. Not to mention Mike Marrow, the fullback transfer from Alabama has game breaking ability. With every rep taken by Cross, Marrow, or anyone else that will make senior running back Rex Burkhead that much more valueable towards the end of the season. Last season Burkhead carried the load for the offense every game. By the end of the season the Plano, TX. native was practicing in a walking boot. To lighten the load on Rex, will keep him fresh later in the season, and more importantly help keep him healthy. The wild card in the roation will be Ameer Abdullah. The sophomore from Alabama, was an explosive kick returner for Nebraska last year. It will be interesting to see if he can have an equal impact on the running game. The dark horse in the race will be Braylon Heard. In the spring Heard moved from running back to corner, and in the fall has moved back to his original position. He was a top 150 recruit in the country coming out of high school, and should see some time at running back.
7. How much more improved will the secondary be under Terry Joseph?
Clearly the biggest issue last season was the play of anyone in the secondary, not named Alfonzo Dennard. There was a signifigant drop off in prodcutivity in the defensive backfield from 2010 to 2011. When you lose a first round draft pick to the NFL, like Nebraska did, that is expected. The secondary was clearly the weak link of the defense last year, but from all reports, it could be the strength of the 2012 Blackshirts. In the offseason, Nebraska hired former Tennessee defensiveback coach Terry Joseph, to come in and fix the broken secondary. All reports have hinted that Joseph has done that, and with the addition of JUCO transfer Mohamad Seisay, the secondary could lead the defense this season.
6. Who will emerge as Taylor Martinez’s number one target?
This is one of the best problems to have as college football team. Nebraska has so many solid wide receivers, they do not have a clear cut number one threat. Six games in to last season, Jamal Turner was Nebraska’s leading receiver. Due to internal reasons Turner saw limited playing time for the remainder of the season. Which left the door wide open for fellow freshman Kenny Bell to steal the show. This season, Nebraska will have two legit deep threats on the outside in Bell and Turner, to go with possibly the best posession receiver in the conference in Quincy Enunwa. This doesn’t even include the fact that explosive tight end, Kyler Reed has been seeing playing time as a slot receiver as well. Oh ya, and Tim Marlowe can run with any body, and we have not even seen what Taariq Allen can do. So if Taylor Martinez can get the ball down field, Nebraska has the playmakers to score six every time. With that said, will he develop a favorite target?
5. Will No.2 see game clock?
Second year offensive coordinator Tim Beck came out last week and said there is no clear cut number two quarterback on the depth chart right now. The battle between Brion Carnes, and true freshman Tommy Armstrong is still wide open. With that in mind, last season Carnes saw 36 snaps total as the number two quarterback. That number of snaps has to go up this season. If Taylor Martinez gets injured, the 2012 season lies in the hands of either a true freshman, or a sophomore who has only taken 36 reps of live college football action. With Martinez’s history of injury, and how he runs the ball, it’s a question of when, not if he gets hurt. The Nebraska offense will need a guy who can step in, and cause the least amount of set back. That’s why I think the edge goes to Carnes for the number two spot. He has been in the offense for a year already, and a redshirt would be best for both, Nebraska, and Armstrong. Despite being the possible number three quarterback this year, Armstrong is the future of the program, and possibly the best quarterback on the team.
4. Who will be the other safety?
No question Daimion Stafford is one of the starting safeties this season. The question is, who will be the other one? Last season P.J. Smith, and Courtney Osborne were in a consistant cycle of rotating safeties. This season there will be a little more stiff competition. 6-foot-2, 210 lb redshirt sophomore Harvey Jackson is a year smarter, and a year better. Also with the arrival of 2011 recruit Charles Jackson, possibly the most athletic DB on the team, safety is going to be the most interesting position battle to watch all season.
3. Which incoming freshman will have the biggest impact?
Nebraska’s 2012 class is full of potential stars. Jordan Westerkamp is already turning heads at the wide receiver spot. It goes with out question that Imani Cross will see significant playing time in 2012. The one player that has stood out to me in practice, that I has been more impressive then I thought he would be this early in his career has been Avery Moss. He will more than likely redshirt this season, but if a couple injuries happen at a weak defensive end position, look for 6-foot-2 Moss, and Ohio native Greg McMullen to see playing time.
2. Will there be an improvement in the defensive end play?
In Bo Pelini’s tenure in Lincoln, Nebraska has continuously struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks. After taking some time to watch the first half of the Ohio State, and Northwestern game from a year ago, the player I am most concerned with this season is senior defensive end Cameron Meredith. In six out of seven players were OSU quarterback Braxton Miller scrambled for 10 or more yards, it was to Meredith’s side. 6 of 7 scrambles by Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, were also to the side Meredith was playing at. The 6-foot-4 senior needs to work on his containment, and force quarterbacks inside more. He over pursues, and this is something that needs to be fixed if Nebraska wants to contend for a BIG 10 title.
1. Can Taylor Martinez become a better passer?
This season will hinge on the performance of redshirt junior quarterback, Taylor Martinez. He is in his fourth year in Lincoln, and his second season under Tim Beck as his offensive coordinator. In the off season, Martinez returned to his home state of California, to work with his high school quarterback coach. In practice his footwork has been greatly improved. He still has the awkward throwing motion, but balls have been placed out in front of receivers, and the timing of routs have improved greatly. It will be interesting to see if this accuracy can carry over to the game.
By Jimmie Allen
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