Nebraska Football: Special teams can’t be much worse in 2020

Nebraska football special teams have set the bar low for 2020.

With Nebraska football season coming up, it’s always interesting to look at writers predictions and questions heading into the opening game.

One of the questions posed by Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star asked about how much better the Nebraska football special-teams will be. I thought it was an interesting question, given that there are so many new faces. However, the bar is set low enough from last season to where I would feel comfortable saying Nebraska will see a marked improvement in that area in 2020.

Nebraska football made 12-of-20 field goals in 2019. That put them at a 60% clip, and in the lower half of the Big Ten.

I can remember writing last year about how Nebraska is going to need to get their kicking problems solved. It was always a big mystery week after week. Missing eight field goals is certainly unacceptable. Surely, Nebraska football will be able to do better than that.

In terms of opposing kickoff returns, Nebraska ranked ninth in the conference with 20.7 yards allowed per return. They also led the league with two touchdowns allowed on the season.

The kickoff coverage last year was abysmal. Surely, that area can’t be much worse either.

It’s interesting to hear what Sipple has to say however. He describes the unknown of the special teams group given that there are so many new faces. However, he certainly indicates that there is depth at that positional group. I personally feel optimistic about what that positional group can bring to the table.

The Huskers overhauled their special teams units, which was needed. We still don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, though. NU eschewed hiring a full-time coach for special teams and instead has entrusted the duties to senior special teams analyst Jonathan Rutledge. The program will likely have a new punter, new place kicker and new kickoff man in addition to new schemes. Maybe it’ll all work a lot better. It needs to, that’s for sure.

Sipple indicates that maybe things will work better for the Nebraska football special teams. I truly believe it will. Special-teams is one of the areas that Nebraska football focused on during the offseason. The addition of Rutledge was a big part of that. He helped in recruiting, and he also brings an analytical perspective to what Nebraska is trying to do.

Of course, we won’t be able to truly measure how much better the Nebraska football special teams unit is until we see them play. That will happen in less than a week. In the meantime, the speculation sure is fun. In any event, better days are ahead.