It's been a weird few years as a Nebraska fan. On one hand, you've been a part of an institutionally significant move to the Big Ten, you have watched as your football team exceeds and underachieves - often in the same game, you have witnessed the new dawn of a basketball team that might matter as much as the football team, and you have seen the most important moment in your coach's tenure happen during the offseason, none of which had to do with football. Basically, you have been on a roller coaster of fairly epic proportions. On the flipside, it could always be worse, right? Let's get to it. Here's everything you need to know about Nebraska the next time you find out that your VC is coming from investors who were Berkshire groundfloor guys.
About Last Season
The Good News...
Look, Nebraska won its bowl against a SEC opponent and in doing so, secured a 9 win season. In general, a terrible defense got much better as young players that Pelini hoped would blossom, did so. Oh, and Ameer Abdullah was fantastic. Oh, and we beat Northwestern on a Hail Mary, which seems like bad news but I get to post this GIF.
Well that's fun, right?
The Bad News...
Let's see, I think this might be better off as a bulleted list:
- Team loses another non-conference game in a fairly stunning manner. Pundits aren't happy, and chaos ensues.
- Because of said chaos, someone leaks an audio tape of Pelini saying, "F*** the fans" which isn't exactly a term of endearment. More chaos ensues.
- The new AD decides to not talk, which people perceive as something more than it is. In reality, our AD doesn't talk.
- Oh yeah, PeLLLLini reigns again!
- Something like 1.0 yard per punt return.
- Lost to 2/3 of the Quadrangle of hate
- Pelini more or less goes crazy during the Iowa game, swings his hat towards an official, and has the most awkward press conference afterwards, practically begging for feedback
The Good News:
Look, this offense is blessed with a stable of RBs, and is led by returning All-B1G Ameer Abdullah. This is a kid who was considered the third best RB recruit Nebraska had in his class, but he has turned into a monster on the field. He cuts well, he can break tackles, he has decent speed, and he has enough shake to make defenders miss. Oh, and he blocks well, and doesn't suck at catching passes out of the backfield. Abdullah is the complete package and will be the glue that keeps this train together this year. He will be spelled, however, by a trio of backs in the battering ram Imani Cross, sophomore Terrell Newby - who had some quality touches last year, and RsFr. Adam Taylor - who might be the best of the bunch.
Oh, and let's not rule out Kenny Bell and the WR corp this year. I know I mentioned him last year, but he had to deal with the QB carousel, nagging injuries, and Nebraska basically saying, "Look guys, let's just run the ball because I'm pretty sure that's all we can do." I foresee Bell having a big Senior season a la Quincy Enunwa last year. Bell isn't necessarily a draft pick as of yet, but he's on his way. I have high hopes for him finishing on a strong note.
The Bad News...
Where to start... The QB situation is interesting because Nebraska is loaded with talent under center, but none of it is really proven. While Tommy Armstrong is the clear leader right now, he was so-so in gametime last year. He looked poised in the bowl game, but that is a wildcard. Behind him is Johnny Stanton, a kid with a cannon for an arm, and not a lot else. Those two should keep fighting for the head job, but with uncertainty at the key position on the offense makes everyone a little uneasy.
Add to that the fact that the O-Line is also fairly unproven - with four starters gone - and you have a mess on your hands. Now, Nebraska does have quite a bit of gametime, not necessarily starts, experience coming back, so maybe that works out alright, but this line should be an interesting situation. Worth noting, look out for Rs JR. Chongo Kondolo at RG, and Colorado transfer Alex Lewis at the LT spot. Those two guys are legit starters who should help shore up what looks like a shaky situation on paper.
The Good News...
The good news is that what started out as a tire fire in Wyoming, turned into a fairly decent group of defenders. You wouldn't know it, but in conference play, Nebraska was actually second best at yards per play, allowing a decent 4.55. Now, that was mainly due to a filthy pass defense that had playmakers all over the field. Oh, and the rise of Randy Gregory who is/was a beast on the line. All he does is get to the QB. It's kind of his thing, and is why almost every 2015 draft projection has him going early first round this year. Add another season under his belt, and he could be one of the best linemen to come from Nebraska. That's not a bad list.
More good news is that this LB crew looks primed to be the best unit on the defense, which should help with some of the gaps in run support Nebraska has had since it joined the B1G. Michael Rose will lead a young and aggressive group of LBs for the Cornhuskers with Zaire Anderson and David Santos manning the other two positions. With the fast and mean Nate Gerry moving to his natural spot at Safety, this team is looking better and better finally. Maybe the blackshirts will re-emerge?
The Bad News...
A lot of talent is gone from the secondary and there is still not a proven threat outside Gregory. Those are the two complaints you'll be hearing from anyone taking a look at Nebraska this year. And honestly, those two things being the worst thing you will hear about the defense makes me fairly happy considering where we were a year ago. There is a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, and Nebraska will be relying on this group to help out a still-learning QB with a new OL protecting him. The DB depth is a little dry with Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ciante Evans moving on, but there is some consistency. Josh Mitchell will man one of the CB spots with Byerson Cockrell, a JuCo recruit, probably locking down the other. Corey Cooper has gobs of experience and will take over the Strong Safety position, and Nate Gerry moves back to Free Safety. I'm excited about this group, and honestly, I think they prove to be pretty formidable this year.
Nebraska's special teams are a thing... We have no PR unit to speak of, and until I see this unit return a punt further than three yards, I'm not believing it exists. There will be good punting from Sam Foltz, and Mauro Bondi is a KOS, which is kind of fun to have, but this team is not specifically great at PK yet. Enter Drew Brown, younger brother of Nebraska great Kris Brown. I expect him to win the position and be awesome because KICKERU!
On the Schedule:
Well, it's interesting to say the least. Nebraska travels to Fresno State - who is hard to predict due to changes in their roster (basically the loss of Derek Carr) - and also hosts Miami in the non-con. Those two games are in that very winnable/very losable category. In conference play, Nebraska gets Rutgers and Michigan State as crossovers, with travel to MSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern. Again, this is a slate where Nebraska is not completely backs against the wall, but shouldn't be counting wins either. The streak of four losses is very much in play.
If You're Talking to a Nebraska Fan:
Five National Championships, Ameer Abdullah being awesome, Randy Gregory being awesome, something about cats, Five National Championships, the new sound system at Memorial, that awesome Hail Mary against Northwestern, that 99 yard play against Georgia in the bowl, the fact that Nebraska won their bowl, something about 9 wins, and Runza... Oh, and FIVE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
PeLLLLini, cats, that amazing game against UCLA last year, everything leading up to the Hail Mary against Northwestern, the uncertainty at QB and OL, the uncertainty in the secondary, the fact that Pelini's assistants aren't really that known, recruiting rankings, the last time Nebraska won anything with 'Championship' at the end, and of course, the AAU.