You guys might not have heard, but the Big 10 expanded and next year Nebraska will join. Just thought I'd toss that out there first in case you didn't know.
That's the backdrop for Nebraska's 2010 season, and (to me) explains the Huskers' biggest offseason decision: Giving the starting QB job to Redshirt Freshman Taylor Martinez. In 2009 Zac Lee was Nebraska's QB, and although he was injured (elbow ligament) and our O Line was a disaster of injuries and inconsistency, the decision was made to put the ball in the hands of Martinez, a bona fide playmaker.
TMart's got the ability to make magic happen when the play breaks down. He's billed as a dual-threat QB but he's mostly a running QB with the ability to pass. He's not a true passer. Comparisons are tough at this point, but he's similar to Pat White from W Virginia a couple of years ago. We'll see if he lives up to those descriptions, but he's looked good in our Spring Game and in Game 1 against the worst team in Div 1A football this year.
The Huskers have a rebuilt O Line this year with plenty of depth, if not experience. We are pretty legitimate two-deep right now, but our second unit features all Freshmen and Redshirt Freshmen, so they're inexperienced. We have a couple of decent WRs in Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie, and we converted our best TE, Mike McNeill, to WR this summer, but with a QB that's run-first it's hard to say how much they’ll be involved. Paul has true talent, but he's a bonehead and he tends to fumble. A lot. In crucial situations.
On Defense the Huskers lost our strength right up the middle of the field: Ndamukong Suh, LB Philip Dillard, and both starting Safeties, Larry Asante and Matt O'Hanlon. All four were solid players and will be missed. Suh will be missed on the line, but we've got talent coming into the gap. Baker Steinkuhler will take over for Suh alongside Jared Crick, Suh's DT partner from last season. Pierre Allen anchors one DE spot while Cameron "The Stache" Meredith holds down the other. However, when these boys get tired we bring in the next line, featuring DTs Terrance Moore and Thad Randle and DEs Josh Williams and Jason Ankrah, all four of whom could start on about 90% of the teams in Div1A. We may have lost Suh, but overall we're in good shape on the line.
LB is where we're hurting right now. We lost our two starting LBs in fall camp, Sean Fisher (out for the season) and Will Compton (out 4-6 games). In their place we're starting Alonzo Whaley, a demon of a LB who just needs to get comfortable making alignment calls, and LaVonte David, a JUCO transfer who was lighting everyone up in Fall Camp. Game One showed that David is a baller, and could be a difference-maker along the lines of Demorrio Williams. We'll see.
Nebraska will run a new defense this year, the "Peso," which we're able to do thanks to the hybrid nature of Eric Hagg, a SR who's able to play up front against the run and switch to a DB role on the fly. We're pretty much set at CB with Prince Amukamara (who has NFL scouts drooling) and Alonzo Dennard, a shutdown corner about as good as Amukamara. At Safety we start PJ Smith, a Sophomore with game-breaking skills, and DeJon Gomes, who can take over a game in the blink of an eye.
With Bo Pelini guiding the defense, it should come as no surprise that I'm unconcerned about the defense.
Nebraska's schedule sets up nicely to get Martinez' feet wet easily. We already beat up on W. Kentucky, and we follow that up with Idaho, @Washington, then back home again for S. Dakota State. The gloves come off when the Big 12 season starts, but by then Martinez will have become acclimated to the game and should be OK. Freshman mistakes will happen, sure, but I think his game-changing ability will balance that out.
Let me know if you have any questions.