Blog Entry

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

Posted on: March 15, 2011 5:17 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 5:35 am

Posted by Adam Jacobi

College football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Nebraska, who opened spring camp on Saturday. 

Spring Practice Question: Does Nebraska have the firepower to win its division in its inaugural Big Ten season?

If there's ever an ideal time for a college football program to join a conference, it's when that conference is in a state of flux; at the very least, then, everybody is going through an adjustment period, so the new team is in something of a similar boat. If Nebraska makes it to its very first Big Ten Championship Game this year, well, so will its theoretical opponent.

Of course, getting to that game is far more of a challenge than anything else; one bad weekend can put a team into also-ran status when it comes to a division title, so Nebraska has its work cut out for it coming into the 2011 season. Yet then again, on those terms, so does everybody else in the (sigh) "Legends" division, and Nebraska may have the upper hand on personnel in the division.

Yes, there are three Big Ten teams that won at least 11 games last season. Two are in the (sigh again) Leaders division. Nebraska basically has to contend with a reeling Michigan program in the first year of the Brady Hoke era, a Michigan State team that was embarrassed by Alabama and the Hawkeyes in 2010 and won an unsustainable amount of close games, and an Iowa squad that loses a ton of NFL-caliber experience from a five-loss 2010 team. Northwestern might contend for a bowl game again, but Minnesota won't, and that's it for the division. Hardly a murderer's row.

Moreover, Nebraska returns a wealth of offensive talent. QB Taylor Martinez, or "T-Magic," is back after winning the 2010 Big 12 Freshman of the Year award, quashing several transfer rumors in the process. Yes, Bo Pelini blew up at Martinez late in the season last year, and there's always the fear that some strife could potentially linger and cause problems down the road, but there's also little indication that such a rift still exists. Martinez had his chance to make a new start and decided against it. Sure, problems may exist under the surface, but that's at least a manageable situation, and coaches can (and often do) live with that type of arrangement. Big Ten defenses should expect to get a heavy dose of T-Magic in 2011, and that is bad news for Nebraska opponents.

Nebraska Football
Martinez is hardly the only difference-maker back, though. Big back Rex Burkhead will reprise his role as a pile-mover and Wildcat anchor, and with top tailback recruits Aaron Green and Braylon Heard not showing up in Lincoln until this summer, Burkhead should enjoy a ton of first-team reps in the backfield as he prepares to be a featured back. Burkhead thrived in a complementary role to Helu last year, and Pelini is probably expectng to give one of his incoming tailbacks a big push, but they're both ifs until they set foot on campus and can start working with the team; until then, Burkhead will be the man.

The main strength of the Cornhusker defense is going to be on the interior, led by surprising senior returnee DT Jared Crick. That is to say, the secondary is a major point of weakness, with CB Prince Amukamara, SS DeJon Gomes, and FS/SS/LB/MVP Eric Hagg all needing to be replaced. That's a job easier said than done, especially with an elite draft prospect like Amukamara and a team leader like Hagg, but rising seniors Alfonzo Dennard and Courtney Osborne are going to be given the keys to the secondary. Both are high-level players; if defensive coordinator Carl Pelini can build quality and depth around them, this defense could be just about as scary as last year.

The bottom line is that Nebraska is not only a contender for the (sighhhhhh) Legends division crowd, it's practically a favorite. The Huskers are, on paper, better-loaded than anybody else in the division and set to make a run at the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Bad and unexpected things may happen along the way, but the spring status quo seems to indicate that fans in Lincoln should set high expectations for the 2011 season. Don't go booking hotel rooms in Indianapolis quite yet -- this is still college football, where all hell can break loose anywhere at any time -- but it would be safe to expect at least 10 wins in 2011 as long as the Husker team stays relatively healthy.


Since: Apr 12, 2010
Posted on: March 25, 2011 11:32 am

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

Welcome to the Big 10 Nebraska and there is nothing wrong with your uniforms.  I can't wait for the season and for a new rivalry to start with Nebraska.   Go Blue!!!!!

Since: Feb 9, 2009
Posted on: March 23, 2011 11:48 am

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

Why are the listed under the Big 12?  Should they not be listed under Big 10, since that is where they play next year.

Since: May 10, 2009
Posted on: March 16, 2011 8:03 pm

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

MrCollegeFtbl83, hello, nice to meet you, I see that you wrote a bunch of words, and they didn't make any sense. I thank you for all your wisdom, and you are right, Nebraska should do just like Oregon, glad you see it my way! Now, have an excellent Merry Christmas.

Since: Jan 8, 2009
Posted on: March 16, 2011 9:11 am

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

Only Dennard is a senior...not Courtney Osborne (he's a junior).  Calling the secondary "a MAJOR point of weakness" is laughable, considering the quality of returning starters in Dennard and Osborne.  There's also talent in Austin Cassidy and Ciante Evans, who each started games in the secondary last year.  The secondary will no doubt be strong again under the Pelinis.

Lastly, how can you talk about the defense without at least mentioning All American LB LaVonte David?

Since: Mar 16, 2011
Posted on: March 16, 2011 9:11 am

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

The Iron Horse suggests Nebraska needs new uniforms.  Really??? As far as I know most of the Big Ten seems to all have simple yet timeless uniforms.  Would you prefer Nebraska takes the route of Oregon and has a different set of attire for each day of the year?  I think you should go ahead and mention that Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State all need updates while you're on such a meaningless roll of suggestions.  If the article was about college football uniforms then your expertise would be welcomed but unfortunately it was about spring practice leading into the upcoming season.  You consider yourself a fan of the Cornhuskers.  Shame on you

Since: May 10, 2009
Posted on: March 15, 2011 11:23 pm

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

Nebraska needs new uniforms.

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: March 15, 2011 8:33 pm

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

I'd hardly call Burkhead a BIG back but he is a pile mover.  All and all nice article for someone in the National media.  If you want in-depth breakdowns you probably want to check out a Nebraska news paper though. 

Since: Dec 14, 2010
Posted on: March 15, 2011 6:07 pm

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

I lnow live in the heart of the Big Ten. Can't wait till fall

Since: Oct 6, 2009
Posted on: March 15, 2011 1:23 pm

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska

Yes, NU lost a ton of DB experience but somehow, some way the blackshirts will have one of the best pass D's in the nation.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or