Not everything written about Nebraska here is negative, regardless of what some commenters have said recently. There’s plenty of sunshine and unicorns for Nebraska fans to focus on as NU prepares for year two in the Big Ten.
In looking forward to 2012, Nebraska has a number of strengths to build on. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Nebraska’s biggest strength for 2012 might be the rock-solid cornerstone Burkhead provides to NU’s offense. While Burkhead may not possess the blazing speed needed to break a game open, his consistency and dependability will be critical as Nebraska’s evolving offense grows around him.
Nebraska has a number of explosive playmakers on offense, but Burkhead’s reliability will give them opportunities to shine.
In 2011, Nebraska had a lot of offensive talent on the field, but a lot of it was unproven. Behind Rex Burkhead were three freshmen running backs and two freshman wide receivers who saw the bulk of playing time for most of the season. Plus, quarterback Taylor Martinez was beginning his sophomore season after having missed a portion of his freshman year with an injury.
In 2012, most of those players are back, but now with an extra year of experience both on the field and in offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s system, that experience should pay dividends in offensive production for Nebraska.
Nebraska has a great combination of quality possession receivers in Quincy Enunwa and Tim Marlowe, breakaway speed threats in Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner, a devastating receiving tight end in Kyler Reed, and promising young talent in Taariq Allen and Jordan Westerkamp.
There were a number of reasons for Nebraska’s defensive struggles in 2011, but one was clearly injuries. Sean Fisher was clearly not fully recovered from his injury the previous season, which affected his performance. Alfonzo Dennard’s injury threw Nebraska’s secondary into turmoil to start the season. Jared Crick’s injury decimated the performance of Nebraska’s interior defensive line.
At this point, Nebraska doesn’t look to be suffering from any of those lingering injury problems. So while there is still plenty of work to do on defense, that continuity should be helpful in improving the performance of the Blackshirts.
Over the years, Nebraska’s offense has had its ups and downs (mostly downs, unfortunately). Nebraska’s defense has had its ups and downs (last year’s down being quite a surprise). But one thing that has been consistent for Nebraska in recent years has been its special teams.
Brett Maher looks to continue a long tradition of specialists that earned Nebraska the nickname of “Kicker U” in the mind of one particularly bright and handsome analyst. Couple that with exciting kick return options like Ameer Abdullah, and Nebraska’s “third half” of the game could be a decisive advantage.
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