Last season ended in disappointment for the Huskers.
Picked to win the Legends division and the Big Ten title, they only finished third in the division. Two of the four losses were blowouts, one was an upset on their home field, and the bowl game against South Carolina fell apart with mistakes.
Pessimism has set in, as some fans have accepted the fate of third place and already believe next year to be worse than the last.
This year will be different. Nebraska can, and I am going to go as far to say will, win the Legends Division and compete for the Big Ten title.
Yes, we have all heard the jokes and critiques about Martinez's passing. If you watched almost any Husker game on ESPN, the announcers would make sure you noticed.
This offseason, Martinez started taking QB lessons from QB guru Steve Calhoun, mainly to improve his footwork when passing. Calhoun has said that people will be surprised how much better Martinez has gotten. He's improved so much that he was asked to participate in the Manning Camp, run by Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.
If the reports are true, which I am inclined to believe, then Nebraska will have a much better passing attack to go along with the great running game. Nebraska has great receivers in Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, Quincy Enunwa and others. Martinez's improved passing, plus great receivers, could result in a big year.
The last few times Nebraska had a passing and running game while Martinez was running the offense resulted in high scoring games against Oklahoma State and Washington. If Nebraska can score easily, then other teams will have problems keeping up.
Nebraska did technically lose three starters on the offensive line—both tackles and center—but you should really only count one.
Center Mike Caputo will be hard to replace and that is the only question mark on the line. At both tackle spots, Nebraska has two former starters in Jeremiah Sirles and Tyler Moore, who both played extensively last year, and will return both starting guards in Spencer Long and Seung Hoon Choi. To replace Caputo, Nebraska will look to his two-year backup, Cole Pensick.
Add the returning experience of the line, plus the several great linemen Nebraska has picked up in the last few recruiting classes, and the Huskers will have one of their best lines under head coach Bo Pelini. If they dominate up front like the other great Husker lines, Nebraska's offense will be hard to stop.
Nebraska did lose star power in Alfonzo Dennard and Lavonte David, but they do have something: experience. The defense is loaded with players that have been at Nebraska for years and know the system.
Nebraska has multi-year starters on the defensive line in Baker Steinkuhler and Cameron Meredith, and last year's starters Jason Ankrah, Eric Martin and Thad Randle. The Huskers will also rely on talented underclassmen Todd Peat Jr. and Chase Rome as backups.
The Huskers also return starter and leader of the defense, linebacker Will Compton, as well as other starters Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley. Add in JUCO transfer Zaire Anderson, and Nebraska is set at linebacker.
In the secondary, the Huskers return starting cornerback Andrew Green, who played better as the season went on, and hard hitting safety Daimion Stafford. For the other two spots, the Huskers will use top-JUCO cornerback Mohammed Seisay and safety P.J. Smith, an off-and-on again starter at safety who has been with the program for a long time.
People criticized the coaching staff last year, but they had a tough challenge. They had to learn 12 new teams instead of the usual four in non-conference play. This year they will know what the other teams are doing and should be better.
For the 2012 season, Nebraska will return the entire offensive coaching staff. The offense already returns eight starters, and with the offensive coaching staff returning, the offense should be good. The offense should better understand what offensive coordinator Tim Beck wants. Plus, they will be able to work with players that have been with the team for years.
On defense, Nebraska hired two top assistants in defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski from Iowa, and secondary coach Terry Joseph from Tennessee (both of which helped lead their teams to great things in their respective areas).
Bo Pelini also hired defensive line coach John Papuchis as the new defensive coordinator. Papuchis had been working with Pelini since LSU and knows what to do. Plus, Pelini is a great defensive coach and he will be able to get the defense up to his standards.
Nebraska players and coaching staff are talking titles. Not just Big Ten titles, but national titles. Linebacker Will Compton told the Lincoln Journal Star that he and the rest of team realize there is not a game that the team cannot win on the schedule.
All I can say is, finally. This is the attitude that Huskers need. This is the attitude that the Husker teams had under former coach Tom Osborne. They can win every game. There is no reason they shouldn't be able to win every game on the schedule. There is no reason why they shouldn't be in every game. There is no reason for them to be blown out.
Nebraska's new-found attitude is a big reason why the Huskers should contend for a title in 2012.