Nebraska Cornhusker Football 2012 Season Preview

Chad RobbCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2012

Nebraska Cornhusker Football 2012 Season Preview

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    The Nebraska Cornhusker 2012 football season is almost here. You can feel the electricity running through the state as Husker Nation prepares for Nebraska’s second season in the Big Ten Conference.

    Nebraska has made many changes in their coaching staff and their players for the 2012 season. It will be interesting to see how the group of players and coaches come together in 2012.

    Here is a complete preview of the Nebraska Cornhuskers 2012 season…

Offense

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    Last season the Cornhuskers' offense was too inconsistent to become dominant in their new conference.

    Nebraska was in their first year under offensive coordinator Tim Beck's system. They were also facing defenses that the team was unfamiliar with. This season Nebraska will be more consistent as they become more familiar with the offense and more competitive now that they understand their opponents.

    Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is the most scrutinized player on the Cornhusker's team. At times Martinez has been a very productive quarterback for Nebraska. His problem is that even when he is productive he looks awkward while doing it.

    Martinez had a great freshman season until he injured his ankle. Last season he struggled at times in the new offense. In 2012 Martinez will be closer to the quarterback the Cornhusker fans watched his freshman year than the quarterback he was last season.

    Martinez stated his goal in 2012 was to complete 70% of his passes. Although the statement seems arrogant, it may not be impossible for him to reach. Nebraska will run more of the option this season which should open up the passing game for Martinez. The team may employ more short passes which will also increase Martinez's completion percentage.

    The strength of Nebraska's team in 2012 is at running back. Rex Burkhead returns for his senior season and is one of the best running backs in the country. Last season Burkhead rushed for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns.

    Running backs Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross will be used as backups to keep Burkhead fresh at the end of the season. Each of these players has the skill to become a great running back for Nebraska in the future.

    The wide receiver position is also deep for the Cornhuskers. Sophomore Kenny Bell will be the primary deep threat for Nebraska. He showed last season that he is ready to become an elite pass-catcher for the Cornhuskers.

    Last season wide receivers Tim Marlowe and Quincy Enunwa made plays for the Cornhuskers. They will be back along with sophomore Jamal Turner. Turner was impressive in the spring game last season, but failed to take the next step once the games began to count in the record book. This may be the season when Turner becomes a star alongside Bell at the receiver position.

    While the offensive skill players seem to be the strength of the Cornhuskers in 2012, the offensive line may be the weakness.

    Nebraska came into summer camp with three players who had significant playing experience (Tyler Moore, Spencer Long and Seung Hoon Choi). Last week Moore left the team and left Nebraska with a hole to fill at the offensive tackle position.

    Nebraska will use Jeremiah Sirles to replace Moore, but still needs to find a starting center before the season begins. This may be a make-or-break season for Nebraska's offensive line coach Barney Cotton. If Nebraska's struggles on the offensive line continue, Cotton may be looking for a new job in 2013.

Defense

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    Last season the Blackshirts defense was a disappointment. With star players at each level of the defense (defensive tackle Jared Crick, linebacker Lavonte David and defensive back Alfonzo Dennard), the Cornhuskers were expected to be a dominant defense. The Blackshirts failed to live up to expectations due mostly to the team’s lack of depth.

    This season Nebraska has a lot of depth on the defensive line and in the secondary. Nebraska has 17 players on their roster listed as defensive linemen. Many of these players will be used to compete in the physical Big Ten Conference.

    Nebraska has three returning starters on the defensive line. Baker Steinkuhler will be the anchor in the middle. Defensive ends Cameron Meredith, Jason Ankrah and Eric Martin also have significant experience on the defensive line.

    Nebraska will also use Chase Rome, Vincent Valentine, Thad Randle, Todd Peat Jr. and Greg McMullen to add depth to the defensive line.

    Nebraska has some skill at the linebacker position, but still lacks depth. Will Compton and Sean Fisher will be the starters when the season begins. Nebraska linebackers Zaire Anderson, Jared Afalava, Trevor Roach and David Santos are competing for the last starting position.

    Nebraska has some new players in the secondary, but that doesn't mean they won't be better than last season. The best player in the secondary is safety Daimion Stafford. Last season Stafford became the primary playmaker in the Cornhusker secondary. He will be the leader of the unit this season.

    Nebraska will use Andrew Green at one cornerback position while Ciante Evans, Mohammed Seisay and Charles Jackson are battling for the other starting spot. All three will see significant playing time in 2012.

    The 2012 season will be different from last year because Nebraska now has depth in the secondary. The Cornhuskers will use Stanley Jean-Baptiste, P.J. Smith, Josh Mitchell and Antonio Bell to add depth to the secondary. Each player brings a different skill set to the Blackshirts defense. Nebraska will use multiple players to create one dominant defensive unit.

Special Teams

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    One of the most overlooked units in football is the special teams unit. Nebraska has the best special teams unit in the Big Ten Conference.

    Leading the special teams unit is Brett Maher. In 2011 Maher became the first player since 2001 to be selected as the Big Ten kicker and punter of the year. Maher connected on 19 of 23 field goals in his first season as the starter. It is scary to think that Maher may be better this season.

    Maher was also an excellent punter. Maher average 50 yards per punt in 2011 and he was the first Cornhusker punter to do so since 2005.

    Nebraska has many players to use as returners in 2012. Last season Ameer Abdullah led the Big Ten Conference in kickoff returns. He will be used with Jamal Turner, Tim Marlowe and Imani Cross to give Nebraska one of the most dynamic kick/punt return units in the Big Ten Conference.

    Special teams can be the difference in winning and losing games. Nebraska should be able to win some close games in 2012 based upon their strong special teams units.

Schedule

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    Nebraska has the talent to get back to a BCS game this season, but a difficult schedule could be too much for the Cornhuskers in 2012.

    On paper Nebraska's non-conference schedule looks easy. Looks can be deceiving.

    Nebraska starts the season against the Conference USA Champions, Southern Mississippi. The game is followed by a trip to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA led by their new coach Jim Mora. Nebraska will come home to play the Southern Conference Champions Arkansas State and then get a tune-up game against Idaho State, before the Cornhuskers begin Big Ten play. Nebraska will win each of these games, but the scores will be closer than most people think.

    Nebraska has one of the most difficult schedules from the end of September through the first week of November. During that stretch Nebraska plays Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State. This stretch of the schedule will determine the Cornhusker's success in 2012.

    Nebraska should end the season with three straight wins. Nebraska plays Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa to end their season.

    The Cornhuskers have one more season with Wisconsin and Ohio State on their schedule before those teams are replaced by Illinois and Purdue in 2013.

Prediction

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    Nebraska will be an improved team in 2012. That does not mean the Cornhuskers are ready to return to the conference championship game or a BCS game.

    Nebraska will win their four non-conference games before they hit a speed bump in the middle of the season.  I look for the Cornhuskers to win two of the four games that include Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State (probably Wisconsin and Michigan State).

    The last two seasons Nebraska has found a way to lose games that they are supposed to win. This season they're not the popular pick to win every game. Nebraska usually performs well as the underdog, which is the reason the team will be able to stay focused and bounce back from their midseason hiccup.

    Nebraska will win their final three games and finish the season 10-2. Michigan will win the Legends division on a tie-breaker. Nebraska will get snubbed for an at-large bid to the BCS, which will send the Cornhuskers and their fans back to Florida for the Outback Bowl.

    The season is almost here. Go Big Red!

     

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