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Nebraska Football 2013 Team Program

Patrick RungeCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2013

Nebraska Football 2013 Team Program

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    Nebraska fans, who needs one of those heavy, ad-filled magazines you buy outside the stadium and promptly throw away? Contained herein is everything you need to get ready for the upcoming Nebraska football season. And it's available for you at the stroke of a key or the swipe of a smartphone screen. Enjoy!

The Program: Expert Predictions for the 2013 Season

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    The Program: Nebraska Cornhuskers Football: Experts Predictions for the 2013 Season.

Recapping 2012

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    Nebraska ended the 2012 season at 10-4, stumbling to the finish after an inspiring end to the regular season. NU went 3-1 in the non-conference season, dropping a game to UCLA in Los Angeles 36-30.

    Nebraska opened its Big Ten conference campaign by getting revenge on Wisconsin for 2011's heavy defeat in Madison, winning 30-27.

    But Nebraska's trip to Columbus the following week did not go as well, with Nebraska losing to Ohio State 63-38. After the heavy defeat, many Nebraska fans wrote off the chance to win the division and make an appearance in the B1G title game.

    Nebraska, however, responded with an amazing six-game winning streak, including incredible comebacks on the road against Northwestern and Michigan State. The strong finish vaulted Nebraska to a division title and a rematch with Wisconsin.

    Perhaps that six-game run took something out of Nebraska, because Wisconsin humiliated NU in Indianapolis, winning 70-31 in a contest that (amazingly enough) probably wasn't even that close. It was the first time Nebraska had surrendered 70 points in Bo Pelini's tenure.

    Nebraska's consolation prize was a Capital One Bowl berth against Georgia, a team that was five seconds away from a berth in the BCS title game. Nebraska stayed with the Bulldogs for three quarters, before falling 45-31.

Depth Chart

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    The following is a best guess of Nebraska's two-deep for the first game against Wyoming, as NU has not released a depth chart this season. Returning starters are listed in bold.

    Quarterback

    1. SR Taylor Martinez 6'1", 210 lbs

    2. FR Tommy Armstrong 6'1", 220 lbs

    I-Back

    1. JR Ameer Abdullah 5'9", 190 lbs

    2. SO Imani Cross 6'1", 225 lbs

    Fullback

    1. SO Andy Janovich 6'1", 225 lbs

    2. SR C.J. Zimmerer 6'0", 230 lbs

    Left Tackle

    1. JR Matt Finnin 6'7", 305 lbs

    2. SR Brent Qvale 6'7", 315 lbs

    Left Guard

    1. JR Jake Cotton 6'6", 305 lbs

    2. SO Ryne Reeves 6'3", 295 lbs

    Center

    1. SR Cole Pensick 6'2", 275 lbs

    2. JR Mark Pelini 6'0", 295 lbs

    Right Guard

    1. SR Spencer Long 6'4", 315 lbs

    2. JR Mike Moudy 6'5", 300 lbs

    Right Tackle

    1. SR Jeremiah Sirles 6'6", 310 lbs

    2. SR Andrew Rodriguez 6'6", 330 lbs

    Tight End

    1. SR Jake Long 6'4", 240 lbs

    2. FR Sam Cotton 6'4", 235 lbs

    Wide Receiver X

    1. JR Kenny Bell 6'1", 185 lbs

    2. FR Alonzo Moore 6'2", 185 lbs

    Wide Receiver Y

    1. SR Quincy Enunwa 6'2", 225 lbs

    2. FR Jordan Westerkamp 6'0", 200 lbs

    Wide Receiver A

    1. JR Jamal Turner 6'1", 185 lbs

    2. SO Taariq Allen 6'3", 195 lbs

    Defensive End

    1. SO Randy Gregory 6'6", 230 lbs

    2. FR Avery Moss 6'2", 270 lbs

    Defensive Tackle

    1. SR Thad Randle 6'1", 290 lbs

    2. FR Vincent Valentine 6'3", 325 lbs

    Defensive Tackle

    1. SO Aaron Curry 6'1", 280 lbs

    2. JR Jay Guy 6'1", 290 lbs

    Defensive End

    1. SR Jason Ankrah 6'4", 265 lbs

    2. FR Greg McMullin 6'3" 285 lbs

    BUCK Linebacker

    1. JR Zaire Anderson 5'11", 200 lbs

    2. FR Michael Rose 5'11", 230 lbs

    MIKE Linebacker

    1. SO David Santos 6'0", 225 lbs

    2. FR Josh Banderas 6'2", 220 lbs

    WILL Linebacker 

    1. FR Jared Afalava 6'3", 230 lbs

    2. FR Nathan Gerry 6'2", 210 lbs

    Cornerback

    1. SR Ciante Evans 5'11", 190 lbs

    2. JR Josh Mitchell 5'11", 160 lbs

    Cornerback

    1. SR Stanley Jean-Baptiste 6'3", 220 lbs

    2. SO Jonathan Rose 6'1", 190 lbs

    Safety

    1. SR Corey Cooper 6'1", 210 lbs

    2. SR Mohammed Seisay 6'2", 200 lbs

    Safety

    1. JR Harvey Jackson 6'2", 210 lbs

    2. SO Charles Jackson 5'11", 175 lbs

Injuries

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    Earlier this week, Nebraska suffered its most serious fall camp injury when sophomore defensive tackle Kevin Williams was lost for the 2013 season to a knee injury. Redshirt freshman tight end Jared Blum was lost for the year to an injury as well, but other than that players are looking to make it through camp and on to the field. Other notable injuries have been to senior tight end Jake Long and freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong.

Players to Watch

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    All eyes will be on senior quarterback Taylor Martinez this year, and with good reason. If Martinez is able to put up the kind of offensive numbers he has tallied in his first three years and cut down on his leading-the-nation rate of fumbles, Nebraska's offense could be poised to make a step into the nation's elite.

    On defense, the most important addition might be junior college transfer Randy Gregory, a pass rushing specialist. Nebraska's pass rush has been woeful the last two years, and that lack of a pass rush is the single biggest reason why the Blackshirts have not been what they were in seasons past. If Gregory can lead the way to opposing quarterbacks, Nebraska's defense can take a step back towards respectability.

2013 Schedule and Most Important Games

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    Aug. 31 Home vs. Wyoming

    Sep. 07 Home vs. Southern Mississippi

    Sep. 14 Home vs. UCLA

    Sep. 21 Home vs. South Dakota State

    Oct. 05 Home vs. Illinois

    Oct. 12 Away vs. Purdue

    Oct. 26 Away vs. Minnesota

    Nov. 02 Home vs. Northwestern

    Nov. 09 Away vs. Michigan

    Nov. 16 Home vs. Michigan State

    Nov. 23 Away vs. Penn State

    Nov. 29 Home vs. Iowa

    The clear red-letter game in Nebraska's 2013 schedule is the Nov. 09 trip to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines. But the Sep. 14 game against UCLA will be a critical test for Nebraska's very young defense. If Nebraska can contain an offense that racked up more than 600 yards on the Blackshirts last year, NU could very easily be going into the Michigan game at 8-0.

    Should that happen, the other game of critical importance will be the Nov. 23 game against Penn State. A road game in a hostile atmosphere, with the kind of ranking on the line Nebraska has not seen in years, could make that matchup an incredible pressure-cooker.

What to Look for on Offense

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    Nebraska's offense begins and ends with senior quarterback Taylor Martinez. His speed and elusiveness running the ball can change games, and can win games single-handedly. And his passing game, a liability to start his career, has steadily improved. Assuming he stays healthy, Martinez will end his Nebraska career holding every school record on offense.

    And yet Nebraska has never won anything more than a division title with Martinez. That is due, in part, to his dreadful record of turning the ball over. 2013 will be the year where Martinez's legacy as a Nebraska great will be defined. Regardless of the statistics, for Martinez to be considered one of Nebraska's all-time best quarterbacks, he will have to deliver some silverware.

    But he won't be alone. Junior I-back Ameer Abdullah will be the leader in the backfield, amassing a 1,000-yard campaign last year, spelling Rex Burhkead as he recovered from injury. Sophomore Imani Cross, Abdullah's likely backup, will look to shed his "short yardage back" moniker and demonstrate his skill as an all-purpose ball carrier. Nebraska will feature two exciting freshman running backs in shifty Terrell Newby and thumper Adam Taylor.

    Nebraska's wide receiver corps should be the best in the B1G this season. Junior Kenny Bell has already established himself as a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. Senior Quincy Enunwa is a big target with great hands and a weapon to get Nebraska a first down when needed. Junior Jamal Turner looks primed to break out and demonstrate the promise he showed early in his freshman campaign. And with receivers like Alonzo Moore, Jordan Westerkamp, Taariq Allen and Tyler Wullenwaber waiting in the wings, Nebraska will not lack for depth at receiver.

    But it may be improvements in the offensive line that propel Nebraska's offense in 2013 to true greatness. According to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, Pelini has called this year's offensive line potentially the best he's had in Lincoln. Led by All-American candidate Spencer Long, a talented and experienced offensive line could provide the additional running lanes and pass protection to help Nebraska's offense reach the next level. 

    Nebraska's offense under coordinator Tim Beck has become a juggernaut, racking up yards and points at a pace not seen since the Scoring Explosion of 1983. Look for Nebraska's offense to continue evolving with a senior quarterback, the best set of wide receivers in the B1G and a young and talented stable of I-backs that can give different looks to opposing defenses.

What to Look for on Defense

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    Last year Nebraska's defense gave up 113 points, in two games. That shocked Nebraska fans to the core, particularly when a 7-5 Wisconsin team hung 70 on the Blackshirts in the B1G title game.

    Yes, Nebraska has few returning starters on defense in 2013. But given the root-and-branch change that needs to happen from last year, that may be more good than bad.

    On the defensive line, seniors Jason Ankrah and Thad Randle will provide some stability and experience. But it is junior college transfer Randy Gregory at defensive end who will be leaned on the most to provide pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Unless Nebraska can generate a pass rush without rushing six or more, NU's defensive woes are likely to continue.

    Nebraska's linebacker corps has tremendous potential, but almost no experience. Sophomore David Santos, the likely starting middle linebacker, will be the most experienced of the players. Junior Zaire Anderson, returning from injury, might be the most talented overall linebacker. Freshman Jared Afalava could see himself involved more in pass rush with a three-man front.

    In the secondary, Nebraska has a tremendous amount of talent, but no clear-cut returning starters. Throughout the early part of the season, look for the secondary lineup (other than senior Ciante Evans at nickel, who should be a mainstay) to rotate a lot as Bo Pelini looks to find his best starting lineup.

    Nebraska's offense may be deep and experienced, but the defense is young and untested. There is a lot of talent and athleticism that will see the field on defense for Nebraska in 2013, but almost all of it will have precious little experience. It's a squad that could be very good, and should take advantage of Nebraska's soft early schedule to grow into itself. 

    But the specter of those blowout losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin still looms over the squad. Nebraska's defense will have to shut down a good offense—and may not get a real chance at that until Michigan—before NU fans will feel confident in the Blackshirts.

X-Factors for 2013

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    One of the fascinating things to watch this season is how Bo Pelini, who came to Nebraska as a defensive guru, handles the downturn of the Blackshirts. At B1G Media Days this season, Pelini hinted at some schematic changes, including the use of more three-man fronts to increase pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    He also discussed hybrid defenders in a little different way. Now, instead of safety-linebacker hybrids, Pelini is looking at linebacker-defensive end hybrids who can rush the passer from different angles. Randy Gregory, Jared Afalava, and others are being looked at in those hybrid roles.

    Whether Nebraska's defense can return to Blackshirt level is the biggest question facing NU in 2013. Watching how Pelini modifies his defensive scheme to make that happen could be fascinating.

Top Storylines to Watch

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    Can Nebraska Hold On To The Football?

    In the two years since Tim Beck has been offensive coordinator, Nebraska's offense has made tremendous strides. However, Nebraska's profligate turnovers, particularly fumbles, have prevented its offense from being considered truly elite.

    Can Nebraska's Defense Get Back to Being Blackshirts?

    Who would have thought that a Nebraska team coached by Bo Pelini, noted defensive guru, would struggle so mightily on defense? There is no question that over the last two years, 2012 in particular, Nebraska has remained stuck in neutral because of its defensive frailties.

    Has Bo Pelini Reached His Ceiling?

    Under Pelini, Nebraska has never won fewer than nine games. But it has also never lost fewer than four games. Pelini was brought in to right the sinking ship that was Nebraska football under head coach Bill Callahan and athletic director Steve Pederson.

    He has succeeded in that task, making Nebraska a solid bottom-of-the-top-25 team that can compete for division titles but is not a player on the national stage. And, ultimately, that's not going to be good enough for most Nebraska fans long term.

    So, going in to his sixth season in charge and with the most manageable schedule in years, can Pelini finally get Nebraska over the hump and back to national prominence?

Season Prediction

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    Final Regular-Season Record: 10-2

    Conference Record: 6-2

    Divisional Finish: Second in Legends Division

    Bowl: At-large BCS berth

    Nebraska should be 8-0 coming into its meeting with Michigan, but drop the game on the road against Devin Gardner and Wolverines. While NU should rebound at home against a Michigan State against whom Nebraska matches up very well, the trip to State College ends up as Nebraska's undoing. 

    With everything on the line against a well-drilled Penn State team, in front of over 100,000 screaming fans, Nebraska's penchant for self-destruction raises its ugly head and NU drops its second conference game. Nebraska and Michigan end the season at 6-2, with the Wolverines owning the tiebreaker and making their first trip to Indianapolis for the B1G title game.

    But Nebraska's 10-2 campaign is noticed, and rewarded with an at-large bid to a BCS bowl in its final year. Whether that ranks as progress or not will divide Nebraska fans and keep talk radio hosts (and self-serving analysts) throughout the state busy for the entire offseason.

    If you’d like to contact Patrick, send an email to patrickrunge@gmail.com.

    Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge

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