Matt over at the Crimson and Cream Machine has reconvened the Big 12 roundtable to put a bow on spring football for the conference. Our answers to his questions include emerging players, our concerns, and some waaaaaay too early predictions.
Who are some of the new faces that emerged in the spring who could be serious playmakers for your team this fall?
BRN: The Huskers found many new faces at running back. Roy Helu is the most prominent among them. He looks entrenched as the number 2, and could spell (or push) Marlon Lucky for playing time. After that, you have Marcus Mendoza (fast!) and Quentin Castille (big). Lucky is the most complete back, and is clearly the lead dog. But, everyone knows you need lots of backs, because they take punishment.
At wide receiver, NU has holes to fill with Purify and Nunn leaving. There are a slew of candidates trying to separate themselves. Menelik Holt and Curenski Gilleylen are names to watch, as they both had a productive spring.
What is your biggest concern following the spring?
BRN: The easy answer here is depth at linebacker. NU lost a lot to graduation (or a little, depending on how you view 2007). But, we think linebackers are pretty easy to find, especially with the change over in scheme and everyone starting fresh. Pick good athletes and fill them in. That is exactly what happened this spring, as former running back Cody Glenn, and former walk-on Tyler Wortman emerged as candidates for playing time.
The bigger variable or concern is along the defensive line. As they go, so will the NU defense in 2008. There is both talent and some experience there. But it was an abysmal weakness in 2007. I think changing to a consistent 4-man front will relieve some pressure for them. But Carl Pelini (Bo’s brother…) is in his first big time coaching gig. So, it remains to be seen how he coaches and how players respond.
Any major changes (philosophy, coaching or personnel) that you are concerned or worried about?
BRN: After going 5-7, most NU fans welcome anything new. On offense, things will be pretty consistent with Watson remaining in charge. Though, his brand of ball will be more physical, include some QB run game and more screen passes to wide receivers.
On defense, NU will look a heck of a lot like they did in 2003. This means a 4-3 base, cover 2 zone, and more creative or aggressive blitzes. Not only is Pelini in charge like 2003, but Marvin Sanders is also running the secondary again. You can expect NU defensive backs to be much more willing to play the ball in flight.
The thing that gives us some pause about this staff is recruiting. That was the one thing fans could hang their hat on under Callahan. So, we don’t want to see it go away. NU has some good recruiters on staff. We are anxious to see them perform.
Looking over the 2008 which home and away game will be the most difficult?
BRN: This is a pretty easy one. On the road at Oklahoma is the toughest game on the schedule. Bob Stoops doesn’t make a habit of losing in Norman. At home, it is a toss up between Virginia Tech and Missouri.
Time for your way too early predictions (Yes, you can change them in August). Rank how you see your division finishing up next season.
BRN: Wow…way too early, indeed. Right now, we seem to think NU will be in the top part of the division. We have Missouri pegged at the top for good reason, with NU in the second spot. We have Kansas finishing third right now, followed by Colorado. Kansas State and Iowa State round out the North.