The 2014 season brings a brand new college football playoff. It also brings Nebraska a rearranged Big Ten conference. The Huskers are now in the "West" division and will begin facing a few new teams on an annual basis. What will that mean for the team?
Injuries, inexperience and off-field drama ultimately derailed the Huskers from a trip to the Big Ten Championship game last year.
It's a new season and Nebraska is ready to make another run at it, but there are still some areas that will require improvement. Can the strengths outweigh the weaknesses?
Here are Nebraska's greatest strengths, weaknesses and secret weapons ahead of the 2014 season.
Big Ten opponents will have their eyes on I-back Ameer Abdullah. After all, he's coming off a season of 1,690 rushing yards on 281 attempts. He also averaged six yards per carry and had a total of nine touchdowns for the season.
However, it's not just Abdullah that's shining. While Nebraska's running back position looks better than ever with Abdullah leading the way, both Imani Cross and Terrell Newby had great showings in the annual spring game.
Abdullah will remain the go-to guy, but it will be nice for offensive coordinator Tim Beck to have additional options.
Pelini also went on to tell Kaipust that, while he is remaining cautious, he's optimistic about the talent of this group, and that's great news for the Huskers.
The offensive line has a lot to overcome in 2014. In fact, the group loses five veterans that had a combined 125 starts between them. That would be difficult to replace at any program.
Those returning did get some experience in 2013, though. When the offensive line was plagued with injuries, players like Mike Moudy were able to step in. While the experience isn't great, it's worth something.
Regardless, the offensive line will still show some weakness right off the bat. Seniors Jake Cotton and Mark Pelini will hopefully become vocal leaders of this group, helping the offensive line settle in quickly.
Another weakness for Nebraska is the quarterback position. While Tommy Armstrong has sealed up his starting role, it's still not a perfect solution.
|Tommy Armstrong Stats: 2013|
After all, former quarterback Taylor Martinez had been in charge since 2010 until his injury last season. Armstrong was able to obtain a fair amount of experience in his absence in 2013, but it wasn't always pretty.
He'll likely be the starting quarterback, with Johnny Stanton and Ryker Fyfe behind him on the depth chart, but he'll have to step up, especially with an inexperience line in front of him.
One more weakness to keep an eye on? That would be Nebraska's special teams. If the Huskers can't figure it out, they may end up losing the field position war again, much like they did in 2013.
When it comes to secret weapons, one is definitely Nathan Gerry. Alongside senior Corey Cooper and sophomore LeRoy Alexander, Gerry is poised to make a big impact at safety in 2014.
Gerry was a linebacker in 2013, where he felt misplaced. Moving back to safety has put him where he feels the most comfortable.
"My head was kind of rattling playing linebacker last year,” Gerry told Grant Muessel of HailVarsity.com. “I feel that I’m more comfortable playing safety, so it allows me to be more confident back there. Playing linebacker kind of helped me understand the whole defense, where I can play more confidently, where it allows me to have more fun.”
That confidence should translate on the field.
Another secret weapon isn't all that secret, but it's Randy Gregory. He's already been touted as a potential first-round draft pick in 2015, per the Lincoln Journal Star (subscription required). That's in the future though.
For now, Gregory is focusing on the 2014 season with Nebraska. He is looking to improve the defensive line again this season, much like he did in 2013.
So call him the not-so-secret secret weapon. Regardless, he's one player that's going to keep opposing teams on their toes.
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