Here we are, a little more than a week before the start of the 2009 season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team.
With that, Bo Pelini, his coaching staff, and the Husker players have wrapped up fall camp and officially begin game week preparations.
In the same respect, it is time that I start my game week preparations.
Each week, look for a series of articles from me leading to the game entitled, "Quick Hitters and Don't Miss This."
I will pick out a player or players, an area of interest or concern, a team unit, from either team, that might have a serious implication on outcome of the game.
Just something to watch very closely during the game.
Often, I will try to stay away from the outright obvious, but sometimes the obvious just can't be ignored.
This week, it is the performance of the Nebraska secondary.
The Nebraska secondary will be tested by Florida Atlantic and Rusty Smith.
Don't take Smith lightly, as there is a reason he considered to be one of the top 10 or top 15 quarterbacks that will be available in the 2010 NFL draft.
Smith has all the measurables that NFL teams want in quarterbacks. He is 6'5", 235-lbs. has a great arm, and is mobile enough that he can make plays out of the pocket.
Larry Asante, Ricky Thenarse, and Matt O'Hanlon all return at the two safety positions. Their position coach, Marvin Sanders has said that these three guys are interchangeable at either of the safety positions.
Asante started every game last year and O'Hanlon and Thenarse split starts at the free safety position in 2008.
At corner Prince Amukamara returns at one side, while Eric Hagg and Lance Thorell have both played extensively in the nickel and dime packages.
Hagg seems to be a star in waiting and ready for an impressive season.
This is an experienced group, nearly seven of the top eight players are returning from 2008. The only player lost from 2008 with experience was corner Armando Murillo
So, experience isn't a problem, but execution and performance has been at times for this group.
Are we going to continue to see the mental lapses, coverage breakdowns and lack of communication that resulted in too many big pass plays last year?
Will these guys start to play with more confidence? Will they start to attack and fight for the ball when it is coming their way?
By playing with confidence, I mean playing within the responsibilities of the defense yet, going after the ball when the chance comes?
This unit of the Nebraska defense needs to start stripping balls from receivers, picking off passes, causing some fumbles, and create turnovers on a regular basis.
Too often in 2008, they seemed content and comfortable to just be in the chase position, never in position to attack the receiver and the ball.
That must change for this Nebraska defense and the team as a whole to truly improve in 2009.
After another year of coaching under this staff, I think it is expected that these players should start to produce and make big plays.
I will be looking for at minimum two turnovers caused by this group whether that is a ball stripped out, an interception, or a fumble caused by a jarring tackle.
Feel free to tell me what you will be watching, what your thoughts are.
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