Top 10 Questions Going into the Nebraska Red-White Spring Game
The anticipation of the Spring Game is growing ever more as we enter into the month of March.
The Men's basketball team has become a massive disappointment and as the woman trudge onto their goal of a first-ever perfect season Husker fans are forced to think into the future, of what next year may bring.
This has always been a football school and a football state, what the women are doing in basketball is amazing, impressive and easy to cheer for but it pails in comparison to what the men could do next season in football.
But how close is this team? Are they on their way up or have they plateaued? What follows are my top ten questions going into the spring game. If Nebraska can at least address some of these they could be a force to be reckoned with next season.
10. Was Wild Rex (Cat) A One Hit Wonder?
It was something fans had only postulated before it became a reality. And when it became a reality not too many Husker fans could believe their eyes.
The first thought that went through my head was, "Wow, I didn't know Lee could run like that." Then I realized much to my delight that it wasn't Lee at all, it was the speedster from Plano, Texas scampering 30+ yards down the sideline for a first down.
This spring we will see if this was a last ditch effort at fixing a broken machine right before a big bowl game, or if this is something that Watson wants to keep in his plans for some time. I don't think we will see any Wild Rex run this Spring Game, but you can bet if they do line up in it once the crowd will go nuts.
9. Is The Safety Position Safe?
The loss of Matt O'Hanlon may not have seemed like a big blow at the beginning of the year. In fact, after the Virginia Tech game, most Husker fans may have welcomed it.
O'Hanlon's story is a story of redemption, improvement and a hard work ethic paying off. At the end of the season he became the most improved Husker on the defensive squad and also became one of the most sure tacklers on the team.
Larry Asante was one of the most inconsistent safeties in the Big 12 in 2008. In 2009, he become one of the most reliable. Not only could Asante hit like a ton of bricks, but he developed superior cover skills and coached the defensive backs to nearly flawless precision.
Both Asante and O'Hanlon are gone due to graduation, and Nebraska must fill in with new players without missing a beat. P.J. Smith has been raved about the last couple seasons and has a tremendous up side, while fifth-year senior Ricky Thenarse must prove that in his final year of eligibility he has added much more brain to his brawn.
We should find out fairly quick this spring if this is going to be a problem area for the Huskers. But I don't see it as such, Smith is good and we've seen what Thenarse can do. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see them do just as good if not better.
8. Will the O-Line Fix The Mental Errors?
You might remember that Nebraska's offensive line was less than consistent this past season. One thing we might all remember is a certain break down in Blacksburg, Virginia when it cost Nebraska a possible game-winning field goal.
A first and goal inside the five suddenly turned into a first and goal back at the 40-yard line. Countless times throughout the season the line seemed to have faltered at the most inopportune times, not just on the road either.
The question going into the spring really is: Does Barney Cotton have the pedigree to coach and produce a mature and good offensive line? With three seniors coming back for 2010 it is crunch time for Barney and friends.
7. Will the Defense Remain Consistent?
The defense this season seemed to reach the apex of what it means to be a Bo Pelini coached defense. And that was only in Bo's second year.
This year it will be interesting to see if the consistency is still there. The loss of Suh, Asante, O'Hanlon and Dillard can't help things, but if we have learned anything through the last two years it's that Bo Pelini has a good grasp on how good his team is, and he said the defense would be better in 2010.
If that is true this may be the best defense in Cornhusker history. Hard to imagine playing much better than they did last season but we will see what Bo really thinks coming out of spring ball.
6. How Good are Bo's first Three Recruiting Classes?
Right now, all we've seen Bo really do is take Bill Callahan's players and coach them about 200 percent better than Callahan and his cohorts could. Now, before I get countless comments on players that have been recruited and coached by Bo please hear me out.
So far, Bo's superstars have been players not recruited by him, players like Ndamukong Suh, Roy Helu Junior, Nate Swift, Niles Paul, Todd Peterson and, of course, Joe Ganz.
This year we will see the most Pelini recruits on the field than we have seen in the last two seasons. How they look this year will give Husker nation a true barometer for how the Pelini recruiting train has been traveling.
5. Who's the Number Two Receiver?
We all know who the number one receiver will be next season. Niles Paul has become that guy and only got better throughout the year in 2009. However, Nebraska never had a true number two step up through it all.
The most likely candidates are Curenski Gilleylen, Khiry Cooper and Brandon Kinnie. I am going to have to go with Kinnie on this one going into the spring, he stepped up late in the season especially in the Big 12 Championship game.
4. How Big Is the Hole left by Phillip Dillard?
Phillip Dillard was one of those feel good stories in 2009, not starting the first two games and then becoming one of the best linebackers in the Big 12 throughout the rest of the season.
The question is, how big a void did he leave? This question most likely won't be answered until the fall, though, with the arrival of JUCO transfer Lavonte David.
3. How Will the Loss of Suh Impact the D-Line?
Ndamukong Suh: One of the most recognizable names in college football in the 2009 season, even finishing fourth in the Heisman race while garnering nearly every major defensive award along the way.
Then there is Jared Crick. Was he really as good as he looked or did Suh just require that much attention? Will the defensive line look poor next season compared to the stonewall it was in 2009?
The only way to see for sure is to wait until the fall and analyze the defensive line's performance in an actual game environment. However, we should get a good idea of how much of a drop-off there may or may not be after the spring game. Once again, time will only tell.
2. Who Is the Quarterback?
In light of Zac Lee's injury, it might be fair to say that it is his job to lose in 2010. And with Cody Green not showing too much improvement over his freshman campaign, it might be even easy to say that it is Lee's job to lose.
However, one game does not a season make, and that's what Husker fans must remember going into 2010. Lee did not show the consistency needed at the big game level, but then again neither has Green.
It's going to be a three horse race throughout the spring and even the fall. This is a question that won't be answered until the fall either, but again it may become more clear come April 17.
1. Which Offense Will we See in 2010?
To say Nebraska had an offense last season might be generous. The Huskers had their worst offensive output since the late '60s in 2009 and must do better if they want to be considered a contender in 2010.
So which offense will we see next year? The spread option type Nebraska ran with Ganz and tried to run with Lee most of last season, or the line-em-up and run at them power football we saw give Nebraska a five-game winning streak late in the year? Or how about a mix of the Wild Cat to go along with everything else?
This is the biggest question mark of 2010 to me and given the experience coming back it will be interesting to see what the 2010 version of the "Nebraska Offense" will look like.