Blackshirt Defense Is Cornerstone, but Special Teams Are a Close Second

Paul HeidrickContributor IAugust 6, 2010

We all remember how important the defense was in the success of the 2009 Cornhuskers. When the offense struggled, the special teams played a huge role in making up ground. In 2010, even if the offense is more efficient, the special teams still may be the second best facet on the team.
Bo Pelini has said in interviews that the defense will be better in 2010, despite the loss of Ndamukong Suh.  Imagine if Suh, Barry Turner, Phillip Dillard, Larry Assante and Matt O'Hanlon were all back.  That is the potential the Nebraska special teams unit has for the 2010 season.
In 2009, Alex Henery was 24/28 kicking field goals and 38/38 kicking extra points.  Not only was Alex perfect inside 40 yards, 7-8 from 40 to 50 yards and booted 2 outside of 50, he also had two games with 4 made attempts and one game with 5. 
Henery was also a feared punter.  For the season, he punted 77 times, pinned 30 punts inside the 20 and had only one blocked. He also had 8 fair catches and 7 touchbacks, which means 58% of the time the punt was not even returned. He averaged 41 yards per punt. Adi Kunalic handled kickoff duties and was very impressive with 29 touchbacks and only one kick out of bounds out of a possible 78 kickoffs.
Even though there was only one touchdown scored between kickoff and punt returns, the average per return helped set up great field position.  Niles Paul averaged 28 yards per kickoff return on 16 returns and Tim Marlowe averaged nearly 24 on 12 returns. Paul also averaged 11 yards per punt return with one touchdown on 38 attempts and Rex Burkhead returned 4 punts for an 18 yard average.
With all of the special teamers returning for the 2010 season, the potential for Nebraska's special teams to make a significant impact game in and game out is very high.