Nebraska Football: Why Jake Locker Will Not Beat the Cornhuskers
If you look at any preseason Heisman Trophy list, you’re bound to see Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Locker in the top three, if not in the top spot. He is a polished passer throwing 230-for-394 last season resulting in 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s also mobile as proven by his 335 yards and seven touchdowns scored on the ground last year, but he’s not invincible.
Locker’s production resulted in over half of the points in favor of the Huskies during their 2009 campaign. He is the face of the team, and right now the football program. That unfortunately results in having one large bullseye on his back.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers travel to Seattle to meet Locker’s Huskies in a matchup similar to that of 1997 when the two schools met. Much like that season, Nebraska has national title aspirations. Locker and head coach Steve Sarkisian would love nothing more than to knock the Cornhuskers from their perch. Sadly, for the Huskies, the likelihood of this is slim.
While Locker did manage 21 passing touchdowns with a 58 percent completion ratio in 2009, he did throw 11 interceptions. While the Cornhuskers may not have Ndamukong Suh to sic on opposing quarterbacks or occupy double teams anymore, the cupboard is far from bare when it comes to defensive talent.
In fact, where Nebraska has the most playmakers and depth on the defensive side of the ball would be in the two worst areas for Locker: the defensive line and secondary.
While the previously mentioned Suh is gone, Jared Crick, noted on several early award watch lists, takes his place. He hopes to have a junior season much like Suh did when the former Cornhusker truly burst onto the national scene. Anchoring his former position will be legacy Baker Steinkuhler, a young man who proved impressive during backup work in 2009.
On the edges, Pierre Allen has become a force to be reckoned with and complementing him will be Cameron Meredith, who is looked at as one of Nebraska’s finest pass rushers. They both will be looking to make Locker’s Sept. 18th an unpleasant one.
Locker and his offensive line will have enough of a challenge with those four men, but the traps and pitfalls don’t end there.
Named to multiple preseason All-American lists, Prince Amukamara is a terrorizing, ball-hawking cornerback and he’s not alone. Fellow cornerback DeJon Gomes literally took a pass away from a Texas receiver during the 2009 Big 12 Championship game, but that was merely one of his highlights.
Alfonzo Dennard is one of the most physical defensive backs in recent Cornhusker history while Anthony West and Eric Hagg provide some of the best safety support in the country. In short, the sky isn’t safe for Locker’s passes.
An area of potential exploitation is amongst the Blackshirts’ linebacking corps. As of this writing, Nebraska does have a litany of talent, but much is untested or unproven. Much of the spotlight in 2009 was on Suh, however the departed Phillip Dillard, who anchored the MIKE linebacker position, is just as important to find a replacement for.
In Locker’s favor, he has running back Chris Polk, a 1,113-yard rusher returning, but he only recorded five touchdowns in total during 2009. His favorite receiving target, Jermaine Kearse returns. Devin Aguilar and James Johnson also provide pass-catching threats.
Center Ryan Tolar anchors an offensive line that will have its hands full and is likely the main target of the Pelini brothers’ disruption in order to get to Locker.
On the defensive side of the ball, looking to stymie the Nebraska offense will be cornerback Desmond Trufant likely to be lined up against Nebraska’s Niles Paul. Defensive tackles Alameda Ta’amu and Cameron Elisara have the unenviable task of taking on one of the deepest Cornhusker offensive lines in years in an attempt to stop the run.
In summary, the Washington defense will more than likely have its hands full with what proves to be at least a serviceable Nebraska offense. The Huskies’ offense, however, looks to be running directly into a buzzsaw. Locker’s senior campaign may end in excellent fashion, but the Cornhuskers ultimately will win The Battle in Seattle yet again.
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