Many think that the Cornhuskers’ defense should still be salty in 2010. The overwhelming majority point to Nebraska’s offense as their potential downfall and roadblock to any major success. I believe that a repeat performance by offensive coordinator Shawn Watson’s troops is unlikely.
The current quarterback battle is still raging with Zac Lee, Cody Green and Taylor Martinez leading the pack. Despite what appears to be accepted fact that Lee has the job on lockdown as we speak, I personally don’t think that this is the case.
Lee carries experience, but Green holds more mobility. This seems to be a trend when examining the abilities of Martinez along with true freshman Brion Carnes and current commitments Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling.
Martinez is an unknown factor. He has not seen any true game experience unlike his competitors. Because of that Martinez should be eliminated from the starting spot for now. Lee’s record of accomplishments shows that when he has time to throw, he can be deadly. This was most notable during last year’s Missouri game and in the 2009 Holiday Bowl.
What will ultimately come down to perhaps the most important part of Nebraska’s offense will be the recovery of Lee’s elbow, the progression of Green as the complete package and whom the team rallies around.
Nebraska’s past success seems to have revolved around a stable of running backs. In 1997, the most recent year that the Cornhuskers won the national title, Correll Buckhalter and Dan Alexander flanked Ahman Green. Fullback Jeff Mackovicka also provided nearly 700 yards on the ground.
In 1995, Nebraska had a bevy of talented backs. Green, Lawrence Phillips, Clinton Childs, Damon Benning and Jay Sims all added to one of, if not the, greatest college football teams ever assembled.
The 2010 squad features a rejuvenated Roy Helu, now recovered from shoulder problems that plagued him during 2009. Rex Burkhead provides the most versatile threat at running back since Marlon Lucky, who is fourth on Nebraska’s career All-Purpose Yards list. Finally, Dontrayevous Robinson gives the Cornhuskers a true power back. He will likely be invaluable on short distance and goal line situations.
The wide receiver position is starting to thrive with the spotlight shining brightest on Niles Paul, Nebraska’s leading receiver in 2009. Look to Brandon Kinnie, Mike McNeil and Quincy Enunwa to take some of the burden off of Paul. Tight Ends should also help the Cornhuskers accumulate yards. Dreu Young and Ben Cotton likely will lead the way.
Perhaps the most crucial area for Nebraska’s success was one that played through quite a bit of pain last season. Various injuries to the offensive line coupled with a lack of experienced depth played a huge role in a lack of protection for Zac Lee and Cody Green. Helu and Burkhead had to make their own room at times.
In 2010, the Cornhuskers are healed and are able to rotate experienced linemen along with knowledgeable and powerful redshirts. Mike Caputo anchors the line taking over for Jacob Hickman. Ricky Henry has firmly entrenched himself in the starting lineup, being able to swing to either guard position.
D.J. and Marcel Jones (no relation) provide solid tackles as do Jeremiah Sirles and JUCO transfer Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick. These players alone should provide precious seconds to pass or holes to open for the run, but the talent doesn’t stop there.
Brent Qvale, Cole Pensick and several other redshirts provide both the physicality and knowledge of the blocking schemes to provide rotation. Nebraska had to rely on five, perhaps six linemen specifically to run the offense that Shawn Watson attempted. This year, the backup they needed is available.
Ranking 62nd in rushing, 101st in passing and 99th overall gives any fan a reason to scoff at the idea of Nebraska returning to any semblance of efficiency. In 2010, Nebraska has a solid rotation of offensive linemen, a stable of running backs, emerging weaponry at wide receiver and tight end, and a quarterback to have confidence in.
This season should provide the return of at the very least a serviceable offense, if not an exciting one. Hopefully the Huskers have a bit of luck in the injury department.