Initial news from fall camp indicate that Bo and his staff have the 2010 version of the Huskers rolling on path to another excellent season. This begs the question: “What is between the 2010 version of the Huskers and greatness?”
Operating on the basis that in a team environment you can only go as far as your weakest links, we’ll analyze the team for its weakest positions. It should be noted that these “weak positions” are only relative to the other positions; some of these positions are good, but not great. We’ll identify the top three positions on each side of the ball where improvement will have the most results in taking the Huskers to “Greatness”, but first, let's look at the other equally important facets for the team.
Coaching staff – Consistency with the players and teamwork between the coaches is great; attitude is very positive and workman-like; communication between the staff, as well as with the players, seems very good.
Team chemistry – The players are working hard and having a good time. Competition is stiff at many spots, but players seem to be very supportive of each other. One sign is that people are comfortable and smiling during the interviews.
Special Teams – Excellent overall and headed to be great with improvement.
Defense – No question about the DT (Crick) and DE (Allen) side of play. The other Defensive End position is one of the three crucial spots for Defense. There is plenty of talent (Meredith, Williams, Ankrah, and others), but a lot of youth and no greatness yet.
The second position of relative weakness for defense is the Nose Tackle position – again, tons of talent and strong play (Steinkuhler, Moore, Randle, Chase, to name a few) but limited game experience and no one who has yet shown domination over strong offensive linemen, so as to prevent constant double teaming of Crick.
The linebacker and peso positions are stacked with talent and should be great, hopefully by October. The corner positions are also excellent and depth seems to be developing nicely.
I believe that the Strong Safety position will be excellent with the experience from Gomes and Thenarse. However the Free Safety position is the third "weak link" position of the Defense. PJ Smith, West, Cooper, and the rest have not yet arrived. This is possibly the weakest spot of the defense, looking for someone to step up and wow.
Offense – Running back is great: experience, talent, attitude and depth. Quarterback is one of the three weak spots – the talent is there, and Lee looked very good against Arizona, but he needs to take leadership and prove consistency, especially against loaded defenses. Depth is also unproven at QB, but again the potential is great.
Overall, the offensive line will be much improved over last year. Center is the second of the other three critical positions; Caputo is good, but not dominating; loss of Smith is huge. I am sure one of the other OL’s will step up here, but no Raiola on the horizon yet! The receivers (Paull, Kinnie, McNeill, et al) will be a tough bunch to defend; however, the backups have to step up and create a more consistent threat.
The tight ends (without McNeill) are loaded, but young; they are strong for the run, but not there yet for the passing game. With all the competition, they should be great by the end of the year. Guard positions (Williams and Henry) are excellent and depth is forming fast.
Left tackle will be great by year end with development of Yoshi. It’s nice to see that Sirles is competing so well. The third crucial spot for Offense is Right Tackle; Jones and Jones have been OK, but not dominating. They need to do a lot better than last year in keeping the pressure off the quarterbacks. This will increase the passing threat, and hence open up the defenses for the run. Maybe competition from Qvale and Rodrigues will provide the spark.
IMHO these are the weakest links at this point in time. If the Huskers can take these six positions “to the next level”, only the sky will be the limit in 2010.