The Nebraska Cornhuskers are fast approaching a new chapter in an attempt to "right the ship" of a once dominant and proud program. What can we expect to see on fall Saturdays from this team in 2008?
More flying footballs? More final scores that seem more like those of college basketball games? Or a return to the basics that made Nebraska football what it was over the last 40 or so years?
Nebraska, thanks to Bill Callahan, does have a very deep and talented offensive line. The problem is, these guys have been asked to pass block the majority of the time the last four years. Run blocking is an attitude—it's a kick the guy's butt in front of you mindset that the offensive line develops.
In its own right, the running back position is almost as deep and talented as the offensive line. Guys like Marlon Lucky, Roy Helu, and Quentin Castille are ready to carry the load and run through those holes created by the big guys up front. NEBRASKA WILL RUN THE BALL IN 2008. Fully expect to see a large dose of old school Nebraska zone blocking and RBs running between the tackles.
NU will be quite capable of throwing the ball in 2008 behind the steady leadership of Joe Ganz. Though the receiving crew lacks any real "game breakers," they do have some solid senior performers in Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. The Huskers will also be trying to find a downfield threat at TE, which they haven't had since the injury to Matt Herian.
Focusing on running the ball and picking up first downs will help in two ways. It will definitely wear some opponents down late in the game, and the great thing about a steady running game is that it shortens the game. This is all the better to keep a beleaguered defense that is now learning a new scheme off the field.
Defensively, there will be some growing pains. Up front they return all four starters, but behind them depth is questionable. The linebackers are very thin and have no returning starters. Former RB Cody Glenn will be the starting WLB. This could be the Achilles' heel of the entire team in 2008.
The secondary is young but athletic. CB Armando Murillo will be the only player coming back with starting experience. Sophomore Prince Amukamara has taken over at the other CB spot, with Anthony West the probable nickel package CB.
Rickey Thenarse, Major Culbert, and Larry Asante are the guys in the mix at the safety positions, and these guys are known for looking to lay the big licks on receivers. Asante and Thenarse aren't always sound with their assignments and do on occasion give up big plays in the passing game. They need to minimize coverage mistakes as much as possible.
I expect the entire team to play with a renewed sense of vigor and passion. I expect the defense to fly around, gang tackle, and create havoc, but they will give up some big plays in trying to make some big plays.