As of July 1, another tradition-rich school will be added to college football’s oldest conference.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers now find themselves as members of the Big Ten, a league often viewed so rough on each other that Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer suggested that the divisions be named Black and Blue.
Out of over 100 players, Nebraska has 10 whose loss would be near devastating to high goals in their inaugural season in the Big Ten.
Rumors persist that Nebraska’s fullbacks may be picking up a more prominent role in newly-promoted offensive coordinator Tim Beck's offense.
If this is the case, Tyler Legate has likely been waiting for this day since 2008, when he was on the scout team.
A senior, Legate did play a significant role last season, blocking for quarterback Taylor Martinez along with running backs Roy Helu, Jr. and Rex Burkhead.
Should Beck’s playbook make use of Legate further, Cornhusker fans may see a stable of former head coach Tom Osborne's offense with the fullback being heavily involved.
There are 29 offensive linemen listed on the Cornhuskers’ official roster.
Only four members on that list are seniors.
Caputo is somewhat under-sized for his position at 6’1”, 275 pounds, but his ability to identify blitzes and alert his backfield for other potential trouble is invaluable.
He will be looked to by underclassmen for veteran leadership as they continue to develop during his final season.
If offensive line coach Barney Cotton is going to take advantage of the talent that Nebraska recruits every year, then he needs to find a way to spread Caputo's teachings in 2011.
Kinnie proved to be Nebraska’s most prolific receiver in 2010, catching 44 passes for 494 yards and five TDs.
Recently-hired Rich Fisher will take over as receivers coach, and Kinnie is the perfect player to mold in Fisher's desired image.
At 6’3” and 230 pounds, the big-bodied senior is able to push and shove with plenty of the more physical cornerbacks in the Big Ten.
Much like Mike Caputo at the center position, Kinnie could be a vital asset to the first-year coach by being a vocal leader amongst the receiving corps.
After Alex Henery, no one truly knows what to expect of Brett Maher’s career at Nebraska.
One thing is for sure: Henery's legacy will remain, while Maher's has yet to be written.
It’s doubtful that any fan realistically expects Maher to duplicate the results of the Cornhuskers’ all-time leading scorer.
His performance is likely to determine the outcome of one or two games in Nebraska’s new, physical conference, however.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ hard-hitting answer to the void left by likely first-round NFL draft pick Prince Amukamara is fan-favorite Alfonzo Dennard.
At 5'10" and 195 pounds, while lacking some of Prince’s speed, he has been praised for his physicality.
Dennard, a junior, was already receiving high praise on a level usually reserved for seniors, and could have joined Amukamara in this year’s NFL draft as a likely early second-day pick.
NFLDraftScout.com, a comprehensive site breaking down all prospects for the 2012 NFL draft, has Dennard ranked as the No. 1 cornerback overall out of 208.
The Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year surely isn’t satisfied with just setting the Cornhuskers’ single-season record for tackles last season.
While Nebraska used a unique defense known as the “Peso" in 2010, expect the Cornhuskers to use a more traditional 4-3 base defense much in the same way head coach Bo Pelini did in 2003.
The reason for this is two-fold:
1. In 2003, Pelini commanded a linebacker with nearly the exact same stature and skill set of David—current Kansas City Chief Demorrio Williams.
2. With Big Ten running backs typically being more physical, Pelini could utilize his more stout linebackers to slow the opposition. This would allow David more freedom to fly to the football and make plays due to his speed.
Jared Crick’s return to Nebraska for his senior season should pay off 10-fold.
During his past two seasons, he has tallied the following: 143 TKL, 32 TFL, 19 SCK, 6 PBU, 26 QBH, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 BLK.
A force on the defensive line, Crick should garner the same double-teams that he did last year.
This should ideally open holes for fellow defensive tackles Baker Steinkuhler, Terrence Moore and Thaddeus Randle.
If anyone feels Brett Maher’s pain, it’s Mauro Bondi.
It’s hard enough to walk onto the field and attempt to duplicate Alex Henery’s near-effortless 50-yard field goals.
Asking Bondi to replicate Adi Kunalic's touchback ability as well is reaching into the territory of the impossible.
Of course, Nebraska, with whom Bondi signed after previously being a Wake Forest commit, may have found a diamond in the rough.
Cornhusker fans would be advised to give him a year or two before he kicks 50-yard field goals with no sweat.
The Plano, Texas native didn’t earn the nickname “Superman” in high school for nothing.
Rushing for 951 yards and seven touchdowns last season was quite impressive, considering he was sharing carries with Taylor Martinez and Roy Helu, Jr.
Taking over as the de-facto quarterback due to others' injuries and doing his best to lead Nebraska to victory—now that deserves a tip of the cap.
Burkhead's three touchdown passes didn't hurt, either.
He enters the spring as the clear No. 1 running back with nothing but question marks behind him on the depth chart.
Incoming freshmen Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah look to allow him rest.
There is also possibility that recruit Braylon Heard may still wind up a Cornhusker, pending the results of necessary eligibility test results.
Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck isn’t talking much about his new schemes, but there doesn’t seem to be a reason to.
"You can't be afraid to start over and get a system in place, so the system is consistent throughout," Beck told the Lincoln Journal Star.
He stated that incoming freshman quarterback Jamal Turner has been working hard this offseason.
"He kind of has the 'it' factor," Beck told the Journal Star. "He's getting instant credibility because of the way he works."
A hot topic with several Nebraska fans is how this will the coaching changes affect the decision of dual-sport athlete Bubba Starling on whether to come to Nebraska or play professional baseball.
"When coach Pelini was here, he did talk about that a tiny bit. He said that instead of drop-back passes, they planned to do more rollouts. And that they were going to change things to make it more easy to understand the signals in the huddle and not make things so complicated,” said Starling.
“He talked about doing things that played to the quarterbacks' strengths, and that they planned to do a little more passing.”
Regardless of who is taking snaps under this potentially-refined offense, not only is he the most important piece of the puzzle, there also needs to be more than one quarterback capable of operating it efficiently.
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