Nebraska Cornhuskers Football: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011 Season
The best part of the month or so leading up to the college football season is the endless possibilities that seem available to every team. As fans, we can never seem to just sit back and wait for things to unfold for our favorite team.
We do everything in our abilities to figure out what is going to happen before it actually does. So, in order to indulge the Nebraska Cornhusker fans out there, here are my five bold predictions for the Huskers' 2011 season.
Nebraska Will Play in a BCS Bowl Game
This may not seem like a bold prediction at first glance, but hear me out. I understand Nebraska has just been one win away from a BCS bowl game the last two seasons, so making it to one this year seems like a natural progression of a team trying to return to its glory days.
Even though the Huskers were chosen as Big Ten favorites in an unofficial poll, the voting was incredibly close, and they are by no means the prohibitive choice. It would not be an upset for any number of Big Ten teams to win the conference's inaugural championship game. With the new setup, no one is quite sure how things are going to shake out.
Also, despite Nebraska's recent resurgence, the Huskers haven't played in a BCS Bowl since the 2001 Rose Bowl, when they played for the National Championship. Any time a team hasn't been to a BCS game in ten years, it is fairly bold to predict they will make it back, even if that team is Nebraska.
Carl Pelini Will Get Offered a Head Coaching Job
A lot of people believe Carl Pelini is going to be in Lincoln for as long as Bo sticks around, if for no other reason than familial loyalty. However, there is decent reason to believe Carl Pelini will at the very least have the opportunity to leave Nebraska to become a head coach.
For starters, Carl Pelini has been the defensive coordinator for one of the nation's best defenses for the past three years. Pelini's high position at a blue-blood program such as Nebraska makes him a prime candidate for teams in search of a new leader.
As the Huskers continue to produce high-level NFL prospects on the defensive side of the ball while putting out a dominating unit on the field, Carl Pelini's profile as a legitimate head coaching option will become even more prominent.
Braylon Heard Will Emerge to Help Rex Burkhead Carry the Load at Running Back
Everyone knows that Rex Burkhead is poised to take over the role as the featured back in Nebraska's offense with the departure of Roy Helu to the NFL. What is not yet clear is who will rise from the pack of talented freshmen running backs to help carry the load and give Burkhead an occasional breather.
The candidates are Aaron Green, Ameer Abdullah, and Braylon Heard. Green and Abdullah are both members of this year's recruiting class, a class in which Green was considered one of the best running back prospects available. Abdullah has been impressive in workouts, and many people believe the coaching staff is going to have to find a way to get him on the field.
Braylon Heard originally committed to the Huskers as a member of the 2010 class, but was unable to qualify academically. After finally achieving the requisite scores, Heard is ready to finally see the field for Nebraska.
Out of that group of three backs, it would appear as though Aaron Green is the runaway favorite to be the Robin to Burkhead's Batman. However, Braylon Heard was nearly as highly touted as Green coming out of high school and was one of the best running backs in his class.
Heard also has the advantage of being a year older and more mature from everything he had to go through just to be allowed to play for Nebraska. His perseverance to become a Husker shows a desire for football and for the program that cannot be overlooked. Any rust Heard might have from the year away from football should be quickly shed.
I believe Braylon Heard will emerge from the pack as Rex Burkhead's main backup, and by the end of the season will be playing a significant role for Nebraska. Heard may possibly be in a situation where he is as important to Nebraska as Burkhead was to the Huskers last season.
Jamal Turner Will Score a Touchdown in Four Different Ways
First off, let me say that I am very high on what Jamal Turner can bring to the Huskers. I believe he has an explosiveness that the Nebraska offense has been missing for quite some time and that he could greatly impact the team's effectiveness on that side of the football.
Obviously, Turner is going to spend the majority of his time at wide receiver, so you can count that as one way he will score a touchdown this year. He will also likely return kicks and punts. With his big-play ability, I am convinced that at some point during the season he will take one to house. That's two.
When you have an athlete like Turner, you find as many ways as possible to get him the ball. Whether it be on a reverse, an end around, or lining up in the back field as a change of pace, it seems likely that somehow this season, Jamal Turner will rack up a rushing touchdown. Chalk up a third way.
Recent reports also have Jamal Turning taking a few snaps at quarterback in the early days of fall practice. I do not expect Turner to see action as a full-time quarterback at any point during his Husker career unless something goes terribly wrong with Nebraska's current quarterback situation.
I do believe that the coaching staff is going to use Turner in a wildcat role in which passing is a much bigger option in the package. Despite the success of Rex Burkhead as the wildcat quarterback in the past, Turner puts more pressure on defenses from that position because of his passing prowess. At some point during the season, Jamal Turner will line up in the wildcat and pass for a touchdown.
There you have it. That is four different ways Nebraska freshman Jamal Turner will score a touchdown this season.
Brion Carnes Will Start Multiple Games at Quarterback
There is little doubt that Taylor Martinez is going to begin the season as Nebraska's starting quarterback. Martinez is the incumbent and reports say that he has improved dramatically in both his on-field ability and his overall demeanor.
However, as Husker fans saw last year, you need more than one quarterback to make it through a season, especially when you run a system that is heavy on the quarterback running. That being said, this prediction is more about believing that Brion Carnes will take advantage of his opportunity when he gets it, than it is to say that Martinez has not improved from last year.
It is not a large limb to go out on to say that at some point, Taylor Martinez will probably get banged up and have to take a few plays off, maybe more. When he does, I believe Brion Carnes will come in and make the most of his chance.
Carnes, while not as fast as Martinez, is still a very good and effective runner. What Carnes brings to the table that Martinez does not is a more natural feel for the passing game. After watching tape on both players, one of the biggest things that stuck out is what each player did when their first option on a passing play was covered or the play started to break down.
Taylor Martinez's first instinct is to use his feet to make the best of the situation and try to make forward progress that way. On the other hand, Brion Carnes is very good at buying time with his legs and keeping his eyes downfield to look for receivers. This ability will help keep defenses honest and give Nebraska more of a dynamic presence on offense.
This is not to say that Brion Carnes will take over the reigns permanently, but what he brings to the offense will make him hard to take out of the lineup once he gets a chance to play.