The 2011 college football season is finally upon us. After months of waiting, Nebraska fans will get to see their beloved Cornhuskers this Saturday afternoon when they take on UT Chattanooga
The Huskers head into their first Big Ten season as majority favorite to take down the Legends division and land themselves in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game Dec. 3.
While this sounds nice on the surface, it is going to take a great effort from a number of players to make the 2011 season a true success.
Here are 10 players crucial to the Nebraska Cornhuskers' first go-around in the Big Ten.
A no-brainer on this list, all-everything running back Rex Burkhead will be counted upon to carry the load for the Husker offense this season.
After rushing for 951 yards on 172 carries in 2010, you can expect that number of carries to increase immensely in 2011.
The development of a backup running back will help ease the brunt of the Big Ten slate, but Burkhead will without question be a workhorse.
We've all heard it a million times. "After jumping out as a Heisman candidate through the first five games, injury problems with Martinez caused a dismal end to the season."
This is ultimately one of the biggest keys to this season. By simply remaining healthy, Martinez will be biggest strength of the 2011 Husker offense.
His talent is bold enough to speak for itself, but improvement in the passing game will be crucial if Martinez hopes to regain his Heisman-hopeful status and lead Nebraska to a Big Ten championship.
A relative-unknown heading into last season, Lavonte David grew into one of the best linebackers in the nation after a record-setting 152 tackles.
He will be counted upon just as much, if not more this season in the rugged Big Ten.
With opposing offenses based around physical ground attacks in the Huskers new conference home, David will be forced to stick his head into bigger, stronger offensive lines and backs.
Let's hope he's up to the task.
He's on every preseason All-America list known to man.
He's even been named to some potential Heisman lists.
While it's difficult to expect Jared Crick to follow in Ndamukong Suh's footsteps, it's also impossible to deny the remarkable similarities.
He probably won't live up to the Heisman hype, but I think Husker fans will be just fine if he lives up to his All-American status.
As you can see, the trend has been to simply list the Husker's top players.
Alfonzo Dennard is no exception, as he finally steals the show from first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara.
Dennard is an exceptional talent who could go even higher than his former counterpart in next year's draft, but more importantly, the Huskers will rely on him to shut down opposing teams' best options out wide.
Over the past few seasons, the Huskers have operated without a true top wideout.
Brandon Kinnie may not be the greatest possession receiver, but Nebraska will need Kinnie to be a red zone threat at the very least.
He reminds me of Maurice Purify with the potential to fit more into this offense.
With five touchdowns last season, Taylor Martinez will look for Kinnie deep in his opponent's territory.
Probably a smart choice, considering the 6'3", 225-pound wideout will be bigger than just about every defensive back he lines up against.
Surprisingly, the 6'3", 230-pound junior isn't garnering too much preseason attention despite leading the team with eight touchdowns last season.
Possibly more astonishing was the the fact that those eight touchdowns came on just 22 catches overall.
That's a heck of a ratio, but the Huskers must expect a more consistent option out of Reed this season.
He could become Martinez' favorite option before we know it.
Who? He's the guy holding the ball for prolific kicker Alex Henery in the picture above.
He's also the man who will take over the kicking duties for Henery this season.
This is not an easy task, but Bo Pelini seems to indicate that Maher has his full confidence heading into the season opener.
This attitude can change rather quickly, considering he's a kicker, but the Huskers will undoubtedly be relying on his leg in a fair share of games this season.
The senior center will be counted upon even more in 2011 considering the youth on the offensive line.
While this will be a talented group, it will be Caputo's job to steer them in the proper direction under the careful eye of new offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
Much of the Huskers' success will be based on how the offensive line performs in 2011, and Caputo will be the engine that makes that unit run.
The talented freshman looks to bring an option to the offense unseen for years.
Jamal Turner is as explosive as they come and obviously has the will to work after moving to wide receiver despite coming in as a dual-threat quarterback.
While this was probably the plan all along, it is nice to see a young man develop as quickly as Turner has without playing the position for years.
If he can step up and provide the spark he showed in the spring game, the Huskers may find that road to the Big Ten Championship a little easier.