Nebraska Football 2011: 5 Reasons to Panic
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As a Nebraska Cornhusker fan, I know I shouldn't be so hard on my beloved team when I could really be miserable today if I rooted for Notre Dame, Georgia or even Oregon. Losing Week 1 is demoralizing.
Despite an easy win 40-7 win yesterday over the Chattanooga Mocs, there is plenty of reason to be concerned today about the state of the football team, especially considering the lofty expectations.
I know I shouldn't complain because this team appears capable of winning at least 10 games, but the fact is Pelini has turned around the program but has yet to get the program over the proverbial "hump," and I'm not sure it will happen this year.
Taylor Martinez is the first cause of concern. While Martinez appeared healthy, I'm not convinced he can lead Nebraska to the "promised land." Yes, his ankle appears healthy, but his decision making still appears poor, his footwork on passes hasn't improved and he still doesn't seem to be able to go through his progressions on a passing play.
Yes, Martinez racked up over 250 yards of total offense with three touchdowns, but we've seen these types of performances already and they always seem to be against inferior competition.
Martinez appears anxious and unable to move to secondary receivers, just like last year. He has the talent to become a very good quarterback, but he has yet to take the next step forward. Hopefully, some of it can be attributed to rust, but that could just be optimism.
My second concern was the play-calling. I completely understand that the "vanilla" offense would be used to a large extent, but the fact is that offensive coordinator Tim Beck needs to understand that a vertical threat opens up the running game.
I had no idea that the option would become a big part of the Nebraska offensive game and I'm not against it, especially with the speed of Martinez and the running backs, but no team can be successful running when the opponent has eight men in the box. It seemed Beck was trying to make a point to the players, but calling the same option over and over?
Senior WR Brandon Kinnie is my third concern. Even with the increase in talent at WR, Brandon Kinnie needs to catch the ball and not be inconsistent like former Husker Niles Paul. Kinnie was very good last year, but he was very disappointing yesterday.
Linebacker depth is still a major concern and after yesterday, it moves up even further. Will Compton seemed to injure his foot and with the lack of experienced talent to begin with, losing Compton for any stretch of time would be devastating.
I am hopeful Alonzo Whaley, Trevor Roach and/or Matthew May will stay healthy and step up if Compton is lost for any significant time.
My last concern is the offensive line. Once again, the Nebraska running game was "feast or famine," and that just doesn't make me confident one bit.
While 229 rushing yards on 43 carries seems impressive, it really isn't. Martinez had two touchdowns of 43 and 47 yards—that accounts for a large portion of the 229.
Yes, Chattanooga loaded the box with a lot of defenders, but the offensive push from the line was minimal. I don't expect the five-man line to blow the defense off the ball all the time, but it just didn't happen much at all yesterday.
While you wouldn't normally be so hard on a starting unit that just started playing together, recent history about the offensive line play has been mediocre at best. Offensive line coach Barney Cotton seems like a well-respected guy, but he really needs to get this unit playing better.
If major improvement doesn't arrive by October 1, I really don't see how the Cornhuskers can beat Wisconsin, and that's the bottom line.
Not everything was disappointing yesterday. I was really impressed with the lack of penalties and fumbles. Nebraska was penalized just three times yesterday, compared to nearly eight in a game last year.
Lavonte David was tremendous yesterday, which is a continuation of his play last year. Jared Crick was good and got help from DE Cameron Meredith.
Freshman RB Ameer Abdullah looked really good returning kicks, and Brett Maher almost made us forget about Alex Henry.
JUCO transfer Daimion Stafford was very impressive, especially when you consider he's only been on campus for about one month.
The schedule gets harder next week as we approach conference play. This season will probably be decided by how well the offense plays in big games and right now, I don't have much confidence that we'll see a different team than we saw at the end of last year.
I hope I'm wrong because I love Pelini and the program, but only time will tell.
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