Nebraska Huskers Should Be the Odds-On Favorite for Big 12 North in 2009

Bugeatersteve StuchlikCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2008

A quick look at the future seems to indicate a promising 2009 for the Huskers and their quest to reach the top of the mountain in the Big 12. Winning the Big 12 North next season would go a long way towards that goal.

For starters, the Huskers will return 12 starters for next season, but they do have three big holes to fill on the offensive side of the ball, with Joe Ganz, Todd Peterson, and Nate Swift all graduating. However, with two returning quarterbacks (sophomore Zac Lee and redshirt freshman Patrick Witt), along with incoming top 10 quarterback recruit Cody Green from Texas, talent will be returning to compete.

There are also four receivers returning with game experience to step in for Swift and Peterson, not to mention sophomore running back Roy Helu Jr., who exploded on the scene over the final five games by rushing for more than 400 yards in his last four games of the season, of which he only started one.

When surveying the lay of the land that will be the Big 12 North next season, there is great reason for optimism. This year’s co-champ Missouri will be losing three-year studs Chase Daniel and Chase Coffman to graduation, along with seven starters on the defensive side of the ball.  

Iowa State—uh, next, what with their head coach bolting to Auburn. Kansas State may be interesting with Bill Snyder returning, but at 69, just how effective will he be at recruiting? What with inheriting a defense that finished 117th this season and will need emergency room attention, I can’t see more than five wins out of them.

Kansas will return 15 starters, including Todd Reesing, and after this past season’s disappointment they will be looking to make a statement and should be the stiffest competition.

Colorado has 15 starters returning, but they did not strike fear into anyone last season. Until they prove otherwise, don’t look for them to contend.

The Huskers' future is looking so good, it may have to wear shades (LOL). No, but seriously, Pelini only played three true freshmen this season, although two others, Cameron Meredith and Sean Fisher, each appeared in a single game before being injured. The hopes are that both will receive medical redshirts and still have four years of eligibility remaining.

That being said, from what I can tell Pelini had about 40 players who redshirted this season, by far the largest total in the Big 12. Among those who were redshirted were defensive backs John Levorson, Courtney Osborne, and Anthony Blue, and safety P.J. Smith.

This group of players did not escape the eye of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who sees more of the scout team defense than he does the offense because he faces them every day in practice.

“We’re going to have a pretty good young secondary,” said Watson, and he specifically mentioned Osborne as one who could be a big factor for playing time after spring football.

So far this recruiting season, of the 22 verbal commitments, six are defensive backs, four from California and three in the past two weeks. With all the spread offenses in the Big 12, a stable of good quick defensive backs is a must.

When Pelini arrived, there were only three cornerbacks on the roster. Bo and his staff have been working on fixing that problem. There are a total of nine defensive backs who will be returning next season, and when you add in the four redshirts plus the six incoming recruits, there will be a lot of competition next season for playing time, that is certain.

Bottom line is the more competition you have, the better you are going to be. Also, if a recruit is scared away by the thought of competition, then that is probably someone you really don’t want on your team to begin with. GBR!