Spring Preview: First look at Huskers coming

The Nebraska Cornhuskers will try to repeat as Legends Division champs, as the program searches for its first conference championship since winning the Big 12 in 1999. Nebraska’s potent offense may have to carry the load early on while a re-tooled defense takes shape.

BTN/BTN2Go provides live coverage of Nebraska’s spring football game Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.  Tom Werme and Damon Bening call the game with former Nebraska offensive lineman Will Shields reporting from the sidelines. Also, I’ll be in Lincoln covering this game on  BTN & BTN.com, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart) and track the Huskers chatter on our BTN.com Nebraska Connect page.

Now let’s look at the Huskers as we continue our 2013 Big Ten Spring Football coverage.

KEY LOSSES

Offense: RB Rex Burkhead; TE Ben Cotton; G Seung Hoon Choi; C Justin Jackson; TE Kyler Reed.

Defense: LB Will Compton; LB Sean Fisher; DE Eric Martin; DE Cameron Meredith; S P.J. Smith; S Daimion Stafford; DT Baker Steinkuhler; LB Alonzo Whaley.

Special teams: K/P Brett Maher

OUTLOOK ON OFFENSE

2012 Offense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 6451 (15)
Passing Yards: 2904 (66)
Rushing Yards: 3547 (7)
Points per game: 34.8 (28)
Yards per game: 460.8 (26)
Touchdowns: 57 (25)
Field Goals: 20 (16)

There hasn’t been much heavy lifting to do for an offense that’s loaded with veteran talent, including QB Taylor Martinez, three returning linemen and WR Kenny Bell, who leads a deep corps of wideouts. No doubt, the staff will emphasis ball security. Nebraska led the Big Ten with 22 fumbles lost. And the Huskers paced the league in turnovers lost with 35. Add it up, and Nebraska’s turnover margin ranked 105th in the nation. Still, this team won 10 games.

Rex Burkhead was a special back, but Ameer Abdullah showed he’s more than capable last season but a tweaked knee has ruined his spring.

Replacing Brett Maher—who took over for Alex Henery–will be tough, as he leaves campus as an all-time great. Mauro Bondi looks like the heir. He has waited two years for this chance.

OUTLOOK ON DEFENSE

2012 Defense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 5049 (65)
Passing Yards: 2354 (11)
Rushing Yards: 2695 (115)
Points per game: 27.6 (58)
Yards per game: 360.6 (35)
Touchdowns: 44 (76)
Field Goals: 13 (40)

There is much work to do along the defensive front seven, which will be completely re-tooled. The Huskers have lost five fifth-year seniors and a fourth-year senior from the front seven. Players like Baker Steinkuhler, Eric Martin and Cameron Meredith are gone from up front. LBs Alonzo Whaley and Will Compton also have departed.

Thad Randle is the lone vet at tackle, but he is sitting out this spring. Keep an eye on players like JC transfer Randy Gregory, Avery Moss, Greg McMullen, Vincent Valentine, Aaron Curry and Kevin Williams along the line. LB David Santos looks like a future star. LB Michael Rose also has promise.

There is also work to do in what was a strong secondary, as Nebraska looks to replace last year’s starting safeties in Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith. Corey Cooper and Harvey Jackson need to play well. Andrew Green, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ciante Evans are building blocks.

2013 SCHEDULE

Day Date Opponent Time
Sat. Aug. 31 vs. Wyoming TBA
Sat. Sep. 7 vs. Southern Miss TBA
Sat. Sep. 14 vs. UCLA TBA
Sat. Sep. 21 vs. South Dakota State TBA
Sat. Oct. 5 vs. Illinois TBA
Sat. Oct. 12 at Purdue TBA
Sat. Oct. 26 at Minnesota TBA
Sat. Nov. 2 vs. 17 Northwestern TBA
Sat. Nov. 9 at 24 Michigan TBA
Sat. Nov. 16 vs. Michigan State TBA
Sat. Nov. 23 at Penn State TBA
Fri. Nov. 29 vs. Iowa TBA

***

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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2 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (2 Comments)
Richard Barnes on 4/4/2013 @ 6:07pm EST Said:

Nebraska has too many new kids to show a perfect game on defense in “the spring”. However, they have a bit more athleticism and enough JR and SR leadership to work out the problems before their first game in the fall. By the time the Big Ten games get going they should be salty on defense and more athletic. Offensively, we have a lot of experience to go with Martinez and it’s the third year of the current offense. On special teams Bondi is the place kicker and he’s very good, and we look to have a couple of guys doing well in the punting department, though that will be of interest to me as well as our return game. The ney sayers want only to point out that the defense is young so they will likely pick us lower in their personal preseason polls. They point out that we lose both our SR LB’s Fisher and Compton, however they were the starters 2 years ago and both were out for the season and we did fine. NU may go 11-2 or possibly undefeated this year and if the ney sayers don’t start them out too low in the polls they may have a shot at a National Championship.

Tom Beck on 4/5/2013 @ 4:18pm EST Said:

I agree with Rich, forget the polls. The blackshirts will work hard and the staff is making some major changes. I’d say this year’s schedule helps to transition into an amazing team by 2014. Also, I’m “pro-Martinez” and have the best hopes for him this year. He could really make it happen. Husker fans need to understand the pressure these guys are under daily playing for a dynasty team with consecutive sellout crowds. Many of the so-called Husker fans that bash the players couldn’t even handle the pressure of being out there on the field. Think about that before bashing our hard working quarterback. They play as a team and win as a team. Can’t wait for 2013 Nebraska football to start, GO BIG RED!