3 things Tom Dienhart will be watching at Nebraska practice

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

3 things Tom Dienhart will be watching at Nebraska practice

The BTN bus stops for no one. Good-bye, Iowa. Hello, Nebraska, home of the Cornhuskers.

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It will be like Christmas morning at practice on Wednesday for the BTN crew—or something like that. Bo Pelini is out, and a softer, kinder coach in Mike Riley is in. He also has brought a pro-style offense. The defense has a chance to be good, especially if some pass rushers develop.

This will be our chance to take the wrapping paper off the first edition of the Mike Riley era. What will we discover, as Riley looks to guide this storied program to its first league title of any kind since … 1999?

Here are three things I’ll be watching at practice.

1. Tommy Armstrong. Can he execute this pro-style offense? Accuracy hasn’t been a strong suit for Armstrong, who has completed just 52.9 percent of his passes in his career. Mike Riley’s offenses at Oregon State often featured NFL-caliber signal-callers like Sean Mannion, Derek Anderson and Matt Moore. Can Armstrong make the cut as a passer and decision-maker? It hurts that WR Kenny Bell is gone. Is Jordan Westerkamp a No. 1 WR?

2. O-line. The unit is breaking in three new starters on the interior, including Jake Cotton. Tackles Alex Lewis and Zach Sterup are returning starters who offer a good base. Guard Chongo Kondolo is expected to be a force blocking for a group of backs with something to prove in Terrell Newby, Imani Cross and others. This group needs to form chemistry and gel quickly as the offense transitions philosophies and staffs and works without star RB Ameer Abdullah.

3. Pass rushers. Who is there? Randy Gregory is off early to the NFL. End Greg McMullen had four sacks last year, but is he a difference-maker? DE Jack Gangwish is a try-hard former walk-on who backed up Gregory last season. Is he the answer? The tackle tandem of Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins is formidable and can get a push inside. These guys will be special. But, again, heat must be brought from the edge. Who will bring it?

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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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