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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #37 Nebraska

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 7, 2016

#37 Nebraska Cornhuskers

2015 Recap:
A 6-7 record is not what Nebraska faithful are used to but the Cornhuskers did win their Bowl Game and they didn't lose a game by more than 10 points all season long. the writing must have been on the wall after losing their opener against BYU on a deperation Hail Mary.


Coaching:
Mike Riley is the new coach at Nebraska in a move that stunned not only the fans in Lincoln but the collective Big Ten and Pac-12 after departing Oregon State. Riley has a diverse pedigree with two stints at Oregon State after coaching in the CFL (Winnipeg) as well as the NFL (San Diego). Nebraska is not bringing in a leader that is green around the gills. The fans in Lincoln are notoriously impatient and getting back to the top of the Big Ten is something fans want now rather than five years down the road.


Offense

Tommy Armstrong may be the best pure passer we have seen at Nebraska in recent years but Nebraska must get back to pounding the football in order to please the fans and control the clock to win contests. Armstrong threw 16 interceptions a season ago and many of those can be attributed to forcing throws and poor decision making. Terrell Newby is back at tailback and he registered over 700 yards after taking over for Ameer Abdullah. And while the running game must improve, the question is who will the backs run behind? Nearly all of the starting lineman from a season ago have departed. The receivers are where most of the future NFL talent lies with the big Jordan Westerkamp at wide receiver and tight end Cethan Carter. It's time to see if new guards Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster are as good as advertised. Nebraska and their inability to run the cock out near the end of game costs them at least three losses last year in games that should have been closed out.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Cethan Carter TE 4th Round 2017.

                                       Jordan Westerkamp WR 6th Round 2017.


Defense

The defensive line looks abolut as bare as the offensive line after losing both starting tackles early to the NFL Draft in Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine. It's not just the defensive tackles, both ends are gone as well meaning all four starters along the offensive line are new. Things are better for the linebackers and secondary with five returning starters of the eight players left to field. While nearly all of the secondary returns we are talking about a unit that ranked 122nd in the nation defending the pass. Nate Gerry is more of a run stopper at the safety position and while Nebraska was near the bottom of the country defending the pass they were 2nd in the Big Ten and 9th nationally against the run. Marcus Newby didn't start the whole year for Nebraska but it looks like he is the hidden gem for the middle of the defense and will help bolster the run defense. How much of the run defense will be directly corralted to the loss of Collins and Valentine? We will find out soon enough.

Best Draft Prospects: Nate Gerry S 3rd Round 2017.

                                      Marcus Newby 6th Round 2018.


Special Teams:

With punter Sam Foltz and kicker Drew Brown you would think Nebraska would have won more close contests last season. The reality is they probably made the game scloser in most instances as both have the talent to compete for jobs at the next level in the future. The kickoff coverage let the Cornhuskers down on occasion as well as taking penalties at innoppotune times. Nebraska had a pair of special teams touchdowns wiped out due to penalties in 2015.


Schedule:

Nebraska starts their first three games at home including a date wirth the Ducks of Oregon in a nationally televised contest. October 29th and November 5th during the heart of the conference schedule looks to be the toughest test for the Cornhuskers with back-to-back contests with Wisconsin and Ohio State. It isn't an easy schedule but again, Nebraska was competitive last season. If Nebraska can return to their roots and get back to running the football and controlling the clock they could turn some heads right away.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

Hard to get an overall perspective here with a new coach that will be looking to change the offensive philosophy and the culture. Nebraska looks further ahead on the defensive side of the football. The offensive line has some great prospects but most saw very little to no playing time coming into this season. A player like offensive guard Tanner Farmer could be a big time prospect but he is still unproven. Nebraska needs to get back to pounding the football and having the offense do just enough to keep the defense from wearing out on the football field. If Nebraska can do this an 8 win season is definitely in the cards and will be a great start to the Mike Riley era.

DJ Boyer