Saturday, August 4. Just a day to some, but for Husker fans, it’s the prelude to the most wonderful time of the year – Nebraska football season. Some story lines we’ll see develop between now and September 1 are similar from last year’s, but there are some new ones to keep in mind as we finally near kickoff.
The Maturation of Taylor Martinez: As we hit year three of the Taylor Martinez experiment, the masses have been told that Martinez has grown up both mentally and physically, looking the part of a “true” quarterback.
For Nebraska to take the next step from being a competitive team overall to one that can compete for conference titles (plural), the light bulb must flicker and stay on for No. 3.
Taylor wasn’t the underlying cause of Nebraska’s disasters last year, but as a part of Tim Beck’s system, he did play a part. Kinda goes with the territory. Also, the excuses about how young he is, how he hasn’t been in the same offensive system or how no one has worked with him are no longer valid. 2012 will show if he’s truly T-Magic or Smoke and Mirrors.
Rex’s Final Lap: Rex Burkhead is the quintessential Husker (and ideally college football) player – a reserved leader that shows up and leads by example while getting the job done demanding little fanfare. Regardless of his place in the athletic program, he is a model citizen. He loves the community and it loves him.
Burkhead almost certainly has a stop at an NFL locale locked up following 2012. Many fans are hoping the Huskers see their first conference crown and BCS bowl in forever and a day in large part for No. 22. He deserves it.
More Input From Garrison on the Offensive Line: Last year, Nebraska was a much improved team up front on offense, however there was definitely room for improvement after the smoke cleaered.
With John Garrison allegedly having more input this year, it’s expected that the Pipeline will be much better as we see Andrew Rodriguez and Tyler Moore on the field more often.
More Playmakers Means More Options(!): Quincy Enunwa, Kyler Reed and Jamal Turner can all make plays. Ameer Abdullah, Mike Marrow and Imani Cross can, too. Don’t forget Kenny Bell and potential receiving wunderkind Jordan Westerkamp.
The challenge for Tim Beck, albeit it a fun one, is to get them all touches. For the offense to grow each game, all of the aforementioned players will need to get their hands on the rock. What’s encouraging is that there’s enough talent here to potentially negate any major slip-ups.
Athlon Sports ranks Nebraska’s wide receivers as the best in the Big Ten. Time to prove the scribes correct.
Who Will Answer the Blackshirt Casting Call?: Last year’s defense was okay at best. Statistically, it was the worst in Bo Pelini’s tenure at Nebraska.
While the potential is there for another so-so year, with proper development and scheme, Pelini’s bread and butter could bounce back in a big way.
Linebackers David Santos, Jared Afalava and Zaire Anderson can contribute immediately. In the secondary, Ciante Evans, Andrew Green, Mo Seisay and Charles Jackson should create havoc.
There’s a number of starring roles up for grabs. Terry Joseph should be able to find out who wants to play against Southern Miss and who’d rather ride the pine in short order.
That Whole “Schedule” Thing: Nebraska has a non-conference slate that, while not overly daunting, doesn’t afford them any initial room for error. The kickoff versus Southern Miss isn’t a gimmie and neither is the trip to UCLA.
October is going to be brutal, in fact the whole road schedule will be. While an undefeated season isn’t realistically expected, if Nebraska can’t improve on their win total, we go back to…
Patience in Bo Pelini and “The Process”: Is Bo on the hot seat? Some say yes, others dismiss the notion like yesterday’s garbage.
While Pelini shouldn’t worry about losing his job in December, there will temperature increase to his office chair if 2012’s motto is “Déjà vu All Over Again.”
That said, if he can tighten up the Nebraska defense, Beck’s offense flourishes and the Huskers approach Minnesota the way they would Wisky, Ohio State or Michigan, Bo’s work could cause eyebrows to rise.
There appears to be one thing that everyone can agree upon about the 2012 Nebraska football team: We have no idea what to expect. Some prepare for greatness, others for disappointment and everything in between. Will 2012 help set up for even bigger things in 2013 and provide Pelini a cooler climate in his office this offseason?
There’s only one way to find out.
What storylines will you be following this month? Let us know in the comments section below.