#24 Nebraska Football 2012 Preview

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Overall Rank: #24
#5 Big Ten Conference
Nebraska College Football 2012 Team Preview
Nebraska Team Page


Nebraska’s debut season in the Big Ten was a little disappointing. The Cornhuskers ended up with a 5-3 conference mark. Losing at Wisconsin and at Michigan is understandable, but they lost to the Badgers 17-48 and to the Wolverines by a score of 17-45. That is not a good way to introduce yourself to Camp Randall and the Big House. The Cornhuskers also lost at home to Northwestern in a huge letdown game following their best win of the season against Michigan State. Year two in the Big Ten should be better now that Nebraska knows what they are in for.

2011 Record: (9-4, 5-3)
2011 Bowl: Capital One Bowl vs. South Carolina (L 13-30)
Coach: Bo Pelini (39-16 at Nebraska, 39-16 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Beck
Defensive Coordinator: John Papuchis

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Rex Burkhead, RB, 1,357 yards
Passing: Taylor Martinez, QB, 2,089 yards
Receiving: Kenny Bell, WR, 461 yards
Tackles: Will Compton, LB, 82
Sacks: Cameron Meredith, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, 1; Andrew Green, CB, 1; Cameron Meredith, DE, 1; P.J. Smith, S, 1

Other Key Returnees: DE Jason Ankrah, TE Ben Cotton, WR Quincy Enunwa, CB Ciante Evans, G Spencer Long, K/P Brett Maher, G Andrew Rodriguez, S Daimion Stafford, DT Baker Steinkuhler

Key Losses: C Mike Caputo, S Austin Cassidy, DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard, OT Yoshi Hardrick, OT Marcel Jones, WR Brandon Kinnie

By the numbers the Nebraska defense was awful in 2011, especially by their standards. They ranked seventh in the conference in total defense and scoring defense. Nebraska had to spend most of the season without tackle Jared Crick, their star in the middle of the line. And cornerback Alfonzo Dennard missed three games with an injury. Those two are gone now anyway, but Nebraska was not ready to replace them effectively in the middle of the season. They will be now. Baker Steinkuhler is a great nose tackle and did a superb job when the pressure was on him to perform while Crick was out. Chase Rome filled in some as a freshman and should join Steinkuhler in the starting lineup. Cameron Meredith is the pass rushing threat on the end and he will get plenty of help from Eric Martin and Jason Ankrah. The linebackers return Will Compton in the middle and Sean Fisher, if he can stay healthy. Replacing Lavonte David, who led the team with 133 tackles, will be more difficult. Senior Alonzo Whaley is bigger and stronger than David, but does not have the speed to get around the weak side and into the backfield. Junior college transfer Zaire Anderson could see significant playing time on the weak side as well. The secondary is full of experienced options. Daimion Stafford is a physical safety and P.J. Smith and Corey Cooper are capable of improvement at the free safety position. Cornerback Andrew Green played much better as the 2011 season progressed and will need to emerge as the top corner.

Nebraska ranked 104th in the nation with just 162.69 passing yards per game. Even by Big Ten standards that is pretty bad. Of course quarterback Taylor Martinez does more than just pass the ball. He rushed for 874 yards and nine touchdowns, while throwing for 2,089 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Cornhuskers do not have to throw the ball too much to win games, but Martinez does need to keep the turnovers down and make smart decisions. However, Martinez has spent his summer working on his awkward throwing motion. It may be a little late to change the juniors throwing technique, but we shall see. Receiver Brandon Kinnie is gone, but Nebraska does return Kenny Bell, who led the Huskers with 32 catches for 461 yards and three touchdowns. They also have a couple decent young receivers in Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa. Martinez will also have two very good tight ends to throw the ball to in Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed and those two will be good options if Martinez struggles going down field again in 2012. Cotton and Reed will also do a lot of blocking and that may be very important this season as Nebraska looks to replace three starters on the line. Jeremiah Sirles is a fine tackle who lost his starting job last season and should be ready to claim it back. On the other side, Tyler Moore became the first true freshman to start the opener on the offensive line. He only started four games, but it goes to show how much potential Moore has.

The Bottom Line:
If the offensive line can hold, Nebraska can simply hand the ball off to Rex Burkhead every play and win eight games. Burkhead was a workhorse as a junior, rushing 284 times for 1,357 yards and 15 scores. The bruising back even caught 21 passes for 177 yards and a couple of touchdowns. If Martinez can supplement the ground game with some consistent passing, Nebraska will be in good shape. And then they can give Wisconsin and Michigan a taste of life in Lincoln.

Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 217.23 (15th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 162.69 (104, 10)
Total Offense: 379.92 (66, 5)
Scoring Offense: 29.15 (50, 4)
Rushing Defense: 158.46 (64, 8)
Pass Defense: 192.23 (18, 7)
Total Defense: 350.69 (37, 7)
Scoring Defense: 23.38 (42, 7)
Turnover Margin: -.08 (67, 9)
Sacks: 1.62 (84, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.62 (47, 4)

Madness 2013 NFL Draft Rankings:
#51 Baker Steinkuhler
#99 Cameron Meredith

Madness 2012 Football Recruit Rankings:
#171 Paul Thurston
#172 Greg McMullen