#31 Nebraska Football 2016 Preview

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Overall Rank: #31
#6 Big Ten
Year one for Nebraska head coach Mike Riley in Lincoln was a rough one as the Cornhuskers found every way imaginable to lose tight games in the final seconds. They ended up finishing 6-7 in 2015. There is talent on the Nebraska roster and they only lost one game last season by double digits. The key for the Cornhuskers is their ability to move forward in year two under Coach Riley by playing together as a tightly bonded unit in honor of their fallen teammate punter Sam Foltz, who along with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, passed away in a tragic car accident in Wisconsin in late July. Foltz was not only one of the best punters in college football but, more importantly, he embodied the spirit of the state of Nebraska as he was a walk-on from Grand Island, Nebraska who turned himself into a team leader both on and off the field. Foltz definitely leaves an outstanding legacy that will stand the test of time within the Nebraska Football program and the state of Nebraska as a whole.
2015 Record: 6-7, 3-5
2015 Bowl: Foster Farms Bowl vs. UCLA (W 37-29)
Coach: Mike Riley (6-7 at Nebraska, 99-87 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Danny Langsdorf
Defensive Coordinator: Mark Banker
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Terrell Newby, RB, 765 yards
Passing: Tommy Armstrong, QB, 3,030 yards
Receiving: Jordan Westerkamp, WR, 918 yards
Tackles: Nate Gerry, S, 79
Sacks: Freedom Akinmoladun, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Nate Gerry, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Brandon Reilly, TE Cethan Carter, CB Josh Kalu, LB Josh Banderas, LB Dedrick Young, LB Chris Weber
Key Losses: RB Imani Cross, OL Alex Lewis, S Byerson Cockrell, DE Maliek Collins, CB Jonathan Rose
Offensively, the Cornhuskers bring back Tommy Armstrong at quarterback who should be more comfortable this season in offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and Mike Riley’s system. Armstrong threw for 3,030 yards and will need to continually improve with his efficiency in the passing game as Nebraska has plenty of receivers for him to throw to in 2016. Jordan Westerkamp is back and just missed 1,000 receiving yards last season and should be able to exceed that in 2016 provided that the offense takes better care of the football. Alonzo Moore and Brandon Reilly will also be significant contributors at wide receiver this fall. Terrell Newby will also be a threat to break 1,000 yards rushing the football as Coach Riley and staff look to be more balanced offensively in 2016. The linebacking corps is going to be the strength of the defense, led by seniors Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey and sophomore Dedrick Young. It will be their mix of experience and ability to have a nose for the football that will be a huge asset for the Cornhuskers this season.
The offensive line play will have to be addressed since they will be looking to build upon a 326-yard rushing performance in the Foster Farms Bowl against UCLA. Nick Gates is back at left tackle along with Dylan Utter at center and it will be up to these two guys to lead the way in the fall camp. Pass defense is another glaring issue as Nebraska was 122nd nationally, allowing 290.5 yards per game. That can’t continue in 2016 if the Cornhuskers want to be in position to contend for the Big Ten West Championship. Senior Nate Gerry is the leading returning tackler from last season with 79. If Nebraska is to going to win eight or nine games, Gerry is going to need some help from the rest of the secondary, and the defense as a whole, with better tackling and playmaking.
The Bottom Line:
Things set up for a bit of a faster start for the Cornhuskers as far as the schedule is concerned. They should beat Fresno State and Wyoming though. Week three against Oregon in Lincoln is going to be very key test for the Nebraska defense, especially as the Ducks will push them to the limit with their tempo on the offensive side of the ball. If the Cornhuskers can get that win, it will catapult them nicely into the Big Ten schedule. The three toughest conference games are all on the road starting on October 29rh at Wisconsin followed by a trip to Columbus to play Ohio State the following week. It will be crucial for Nebraska to try and find a way to go 1-1 in those two games to set up a battle with Iowa on November 25th that could very well decide the Big Ten West Championship. Overall, look for a bounce back season in Lincoln as the Cornhuskers should be in position to win eight games with a shot for nine with a bowl win.
Projected Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 180.0 (52nd in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 266.9 (33, 2)
Total Offense: 446.9 (34, 2)
Scoring Offense: 32.8 (43, 3)
Rushing Defense: 109.8 (9, 2)
Pass Defense: 290.5 (121, 13)
Total Defense: 400.4 (64, 10)
Scoring Defense: 27.8 (76, 10)
Turnover Margin: -0.92 (117, 13)
Sacks: 1.85 (80, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 1.08 (9, 2)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#96 Lamar Jackson
#115 John Raridon
#215 Marqel Dismuke