#27 Nebraska Football 2017 Preview


Nebraska Cornhuskers


Overall Rank: #27

#5 Big Ten

Nebraska improved in the win column during the second year of the Mike Riley era in 2016. The Cornhuskers improved from 6-7 to 9-4 but imploded in big games late in the season. Ohio State and Iowa combined to beat Nebraska by a score of 102-13. In the Music City Bowl, the Cornhuskers had a rough afternoon against a wounded Tennessee team as the Volunteers beat Nebraska 38-24. That loss led to the dismissal of Mark Banker and the hiring of Bob Diaco as defensive coordinator as the Cornhuskers are going to a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2017.
2016 Record: 9-4, 6-3
2016 Bowl: Music City Bowl vs. Tennessee 24-38 L
Coach: Mike Riley (15-11 at Nebraska, 108-91 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Danny Langsdorf
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Diaco
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Devine Ozigbo, RB, 412 yards
Passing: Zack Darlington, QB, 14 yards
Receiving: Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, 453 yards
Tackles: Kieron Williams, S, 69
Sacks: Freedom Akinmoladun, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: Kieron Williams, S, 5
Other Key Returnees:  LT Nick Gates, RG Tanner Farmer, RT David Knevel, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, RB Tre Bryant, RB Mikale Wilbon, K Drew Brown, P Caleb Lightbourn, NT Nick Stoltenburg, ILB Dedrick Young II, CB Chris Jones, S Aaron Williams
Key Losses:  QB Tommy Armstrong Jr., WR Brandon Reilly, RB Terrell Newby, TE Cethan Carter, WR Alonzo Moore, LB Josh Banderas, WR Jordan Westerkamp, OL Sam Hahn, LB Michael Rose-Ivey
Tanner Lee looks to be the frontrunner for the starting quarterback position heading into fall camp. Lee is a transfer from Tulane who will need to be a like a point guard and get the ball out into the hands of the wide receivers in a controlled passing game to keep the chains moving. The running game must get better as it was pedestrian at best in 2016. The Cornhuskers ran for just over 169 yards per game. Devine Ozigbo, Mikale Wilson, and Tre Bryant will battle it out for carries all season long. Stanley Morgan Jr., leads a wide receiver group that will be inexperienced due to graduation. If the quarterback play pans out in the passing game, then Morgan’s numbers should increase significantly.
It will be up to new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco to bring back the Nebraska defense to an elite level like they were in the heyday of the blackshirts in the 90’s. Nick Stoltenberg is going to be key to the success of the new 3-4 scheme at nose tackle as Stoltenberg is going to have to be able to occupy multiple linemen. If Stoltenberg can get that done it would free up Freedom Akinmoladun and Carlos Davis to run free and rack up sacks off the edge at defensive end. Kieron Williams is the best returning playmaker in the secondary after tallying five interceptions last season. Chris Jones is the most experienced corner that is back in 2017 and, if he can play like a lock down corner, that will accelerate the growth and development of the defense. Dedrick Young II is another player to keep an eye on and he will need to carry a young group of linebackers.
The Bottom Line:
Special teams should be better in 2017 as Drew Brown has been okay at best at placekicker and Caleb Lightbourn should be more settled at punter after stepping in after the death of Sam Foltz. After opening at home with Arkansas State, the Cornhuskers will take a trip out to Eugene for the return matchup with the Oregon Ducks. It is going to be important for Nebraska to start fast against Oregon and take the crowd out of the game. Fast forward to early October and a two-game stretch against Wisconsin and Ohio State in Lincoln will be a great gauge to see how far the Cornhuskers have come as a team. If Nebraska can split those two games they will have a shot to contend in the Big Ten West well into November. In the end, if the Cornhuskers can stay healthy and find balance offensively they will be a tough team to deal with in 2017.
Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 169.2 (73rd in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 211.7 (86, 8)
Total Offense: 380.8 (90, 9)
Scoring Offense: 26.5 (79, 6)
Rushing Defense: 147.8 (43 6)
Pass Defense: 215.8 (49, 10)
Total Defense: 363.7 (30,6)
Scoring Defense: 23.9 (33, 7)
Turnover Margin: +0.38 (34, 7)
Sacks: 2.00 (68, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (14, 1)
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#61 Tyjon Lindsey
#116 Avery Roberts
#128 Elijah Blades
#173 Tristan Gebbia