#20 Nebraska Football 2014 Preview

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Overall Rank: #20
#4 Big Ten

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Despite missing superstar quarterback Taylor Martinez for much of the year, Nebraska managed to win nine games. All in all, Martinez played in just four contests, but he did throw ten touchdown passes in those games. Now Martinez is gone and his injury gave Tommy Armstrong some very, very valuable experience. However, it will be running back Ameer Abdullah who carries the offensive load for the Cornhuskers. He rushed for 1,690 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior and will be one of the best backs in the nation in 2014. Bruiser Imani Cross will likely take away some of Abdullah’s touchdowns again (he scored ten on the ground), but this is Abdullah’s team.

2013 Record: 9-4, 5-3
2013 Bowl: Gator Bowl vs. Georgia (W 24-19)
Coach: Bo Pelini (58-24 at Nebraska, 58-24 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Beck
Defensive Coordinator: John Papuchis

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Ameer Abdullah, RB, 1,609 yards
Passing: Tommy Armstrong, QB, 966 yards
Receiving: Kenny Bell, WR, 577 yards
Tackles: Corey Cooper, S, 91
Sacks: Randy Gregory, DE, 10.5
Interceptions: 4 tied with 1

Other Key Returnees: RB Imani Cross, WR Jordan Westerkamp, LB David Santos, LB Michael Rose, LB Zaire Anderson, P Sam Folz

Key Losses: QB Taylor Martinez, QB Ron Kellogg, WR Quincy Enunwa, OL Jeremiah Sirles, OL Cole Pensick, DE Jason Ankah, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB Ciante Evans

It seems like we have been disappointed with the Nebraska defense ever since they joined the Big Ten. Injuries have played a pretty big role in that, but have not been a good enough excuse for Cornhusker fans. That all may change now as the defense returns seven starters to a unit that ranked fourth in the conference in total defense. It all starts up front with Randy Gregory. The 6-6, 245 pound defensive end tallied 10.5 sacks, 17.0 tackles-for-loss and 15 quarterback hurries. Few linemen had any luck stopping Gregory and he will force consistent double teams. That is good news for the rest of the line. Greg McMullen should be able to take advantage and do a solid job on the other end, while fellow sophomores Vincent Valentine and Mallek Collins man the middle of the line. Aaron Curry, a part-time starter last season, will get into the rotation as well. Linebacker Michael Rose is yet another promising underclassman. He ranked third on the team last season with 66 tackles. Zaire Anderson is a quality pass rusher from his outside linebacker position. The secondary does have quite a few new faces, but seniors Josh Mitchell and Corey Cooper are a great duo to build around.

Will the offense be able to get enough going through the air to compliment Abdullah on the ground? Armstrong played nine games last season, usually splitting time with the now departed Ron Kellogg III, and threw for 966 yards and nine touchdowns. However, he completed less than 52 percent of his passes and was picked off eight times. Making matters worse is the fact that big play receiver Quincy Enunwa is gone. He averaged nearly 15 yards per catch and a dozen of his 51 passes ended in the end zone. Kenny Bell is a great receiver, but it will be easier to double team him if other receivers do not pick up the slack. Jordan Westerkamp and Jamal Turner are the likely options. Armstrong will need time to operate and that may not happen with just one starter returning to the line. Guard Jake Cotton is a nice piece to build around, but there is not much experience available to fill in all of those gaps.

The Bottom Line:
Nebraska should have some time to sort out the offensive line. Four of their first five games are at home and they will be heavily favored against Florida Atlantic, McNeese State and Illinois. They also host Miami in that stretch and take a trip to Fresno State, neither of which will be easy. And, of course, the heart of the Big Ten slate is never easy. The Cornhuskers were lucky to draw Rutgers out of the Big Ten East, but they also have to take a trip to East Lansing. This looks like a team that can once again be right in the mix for a conference title, but that may come down to a November 15th trip to Camp Randall and Nebraska has not had much luck against the Badgers.

Projected Bowl: Capital One Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 215.7 (19th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 196.7 (95, 11)
Total Offense: 412.4 (58, 6)
Scoring Offense: 31.9 (48, 5)
Rushing Defense: 156.2 (53, 7)
Pass Defense: 214.6 (33, 4)
Total Defense: 370.8 (40, 4)
Scoring Defense: 24.8 (50, 6)
Turnover Margin: -0.8 (117, 12)
Sacks: 3.00 (7, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (23, 4)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#3 Randy Gregory
#94 Ameer Abdullah

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#109 Tanner Farmer


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