College Football Preview: The 2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Nebraska Cornhuskers need several pieces to be considered a threat in 2014.
2014 College Football Preview
Bo Pelini has some voids to fill if the Nebraska Cornhuskers are going to make noise in the Big Ten.
Overview: The Cornhuskers offense struggled over the second half of 2013 while the defense kept the scoreboard managable. In 2014 the both lines will be introducing plenty of new starters while the play under center has to improve. Are there enough pieces for Pelini to plug in and win with?
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Offense: Quarterback was something of a revolving door with Taylor Martinez getting hurt and then there was the shuffling of Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong Jr. Both Martinez and Kellogg are gone leaving Armstrong in charge but his numbers need vast improvement. Armstrong threw for 966 yards on 52% which makes his nine TD's and eight picks less less then thrilling production. Top receiver Quincy Enunwa takes 753 yards to graduation leaving Kenny Bell (52-577) as the top target while everyone else that caught a pass in 2013 returns. Nebraska is solid at RB with Ameer Abdullah (281-690) leading the way while Imani Cross (85-457) gives the Huskers a quality second option. Armstrong has mobility as well so the potential for the ground game is big. However the O-Line loses their top five including All Big Ten center Cole Pensick with LG Jake Cotton the grizzled vet with eleven career starts although backups saw plenty of action.
Defense: The defensive line loses three of the top four but returning end Randy Gregory is a gem with 2013 totals of 16 TFL and 9.5 sacks. Four players are back with at least eleven games played so there is hope the line comes together although it will be on the young side. The news is better at linebacker where all four of the top players are back with this group frequenting the backfield in 2013. They will have to step up if the guys up front take time to mesh. A secondary that was pretty good versus the pass might take a step back with three of the top four departing. Gone are corners Ciante Evans (10.5 TFL, 4 INT) and Stanley Jean-Baptiste (4 INT) with a combined 18 passes defensed. There are enough highly ranked players on the roster to fill some gaps but these numbers won't be easily replaced.
Special Teams: Dependable PK Pat Smith is gone (12-13) but punter Sam Foltz returns with a 41.6 yard average. Bell has the kick returner job locked up with a TD last season but the Huskers averaged under three yards per PR so that's an area to look at.
Outlook: Nebraska will do most of their winning at home and will need to steal a few on the road to match last season's win total. There seems to be too many losses on both lines to expect much more then that as Nebraska is a team you need to see play first before making predictions.