2009 Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Preview
2008 Record: (9-4, 5-3)
2008 Bowl: Gator Bowl vs. Clemson (W 26-21)
Coach: Bo Pelini (10-4 at Nebraska, 10-4 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Shawn Watson
Defensive Coordinator: Carl Pelini
Other Key Returnees: DE Pierre Allen, S Larry Asante, LB Phillip Dillard, S Eric Hagg, C Jacob Hickman, WR Menelik Holt, CB Matt O’Hanlon, OT Mike Smith, WR Niles Paul, S Rickey Thenarse, G Keith Williams
Key Losses: QB Joe Ganz, LB Cody Glenn, RB Marlon Lucky, CB Armando Murillo, OT Lydon Murtha, WR Todd Peterson, DE Zach Potter, G Matt Slauson, DT Ty Steinkuhler, WR Nate Swift
Nebraska is beginning to turn things around under Bo Pelini. It has only been one year, but the defense improved dramatically. That has the folks in Lincoln hoping things are going to start getting better. And since the team ended the year with a nice bowl victory over Clemson, the momentum is at least heading in the right direction. And they might need that momentum without a majority of their playmakers on offense.
The defense returns relatively intact. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is ready to become a household name, once somebody learns how to pronounce it. He led the team in tackles and sacks last year and will be the heart and soul of this defense. With a healthy, and hilariously named, Phillip Dillard back, the linebacker corps should be very strong. So should the secondary, led by safety Larry Asante, which returns just about everybody except Armando Murillo. The pass defense ranked second in the conference and the total defense ranked 55 th in the nation which is extremely impressive for a team in the Big 12. If the back seven can keep that up, Nebraska will be in good shape. However, it would be beneficial if the team actually created some turnovers. The turnover margin last season was plain awful, but it was not the offense’s fault. The defense has to find a way to get the ball.
And the defense’s play becomes even more important since the offense practically has to rebuild from scratch. Quarterback Joe Ganz is gone and so are his top two receivers in Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. There are some young receivers ready to step up and tight end Mike McNeill is a solid pass catcher who will give the quarterback a safe option. However, the options to replace Ganz are limited. Junior Zac Lee has the most experience, if you want to call it that. He has at least been on the team the longest. Redshirt freshman Kody Spano and freshman Cody Green are the other options. All three are mobile quarterbacks and the battle could go into the fall.
The Bottom Line for the Cornhuskers:
While the passing game adjusts to life without Ganz, Peterson and Swift, the pressure will fall on running back Roy Helu. By November of his last season, Helu was taking a majority of the carries over Marlon Lucky and Quentin Castille. Castille is back as well and he and Helu form a great rushing duo. If the line can give those two some space, Nebraska’s offense will be formidable even if the passing game struggles.
By Joel Welser
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