2017 Prespring Rankings: No. 24 Nebraska Cornhuskers
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No. 24: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska Cornhuskers Prespring Status
That’s more like it. Nebraska couldn’t seem to catch a break in Mike Riley’s first season, but last year the team started out with a red-hot 7-0 start before struggling against the big boys, losing four of the final six. There might have been a bowl loss, and it might have been ugly against Ohio State and Iowa, but at least Riley showed that 2015 was an aberration. This year, though, Nebraska has to become a major player again on a national scale. – or at least look like it’s a step away.
Just enough seniors depart on offense to be annoying. There’s enough returning talent up front to be more than fine, but the quarterback situation will take center stage all offseason. Meanwhile, the defense should be the best yet in Riley’s three years, with eight starters back and a slew of young options ready to push for jobs.
Nebraska Cornhuskers Biggest Issue
The quarterback situation. Tommy Armstrong grew into a steady, solid leader and all-around playmaker, but he was never quite the right fit for what Riley wanted to do. Even so, when he got knocked out with a few different issues, the teams struggled at the end of the year. Now it’s going to be an open casting call, but with the idea to find more of a pro-style passer than an all-around baller.
Tulane transfer Tanner Lee knows what he’s doing and could be the quick fix, but star recruit Tristan Gebbia is the future of the program. There might be other options – Zach Darlington saw a little time last year, and big bomber Patrick O’Brien has all the tools – but the spotlight should be on Lee and Gebbia.
Nebraska Cornhuskers Biggest Positive
The secondary should be a rock. Losing S Nate Gerry is a problem, but the pass defense that allowed just 216 yards per game gets back a nice-looking group, with all the starters back from the end of the season when Gerry was out. Young last season, the defensive back depth should be a big strength throughout the year, working around Kieron Williams, Chris Jones and Aaron Williams, who combined for 11 picks.
Really, Why Are The Nebraska Cornhuskers Ranked Here?
If the passing game bombs away, Nebraska could be the league’s 2016 Penn State-like wild-card. However, it’s more likely to be a repeat campaign. The Huskers will be good enough to beat the teams they’re supposed to – there shouldn’t be any surprises – but there’s just enough of a gap to keep them from busting through and winning the Big Ten title. The top tacklers are gone, the receiving corps needs work, and again, the quarterback situation needs to be a positive.