After ending their 2011 campaign with a disappointing defeat at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are more than happy to herald in a new season with the return of spring football.
Nebraska began its spring football season on March 10 and ran three practices before ending temporarily on March 14. The season has been idle since as players enjoy their spring breaks, but they will be back soon enough with the return date to practice of March 26 and the spring game date of April 14 set firmly on their calendars.
The Cornhuskers finished a solid 9-4 in 2011, but were rather disappointed with that mark, hoping to win the Big Ten in its maiden year in the league rather than finishing a measly third place in the Legends Division.
This is a time for the team to do some spring cleaning, sweeping out any issues that plagued them last season. So, here are the issues coach Bo Pelini will attempt to clean up on each side of the ball.
The Defensive Side
The defense was a problem in 2011. It was stellar at times, but it lacked the consistency of previous Blackshirt defenses, allowing opponents like Wisconsin and Michigan to rack up a combined 93 points against them.
Shoring up this defense is a key for the spring. The defensive line was a big liability last year, meaning the Nebraska coaches will be looking for this unit to step up this season.
The loss of defensive tackle Jared Crick is a big one, but the Big Red should recover. Chase Rome looks to be a good replacement and although he will be out for spring football, seeing whether the rest of the d-line can gel together will be important.
For the linebackers and cornerbacks, the spring will be a telling tale about whether each unit can replace its star. Nebraska lost linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard to graduation, leaving a giant hole in both units.
Alonzo Whaley is the player to watch for in the linebacking corps. during the spring, he’s big, he’s physical, and he is the one expected to fill David’s Will linebacker position. His coaches have faith in him and he can go a long way in rewarding that faith with a great showing in the spring.
At corner, prospects look optimistic as well. Andrew Green came on strong at the end of 2011 and the addition of JUCO transfer Mohammed Seisay has created some buzz as well. Watching how these two, among others, perform in spring will say a lot about the state of the secondary.
The Offensive Side
Offensively, Nebraska had a decent year, but was still plagued by turnovers and drops. In offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s second year, things should hopefully run more smoothly.
Expect big changes for starting quarterback Taylor Martinez. His job is secure, but the coaching staff will be doing all it can to improve his throwing technique.
The coaches have already helped Martinez improve his previously poor footwork to create more accurate passes. Martinez is expected to take the next step and become an accurate and efficient passer, so a strong spring performance by him is required.
The running back position is pretty secure, with Rex Burkhead as the clear starter, and the wide receiving unit looks good with Kenny Bell, Tim Marlowe, Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner all returning. If Turner can further develop though and the receivers can hold onto the ball, it will be a great spring in this department.
The offensive line, despite losing three starters to graduation, has reloaded and looks ready to go. Still, the battle for the center position is an important one this spring. Cole Pensick, Mark Pelini and (the rising) Ryne Reeves are fighting it out for the spot in hopes of starting next fall.
With all of this to watch out for, it will surely be an exciting spring in Lincoln.