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19 Nebraska

Aug. 20, 2012
Aug. 20, 2012

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Aug. 20, 2012

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19 Nebraska

The preseason forecast is much the same as last year; the question marks are too

This is an article from the Aug. 20, 2012 issue

Key Recruit

MICHAEL ROSE The 5'11" 230-pounder from Rockhurst High in Kansas City, Mo., was the first player to commit to Nebraska's 2012 recruiting class, and he should see immediate action at inside linebacker. He's a vicious hitter with great instincts.

Breakout Player

KENNY BELL Last season Bell became only the second freshman in school history to lead the team in receptions (32) and receiving yards (461). Most encouraging for Nebraska, the 6'1" 185-pounder got better as the season progressed, snagging at least four passes in four of the final seven games.

The Skinny

BO PELINI has won at least nine games in each of the last four seasons, but he has yet to get Nebraska back to its Osborne-era status. The Huskers have 14 returning starters and boast one of the most underrated players in the nation in senior tailback Rex Burkhead (1,357 yards last year), but the X factor is QB Taylor Martinez. After finishing 89th in the nation in completions per game (12.5) last season, Martinez, a 6'1", 200-pound junior, spent the spring and summer reworking his throwing motion. If his mechanics have improved—and the coaching staff says they have—and that translates to better production, then defenses won't be able to stuff the box to stop the run. That, in turn, should open up room for Burkhead.

Final Analysis

THESE CORNHUSKERS have the potential to be the best of Pelini's five teams, but they need the dual-threat Martinez to rediscover the electricity of his redshirt freshman season, and the defense, under new coordinator John Papuchis, must tighten things up, especially against the run. Nebraska, a preseason favorite to play in last year's inaugural Big Ten championship game, took its lumps instead—lowlighted by a 48--17 drubbing by Wisconsin. The preseason expectations are the same in 2012: A Legends Division win and a conference title are within reach.

THE VITALS

Coach Bo Pelini (5th year)

38--16 (5--3 Big Ten)

2011 Record 9--4 (5--3, 3rd in Big Ten Legends)

Final AP Rank 24

Returning Starters Offense 7, Defense 7

2011 STATS

Total Offense (Rank) 379.9 YPG (66)

Rushing Offense 217.2 YPG (15)

Passing Offense 162.7 YPG (104)

Total Defense 350.7 YPG (37)

Rushing Defense 158.5 YPG (64)

Passing Defense 192.2 YPG (18)

TELLING NUMBER 5,559

Total yards that quarterback Taylor Martinez has amassed in his first two seasons at Nebraska—the third most overall in school history.

TOP PLAYERS

Offense

G Spencer Long

Jr. 6'4", 305 pounds

13 games, 13 starts

RB Rex Burkhead

Sr. 5'11", 210 pounds

1,357 YDs, 15 TDs

TE Kyler Reed

Sr. 6'3", 230 pounds

15 RECs, 247 YDs

Defense

DE Cameron Meredith

Sr. 6'4", 260 pounds

58 tackles, 5 sacks

LB Will Compton

Sr. 6'2", 230 pounds

82 tackles

S Daimion Stafford

Sr. 6'1", 205 pounds

80 tackles

Special Teams

K-P Brett Maher

Sr. 6'0", 185 pounds

19 FGs, 44.5 AVG

PHOTOBILL FRAKES (MARTINEZ)Martinez's effort to revamp his throwing motion and bring balance to the offense will determine the Huskers' fate.PHOTOBRAD BARR/US PRESSWIRE (BELL)