We're now under 70 hours until the 2008 Nebraska football season kicks off...and it's time to start getting serious. People have been throwing out wild predictions... 4 wins, 9 wins, win 'em all, just play hard.
But what are we really going to see in 2008?
That's a very good question. On offense, we've got a few ideas. We know that Joe Ganz can throw the ball all over the place. Usually it's caught by his receivers, but unfortunately, a few too many times by the defense. We know that Marlon Lucky can catch the ball out of the backfield. We know that Todd Peterson and Nate Swift can make the clutch possession catch. But that was in the old offense. What will it be like when Shawn Watson and his hair are free to operate the offense as he'd like?
We know that they've added some zone read option to take advantage of Ganz's speed. We know that they want to run the ball more effectively behind the offensive line.
On defense, we're kind of in the dark. We know we've got players returning off of one of the worst defenses ever to play for the University of Nebraska. But is that a good thing or not? We know these guys have lost weight. But is that enough?
What don't we know? I'll throw out my list, and my best guesses at answers:
- Who are going to replace Maurice Purify and Terrence Nunn as playmakers at wide receiver? Swift and Peterson will be your starters, to be sure. But I'm anxious to see Menelik Holt and Currenski Gilleylen in action.
- How will the three headed monster at I-back play out? We know Marlon Lucky will start, but he might not see the most playing time at I-back. I'd really like to see Lucky split out at receiver occasionally, with Roy Helu or Quentin Castille in the game at I-Back. It gives the offense so many possibilities: an inside running threat, a burner at receiver to spread the field, and a threat on the reverse. It's a potent combination that will help keep a defense guessing.
- How much will Joe Ganz run the ball? Ganz isn't Tommie Frazier, Scott Frost, or Eric Crouch. The stat book won't show double-digit carries for Ganz very often. But seven or eight carries per game? Very possible...let's hope very few of them are sacks.
- What will Bo Pelini do on defense different than his predecessor? Not much has been said about Pelini's scheme plans for this season, but past history suggests that Pelini's plans will vary by opponent. Another difference is that Pelini won't ask the defense to do anything they don't understand. Buy-in from the players is going to be the key. Right now, it sounds like they've got it...but they haven't been hit in the mouth yet. What happens when they start playing the high octane offenses in October? That's the key question on defense.
- Will the downsizing of the defense improve team speed? Yes.
- Will that increased speed be enough to slow down the high octane offenses of the Big XII? Another key question... I sure hope so.
- How will Cody Glenn adapt to being a linebacker? Pelini will only ask Glenn to do what he can do. But Glenn will give 100% effort out there, and that's all Pelini asks. I think he'll be a pleasant surprise.
- How will Rickey Thenarse adapt to being a starter on defense? Again, he'll give you 100% effort; the only question is whether he'll be in the right position and make the right decisions. If Marvin Sanders can work his magic again, look out.
- Are you ready for some football? Damn straight.
What are your questions for 2008? What are your answers? And as Hank Williams, Jr. asks: Are you ready for some football?