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Nebraska Football: 2016 Fall Camp Storylines

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What are we looking for as the 2016 Husker football team starts fall camp tomorrow?

David McGee

Did I ever tell you guys that I was a Boy Scout leader for 17 years? It's true. Mothers and fathers entrusted me to take their young children into the woods and bring them back unharmed. I was successful most of the time.

Most boys in scouts experience camping in the woods for the first time as Webelos in Cub Scouts. They’re typically nine or 10 years old. You never knew how they were going to react, so you had to be prepared for anything.

Boys are typically two to a tent. The boys tend to pair themselves up; most of the time it's nothing you need to worry about. In one particular case, we had two boys who were insistent that they were going to sleep by themselves in their own tents. These two boys didn't like each other very much and it was going to take some diplomacy to get them to sleep in the same tent.

I was in charge of this particular outing, so it was my problem to solve. Separately, I asked each of them, "Have you ever slept outside in the woods in a tent before?" Both answered “No”.

I then said, "Tonight when it's late you're gonna hear animals that are going to be right outside your tent. You're gonna hear things that you've never heard before and when that happens you're going to be thankful that you have another boy in the same tent as you."

It worked. Both of them slept in the same tent and they got along pretty well during camp. We taught our kids, as is common in scouting, the “buddy system”; one kid was never supposed to go somewhere by themselves. They were always to take a buddy with them, that way if something happened to one, the other could get help.

We had activities through the week. At one point, two boys were the only two boys who wanted to go swimming, but they didn’t like each other much either. I explained them to that they could be “buddies” and go swimming together. They didn’t want to be buddies.

I stated that being buddies didn’t mean they had to be friends. They just had to work together to reach a common goal. Just like those two boys in the tent.

Those probably weren’t the camp stories you're looking for. You're probably looking for storylines about this year's Nebraska football fall camp.

I have some - you can debate as to whether these are THE storylines for this fall camp but I can tell what isn’t one of them this season and that’s the idea that these coaches and players have to wonder who is working together towards a common goal. It was a problem last season, a big problem.

You can talk about stats and third down conversions and giving up big plays all you want, but if everyone isn’t going in the same direction all the time, you have a screwed up football team that will fail most of the time.

Keep in mind that it wasn’t just the players who had the problem. The coaches got a pass because the previous coaching staff couldn’t teach, didn’t train properly in strength training,

That’s where Nebraska was last season.

All those excuses are gone now.

#1 Defensive Line

Nebraska's defense last year wasn't just bad, it was horrible. There were so many games lost by the secondary giving up long passes in the last few minutes it was horrifying. This year's defense could be a slight upgrade to bad or make a leap to average, but for a different reason.

Nebraska has no defensive line. Everyone experienced left or quit football. Defensive tackle Kevin Maurice has one career start, defensive ends Ross Dzuris and Freedom Akinmoladun have four starts apiece. Who’s going to fill the rest of that space? The Davis twins, one at a time, or both? Mick Stoltenberg?

Whomever it is, they’ll have to grow up fast. If the defensive line doesn't exist throughout the season, the offense will need to score 45 points a game. This is not conducive to having a great season.

Fall camp may eventually tell us who the defensive line starters are, but it's not going to tell us if they are any good. That will only be determined when we head into the regular season.

#2 Offensive Line

Nebraska couldn't run the ball on a consistent basis last season, or the coaches didn’t have confidence they could so they called more passes. They lost games because of it (Illinois and Purdue are the first that come to mind). Things look promising this season; potential starting center Dylan Utter returns with 14 starts, while tackle Nick Gates, a nice surprise last season, has 10.

That’s a decent core to build around, but the rest need to come around - Tanner Farmer, Jerald Foster, David Knevel. Maybe Corey Whitaker. It’s been a long time since Nebraska fielded five starters on the line who could move their feet well and in the proper direction.

Mike Riley said at yesterday’s Big Red Breakfast that Nebraska needs to run the football:

“We have to run the football,” Riley told about 300 fans Tuesday. “Physically, we want to impose our will. Running the ball is the best way to do that. So that is a major emphasis of what we want to do.”

This sounds like a guy who knows his constituents well and this is an election year. I’m not saying he’s full of it, but I am saying he’s going to have to prove it by having a line that can consistently perform on third down and short. Again, we won’t know that until the season starts, but we should know more about who’s starting.

#3 Quarterback

The quarterback position is a part of every fall camp story everywhere ever. It's a lather rinse repeat mantra. There’s plenty who believe that Nebraska will go as far as Tommy Armstrong Jr can take them, but I don't think that's correct, which is why the quarterback isn’t listed until #3.

It's clear Armstrong has to have a better year than he did last season.

And if Armstrong gets injured, then what?

AJ Bush looked like an exceptional runner during the spring game but his throws were incredibly off the the mark. Will it be Ryker Fyfe time, or will Patrick O’Brien not get his redshirt season?

#27 Sam Foltz

The loss of Sam Foltz is devastating; devastating because by every account he was a fine young man and his life ended before it really had begun. He will be a huge part of this season. He’ll be in player’s thoughts every day; same with the coaches. He’ll be in the fans hearts and minds every time the team takes the field.

From a football perspective, Nebraska has to replace the Big Ten punter of the year and the starting holder. Drew Brown has to have more focus than anyone else on the team.

Perhaps it won’t be an issue if they have this level of resolve. Is it silly? Not entirely. We build the world in which we live. Go do it, Huskers.