You’ve probably never heard or seen Nebraska football start so early in your lifetimes. But, with the elimination of two-a-day practices, mandatory days off for players and a need to be prepared, the Huskers start their 2017 season this morning.
The 128th season of Nebraska football begins with several questions needing to be answered. The Huskers sit at 889 wins in their program’s history, and if they are to get to 900 to join Michigan (along with Texas most likely), some things will have to figure themselves out.
What are the main storylines as fall camp begins and the Huskers start their prep to kick things off vs. Arkansas State:
Who are the new guys?: It’s not just one guy that Nebraska has to replace. Yes, Tommy Armstrong is gone and Tanner Lee arrives, but there are more questions on Offense than that. Who will step up & be the feature running back this offense could use? Besides Stanley Morgan Jr. and DeMornay Pierson-El, which wideout steps up? Who comes in at tight end and takes ownership of the position? Nebraska knows what it finished with last year on offense, but taking it to another level is the next step, and it’s not just the QB that is on the clock with that.
How fast will the Blackshirts get Bob Diaco’s scheme?: Going from Mark Banker and his 4-3 to Bob Diaco’s espresso-infused 3-4 will be interesting to witness. We all have talked about who should be at DT and who will fill the holes at LB, but it’s going to be another thing to actually read and see who steps up. While the D wasn’t terrible at times last year, Mike Riley wanted to improve it. That meant firing his longtime assistant and friend on the phone to get the man he wanted.
How do the newcomers fit it?: There are several playmakers that are in their first Fall Camp in Lincoln, and several are going to play in their first year. You have Avery Roberts, who will be in the linebacking crew with a spring already under his belt. You also have WR’s like Jaevon McQuitty and Tyjon Lindsey that will be asked to make their mark. Don’t forget Damion Daniels and Deontre Thomas on the defensive line. Plus, there are guys you may have forgotten about in their redshirt year such as Jack Stoll, Tony Butler, DiCaprio Bootle and JD Spielman. Plus, if there is anyway that the Huskers can get a 25 year old Navy SEAL on the field, you do it.
How much patience does this fanbase have?: We’ve written a lot about the 2007 season lately, but there are several folks in the fanbase that already see a similarity of that year and now, ten years later. New transfer QB coming into the fray, schedule that may not be patience friendly, and a year that shows Mike Riley’s guys on the roster for the most part. What is acceptable for this team to accomplish this year, and what isn’t? Does getting to Indy give Mike Riley more time? Does it possibly seem like Riley has as much or even more urgency than a fanbase that has seen a 18-year drought in conference titles?
Can Tanner Lee be the Quarterback everyone says he can?: It’s not rocket science to know that Tommy Armstrong’s value was with his legs and his arm being there was a bonus. Take the legs mostly away and you have Tanner Lee, the Tulane transfer that won the starting QB job this past spring. We’ve heard about how Tanner is a upgrade from Tommy and Taylor Martinez, but it’s time to put the rah rah bullspit aside and actually find out what Nebraska has.
Armstrong was good, but he seemingly never got over the hump in his four years of starting in Lincoln. Martinez got Nebraska to the cusp a couple times, but never led them to that title. Lee has two years max to get Nebraska on either the right track, or blow it all up again and start over. Tanner Lee doesn’t have to be great for Nebraska to make Indianapolis in December, he just doesn’t have to be bad.
And that’s the true challenge; to not lose the game for Nebraska, something his predecessors did at times.