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CN Predictions Roundtable Part 2: Offense

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Who do we think will lead the team in rushing, receiving and why is there cause for hope?

Nebraska v Rutgers Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

We did our season predictions, so now it is time to put some predictions on paper for the offense. It is no secret that this unit has struggled the past few years, but we are hearing reasonable claims of greater depth and an epiphany by the coaches that they aren’t in the AAC anymore. Plus, the team is still undefeated - there’s no reason we can’t hope!

Opening thoughts about the offense? Here, I’ll get you started...existential dread, penalties, high snaps, turnovers, and OMG WHY DO WE KEEP THROWING SWING PASSES??? Are there reasons for hope?

Jill: I guess there are always reasons for hope. After all, we are bigger, faster, stronger and everyone knows their assignments so they can play faster this year. I totally haven’t picked out the object I’m going to throw at the TV when the first play of the year is a swing pass that loses five yards...

Jon: It’s the P word. POTENTIAL. There is a crap ton of potential in this offense, more than there’s been in the previous... three years? Five years? We will know in the first game if this offense is going to be decent. If they cannot score a crap ton of points against Illinois, we’re going to have a rough season. If we see high snaps, we can extrapolate that nothing has been fixed.

Todd: The talk coming out of fall camp that gives me the most hope and gets me excited is that there will be a noticeable shift to a power running game. That’s the kind of football I enjoy watching and I am hopeful that there is enough talent up front to make it happen. I want to see them pound away and then use what sounds like a very talented group of receivers to explode!

Nate M: Did you know Nebraska has turned the ball over 11 times the past three seasons against Illinois? h/t to @HuskGuys

Andy: For me, the Big Two keys to an offensive explosion will be a serious drop in both turnovers and the constant gunshots to the toes. I’ll be very thrilled if 4-5 of our timeouts can actually be used on game/clock situations and not neutralizing brain farts and f*ck-ups. Getting to run some WR sets without five slot receivers split wide and developing a passable run game should drop turnovers if for nothing else than Adrian won’t try as much “I’m Keith Hernandez!” shit convinced he has to do it all himself.

I’m not saying both these things are going to happen on the first series Saturday, but I think they are going to happen.

Bri: Well, I like to be optimistic about things like this, opposite of some other people I know. (see Nate M.) The weapons are mostly there, but the execution is going to have to be a lot better. I am hopeful for wide receivers getting shots down the field, less turnovers, and bigger plays. Oh and maybe we could get some more of those touchdowns too.

We all hope the leading rusher is NOT Adrian Martinez this year. The RB competition seems to be coming down to the wire. Who’s your pick for leading rusher? Yards?

Jill: The name that comes from the coaches first when talking about the backs is Sevion Morrison. I’m going with him, but between injuries and the supposed depth we have, I don’t see a 1000 yard season for him. 750?

Jon: I’m going with Gabe Ervin before anybody else does. No real reason why as to I’d pick him other than his name keeps coming up. We really haven’t seen any of these guys play. Gabe Ervin gets 650 yards because we’re still going to split up time and carries. Jaquez Yant is the banger. I am interested to see our platoon of backs. I hope we get to see them all against Illinois.

Todd: Morrison and Ervin are the two that I expect to see on the field the most. Steep is going to be out there early on until he gets hurt, or until the other two take his reps. No one seems to be talking about Jaquez Yant, which must mean they are going to spring him as a surprise!

Nate M: If Martinez is our leading rusher then we win 4 games this year. I am hoping for a Morrison/Ervin one-two punch.

Andy: Sevion may be the name the coaches saying about the most, but Gabe Ervin is the name the defenders are talking about and they’re the pissed-off killers having trouble tackling this guy who’s put them on the wrong end of some long highlight TD runs this August. Barring injury he’s my pick.

Bri: I will also go with the Ervin and Morrison pick.

The coaching staff keeps saying they have as many as eight guys who will rotate at wideout, which should be a good thing to keep players fresh. We also have a couple of established tight ends battling for catches. Who’s your pick to lead the team in receiving yards?

Jill: If Toure is the slot guy and the troubles with accuracy throwing down the field rear their ugly head again, I’d have to go with the senior transfer grabbing more passes than the outside receivers. Plus, I refer you to the swing passes that lose yards that those players will have to absorb in their stats. (Why yes, I’m feeling a little pessimistic this morning)

Jon:

Todd: In terms of yards I think it will be Toure or Oliver Martin. Something tells me that those two are going to be able to create separation and Martinez is going to get the ball to them. Both of the tight ends are going to get the ball thrown there way a lot as well.

Nate M: Toure will lead with catches and yards while Manning will lead the group in touchdowns.

Andy: That could be an interesting one. Manning could beat out Martin and/or Toure in yards with fewer catches. The things I’m looking for are minimum 25-35 TD catches out of the group and for 2-3 of those guys (or maybe throw Betts in there if the head catches up with the talent - and talk about the sky being the limit when that happens) can snag 40+ catches. That’s only 4-5 a game and if they’re each getting that on a regular basis,…well…to quote Dustin Pedroia?

“Laser Show”

Bri: The things I’ve heard and seen about Toure make me think that he will be the top guy, but I think Omar Manning could be close behind.

In 2020, Nebraska ranked #103 (out of 127) and 12th in the B1G in passing yards and #116 in passing yards/completion (just in case you forgot the frustrations with the lack of deep passing game) but was #28 in the country and #2 in the B1G in rushing yards. Is this the year we see more balance in the offense or do we KEEP RUNNING THE DANG BALL?!?

Jill: I think we have to get better at the passing game to have any success. I heard Greg Sharpe on Sports Nightly break down the run:pass ratio and Nebraska was at 60:40, which is a pretty reasonable split. I wouldn’t mind keeping that ratio, but we have to see more production from the pass game.

Todd: If they can consistently run the ball, then run the dang ball! I forgot who said it, but there are three things that can happen when you throw the ball and two of them are bad. I would love to see nothing more than a punishing running game supplemented with a vertical passing game once the defense commits to stopping the running game.

Nate M: My dream is that we start 3-0 going into the Oklahoma game and go Big Ten on their butts by running the ball and draining that clock. By the end of the first half Oklahoma has run 2 plays (75 yard touchdowns) and Nebraska has run 30 (two 15 play touchdown drives. Score is tied 14-14 going into the half.

Andy: I love RUNNIN’ THE DANG BALL but 1) an effective passing game really opens up a running game - and vice-versa - and 2) did we really get Toure, Manning, Martin, Betts, Nixon here to run block an 80-20 split? Keep in mind that finishing 2020 B1G 2nd in rushing and 12th in passing rode us to a 3-5 mark.

If we can throw it successfully 25-30 times a game (and more when they dare us), then we’re gonna pile up some yards on land and sky and Big 10 West defenses are gonna get sonned hard. (I know, I know, outside of Omaha and Lincoln, I say 25-30 passes and they hear things like 75-80???, we ain’t no Air Raid!!, aw shit, there’s goes Ganz letting loose another “eh, f**k it” deep ball. Folks, lighten up. You don’t spray those fields with an ox-cart. You go to the air.)

Bri: The passing game has to be better this year. Running is awesome, but we’ve got to have a more even attack. This year we seem to have more targets so I think that it’s doable. If we want to win some of these games that we’ve been struggling with the past few years, we’ve got to pass the ball.