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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Future of the Program and other assorted tidbits.

I talked a bit yesterday about some future Huskers that we all hope come in and make an impact. But what about the current Huskers who might come blossom and help the team out in the near future. Here's a position by position breakdown of what may come.

Losing: Joe Ganz, Beau Davis.
Returning: Patrick Witt (will be a So.), Zac Lee (Jr.), Kody Spano (RFr.), Jim Ebke (Jr.), Zach Ruiz (RFr.)
Incoming: Cody Green.
Outlook: Replacing Joe Ganz will certainly not be easy. Ganz is the clear-cut leader on the field and in the locker room for this team and his intangibles will not easily be replaced. That said, Ganz has suffered from First Year Starting Quarterback Syndrome (FYSQS) despite starting the last quarter of the 2007 season. I foresee Patrick Witt becoming the heir apparent, but expect Zac Lee to give him an even fiercer fight than in the spring and fall. Spano was a late pick up last year and was really signed as a safety valve in my opinion than as a long term solution. Green on the other hand could come in to the program in the spring and jumpstart his redshirt year much like Witt did. In spite of the logjam, whomever wins the starting spot should be given the reins for at least two seasons, allowing for them to have their FYSQS season and then their hopeful breakout season following.

Running Back
Losing: Marlon Lucky.
Returning: Roy Helu, Jr. (Jr.), Quentin Castille (Jr.), Marcus Mendoza (So.), Austin Jones (So.), Collins Okafor (RFr.), Lester Ward (RFr.), Jordan Makovicka (RFr.), Jeremy Wallace (RFr.).
Incoming: Dontrayveous Robinson.
Outlook: Even the loss of Lucky does not completely diminish the amount of talent at this position for next year. Helu, Jr. is coming into his own, albeit against second string defenses for the most part. I don't think he is as complete a back as Lucky, but he will have time to prove me wrong. If Castille can cure himself of the fumblitis, or Big Dumb Dan's Disease as it is also known, he can possibly become a featured type back, but until then he will find himself relegated to spot duty. I think next year we'll see an Alexander/Buckhalter type rotation that succeeded well enough to win the '99 league championship. I think Mendoza can be a home run threat if used in trickeration. I don't foresee any of the young backs getting a ton of touches, but I didn't think Castille or Helu would amount to much either. One will surprisingly emerge and push for playing time. Robinson will likely take a redshirt year but if the staff can land a all-purpose back like Rex Burkhead or the back on the market Jarvis Giles, I would anticipate them getting into the mix immediately.

Losing: Thomas Lawson
Returning: Justin Makovicka (Jr.), Tyler Legate (Jr.), Aaron Gillaspie (Jr.), Kevin Thomsen (So.), Mike Hays (So.).
Incoming: C.J. Zimmerer.
Outlook: After catching three touchdown passes last year, Lawson has been largely invisible this year. An emergency appendectomy may have had something to do with that, but the fact remains that the fullback has yet to produce numbers. Lawson was a converted I-back, but all of the returning fullbacks are legitimate bar brawlers. And with the exception of Gillaspie, all native Nebraskans. I will not tell you about Makovicka and Legate. Thomsen turned down a CSU scholarship as a DT to come here. Hays was a high school running back and is becoming a special teams favorite. Zimmerer is a stud. He comes from a good program and could be the best Nebraska high school fullback since Willie Miller. Give him about a year and a half in the program and see what happens. Shawn Watson has done some good things with fullbacks in his career and let's hope he continues to use them.

Tight End
Losing: Hunter Teafatiller
Returning: Mike McNeill (Jr.), Dreu Young (Jr.), Ryan Hill (So.), Tyson Hetzer (Jr.), Jay Martin (So.), Damon Bechtold (RFr.), Ben Cotton (RFr.), Kyler Reed (RFr.).
Incoming: J.T. Kerr.
Outlook: Nobody was happier to see a resurgence in the use of the TE than this guy, but let's be clear, there is a lot of work to be done until we're at the same level as the elite in the Big XII. I think we can get there and this season has been a good start. McNeill has become quite dependable and for a new incoming quarterback, that is an awfully cozy security blanket. Young has shown he can stretch the defense and provide some matchup problems against teams overloading the box. This season the TEs have caught 36 balls which is roughly 13% of the completions. Not bad until you consider that Nate Swift has 54 to himself. Over the next two seasons, look for McNeill and Young to be a homeless man's Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman. And after that, we have plenty of bodies to plug in. As I said yesterday, Watson did well by his tight ends at Colorado, so fitting them into the offense should not be a stretch.

Offensive Line
Losing: Lydon Murtha, Matt Slauson, Mike Huff, Andy Christensen.
Returning: Mike Smith (Jr.), Jaivorio Burkes (Jr.), Marcel Jones (So.), Derek Meyer (Sr.), Cruz Barrett (Jr.), Jacob Hickman (Sr.), Mike Caputo (So.), Ricky Henry (Jr.), D.J. Jones (Jr.), Keith Williams (Jr.).
Incoming: Brent Qvale, Nick Ash, Jess Coffey, Jeremiah Sirles.
Outlook: Losing Slauson will hurt the most. Murtha is a solid player, but injuries have limited his playing time. Huff lost his starting spot during the season and Christensen was fortunate to even be allowed back on the team. Smith, Burkes, Jones, Meyer (at K-State), Hickman, and Williams all have starting experience. The depth on the line this year allowed Henry to redshirt. Although this line is deep, it hasn't necessarily been dominant. The running game has idled for much of the season. The game experience is there. It's really a matter of molding these hogs into a more balanced force.

Wide Receiver
Losing: Nate Swift, Todd Peterson.
Returning: Menelik Holt (Sr.), Niles Paul (Jr.), Will Henry (Jr.), Chris Brooks, Sr. (Sr.), Curenski Gilleylen (So.), Steven Osborne (RFr.), Tim Marlowe (RFr.)
Incoming: N/A.
Outlook: Ouchie. Losing two of the most productive receivers in the history of the program hurts a lot. Paul is rising and could have a good final two years. Holt has shown signs of good things before his injury. Will Henry is tall. Brooks has been mostly a bust. Gilleylen was supposed to emerge as our deep threat and still could. Osborne has been very impressive on the scout team according to sources. Marlowe has been called the fastest receiver on the team. The lack of overall experience will cause some dependence on the Tight Ends and the running game.

Defensive Line
Losing: Zach Potter, Barry Turner, Ty Steinkuhler, Shukree Barfield, Clayton Sievers.
Returning: Ndamukong Suh (Sr.), Pierre Allen (Jr.), Jared Crick (So.), Cameron Meredith (So.), Josh Williams (RFr.), William Yancy (So.), Baker Steinkuhler (RFr.), Quentin Toailoa (RFr.), Terrence Moore (So.)
Incoming: Cole Pensick, Thaddeus Randle, Emerson Evans.
Outlook: We could be in for some growing pains. Potter and Steinkuhler have provided very strong senior leadership. Turner's injury this year has given way for Allen's emergence. Allen needs to continue his ascent and develop into a leader of the D Line. Suh's return for a senior season could really help ease the transition into new players. Crick and Moore have gained some valuable game experience this season and Meredith had to burn a redshirt unfortunately, but hopefully that's matured him as a player. Yancy needs to have a breakout offseason much like Pierre Allen's of two years ago. Josh Williams needs to gain some size and maturity. Steinkuhler and Toailoa could be set to contribute pending productive offseasons.

Losing: Tyler Wortman, Cody Glenn.
Returning: Phillip Dillard (Sr.), Colton Koehler (Sr.), Blake Lawrence (Jr.), LaTravis Washington (Jr.), Thomas Grove (Jr.), Sean Fisher (So.), Matt Holt (So.), Will Compton (RFr.), Alonzo Whaley (RFr.).
Incoming: Chris Williams, Earnest Norman, Shawn Bodtmann.
Outlook: Things can only get better. Dillard has battled injuries throughout his career, but has experience. Lawrence and Washington desparately need to step up this off season and get ready to have breakout Spring practices. Fisher has played on Special Teams and Holt has seen a surprising amount of time on the field as a true freshman walk on. Compton and Whaley are having strong redshirt seasons on the practice field.

Losing: Armando Murillo.
Returning: Prince Amukamara (Jr.), Anthony Blue (RSo.), Eric Hagg (Jr.), Lance Thorell (So.), Anthony West (Jr.), Alfonzo Dennard (So.).
Incoming: DeAndre Byrd.
Outlook: Armando has been somewhat underwhelming. Amukamara, Hagg, and West have all played well this year. Thorell has been a very nice emergence as a nickelback. Blue is coming back from a knee injury. By most accounts, Blue would have been a strong contributor this year without the injury. Dennard has seen time as a returner but is still developing as a defender.

Losing: Not a damn soul.
Returning: Larry Asante (Sr.), Matt O'Hanlon (Sr.), Rickey Thenarse (Sr.), Major Culbert (Sr.), John Levorson (RFr.), Courtney Osborne (RFr.), P.J. Smith (RFr.).
Incoming: Taylor Martinez.
Outlook: If this isn't the strength of the defense next year, then someone needs to quit. Hopefully there are significantly less mental breakdowns next season with a season under their belts. Word has it that Levorson and Osborne are game ready now, but the staff is saving their redshirts.

Losing: Dan Titchener, Jake Wesch, T.J. O'Leary, Justin Baumgartner
Returning: Adi Kunalic (Jr.), Alex Henery (Jr.), Brett Maher (RFr.), David Pillen (RFr.)
Incoming: N/A
Outlook: The kicking game looks good for awhile. Kunalic and Henery will probably continue to split the kicking duties until Maher is ready to take over. Maher will probably take over for Titchener's punting duties. David Pillen is next in line to be a four year starter at long snapper.

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