With the season just days away, its always fun to take a closer look at Nebraska’s football team and debate who (and what) will be the best of the best for the Huskers.
Here’s what has a chance to really stand out in 2016.
BEST PLAYER - OFFENSE
Tommy Armstrong Jr., QB
It may seem like a cop-out answer to pick the fourth year starting quarterback, but for all his shortcomings that make Husker fans pull their hair out, Armstrong is still Nebraska’s most dynamic playmaker.
If the bowl win vs. UCLA last season was any indication, Armstrong could be posed for a monster senior season. The coaching staff showed glimpses that they’ve embraced some of his best talents (running), and will start to tailor game plans to suit his skill set. If Armstrong limits his mistakes, the Husker offense has a chance to be one of the most dynamic in the Big Ten West.
BEST PLAYER - DEFENSE
Dedrick Young, LB
There’s probably five or six top notch candidates on Nebraska’s defense that will be vying for this honor - safety Nate Gerry could have a big bounce back season after a less-than stellar 2015, linebacker Josh Banderas enters his fourth season as a starter for the Huskers, and a few defensive lineman are getting a lot of attention this fall.
However, Dedrick Young was a rock for a Nebraska linebacking group that had its fair share of issues last year. As a true freshman, Young started from day one and was a steady force in a group limited by injury most of the year. Sure, there were times when he looked like a true freshman, but for the most part it was an impressive debut. Look for him to be even better this season.
Caleb Lightbourn, P
Again, it might be a cop-out answer, but Lightbourn is going to step onto the field and be a starter at a key position from day one. It was a horribly tragic set of circumstances that necessitated Lightbourn be in this situation, but he’s won the job and will have to be ready to go.
Special teams coordinator Bruce Read said Lightbourn was the choice because of consistency and leg strength. He’s replacing one of the best Nebraska has ever had - very, very big shoes to fill.
BIGGEST WIN IN 2016 WILL BE…
@ Wisconsin - 10/29
It’s been a rocky road against the Badgers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, and the Huskers were close to getting them last season after getting embarrassed in 2014.
Nebraska catches Wisconsin at the perfect time, after a run of four insanely difficult games vs. Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa. Three of those contests are on the road.
There’s a pretty decent chance Wisconsin is pretty beat up when they face Nebraska, and the Badgers might be offensively challenged this season anyway.
BIGGEST IMPROVEMENT FROM 2015
Well, it literally can’t be much worse than it was for a good chunk of 2015.
Nebraska finally settled in on Chris Jones and Josh Kalu as their starting CB’s late in 2015, and it wasn’t difficult to see the improvement. Players like Aaron Williams, Kieron Williams, and Antonio Reed started to see the field later in the season and showed signs of growth as well.
Talented newcomers like Eric Lee, Lamar Jackson, and Avery Anderson will join a group that should be much improved in 2016.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT IN 2016 WILL BE….
Nebraska losing to Indiana on 10/15
This one might not sit well with Husker fans, but this will be a tricky spot for Nebraska. The game comes after a bye week, and Indiana isn’t an easy place to play for several reasons.
First, its a basketball school that doesn’t have a great football atmosphere, much in the same vein as Illinois a year ago. Tough environment when you’re used to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Second, Nebraska hasn’t played the Hoosiers in what seems like an eternity, and won’t see them often over the next few years. It’s not a team Nebraska is real familiar with.
Third, Kevin Wilson’s teams have always been able to score a ton of points, and have brought in well respected defensive coordinator Tom Allen to try and fix their defense. The Hoosiers made a bowl game last year, and gave a few of the Big Ten’s elite a run for their money. It makes for a dangerous combination.
BIGGEST “OFF THE FIELD” STORY ON 2016 WILL BE…
Nebraska lands their first 5-star commit in several years
It could come in the form of WR Joseph Lewis, DB Darnay Holms, or maybe even WR Tyjon Lindsey (whom Nebraska should continue to recruit despite his pledge to Ohio State), but this is finally the year where a 5-star player picks the Huskers. The last five star player (per some services) to chose Nebraska was Aaron Green back in 2011.
Nebraska rallies to finish with a top-15 recruiting class, it’s best effort since Bill Callahan was the head coach.