Merry Christmas in July, Huskers fans!
With the dog days of summer upon us (and it feels like they have been for some time), its never too early to start thinking about holiday shopping ideas for those you care about. Since we’re still nearly a month away from the start of fall camp, it feels like the perfect time to start thinking about the “gifts” we’d like to give the Huskers this year. Or, as the case may be, gifts we’d like to see the Huskers give out to all the fans this fall.
Here’s a few of the things I’d put near the top of the Huskers list we all should hope come their way before December 25th. Keep in mind this a realistic list - although every 10-year old girl wants a pony, you don’t see many being paraded up and down the streets in the snow around the holidays.
Tommy Armstrong throws fewer than 10 interceptions in 2016
Oh, what a gift this would be! Armstrong threw 16 picks in 2015, after tossing 12 in 2014. The goal should be 10 or fewer in his final campaign.
Although he’ll never be an elite passer, Armstrong’s poor decision making and turnovers cost Nebraska dearly on several occasions a season ago. If he can cut down on the mistakes, Nebraska will be in a much better position to succeed.
Just look at what C.J. Beathard was able to do at Iowa a season ago. He threw for fewer yards and TD’s than Armstrong, but also tossed just 5 INT on the season, and led the Hawkeyes to a 12-0 regular season. I’m not saying Armstrong decreasing the turnovers will lead to a perfect record, but it should help Nebraska considerably.
Nebraska finishes in the top two spots in the Big Ten West
While winning the Big Ten West should be the goal, and is certainly attainable, I think Nebraska should be satisfied with a top two finish in 2016.
Factors such as crossover games being different, home vs. away, etc. will likely play into who wins the West this season with how wide open the race appears to be. I wouldn’t say Nebraska has the toughest road (that belongs to Wisconsin, by far), but it isn’t the easiest path either (Iowa…cough, cough). That said, don’t be upset or bitter about the schedule or who plays who. These things all even out in the long run.
If Nebraska can simply win the games on their schedule they will be favored in, they should be relevant and in the conversation all the way until the end. It would be a big step forward over last year.
Secure the commitment of either Joseph Lewis, Tyjon Lindsey, or Devonta Smith
The 2017 recruiting class is already stocked full of talent at WR with Keyshawn Johnson, Jr. and Javeon McQuitty on board, but landing one of the top five prospects at the position would take it to another level.
Lewis and Smith are both five-star rated players right now, and several recruiting analysts have told us they think Lindsey will be soon. It speaks volumes to the work that Mike Riley and Keith Williams are doing right now in recruiting that these types of players are even considering Nebraska, given the lack of tradition in the passing game.
Landing any one of these players would be a major coup for Nebraska, but there’s also a realistic chance Nebraska could come away with more than one. All three currently have Nebraska among their top five or six schools.
Head into 2017 with one of the top ten recruiting classes
There will still be work to be done in recruiting when December 25th rolls around, but Nebraska could be in a good position to have a top ten class.
In addition to the WR listed above, Nebraska is still in the mix for at least five or six other top 100 players, including DB Darnay Holmes, who is a high school teammate of Johnson and 2017 QB commit Tristan Gebbia.
There are also some big prizes out there in the trenches that are giving Nebraska a hard look, and adding another four or five star lineman would certainly bolster an area of need for the Huskers.
Finish the regular season ranked in the CFB Playoff Top 25
I know rankings don’t mean much outside of the top ten, but finishing in the top 25 means that Nebraska is likely sitting at around eight or nine wins, and probably finished the year fairly strong. To at least be on the committee’s radar at the end of the season would be a good first step to returning to national prominence.
Have close to zero dinner table conversations about firing Mike Riley and/or Shawn Eichorst
Maybe this is somewhat of a selfish wish, since I hate having these debates.
Rebuilding a winning culture takes time. Five wins during the 2015 regular season didn’t resemble progress, but given the buzz in recruiting and the way Nebraska finished, its not hard to see things are moving in the right direction. Receiving a few of the gifts listed above would show continued growth.
There’s always going to be some chuckle head that wants the coach fired if he doesn’t win a conference (or national, for that matter) championship, but if everything goes according to plan, hopefully the “fire the coach/AD” chatter remains at a minimum.