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Spring Football: Nebraska
April 27, 2010
By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

2009: 10-4 overall, 6-2 in Big 12.
Starters returning: Offense (8), defense (8)

Before his second season as Nebraska's coach, Bo Pelini was peppered with the question, "Is Nebraska back?"

When the Huskers wrapped up the season with a 33-0 Holiday Bowl shellacking of Arizona - which followed a near-upset of Texas in the Dr Pepper Big 12 Football Championship - Pelini answered the "back" question emphatically: "Nebraska's back and we're here to stay!"

As evidenced by nearly 78,000 fans at Nebraska's spring game, Husker Nation is fired up. Even though the defense has to replace All-Everything Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska has a talented roster that is in position to win the Big 12 title and perhaps make a run at the national championship.

"I'm hungry to win a championship," Pelini said this spring, "and I want to do great things for this program."

Who's missing
In addition to Suh, the defense needs to replace both safetys (Larry Asante and Matt O'Hanlon) along with heavy hitting linebacker Phillip Dillard. The offensive line, which was inconsistent last year, has to replace center Jacob Hickman.

Who's new
Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, who is a threat as a runner and a passer, had an exceptional spring game. Junior-college transfer Yoshi Hardrick plus freshmen Mike Moudy and Andrew Rodriguez will be counted to add depth and talent on the offensive line.

You'll hear about
The offense. Inconsistencies cost the Huskers in three losses. They managed just five field goals in a loss at Virginia Tech, turned it over eight times in a home loss to Iowa State and managed just 106 yards total offense in a 13-12 loss to Texas in the Big 12 Championship game. Coordinator Shawn Watson wants his quarterbacks to run the ball to add another dynamic to the attack. With the defense salty, the offense needs to improve for Huskers to be satisfied.

Spring buzz
* During an interview session, coach Bo Pelini mentioned senior Joe Broekemeier when talking about the wide receivers. It as an unsolicited comment about a former baseball player who has walked on this season. "He's a natural football player," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "He's got a good motor, so that's why we're all saying that. He's flashed at times already. He's learning a lot … He's got an instinct or a presence that he's playing with."

* Senior quarterback Zac Lee sat out spring practice while recovering from surgery on his throwing elbow. That allowed sophomore Cody Green and redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez to take most of the snaps. Green, who started two games last season, and Martinez figure to make it a three-man race for the starting quarterback job when preseason practice starts in August. Redshirt freshman Kody Spano, who missed last season with a knee injury, also could be in the mix.

* There's a lot of talk about the peso and it has nothing to do with Mexican currency. Against Texas and Arizona, Nebraska employed a defensive scheme that used a hybrid linebacker/defensive back. When the offense went to spread formation, the hybrid became a DB. Against running formations, he was a linebacker. By using one versatile player - this year, Eric Hagg and Austin Cassidy - at two positions, Nebraska doesn't have to worry about substituting against no-huddle teams and also can disguise its coverages.

* How many players will it take to replace defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the overall No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft? With Suh on the field, 33½ of Nebraska's 44 sacks came from the front four. Junior tackle Jared Crick, who started alongside Suh, returns. Baker Steinkuhler is the front runner to take Suh's place while Terrence Moore and Thaddeus Randle provide depth. "We do have some sacks to replace," Nebraska assistant coach John Papuchis said, "but I think we're going to have, by depth of numbers, enough guys to be able to step in and kind of fill the void."

Coach speak from Bo Pelini
"We have a lot of talent on the offensive line right now, and we have more depth than we've had, so it gives us a little more versatility."
- On this season's offensive line depth chart.

"Even though we haven't won anything yet, haven't won a championship, I felt we're at that point where we can compete with anybody. Does that mean we're going to beat anybody? No, you have to earn it. I just felt week in and week out there isn't anybody they can throw at us that we don't have the opportunity to beat."
- On the status of Nebraska's program.

"Yeah, it could go on for awhile. I don't know how it's going to play out, but we're going to do what we need to do to win football games and be the best we can be. I think it's a good position to be in because we have three guys that we feel are capable and are good football players. And competition hopefully will bring out the best in everybody. I'm looking forward to the race and let the best man win."
- On how long the three-man battle to be the starting quarterback could last.

2010 Schedule
Sept. 4 Western Kentucky
Sept. 11 Idaho
Sept. 18 at Washington
Sept. 25 South Dakota State
Oct. 7 at Kansas State*
Oct. 16 Texas*
Oct. 23 Oklahoma State*
Oct. 30 Missouri*
Nov. 6 at Iowa State*
Nov. 13 Kansas*
Nov. 20 at Texas A&M*
Nov. 26/27 Colorado*
* - Big 12 game.
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