2014 Nebraska Preview: What You Need To Know
Nebraska DE Randy Gregory
Nebraska DE Randy Gregory
Posted Jun 3, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Nebraska (Getty Images)

2014 Nebraska Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Nebraska Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer

What You Need To Know About The Offense: The Huskers are always known for trying to run the ball effectively, and this year they have the potential to be dominant. The attack might not be as balanced as it was last year, but it should be more effective. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has a terrific array of running backs to work with, starting with Ameer Abdullah, who should be in the NFL but came back for a final year. Tommy Armstrong turned into a promising starting quarterback after Taylor Martinez went down, and now he knows what he's doing with a good array of weapons around him. He can take off from time to time, but his job will be to hand off, keep the interceptions down, and find Kenny Bell deep whenever possible. The line should be terrific with a little bit of time, and if injuries don't strike. The left side should be terrific with Colorado transfer Alex Lewis combining with Jake Cotton.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: Defensive coordinator John Papuchis isn't going to change things up too much, if at all, but he'll need to come up with the right combination in the back seven. The veterans are there at linebacker, and there's a ton of talent and athleticism, but now he needs to find the playmakers who can be more disruptive and come up with more big moments. The secondary needs some tweaking, but there are some terrific pieces to build around and a great pass rush to make everyone's life easier. Randy Gregory might be the best defensive end in college football, but he needs someone on the other side to take a little of the heat off and the tackles need to be more consistent. Overall, the defense should be a bit better if everyone stays healthy.

Players You Need To Know

1. DE Randy Gregory, Jr.
A likely top 20 pick had he been in the 2014 NFL Draft, now he'll be on everyone's must have lists as a dangerous pass rusher with the right frame and the right burst. He might not have freakish tools like a Jadeveon Clowney, but at 6-6 and 245 pounds he has a great frame and a knack for getting behind the line on a regular basis. While he needs to be a bit more consistent against the run, and he could stand to add about ten pounds of good muscle to his frame, the former Arizona Western Community College star knows how to close coming up with 10.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hurries and 19 tackles for loss while finishing third on the team with 66 tackles. While he was consistent, he made his future millions with his Michigan game tape, coming up with three sacks and spending the day camping out in the Wolverine backfield. All the pieces are there to be the Big Ten's signature defensive star, but now he'll have to be used to being keyed on game in and game out.

2. RB Ameer Abdullah, Sr.
Abdullah went from being a nice reserve to a key part of the puzzle in 2012, taking off for 1,137 yards with eight scores while catching 24 passes and lighting it up as a kick returner. Now the 5-9, 195-pound veteran is in a salary drive, putting off the NFL for one more season to showcase his offensive skills again as the team's top all-around weapon. Surprisingly durable, he managed to carry the ball 19 times or more 11 times, highlighted by a 225-yard, two touchdown day against Illinois. With 11 100-yard games on the season, and his lowest output an 85-yard day against Iowa, with nine touchdowns, he was consistently dangerous, while also showing off his hands again making 26 grabs for 232 yards and two touchdowns. Ultra quick with a great burst through the hole, give him a little bit of room to move and he's got six yards.

3. WR Kenny Bell, Sr.
As Taylor Martinez grew as a passer, so did Bell's game coming up with 50 catches for 863 yards and eight touchdowns averaging 17.3 yards per pop in 2012. Last season, despite all the issues at quarterback and all of the changes, he was still terrific, but not as deadly, making 52 grabs for 577 yards and four touchdowns. He didn't have a 100-yard game, and he didn't come up with any big home runs, but he was steady for an offense that needed him to grow into the No. 1 roll. At 6-1 and 185 pounds he has decent size to go along with elite wheels and fantastic hair – he's on pace to become the school's all-time leading receiver with another solid year.

4. QB Tommy Armstrong, Soph.
After battling for the No. 2 job in 2012 before suffering a knee injury, he came back fine and held off the challengers to take over the starting quarterback job after Taylor Martinez went down. A dual-threat option, he's not a polished passer, but he's good enough to do what the Nebraska offense needs completing 52% of his throws for 966 yards with nine scores and eight picks, pitching six interceptions in against Purdue and Northwestern before settling down a bit. At 6-1 and 220 pounds he's built well and can run, taking off for 202 yards and two scores. Don't expect a ton of fireworks, but he has a firm hold on the job and should settle into it over the next few years.

5. RB Imani Cross, Jr.
A smart, big back in the rotation, the 6-1, 230-pounder mixed in with Ameer Abdullah and finished second on the team with 447 yards with a team-leading ten touchdowns. He kicked off the season with 105 yards and two scores on just 13 carries against Wyoming, but he saw his workload diminish over the second half of the season with just 22 carries over the final seven games. A big-time recruit a few years ago, he has the talent and the upside, but he needs to get the ball in his hands more.

6. S Corey Cooper, Sr.
Cooper went from being a good special teamer to the team's leading tackler, making 91 stops with two sacks and five tackles for loss with a pick. At 6-1 and 215 pounds he has the size, and he has the big hitting ability to earn First Team All-Big Ten honors as one of the team's steadiest producers. Like an extra linebacker at times, he made 32 tackles over an early three game stretch before closing out with his most impressive game of the year, coming up with ten solo tackles against Georgia.

7. OG Jake Cotton, Sr.
The two-time Academic All-Big Ten performer has been able to work a little bit both as a guard and tackle, but despite a knee injury, he ended up starting most of last year at left guard where he grew into one of the team's most dependable blockers. While he's not massive, he's a good-sized 6-6, 305-pound blocker who has grown into a blaster for the ground game.

8. OT Alex Lewis, Jr.
The former Colorado Buffalo has a good 6-6, 290-pound frame and an aggressive hitting ability for the ground game. A good pass protector, he has the feet and should be ready to roll right out of the box at tackle. Strong, he'll combine with Jake Cotton to give the Huskers a rock-solid left side. He'll be a tone-setter.

9. LB Davis Santos, Jr.
Versatile enough to start on the inside or out, the 6-0, 225-pound junior produced no matter where he played making 87 tackles with two sacks and seven tackles for loss. While he's okay inside, making 13 tackles in the loss to Minnesota, he's better on the weakside where he gets more room to roam. With his sideline-to-sideline range, he should be one of the team's leading tacklers again.

10. RB Terrell Newby, Soph.
Sometimes the next man up might be better. The 5-10, 195-pound super-recruit out of Los Angeles got his feet wet last season rushing for 298 yards and two scores, and now that he bulked up a bit, he should be stronger and better between the tackles. With good hands and tremendous quickness, he could turn out to be a featured back on passing downs and could be utilized in a variety of ways. He might have to wait his turn behind Ameer Abdullah, but once he gets his chance, look out.

- 2014 Nebraska Preview