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Nebraska Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Nebraska Huskers
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 31, 2006


Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Zac and his band of merry men – Since Bill Callahan took over for Frank Solich at Nebraska, the Cornhusker faithful have waited for this day.  For the past three years, the question of when this ‘West coast offense’ would click wasn’t even asked any more, because it was imbedded in the brains of anyone wearing the red and white.  But, it hung in the air like a bad nightmare for Zac Taylor and the wide receiving corps, and at that rate, Callahan and his offensive staff.  But, that nagging question was put aside for a while (maybe for good) after what Taylor and the passing game did, in particular, the last half of the season (the Kansas game notwithstanding).  Now, keep in mind, this wasn’t the 1984 49ers, but then again, the improvement over 2004 in the passing game was quite impressive.  Start with the man who makes it all go – Taylor.  What you saw from Taylor against Colorado showed the natural ability he has to stoke the fires of this offense every time he drops to throw.  The kid was throwing lasers all over Boulder.  But, what you saw from Taylor in the fourth quarter against Michigan proved even more than any other outing of the year.  After getting beaten up and knocked on the turf a number of times, Taylor led the Huskers to two late touchdowns to pull an Alamo Bowl victory from the jaws of defeat 32 – 28.  The passing game wasn’t pristine against an underrated Michigan secondary, but when a play had to be made, Taylor made it.  So, did Terrence Nunn, who had two TD receptions in that game, including the game winner.  His consistency and athletic ability gives Taylor one weapon.  Nate Swift gives his QB another.  Swift finished the season as the team’s leading receiver and forms a solid perimeter duo with Nunn.  The X factor to this entire offense this season may end up being 2004 starter Matt Herian at the tight end/H back spot.  With J.B Phillips, more of a ‘traditional’ run blocking tight end, returning as well, Herian could be used more as a versatile threat anywhere on the field.  He’ll be such a matchup disaster for defensive opponents, so it’ll be difficult to roll coverage or double cover either Nunn or Swift with Herian lining up in the slot or going in motion. 

2nd and Seven – “You won’t know how good he was until he was gone” – He wasn’t a thousand yard rusher in his senior season.  He wasn’t first team All-Big XII at the running back position.  He was probably forgotten about as a running threat throughout last year.  But, the Huskers will miss Cory Ross when he’s gone.  Ross was voted the team’s offensive MVP after last season’s performance, so this group of Huskers knows how valuable he was to this offense.  He did run for 882 yards, but he also was tied for second on the team with 43 receptions, a guy who was a demon on screen passes.  Suffice it to say, filling his shoes this fall won’t be easy, and the pressure will be on former blue chippers Marlon Lucky, Cody Glenn and Brandon Jackson to fill the 5’6” Ross’s shoes.  They might not be able to present the complete run/pass/pass block package that Ross did, so this will be an interesting position battle this fall.

3rd and Three – “Dang, who is that guy?” – When you watched the Nebraska defense last year, man, that #13 kept making plays.  He was all over the place.  Man, is that Zac Taylor on the other side of the ball?  Who is that guy?  Eventually, the name Corey McKeon got some mention throughout Big XII circles, but maybe not to the extent he should have.  Do you realize that this guy had 15 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks and 3 interceptions?  Name one player in college football who had those numbers last year at middle linebacker.  If the Huskers can stay in the top 25 throughout the season, then maybe McKeon will receive his just due.  But, when you watch this Husker defense, you see #13 around the football almost every play.  His quickness and play making skills round out a linebacking corps that could be the equal of any in this league.

4th and One – Two wins worth their weight in corn – If you were to ask any of the national champion Texas Longhorns what the key to the 2005 season, many would probably say the momentum they gained from Michigan in the Rose Bowl the year before.  The confidence and the chutzpah they came out of Pasadena with was a big factor last season.  If the Huskers become a top ten team, many will point to the final two games of the 2005 season as the turning point in this program’s development.  The blasting of Colorado was a signal to the rest of the conference, saying that this team has talent and it’s starting to click.  Then, they battled from behind against Michigan in the fourth quarter, sending the message that they wouldn’t quit and that you better knock them out if you have designs on beating the Huskers.  Well, it might be too late to heed those lessons for NU’s opponents.  The confidence should be through the roof after the close of last season; when the machine gets rolling, it’s going to be trouble.  Taylor’s chucking it for 300+.  Adam Carriker and McKeon are wrecking havoc on opposing offenses.  Bill Callahan has the finger on the right buttons and all he has to do now is just push the right ones, as opposed to what he faced in 2004.  The battle in LA against USC will continue to add to that confidence, win or lose.  But, it’ll be those last two games in 2005 that set the tone for a potentially stellar 2006 season.

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