2008 CFN Nebraska Preview
Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky
Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky
Posted May 9, 2008

The Huskers are trying to go back and recapture the old glory by getting Tom Osborne back involved, hiring a defensive-minded head coach in Bo Pelini, and by using more of the running game, led by Marlon Lucky, but will the defense be any better? How quickly can things change? Check out the CFN Nebraska Preview.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Preview 20

By Pete Fiutak

2008 CFN Nebraska Preview | 2008 Nebraska Offense
- 2008 Nebraska Defense | 2008 Nebraska Depth Chart
2007 CFN Nebraska Preview | 2006 CFN Nebraska Preview 

Just when it seemed like things were turning, coming off an appearance in the 2006 Big 12 title game, and just when it looked like the crazy, blow-up-the-system plan was going to work, Nebraska decided to stop playing defense and the offense went into the tank, and now the program is starting from scratch by going back to the comfortable and familiar.

Oh sure, the Bill Callahan offense ended up cranking out huge numbers with a passing attack, that when it was clicking, was unstoppable, but it wasn't consistent, died during the critical middle part of the year, and couldn't keep up with a defense that was one of the worst in the long and storied history of Nebraska football.

Head coach: Bo Pelini
1st year: 1-0
Letterman Returning
Off. 24., Def. 23, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 28
Ten Best Husker Players
RB Marlon Lucky, Sr.
2. DE Barry Turner, Sr.
3. CB Armando Murillo, Sr.
4. QB Joe Ganz, Sr.
5. DT Ndamukong Suh, Jr.
6. OG Matt Slauson, Sr.
7. OT Lydon Murtha, Sr.
8. SS Larry Asante, Jr.
9. WR Nate Swift, Sr.
10. C Jacob Hickman, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Western Michigan
Sept. 6 San Jose State
Sept. 13 New Mexico State
Sept. 20 OPEN DATE
Sept. 27 Virginia Tech
Oct. 4 Missouri
Oct. 11 at Texas Tech
Oct. 18 at Iowa State
Oct. 25 Baylor
Nov. 1 at Oklahoma
Nov. 8 Kansas
Nov. 15 at Kansas State
Nov. 28 Colorado

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 5-7

Sept. 1 Nevada W 52-10
Sept. 8 at Wake Forest W 20-17
Sept. 15 USC L 49-31
Sept. 22
Ball State W 41-40
Sept. 29 Iowa State W 35-17
Oct. 6 at Missouri L 41-6
Oct. 13
Oklahoma State L 45-14
Oct. 20 Texas A&M L 36-14
Oct. 27 at Texas L 28-25
Nov. 3
at Kansas L 76-39
Nov. 10 Kansas State W 73-31
Nov. 23 at Colorado L 65-51

No, the Callahan experiment didn't work, but even with four years to change things around, he never really had a chance.

Callahan had to make the Nebraska a monster again, and while former athletic director Steve Pederson actually had the right idea in wanting to give the program a make over and a fresh paint job, it happened while cheezing off the Husker nation.

So will pandering to the fan base by bringing back Tom Osborne to run the show and getting more marginally talented walk-on farm kids make Nebraska a national powerhouse again? No, but it makes everyone feel more comfortable again. What's going to change things around will be 1) better coaching, 2) better players, and 3) better schemes.

Nebraska can win with its old running style, but it needs the defense to be able to hold its own, and it needs to get a few superstars from elsewhere to operate around the home-grown try-hards. Yeah, build the base by getting Nebraska kids who'll run through a wall for the program, but that's a given. All new head man Bo Pelini needs to do is open his door and he'll be flooded with them. It's getting the guys who'll make the engine go that'll be the hard part.

Tommie Frazier was from Florida. Steve Taylor was from California. Turner Gill was from Texas, and Irving Fryar and Mike Rozier were from New Jersey. Nebraska has to be a place where a top talent can go and believe he can be a superstar, and Pelini, eventually, should be able to do that. But first, he'll work on the defense.

Nebraska will be instantly better with stronger coaching making the D more aggressive, better at tackling, and leaner. Last year's group got bigger, but it didn't improve. Offensively, there won't be as many fireworks, but it should be a better running, even more efficient and consistent attack.

No, Nebraska isn't going to be a superpower overnight, but it shouldn't take that much to get back to a bowl game. After all, last year's team, as bad as it was, still went 5-7. Call this a stepping stone season, but at least things in the Big Red world appear to be back on the right track.

What to watch for on offense: More power running. Marlon Lucky is one of the nation's best all-around backs, and there's good speed and promise behind them. The line gets four good starters returning to go along with a little bit of depth, so while the passing game won't be abandoned, the offense will revolve around the ground attack. It'll have to with a mediocre receiving corps unlikely to scare anyone.

What to expect on defense:
A tackle. The defense didn't exactly give up as it was giving up 46 points per game over the final seven, but it wasn't exactly effective. The talent in the back seven is down compared to last year, but the coaching staff will make it more aggressive, lighter, and faster, while the line should be far more productive with all four starters returning and great depth.

This team will be much better if…
the defense forces a turnover. The offense gave it away 28 times, which wasn't all that bad, but the defense came up with 11 takeaways. 11. Marshall, who forced seven turnovers, was the only team to come up with fewer than the Huskers. The Pelini-led defense should get off the bus and force more than the three fumbles it cranked out last year.

The Schedule:
The Pelini era kicks off with three winnable, but very, very interesting non-conference games against Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State. No Husker fan will expect anything less than a 3-0 start, but that'll be tougher than is looks. There's a week off before a killer three-game stretch of Virginia Tech, Missouri and at Texas Tech. At Iowa State and home against Baylor will be relative breathers before a second brutal three-game run (at Oklahoma, Kansas and at Kansas State) to close out the string of eight games in eight weeks. There's a week off before the Friday game against Colorado. 

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Marlon Lucky. Lucky went from being an oft-injured star prospect with all the talent in the world, to a phenomenal all-around back who led the team in receiving while running for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns. He's not going to have to carry the entire workload with some decent backups ready to take away carries, but he'll be the focal point of the offense.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Barry Turner. While the defense was horrific, and the line was awful, Turner came up with a decent year making 29 tackles with three sacks. While that might not seem like much, the 6-3, 260-pounder has a non-stop motor who forces offenses to adjust. Under the new coaching staff, he could blow up and be a major-league star.

Key player to a successful season: The entire linebacking corps. Steve Octavien, Bo Ruud, and Corey McKeon were supposed to form a talented, veteran corps that was going to be the backbone of Nebraska's resurgence. The line didn't provide any help, but overall, the linebackers stunk. No it'll be up to a less talented group, but with a better scheme, to make big improvements. It's a patchwork corps with a former running back (Cody Glenn), guy who was 270 pounds going into the off-season and is now down to 238 (Phillip Dillard), and a total unknown who had one good spring (Tyler Wortman).

The season will be a success if ... the Huskers win eight games. That might seem like a low goal, but for a team with so many problems, and in a league that'll be as good as the Big 12 will be, just getting the head back above water should be good enough for now. There can't be any mistakes in the non-conference schedule before dealing with Virginia Tech, and there has to be an upset (yeah, it would be an upset) over a Missouri or a Kansas along the way.

Key game: Oct. 4 vs. Missouri. If this really is going to be a turnaround year, and if Pelini really wants to get the fan base jumping, then a win over Missouri in the Big 12 opener is a must. The road trip to Texas Tech won't be a plus, and there's still a trip to Oklahoma and with Kansas and at Kansas State still to deal with, the Huskers could use a big-time start to the conference season.

2007 Fun Stats: 
 - Rushing yards per game: Opponents 232.2 – Nebraska 144.4
 - Fumbles: Nebraska 19 (lost 11) – Opponents 15 (lost 3)
 - Third down conversions: Opponents 91 of 181 (50%) – Nebraska 73 of 171 (43%)