Hope and concern: Nebraska

May, 27, 2011
5/27/11
11:00
AM ET
The Hope and Concern series marches on with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Biggest reason for hope: The Blackshirts

Nebraska returns a defense loaded with star players and confidence. After spending some time this spring in Lincoln, I can tell you coordinator Carl Pelini and his players expect to have a championship-level unit this season. Nebraska has an All-America candidate at all three levels of the defense in tackle Jared Crick, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. The Huskers boast depth up front and should have enough contributors at linebacker in a league that demands it. Although the Blackshirts must adjust to a whole set of new offenses this fall, they boast the personnel and the experience to once again be elite.

Biggest reason for concern: Unfamiliarity with Big Ten, especially the defenses

While the Big Ten lost a bunch of star defenders to the NFL draft, the league still boasts some strong defenses, arguably better those than Nebraska faced in the Big 12. Throw in the fact that the Huskers are incorporating a new offense, and there could be a transition period with some growing pains. I'm also not sold on Nebraska's offensive line. Center Mike Caputo is a nice piece to build around, but several other players must prove themselves in a more physical conference. There's also the quarterback question. Can Taylor Martinez stay healthy and reclaim the form he showed last season? And if Martinez isn't the guy, who steps into the leading role? Nebraska still has to iron out some things before playing a very tough schedule in its new league.

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