- Adam Rittenberg, College Football
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2011 record: 9-4
2011 conference record: 5-3 (third, Legends Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Rex Burkhead* (1,357 yards)
Passing: Taylor Martinez* (2,089 yards)
Receiving: Kenny Bell* (461 yards)
Tackles: Lavonte David (133)
Sacks: Lavonte David (5.5)
Interceptions: Austin Cassidy and Lavonte David (2)
1. Secondary makes strides: Although Nebraska's defensive backfield loses a key piece in Alfonzo Dennard, the sense coming out of the spring is that the Huskers will have more overall depth in the secondary this season. Details were a theme for the entire defense, but especially for the secondary, and new coach Terry Joseph frequently tested his players on their responsibilities. Players like cornerback Andrew Green had a strong spring, and the Huskers look pretty solid at safety with Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith. Juco addition Mohammed Seisay increases the competition at cornerback.
2. More weapons emerging: Coordinator Tim Beck wants to be a more balanced offense this fall, and he should have the weapons to upgrade the passing attack. Nebraska returns all but one major contributor at receiver, as well as veteran tight ends Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed. Kenny Bell showed impressive spurts last season and should build on his performance this fall. Quincy Enunwa is another nice piece, and Tim Marlowe provides a veteran presence. If Jamal Turner polishes his blocking, he should see increased opportunities on the field.
3. Ready and Will-ing: The Huskers acknowledged their depth issues at linebacker during their Big Ten transition, but they aren't worried about finding a leader at the position. Senior middle linebacker Will Compton has stepped forward and taken a proactive approach toward leadership. Compton, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2011, is a heady player who understands the defense and can motivate others. He'll help fill the production void left by standout Lavonte David.
1. Taylor Martinez: The Huskers quarterback was the talk of spring ball after he spent the winter -- and his spring break -- working on his footwork and his throwing mechanics. Martinez received good marks from his coaches, and he seemed more comfortable as he'll operate the same offense in consecutive seasons for the first time in his college or high school career. But the junior still has a lot to prove as a passer after completing just 56.3 percent of his attempts in 2011 and often looking unsettled in the pocket.
2. Defensive line rotation: Head coach Bo Pelini likes the potential of the defensive line, but injuries slowed several key players this spring. The Huskers should go four deep at defensive end, but they'll need to solidify the interior line alongside veteran Baker Steinkuhler. Players like Chase Rome, who saw action last fall following Jared Crick's injury, and Thaddeus Randle should be healthy entering fall camp and need good performances.
3. Linebacker depth: Compton has the middle on lock down, and Buck linebacker Sean Fisher is healthy and playing well, but the Huskers need more bodies in their defensive midsection. Junior-college transfer Zaire Anderson will be a key player to watch in fall camp as he should compete for field time right away. Whether Alonzo Whaley can land the starting weak-side spot remains to be seen, but Nebraska would be better off being able to go five or six deep at linebacker.
2011 record: 9-4 2011 conference record: 5-3 (third, Legends Division) Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2Top returnersQB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Kenny Bell, TE Ben Cotton, DT Baker Steinkuhler, DE Cameron Meredith, LB Will Compton, S Daimion Stafford, K/P Brett MaherKey lossesLB Lavonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard, DT Jared Crick, S Austin Cassidy, C Mike Caputo, WR Brandon Kinnie, T Marcel Jones2011 statistical leaders (*returners)Rushing: Rex Burkhead* (1,357 yards)Passing: Taylor Martinez* (2,089 yards)Receiving: Kenny Bell* (461 yards)Tackles: Lavonte David (133)Sacks: Lavonte David (5.