The Taylor show
By spring, he had everyone obsessing over his footwork. By summer, he was hanging out with the Mannings. By fall? Finally, thankfully, it's fall. The season of answers. Now Taylor Martinez gets the chance to show what his eight months of offseason work have produced. We know he has ambition. He's talked about wanting to win a national championship and complete 70 percent of his passes. Much more important: Limiting mistakes and knowing when less is more. Oh, sure, like everyone else, we’ll be watching how he throws it. But just as interesting is to see if he can use his speed to hit a few of those home runs we saw much of early in his redshirt freshman year. The quarterback says he’s the most healthy he’s been since that season. And when Joe Ganz was asked how Martinez looks running it, the smile told all. Said Ganz: "He looks fast, boys.”
A new shine on that secondary?
This time last year, it was all about the Big 3: Lavonte, Jared and Alfonzo. All off on their own paths now. Problem? Despite losing those three individual talents from last season, Bo Pelini has repeatedly expressed the belief this defense can be better than a year ago. One big reason is he thinks his secondary is vastly improved. Daimion Stafford and Andrew Green both grew up on the job last year and had an offseason to do their football homework. And Nebraska has at least five other options to step up at the corner spot opposite Green. You’ll see a rotation there. But eventually that rotation needs to become two reliable corners. Can that secondary make a game-changing play or two today? Southern Miss is starting a quarterback who has never played a college down. Sounds like a good opportunity to start climbing in that turnover margin category. Last year Nebraska ranked 67th there. Improve that stat and the Huskers could improve the win total.
Some tough birds
We know these Golden Eagles don’t scare easily. We’re talking about a program that has 18 consecutive winning seasons. Yeah, they lost a lot of material from last year. Yeah, they have a new head coach. But that might just make them tougher in some ways. Pelini says there’s a lot of guesswork trying to figure out what the heck Southern Miss is going to do. Nebraska is going to have to do its share of adjusting on the fly. And Southern Miss teams can be opportunistic. The Golden Eagles had eight interception returns for touchdowns and four special teams touchdowns last year. That’s incredible. Throw a pick six or give up a special teams score and things can get a little hairy. This school has won in Lincoln before, remember.
The young pups
Pelini has let us know some of the true freshmen we can expect to play. Avery Moss (defensive end), Aaron Curry (defensive tackle), Imani Cross (running back), Charles Jackson (defensive back) and walk-on Andy Janovich (fullback/special teamer) are all likely candidates to shed redshirts. How much we’ll see of them probably is dictated by whether Nebraska can gain any separation on the scoreboard. And if that does happen, that brings us to the next question: Who comes in as Taylor Martinez’s backup? Veteran Ron Kellogg or rookie Tommy Armstrong? First things first. Getting that kind of lead. That is not to be assumed. This is no cupcake opener.