1. Ready to splash
With respect to the elders such as Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah, don’t be surprised if some newcomer is the talk of the town this week by the time church bells ring. Everyone likes the new flavor. And Husker fans are going to have plenty of new flavors to pick from Saturday night. Running back Terrell Newby? Linebacker Nathan Gerry? Defensive end Randy Gregory? What about big Vincent Valentine or Maliek Collins on the interior of that D-line? Those are just some of the potential candidates to grab headlines. Has there been a Husker opener in recent memory with as much mystery and fascination about young players as this one? Probably not. Are there too many question marks in this storyline? Perhaps. But then, this is a night for questions, isn’t it? Mistakes will be part of the deal. But will the athleticism of Nebraska’s young talent shine bright enough to distract everyone from the imperfections? Will linebackers such as David Santos and Zaire Anderson show they can be that quick-footed “eraser” and remind fans a little of how Lavonte David used to clean up plays? How much patience will coaches show certain players when those missteps occur? It’s been an offseason of questions like these. But soon they'll be answered.
2. Another explosion?
It is perhaps fitting that expectations are sky-high for this Husker offense on the 30th anniversary of “The Scoring Explosion.” If the bar seems high, it also seems that coaches and players don’t mind. “I wouldn’t trade our offense for anybody,” Bo Pelini said this summer. Jamal Turner would echo that. He said he expects this offense to be “great.” What’s great? “Fifty points per game — that’s great to me,” he answered. Confidence is no issue. But can the Huskers get out of their own way? Plenty of eyes will be on Nebraska’s ball security, after turning it over 35 times last year, which ranked second-to-last in the country. There’s a reason Husker players were urging each other to lock up the football during fall camp. The word was that there were hardly any fumbles this month. Now, can the Huskers bring that cleanliness to the main stage? If they can, there is seemingly a lot of hay to be made against a Wyoming defense that ranked 97th in scoring defense, 106th in total defense and 117th in rushing defense a year ago.
3. Beware of Brett
The Huskers thought Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith was a pretty good quarterback when they saw him two years ago. And he was just a freshman. Now he’s a little older, wiser and plenty dangerous if you’re not dialed in on defense. He hasn’t thrown for 5,459 yards in his career by accident. Smith has good enough feet to buy himself time and is capable of making precise throws on the run. Nebraska’s defensive backs are considered a strength. But they’re going to have to be on high alert, because Smith has shown the ability to make art out of a mess. He threw 27 touchdowns to just six interceptions last year. Can the Huskers coax a few missteps from the veteran? A year after going minus 12 in turnovers, it would be no minor thing for the Huskers to get on the plus side of that category to start the season.
4. Specialty items
There’s a new kicker in town. And punter. From all indications, Sam Foltz is ready to excel at the latter. The question is if Mauro Bondi and Pat Smith can keep nailing field goals with the same consistency Husker fans have been so spoiled to see from the likes of Alex Henery and Brett Maher. Then there's returns. Can Nebraska find its mojo there? Jamal Turner is going to get his crack at returning punts. Terrell Newby and Kenny Bell are expected to return kicks. “I like our coverage units, and our return units are pretty special,” assistant coach Ross Els said last week. It’s an area of the game where the Huskers need to turn the corner. Nebraska was 50th at returning punts a year ago, including five fumbles, and 63rd returning kicks. The Huskers have too many playmakers to drop the ball, quite literally, in this phase of the game. Time to see whether Nebraska can put a jolt of electricity into its special teams.