08.23.2011 / After a long wait, the Big Ten season is almost here. Blog posting by Mike Babcock, Huskers Illustrated Magazine.
Fall camp has been relatively uneventful for coach Pelini and his fourth Nebraska football team. No significant long-term injuries and no unexpected departures.
"Sports Illustrated ranks the Huskers No. 9 and Wisconsin No. 11."
Remember when quarterback Harrison Beck went missing and ended up transferring? That was pre-Pelini, of course, but it was characteristic of many, if not most, fall camps. Something dramatic usually happens, such as linebacker Sean Fisher’s season-ending injury, a broken leg, a year ago.
The Huskers have dealt with the usual assortment of bumps and bruises this fall, but the most serious injury through the first two weeks, including two-a-days, was an Alfonzo Dennard muscle pull. Dennard is a senior All-America candidate at cornerback. He’ll likely be out this week still, according to Pelini. But the injury doesn’t appear to be long-term. And while Dennard is on the sideline in sweat clothes, Nebraska’s young cornerbacks are getting additional practice reps.
Among the most discussed issues during fall camp was whether prize quarterback recruit Bubba Starling would sign with the Kansas City Royals, who made him the fifth pick in the MLB draft. Starling participated in Husker Fan Day but never practiced, signing just before the deadline.
Anyway, based on its ranking in the two major pre-season polls, Nebraska is expected to play in the first Big Ten championship game at Indianapolis on Dec. 3. The Huskers were No. 11 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 10 in the Associated Press poll. Wisconsin, Nebraska’s opening conference opponent, was ranked No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, making the Badgers favorites to be in Indianapolis, too.
The Huskers’ biggest concern on defense in fall camp has been depth at linebacker, no surprise there, and the concern on offense has been how players are adapting to a new system under first-year coordinator Tim Beck and how quarterback Taylor Martinez has progressed.
“I think overall he’s just more comfortable,” Pelini said on Saturday. “I think he has a good handle of what we’re trying to do offensively. Is he perfect? No. But I think he’s coming along. “There’s some carryover in some of the things we’re doing . . . I’ve seen him improve, and I think he feels he has a pretty good handle on what we’re trying to do.”
What the Huskers are trying to do is win a championship under Pelini, something that has eluded them the past two seasons in the Big 12. Not only that, Nebraska is a “dark horse contender for the national title,” according to Sports Illustrated in its college football edition.
The Huskers’ All-America candidate defensive tackle Jared Crick is on a regionalized Sports Illustrated cover, with the headline: “Nebraska The Big Ten’s New Bully.” SI ranks the Huskers No. 9 and Wisconsin No. 11. So it’s all good as fall camp in Lincoln draws to a close.
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