Scott Frost has returned home and there hasn’t been this much buzz surrounding the program since the 2001 season. He brings instant credibility to a team that lacked leadership and confidence in 2017. Frost announced quarterback Adrian Martinez as his starter for this fall on Sunday and fellow signal-caller Tristan Gebbia announced he was transferring the next day. Martinez will be the programs’ first-ever true freshman at quarterback to start a season-opener. Highly-touted running back Maurice Washington cleared his academic hurdles and made it on campus in time to make the two-deep. The defense will feature familiar faces in the front seven, but the secondary will be revamped. Frost emphasized at Big 10 media days that opposing teams better take their shots at the Huskers now because his squad is getting better everyday.
Team strengths: Receivers and defensive line. Wideouts Stanley Morgan Jr. and J.D. Spielman can make game-changing plays and will make life easier for Martinez. The Huskers return all six players along the defensive line that contributed last season and will need that unit to be strong in the trenches while the new linebackers and young secondary find their footing.
Team weaknesses: Quarterback depth. With Gebbia transferring from the program, it leaves the Huskers with one scholarship quarterback. Frost is trying to work with the NCAA on getting UCF transfer signal-caller Noah Vedral eligible to play this season. If Martinez gets injured and is out for any significant time, it’ll be all bad for Nebraska. Look for Frost to lessen the carries for Martinez this fall to keep him healthy.
Players to watch: Quarterback Martinez, running back Devine Ozigbo, wide receiver Morgan Jr., nose tackle Mick Stolenberg and safety Aeron Williams. Martinez was Frosts’ first recruit once he took the job and the quarterback decommitted from Tennessee to sign with Nebraska. He showed his skills as a bonafide dual-threat signal-caller in the spring game and beat out redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia in a heated battle throughout fall camp to get the starting nod. Ozigbo has over 1,100 rush yards and nine touchdowns in his career and had three-straight 100 yard games against Rutgers, Illinois and Wisconsin last season. Morgan Jr. is arguably the best receiver in the Big 10. It was a bit of a shocker to see him return for his senior season after he hauled in 61 balls for nearly a 1,000 yards, 10 touchdowns and earned All-Big 10 second team honors in 2017. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Stolenberg anchors the interior. He started every game and was a team captain for the Blackshirts last season. Williams has had five interceptions over the last two seasons and is expected to be a leader in the secondary.
The schedule: Very brutal. The home slate is manageable besides Michigan State, but road games at Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa would be tough for any team in the country.
My take: Don’t expect miracles from Frost and his staff in year one, but getting eight wins and back to a bowl game is definitely a reality. There will be some bumps and bruises along the way, but Nebraska will be more competitive on both sides of the ball this fall. One thing is for sure, the nation’s-longest sellout streak will continue for years to come.