The Nebraska football team will open up fall camp later this afternoon, and there are several storylines to watch as NU gets ready to kick off the Bo Pelini era. Huskeronline.com has broken down the top five overall storylines heading into today's first practice. The Huskers are set to take the practice field from 3:45 to 6:00 p.m.
Continuing to build Pelini's culture
One of the words you continually hear head coach Bo Pelini use to describe his football program his "culture." As the Nebraska football team kicks off fall camp later today, the next three weeks will be vitally important for Pelini to continue to build the type of mindset and toughness he wants this football team to play with. NU showed flashes of what Pelini wanted to see in the spring, but obviously the job is far from being complete.
Defensive leaders need to emerge
One of the things that killed Nebraska's defense in 2007 was their lack of leadership through adversity. When things were going good at the start of the season, everything looked fine and dandy, but when things went south after the USC game, that's when the leadership disappeared. If the Huskers want to have any kind of defensive success in 2008, players like seniors Zach Potter, Barry Turner and Cody Glenn need to be able to lead this defense during the adverse times. Some other names that need to step into leadership roles this August are juniors Larry Asante, Phillip Dillard and Ndamukong Suh.
We know that sophomore Anthony Blue will not be ready to practice any time soon due to an ACL knee injury he suffered during winter conditioning. The latest speculation is we may not see Blue at all in 2008 and he'll more than likely have to use his redshirt to recover. If that ends up being the case, the Huskers will basically be counting on a completely new face to step into the other starting cornerback spot with senior Armando Murillo. The leading candidate is sophomore Anthony West, but sophomore Prince Amukamara and true freshman Alfonzo Dennard could also push for playing time as well.
Who will be step into Maurice Purify's role?
It's almost not even debatable that the biggest thing Nebraska has to replace this year on offense is the big play threat Maurice Purify gave them at wide receiver the last two seasons. As of right now, Nebraska does not have a receiver that can do things Purify did for offense in 2006 and 2007. Purify had the ability to catch balls in coverage and then break tackles and take plays for touchdowns. Think about some of the catches he made in 2006 and how big they were in the Texas and Texas A&M games during NU's Big 12 North title season. One player on NU's roster with similar measurables to Purify is junior Menelik Holt, who should get a chance to see if he can step into a similar role in 2008.
Freshmen to watch
One of the things people get pretty geeked out about during the first week of fall camp is which freshmen look the best. Here are some of the names I expect to see push for playing time this August: Look for Baker Steinkuhler and Ricky Henry to get good looks at defensive tackle this week…defensive backs Alfonzo Dennard and P.J. Smith are the leading candidates in the secondary…Khiry Cooper should get a strong look at wide-out, assuming he turns down the final offer the Los Angeles Angles come at him with…Both Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton could be counted on to step in at tight end if they have strong fall camps…Will Compton will no doubt get two-deep snaps in camp, based on the current situation at middle linebacker.