2020 Season Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

By Matt de Bear on October 2, 2020 at 8:54 am
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez
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After parting ways with Mike Riley in 2017, the prodigal son Scott Frost returned to Lincoln. The homecoming has not gone to plan, however, with the Huskers winning just nine times in those two seasons, and have barely even threatened the best teams in the Big Ten. 

It seems unlikely that Frost's seat is getting toasty, after being offered and signing a two-year contract extension last year that would keep him on the Nebraska sidelines through the 2026 season. However, things could get dicey fast if the Huskers turn in another disappointing campaign.

Nebraska at a Glance

Head Coach Scott Frost (3rd season; 28-22 overall, 9-15 with Nebraska)
2019 Record 5-7 (3-6 in the Big Ten)
2019 Postseason N/A
Biggest Losses WR J.D. Spielman, LB Mohamed Berry, DT Khalil Davis, DT Darrion Daniels. DT Carlos Davis, 
Biggest Returnees QB Adrian Martinez, RB Dedrick Mills, WR Wan'Dale Robinson, TE Jack Stoll, OL Matt Farniok, DE Ben Stille, LB Collin Miller, LB Will Honas, S Marquel Dismuke, CB Cam Taylor Britt, 
Summary Can the Huskers finally put it all together in Scott Frosts' third season?
Matchup with PSU This marks the fourth meeting between the two tradition-rich programs as Big Ten members and the first since 2017. The Huskers have won three of those and four of the last five.

Offense

Frost was brought in on the heels of an undefeated season at UCF that featured one of the nation's most electric offenses. He has turned to a former colleague at Oregon, Matt Lubick, to run the offense this year.

Much of the hope for the Nebraska program has been tied to now-junior quarterback Adrian Martinez. The Fresno, CA native burst onto the scene with an impressive freshman campaign, but injuries and inconsistent play slowed much of the hype in 2019. If he is healthy and can stay that way in 2020, things look much better in Lincoln.

Martinez cannot do it all himself, however. Frost would be wise to lean on Dedrick Mills at tailback. The JUCO transfer averaged over five yards per carry in 2019 and scored 10 times. Behind Mills and Martinez, the Huskers ranked 30th nationally on the ground, and figure to be among the top rushing teams again behind a veteran offensive line. Inexperience at receiver will play a role as well. With last year's leading wide receiver J.D. Spielman now at TCU following a transfer, only two returning players, Wan'Dale Robinson and Jack Stoll, caught more than 25 passes one year ago.

 

defense

Nebraska's defense improved on paper a year ago, but still gave up nearly 28 points and 400 yards per game. The task gets at least somewhat more difficult heading into the 2020 season with several key contributors up front now playing professionally. 

The strength of the defense is in the secondary with three returning starters back from a group that was in the top half of the country in 2019 defending the pass. Versatile Cam Taylor-Britt is one player to keep an eye on. The junior picked off three passes one year ago, and lines up both at safety and corner.

The Blackshirts, however, present a massive question. They struggled against the run in 2019 and must find a way to improve with four new faces to work in. Frost brought in another former colleague, Mike Dawson, to help improve the play up front. Dawson returns to Lincoln after spending 2019 with the New York Giants.

Special teams

Improved special teams play is a virtual must for Nebraska this fall. The kicking units have been a huge issue for the Huskers, and Frost opted for an overhaul. Jonathan Rutledge now oversees special teams and will have a new kicker and punter in 2020. LSU transfer Connor Culp figures to handle placekicking, with true freshman Daniel Cerni taking on punts.

2020 outlook

Nebraska certainly has some good pieces, starting with Martinez at quarterback. But too much has been placed on his shoulders, and he has taken a beating in his first two years. The talented junior is going to need more help from other playmakers on offense. On the flip side, the defensive front is going to need to one, get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and slow down the run. 

If the Huskers can keep Martinez upright and healthy, a .500 or better record seems feasible, but with limited depth, it would not take much to send this season south once again for Frost and Co.

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