Big Ten Football Previews: Nebraska

BY BEN ROSS | AUGUST 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Nebraska Cornhuskers ran for an average of 217 yards per game last season, good for 15th in the nation. They’ll have no shortage of offensive talent returning, and those numbers should only improve in 2012.

Dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez will start for the third-consecutive season, as does punishing runner Rex Burkhead, who amassed nearly 1,400 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns a season ago.

Burkhead may be in a position to unseat Wisconsin’s Montee Ball as the Big Ten’s leading rusher. But the native of Plano, Texas, said he just wants to see his team have continued success.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes for our team to win,” he said. “I’m not really worried about yards or carries. If we’re winning and have that ‘W’ on the scoreboard, I’m fine.”

And even though Burkhead’s numbers may pale in comparison to Ball’s 33 touchdowns a season ago, head Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said that he wouldn’t replace his running back for anyone in the country. And he meant anyone.

“He’s, to me, the definition of what a role model is and what a student-athlete should be,” Pelini said. “The type of example he sets on a daily basis, what he’s accomplished in the classroom, I wouldn’t trade him for another player in the country. That’s how much I think of Rex and what he is to our program and the University of Nebraska.”

Nebraska has playmakers on the other side of the ball to equal its offense.

Linebacker William Compton returns as the leader of the defense, and tallied 89 tackles in 2011. Daimion Stafford returns as the general in the secondary, and his 10 pass break-ups from last year will make opposing quarterbacks wary about throwing in his direction.

Burkhead and the rest of the talent on Nebraska’s roster could explain the confidence Pelini displayed when asked if he’d experienced any hiccups with his team’s transition to a new conference.

“I’ve already transitioned into the Big Ten,” he said. “I grew up in Big Ten country. I knew going in what to expect.”

Compton took a more humble approach when asked about his transition into the Big Ten, citing specifically all the new rivalries he hopes to create between Nebraska and the conference incumbents.

“We look forward as a team in creating a bunch of rivalries in the Big Ten,” Compton said. “To us, we go into games as a rivalry.”

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