Big Ten Team Previews: Nebraska

BY DANNY PAYNE | AUGUST 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Whether it be justified or unjustified, Bo Pelini garnered tons of attention during Nebraska’s 2013 campaign.

What was perhaps the most detrimental to the Cornhuskers about that publicity was that it overshadowed strong contributions from numerous players.

Ameer Abdullah rushed for 1,690 yards, which led the Big Ten and ranked among the top-10 in the nation.

Wideout Enuwa Quincy grabbed 51 balls for 753 yards, and 12 touchdowns while Kenny Bell caught 52 passes for 577 yards and four touchdowns and led the league in yards per kick return.

Defensive back Corey Cooper tallied 91 tackles and two sacks.

Even more, every player but Quincy is slated to return this season.

“I think we have depth in areas that are really going to help us be a good football team,” Pelini said. “We saw a lot of young guys last year kind of come of age as the season went on, and I’m looking forward to seeing those young men continue to develop.”

While last year’s squad had some trouble with Big Ten play, finishing 5-3 in conference, the Cornhuskers remain a legitimate contender to win the West Division.

In addition to Abdullah’s Big Ten-leading yardage last year, the 5-9 back added nine touchdowns. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong is officially ‘the guy’ in offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s system.

With Ron Kellogg III and Taylor Martinez out of eligibility, Armstrong’s workload will increase. He can hurt teams with his feet and arm — he threw for 966 yards, nine touchdowns, and eight interceptions while adding over 200 yards rushing and a pair of scores.

“I think he got handed a pretty raw deal last year,” Bell said. “To have to come in and step in and play for a guy like [Martinez] who is arguably one of the best quarterbacks in Nebraska history to be a 19-year-old kid and come in and do that, it’s not an easy task. Tip of the hat to him.

“But I think this year you’re going to see a totally different player — the kid is solid and he’s not a redshirt freshman any more. He’s a big boy, we’re expecting a lot out of him.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Randy Gregory and David Santos anchor the line and linebackers, respectively. Gregory amassed 19 tackles for loss last season — which included 10.5 sacks — and cost opponents over 100 yards while doing so.

Gregory will have his work cut out for him when the Huskers take on Wisconsin on Nov. 15 and Iowa on Nov. 28. Both the Badgers and Hawkeyes feature stud offensive linemen, so those should be high-profile matchups.

Santos, a junior, racked up 87 stops of his own, seven of which were for loss and can play in the middle as well as the weak side. Sophomore Michael Rose-Ivey will help Santos after finishing his freshman campaign strong, garnering 49 tackles over the last five games. His 66 total stops is a Nebraska freshman record.

Schedule-wise, Pelini and company have strong early-season tests with Miami at home on Sept. 20 and a hellish conference-crossover game at Michigan State two games later on Oct. 4. The aforementioned games with Wisconsin and Iowa are both on the road, as well.

“Obviously you get out what you put in,” Abdullah said. “But I feel like this is one of the most athletic teams I’ve been around at Nebraska.”

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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