The Definitive 2017 Nebraska Football Preview
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

The Definitive 2017 Nebraska Football Preview

September 01, 2017

On Saturday at 7 p.m., for the first time in 246 days, Nebraska will play a football game. (No the spring game doesn't count.) It's been a long offseason for the Huskers filled with too many storylines to count.

To get you caught up as much as possible on everything that's happened during fall camp, we've dug back through the Hail Varsity archives to put together one of the most comprehensive previews you'll find.


Aaron Babcock

Nebraska's 2017 Fan Day

There wasn't much going on that was directly relevant to the season ahead, but Husker nation got to meet the team, and Hail Varsity's own Aaron Babcock put together quite the gallery of photos from the event.

Before the festivities even started, senior kicker Drew Brown gave us one of the best moments of camp.

"For me, it’s like Sam never got to play his senior season. I’m lucky enough to be able to do that and there’s a lot of different motivations and things I can lean on for this season but that’s for sure going to be a top priority: every single kick that I have, he wasn’t able to have."
– Drew Brown

There were also a couple of freshmen players who got their first taste of life as a Nebraska football player and weren't disappointed.

A number of Huskers also talked about the summer workout program this year being as difficult and grueling as any can remember. Linebacker Dedrick Young II said that it was mostly to do with Nebraska switching up practice times and moving workouts to the heat of the day. Cornerback Eric Lee Jr. said regardless of the reason, everyone was in fantastic shape heading into the season.

 

 

Aaron Babcock

Fall Camp Gets Underway

Surprise, it's another fantastic gallery for you to capture all the sights of the Huskers' first day of fall camp.

Hail Varsity's Greg Smith offered up his thoughts on the first day of practice and then Smith and radio host Chris Schmidt teamed up to break it all down.

As camp rolled into its first real week, players and coaches started to meet with the media to talk about what they'd been working on over the summer and how camp was going. Sophomore cornerback Lamar Jackson said he was disappointed in his play last season and it was time to stop "finessing."

"It’s got to be on our shoulders. It starts up front. We’re the starting blocks. We’re the engine."
– Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh

Right from day one, offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh recognized that with questions in the backfield and a philosophy change at quarterback, Nebraska's offensive success this season will rest squarely on the front line's shoulders.

Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said the team hopes to find one back, not a committee like the Huskers have had in years past, but one back to be the workhorse.

Then wide receiver coach Keith Williams called on junior wideout Stanley Morgan Jr. to reach a new level this season.

As week one at camp came to a close, head coach Mike Riley talked about getting help from new places in his third season at the helm.

With a switch to the 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, Nebraska added another linebacker to the field at any given time. Hail Varsity's Jacob Padilla wrote that solid play from that position group is the key to unlocking the Huskers potential.

Mike Babcock dove into former walk-on Cole Conrad's switch from guard to center. Brandon Vogel examined the explosive play and what it means for the Huskers. Smith wrote about the freshman, Lindsey, making a case for playing time early not because of his pedigree, but his work ethic. I took a closer look at the wide receiver room following news that freshman wideout Jaevon McQuitty would miss the season with a knee injury. Then Nebraska's Board of Regents approved a new 11-year, nearly $129 million deal with adidas and assured fans that the Huskers won't be playing in any more Friday night games in the near future.

“I think ‘good’ would be short-changing him; he’s great.”
– Scott Booker on S Aaron Williams

Diaco has talked about different roles each position group plays in his 3-4 defense. None are bigger than the safety position.

Diaco said his safeties are the quarterbacks of the defensive unit, and safeties coach Scott Booker said the Huskers don't just have two great ones in junior Aaron Williams and senior Joshua Kalu, but they have depth and options as you go on down the list.

Aaron Babcock

In the third week of camp, Aaron got back on the field to capture another gallery from practice inside Memorial Stadium.

Then Smith wondered whether this could be the season the tight end position experiences a rebirth in Riley's offense.

 

Last season, a then-freshman Caleb Lightbourn was thrust into a situation he wasn't ready for, and things could have gone better. But Lightbourn tried to put all that behind him and had one of the more productive offseasons of anyone on the team.

Aaron Babcock

Hot Clicks

The Story of the Chosen

Quentin Lueninghoener

With the help of Smith, Hail Varsity's recruiting guru, Nebraska commit and four-star wide receiver Joshua Moore began a diary, to chronicle his senior season in high school and what life is like being one of the most-recruited kids in the country.

In his first entry, Moore introduced himself. In his second and most recent, he opened the envelope a bit more.

 

Aaron Babcock

Back to Camp

As camp continued, Nebraska's coaching staff still wanted one running back to emerge, but none had seperated. Junior Mikale Wilbon talked about his work over the summer to make sure he get's the job.

Last season, Nebraska had serious depth issues across the offensive line, this time around, at least at the tackle position, Cavanaugh and some of the young guys have been working to address that issue.

“Year one, I don’t know man, I was out there lost.”
– JD Spielman

Redshirt freshman JD Spielman impressed coaches all throughout camp. When asked about what his first season with the Huskers was like, he didn't hold back. But, Spielman said he's eager to show off his new style once the season begins.

With scholarship news quickly approaching, Padilla took a closer look at a Nebraska roster littered with former walk-ons and how one guy in particular is making the most of his opportunities.

I wrote about Eric Lee's back-flipping prowess and ascent to starter. Smith drove to Beatrice to catch a certain Nebraska commit's first high school game of the season. Then Cody Nagel made his Hail Varsity debut with a breakdown of what you might have missed watching the Huskers' offense last season.

Then the Huskers held a walk-on tryout. A freshman architecture student couldn't make the scheduled time, so the coaching staff agreed to meet with him one-on-one. He's now a Husker wide receiver.

Then the Blackshirts came out.

And everyone knows recruiting never sleeps. Neither does Smith. You can get caught up on all things Nebraska recruiting by going here.

Arkansas State Coverage

All the Tanner Lee Coverage

If you've made it this far, you might have noticed there hasn't been much Tanner Lee talk. Don't worry, I saved him for last. Lee will be one of the biggest storylines of the Huskers season, and his performance on Saturday against the Red Wolves will do a lot in determining how people view this team moving forward. From way back at Big Ten Media Days in July, I wrote about his entry. In doing so, I had a lot of help, especially from quarterback guru Steve Calhoun. We published my full conversation with him.

Aaron Babcock

One of the hot topics surrounding Lee this season will be the way he's protected by the Nebraska offensive line. They're going from a quarterback last year in Tommy Armstrong Jr. who could escape a collapsing pocket and make plays with his feet. Lee doesn't have that same ability, which means the line isn't going to have to improvise outside the pocket. Langsdorf thinks that will help.

The rest of the offense has also made the adjustment over to Lee relatively smoothly.

As camp continued, Vogel unearthed something everyone else had seemingly missed: Lee had played against Diaco before. Back in 2014. And it was pretty rainy. Then Smith learned that Lee has played with an "underdog" mentality his whole career, and he's usually the first guy in the practice facility and the last guy out.

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