Weak & Strong: Nebraska

Here, we’ll take a look at one area where each team in the Big 12 can expect to succeed, and another that needs improvement.


Weak: Safety

Nebraska must replace both Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon at safety. O’Hanlon showed massive growth over the 2009 season, leading the team with six interceptions, including three in a win over Oklahoma.

Asante and O’Hanlon combined for 148 tackles, and the battle for the back line could be interesting this spring.

Senior Ricky Thenarse returns from a knee injury that cost him nearly all of last season but earned him a medical redshirt, granting him a fifth year of eligibility. Sophomore P.J. Smith appeared in all 14 games as a freshman, and could earn a starting spot in the fall.

Junior Lincoln native Austin Cassidy should also compete for the job alongside sophomore Courtney Osborne.

If either of them improves as rapidly as O’Hanlon did, this could easily become a strength over the course of 2010.

Strong: Running back

Senior Roy Helu Jr. is the headliner, but sophomore Rex Burkhead ran for 100 yards against Colorado and 92 yards in the 33-0 Holiday Bowl blowout of Arizona.

The starter is almost irrelevant; both will get touches, but Burkhead will look to make sure his contributions to the offense remain consistent.

Helu’s 1,147 yards were fourth-most in the Big 12, and with an uncertain situation at quarterback, both Helu Jr. and Burkhead will be relied on to provide some breathing room for either Cody Green or Zac Lee. Last season, the Husker offense was the least productive in conference play, and Nebraska was tied for 11th in completion percentage.

Improving either of those numbers begins with Helu Jr. and Burkhead.

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